Doctor Who: Yeti classic among episodes found in Nigeria


Watch: An excerpt from The Web of Fear, starring Patrick Troughton as the Doctor in 1968

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Nine missing episodes of 1960s Doctor Who have been found at a TV station in Nigeria, including most of the classic story The Web of Fear.

The black and white story sees Patrick Troughton's second Doctor battle robot yeti in the London Underground.

Also recovered is a complete version of Troughton's six-part story The Enemy of the World.

It is thought to be the largest haul of missing episodes recovered in the last three decades.


  • The Enemy of the World (1967-68) - episodes 1,2,3,4,5,6 (episode 3 was already in archive)
  • The Web of Fear (1968) - episodes 1,2,4,5,6 (episode 1 was already in archive - episode 3 still missing)

"It's thrilling," said Mark Gatiss, an actor and writer for the 21st Century incarnation of Doctor Who.

"Every single avenue seemed to have been exhausted, every now and then something turns up - but to have two virtually complete stories out of the blue is absolutely incredible."

The BBC destroyed many of the sci-fi drama's original transmission tapes in the 1960s and 1970s.

However, many episodes were transferred on to film for sale to foreign broadcasters. It is often these prints found in other countries that are the source of retrieved episodes.

In this case, 11 Doctor Who episodes were discovered, nine of which were missing, in the Nigerian city of Jos.

The find was made by Philip Morris, director of a company called Television International Enterprises Archive.

Philip Morris: "I am described as the Indiana Jones of the film world"

Mr Morris said: "The tapes had been left gathering dust in a storeroom at a television relay station in Nigeria. I remember wiping the dust off the masking tape on the canisters and my heart missed a beat as I saw the words, Doctor Who. When I read the story code I realised I'd found something pretty special."

He said it had been a "lucky" find given the high temperatures in the African country. "Fortunately they had been kept in the optimum condition."

Only episode three of The Enemy of the World already existed in the BBC archive. The Nigerian discovery of episodes one, two, four, five and six complete the story.

Episode one of fan favourite The Web of Fear existed, with the rest thought lost forever. Now episodes two, four, five and six have been recovered.

Episode three is still missing, but has been reconstructed from stills to enable restored versions of both stories to be made available for sale via download on Friday.

The latest find means that the number of missing episodes of Doctor Who has dropped from 106 to 97.

Former Doctor Who actors Deborah Watling and Frazer Hines told Lizo Mzimba they were "thrilled" with the discovery

'Quintessential story'

One episode from each story - both last seen in 1968 - were shown at a special event in London on Thursday by BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm.

Among the guests were actors Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling, who played Troughton's Tardis companions Jamie McCrimmon and Victoria Waterfield.

Episode one of The Enemy of the World is a James Bond-style thriller complete with an exploding helicopter, a hovercraft, gun-toting henchmen and a foreign-accented villain, Salamander (also played by Troughton).

The story opens with the Tardis arriving on an Australian beach where the Doctor strips to his long johns and goes for a dip in the sea.

The Web of Fear is a claustrophobic tale that sees the Doctor battle his old foe, the Great Intelligence, and the yeti in the tunnels of the London tube system.

"It's the quintessential Doctor Who story," said Gatiss. "It has the return of the Abominable Snowmen in an iconic location."

He said it showed Troughton "at the height of his powers".

Frazer Hines recalled that the underground station sets had been so realistic that London Transport accused the BBC of filming at a tube station in secret.

The story also featured an appearance by Deborah Watling's real-life father Jack, reprising his role as Professor Travers.

Recalling Troughton's "wonderful sense of humour" on set, Watling said: "We all got on so well, we were like a family and Pat was always to me like another dad or an uncle. We had a chemistry and I think it showed."

How did she feel when she heard about the recovery of the lost episodes? "I couldn't quite believe it. There had been hoaxes before. I thought it was just another hoax."

Her only other complete story in the archive had been The Tomb of the Cybermen, all four instalments of which were discovered in Hong Kong in 1991.

Hines said: "This now gives me hope that more stories of Patrick's will come out of the woodwork."

