BBC Celebrates Discovery of Lost 'Doctor Who' Episodes

BBC America
"Doctor Who"

Found in Nigeria, nine of the eleven episodes, starring Patrick Troughton as the Time Lord, were thought to have been lost forever -- now they're available on iTunes.

LONDON – The BBC, Doctor Who fans and the British media were delighted on Friday to learn that nine early episodes of the British cult classic sci-fi show thought lost forever have been discovered in Nigeria.

The BBC offered fans the chance to buy nine early black and white episodes of the show that features Patrick Troughton, the second actor playing the Time Lord.

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Nine of the 11 episodes in total, found at a small TV facility in Jos, Nigeria, were among the 106 "lost" 1960s episodes of Doctor Who that feature Troughton and the very first Time Lord, William Hartnell -- the other two were copies of episodes already in the BBC archive. 

The recovered material includes four episodes of six-parter The Web of Fear, a "quintessential" Doctor Who story in which the Time Lord battles robot Yetis spreading a poisonous fungus on the London Underground.

Speaking to the BBC news website, Mark Gatiss, an actor and writer for the 21st century incarnation of Doctor Who, described the find as "thrilling."

Said Gatiss: "Every single avenue seemed to have been exhausted. Every now and then something turns up -- but to have two virtually complete stories out of the blue is absolutely incredible."

The BBC destroyed many of the sci-fi drama's original transmission tapes in the 1960s and 1970s.

The discovery was made by Philip Morris, executive director at Television International Enterprise Archive, a banner that specializes in tracking down missing TV and cinema archive material.

Morris is sometimes referred to in the industry as the "Indiana Jones of the film world."

Morris said he found the tapes, which also included five episodes that complete the six-part 1967 Doctor Who story The Enemy of the World, at a TV relay station "sitting on a shelf with a piece of masking tape that said "Doctor Who."

"People thought they were gone forever," he said. "They're not. They're back."

The BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, made the episodes available on Apple's iTunes store at midnight on Thursday with the two series also available for pre-order on DVD.

The recovered episodes feature Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling as Troughton's time traveling companions.

"When I heard I couldn't quite believe it," Watling told The Guardian newspaper about the discoveries. "There had been hoaxes before [about lost episodes being discovered]."

Doctor Who celebrates its 50th anniversary next month with an extended 75-minute episode, "The Day of the Doctor," featuring the current Time Lord, Matt Smith, and predecessor David Tennant.