Doctor Who’s missing episodes: a fan reaction

Andrew downloaded The Web Of Fear and The Enemy Of The World. Here's how it went...

Call me cynical, but I don’t know if embargoes work terribly well, relying as they do on the much loved ‘Trust’ system of responsibility. As a result, Doctor Who fans spent much of yesterday sifting through social media’s ever-shifting barrage of information, with every new find immediately verified, debunked, then re-assessed.

It was like the nineties all over again. It was like my relationship with the Colin Baker era. It was like looking for a ring in the deserts of Aridius. Except that last one. That wasn’t real. Sorry everyone, to shatter the previously-unimpeachable verisimilitude of The Chase like that. It’s been a stressful few days.

The return of the missing episodes was definitely real. It was happening. The BBC was doing a secret press conference and everything. Despite this, we were still uncertain. What if it was just another hashtag? Could we cope with that? I don’t think so. We’d storm the BBC and straighten Steven Moffat’s hairs, one by one. Don’t think it wouldn’t go that far.

But no. I am typing this in the small hours of Friday the 11th of October, 2013, and all is well. Not in the glib, Harry Potter sense of the phrase either.

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At ten to midnight, caps lock buttons were firmly pressed. Excited declarations abounded. iTunes. Head to iTunes. I had recently downloaded iTunes, because that’s where the Radio Times had said to go earlier in the week. It pays to be prepared. Soon I too will join in the ecstatic throng of people who are now listing ‘Downloading The Enemy of the World‘ as one of the happiest moments of their lives. I search iTunes for ‘web fear’ and find… nothing.

[Peinforte]OH, this CANNOT BE [/Peinforte].

I try ‘enemy world’. Still nothing. I turn iTunes off and on again. I turn my computer off and on again. My dreams entropy. A single tear escapes my eye.

Actually I put ‘web fear iTunes’ into a search engine. It was fine. But just for a second I was gripped by fear. Now, as I type, in thirteen minutes I can be gripped by one hundred and fifty minutes of The Web of Fear. I think I might have just woken my neighbour, because when I was confronted with this: 

I might have shouted ‘OF COURSE I WANT TO BUY THE WEB OF FEAR‘ to some extent.

Typing my password in more carefully than normal, I proceeded to buy the hell out of them. I might not be able to afford food next week anymore, but what the hey, I’ll eat when I’m dead. When the moment comes to actually, authentically, definitely buying The Enemy of the World all that has gone before is diminished as pre-glee nerves. It’s done. It’s downloading. I will finish my tea, lest it become salty through my tears of joy.

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While it’s downloading, did anyone else have a wishlist? Because there had been rumours flying around quoting numbers as high as 106 episodes being discovered. And there have been hoaxes. So many hoaxes. Last time episodes were discovered, we all held our breath and wished really hard for Power of the Daleks or The Ice Warriors episodes two and three. We got one episode each from Galaxy 4 and The Underwater Menace. So when something like this is announced we do tend to check ourselves, instead of getting carried away. Doctor Who fans are great detectives, but that also means we can find new ways of disappointing ourselves. Each revelation yields more ground for speculation, and disproves previous speculations so that we may say ‘No, what a stupid fool you are’ on forums.

But, ah-ha, but, the highs are higher than the lows. And the thing about lost treasures is that recollections of them are not always accurate. Audio soundtracks are one thing, but – especially with Patrick Troughton – you miss so much visually. So, it turns out that there are moments of utter brilliance in Galaxy 4 that just aren’t as good on audio, or in the novelisation. Likewise, The Underwater Menace only hints at the myriad facial expressions that The Mighty Trout might be exhibiting.

The Web of Fear is great in its audio form – making that bus journey to work just that little bit more harrowing – but how much better, surely, will it be with the visual dynamism of the young Dougie Camfield now ready, all the better to ransack my senses with? Better yet, The Enemy of the World. It was probably on only a few people’s wishlists, but to me it is totally and utterly new. Sure, I know the basics, but I have neither seen nor heard nor read it. I have the Target novel in my room, in the pile of fifty books that I’m definitely going to get around to reading (just added Dead Romance, should get around to reading that c. 2150 AD), so I can even read it first so I can get that ‘The televisual version doesn’t match the pictures in my head’ experience.

What would be the point, though? Rather than concentrate on what you haven’t got, focus on what you have. Besides, how ludicrous does it sound to say we’ve only got nine more episodes to watch? These are episodes that mark the first involvement of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart and Barry Letts. There’s the Great Intelligence, and the Yeti. There’ll be people getting the Tube today in London trying not to get carried away. Someone running a bath will put loads of extra foam in. As I type, someone somewhere is dreaming of Milton Johns.

To be fair, that is normally the case.

Now we can tell our friends or children ‘Look, there’s Richard E. Grant as a gas’. Or ‘Look, Toy Story 3 clearly stole the “Spanish Buzz” idea from David Whittaker’. Or we can just laugh at the sheer unadulterated brilliance that one of our favourite things is now even better than it was.

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The Web of Fear has downloaded. I’m going to watch The Web of Fear.

As in The Web of Fear.

All of The Web of Fear.

Imagine telling that to someone in 1968.

Read more about the recovered Doctor Who episodes, here.

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