Put on your missing Doctor Who episode conspiracy hats...
Last week, the BFI announced that there will be a special screening of “a brand new animation of a missing Doctor Who episode” at their next ‘Missing Believed Wiped’ event in December.
Some people took the “a” in the blurb above to mean they’ve decided to animate episode 2 of Web of Fear or Mission to the Unknown, which are the only two single episode recons we have left, but I figured they were probably just showing the first episode off the next animated DVD release, most likely Wheel in Space, since it has been listed on Amazon for quite some time now. But oddly, some people on the Doctor Who forums have been insisting that it’s The Macra Terror instead, and that the “animated” part in the BFI announcement may just be a placeholder.
Until today, I mostly wrote these people off as crazy or wishful thinkers, as The Macra Terror is sadly one of those stories where we’re missing all 4 episodes (aside from telesnaps and a few censor clips), and it’s not an especially famous or noteworthy adventure. Aside from the Macra’s somewhat lame CGI reappearance in the 10th Doctor episode Gridlock over a decade ago, the crablike villains have remained largely forgotten in the echelons of Doctor Who lore, and don’t really have the same pull for casual viewers as The Daleks or Cybermen. Selecting this particular story to animate would be an unusual choice, but not completely unthinkable considering Power of the Daleks was also missing all it’s episodes.
But this morning, The Macra Terror suddenly appeared for pre-order on Amazon. Which opens up a whole new can of confusing. Like Wheel in Space, there’s no actual release date given, but this isn’t super unusual, since Shada and Power of the Daleks were listed the same way, and release dates for the US and UK can differ drastically (We still haven’t gotten Shada, dammit!)
Where the conspiracy hats come into play is that the people who were crying Macra may actually know something after all, and this is the time of year that the BFI typically start announcing their big finds for the “Missing Believed Wiped” festival. They often like to keep this information under wraps until after tickets have gone on sale for the event so that serious television film historians have a chance to get in before the seats are snatched up by genre fans who are only interested in seeing the newly recovered episode of Doctor Who, The Avengers, etc. assuming something of that importance was actually found.
Phillip Morris, the man who recovered prints of Web of Fear and Enemy of the World is listed as speaking at the event, but is reportedly only giving an introduction. That’s also not terribly unusual, since recovering lost films is his job and he’s spoken there before about topics other than Doctor Who. He’s also recently denied discovering any more episodes, though this doesn’t necessarily rule out episodes having been discovered by another source other than Phillip Morris.
Like many of the early Troughton episodes, the prints for The Macra Terror were only distributed to six countries; Australia, Uganda, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Zambia. (With Zambia being at the end of the supply chain, and the only even slightly probable place that a print may turn up unexpectedly) If prints were recovered, there’s no guarantee that it would be a complete story, in which case the remaining episodes could possibly be animated, which means the BFI statement could be technically correct (which we all know is the best kind of correct) while still being sneakily dishonest.
The BFI have never screened an animated reconstruction of a missing episode before, so this will be something of a first, if it does indeed turn out to be that.
The BBC and BFI said that they had an announcement to make last week, but then this was pushed back at the last minute. (We may get it tomorrow.) Often, this is done so that both parties can get their ducks in a row and make press releases simultaneously, and generally means that they’ve found something significant enough that people might take an interest and have questions. (Case in point would be the discovery of the 1st season Avengers episode Tunnel of Fear back in 2016)
The probability of the announcement being Doctor Who related is slim, but I’ll certainly be happy if it turns out to be more of The Avengers, Ace of Wands, or any episodes of Not Only... But Also, as I’m a huge Pete and Dud fan. More than likely, it’ll turn out to be Z-Cars, Dad’s Army, Top of the Pops, or something else I’m not terribly interested in, but finger’s crossed.
At any rate, we do know that there is at least a new animated Doctor Who coming our way, and one way or another, we’ll know what it is by the screening on Saturday, December 15th, but probably significantly before then.
Hopefully, this means the BBC are planning to release it (whatever it is) on iPlayer shortly before Christmas, with a DVD followup sometime in early 2019, as they’ve done with previous releases.