Saturday 12 October 2013

On the epic Troughton repatriation

In spite of reading it on the BBC's own website, seeing it covered on Philip Sandifer's site and from other third parties, it's still hard for me to credit that we're not being epically trolled. Nine episodes! I can't be certain but I think this might be the biggest haul of missing episodes ever recovered at once.

And what episodes they are: four from The Web Of Fear (so only episode three remains missing) and five of The Enemy Of The World (which is therefore now complete). It sounds like a wishlist because look what we got out of the deal:

The Web Of Fear is absolutely iconic: the story that brought us the phrase (if not, thankfully, the reality) of “a Yeti on the loo in Tooting Bec”. It's got Nicholas Courtney's first appearance as the Brigadier and what fun it'll be to see how he played it as a one-off character (and a red herring villain to boot). The London Underground sets are brilliantly atmospheric. Season Five was the season of endless bases under endless sieges, which has suffered a bit of critical freefall in recent years and there's nothing like rediscovered episodes to start a new reappraisal (just look at Galaxy Four or even The Underwater Menace, which has been reappraised even before the rediscovered episode has seen general released).

Then there's The Enemy Of The World, our newly-completed story. It's David Whitaker's final solo script (yes, it is: The Ambassadors Of Death is five sevenths Malcolm Hulke) and the only Season Five story that doesn't fit the base-under-siege house style. Even better, the story's big claim to fame is that Troughton plays not only the Doctor but the villain Salamander as well. Troughton was a fantastic actor and what makes the destruction of his episodes so galling is that he played the role so physically so to see him play two roles should be a real joy.

Aside from that this nearly doubles the number of surviving episodes featuring Deborah Watling as Victoria, a character who could do with a fair reconsideration in many ways.

And every time this happens we think “This must be it.” because there can't be any more, not after all this time.

Maybe someday I'll be able to see the sight gags in The Myth Makers and The Feast Of Steven; follow the whole weird epic of The Daleks' Master Plan; or work out if the lesbian subtext of Marco Polo is just an artefact of surviving photoes or present in the whole serial.

One can but dream.

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