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Nine 'lost' Doctor Who episodes discovered in Nigeria


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Nine 'lost' Doctor Who episodes discovered in Nigeria

BBC says nine episodes not seen on TV for 40 years – including The Web of Fear – were found in Nigerian TV studio

Doctor Who fans will be able to buy nine early episodes of the series not seen since they were screened in the 1960s, after tapes of the lost adventures were discovered in Nigeria.

Regarded as the most significant haul of missing Doctor Who episodes for three decades, they feature Patrick Troughton, the second actor to play the itinerant Time Lord in the long running sci-fi show.

The recovered material includes four episodes of six-parter The Web of Fear, a "quintessential" Doctor Who story in which the Time Lord battles robot Yetis spreading a poisonous fungus on the London Underground. Only episode three is still missing. It also features the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, a popular recurring character on the series and its spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures for the next 40 years.

Nine of the 11 episodes found at a small TV facility in Jos, Nigeria, were among the 106 "lost" 1960s episodes of Doctor Who that feature Troughton and the first Time Lord, William Hartnell - the other two were copies of episodes already in the BBC archive.

The discovery was made by Philip Morris, executive director at Television International Enterprise Archive, who specialises in tracking down missing TV and cinema archive material and is referred to in the industry as the "Indiana Jones of the film world".

Morris said he found the tapes, which also included five episodes that complete the six-part 1967 Doctor Who story The Enemy of the World , at a TV relay station "sitting on a shelf with a piece of masking tape that said 'Doctor Who'".

"People thought they were gone forever," he said. "They're not, they're back."

The BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, made the episodes available on Apple's iTunes store from midnight on Thursday with the two series also available for pre-order on DVD.

Mark Gatiss, who has written episodes and acted in BBC1's Doctor Who revival in recent years and co-created Sherlock with the show's executive producer Steven Moffat, singled out The Web of Fear episodes as a particularly important find.

"As long as I have been a Doctor Who fan there has been one story I hoped and prayed and begged I would one day see again," he said at a BBC press launch unveiling the recovered episodes on Thursday.

"The Web of Fear is the quintessential Doctor Who story, it is the most British thing you could imagine. I never thought I'd see the day, I can't really believe it. To think it was just gathering dust on a shelf."

Gatiss added that six-parter's London Underground setting had such a profound effect on him when he saw it as a child that the first episode of the next series of Sherlock will be set there.

"The first epsiode of Sherlock, because I am obsessed with the tube and I think it all comes from that story when I was a kid, is explicitly about the London Undeground for exactly that reason," he said.

The recovered episodes feature Frazer Hines, who went on to appear in Emmerdale, and Deborah Watling as Troughton's time travelling companions. "When I heard I couldn't quite believe it," Watling said. "There had been hoaxes before [about lost episodes being discovered]."

Watling, after watching two of the episodes at Thursday's BBC screening in London, said that she picked right up where she left off and immediately started remembering the lines of the actors.

"It is extraordinary after all these years," she said. "My God, I'm back on the screen again all these years later and I can see some of the work I did as a young 19-year-old."

Doctor Who will celebrate its 50th anniversary next month with an extended 75-minute episode, The Day of the Doctor, featuring the current Time Lord Matt Smith and predecessor David Tennant.

"This is such a gift in this anniversary year," said Gatiss. "It is amazing timing, exciting. Anything is a bonus and the rest is gravy."


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