According to Britain’s The Mirror newspaper, the episodes were filmed off a television screen by a dedicated fan back when it was first broadcast in 1964!
Now this is the point where I emphasize that this is an unconfirmed, unsubstantiated rumor in a British tabloid, so it may be true, or it might be a cruel hoax undertaken to sell a few more papers over the Doctor’s 50th anniversary weekend. Remember this past summer’s big to-do over 90+ episodes that turned out to be far less than was hoped for.
Now, here’s what the Mirror says about the alleged discovery:
“Seven lost Doctor Who episodes that were recorded by a fan are set to be unveiled next month.
“The BBC are desperately keeping the existence of the 1964 series – called Marco Polo, featuring William Hartnell as the Doctor – secret.
“They are one of the only series where no video footage exists – and was thought to have been lost forever.
“A TV insider revealed: “This is a massive deal for Doctor Who fans, these episodes were hugely popular with viewers when they were first shown and are set to be a hit again.”
“The chance to recover the wiped Marco Polo episodes has come from the dedication of a fan who enthusiastically recorded the episodes on a cine camera. The fan recorded the episodes directly from the television onto a 16mm film camera.
“Since the discovery of the cine film, the recordings have been carefully restored and transferred onto broadcast tape by BBC Worldwide.
“The source continued: “This new discovery is all down to a dedicated fan who spent ages recording the episodes back in the sixties. The recording – which is a silent film – came out really clearly so it will be easy to watch… the fan did it in a very professional way.”
“There are already audio recordings of the episodes so the Beeb have had to match everything up. There are some gaps in the audio so it has been a painstaking process. Where there are gaps in audio they are going to be re-recorded using contemporary actors who sound as close to the original actors as possible.
“The fan had been holding onto these tapes for a long time and when the BBC found out about the tapes they jumped at the chance of using them. It’s a massive coup for the broadcaster.”
I am not so jaded that I will dismiss this rumor completely, even though it does not seem very likely that a “fan” would have recorded the show that soon into its run and then help on to the treasured story all these years — despite the many pleas for anyone with “lost” episodes to come forward. One rumor suggests the “Marco Polo” announcement could come at the afterparty following tomorrow’s simulcast of “The Day of the Doctor,” while another projects Dec. 2 as announcement day.
It’s fun to hope — especially for the return of “Marco Polo,” one of the most lauded of the early “historicals,” and a story I’ve been dreaming of seeing someday. The recovery of another intact classic serial would be the icing on the cake of this anniversary year.