The joy of recovered and remastered Patrick Troughton era adventures are dulled by disappointing and insultingly basic DVD releases.
One of the highlights of Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary year was the return to the archives of nine Patrick Troughton episodes unseen in the UK for 45 years. For over four decades the two consecutive 6 part adventures The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear had been represented in the BBC archives by a sole episode each (3 and 1 respectively).
Then in October 2013, following months of rumours, it was announced that Philip Morris, from Television International Enterprises Archives, had located the entirety of The Enemy of the World and episodes 1, 2 and 4-6 of The Web of Fear at a television relay station in Nigeria. It was the biggest single haul of Doctor Who missing episodes ever recovered. And at midnight on 11 October 2013 the beautifully remastered The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear (with episode 3 represented by a tele-snap and audio soundtrack reconstruction) was released via iTunes.
DVD releases were announced for The Enemy of the World on 25 November 2013 and The Web of Fear on 24 February 2014. Given the quality of previous Doctor Who DVD releases with audio commentaries from cast and crew members, inventive and informative making-of documentaries and a wealth of background information and images, it was reasonable to assume that The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear would be landmark releases towards the end of the DVD range. However expectations were to be sorely deflated.
The DVD releases of The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear are an insult to Doctor Who fans. For around £14 the buyer gets the remastered story and nothing else, except a coming soon/available now trailer. The absence of extra material is unforgivable. Frazer Hines (Jamie) and Deborah Watling (Victoria) as well as other surviving cast and crew have not been called upon to contribute to audio commentaries or making-of material. The potential for extra material on The Web of Fear alone is enormous. As the story introduced Nicholas Courtney’s Lethbridge Stewart to Doctor Who, and also featured the Great Intelligence which resurrected for the 2012/2013 series, a documentary on each is crying out to be seen. The story of Philip Morris and his quest for the lost worlds of Doctor Who deserves to be told on each of the DVD releases. And why hasn’t episode 3 of The Web of Fear been rendered via animation as has been the case for episodes in other incomplete stories, such as The Reign of Terror, The Ice Warriors and The Invasion?
After all the hard work that has been put into the Doctor Who DVD range with restoration, remastering and revisitations it’s almost beyond belief that the BBC should fob off consumers with such poor material for what could arguably be called the most important DVDs the series has had.
Rumours of further recovered episodes (in particular Marco Polo) abound and will hopefully one day come to fruition. If further lost material does come to light let’s hope the BBC give it a worthier home media release than they have done with the DVDs of The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear. The rush to make money through quick “vanilla” DVD releases appears to have trampled previous considerations to provide customers with a quality product.