Thankfully the efforts of fans have helped to rebuild the archives, but there is still a way to go. 97 episodes remain missing to date, with the worldwide search apparently exhausted. All hope is lost... or is it?
Since early 2013, plenty of evidence has come to light to suggest that many episodes - perhaps all 97 or even more - have been recovered. Spurred by reports that archive company TIEA recovered nine missing episodes in Nigeria (later released by the BBC in October 2013) the fan detectives have been in overdrive, doing valuable work in uncovering the truth.
Originally it was rumoured that along with Web of Fear and Enemy of the World, TIEA had also discovered a copy of Marco Polo. This failed to materialise at the October 2013 announcement of recovered episodes leading many to wonder what had happened, especially as there were reports that the episode was already uploaded to iTunes and ready for release.
Thankfully the Daily Mail was able to put its highly trained journalists into action, revealing that Marco Polo had indeed been recovered, but as a home recording made on 8mm. This is especially impressive as the 8mm cameras of the time could only capture a few seconds of film in each recording, making recording a seven episode serial a technical feat. Sadly the Daily Mail reported that the resulting film was silent footage and so couldn't be released.
So the BBC had uploaded a silent home-recording of Marco Polo to iTunes, intending on releasing it but changing their minds at the last minute due to the lack of sound. Thankfully further research revealed that the soundtrack of Marco Polo exists as well, released several times on mass-media CD. If the BBC could somehow get their hands on one of these CDs, we might see Marco Polo again!
What of the other 90 episodes? Again, fan detectives have been following up leads. 60s actors Anneke Wills and Frazer Hines have both talked about their episodes recently, indicating they have knowledge of their recovery. As the actors involved, they would of course be the first to know. Fans have also been hounding Andrew Cartmel (script editor from 1987-89) as to his knowledge of missing episode recoveries but he remains tight-lipped, refusing to share the information he has clearly gleaned from his seat on the shadowy Doctor Who cabal of ex-script editors. A chance encounter in Tescos by a fan meeting Michael Jayston, who played the villainous Valeyard in 1986 revealed that Jayston thought there might be more episodes found - and if anyone would know, the Valeyard would!
Whilst fan quizzing of involved parties has been extensive, it has not been exhaustive - no-one has yet confronted the actors who played the Myrka as to what they know, for example. Is the Borad holding anything back?
Thankfully, secret sources have leaked information to superfans. We now know that all 97 have been recovered, including 'The Feast of Steven' which wasn't thought to have even been recorded by the BBC at the time. Even better, episode 4 of Planet of Giants, the classic 3 part Hartnell serial is also said to have been recovered, leading the total to 98.
So why haven't these episodes been released by the BBC?
The truth is that Doctor Who is the greatest television show ever made, and that the episodes recovered are some of the most exciting. As a public broadcaster, the BBC must act responsibly. Some of the episodes are just too exciting for public consumption and may result in deaths or mass panic.
Mortality figures for England jumped by 5,500 between September and October 2013, showing the effect that the exciting announcement and availability of Web of Fear and Enemy of the World had on the fragile public. Mathematical extrapolation tells us that if the BBC release the remaining 97 episodes this could cause an additional 59,000 deaths!
Is it any coincidence that when Galaxy 4 episode 2 and Underwater Menace episode 2 were recovered in 2011, only the Galaxy 4 episode was released? It was Underwater Menace that most fans wanted to see, due to its exciting spectacle, but it is precisely that spectacle that the BBC are protecting us from. The episode features the insane Professor Zaroff who turns helpless prisoners into fish-people. If the BBC released the episode and anyone watching was inspired to copy Zaroff's experiments and create their own army of fish-people, the BBC would be liable!
It is for a similar reason that the BBC cannot release Daleks Masterplan, featuring as it does a 'time destructor'. Should any of the audience get it into their heads to create their own time destructor, the BBC Board of Directors could be up before an enquiry. And watching the exciting events unfold may cause fatalities in the audience - it was for this reason that Web of Fear episode 3 wasn't released, in order to dial down the overall excitement of the story and prevent needless death.
Perhaps it would be possible to re-edit the episodes, and bring them more into line with less exciting modern television. Until that time, it looks like we will be unable to watch Planet of Giants episode 4, but be reassured, it is for our own good!