My last post left out eight serials that currently have all or part of their episodes missing from the BBC Archives. In the case of The Invasion and The Tenth Planet this is because I have seen each story, and they will be reviewed later. Power of the Daleks, The Moonbase and Evil of the Daleks are so eagerly anticipated that they will each get their own honorary review.
That leaves The Reign of Terror and The Ice Warriors (both released on DVD) and The Underwater Menace (due to be released on DVD, then postponed indefinitely). My DVD collection is presently conspicuous by the absence of these DVDs – and also the animated versions of The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase. Given that I own and enjoy The Invasion despite the animated episodes, it is a reasonable question to ask why I am not eagerly buying up the additional stories.
To answer this question, we need to visit a webpage from June 2013. In this post by the Bleeding Cool website, the author opined that many of the lost episodes had been recovered, and were on their way back to the BBC. And for a long while that was that – many daring to hope (myself included) but very few actually believing. I myself had held back from purchasing the Lost in Time DVD after The Invasion was animated – I dared to hope either that the lost stories would be animated in time, or else more might be found. This article gave me pause to see what happened.
Then in October, the rumour exploded. It was confirmed that TV archive hunter Philip Morris had found nine previously missing episodes in Nigeria. It is a sign of how far the rumour had developed that the celebrations of two nearly complete stories being returned to the archives were somewhat muted by the expectant hope that maybe, just maybe, the other 97 episodes had been tracked down too.
One year on, the so-called ‘omirumour’ that most (if not all) of the missing episodes have been found is no nearer to a conclusion. Indeed, for most fans it has become a source of embarrassment. A certain tribalism has emerged between ‘omni-believers’ and ‘omni-deniers’, while a rather petty twitter-war is ensuing between Philip Morris and Ian Levine – the man who had previously done a great deal of work to stop stories from being scrapped, and to recover (sometimes at his own expense) lost episodes to the BBC archives. What ought to have been a cause for celebration has instead become a tantalising but frustrating ‘what if.’ For a good flavour, Doctor Who Worldwide provided a rather good summary on their website.
For that reason, I am holding fire on purchasing the three stories listed above. None of them make my urgent list, and I am prepared to wait in the hope that somehow Philip Morris has done the impossible and found all of the episodes.
Now, it would not be fair to convey these details without giving my opinion – have the episodes been found? Based on pure rationality, I am 95% sure either that Morris has recovered material that is potentially salvagable, or else that he has very strong leads on where the material might be, but has not as yet recovered the material. So many parties have signed non-disclosure agreements enthusiastically that I am certain there is the hope of something. I do not necessarily believe every episode has been found (naturally of course, I hope every episode has been found) – but I do believe that more material is on the way.
I am also inclined to think and hope that a closure on the omnirumour will help the BBC to determine the future direction of the DVD range. It is strongly rumoured that animation of The Underwater Menace was cancelled until the rumour was cleared up – similarly, The Crusade would be a prime candidate for animation and there have been no moves to do so. I sincerely hope that closure to the rumour, one way or the other, would allow the BBC to assess the viability of animating every missing episode.
I personally think that animation technology is advancing so quickly that in ten years it may be commercially viable to plug the gaps in the classic series. One way or another, I think the fans will be able to have a complete collection by 2023. Of course, it would be even more wonderful if for the show’s 60th anniversary the animations were rendered redundant!