Fans of Doctor Who
are celebrating the recovery of nine previously-thought-lost 1960s episodes
of the classic sci-fi fantasy show, with the recovered material already exclusively
available on iTunes less than a day after the find was publicly announced
. This is the first time that newly-rediscovered episodes of the pioneering BBC space drama have been made available in digital form before being (re) broadcast or made available on DVD, and comes just over a month ahead of the show's 50th birthday
The stories are both from 1967, and star Patrick Troughton as the second incarnation of the seemingly-immortal Time Lord, who travels through time and space in "a rackety old Police Box," actually a disguised and vast spaceship. The show originally debuted on the BBC the day after President Kennedy's assassination in 1963, and ran continuously until 1989. Following a brief TV-movie revival in 1996, along with spin-offs, books and audio projects, the TV show returned to great acclaim and a growing worldwide cult audience in 2005.
The recovered stories are "The Web of Fear,"
a story that introduced the long-running character of Colonel (later Brigadier General) Lethbridge-Stewart, and "The Enemy of the World"
which saw Troughton playing a dual role both as The Doctor and as the principle villain, Salamander. At the time, the BBC was in the habit of "wiping" the master videotapes of shows that had been sold into syndication, believing their commercial value was exhausted and with no budget or mandate to preserve the country's cultural TV heritage.
The latter story is now, for the first time in decades, complete. "The Web of Fear," a popular sequel to a story featuring Yeti as monsters and set in the London Underground, is not quite fully recovered -- episode three of the six-part story is "reconstructed" using screen-capture photographs and the original audio, as the videotape of that episode is still missing. Prior to today, only one 24-minute episode for each of the two six-episode stories were known to exist, so the recovery of nine film cans with the "lost" episodes is being feted as one of the largest restorations of missing Doctor Who
material in over 20 years. Some 97 episodes, mostly from original Doctor William Hartnell and Troughton's era, are still listed as not available.
The iTunes episodes are listed as standard definition and priced at $10 for each full story. A free trailer
for the restored "Enemy of the World" is also available.