Saying that around these parts we like long running British sci-fi series Doctor Who just a little, is kind of like saying that the Kardashians like attention just a little. We’re fanatics is what I’m saying. Now I truly only jumped onboard the blue police box of awesomeness with the show’s modern relaunch in 2005, but I’ve been busy tracking down and watching all the original episodes that began airing back in 1963 (Spoiler: They’re bloody good!).
Well, I say “all” but that’s not 100% true, as there are just over 100 episodes of the world’s longest running sci-fi show, which over all that time has simply either been lost or damaged beyond repair. But it looks like that may just be changing. Alons-y!
The story began on Bleeding Cool a week ago, where they began hearing rumours from the BBC upper echelons that a whole lot of the lost episodes had been found. But at the time, they were just that: rumours. But with this year being the show’s 50th anniversary, and with something major promised in November, it certainly would make sense that if they were located, now would be the time to unveil them.
And a lot of folks seemed to think so, as the Doctor Who community – including past and current writer of the show – responded furiously to the story. Some were outright denying the existence of these episodes, while others were convinced that they existed. According the info that Bleeding Cool then gathered in response, 90 of the 106 missing episodes were being returned to the BBC, with a couple of better prints of some of the currently available episodes as well.
However, the story soon hit a pretty big speed bump in the form of ex-Doctor Who script consultant and BBC Archivist Ian Levine – who is personally responsible for a number of restored episodes that we currently have and thus would definitely know one way or the other – who tweeted this bubble burster:
“There will always be 106 Doctor Who episodes missing”. And yes you can quote me on that.
And then in case our dreams weren’t crushed enough, he added:
“My previous tweet was not ironic. I too wanted to believe ninety episodes had been found. I now believe none have been found. A massive hoax.”
So, sad faces all around, right? Well, not quite.
Three days ago, Levine admitted that he may have been wrong about his convictions:
“Look,I DO believe no episodes have been found,based on what certain people told me at the BFI. But I suppose they could have lied to my face”
And then last night, Levine suddenly did an about face on Twitter that set Whovians’ loins a-tingle:
“I am so fucking speechless, I have no idea how I am going to sleep tonight. I was utterly wrong, but I was lied to, yes barefaced lied to.”
“I have just seen “three tons” of evidence that tells me it’s all true. Saying no more. Apart from I now believe it again.”
“I’ve just been given proof that backs up the entire story,from 2011. So yes I now really believe he has found 90 missing episodes”
The “he” that Levine is referring to is archivist Phillip Morris, who has spent the last couple of years Indiana Jonesing his way through Africa and the rest of the world trying to track down bits of missing Doctor Who footage. Trying being the operative word there. But had Morris finally struck paydirt?
Well, the “three tons” that Levine mentioned was just a bit too specific to not go unnoticed, and Bleeding Cool was able to link it to a shipment of “old films” that was sent to a Liverpool (where Morris resides) address in 2011 from Lagos.
And back in 2011, Bleeding Cool had actually heard from somebody who claimed to have seen this shipment, and may/may not have spoken directly to Morris about it, but at the time it was just dismissed as outright rumour.
“I work at a regional branch of a large international logistics company. On Tuesday morning a customer called in to collect a box sent from Zambia via Nigeria containing BBC tapes and 16″ films, supposedly for returning to the archives. The guy apparently said (I didn’t serve him myself) that the box contained recovered 60s material including episodes of Doctor Who (the only programme he mentioned by name, it seems) and that we’d be hearing all about it before the end of the year. Naturally I was keenly excited, particularly given that this seemed to suggest a major find, but, having encountered neither box nor customer myself, I couldn’t pursue the matter directly. I’ve checked the paperwork but I can’t fathom why BBC archive stuff would be addressed to a Merseyside address, especially one where the company name given doesn’t match the stated premises or postcode (hence why we couldn’t deliver the box and the customer had to fetch it himself). Then again, the shipper may have just cocked up the address slightly, it’s all perfectly kosher and I’m just fretting inappropriately. After all, the customer did say all would be revealed in time.”
Was Phillip Morris this customer? Had he somehow tracked down the Doctor Who equivalent of the Lost Ark and was now busy negotiating their return to the BBC? I’m holding thumbs, toes and any other available appendages that this is actually the case. It’s certainly an epic, almost unbelievable tale if it is the case, but would else would you expect from the greatest sci-fi show ever?!
Last Updated: June 20, 2013