The latest find comes as Doctor Who celebrates its 50th birthday. A special episode featuring the current Doctor, Matt Smith, and his predecessor, David Tennant, will be shown on the programme's anniversary on 23 November.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    Fantastic news, but it's a shame that it needed to be done, as the BBC systematically junked so many priceless programmes as it considered its televisual output to be ephemeral & of limited cultural value. Dr Who, The Beatles on Top Of The Pops, Apollo 11 Moonlanding coverage ... all gone & reliant on the wonderful detective work of missing episodes experts to hunt them down & bring them home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    If you put snobbery aside, these can be considered valuable pieces of artwork. They are integral to British culture, have endured the test of time and are valued by many.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Just for the record, both stories will be out on DVD (with full sets of bonus features) within the next 6 months.
    Enemy of the World is released just after the anniversary weekend on 25th November and Web of Fear is out on 24th February next year. It's a bit of a wait, but if the extras are up to scratch, it'll be well worth the wait.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    " had been a "lucky" find given the high temperatures in the African country".

    You would think Nigeria is on Venus & with no film storage experience the way Phillip Morris talking!

    I hope BBC paid for the films.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Yes - these episodes should be aired, not just sold as downloads. Patrick Troughton has always been my favourite Dr Who, but I'm not sure if that's just because he was so good compared with the dreadful William Hartnell. I used to be embarrassed for him every time he forgot his lines.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    On losing episodes? The only error was lack of communication.

    The tapes were wiped to reuse them (save taxpayer money), Repeats were rare - almost easier to make new stuff, and they recorded it on film when broadcast to sell abroad

    The BBC sales guys junked the films when they were done with them, not realizing they were the only copies left

    With no home market, it made sense for both sides

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Does anyone know how to get iTunes to show correctly? I downloaded both stories and I have one folder on iTunes with Web of Fear picture containing 2 episode 1's (one for Web 1 for Enemy) and 2 of each other episode number - but no story names - how do I get thre stories in separate folders?

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Been a Doctor Who fan for as long as I can remember. I don't like the new shows, so this is fantastic news. BBC, release them on DVD NOW, so that we can enjoy another classic Patrick Troughton story thought lost forever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Oh that clip was atmospheric.

    I am so so grateful to Russell T Davies for capturing the gist of the early Dr Who in the recent revival, because my 12 year old lad had also had the pleasure of growing up with Dr Who on a Saturday night.

    Thanks Mr. Davis, and all your predecessors, you're great story tellers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Who are bbc worldwide, are they like bbc global ltd and bbc america and bbc urdu?
    Why are they selling something to taxpayers that was paid for by taxpayers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    It is a good job that we are all individuals. What I have disdain for are people who choose to put a dampener on another persons excitement. If you don't like Doctor Who then that's fair enough but I'm not going to say that whatever you like is pointless, childish or tacky. Maybe it isn't the Doctor Who fans who should be growing up here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    good news but why are they not being made available through the bbc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    @208 harvey_s, 211 Lranser, I have now found the episodes - they do not show on the Doctor Who page for some reason - I needed to choose 'Select Country' then select United Kingdom and the episodes were on the front screen under TV Programmes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    Great news and well done to the BBC for making them available so promptly via iTunes. Can't wait to see them now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Wonderful news! My wife said my face showed simultaneous surprise and delight when I saw the item on the news this morning!

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    @Effaheap. It was done back in the 60's and early 70's and was done to save money on storage costs. They BBC aren't the only ones to do this back then. ITV also used to dispose of programs. You have to remember that film was big and bulky and I'm pretty sure that most people hadn't forseen the way we would store things in the future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    I don't blame the BBC for the episodes being wiped - it was a different time back then. Tapes were expensive, but could be reused. The conditions enforced by the unions of the time meant it was extremely expensive to repeat the episode more than twice - so the BBC had these expensive tapes full of content they couldn't afford to broadcast. What were they supposed to do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    @effaheap - you realise that was done many many years ago? It's not like they wiped them last year?

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Absolutely delighted at the great news of new presumed lost Dr Who episodes being recovered. Wishes do come true, but lets hope this is just a drip feed of many more announcements by the BBC & restoration team. Very happy this morning!! :)


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