The Great Missing Episode Hoax
By Eddie McGuigan
January, 2012. There was me happily going about my business. Missing Episodes was the furthest thing from my mind. Well, I mean, if someone asked me about them I’d shake my head sadly and go “I know, 106, what a bummer,” and carry on, lamenting for a moment or two that we’d never again see that Tibetan Temple. No more an Underground. Bit of a bugger really.
I’d never heard of the Missing Episodes Forum, or seen the threads on Gallifrey Base, and on Outpost Skaro it hadn’t even crossed my mind to start one. I knew, vaguely, that Ian Levine had discovered some in a cupboard somewhere, and shooed some guys with matches out of an archive room with a broom, or something, and was very grateful to him for doing that.
I also knew of the furore surrounding the return of Tomb of the Cybermen, and was a bit dismayed when the We Know Best brigade of “uberfans” then declared “Ah, it’s a bit shit, eh?” because I loved it! Still do. Debbie, Frazer and Pat are just sizzling.
But for actual knowledge of the Missing Episodes, I’m not ashamed to say I knew absolutely nothing. Not a jot. I mean, the series in general, the production, the actors, the stories and, dare I say it, spoilers, I knew a bit. And that bit has grown over the years, but Missing Episodes? Not my department, skill set, or, frankly, interest. All these names bandied around, alumni of the Restoration Team, heroes all, were completely unknown to me bar me seeing their names on the DVDs. If anyone had asked, I would of course, in all honesty, have said “Splendid chaps, they do a fabulous job,” and I’d’ve meant it. I still do. I don’t know enough about it to form anything other than that opinion. This type really isn’t my forte.
Then I got a PM on Outpost Skaro – “Alright there mate? What do you make of these missing episodes returned then?”… I hesitated. Really? Wow. A Tomb of the Cybermen moment! “Really?” I repled. “That’s fab! What where who?” And then I heard nothing for a fair few weeks. So I PMed back again. “So, these missing episodes then..?”
In the meantime, a project, which has to remain secret in this article but which will become all too apparent come November, gave me access to some other stuff. People were saying “Yeah, they’re loads of them!” and when I dug a bit, asked people I knew, everyone seemed to have heard the same thing.
Then it changed. Someone, somewhere, slammed a D Notice on it. “Yeah they exist,” I was told, “but don’t say anything.” Now, that’s weird. Why not, I thought? Why not shout it from the roof tops! This could be huge! It’s a social and cultural find, never mind the thought of us seeing some nifty camera work getting two Pat Troughtons in the same room at the same time. I couldn’t get an answer to why not, and I still can’t.
The rumour then went, I think the phrase is, thermonuclear. Viral. Bonkers. Mad as chips. Forum threads sprung up, people were harassed, libelled, harangued and spied on. Punters became experts, experts denied everything. But still, privately, my own “sources” (I hate that word, they’re friends goddamit!) were telling me “Yeah, it’s complicated big man, nothing can be said publicly, but they DO exist!” At first, it was a phantom “they” – how many, in what condition, and from where were all spectral willo-the-wisps. No one was saying anything. I mean, plenty of people were saying “things” but no one, really, was saying anything. New “experts” grew from the ashes of trolls. Some people saw it as a way to make a mark on “Fandom”, massaging egos regardless of consequences. Some held court like The Scarecrow in The Dark Knight Rises – little people who found a route to be Big. But no one, really, said anything. Everyone had “sources”. Like, literally, everyone. My three year old granddaughter even has a source. But, with all the “oh we know, but we can’t say” going on, which, admittedly, we’ve been guilty of too, it allowed a load of people, the Know Nowts (of which I’m a member!) to make huge statements without quantifying them.
SO, what do I know, for sure? Honestly, nothing. Not for sure. Well, I know that Big Names, the Should Knows, are all denying it, in public, carefully. RT members, ME forum mods, Gallifrey Base Big Wigs, DWM editors. Actors are staying resolutely quiet on the subject. Everyone is very careful what they say and how they say it. Even the BBC PR unit has issued a very short and inconclusive statement when it could have put the whole thing to bed in an instant.
Personally, I’ve been told the following: Three full stories have been returned, proof of others exists, and negotiations are underway. Some people have seen these stories. Negotiations are… protracted. And could take ages. Or could be over! One day I’m told it’ll be ages until an announcement, if at all, others it’s very close… so close, you can feel its fire!
Have I seen these episodes myself? No. Are the people who are telling me about them trustworthy? Absolutely. But, then, so are the people denying it. Could the people telling me about them be being duped as well? Without a doubt. Is this a Hoax?
My head tells me that 90 odd episodes discovered in Africa by Indiana Jones is ridiculous. I mean, think about it. Absolutely ridiculous. My HEART tells me the people with whom I’ve talked are genuine, trustworthy and earnest in their belief that what they’ve been told is true. So if it IS a hoax, it goes right to the Big Shiny Gates of Roath Lock, and even within those hallowed halls people are saying “It IS true, isn’t it?”
So is the truth, perhaps, somewhere in between? Could anything have been discovered? Is it possible? Now, we’ve heard until recently that The Feast of Steven is lost forever. I don’t know the technicalities (really, really not my area of expertise), but for whatever reason it’s impossible that it’s been saved from a junking. Now I hear this might not be the case, that it COULD really have been saved. FOUND is a different thing, but the POSSIBILITY exists.
At Outpost Skaro we simply report the news as we’re given it. Sometimes the “spoilers” (which is what we usually do!) pay off. More often than not. Sometimes, they don’t. That’s usually because we get them so early things change. Sometimes, it’s just that they don’t. But Missing Episodes is quite something else. You’d be shocked to know the people in the Whoniverse who actually believe they’ve been found, and who are telling us this.
Until they are shown to us though, we can’t make a specific announcement. We can’t categorically tell you that Missing Episodes have been recovered. We are pushing for a statement, we really are. Our statement people are basically ignoring us though. Not a peep. We’re also pushing for a picture – something that can’t be a telesnap, taken from a tv maybe! We’ve been told some have already been transferred to DVD, but whether this is true, likely, possible or standard procedure I have no idea.
The only reason I can think of for anyone to lie about the recovery – and lies are very different from saying “I don’t know” – is that they might think there is a chance that, even though they are recovered, they might never be made public. The backlash of that scenario would be awful. Imagine some Big Fans having found a haul, and then between them and the Beeb blowing the negotiation so they actually ARE trashed, or, perhaps worse, hoarded. Goodness knows why anyone would want to do that.
I personally don’t think anyone is lying about anything. Despite some nippy replies, posts and tweets, which to be fair we can put down to exasperation (our own Tame Spoiler Hound, Other Dave, has been known to snarl at the ankle biting puppies of Twitterdom!), I don’t think anyone is actively lying. Are they out a loop? Do they just not know? Are THEY in turn being lied to? Or are they, shock of shock, telling the truth? Is this a lie, a hoax, which has got so out of hand it’s created its own meme?
With the fiftieth anniversary – and a huge, sold out Convention – coming up, it would be the ideal time to announce this amazing could-be find. Or, indeed, put it to bed once and for all.
It’s either the biggest find of the Century, or the Biggest Who Hoax in History.
Time will tell, she always does.
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