Sun 25 Jan 2004
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Doctor Who fans to go back in time as long-lost episode found
A LONG-LOST episode of the hit BBC show Doctor Who has been discovered 37 years after it was first shown.
A former BBC engineer has given the Corporation a copy of an episode last shown in 1966, in which the original Doctor Who, William Hartnell, battles the Daleks.
ĎDay of Armageddoní is the first lost episode of Doctor Who to be unearthed in five years. Die-hard fans bemoan the fact there are still 108 episodes missing and the hunt is going on all over the world for the rest before they are lost to history for ever.
The tape was rescued from destruction in the early 1970s by a quick-witted engineer, Francis Watson, who was ordered to empty a room full of "junk". Spying two reels marked Doctor Who, he took them home to show at his local film club.
Watson later became head of engineering for Yorkshire Television, and last week contacted a BBC-based team who work on restoring the Doctor Who archive.
Steve Roberts, a Doctor Who enthusiast who works with the restoration team, said: "There are people who try and hoax this kind of thing, but as soon as I spoke to him I knew he was genuine. Itís not in bad condition - you could almost screen it now without any [restoration] work. Iíve just watched the episode and itís fantastic."
The episode is particularly significant for fans of the series, which had millions of young Britons scurrying behind sofas, because it shows the Doctor in one of his first confrontations with the Daleks. It is also considered one of the all-time classics of the whole of the 26 years of Doctor Who.
It is expected that the episode will be restored by experts and then released on video and DVD.
In recent years, BBC archivers have realised they do not have copies of some of their best-loved shows. Some were simply transmitted live without anyone bothering to record them, while others, which were recorded, were then junked in order to save space or re-use expensive tape.
Doctor Who is the longest-running science-fiction series in the world and has retained a huge following since the last full series ended in 1989.
In September 2003, it was voted the show people would most like to see back on TV in a Radio Times poll.
Lost Doctor Who episodes have a history of being returned from strange places, and in the past they have been found in such diverse locations as a church basement, a car boot sale and even a jumble sale in New Zealand.
A new series of Doctor Who is due to be shown on British TV screens next year.