It's been a funny old year for fans on the hunt for the fabled missing episodes of Doctor Who's earliest years. Months of rumours circulating and ending nowhere lead to disappointment, but a recent flare up has turned up something much more substantial: The BBC have confirmed that more episodes have been found!

(Above: The Web of Fear, 5 episodes of the 6-long serial are still missing.)

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Although rumours were abound earlier this week thanks to the likes of The Mirror and The Radio Times, it was only confirmed today that the BBC have rediscovered several missing Doctor Who stories from the eras of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton's Doctors. The BBC of the 1960's was very much indifferent to keeping archived material, even for wildly successful shows like Doctor Who - so once storage of film prints became an issue, many of Doctor Who's earliest serials were either sold off or junked from the archive entirely - alongside many other BBC classics such as Z-Cars or Steptoe and Son, resulting in the destruction of thousands of hours of Television programming. The BBC's policy of junking archived material would continue unabashedly until a policy change in 1978, but by then almost half of the 253 episodes from Doctor Who's first six years were missing. Over the years episodes have been returned to the BBC from a whole host of sources - most recently in 2011 when Galaxy 4 Episode 3 and The Underwater Menace Episode 2 were returned by Terry Burnett, an ex-ITV engineer who'd held onto the copies he'd found for almost 30 years.

Although an exact number of recovered episodes has yet to be confirmed, BBC Worldwide will be revealing the find at a press conference in London later this week, as well as details on how fans will be able to view these long lost parts of Doctor Who History.

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[BBC]