In a cause for celebration of fans of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, just over a hundred original reels of original Doctor Who footage of their serials have alleged to have been recovered. This was reported in The Mirror with quotes from Stuart Kelly at Wigton Book Festival last week. Research traced reels to Ethiopia’s Radio and Television Agency following months of strenuous work and efforts to track down any surviving copies.
A major part of Doctor Who’s history prior to the revival were efforts to restore classic episodes for future viewings. Thanks to burnings, disposals and destruction of film reels due to older policies, many titles were lost for years with the likes of Tomb of the Cybermen only retaining audio until reels were found. Fan campaigns and efforts over the decades have recovered many of these episodes for future releases, and while they have quietened down such efforts continue to restore those missing from the original eras.
Scepticism remains on this subject and rightfully so. It took multiple worldwide efforts to recover a few episodes at a time from various stories, with the last being two episodes found in 2011. To find so many at once, the exact number of episodes missing from the original serials no less, would be nothing short of miraculous. Many prominent figures have opted to consider these rumour false such as brand manager Edward Russell, and Doctor Who Magazine editor Tom Spilsbury. Even those who have attempted to back up these claims consider the number to be far less than one hundred and many details inaccurate at best.
The BBC’s silence in this matter has not helped, with no official announcements made in response to speculation or this story spreading like wildfire. Only time will tell if any of this is true, and if key episodes such as William Hartnell’s final performance as the Doctor will ever be seen again in full.