Here’s Ian Levine, one of the most well-known ‘Doctor Who’ fans and the man who is said to have acted as a kind of continuity advisor during the 1980’s. He also says he co-wrote ‘Attack of the Cybermen’, although that claim has been disputed by Eric Saward. Levine’s a pretty controversial character, and many people would disagree with his assessment of the 80’s as a period of steep decline in the show’s standards. However, he’s played a very important role in recovering a lot of the lost episodes that were junked by the BBC. In these quotes, he discusses the £4,000 phone bill he ran up, as well as the strange case of Roger Barrett:
“I’ve seen every ‘Doctor Who’ episode that’s ever been transmitted. There were a few that I missed when they were actually on the air, but of course I’ve got those on video now, so I’m in the position now to say that I’ve seen every single one and missed nothing. Apart from having all the episodes that still exist, I’ve got a pretty amazing collection of scripts from the series, and a lot of props, including a Servo robot from a Patrick Troughton episode, that’s so big we had to half-dismantle the cellar to get it down in there. I’ve got a couple of hundred black and white reels, I like to keep them on film because that way, if the video’s damaged, the film is preserved.
“(The 1980’s) saw a very very steep decline in the quality of the show, and it became a sort of pantomime mockery of its former self. I’m not being nostalgic at all, because being familiar with the sold shows and comparing them, I think you can see that the first four Doctors – William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker – had a wonderful, eccentric charisma, and they had a standard of quality running through all their episodes. The central essence of the show is the Doctor as a kind of weird eccentric with a great love of humanity, and a sense of fair play and justice. A sort of cosmic magician.
“Back in 1978, when we were looking for ‘Doctor Who’ episodes, there was a rumour going around that there were loads of them being held by BBC Enterprises. Finally, I arranged for someone from the BBC to take me down to see what was there. I walked in and saw the first Dalek story about to be junked, and I felt a mixture of horror and elation. I think the horror took over, and I threw an absolute fit. We found the woman from BBC Enterprises who was in charge of destroying these prints, and we went running into her office, and she said ‘Oh, no-one wants them, they’re just old black and white prints’, and I got really agitated and went ‘I want them!’. I’d just got clearance from the BBC to buy these episodes, and here they were being destroyed!
“I’ve single-handedly turned up 35 missing episodes over the years, that wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t found them. I’ve spent hours and hours and hours on the phone, ringing people all over the world, chasing ‘Doctor Who’ episodes. Nigeria, Cyprus, the Ascension Islands, New Zealand… One phone bill alone came in at £4,000!
“If you think that something exists, and then you find out it doesn’t, it’s worse that not knowing it exists in the first place. The absolute despair we felt when we found out that ‘The Tenth Planet’ episode four didn’t exist (after a copy was offered for sale but turned out to be a blank tape), you’ve no idea what it felt like. If I could get hold of that Roger Barrett (the man who claimed to have the episode), I think I’d grab him by the scruff of his neck and choke him until I found out why he’d misled us all. What kind of idiots does he take us all for? I wish I could get hold of him.”