What the BBC had up their sleeves …

After months of speculation, we are finally able to answer the question fans have been pondering ever since the BBC mysteriously announced:

“We’re hoping to release more classic Doctor Who and we’ll let you know when we have news.”

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.

PowerPage.png

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 …

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Missing Episodes Survey – Part 1

A couple of months ago I launched an online survey to explore the expectations and aspirations of fans regarding the recovery (or lack thereof!) of missing episodes! With this post, I am able to present some of the initial findings from the survey, and to share some of the questions I would keen to explore in future.

First finding: DVD ain’t dead yet

By a country mile the outstanding feature of the survey was the sheer number of fans who stated that they were prepared to wait for a missing episode to come out on DVD rather than buy it immediately on the BBC Store.

Doctor Who ME Percentages

While this varied from serial to serial (more on that shortly!) you can see quite clearly that around 90% of respondents indicated that they would definitely buy a recovered story on DVD, and around 50% would do so instead of buying the story on the BBC store. However much there may be speculation that DVD is dead, as far as the fans are concerned it is definitely not dead!

Second Finding: The BBC is on the money with BBC Store

Having said that, the above graphic also shows a persistent block of respondents who would only buy the stories on the BBC Store – a rough block of around  8%. I have two hypotheses that I would love to test regarding this: firstly that this group doesn’t change their preference much across the band of stories – ie. they prefer digital to physical media; secondly, that they started watching Doctor Who during the modern series. To test these however, I need to remember how to code the variables in my statistics package!

Not only are there fans who will buy in physical media alone, but the survey also shows that a full 15% of fans at minimum will buy the story on the BBC Store as well as buying the DVD – even for a relatively weak story that has already had a DVD release like The Underwater Menace. It vindicates the trial run of using iTunes to release The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear, and shows that the BBC can comfortably expect to make substantial sums through the BBC Store in the event that more material is recovered.

Third Finding: Some Stories are more coveted than others

At this point I shall hopefully recover the attention of those whose first thought was ‘But which one did people want most?’ The finding was not a huge surprise at all – Power of the Daleks was the landslide winner, not just in the sample above, but also in the graphic below which shows which story fans most wanted to see recovered (full list at the bottom of the article!)

Doctor Who ME Want To See

Consider – almost 45% of respondents are so keen to see Pat Troughton’s debut story that they would buy it immediately on BBC Store, and of those the vast majority would also buy the story on DVD. Alone of the missing stories, Power of the Daleks is the only one that every fan wants to buy, and more than 90% of fans would buy it as soon as they could – the only ones waiting being those only prepared to buy it on DVD. If Philip Morris has indeed found Power, the BBC can look forward to their biggest payday ever.

Fourth Finding: Fans will be patient for stories that have already been released

You can see quite clearly that while there is a persistently small minority of fans who won’t buy any stories (if this was you, I’d genuinely love to know what your motivation is behind it!) – the greatest variance comes from those fans who choose to wait for their DVD to come down to a more manageable £7.99 on Amazon! By and large this isn’t really motivated by whether fans like the story – instead it appears that fans are more likely to be patient for stories like The Invasion and The Moonbase where we are already able to enjoy the story in some form – for these stories you typically find an additional 10% who indicate that they will wait to eventually buy the DVD. The understandable exceptions are The Tenth Planet (for the historic regeneration sequence) and The Space Pirates (for obvious reasons!).

Some further questions

Just looking at the raw data, it doesn’t seem that everyone consistently gave the same answer for each story. I would be genuinely fascinated to see if Hartnell fans would buy his stories on the BBC Store, but wait for the DVD for Troughton adventures (and vice versa!). It would be interesting too to discover whether originally watching the stories has lessened the desire to buy stories, or if the era you began watching the show had an impact. All further questions to explore!

A teaser – how many are back?

My final, deliciously evil question from the survey was to put the responder on the spot and ask them how many episodes they thought were back. The diagram below shows a scattergram of the responses:

Doctor Who ME Estimates

A substantial number, entirely understandably, have concluded nothing at all is back, with the great majority similarly concluding that only a small number have been recovered. The graph is a really helpful comment on the omnirumour however – the bumps along the way (at 10, 20, and 40) reflect certain specific rumours, while the cluster of 75+ to the right reflect those brave and hopeful souls who believe Philip Morris has found a large and significant number. It will be interesting to see how these numbers shake out in the coming months!