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Long-Lost Doctor Who Episodes Have Been Found, Will Be Available This Week

It’s being reported that a group of Doctor Who fans have uncovered a cache of 106 long-lost Doctor Who episodes in Ethiopia. But what do we know for sure, and what’s just hearsay?

The Mirror‘s Sunday People reports that Whovians tracked down a cache of episodes from the tenures of the first and second Doctors at the Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency, to which they were sold by the BBC after airing on TV only once each between 1964 and 1969. If reports are correct the episodes include “much-loved scenes from The Crusade, The Enemy of the World and The Ice Warriors series.”

The Mirror’s source for this news item is “Doctor Who expert Stuart Kelly,” who says:

“I was told by a friend that the ­episodes have been found in Ethiopia. The BBC is ­negotiating to get them back right now. I really can’t say any more than that.”

On the surface, “a friend told me” didn’t seem particularly promising in terms of a source. And all this is from the Mirror, a British tabloid with a reputation for being less than reliable. But then the far more reliable Radio Times came out and said that, yes,  previous episodes from two stories from the second Doctor’s era have been remastered and will go on sale via digital platforms like iTunes starting on Wednesday.

Yes. Wednesday. As in this week.

The new/old episodes “are believed to originate from a haul discovered in Africa,” which corroborates part of the Mirror‘s story, though the amount of episodes we will be getting is a far cry from 106. But there may be more to come. Says the Radio Times:

“A BBC Worldwide spokesman refused to officially confirm the discovery or the ‘speculation’ around further missing episodes.

It is understood that other episodes have also been found, although it is not yet known whether these will be made available.”

There are still a lot of unknowns: How many episodes, total, have been found? How many of them will be released, and when? Assuming the Troughton ones do come out Wednesday morning, will it be worldwide or only, say, only on the UK version of iTunes? We’ll let you know as we find out more.

(via The Mirror, Radio Times)

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  • Fiona

    It would be amazing if this were true! Inkjet I have always been disappointed that so much of Classic Who went missing (in a fire, if I recall correctly), so this could mean a lot of new information for the Whovians and creators when it comes to the show. Also, how long would it take for these episodes to get to Netflix? I am aware that all of the Doctor Who episodes that were PREVIOUSLY available are available for instant stream, so does this make it quick to get them for these sites or will there be more copyrighting and legal issues to go through? Does anybody have any ideas? Anyway, I am sure that all the Whovians who are not old enough to see them originally or just never got the chance is thrilled.

  • Fiona

    *’I know that’, not ‘Inkjet’. Sorry, typing on mobile.

  • Anonymous

    The BBC has called a presser for Tuesday. The only thing that seems definite is that two episodes have been found. But if WERE only two episodes, would the BBC hold a press conference about it instead of merely sending out a press release?

    Regardless, even if there ARE just two episodes, that’s two more episodes we had than before. Two more episodes have been restored to “Doctor Who’s” history. And THAT’S cause for celebration.

  • Anonymous

    So how’d they get from Nigeria to Ethiopia?

    (Or, more likely: why does the news media insist that African geography is less important than that of the Global North?)

  • Anonymous

    I was wondering if “inkjet” was some new slang …

  • Anonymous

    Any number is good, imo. The second Doctor is my favourite Doctor. And of course, if it turns out that there are a hundred rediscovered episodes, I’ll be over the moon.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not holding my breath. When the BBC announces it I’ll be excited.

  • Watercat

    Ah see I had read that some were actually taped over and several other serials were lost in a fire. It seemed so colossally ignorant to tape over them, that I really hope it was just a tragic fire.
    I really am thrilled though! Awesome news!

  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    Two eps actually WERE found two years ago. THIS story? It’s the bloody Mirror, it’s the UK’s answer to the Weekly World News. The story is BS, as has been confirmed by a few official sources.

    Doctor Who Brand Manager Edward Russell was quoted as saying “It’s Sunday. The weather’s Gray and the papers are full of rubbish.”

    Paul Vanezis of the official Doctor Who Restoration Team said “I would love it to be true. But it isn’t.”

    Tom Spilbury, editor of Doctor Who Magazine said “It’s nonsense I’m afraid.”

    (From Doctor Who 24/7)

  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    A fire would be more acceptable than the truth. The TRUTH is that the Beeb were idiots. Until around when Pertwee’s era got started, BBC standard practice was “No reruns, if you ne4ed a cassette in a pinch just record over something”. And a LOT of those wiped tapes were classic Who eps. It’s the BEEB’S fault those episodes are lost forever, not a fire.

  • KF

    The market for shows after their initial airing was very different back then than it is today. And there was no home market (VHS, DVD, etc.) I’d guess the cost of tape was higher as well. (The cost of video equipment certainly was.) It’s a bummer that it happened, but it’s not as ridiculous as it would be if the same thing happened today.

  • Fiona

    Wow, that is pretty awful, but at least it didn’t happen closer today as KF has a point. They had to pay a lot more money for tapes, much of it because of the technology and how advanced it was. Still, a fire would be easier than the truth, but now we at least have the episodes back!

  • Fiona

    Haha, I didn’t even realise that ‘inkjet’ was an accepted word until my mobile kept insisting that it was. Auto-correct has many strange obsessions.

  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    No hon, we don’t. The Mirror’s story is most likely a lie. They’re a tabloid paper, 90% of what they print is a bald-faced lie. And a few people actually connected with Doctor Who have dismissed it as such, including the editor of the official magazine, and the head of the lost episode Restoration department. I’d love it if this WAS true, but it’s 99.9% likely to turn out to be bull.

  • Sabrina

    Yeah, same here. I’ll believe it when I see it! There’ve been so many rumours in the past and they all turned out to be bullocks so far.

  • Anonymous
  • Dessa Brewington

    So assuming/pretending this was true, how many episodes would be missing after that?

  • Sabrina

    Wiki tells me there are 106 episodes missing – so if according to the article 106 have been found this would mean that we would’ve got all episodes back! Which is exactly why it sounds too good to be true, imho.

  • Alexandria Web

    It was South Africa when I first heard this rumour on Twitter LAST NOVEMBER also the number has ping ponged a few times as well.

  • Anonymous

    Impossible, actually. At least one episode – ‘Feast of Stephen’ – was never sold to any overseas broadcaster. Once it was wiped in the UK that was it, gone forever.

  • Anonymous

    Thankfully Gilliam saved MP’s Flying Circus from oblivion.