Don’t Be Taken in by Fake Missing Episodes on eBay

Ah, the ongoing saga of missing episodes. With nearly 100 episodes lost from the archives, it’s always going to be an emotive topic. Just think of how glorious it would be to see the likes of The Daleks Master Plan, Marco Polo, The Faceless Ones, and The Abominable Snowmen after all these years. In fact, we don’t have to imagine that joy: remember what it was like back in 2013 to have The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear back with us? A wonderful time.

That’s why it’s so abhorrent when a fake eBay listing goes up for a missing episode.

That’s exactly what happened: earlier this week, a seller put up a listing for Episode One of The Savages. People were immediately (and rightly) suspicious, especially as the images used to “prove” its authenticity were actually John Cura’s telesnaps – from the wrong episode. The seller then amended the sale, claiming he’d got it wrong, that it was Episode Four instead. With a starting bid of £100, this was supposedly a 16mm black and white film print, and claimed to be “in watchable condition given the age of the print. This film has come from the collection of a relative who died last year. I do not have a great deal of information about the item other than that it is legal to own and is no longer considered to be the property of the BBC”.

Deceased relatives who might not realise the value of film prints is a fairly solid reason the reel would still exist, but no further images of the episode were available, apparently because they had already sold the projector…

Fake Savages Listing

The listing did the rounds online – Twitter and Facebook especially were outraged – and fortunately, the seller took it down earlier today. Now, normally, we wouldn’t give this sort of thing the time of day, but it’s worried me. The seller might not have ever let this get too far out of hand, would’ve never actually sold it; yet the fact remains:

People did bid on the item.

Indeed, it tallied up quite an astonishing amount of cash, and that’s what I want to address. Because it’s sad they were taken in.

There’s a questionable logic at play here on behalf of the seller, who might’ve done it for a laugh, but this is something we care about. Everyone has a passion (or at least should do), and for many, it’s Doctor Who. It’s understandable that some bid on the item; nonetheless, those folk should be more wary in future. Stay sceptical. If you do find something of interest, tell the community. In fact, tell the BBC!

That’s what anyone who ever finds a missing episode should do. No matter what grievances you may have – with the BBC, with fandom, with whoever – if you find something, alert the BBC. Because we’re an appreciative (mostly) community of dedicated individuals, who would love for even one episode to be returned. The BBC will probably pay pretty well to have that sort of thing back in their archives too: I’ve no proof of that because I’ve never been lucky enough to find a missing serial, but otherwise, Phillip Morris wouldn’t have the money to travel around the world, discovering, for example, rare reels in Nigeria containing The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear.

If you find someone selling a missing episode on eBay, question why they’ve not already approached the Beeb. Contact the seller. Tell them the BBC would likely be interested. Maybe they’re not aware of how valuable 1960s Doctor Who stories are. Maybe it’s a fake listing.

Sadly, in this case, it was exactly that. A hoax. But I remain hopeful that one day, more shall be returned.

  • TimeChaser

    It’s very sad that someone would prey on innocent, hopeful fans just to try and make a buck. I’m glad this guy was put on ice before he could rip anyone off.

    Monetary reward for returning lost Doctor Who episodes does sound nice, but if I ever happened to find anything, I would immediately do my best to return it so we can all enjoy it. You’d not only get rewarded by the BBC, you’d likely have the thanks of fans worldwide as well, and that in itself should be enough for anyone to return anything they’ve found. (I guess that sounds a bit egotistical, but heck, who wouldn’t want to be a hero to the fan community like that?)

    I always live in hope that more will be found. Whenever people think we’ve seen it all, something comes around the corner, and sometimes a huge something like Enemy and Web both being rediscovered at the same time.

  • Jason Clifford

    It’s fair to point out that the BBC would not hand over cash for the return of any Doctor Who lost episode. That’s not how they work. They would take the film back and most likely give you a copy back on media of your choice. Or they might take a copy and give you back the 16mm film. That’s what happened in the return of the Crusades episode, The Lion, for example.

    If you were to find a missing episode on 16mm film, your best bet would be to contact Phil Morris or Paul Vanezis and arrange the return through them. Of course, if you choose to, you’d have the appreciation of the fans for finding, saving and returning a valuable piece of the missing jigsaw that remains a blight in the history of our show. Surely that’s enough reward for anyone.

    • Philip

      Completely agree – appreciation from fans should be enough. I wasn’t sure about money, though, simply because how else does Morris and co. fund their company if it weren’t with money they get from returning their finds? It’s a bit of a grey area to me, I admit.

      • Jason Clifford

        It’s bound to be a grey area as Phil Morris is funding any searches through his business TIEA. That’s not something we’d be privy to. He could have any number of deals in place with the BBC. We will probably never find out.

  • Tidgy’s Dad

    I think the BBC have offered a reward of a replica Dalek to anyone who returns an episode. This was on Blue Peter.
    That’s worth a fair bit of money in itself.
    More than £100 on E-bay.

    • Jason Clifford

      A proper replica Dalek would be worth between £2k-£3k on eBay.