50 Years of Doctor Who

Reflections on 50 or “How I Learned to Relax and Love the Omni-Rumour”

It was June of this year that I got my first sniff of the so-called Doctor Who “Missing Episodes Omni-Rumour,” when a twitterer calling himself “Rogue Cyberman” offered a pile of cash for information leading to the recovery of any of the missing believed wiped episodes of 1960’s Doctor Who.  Indeed, he claimed to be in contact with someone who had most of the missing stories in his possession and was planning viewing parties.  Ultimately, Rogue turned out to be a hoaxer, but through him I discovered the missing episodes forum on Gallifrey Base, a place I would lurk almost every day, and occasionally even write a post!  

But wait, lets go back a bit, to a better time.  A time before the internet, before DVD, before rumours could spread around the world in a matter of minutes, a time when I first learned about a quaint little British science fiction programme called Doctor Who, lets go back to the early 1980’s…

The long, winding path weaved through the dark, gloomy, shadow mottled park, that I walked everyday on my way to and from school.  On one of these protracted hikes I was joined by a school chum who told me about a TV show he had just discovered, a “cool science fiction show from England on PBS.”  He waxed eloquently , or as eloquently as was possible for a seventh grader, about this curly haired alien with his crazy-long, multi-coloured scarf who travelled through space and time in his blue police box.  I was intrigued.  I always enjoyed science fiction, and back in the 1980’s this was not something one usually mentioned out-loud, as the “geek-chic” revolution was still a good twenty years away.  To say you were a sci-fi fan in the ‘80’s was like giving the assholes and bullies an open invitation to ridicule and attack, and I already had my hand’s full at that school from the bullies, (and even one particular teacher) as I was the “new kid from the States,” and didn’t need to give them another excuse to hate and assault me.  

The rest of the walk home I found myself thinking about it, determined to catch an episode that very night if I could.  That evening I raced through my homework, and when the time came I pushed in the chrome power button on the 1970’s era Zenith colour television.  I twisted the knob to channel 2 and sat back.  From the creepy opening theme, to the final musical sting of the cliff-hanger, I was hooked.  I wanted more, and more I would get.

Over the last 50 years (as of 23 November 2013) there have been 799 episodes of Doctor Who produced for television and of them there are currently 97 episodes missing from the BBC archives.  During this 50th anniversary year, from Nov. 2012 to Nov. 2013 I have tried my best to watch every story, skipping serials that exist only as audio recordings, and tele-snap recons, but it was still a daunting task indeed.  Like any long running TV series it’s had it’s ups and downs, you don’t get to nearly 800 episodes without having a few stinkers in the pile, and it’s certainly not my intention to review every story I sat through, that would be insane, I will however over the next few weeks, give my “expert” opinion of the highlights and lowlights of each incarnation of the good Doctor.  Next week begins with a review of the William Hartnell era, which brings us back to something fandom has dubbed “The Omni-Rumour.”

Back in July I found myself lurking on the Gallifrey Base forums and I found the “Missing Episodes Megathread” which at the time was 11 parts long (it’s now well into its 36th part).  The buzz on this tread was the rumour that 90 previously missing episodes of 1960’s Doctor Who had been found.  The rumour stated at the time that all missing William Hartnell stories and most missing Patrick Troughton stories were now complete.  To a fan like myself, who had long since accepted the fact there were some Doctor Who stories I was just never going to see, this news was absolutely mind blowing.  It was too good to be true.  Which was why, after the initial shock, and excitement had worn off, I didn’t believe it.  I mean how could I?  Nearly every episode of ‘60’s Doctor Who back in the archives?  At worst someone was playing a massive, cruel hoax, at best maybe someone got the wrong end of the stick.  But slowly, and surely the more I read, the more cautiously optimistic I became, especially about the part of the rumour that seemed the most consistent; that Marco Polo, The Enemy of the World, and The Web of Fear, the missing believed wiped 4th, 40th, and 41st serials respectively, had been not only recovered, but were being prepared for a DVD release before the end of the year!  I checked the thread every day, obsessively for any scrap of information about when these stories might be in my hot little hands, but the more I read, the less I believed.  The amount of real information was few and far between, and the amount of anger, back biting and geek on geek violence seemed to be at an all time high when I finally gave up and abandoned the Missing Episodes thread lurking, for the sake of my own sanity.  If real information was coming, I would sit back and let it come to me.  At last I could relax.  This was the beginning of October.   Less than two weeks later the BBC announced that the previously missing stories, The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear (sadly still missing it’s 3rd episode), had been returned to the BBC archives and would be released exclusively on iTunes that very week.  Suddenly it was real, rumour was fact, and that very weekend I found myself watching something I never thought I’d ever get a chance to see. 

The Region 1 Limited Edition DVD Release
So what does this mean for the rest of the Omni-Rumour?  Is it true?  False?  A hoax?  A massive misunderstanding?  Who knows!  However right this minute Doctor Who fans have nine more episodes to enjoy that they did at the beginning of the 50th anniversary year, and that in itself has made this a very good year for fandom indeed.


I still would love to see me some Marco Polo though…But i suppose time will tell, it always does.

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