For those not "in the know" back in the 70's the BBC decided to junk a lot of their older programs. In their mind once something had been sold to other countries and a few years had gone by no one would ever want to watch that program again. Maintaining all those films and especially the video masters was costly, so they taped over them. Years later when they realized that nostalgia would mean that people would want to buy those episodes and watch them again they started trying to get back anything that might have been lost, which mainly consisted of writing to TV stations where episodes of various shows had been sold and asking them if they happened to have forgotten to send any back. Some were returned this way. Another avenue of return was that some BBC people who left the company around the time the wiping was being done took some films with them. Once the BBC promised amnesty to anyone who might have one of these programs, several people came forward. It appears that something similar happened at other stations around the country and so sometimes Doctor Who episodes turn up at flea markets or other unlikely places as the original person who procured the episode sold it to someone else and they never realized that the BBC didn't have a copy of the episode in question. Some dedicated fans have made it their life's work to follow up on any leads of where episodes of Doctor Who or any other lost BBC program may be. Some stations never wrote back to the BBC and some records aren't good for how a show may have been aired in various countries. The latest lead led Philip Morris to Nigeria where he turned up the entirety of Enemy of the World and all but one episode of Web of Fear. Completing one story and nearly completing another.
Wow! That's all that I have to say about this week's news. I never thought in all my years that we'd have 9 episodes turn up at once. The best that we've had in the past was 4 episodes turning up together and completing a whole story in 1992. Now we've got one completed and another one almost completed in a snap. This is the best 50th anniversary present I could think of for the series and I can't wait for the DVD releases. The rumor is that they'll come without commentary or extras which I think would selling the fans short. Every other DVD release has had commentary and extras and I'd rather they didn't rush these ones out there without giving it the full treatment. I want to know what the people who made it thought of the show. The cynical side of me thinks that they might be doing this on purpose so that they can later issue a "special edition" of each story with the commentary and extras so that we'll pay again.
In the end, I'm just excited. We're down to 97 missing episodes. I never thought we'd get below 100 in my lifetime. I do hope that the further searching through Africa turns up fresh episodes. It sounds like Africa is really the last bastion of hope on the treasure hunt. Isolated episodes in the hands of private collectors may exist elsewhere but in Africa we've got a whole continent where large numbers of episodes may have simply been misplaced or they've lost track of the fact that they were ever supposed to be returned to the BBC. I am really grateful for these hunters who sometimes go into places that are dangerous for Europeans in the hopes that they can enrich all of our lives with this content. I hope there's more news to come soon.