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The Coolest Place to Find Lost Doctor Who Episodes? Outer Space! [UPDATE]

Imagine this: scientists at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico have been uncovering television signals in outer space that were first broadcast from Earth nearly 50 years ago. And guess what was included in those signals? Two lost episodes of Doctor Who! Seriously! Doctor Who, just existing in space, waiting to be found, decades later! This comes on the heels of the discovery of more lost episodes, but finding broadcasts from space? Now, that’s cool. UPDATE: Apparently, we wrote this while time traveling through the year 2009 and thought you might still enjoy it in late 2011. But if you are still interested in how lost Doctor Who episodes were recovered in outer space, we urge you to read on! Apologies for our oversight.

We were happy to report the terrestrial recovery of two lost episodes from early seasons of Doctor Who yesterday. But finding out about another two episodes of the show about an alien time traveler while looking for “extra-terrestrial” signals in space is a story worthy of the show itself!

The signals were noticed by radio astronomer Dr. Venn (no first name provided), who provided a more scientific explanation of how he found the vintage broadcasts:

“I realised the signal was in the VHF Band and slap bang in the middle of 41-68 MHz. It was obviously old terrestrial television broadcasts, but they seemed to be originating from deep space. …

“They are signals that left the Earth about 50 years ago and have bounced off an object or more likely a field of objects some 25 light years away.”

The BBC became interested in these signals, knowing that they had broadcast episodes of Doctor Who 47 years ago that have since been lost. So they promptly contacted the observatory and now have a team helping to recover some of these old broadcasts. BBC Television historian Peter Wells confirmed that those signals included Doctor Who episodes:

“We now know these are original broadcasts. So far we have recovered about 7 weeks of old television signals from space. Every day in our lab is like traveling back in time. And speaking of which we have just started the digital recovery of signals that contain lost Doctor Who episodes.”

Wells didn’t provide any information on which episodes were included in the found footage; there are over 100 lost episodes of the 50-year-old show. But there are were plans to re-broadcast footage from those episodes “later in the year,” which only contains about three weeks so maybe there are clips of them online! So keep your eyes peeled!

(BBC via Topless Robot)

Previously in Doctor Who

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  • Nikki Lincoln

    Looks like Pete & Pete was onto something…

  • Anonymous

    Can’t. Hold. Back. Geekgasm … ohmygoddnessthisisthecoolestthingevar!! Ahhh, was it good for you too?

  • Skemono

    You didn’t read the comments on the Topless Robot article before reposting this, did you?

  • Your Name

    Sorry guys, this is a hoax. It’s not really the BBC’s website and it’s dated April 1st. It’s been floating around on the interwebs for a while now.

  • rmd

    two year old april fool’s day post?

  • Anonymous

    Appropriate Spaceballs clip, go!:

  • Anonymous


  • Emily Capettini

    The BBC did recover two Doctor Who episodes recently. It was announced yesterday, so possibly the reason for the confusion? They were in someone’s basement, though–not as cool as space.

  • ZenPoseur

    Chalk this up as one more reason to develop FTL travel.

  • Pepijn

    Not only is it an April Fool’s joke, it’s an obvious one, you just have to look at the “last update” date, the URL, and where the “most popular stories now” links go. Pretty shoddy to miss that not once, but twice! Do you just repost this stuff after nothing more than a cursory glance?

    If it were actually April 1st you could let it stand, but as it is I think you should acknowledge your mistake.