Doctor Who fans will raise a Sonic Screwdriver to archivist Phillip Morris, the Indiana Jones of film, whose ceaseless search for lost episodes uncovered two classic stories languishing in Nigeria, made available for download at midnight on Thursday via iTunes.
Viewers might wish the BBC had shipped more of its programming to Africa during the period in which it systematically wiped the jewels in its crown, given the magnificently-preserved condition of the two episodes, which 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 tracking records of BBC overseas shipments.
But this mysterious Saviour of Sci-Fi declined to appear at a Soho screening of the episodes, sending a message from an unnamed distant land which read: “I cannot be with you as the search is endless. My work must continue.”
The six-part Enemy of The World, now complete with the discovery of five lost episodes, bursts with the energy of the Swinging 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 and his kilted assistants, Jamie (Frazer Hines) and 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 features much gun-play and a daring rescue by helicopter, piloted by plucky agent Astrid.
The Doctor, it emerges, bears a close resemblance to Salamander, a ruthless scientist/politician who claims to have solved global famine by redirecting the sun’s rays but is actually trying to take over the planet.
However, Troughton’s Doctor, sporting a skew-whiff bow-tie and Harry Hill wing collar, would really rather return to the beach than get involved in any saving-the-world heroics, before circumstances force his hand.
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.
Mark Gatiss, a writer for the revived Doctor Who, said had “hoped and prayed” that missing episodes of the six-part Web Of Fear would one day turn up.
It is actually more a case of Doctor Where? as Troughton is nowhere to be seen in episode two, screened to the media.
The Yeti are running amok on the Underground. The Doctor is missing, presumed dead, after soldiers blast the tunnel and the claustrophobic atmosphere builds during the subterranean storyline.
“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 when Troughton negotiated an extra week’s holiday for playing the dual role of Salamander in the earlier 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 episode aired months before Rupert Murdoch broke into Fleet Street by acquiring the News of the World and The Sun.
Morris, who recovered a total of nine episodes, can’t rest on these welcome additions to the Doctor Who canon – there are 97 more still unaccounted for.
The first four Doctor Who episodes from 1963 will be screened on BBC4 as part of the show's 50th anniversary celebrations next month.
Asked whether viewers might also see the 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 60s.
It is the type of commercial deal, with the proceeds being ploughed back into licence fee funds, which the BBC will increasingly pursue under its Director General, Tony Hall.
So with reports of a further cache of Doctor Who episodes locked away in Ethiopia, it’s time for the archive Indiana Jones to spring into action once again.
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