Rumors that the BBC has recovered a horde of missing episodes from the early days of Doctor Who continue to swirl like a toilet with a leaky stopper. This despite the attempts by the Beeb and even some notable persons involved with the search to recover said episodes to throw water on the story. But, like The Doctor, the rumors have seemingly managed to regenerate.
Rich Johnson began reporting in June on rumors of the recovery of a significant number of Doctor Who episodes from the Sixties, presumed to have been destroyed by the BBC in the days before the now fifty year-old series had become a gold mine for the quasi-socialist organization. While a number of episodes from the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton eras of Doctor Who have been recovered over the decades (the most notable being the recovery of the complete “The Tomb of the Cybermen” serial in the early 1990’s), over a hundred episodes are still missing from the BBC archives. Still, many beloved and historically significant episodes and serials from the Sixties, including Hartnell’s final episode as The Doctor, and Troughton’s first serial “The Power of the Daleks”, were presumed to have been consigned to the vaults of eternity.
"Uncle Rich"’s reporting was quickly (and ironically) slammed by parts of the Doctor Who community supposedly committed to recovering missing episodes (notably at missingepisodes.com), who have been burned by false rumors and blatant hoaxes throughout the years. A swift denial from the BBC and certain persons involved with the search seemed to shoot the story down.
Still, just like The Doctor, these rumors have a habit of regenerating. Uncle RIch brought the story back to the forefront again Monday, with reports from unnamed sources that unnamed persons involved with the recovery of episodes had signed unnamed non-disclosure agreements, which forbade them to discuss the possible return of unnamed Doctor Who episodes to the unnamed BBC archives. Which could only mean that something has been recovered, right? Rich claims that somewhere 40 to 93 episodes have been recovered, with only three serials remaining incomplete (“The Daleks’ Master Plan,” “The Ice Warriors,” and “The Wheel in Space”) and the one-episode story “Mission to the Unknown" still lost.
Rich also reported on rumors involving two specific serials from Doctor Who’s fifth season, considered by many to be the highpoint of the Troughton era, popping back up in time for the series’ 50th Anniversary in November. One is that BBC4 will be airing the full serial "The Web of Fear" during the series’ anniversary week. The serial features The Great Intelligence, this past season’s Big Bad and its original minions, the Yeti. It is also features the first appearance of Colonel (later Brigadier) Lethridge-Stewart, who later founded UNIT and became a major ally to Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. Only two episodes of the six-part serial are currently known to have survived.
The other rumor involves a possible DVD release of the fifth season serial “The Enemy of the World” of which only one episode is known to exist. The serial features Patrick Troughton in the dual role of The Doctor and the serial’s titular villian, would-be dictator of Earth, Salamander.
Johnston has been slammed by Doctor Who fans for dipping his foot into the missing episode rumor pool. While "Uncle Rich" isn’t 100% when it comes to rumors, it’s hard to bet against him being totally wrong. As it looks now, November can’t come soon enough for Who fans. Maybe.