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Lost 'Doctor Who' episodes recovered in Nigeria

Whovians across the world can rejoice as the BBC confirms the discovery of nine lost "Doctor Who" episodes from the 1960s in Africa.
Credit: BBC Worldwide

Kevin Taverner

CNN

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Whovians across the world can rejoice as the BBC confirms the discovery of nine lost "Doctor Who" episodes from the 1960s in Africa.

The treasure-trove of missing episodes were traced to a relay station in Jos, Nigeria via Hong Kong using overseas shipment records by Philip Morris, director of Television International Enterprises Archive.

"I remember wiping the dust off the masking tape on the canisters and my heart missed a beat as I saw the words 'Doctor Who,'" said Morris.

"When I read the story code I realized I'd found something pretty special."

Ending weeks of speculation, the announcement was made at a press screening in London Thursday attended by former companion actors Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling -- who appeared in the recovered episodes -- and Mark Gatiss, who has both written and acted in the show in recent years.

The lost black and white stories are episodes from "The Enemy of the World" and "The Web of Fear" featuring Patrick Troughton as the second iteration of the time-traveling Doctor.

The "Web of Fear" -- first broadcast in 1968 -- sees the eccentric chrononaut battling robot yetis on the London Underground and was also the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart.

While introducing the episode in front of around 70 excited reporters Gatiss said: "It's the quintessential 'Doctor Who' story ... the most British thing you could ever imagine."

During the 1960s it was common practice by television companies to erase videotapes of original episodes much to the dismay of fans today. Yet some classic installments were distributed internationally for foreign broadcasters to purchase.

In 2011, two episodes were rediscovered by former TV engineer Terry Burnett after he bought them at a school fair.

Morris described the newly materialized episodes as "the largest haul of missing episodes recovered in the last 25, maybe 30 years" and now brings down the number of remaining lost episodes to 97.

The find is a fitting gift for fans of the long-running show as the British cult science-fiction series celebrates its 50th anniversary on November 23.

Inez Torre contributed to this report.

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