The Real-Life Indiana Jones Saving Britain’s Lost TV

“I am not a student of human nature. I am a professor of a far wider academy of which human nature is merely a part.” —The Doctor, Patrick Troughton (Second Doctor)

In A Nutshell

Philip Morris is a man with one of the strangest jobs in the world. Known as the “Indiana Jones of TV,” he travels to distant, war-torn countries risking life and limb in search of priceless cultural artifacts: the missing episodes of Sci-Fi show Doctor Who destroyed by the BBC over 30 years ago.

The Whole Bushel

It reads like a scene from a hostage drama: In 2006, a group of international workers were kidnapped by armed gunmen in the Niger Delta and held for six days. In the violent disputed region—home to half-crazed guerrilla fighters—foreigners frequently wind up on the wrong side of a bullet or simply surface days later, drowned in the murky tides. For hostage Philip Morris, it could have been the last hours of his life. But he had an ace up his sleeve: his secret boyhood obsession with British Sci-Fi show Doctor Who.

According to an interview he gave in the Telegraph seven years later, Morris claimed he managed to win over his captors and ensure his survival by impersonating his onscreen hero, offering jelly babies around and playing the clown. “It sounds odd,” the paper quoted him as saying, “but, in a way, acting like Tom Baker saved my life that day.” It was a favor Morris was apparently only too willing to return.

In the years since, the former-captive has made a name for himself as the “Indiana Jones of TV,” traveling to remote, war-torn regions with one goal: to save The Doctor from complete obliteration. Thanks to a series of poor management decisions in the 1970s, the BBC destroyed almost all the early episodes of the 50-year-old show. But every now and then, rumors surface of a surviving tape gathering dust on some shelf in Nigeria, and it’s Morris’s job to go and see if they’re true.

So far, his job has taken him to the remotest regions of Africa and the Middle East, to countries divided by civil war or ruled by brutal military juntas. It’s brought him into contact with all sorts of strange and dangerous situations, and earlier this year, it finally paid off. In 2013, Morris made international headlines by uncovering nine missing episodes from the 1960s: two whole stories that hadn’t been seen in over 40 years. Seven years after the Doctor had saved his life in Nigeria, Morris had finally managed to return the favor.

Show Me The Proof

Telegraph: Searching for television’s missing gems: Doctor Who, Woody Allen, Ridley Scott and Dennis Potter
Den of Geek—Doctor Who: full details of the missing episodes
Telegraph: Mark Gatiss: ‘The recovery of these Doctor Who episodes is like Christmas times a million’

  • Hillyard

    Interesting. I’ve never seen an episode of Dr. Who, but I’ve been meaning to. Nice to see a Morris article where he doesn’t slam the reputation of the person he’s writing about.

    • Errkism

      I also have never seen an episode, but with the hype it got recently it got me intrigued to maybe try it it as well. And yea it’s refreshing when Morris writes about something that isn’t hate speech. Good article.

  • Hadeskabir

    It’s funny that Morris M. wrote an article about a man called Morris.

    • lbatfish

      Unless, of course, it’s an autobiographical article . . . .