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Published on June 19th, 2013 | by Christian Cawley

Are Lost Episodes Among 3 Tons of Missing Tapes?

After our last item and our recent podKast we thought we’d put the rumours concerning the rediscovery of lost episodes to bed. It seems, however, that it’s just going to rumble on and on…

First things first: Bleeding Cool managed to get a response from the Head of Communications, Brands, Content & Digital, BBC Worldwide, Philip Fleming concerning the story.

There are always rumours and speculation about Doctor Who missing episodes being discovered, however we cannot confirm any new finds.


The Radio Times website has unsuccessfully attempted to glean more information:

“We can’t confirm because it’s not true as far a I’m aware,” the spokeswoman adds.

But are they talking to Morris? Or anyone with lost episodes.

“I don’t think so?”

So there are no episodes?

“Not as far as we know.”

End update

Meanwhile, we’ve been told that members of the Missing Episodes forum where these things are routinely discussed (and not just for Doctor Who either) have been barred from discussing the alleged discovery.

To summarise, the rumour is that 3 tons of old video tapes and film reels have been shipped from Africa – Uganda is the popular location for these rumours – to Liverpool. Smartphone camera shots of cargo manifests have been used to “prove” the findings, although of course all they prove is that 3 tons of something was shipped to Liverpool. Whether there are 90 lost episodes in this trove is another matter entirely.

As ever we urge taking this whole business with a very big pinch of salt. Even if it is true, and the BBC is in negotiations for the return of these classic TV shows, it seems unlikely that they would be any nearer a deal now than they would have been 12 months ago.

On the other hand, even the original saviour of lost Doctor Who episodes Ian Levine has had a change of heart, going from


Don’t know what to believe? Well, believe this: it’s the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who this year. If these episodes turn up, then fine. If they don’t, we’ve still got two more specials, a dramatisation of the show’s early years and a new Doctor to look forward to.

Discuss this story in the Kasterborous Forum.


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About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

29 Responses to Are Lost Episodes Among 3 Tons of Missing Tapes?

  1. avatar TimeChaser says:

    They really want to just get us all torqued up this year don’t they? First we have the speculation and waiting for who will be the new Doctor, and now we may or may not have the motherload of lost episodes. Somebody just come out and confirm something so I can sleep at night!

  2. avatar Sean Roper says:

    3 tons actually, not 90. 90 missing episodes.

    • Well spotted, thanks Sean.

  3. Wake me up when we have something solid, would you?

  4. avatar rickjlundeen says:

    I like how the official rep from worldwide can’t confirm the find, yet neither does he deny it. In a case like this, I’d think that until all the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed, vague statements to keep the wolves at bay would be standard operating procedure…..

    There seem to be about….let me check…..42,000 of us straddling a big fence right now…….

    • avatar iank says:

      Yeah, that was an extraordinary bit of “not actually saying a damn thing either way”, wasn’t it?

  5. avatar FrancoPabloDiablo says:

    I really don’t know what to believe about this. There have been rumours and stories before, but this one seems to be sticking more than most. It may not be the treasure trove that some reports would have us believe, but I think there must be something to this. Even 1 recovered episode would be worth celebrating!

  6. avatar Hoosier Whovian says:

    They also have to check all that material to see what is in it, and depending on the condition, it could take some time. I want to believe it is true, but know better until we get official word.

  7. avatar authorman94 says:

    BBC have apparently just confirmed that this story may not be true:

  8. avatar authorman94 says:

    Woops just saw it was quoted in this article already, my mistake, d’oh! But yeah, still got a glimmer of hope for this to be true, but wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be simply rumours after all. Still, there’s always the possibility they may turn up someday.

    • avatar Lewis Seymour says:

      Quote in article is a different one, though much the same wording – the one in your link is much more definite (and given to a different source)

  9. avatar Lewis Seymour says:

    The exact comment, apparently given to the Radio Times is:

    “…it’s not true as far as I’m aware.” “[So there are no episodes?] Not as far as we know.”

    Can we find something else to endlessly obsess about now?

  10. avatar Gareth says:

    So the shipment was made in late 2011 according to the rumours. If true I can only think the BBC held out on realising info about the find to

    1. Have some massive news to break in the 50th anniversary

    2. Didn’t want affect sales of recent animated DVD releases. Maybe Tenth Planet 4 animation was pushed forward on Regerations box set as contingency of premature news. As yet we still don’t know about Underwater Menace 2 and Moonbase only had 6 months release notice.

    Also they are slow at selling tickets announcing iterinary at the Excel event.

