As rumored and conjectured and asserted for a very long time (for a majority of the time I’ve been watching and loving DOCTOR WHO and covering it for this site, in fact), the BBC this week at long last coped to having recovered a number of long missing DOCTOR WHO installments. Thesewere installments feared lost forever due to BBC ‘housecleaning’ practices back in the day, which saw the recordings of a number of vintage series ‘blanked’ or destroyed to make room for upcoming material.
As shows of that era were often physically duplicated for presentation in non-UK markets (there were no digital files and whatnot), hope remained that somewhere, somehow, copies of the eps so thoughtlessly banished by BBC might somehow be recovered - leading to a lengthy and arduous global search.
Said endeavor has yielded a few rewards over the years, but a recent haul announced by BBC yesterday remains both impressive and significant. The Enemy of the World (Troughton, Story #40) and The Web of Fear (Troughton, Story #41) are back in play after an absence of over forty years. NOTE the restoration comparisons on the Web fo Fear reel.
Here’s a formal press release on the matter...
LOST DOCTOR WHO EPISODES
NEWLY RECOVEREDFROM THE 1960s,
Now Available Exclusively on iTunes
New York – October 10, 2013 – BBC Worldwide North America announces that a stash of BBC master tapes from the 1960s featuring missing episodes of Doctor Who has been recovered in Nigeria, Africa. The BBC has re-mastered the tapes, and is making two stories, The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear, now available exclusively on iTunes (www.itunes.com/DoctorWho).
Eleven Doctor Who episodes were discovered (nine of which have not been seen for 46 years) by Philip Morris, director of Television International Enterprises Archive, by tracking records of tape shipments made by the BBC to Africa for transmission. Morris says, “The tapes had been left gathering dust in a store room at a television relay station in Nigeria. I remember wiping the dust off the masking tape on the canisters and my heart missed a beat as I saw the words ‘Doctor Who’. When I read the story code I realized I’d found something pretty special.”
BBC Worldwide has re-mastered these episodes to restore them to the fantastic quality that audiences expect from Doctor Who. The titles are available exclusively on iTunes - www.itunes.com/DoctorWho.
The first recovered story, The Enemy of the World, is a six-episode tale which first aired on the BBC in December 1967. The story features Patrick Troughton as both the Second Doctor and his antagonist (Ramon Salamander), alongside companions Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling). Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 had previously been missing from the BBC Archives, and were returned by Morris.
Also recovered is the 1968 six-episode story, The Web of Fear. Also starring Patrick Troughton alongside Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling the story introduces Nicholas Courtney for the first time as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart (who later returns as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart). Episodes 2-6 were feared lost, but now episodes 2, 4, 5, and 6 have been recovered. With episode 3 still missing, the restoration team has reconstructed this part of the story using a selection of the 37 images that were still available from the episode along with the original audio, which has been restored.
Beth Clearfield, SVP, Digital Distribution & Business Development says, “For many, this will be their first chance to watch these long-lost Doctor Who stories. We’re thrilled to partner with iTunes in bringing these missing gems back to new and long-time fans after all these years.”
On November 23, 2013, Doctor Who celebrates 50 years since the very first episode, An Unearthly Child, aired on BBC television. A number of episodes from the first series of Doctor Who were lost as a result of BBC Archive space-saving measures and there are still 27 Doctor Who stories that are missing or have incomplete episodes.
The time and effort required to cover this story throughout the week more or less squelched my ability to generate much material for this week’s Docback, but the awesome HornOrSilk sent along his write-up of the 1963: FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MEN Big Finish Audio (which you can find below - I love its cover), and...how can I resist?...next week I’ll take a look at the newly liberated Enemy of the World in detail. And the week after that? Well, I think you can pretty much guess.
In the meantime, discuss the recovered episodes (and the recovery of these episodes) below. Enemy of the World is now available via iTunes HERE, and The Web of Fear is available HERE. The BBC has come under fire for their handling of the publicity surrounding these releases - some of the criticisms being voiced are justified. However, I’d like to extend major kudos and a heartfelt tip of the hat for making these episodes 1) available concurrently, and 2) available digitally, 3) available to folks in multiple nations simultaneously.
For those wondering, YES, these eps will receive a DVD treatment/release as well. BBC is already taking orders in the UK HERE - U.S. ordering can’t be far behind.
I downloaded both eps last night and watched EOTW through the peculiar miracle of AppleTV. Looks and sounds very nice...surprisingly nice. The episode...ahhh...I’ll wait till next week to say more.
BBC has issued clips from these recovered shows, viewable via the embeds below.
HORNORSILK REVIEWS THE 1963: FANFARE FOR THE COMMON MEN BIG FINISH AUDIO
Big Finish 178 – 1963: Fanfare for the Common Men
By: Eddie Robson
I didn’t come in expecting much with this story. It is the annual “thirteenth” story which fits with none of the ongoing story-arcs. While this can give free reign to the author, it can also suffer from the “filler material” effect. Yet, this time, even if this is a “filler” story, I think it is not so filler after-all, and it represents one of the turns Big Finish has done for the 50th anniversary. The story takes place in 1963 for a reason. The Doctor acknowledges his other presence in 1963 England. I wonder if something of this story (and perhaps, other stories coming up) might have some connection to this years Light At the End of the Tunnel. There are parts of the story which I think could fit here, but, as per usual, I don’t want to mention everything so as to give surprises to new listeners. But I wonder if others will come out with the same sense as I did that we are getting the build up for the 50th now.
The Fifth Doctor decides to introduce Nyssa to the Beatles when their fandom is on the rise. But, when he arrives at one point where he expects the Beatles to be welcomed with cheers, he is surprised: instead of the Beatles, a three-man band known as “The Common Men” receive the public’s accolades.
It’s clear to the Doctor, time has been changed. And the Beatles are no more. The perfect storm which allowed for the rise of the Beatles has been taken by these “Common Men.”
Before the Doctor can figure out what is happening, an assassination attempt against the Common Men get his attention. Nyssa chases the assassin, only to vanish with the assassin as she catches up to him. It turns out, the assassin had time travel technology and went back in time, when the Common Men are first forming their band. And Nyssa is there, receiving attention from them.
The Doctor must figure out who the Common Men are, where Nyssa went to, and how to fix time. And it’s not easy, for he quickly finds himself locked out of the immediate past with a “time lock” surrounding the Common Men. He has to live out and experience the development of the Common Men, and find out how to fix history before it is too late.
Now, what is nice about this story is the way it addresses Beatles lore and twists it around. The Beatles are front and center with this story. We hear, for example, what happened to them in this alternative time line, when their fame was taken over by the Common Men. And, of course, elements of the Beatles’ history are now taken over and adapted by the Common Men (and, eventually, the Doctor). One of my favorite aspects of this story is how the Doctor finds a way to use the “Paul is dead” conspiracy theory as a way to create a conspiracy theory against the Common Men and help him address the changes in the timeline.
Now I wouldn’t say this is a perfect story. The music, for example, is fine but not great. It’s nowhere near the Beatles quality and at times, verging in annoying. But it’s not really bad, for this kind of project, and indeed, the quality of the music isn’t what is important in this story. Other, sci-fi related themes, take over, and what is happening to the world and why it supports the Common Men over the Beatles has a very alien solution. But, with what gripes I can have with this story, they don’t detract from the whole, and indeed, I feel this is an above-average Big Finish production, with an 8/10 (where 7/10 is my average rating for a story). I think Beatles fans who know more Beatles lore will probably appreciate the ingenuity of this story more and might rate it higher, but, that I can’t say for sure.
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