Doctor Who has been around for almost 50 years, and in that time it has amassed a huge fanbase that practically has its own culture… and its own myths and legends to go with it. One such story, told around campfires in hushed voices, concerns the 106 episodes of Doctor Who made in the 1960s and 1970s that were later destroyed or wiped by the BBC in order to make room in the archives. However, since some broadcasters in other countries purchased copies of the episodes, some that were destroyed by the BBC may well have survived and could, to this day, be gathering dust on the back of a shelf somewhere
It’s the Doctor Who equivalent of the Anastasia Romanov story; every now and then a rumor surfaces that some of the lost episodes have been rediscovered. With the 50th anniversary special episode gearing up to be simulcast across the globe next month, there is once again talk of the lost episodes being found – but this time it seems that it’s actually true.
The news originated from two different sources. The first, UK tabloid The Mirror, claims that missing episodes of Doctor Who featuring William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton have been found in Ethiopia by “a group of dedicated Doctor Who fans.” This jibes with a similar story run by the Radio Times, which states that BBC Worldwide will release digitally remastered versions of two episodes from the Patrick Troughton era on platforms like iTunes on Wednesday, October 9th, and that further episodes have also been found and may be released at a later date.
The Mirror‘s only sources for the story are an unnamed “TV insider” and a “Doctor Who expert” called Stuart Kelly who said, while speaking at the Wigtown Book Festival in Scotland, that a friend had told him that the episodes had been found and that the BBC were negotiating their return. However, the Radio Times was founded and owned by the BBC up until 2011 and still has strong ties to it, which means that the news about the episodes being released online is almost certainly coming directly from the broadcaster.
The Radio Times asked an official BBC spokesperson to comment on the story, but he refused to do so and referred to the story only as “speculation.” This may be because Bleeding Cool and other sources report that BBC Worldwide has called a press conference on Tuesday for a matter that another spokesperson said has “a connection” to the current rumors, which could likely mean that the BBC is holding off on making anything official until then.
Amidst the wall of silence, there is one strong dissenting voice. Doctor Who brand manager Edward Russell tweeted, “It’s Sunday. The weather’s gray and the papers are full of rubbish.” When asked whether he was referring to the rumors about the missing episodes, he replied, “What do you think?”
So, have the episodes really been found? The old adage of there being no smoke without fire has plenty of exceptions, especially in the world of TV and movie news where a headline can be smoked up based on virtually nothing at all. However, the fact that BBC Worldwide has called a press conference apparently related to the matter does give weight to the story, and while The Mirror might not be a particularly credible source (no offence meant to Doctor Who expert Stuart Kelly, or to his friend), the Radio Times is generally reliable when it comes to BBC news.
Since at least part of the story is definitely true (tapes of the missing episodes being shipped to Ethiopia), it’s certainly possible that some surviving copies might have been discovered after all this time. Check in with Screen Rant on Tuesday to find out what BBC Worldwide has to say on the matter.
The Doctor Who 50th anniversary special will air all over the world on November 23rd, 2013.