  11. avatar vortexter says:

    I’m totally confused now. This stuff was returned 2 years ago? If so then that’s the same time G4 and UM2 were found? Ian Levine has seen the light and is a believer? And the beeb are neither confirming or denying!
    I’m just going wait and see. I think reading between the lines there could be something but it sounds like something legal is blocking the return. If so then its the ultimate torment. 90 episodes not on another continent but in Liverpool somewhere with no-one able to say yes or no.
    As a last comment, I do have a friend who has a contact in the BBC and I am waiting to see if he tells me anything. If I hear I promise I will let you know.

    • avatar Lewis Seymour says:

      I think “…it’s not true as far as I’m aware.” “[So there are no episodes?] Not as far as we know.” is a denial surely?

      • avatar David F says:

        Maybe, but the tone of the BBC’s denial of Doctor Who rumours is invariably very strong. It’s usually, “There is absolutely no truth in the rumour that . . . ”

        These are vague denials. It really untypical. Not surprising that they’ve stirred everything up again.

  12. avatar Neu 75 says:

    I believe we’ve found 90 episodes when I see them…

  13. avatar Luke Foord says:

    Don’t forget, episode 3 of Galaxy 4 and episode 2 of The Underwater Menace were returned to the BBC in July 2011 but not announced until December of that year!

  14. Pingback: The Doctor Who Thread - Page 216 - Cult Labs

  15. avatar rickjlundeen says:

    True, when anything is found, there is a process. I’d imagine that first, all of the items would have to be viewed to catalog the quality, quantity, inventory, a lot of stuff before they can officially announce exactly what it is they have. The names on the canisters gives titles but imagine how long it takes to actually check out all the content on 8,000 canisters of film! It would take *considerably* longer to sort through everything. In fact, I’d think it highly irresponsible to go big on an announcement just by the titles on each can. Especially if you find out afterward that of the 90 episodes, only 7 are actually watchable. This is a process you can’t rush.

    • avatar Al says:

      Plus you have to take into consideration the condition of the films, etc. You can’t just crank open a case at random and throw it into a projector. There have been countless cases where someone has thought they’ve found a lost film only to find a canister full of dust and rust. And I believe there is at least one case of a false alarm with a Doctor Who episode where they thought they’d found episode 3 of Invasion of the Something-or-other, but found it to be something else, just in a canister labeled episode 3 of Invasion of the Something-or-other. All that said, BBC Worldwide has no reason to lie, and if they say there are no episodes then as far as I’m concerned there are no episodes unless Levine or Bleeding Cool or Kasterborous posts that they actually saw one of the lost episodes with their own eyes.

  16. avatar Dave Rudin says:

    “Wishing and hoping…” Perhaps there’ll be some missing Dusty episodes in there with the missing Doctor Who.

  17. avatar Timelover says:

    Apart from 10th Planet & MasterPlan, I’d really like to see The Highlanders & Fury from the Deep in full.

  18. avatar Colin McDonough. says:

    BBC comment is a classic holding statement, a “denial” without denying anything. Something’s afoot………

  19. avatar karl bootland says:

    The denial could be because of pending negotiations. We have all waited this long for missing material to turn up. The best we can do is wait and hope for the best. Expect nothing and then any find is a bonus.

  20. avatar drewboynton says:

    Does Levine’s recent tweet mean that he now believes the rumors (of many episodes recovered)to be true or that he still believes that there will always be missing episodes?

  21. Not to be too much of a downer – mainly as I too hope more are recovered – but time is working against us on this.
    The old film reels tended to eventually get very brittle and then pretty much shatter into scrap.
    Any unrecovered copies out there might be much too expensive to restore even if they were located.
    If there are in fact any actually recovered in too poor a shape to be useful, I’d certainly keep their existence a carefully guarded secret at least until some means were made to successfully retrieve the footage.
    Honestly, would any of us really want the BBC to open up and say, “We have 90 almost useless copies of missing episodes that might take a decade or more to salvage IF THEY CAN BE SALVAGED AT ALL!”
    Personally, I’d rather wait until the BBC releases them on DVD, because that is when they’d become important to me.
    Otherwise it’d almost be better not to know at all, because all the anticipation not panning out would feel awful.
    Plus, it would be quite natural to blame the BBC for getting our hopes up and then dashing them.
    Look at the internet hype and rumor mill working folks up already, the only sane response by the BBC is in fact denial.
    I really don’t blame them a bit.
    Then again, it could all be just a rumor and truth to it at all.

  22. Or rather… Just a rumor and NO truth to it at all…

  23. avatar Film Doc says:

    Patience. They say diplomacy is an exacting business, and the forensic reclamation of film even moreso. Consider, what would you prefer – a rushed statement of a find that is compromised, or an official press announcement later with all the facts? We’re talking of material 40+ years old. And given the 50th anniversary, November is the best time to make the announcement.

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