Friday, October 11, 2013

The Enemy of the World No Longer in A Web of Fear

In the 1998 documentary Doctor Who: The Missing Years, Ian Levine, the massive Doctor Who fan (in every way) stated for a fact that it is COMPLETE impossible to believe that ANY missing Doctor Who episodes (let alone whole stories) would turn up after all these years.  "If they were going to turn up they would have turned up.  We would have found them.  I don't think there's anything else left to find.  Please prove me wrong, but I think there will always be 110 missing episodes."  

Challenge made, challenge met.

Since the documentary's broadcast, there have been a total of four formerly missing episodes recovered: Episode One of The Crusades (The Lion), Episode Two of The Daleks' Master Plan (Day of Armageddon), Episode Four of Galaxy Four (Air Lock), and Episode Two of The Underwater Menace

Still, there were rumors of more episodes being found.  It would be a pleasant gift on Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary to have more lost episodes rediscovered.  However, would this be a case of mere wishful thinking, or could a serendipitous turn of events befall the Doctor's half-century mark?

Well, miracles, do happen.

On October 10, we learned of what can be rightly called a Doctor Who missing episodes mother-load.  The BBC announced that nine episodes previously missing have been recovered from Nigeria.  Technically, a total of eleven episodes were rediscovered, but two of those episodes were already in the BBC archives.  The episodes found were five of the six missing episodes of The Web of Fear (Episode Three still missing), and ALL SIX episodes of its previous story, The Enemy of the World.   

Doctor, we meet at last!

As a result, we now have two Second Doctor stories virtually intact and restored, bringing the total loss now down to 97 episodes.

Any recovery of long-lost Doctor Who stories is a source of celebration.  I have reviewed both The Web of Fear and Enemy of the World based on the episodes then known to exist.  The episodes indicated two good stories (I thought Web of Fear, the second Yeti story, was much better than their debut story The Abominable Snowmen).   Now we have an almost complete Yeti story, and for those keeping score, The Web of Fear is also the only nearly-complete story that features The Great Intelligence (who has reappeared as a major figure in Season Seven of NuWho).  I'm not a believer in coincidences, but it IS a most strange twist that my bĂȘte noire, Steven Moffat, would pick such an obscure villain from the bowels of Who mythology to be such a central figure in NuWho just before a story featuring said villain would resurface after going missing nearly forty-five years. 

The Web of Fear's rediscovery also means that the debut story featuring the character of Colonel (later, Brigadier) Lethbridge-Stewart is now virtually before us. That in itself should be a source of great rejoicing among Doctor Who fans.

What, however, does this mean for those stubborn 97 missing episodes still lost in time?  We already have had reconstructions of other missing stories (The Tenth Planet, The Invasion, The Ice Warriors, The Reign of Terror).  Those have only a few episodes missing, so they can be restored via animation reconstruction. 

What, however, of those that have no footage whatsoever (Mission to the Unknown or The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve) or have only a few clips (Fury From the Deep, The Power of the Daleks)?  Could they still be found?  Possibly.  Could they be animated with the surviving audio tracks?  Possibly. 

Hope still lives.

I however, hope that despite the years we may still have wonderful news as the news we have received today.  I look forward to both The Web of Fear and The Enemy of the World being fully restored, released, and more importantly, preserved.  While they are available as of today via iTunes, I will stick with the eventual DVD releases when they become available. 

I also look forward to hearing the phrase, "A previously missing Doctor Who episode..." emphasis on the word 'previously'.