Doctor Who and the Missing Episodes OmniRumour
When I was a kid, I absolutely loved Doctor Who, right up until it was cancelled in 1989. Peter Davison was my Doctor. In 1996 there was an awful “simply could not watch it again, ever*” soul-destroying TV movie starring Paul McGann (who with a decent script would have made a great Doctor), and then, in 2005, the series resumed again – but not quite as I knew it. It had evolved into Nu Who, a bite-sized, live-action cartoon series with burping wheelie bins, erection gags and plots that whizzed past without ever caring if they made much sense, all punctuated by wall-to-wall booming music to tell you when to be excited, upset or afraid. That’s not to say that I hate Nu Who: I watch it and, occasionally, I even enjoy it. Neither is it to say that Classic Who is perfect. Far from it. Some stories are tedious, overlong bore-fests. The sets and effects weren’t much cop either, but that never mattered to me as the actors usually played it straight and the scripts were interesting.
* I tried, once, and failed.
As Davison was my Doctor, I didn’t see much of the previous stories till 1985 and the VHS release of the brilliant Pyramids of Mars. Slowly but surely, after that, the BBC Video releases of classic episodes cranked into gear. However, the Beeb couldn’t release all classic Who because, well, they didn’t have them all. In the 70s, way before VHS, they junked a lot of the old ones, because they were short-sighted, penny-pinching and they did not know any better. Doctor Who, however, had been sold around the world, all over the place in fact, so episode-hunters have since tracked down copies of many of the missing. The last two were returned in 2011. In 2013, the number unaccounted for, alas, still stands at a whopping 106.
So, anyway, this November, there’s a 3D Doctor Who special, rumoured to feature multiple Doctors (I pray for appearances by 4->7 but don’t expect it). And, this Christmas, Matt Smith, the current Doctor, is to be replaced by… Who? We don’t know yet. Am I interested? Well, yes, vaguely, but that interest is insignificant next to the power of The Doctor Who Missing Episodes OmniRumour!
One of the versions of this OmniRumour are that 90+ episodes of the missing 106 of Doctor Who have been secretly recovered by the BBC, along with a haul of other missing classic TV (e.g. The Avengers). Another puts the returned number at 17+. A third says forty or so. It is a persistent, multi-tentacled beast which has split opinions in Doctor Who fandom: some firmly believe it’s true, some are sure it’s a hoax, and some are sitting on the fence. Others change their mind with every crazy new revelation or denial.
Over the past couple of months I’ve been following the various developments and mutations of the OmniRumour by lurking in four forums:
It’s been very interesting, because each forum has different types of members (and moderators). ME, for instance, is highly policed, allowing for very little nonsense. Members there generally think it’s all a giant OmniHoax. Those who don’t: they keep quiet, or their posts get deleted. GB has the largest membership of the four. It’s also highly policed, with posts disappearing quickly when off-topic or controversial, and they also practise a “no names unless you quote them” policy, which frankly seems very weird to me. OS is more laid-back and friendly. Members there mostly believe the claims of the OmniRumour. Finally, I like the folk on PM most of all, I think. Like OS they’re laid back but they seem to be a bit more knowledgable. There, the missing episodes thread is littered with music videos, to lighten the mood. I don’t watch those videos but it’s a jolly good idea. Many more believers than disbelievers on PM, I think.
The twists and turns of the OmniRumour is like a Dan Brown novel on crack. Conspiracies, false dawns, dashed hopes, rekindled beliefs, fake tweets, secret sources, cleverly worded denials, total radio silence from known blabbermouths, codes and riddles. The OmniRumour has it all. And one thing’s for sure: someone in the top circles (probably several people) are lying. But who? Here’s a very helpful timeline by PM member, eyeoforion.
Following the OmniRumour, for me, is overshadowing the anniversary. The 3D special might yet be great, but, if the BBC announced that another missing episode of Doctor Who had been recovered, that would be nothing short of fantastic. Completing a missing story would be a miracle. Finding Marco Polo or Power of the Daleks? Magical. Finding 90+ episodes, conceivably enough to allow the BBC to release every single story on DVD (animating the gaps)? Well, call me Don Quixote, but that’s the Impossible Dream.
(And if, on the morning of 24th November, the OmniRumour turns out to be pure smoke, I still have my Target novelisations. They’re due another read-through…)