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Gridlock was the third episode of the third series of BBC Wales Doctor Who. It marked the death of the Face of Boe and his final words to the Tenth Doctor. It also saw the first televised appearance of the Macra since their introduction in 1967's The Macra Terror.

The Doctor and Martha Jones were separated for most of the story.

Synopsis Edit

The Tenth Doctor takes Martha Jones to New Earth, in the far future, only to find that the entire city has become a deadly trap.

Plot Edit

American newscaster Sally Calypso gives the daily travel news to all the cars. Ma and Pa are seated in one of the camper-vans. They call the police for help as they are apparently attacked by something from outside. They are placed on hold by the police computer system, and scream as their car is torn apart.

The Tenth Doctor offers Martha one trip into the future, to visit another planet. She asks if he can take her to his home planet, and speculates as to its beauty. He describes Gallifrey's Citadel, mountains, orange sky and other features as if they still existed, but claims he does not want to go home. Instead, he takes her to the year five billion and fifty three, into a dark alleyway where it is raining, and introduces her to New New York in New Earth. The Doctor repeats some things he told Rose the last time he had visited the planet. Martha becomes slightly upset when she realises she is being taken to the same place the Doctor took Rose, and mutters "Ever heard the word rebound".

Meanwhile, the Face of Boe sits in a room with Novice Hame. He tells her to find the Doctor before it is too late. She takes out a gun and leaves. The Doctor and Martha are in a run-down street. Three pharmacists open their market stands and try to sell the Doctor and Martha patches that dispense "moods". The Doctor is angry, but intrigued when a young girl buys a Forget patch after losing her parents to "the Motorway".

Suddenly, a young couple armed with guns grab Martha and haul her away, subduing her with a patch inducing Sleep. The Doctor chases them but they escape in their car. The Doctor asks the pharmacists for directions to the Motorway; they comply, but warn him that he may never see Martha again. He tells them to find alternative employment as he promises to shut down their enterprises by that very evening.

Martha wakes up and grabs a gun, only to learn it is a fake. Her kidnappers introduce themselves as Milo and Cheen. Cheen says she is pregnant. Milo explains they only wanted her so they could get on the Fast Lane, which requires three adult passengers. They say they can drop her off when they reach their destination — in six years.

The Doctor arrives at the Motorway, where he discovers thousands of Volkswagen-like hover vans in a traffic jam. He starts to cough and choke from the fumes. A cat person invites him into his car, introducing himself as Thomas Kincade Brannigan and his human wife as Valerie. Their kittens, two months old, have never seen sunlight or trod on ground. The Brannigans themselves have been driving for twelve years, and have travelled only five miles.

As Milo, Cheen and Martha head for the Fast Lane, the Doctor calls the police but is put on hold. Brannigan speaks to some old friends, the Cassini "sisters" (a same-sex married couple), who identify the one car from Pharmacytown that has gone to the Fast Lane. The Doctor learns that some people haven't left their cars in upwards of twenty years. Milo, Cheen and Martha are dropping down to the Fast Lane, but there are strange noises. Cheen tells Martha of stories about cars disappearing but Milo insists they only hear the ventilation shafts.

Brannigan and Valerie refuse to go to the Fast Lane, fearing for the safety of their kittens. The Doctor asks whether they or the Cassinis have ever seen any authorities. The Cassinis reluctantly admit they have not seen any police or ambulances in 23 years of driving. The Doctor believes that the people have been trapped in the under-city and abandoned. Making his own way toward Martha, he opens the shaft on the floor of the car and drops down to the car below. He then moves through several cars, opening the roofs with his sonic screwdriver and continuing through the floor to the car below. In this fashion he meets several characters including hippies, a Bertie Wooster-like business man and a nudist couple.

Martha's car enters the Fast Lane, but the exits are all closed. A nearby cat driver tells him to escape to the slow lanes above, but Milo does not believe in the danger until he hears the other driver's screams. Meanwhile Novice Hame reaches Brannigan's car and demands to know where the Doctor is.

The Doctor reaches the lower levels, just above the Fast Lane. He clears the fog to discover what's down there: the Macra. The Doctor explains to the car's driver that the Macra feed upon toxic gas. Once in history they had built an empire using human slaves to mine gas to feed them, but have since devolved into hungry non-sentient beasts. As Martha's van races along the Fast Lane, the Macras' huge claws attempt to crush it. Reasoning that the light and motion of the vehicle attract the Macra, Martha has Milo turn off the power. It works, but they only have eight minutes of air.


The Face of Boe

Novice Hame makes it to the car that the Doctor is in. She tells him how she has repented her sins under "his" guidance, and teleports the Doctor against his will to the upper city. She explains that everyone in the upper city, and indeed the whole surface level of New Earth, died because of a virus in the Pharmacists' Bliss drug, but the under city was sealed off and Hame was protected by "him". The citizens in the undercity have not been betrayed and abandoned; they have been saved. Hearing a familiar telepathic voice, the Doctor runs to meet the Face of Boe. Hame says the Face has wired himself to the system to keep the lower levels functioning, but they are unable to free the people there. The Face of Boe asks the Doctor to save the people of the Motorway.

Milo's car is running out of air and, despite Milo and Cheen's doubts, Martha says the Doctor will think of something. Milo starts the power up again, giving them air but exposing them to the Macras' grasp. As the car races along, they are briefly caught by one of the claws, but are knocked free by another Macra.

The Doctor asks Hame to help him restore power, but there is not enough. The Face of Boe, in one last act of self-sacrifice, gives even more of his "life force" to power the equipment. The Doctor pulls a lever, opening the seal at the top of the motorway. The sunlight beams in, and the Doctor broadcasts to the motorists, telling them to drive upwards and out. This clears the way for Milo's car to escape from the Macra. Meanwhile Hame cries out as the Face of Boe's glass begins to shatter.

