Missing Episodes: Assessing The Marco Polo Recovery

Rumoured Ethiopia Returns

On October 6th under the headline “Over 100 long-lost Doctor Who episodes found by dedicated fans – in Ethiopia” the Daily Mirror claimed that the entire canon of missing episodes had been found in Ethiopia, the story essentially boiling down to “my friend told me they were.” Yet as shoddy as the article was, it merely took the year long speculation from the internet and into the wider public. The Mirror’s articles frequently have some basis in truth, confused by random facts seemingly from nowhere.

A day later over at Kasterborus, one poster stated:

“I don’t know if any newspapers or Who fans have tried what I’ve just did one hour ago, but its made me laugh alot to think I’ve just gotten away with it. I got the phone number for and e-mail too. I e-mailed them asking for any details and got no reply so I decided to call them! I spoke to a woman on the switch board who said she’d heard nothing about the station holding missing Doctor Who episodes, so I asked him if I could speak to someone who might know. There was a bit of mumbling in the background and finally some guy came on the phone and after I asked him for some details, god bless him he told me straight that their archive had up to very recently held over two hundred BBC films. These had been shipped off to the UK, the first shipment going out in 2011. He would not say which specific stories were in the shipment since he didn’t bother asking his colleagues dealing directly with the details but he did tell me that there were a considerable number of Doctor Who episodes among the films and that if I was a fan I’d be extremely happy. I couldn’t believe this either – I asked him how many people had phoned the station since the story broke – he told me no-one! So there – I cut through all this red tape nonsense, and gossip with a simple phone call to the source!”

Before it was hastily changed, an article on the BBC website featured this text:

Typo… Or not?


Every list that has been constructed by those in the know or those with relevant sources has listed Marco Polo as found without deviation. On The List That Shall Not Be Named claims were made that the episodes were recovered in both Ethiopia and Hong Kong. As we have ascertained, Ethiopia is likely and Hong Kong certainly possible. Ethiopia has universally been accepted as the location of the recovery.

Marco Polo was mentioned as being amongst the finds ever since nearly day one, the original rumour stating way in advance of any official confirmation that The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear would be released alongside Marco Polo – The MEW rumour.

Obviously Marco Polo wasn’t announced at the same time as the Jos finds with speculation varying throughout the year as to why before settling that Marco Polo was problematic in restoration. Reasons vary between the prints being in poor condition, to a failure in the process somewhere (either computer or human error). The restoration is said to have been done outside of the BBC at TIEA with the involvement of freelance individuals.

A competing rumour, supported notably by Ian Levine, suggests that Phil Morris does indeed hold more episodes but has yet to return any to the BBC, which doesn’t mean of course they still couldn’t be being restored.

Rumour states that the episodes have been ready for sometime however, some even going as far as to suggest they have already been sent to iTunes. The BBC has been indecisive on setting an announcement date and several were mooted including the Doctor Who Afterparty and the December 1st BFI event. Bleeding Cool and other still believe that a December reveal is likely and the 20th anniversary of Missing Believed Wiped may be possible. Information suggests that other Phil Morris finds will be announced at the event and he will be in attendance.

The Mirror Article

On November 22, The Mirror again picked up on missing episode rumours when they published an article on the recovery of Marco Polo under the headline “Seven lost episodes of Doctor Who 1964 series Marco Polo filmed by fan to be unveiled next month”

The article made several new and surprising claims about the recovery of the serial, namely that all seven episodes had been recovered from a UK fan who recorded them on a cine camera.

“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. 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.”

Ever since publication there have been efforts to reconcile the article with what is known. It is possible the entire article is true, certainly explaining the troublesome and lengthy restoration, that it’s true in part or completely false. Potentially the rumour was mixed with claims of home recorded Dalek’s Masterplan finds for example.

No matter the details, every major source and even the national press agree that Marco Polo has been found.

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Mauro Agnoli
Mauro Agnoli

It would be a dream come true, I hope this so much!

Anthony Tobin
Anthony Tobin

Oh dear. That's what people said before Enemy and Web - and look what happened there! And furthermore, another competing rumour is that the stories are being released in the order found - Enemy and Web first in Nigeria, then Marco in Ethiopia.

Graeme Cree
Graeme Cree

A hundred unsubstantiated rumors agreeing that Marco Polo has been found doesn't make it a fact.