Are there any Doctor Who missing episodes lurking in BBC vaults right now? Being worked on by the restoration team? VidFIRED, cleaned, Photoshopped, Babelcoloured? In the loving hands of Paul Vanezis, Ed Stradling, Mark Ayres and Christopher H Bidmead?
I genuinely have no idea. The rumours persist, despite repeated and authentic-sounding denials from those who should know. Needless to say Ian Levine stuck his foot in it at one point and ended up looking like a prize berk – surprise, surprise.
I have heard one very specific rumour that sounded very believable months ago, but the trail has gone cold. Following another – Nigeria, tins shipped back to Wood Lane, Yeti – that appeared on Twitter and another recent rumour about two full stories (all easily discoverable on Twitter) I don’t know what to think.
Is it even possible? Any surviving source must surely have been rotting in a foreign TV studio (or collector’s shed) for the best part of four whole decades. Even if they were physically intact, would they be viewable? Would they really have been undetected after all these years, given the popularity of Who over the last ten years? And would those in possession even be aware of it, or care?
A heck of a lot of unlikely scenarios need to align if we are ever to see these stories again. It seems inconceivable that no-one foresaw a reason to retain them in the first place, but surely it’s the most wishful of thinking to imagine that something so precious, fragile and incredibly old could have survived in a West African dungeon for 40 years?
All logic tells me no – and wishes people would shut up and stop raising futile hopes, inventing their silly conspiracy theories and chasing smoke. A lot of these people are misguided, some are fantasists and a few actually malign. Like the Truthers or Birthers or Deniers of this world, they seize on denials as affirmative proof, manipulate the most scant of evidence and twist comments to fit their one-eyed worldviews. These are people who have left reality behind. When it comes to the secret rulers of the world it’s possible to see why these people invest so much time and effort into fooling themselves. When it comes to part four of The Enemy of the World it’s a bit harder.
Another part of me wants to look away; as if to even consider these rumours could jinx any possibility of them being real. Like some sort of uncertainty principle, to give credence or time to this hearsay might in some way prevent it from happening. And what if the rumours are true? I don’t want to spoil them for myself. Even if they were true…
But part of me still says yes. The fan part, the part that skips a beat whenever there’s a glimpse of Colin’s coat in an old episode, punches the air when a new Doctor is revealed and – every now and then, just a bit – recalls the power of the opening titles when first viewed 30 years ago.
That part of me believes the conspiracy theories; invents narratives within the gaps inbetween the denials; connects the tissue between the unbelievable gossip on message boards and social networks; reasons that somewhere there’s a fire when it perceives smoke. It thinks back to that rumour, whispered in a restaurant six months ago. So believable; so hopeful and thrilling. It looks at the BBC’s flat denials and reasons that that’s what the BBC would do under the circumstances.
Come the anniversary week that part of me will scanning the net, searching for a special announcement, an unscheduled interview, a mystery programme on BBC4: six episodes-worth on a cold Saturday night.
Will it happen? No, of course it won’t. It couldn’t, it just couldn’t. Could it?