Gridlock 628

People of upper city were killed by the virus

Martha arrives at the Senate building where she sees human skeletons, and meets the dying Face of Boe, sprawled out on the ground. The Doctor urges him to live, since (as Boe says) the two of them are each the last of their kind; but the Face responds, "Everything has its time". As promised, he whispers his great secret to the Doctor — "Know this, Time Lord; You are not alone" — before passing away. An expression of shock and disbelief crosses the Doctor's face as Hame weeps.

Martha and the Doctor arrive back at the alleyway. The Pharmacists are gone. Martha asks what the Face meant, and whether she is why the Doctor is not alone. The Doctor shakes his head; he does not want to talk about Boe's words, but Martha refuses to move until the Doctor tells her the truth. The Doctor admits he is the last of his kind, explains about the Last Great Time War and the Daleks, and then goes on to describe Gallifrey. Far above the slums, the over-city thrives with the newly freed motorists. The sun sets orange over New New York.

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

References Edit

Culture Edit


A motorway car's poster totes "Bad Wolf" in Japanese.

The Doctor's items Edit

Individuals Edit

  • The Face of Boe meets the Doctor once more as he promised on their previous meeting. He later expends all his energy to open up the motorway exit and dies, imparting the Doctor with his last words, "You are not alone."
  • Alice and May began their journey twenty-three years ago.

Planets Edit

  • The Doctor takes Martha to New Earth.
  • New Earth suffered a pandemic from the man-made drug Bliss.

Religion Edit

  • A word that the people of New Earth used was "Jehovah," which is, according to the Bible, the name of God.

Species Edit

Story notes Edit

  • Russell T Davies explains in Doctor Who Confidential as well as the audio commentary that the look of this episode was inspired by Mega City One from 2000 AD's Judge Dredd comics. The character of the Businessman was modelled after the character Max Normal.
  • The Face of Boe's secret is revealed in this episode to the Doctor: "You are not alone." The meaning behind this statement is revealed in the episode Utopia.
  • This episode formed the final chapter in a loose trilogy about the fate of the human race after the expansion of the sun destroys the Earth in the year 5,000,000,000. The previous two episodes in this trilogy were The End of the World and New Earth.
  • Gridlock is the 727th broadcast episode of Doctor Who, surpassing the 726 instalments accumulated by the Star Trek franchise, although Trek's record was set through the broadcasts of six series. Taken on its own merits, Doctor Who has held the record for greatest number of episodes for an individual science fiction series since the 1970s, and the count of 727 doesn't include Torchwood and other spin-offs aired to this point.
  • The Macra appear for the first time in 40 years (they last appeared in The Macra Terror).
  • Gridlock aired 40 minutes late due to the BBC's coverage of the FA cup.
  • This episode had a working title of Chasing Fumes.[source needed]
  • Russell T Davies mentions on the audio commentary that Murray Gold wrote a different hymn with choral voices for the finale, but it sounded too much like part of the soundtrack score rather than the travellers singing it. Therefore they used Davies original choice of "Abide with Me" instead.
  • Martha points out that selling "moods" is no different than selling drugs.

Ratings Edit

  • 8.41 million viewers - BARB final ratings
  • 8.0 million viewers - Overnight ratings
  • 0.83 million viewers - BBC3 repeat ratings

Myths Edit

  • Due to Milo's similar hairstyle, his appearance in the Series 3 Coming Soon trailer led many people to believe that the Ninth Doctor would return in this episode.

Filming locations Edit

The scenes between the Face of Boe, Novice Hame and the Doctor were filmed at the Temple of Peace in Wales.

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.

to be added

Continuity Edit

  • The Face of Boe previously met the Ninth Doctor in orbit of Earth (TV: The End of the World) and the Tenth Doctor here on New Earth. (TV: New Earth)
  • Novice Hame also met the Doctor on his previous visit to New Earth. (TV: New Earth)
  • The mood drugs bear the emblem of the Sisters of Plentitude. (TV: New Earth)
  • The Doctor describes his home planet (Gallifrey) much as his granddaughter did. (TV: The Sensorites)
  • Martha said that she comes from "a long way away" and that she barely even knows the Doctor, having joined him without thinking, echoing Rose's words on her own first trip with the Doctor. (TV: The End of the World)
  • The Doctor previously visited New New York with Rose, (TV: New Earth) a fact Martha comments on when she learns it, irritated that the Doctor is taking her to all the "same places" that he took Rose.
  • Upon exiting the TARDIS, the Doctor removes the arrow that had been stuck in the side since it last dematerialised. (TV: The Shakespeare Code)
  • Cheen said the air smells like apple grass. (TV: New Earth)
  • The Face of Boe saved Hame by shrouding her in his "smoke". As she tended to him in the hospital, Hame said that the only thing she could do for the Face was maintain his smoke. The small cracks in his tank at that time have since become larger; ultimately, the tank shatters. (TV: New Earth)
  • The Face of Boe tells the Doctor, "You are not alone." This is revealed in Utopia to refer to the survival of the Master as Professor Yana, an acronym of "you are not alone." It also indicated that Captain Jack Harkness, who was with the Doctor when he discovered the truth about the Master's survival, may be the Face of Boe, explaining his knowledge of this and possibly living for billions of years. (TV: Last of the Time Lords)
  • The Face of Boe would be among those remembered when Davros asked the Doctor: "How many have died in your name? (TV: Journey's End)

Home video releases Edit


Series 3 Volume 1 DVD Cover

External links Edit