After months of speculation, we are finally able to answer the question fans have been pondering ever since the BBC mysteriously announced:
And the news, while not the very best, is certainly to be greatly celebrated – on 5th November, 50 years to the day after Patrick Troughton made his debut as the Second Doctor, the BBC will be releasing a fully animated reproduction of his first adventure, The Power of the Daleks.
Let us begin with the positives of this venture – this is a wonderful vote of confidence by the BBC in the classic Doctor Who brand! This will be the first time that an entirely missing serial has been animated for release. If a success, it promises the hope that regardless of whatever success Philip Morris has had in his search for missing Doctor Who, the BBC are open to the prospect I have long hoped for – replacing the missing back catalogue with animations. We owe much to Cosgrove Hall for the very first Doctor Who animations for The Invasion DVD, and to the team that successfully released the missing Dad’s Army adventure A Stripe for Frazer on BBC Store for pioneering the path that has taken us to the point we can own and watch even entirely missing adventures of classic Doctor Who.
And what a story they have chosen to begin this new range of releases! In anticipation of a series of missing episode reviews (which understandably will be put on the back burner for now!) I watched the Loose Cannon reproduction of Power of the Daleks, and was enraptured by the story. It fully justified the anticipation I expressed in my earlier post, in which I placed Power in the top three stories I most wanted to see recovered. Even with just the telesnaps it was possible to follow the flow of the adventure, and the tension ramps up beautifully across the six episodes. I have no hesitation in saying that this is the most hotly anticipated Doctor Who DVD release I have ever experienced, such is the mystique that surrounds Patrick Troughton’s debut adventure. I’m also hugely thrilled at the prospect of sharing this experience with fans across the world who will be discovering the adventure at the same time.
Positives duly enthused, I will now acknowledge the elephant in the room. Wonderful news though the Power release is, it is not the original episodes that I have long hoped (indeed trusted) had been recovered. Indeed, it brings the painful realisation that if the BBC have made the (not insubstantial) investment to animate Power, it almost certainly means that the odds of ever finding the original episodes are as good as zero. That is a painful sentence to type, much less to contemplate and accept! The pragmatist in me is grateful for whatever reproductions we are able to enjoy, while the part of me that has delighted in the recovery of Tomb of the Cybermen, Enemy of the World, and Web of Fear is saddened we don’t get to enjoy all of the wonderful quirks of Pat Troughton’s acting. It does in certain respects feel similar to the recovery of Enemy and Web, insomuch as that fans have hoped and longed for so long that the rumours were true that some of Power had been recovered.
There also remains certain mysteries, made all the more complicated by the fact that fan rumours can establish myths that take on a life of their own! Two different sources each assured me either that (1) Power was definitely not back, because the BBC were animating it, or (2) The so-called ‘secret screening’ of Power had taken place, and we’d get to watch it soon. It’s easy to jump to the obvious question: ‘Does this spell the death of the omnirumour?’
I think there is a much less obvious question: ‘Why were the BBC so secretive in the first place?’ I will be reading media reports with interest to see if the BBC comment on this, but it seems a little strange that a project that would engender such high media and fan attention was kept secret for so long (until the inevitable leak happened …) – so I am still very much interested in what has been going on in the background. I have heard all sorts of rumours – that prints have been found but are not of broadcasting quality; that prints have been found but the holders are refusing to disclose them; that the search is over, done, and fruitless. One suspects the truth lies somewhere between these three possibilities.
All of which to say, as dear Billy Hartnell once said, “It’s far from being all over!” This story is going to run and run, and us fans will be on tenterhooks until it concludes …
Meanwhile – take this site’s snap poll, and cast your vote for which missing episodes you would like the BBC to animate next! I also hope to blog very soon on Phil Morris’ appearance at the Starburst Conference, and what this means for the ongoing missing episodes recovery debate …