As we inch closer to the upcoming 50th anniversary, the ever-present Doctor Who rumor mill has kicked into hyperdrive with the potential discovery of 90 (yes, 90) missing episodes from the longest running science fiction series on television. Even though it’s only a rumor, and a big one at that, this is probably the only thing that has the potential to put the endless discussion of who will be the next Doctor on hold for a bit should this pan out to be true.
According to the Radio Times, a company called Television International Enterprises Archives, the self-described ‘world’s foremost archive recovery company’, might have stumbled upon one of the biggest finds in the history of British television. Phil Morris, who is with TIEA, has allegedly been traveling the globe looking for missing gems of UK TV. A routine practice for the BBC and most, if not all, television broadcast outlets back in the 60’s when syndication didn’t exist, were apt to recycle expensive tape and erase many episodes of series rather than hold on to them and buy new tape. The same thing almost happened with Monty Python’s Flying Circus before they were rescued by the Pythons themselves and subsequently broadcast on KERA Channel 13 back in July 1974.
At this point, there are 27 incomplete Doctor Who serials, with 106 of 253 episodes from the first six years of the program missing so you can see why a find of 90, if true, would be more than significant. While some have been found in lofts and garages, some were sold to other countries and, according to the rumors, Morris has found many hours of material in, of all places, Sierra Leone. Allegedly, the BBC shipped the Doctor Who tapes there for broadcast and while they should have been bulk erased once the license ran out, they are still in good shape…accent on the ‘allegedly’.
Neither Morris nor the BBC are talking even though there are further rumors of a middle of the night confirmation of the discovery and shipment to the BBC for evaluation.
True or not, this makes for great pub conversation and, for a split second, no one mentioned or threw their hat in the ring to become the Twelfth Doctor. Admit it, though, this would make for great copy should it be true given the upcoming 50th celebration on 23 November. If you’re the one left that is new to Doctor Who you’re going to need to catch up pretty fast before November. Here’s a start with the beginning of the first episode ever – “An Unearthly Child”.