The history of science fiction and fantasy television is riddled with tragedies.
There are the minor tragedies; the mishaps and unfortunate choices and events that mar what would have otherwise been shining testaments to the greatness of quality entertainment. These sad disappointments are exemplified by declines in quality such as The X-Files turning into the paranormal version of Moonlighting, Linda Hamilton being written out of Beauty and the Beast, Lost being revealed as random and pointless after the first season, Farscape not being renewed after a cliffhanger ending…
There are the major tragedies; those devastating losses and errors in judgment that cause your inner geek to sob itself into catatonia and to shrivel pathetically into a fetal position, its only sign of life an occasional mewling shudder whenever the pain becomes too acute and unbearable.
The premature cancellation of Firefly is the most recent of these tragedies. Eleven years and a miraculous sequel movie later, the wound still feels fresh.
But sometimes it’s the oldest scars that cut the deepest. I hadn’t been born when Doctor Who first aired in 1963. It wasn’t until the 1980s that I discovered the show, becoming an instant, rabid convert after just half an episode (it was the last half of episode four of The Power of Kroll that did it). But even as a latecomer to the fandom, I still remember that sense of outrage when I first learned of the BBC’s practice of destroying old tape, effectively erasing from existence entire swaths of television history. Luckily, Doctor Who remained relatively unscathed in comparison to other programs. We could at least see the majority of William Hartnell’s stories, and bits and pieces of Patrick Troughton’s years. Other shows weren’t so fortunate. Luckily, Doctor Who has long been adored around the world by a very obsessive and passionate fanbase, making the search for missing episodes something of a priority. The result has been the successful discovery of several missing episodes over the last several years.
Until today, the number of episodes still missing numbered at 106. Now, today, we Doctor Who fans can gleefully giggle and tingle over that number dropping to 97.
The rumors of found episodes have been circulating for a while, but it wasn’t until the BBC confirmed that episodes had, in fact, been found, that I began hoping that, through some miracle, the found episodes would include the final episode of The Tenth Planet (William Hartnell’s final episode, marking the first time that the title character regenerated) and the entirety of The Power of the Daleks, possibly one of the best Dalek stories of all time, and also Patrick Troughton’s first story.
I didn’t get my wish, but what we did end up getting was almost just as good, because we got two Second Doctor stories, and more Patrick Troughton is always a good thing. The Enemy of the World is a wonderful find because of Troughton’s dual role as both the Doctor and the maniacal and devious dictator Salamander. Even better may be that all but one episode of The Web of Fear was found. This one is notable for being the second appearance of the Great Intelligence (the Big Bad of New Who Series 7), as well as the first appearance of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, better known as the Brigadier, one of the show’s longest-running recurring characters, and a beloved fan-favorite.
I can hardly be bothered to care anymore about the upcoming 50th Anniversary episode, or any other specials or celebrations. More of the brilliant Patrick Troughton is the best 50th Anniversary gift ever.