Missing Episodes: the Onward Journey

So, you have the details now (see press release in other article here). Largely, it was as predicted:

  • Eleven episodes discovered (of which two were already in the archive, so nine really then)
  • Enemy of the World and Web of Fear (bar ep 3) available to release
  • Immediate availability via iTunes
  • EotW available on DVD in November, WoF early in 2014

What there isn’t:

  • Information about international release
  • Any way of getting it today other than by giving the late Mr Jobs some cash
  • Anything on other episodes or stories, including Marco
  • Indeed, anything on other series.

And frankly by keeping to the embargo I’m slightly too late to the party myself – the Northern Echo and certain others have already let loose the Dogs of Missing Episode Press Conference. But if I can’t introduce you to the glory of the news, at least let me tell you of the experience. The Event.

At a screening room in Soho the great and the good of the British press – and me – met to hear about the discovery that, pretty much, we already knew a fair bit about. A hoard of episodes discovered in a TV station in Jos, Nigeria that had arrived there via the Bicycle Route (as it is known): London to Hong Kong, Hong Kong on to other stations around the world and eventually Nigeria. Not the Jos station in Nigeria, though: how it got there is anyone’s guess, and partly why it was so difficult to find.

Discovered during a visit by Philip Morris of the TIEA, the tapes were immediately recognised for what they were. And eventually, only a few short decades (I jest, but only just) later, they’re now here and available to us.

The conference comprised a few short notes given by Mr Morris and members of BBC Worldwide’s communications team, the playing of episode one of Enemy of the World and episode two (ironically, the one without either the Doctor or the Brigadier in it) of Web of Fear, and then a panel.

The episodes were marvellous, as I said earlier. Dated, sure, but only in a good way. Exciting and thrilling certainly. And the quality, considering they’ve been sitting in 30 degree heat for forty years, blummin’ wonderful (and again as I said earler, arguably better than would have been had at the time of broadcast).

Performances were also strikingly good, especially from Patrick Troughton. The man was a brilliant clown, with a gift for lifting extra performance from already-good scripts. The comparison with Matt Smith, himself an incredible clown, is well made – and this is in no sense damned with faint praise. Physical performance demands just as much skill as character and nuance, and both actors excel in both. The comparison compliments both ways.

The panel was wonderful. And also not so wonderful. By which I mean, it comprised Fraser Hines, Deborah Watling and Mark Gattis: of which the first two were ideal given the context, and the last ideal given any context. However, the panel being largely a question and answer session, this felt somewhat limited: questions were interesting, but somewhat shallow: what was it like to work with Pat? Do you like the modern series? Did it take you back? Given the luminaries from the restoration industry there, it would have been nice to hear more detail on the work of bringing these stories back to us.

I need to immediately add that this takes nothing away from the panellists, especially Hines and Watling, who were charm personified. It is not to say that their anecdotes were not interesting – they were, very much so, and on a couple of occasions downright funny – just that it felt other insights also could have been pertinent. But to listen to them and meet them was genuinely a privilege.

But there were major plusses too – a prop or two, a tape in a tin. And let’s face it, the return of nine, yes nine, missing episodes. Not a bad present for the fiftieth.

And in a year or two, we’ll be able to hear the story proper. Until then, as I said earlier, we’ll need to curb the desire to speculate on missing stories – or the people who hunt for them – lest we disrupt ongoing negotiations.

And there’s one thing I take away from that: there’s more to come.

Ladies and gentlemen, please prepare for boarding…

Updated: June 14, 2014 — 10:07 pm

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