Five years on … is optimism still high for a missing episodes return?

Five years ago Doctor Who fandom gave a collective scream of ecstasy. Already stoked by the 50th anniversary celebrations, the wonderful news broke that archive television hunter Philip Morris had successfully recovered nine missing episodes from The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear. Many a fan turned up to work exhausted (or consequently failed to!) as they rushed to download the releases from iTunes as soon as they were released at midnight, and overall there was much rejoicing.

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Where next for #missingepisodes animations?

Like most Doctor Who fans, I have been absolutely blown away by the outstanding job the BBC have done on the Power of the Daleks animation. The quality of the animation has been so good, and the reaction so uniformly positive, that fans are positively clamouring for the BBC to press ahead and animate the remainder of the missing back catalogue – the best of good news!

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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!