Mawdryn Undead was the third serial of season 20 of Doctor Who. It saw the return of the Brigadier, and was the first story in the "Black Guardian trilogy". It also marked the first appearance of Vislor Turlough as both a companion and a villain.
Due to its use of very specific date, such as placing the Brigadier's retirement during 1976, this story attempted to address the so-called UNIT dating controversy. However, in so doing, it became a major part of that very controversy.
A warp ellipse draws the TARDIS off course. The Fifth Doctor's companions are separated from him not in space, but in time, and he has to deal with a treacherous schoolboy named Turlough. But why does the Doctor's old friend, the Brigadier, not remember him at all?
Part one Edit
In 1983, the former UNIT Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart teaches mathematics at Brendon Public School. A mischievous student, Turlough, convinces his classmate Ibbotson to join him in a joyride in the Brigadier's priceless antique car, which they accidentally veer off the road and crash. While unconscious, Turlough is contacted by the sinister Black Guardian. The Black Guardian knows Turlough is actually from another planet. He offers Turlough transportation off Earth if he will kill the Guardian's greatest enemy: the Doctor.
At the same time, the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa have problems of their own. The Doctor's TARDIS is caught in a warp ellipse and materialises on board an apparently empty starliner locked in a perpetual orbit in time and space. Turlough, on the Black Guardian's instructions, transports himself onto the liner by means of a transmat capsule and encounters the TARDIS crew. The Doctor travels to Earth via transmat, taking Turlough with him, to get rid of the transmat interference trapping the TARDIS on the liner. The source of the interference is not far from the school grounds. As the Doctor is sorting out the device, Turlough, responding to the Black Guardian's exhortations, picks up a large rock and prepares to smash it on the back of the Doctor's head...
Part two Edit
The interference device explodes, knocking the Doctor backwards and forcing the rock out of Turlough's hands. The TARDIS materialises nearby, but vanishes shortly after, seemingly leaving the Doctor stranded. The Doctor meets the Brigadier at the Brendon school, but is puzzled when his old comrade-in-arms does not remember him. He eventually works around the apparent gap in the Brigadier's memory by mentioning Jo Grant, the Yeti and other past adventures. To the Doctor's surprise, the Brigadier claims to remember Tegan, having met her shortly before his nervous breakdown in 1977. The Doctor realises that the TARDIS hasn't disappeared; the destruction of the device knocked the TARDIS off a time track and sent it back six years.
In 1977, Tegan and Nyssa encounter the transmat capsule. Inside is an alien-looking humanoid whom they initially believe is the Doctor, horribly injured. Meeting the younger Brigadier, they bring the alien and him back to the starliner. Tegan, Nyssa and the Brigadier enter the TARDIS control room. The alien, who is a scientist called Mawdryn, now wearing the Doctor's old coat, turns to face them. The top of his skull is missing, revealing his pulsing brain. Nyssa screams in horror.
Part three Edit
Under the pretence of being the Doctor, suffering a failed regeneration, Mawdryn convinces the others to bring the TARDIS to the ship, claiming it has restorative capabilities. Meanwhile, the Doctor, Turlough and the present-day brigadier use a TARDIS homing device on the damaged transmat to bring themselves to the ship, splitting up soon after to search for Tegan and Nyssa. Under the Black Guardian's instruction, Turlough opens a secret room, revealing several humanoids suffering from the same malady as Mawdryn. Mawdryn fools the present-day Brigadier into using a stolen Time Lord device to stabilise his condition. Finding the TARDIS, the Doctor reunites with Tegan and Nyssa. When he learns there are two Brigadiers aboard, he has to try to keep them apart lest the resulting energy discharge prove catastrophic.
The Doctor and Nyssa meet with the present-day Brigadier and Mawdryn. Mawdryn reveals his fellow scientists and he tried to steal the secret of regeneration from the Time Lords, but caused perpetual mutations, leaving them practically immortal but in horrible agony. Tegan is chased into the room by Mawdryn's mutated crewmates. The mutants take their places in the regeneration room and Mawdryn pleads with the Doctor to help them die by giving them his energy. The Doctor refuses, explaining to Tegan that if he did so it would mean the end of him as a Time Lord...
Part four Edit
The Doctor explains that he can only regenerate twelve times, and that, as he has already done so four times, helping the mutants die would consume all eight of his remaining regenerations. Although Mawdryn proclaims that the only thing they desire is their deaths rather than the Doctor's 'murder', the Doctor refuses, unwilling to sacrifice his remaining lives to save them from their own mistake.
Trying to leave in the TARDIS, the Doctor discovers that Tegan and Nyssa have been infected by the same malady as Mawdryn and his compatriots. Attempted time travel accelerates their conditions and reversing out of the warp ellipse only regresses Tegan and Nyssa into children. The only cure, it seems, is to do what Mawdryn demands; the Doctor must give up his remaining regenerations. Meanwhile, the past Brigadier escapes the room and encounters Mawdryn and his crew. Fearing the time imbalance, they send him into the transmat. Unbeknownst to them, the transmat cannot make the trip while the TARDIS is on the vessel and the capsule returns to its station seconds later.
