Friday, 3 January 2014

Omni-rumour of the World

If this time last year you'd told me we would find both Enemy of the World and Web of Fear complete before the end of 2013 I wouldn't have given it much credibility, it wouldn't have even got my hopes up. Previously I've written about the rumours around Power of the Daleks, but it's just that, a collection of rumours and supposed conversations. These two stories appeared rather unexpected up until the days prior to the announcement.

Where this leaves what is now being described as the 'omnirumour' I'm not sure, but there are very strong rumours that Marco Polo is among further finds, at least one person claiming they've recovered multiple copies.  It's the way, you wait decades for a missing story and three copies appear at once (supposedly).  I also mentioned the fuel added to rumours by the disbelief in BBC statements because they're clearly designed to mislead.  This is especially the case after the reveal of EotW and WoF as denials were put out in the days prior to the announcement and even the company led by Phil Morris (the man scouring these archives abroad) flatly denied ever holding any material.  The result is that no rumour can be quashed, people just don't believe denials by once trusted people in the know and pick apart their wording for any ambiguity. That someone put in a Freedom of Information request to force out emails about missing material from the BFI shows the desperation some fans are showing to get solid answers, which if we're honest they have no actual right to have; the result was nothing useful learned and probably a number of very annoyed people involved in the recovery process.  That said, the BBC seems to be a very leaky ship spilling out quite a lot of rumours that turn out to be true, even on the production of the New Series episodes.

If the Omnirumour is to be believed in full, as Ian Levine first claimed many months ago, they've found almost everything - 90 episodes.  That defies credibility.  In recent months I've seen almost every missing story being suggested as having been found, other than the Ice Warriors which is not long out on DVD with animated episodes.  Rumours seem to be getting increasingly bizarre, apparently Phil Morris isn't responsible for all the finds, bits of Dalek Masterplan have been found on very early off-air recordings.  But episodes 11 and 12 are stuck together and separating them will be very difficult.  

My feeling is that there are more episodes to come, there could be quite a few if the claims that Phil Morris has recovered thousands of film cans from Africa.  But with a stock that large it will take time to open the cans and check the contents, and then find out if the contents can actually lead to something recoverable.  It wouldn't be the first time that what is in a can doesn't match the label on the can, and it is possible that the contents have spoiled leaving them unwatchable.  Though there's not just Doctor Who to enjoy, I've heard that Adam Adamant episodes have been found, and I'd like to see those too.  So hopefully, fans of many shows will have some surprises.

Both Enemy of the World and Web of Fear were available right off the bat for £10 on iTunes, that's quite magnificent when you think of it.  Never has a missing episode been announced and then made immediately available and restored.  Compare to the second episode of Underwater Menace announced a couple of years ago which is yet to receive a release.  I didn't bother buying them on iTunes because I'd rather have them on DVD.  Clearly it suits all those involved for people to buy the download and then get the proper DVD release, but I'm happy to wait as my first viewing on DVD on a big TV will undoubtedly be better than any download on a computer.  Excited as I am for these stories, I can wait.  Knowing they're safe at the BBC and restored is enough.

Enemy of the World was a story I knew nothing about, beyond it having a duplicate of the Doctor called Salamander.  I think I'm going to have to watch it again to take it all in actually.  The whole production was of a high standard, clearly some money had gone into it, and it shows what a loss some of these episodes are.  Some of the set materials in the underground base were of such a complex standard and seen for such a short period, I feel sure they must have been taken from another production.  The first episode was quite wild with a helicopters and a hovercraft on the beach and introducing Salamander speaking from the UN, Troughton putting on a dubious accent.  Episode three is probably the weakest, which is why this story has been overlooked in the past, with a small budget someone is held prisoner in a corridor saving the cost of a cell.  It's six episode story, it has padding.  Milton Johns is wonderfully slimy and over the top camp.  But the twist reveal of the underground base with people tricked into living out an apocalypse is great and unexpected, also it pre-dates the likes of Invasion of the Dinosaurs by quite a few years.  Note that Enemy of the World is written by David Whitaker, Invasion of the Dinosaurs seems to heavily borrow from that with the lead villain being called 'Whitaker'...  Overall a great story, a great find and I just can't get the image of Troughton puffing away on that cigar.

We have to wait a lot longer for Web of Fear (end of February 2014).  It's not clear exactly why, when Enemy of the World was rushed to DVD three months earlier (late November 2013) the same could not be done for Web; both were released simultaneously on iTunes.  It makes sense that Enemy is released first as it's episode 6 cliffhanger feeds into Web of Fear, but the gap has led to speculation that they have also recovered episode 3 and have been trying, and possibly failing depending on the rumour, to restore it for the DVD, or maybe they are preparing a higher quality reconstruction than that provided on iTunes.  Still that's the one I'm really excited to see, but I'm happy to wait for the DVD.

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