Doctor Who Exclusive: The Smugglers Missing Episode Has Been Found?
It features pirates and takes place in Cornwall. And it's been lost for years.
Last year, the Doctor Who fan world was treated to a great surprise when 11 missing episodes were recovered. Those included the entirety of “The Enemy of the World” and all but one episode of “The Web of Fear”. It was an impressive announcement and only served to whet our appetites for more. So in that spirit, let’s check in on the current rumour mill and see what’s happening.
First off, persistent rumours are circulating that all seven episodes of the First Doctor adventure “Marco Polo” have been recovered. There are multiple sources reporting this. Now the story itself was one of the most widely-sold non-Dalek stories, and is very highly-regarded. It’s also the first story to have all the footage missing, and the earliest story to have any missing footage. Finding it would be a real boon.
I am inclined to think this rumour is true. If it weren’t, someone would have likely put a stake in it by now, and everything about it “feels” plausible. If it has been recovered, that would be just fantastic.
Secondly, I’ve had it personally relayed to me through a confidential source that “The Smugglers”, another First Doctor story, has also been recovered. This is a later First Doctor story, and not as widely-known as “Marco Polo”. It features pirates and takes place in Cornwall.
I haven’t been able to find additional confirmation on this rumour, and while I very much hope that the story has been found (if nothing else, it would be nice to have one additional fully-intact story featuring Ben, Polly and the First Doctor), I am inclined to doubt it. But who knows, I could be completely wrong.
Lastly, and most importantly, there’s the so-called “omnirumour”. This particular rumour states that way, way more than 11 missing episodes were recovered in Nigeria/other parts of Africa. And when I say “way more” what I actually mean is “96 of 97 missing episodes have been recovered”. The lone exception seems to be “The Feast of Stephen”, which was a Christmas special that happened during “The Dalek Master Plan” and was apparently never sold abroad.
This rumour has been circulating for a while, and has gained much traction through the actions of professional fan/occasional hero/sometimes supervillain Ian Levine. He’s one of the people responsible for saving some of the many episodes that we do have, and for that fans everywhere should buy him a drink. He’s also occasionally been known to be a bit prickly and hard to deal with.
He come into this because he’s been saying, on his Twitter feed, that 96 out of 97 episodes were recovered and are being held back for reasons undetermined. He constantly says he has “evidence” of all these things.
Now I take no stand on whether or not he’s telling the truth. I can’t think of any reason that he’d be lying, but I also can’t think of any reason that the BBC, or anyone else, would be holding back another 96 missing episodes. Surely if we got to the point where there was one (1) episode missing, that would be a cause for great joy, and the BBC would be able to sit back and print money by selling them. So for them to hold out makes no sense.
So…as for the omnirumour, I’m unable to take a stand. Either Levine is telling the truth, and the BBC are hiding the fact that they have many more episodes for some odd reason, or the BBC genuinely doesn’t have them, and Levine is, for some reason, saying they do. While I certainly hope that 96 episodes, or even 1, or 20, or whatever, have been recovered, I don’t have any opinion at all on the omnirumour.
The last rumour is that we’ll all hear what’s been going on somewhere around Easter. Of all these, this is the only one I really honestly believe. I believe that sometime around Easter, the BBC will announce…something. My guess is that they will say another set of episodes have been recovered, restored, and are ready for purchase. Probably this will be “Marco Polo” and something else.
Of course, we’ve all been burned before, and this could all amount to a great big pile of nothing. It could be smoke and mirrors, and every episode that is missing could be genuinely gone. I hope that isn’t the case. I hope at least some of these rumors are true. But I guess we’ll all find out soon. As the Doctor once said, “Time will tell. It always does.”