A number of early Doctor Who episodes that were long thought destroyed may have been unearthed. If true, a complete Doctor Who DVD collection is, for the first time, possible.

As fans of classic Doctor Who are aware, in the early days of television, the BBC had a habit of throwing things away instead of storing them. Among the long gone items are various Doctor Who episodes from the first three Doctors as well as live performances of a relatively then unknown band, The Beatles.

Reasons for the destruction varied, but space was at a premium, and the concept of the rerun and selling to other stations wasn’t yet fully formulated.
In particular, Doctor Who was thought of as a children’s show, and common thought then was that no one was going to buy the rebroadcast rights to something non-adult.

On top of this, the home entertainment market didn’t come about until the late 1980’s, almost a decade and a half after the disposal.

Over the years some material was recovered. Thanks to British colonialism, Doctor Who was shown in the Commonwealth nations and various reels have turned up everywhere from Australia to Nigeria and been restored.

One of the people who lead the hunt and restoration process over the years was superfan and U.K. media mogal Ian Levine. Levine even bankrolled part of the process.

What was able to be found over the years were the all audio files and PR stills. Audio files were mostly fans who recorded their favorite episodes any way they could since there were no VCR’s.

This media was and is still being processed and then animated for DVD in order to complete collections, albeit not in a perfect way. The image above, is a still that was released for this in-process work.

This all brings us to the last 24 hours where Bleeding Cool News is reporting, after a spectacular job of detective work, that an enormous cache of missing episodes, as well as other BBC lost footage has been recovered.

Ian Levine, though at first was doubtful of the Bleeding Cool News story, has managed to corroborate their facts, and is less than pleased. It seems that he specifically asked the powers that be about such a discovery and, according to his Twitter, had its existence denied to his face.

Given his past history, with the franchise he’s not taking it well.

Levin capture 1
Levin capture 2

BBC has since responded to the Bleeding Cool News article with what amounts to a no comment answer, “There are always rumours and speculation about Doctor Who missing episodes being discovered, however we cannot confirm any new finds.”

So where does this leave fans? It’s likely any new footage will be trucked out to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Given that November 23, 2013 is near Christmas, I’d expect to see “The Ultimate Complete Doctor Who Collection” right about then.

Update: In a disappointing turn of events, it seems that in reality there was no real footage found. Philip Morris, a film archivist from the Television International Enterprise Archive, released a statement about the subject of missing and reportedly found Doctor Who footage, stating that they’re not missing but were instead destroyed. Read the statement from Morris below:

T.I.E.A DOES NOT HOLD ANY MISSING EPISODES OF THE LONG RUNNING DR WHO SERIES. THE ORIGINAL VIDEO TAPES WERE WIPED SUBSEQUENT FILM COPIES WERE EITHER RETURNED TO THE BBC AND SENT TO LANDFILL ODD FRAGMENTS HAVE SURFACED TWO EPISODES ON 16MM FILM BUT THATS IT. THE PROGRAMMES IN QUESTION LIKE MANY OTHERS WERE DESTROYED AS THEY HAD NO FURTHER COMMERCIAL VALUE .THEY ARE NOT MISSING BUT DESTROYED THE END.I am sorry if this upsets some people but these are the facts.I have also become aware of the tracking of some of our clients shipments these are local cultural materials sent to us for migration to a modern format as the playback equipment in the country of origin no longer exists and as such is the best road to preserve international cultural heritage .I will be making no more statements on this subject.Philip MORRIS Executive director T.i.e.a

Levine, who had been tweeting away about the discoveries since the report by Bleedingcool tweeted a response stating he was “deeply sick, distressed, disheartend, all hopes dashed, all joy gone from the world.” He continued, “that’s it. DO NOT ASK ME TO SAY ANOTHER WORD.” The tweet has since been deleted from his account, but we don’t blame him for feeling so disheartened!

This story has had it’s ups and downs but it seems we can finally rest our inquisitive heads knowing that the Doctor Who footage has been destroyed, and will likely not be found. It’s disappointing, but at least we still have the animated works to look forward to.

What do you think about this discovery and how it was handled?

Edited by Brandi Delhagen