Television was not looked at as something that needed to be preserved in the earlier days of the medium. Shows were broadcast live and not filmed, and many other tapes were lost, destroyed or recorded over before networks started to see the value in archiving their own content. Among the more famous of the lost programs are dozens of episodes of “Doctor Who” from the ’60s, featuring the first two Doctors, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton.
The BBC’s since been able to recover some of the episodes from private collectors, archives and broadcasters in other countries, including Australia and Hong Kong. It was in Nigeria that the most recent stash was recovered, master tapes featuring 11 episodes that make up two stories, “The Enemy of the World” and “The Web of Fear,” that BBC has remastered and released exclusively on iTunes.
Philip Morris, director of Television International Enterprises Archive, did the detective work, tracking records of tape shipments made by the BBC to Africa for transmission. “The tapes had been left gathering dust in a store room at a television relay station in Nigeria,” he said in the BBC announcement of the finding. “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.”
“The Enemy of the World” is a six-episode tale from December 1967 that stars Troughton as both the Second Doctor and his antagonist (Ramon Salamander), with companions Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling). “The Web of Fear” is from 1968, and again stars Troughton, Hines and Watling, while introducing Nicholas Courtney as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart. Episode three of the serial is still missing, but has been reconstructed using a selection of the 37 images that were still available from the episode along with the restored original audio.
“Doctor Who” will celebrate its 50th anniversary on November 23, 2013. There are still 27 “Doctor Who” stories that are missing or have incomplete episodes.