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Doctor where?

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2013-10-11 Independent.jpg


Classic episodes lost for years found in Nigeria

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Doctor Who fans should raise a sonic screwdriver in salute to archivist Phillip Morris. Like an Indiana Jones digging up old films, his ceaseless search for lost episodes of the cult show uncovered two classic stories languishing in Nigeria made available for download last night via iTunes.

Viewers might wish the BBC had shipped more of its programming to Africa while it was systematically wiping its recordings given the magnificently preserved condition of the nine episodes that have not been seen for some 45 years. Morris found The Enemy of the World (1967) and The Web of Fear (1968), both starring Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor, gathering dust at a television relay station in Nigeria after he tracked records of BBC overseas shipments.

The six-part Enemy of The World, now complete with the discovery of five lost episodes, bursts with the energy of the Sixties. Matt Smith's latter-day giddy enthusiasm is reflected in Troughton's playful splashing in the sea when, the Tardis lands at sun-kissed Australian beach (actually Littlehampton in Sussex). The Doctor, his kilted assistant, Jamie (Frazer Hines) and companion Victoria (Deborah Watling), are soon menaced by a sinister vehicle which floats across the sand. "It's like a sea monster," ventures Victoria. "No, it's a Hovercraft,' the Doctor corrects her.

The fast-paced episode shown at a special screening featured much gunplay and a daring rescue by helicopter, piloted by plucky agent Astrid. There's a charm to this alien-free story, often lacking in the rebooted series, with its conscious delivery of "blockbuster" episodes to feed a global audience.

The episode of The Web of Fear shown was actually more a case of "Doctor Where?" as Troughton is nowhere to be seen. The Yeti are running amok on the Tube. The Doctor is missing and presumed dead and the claustrophobic atmosphere builds.

"If only the Doctor would turn up," bemoans Yeti-expert Professor Travers in a brave episode which proceeds without its title character - a decision forced on the writers after Troughton negotiated an extra week's holiday for playing a dual role in the earlier Enemy of The World story.

The characters trapped underground include a newspaper journalist, accused of working for the "gutter press", who has a reputation for "sensationalism" and "distorting the truth".

The first four Doctor Who episodes from 1963 will be screened on BBC4 as part of the show's 50th anniversary celebration next month. Asked whether viewers might also seethe recovered episodes without having to pay Apple £1.89 per episode or £9.99 to download the complete stories, BBC Worldwide said licence-fee payers had already enjoyed a chance to watch the programmes in the late 1960s.

In fitting style, Mr Morris declined to appear at the Soho screenings of the episodes, instead sending a message which read: "I cannot be with you as the search is endless. My work must continue."

Caption: Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor in Web of Fear BBC

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  • APA 6th ed.: Sherwin, Adam (2013-10-11). Doctor where?. The Independent .
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  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Doctor where? | url= | work=The Independent | pages= | date=2013-10-11 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 June 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Doctor where? | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 June 2024}}</ref>