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Missing Episodes of 'Doctor Who' Discovered in Ethiopia (Or Not)

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | October 7, 2013 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Industry | October 7, 2013 |

One of the gorgeous things about Doctor Who besides the actors is the sheer weight of mythology carried down over the decades. This is a show that began airing in black and white a couple of years before Star Trek, when my youngest grandparent was the same age that I am now. And of course that history comes with the added mythology of the lost episodes, a full 106 episodes (one in eight of the overall series total, and nearly half of the first six years of episodes).

The show is so old that television recording was new enough as to still be a controversial practice with regard to actors’ unions, who previously were the beneficiaries of being hired and paid again anytime a show was rebroadcast. So there were contractual obligations to destroy tapes after a certain number of broadcasts.

Interestingly, fans of the Doctor were so obsessive even back then, that audio recordings survive of all 106 of those episodes, recordings made by fans at home in their living rooms, long before the advent of VCRs.

What lost episodes have been recovered over the years have mostly been found overseas, where the BBC licensed broadcasts to locals, who were less than impressed by the requirement to burn perfectly good reels just because the BBC told them to so that they could sell them more.

Over the weekend, rumors erupted that all 106 missing episodes have been found in Ethiopia, though there is still no confirmation from the BBC, or um, how to put this more nicely, any reliable news sources. You can read the article on the subject here, but the catch is that apparently weekend British tabloids are not terribly trustworthy sources of news.

I choose to be an optimist. It’s not like the credible news gives any reason for that, so I’ll take my tabloids I suppose.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.