Hooking himself up to Mawdryn's apparatus, the Doctor is about to sacrifice himself when the two Brigadiers meet and touch hands, causing a discharge of temporal energy at precisely the right instant to act as a substitute power source. Tegan and Nyssa are cured, the alien scientists end their undead existence and the Doctor remains a Time Lord. The younger Brigadier, however, will not remember his time with the Doctor until they meet again in 1983. The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan deliver the 1977 and 1983 versions of the Brigadier back to their respective times. Turlough is in the TARDIS control room when they return. He asks if he can join them and the Doctor comments that he already has. In space, Mawdryn's ship self-destructs.
- The Doctor - Peter Davison
- Tegan Jovanka - Janet Fielding
- Nyssa - Sarah Sutton
- Vislor Turlough – Mark Strickson
- Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart – Nicholas Courtney
- The Black Guardian – Valentine Dyall
- Headmaster Mr. Sellick– Angus MacKay
- Ibbotson - Stephen Garlick
- Dr Runciman - Roger Hammond
- Matron - Sheila Gill
- Mawdryn – David Collings
- Mutants – Peter Walmsley, Brian Darnley
- Studio Lighting - Don Babbage
- Visual Effects - Stuart Brisdon
- Production Associate - June Collins
- Costumes - Richard Croft
- Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
- Theme arrangement - Peter Howell
- Film Cameraman - Godfrey Johnson
- Film Sound - Ron Brown
- Incidental Music - Paddy Kingsland
- Production Assistant - Valerie Letley
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Make-Up - Carolyn Perry, Sheelagh Wells
- Studio Sound - Martin Ridout
- Costumes - Amy Roberts
- Designer - Stephen Scott
- Assistant Floor Manager - Ian Tootle
- Film Editor - Chris Woolley
- Writer - Peter Grimwade
- Script Editor - Eric Saward
- Director - Peter Moffatt
- Producer - John Nathan-Turner
Anatomy and physiology Edit
- Tegan, Nyssa, and the Brigadier refer to having seen the Doctor regenerate.
Cultural references from the real world Edit
- In 1977, the Queen's Silver Jubilee is to be celebrated.
- While looking for a doctor, a student wolf whistles at Tegan.
- The Doctor mentions several people and things to try to jog the Brigadier's memory, including Harry Sullivan, Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith, Liz Shaw, Yeti and UNIT.
- Sergeant Benton left the army in the 1970s and is now a used car salesman.
- Harry Sullivan went to work with NATO on a top-secret project in Porton Down.
- The Brigadier teaches A-level mathematics.
- Powell is a student at Brendon Public School.
- Tegan is still wondering if she'll be free of the Mara.
- During the series of flashbacks the Brigadier sees the First Doctor, Second Doctor, Third Doctor, Fourth Doctor, a Yeti, a Cyberman, an Axon, a Dalek, the K1 Robot and a Zygon.
- The Zero Room is mentioned.
- Mawdryn stole a metamorphic symbiosis regenerator, used by Time Lords in cases of acute regenerative crisis, but it induced a perpetual, deathless mutation.
Theories and concepts Edit
- The Doctor cites the Blinovitch Limitation Effect.
- The two Brigadiers short out the time differential between themselves.
- The Doctor talks about reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, a catchphrase of his third incarnation.
- Mawdryn's spacecraft is caught in a warp ellipse.
Transport technology Edit
- Tegan knows a great deal about transmats.
- Tegan compares the spacecraft to the ships Queen Mary, about its luxury, and Mary Celeste, about its desolation.
- The Brigadier's car is a blue 1929 Humber 16/50 open tourer, Imperial model.
- The Brigadier, oblivious of the Doctor, asks him if he had signed an Official Secrets Act to keep secret his involvement with UNIT.
Story notes Edit
- This was the debut performance for Mark Strickson as Turlough. His first line in the role was: "Crude, heavy and inefficient."
- Every story during Season 20 included a story element from the Doctor's past. For this four-part story, one such element was the Black Guardian, who last faced the fourth incarnation of the Doctor at the conclusion of the Key to Time saga in 1979. Another, of course, was the Brigadier.
- David Collings, who played Mawdryn, also appeared in the Fourth Doctor stories TV: Revenge of the Cybermen as Vorus and TV: The Robots of Death as Poul. He would play the Doctor in Big Finish Productions' Doctor Who Unbound audio drama, Full Fathom Five.
- The original intent of the production team was for the character of Ian Chesterton, one of the original regulars from the series' first two seasons from 1963-65, to return for a guest appearance in this story, hence the school setting; Chesterton was a science teacher. However, actor William Russell proved to be unavailable. Some consideration was given to using Harry Sullivan, who was a regular in the programme for a season in the mid-1970s, before the return of Lethbridge-Stewart was eventually decided upon.
- The Radio Times programme listing for part one was accompanied by a black and white photograph of the Doctor seated in the Brigadier's school quarters with the accompanying caption "More time travel problems for the Doctor (Peter Davison) result in a reunion with old 'friends': 6.50".
- Radio Times credits Nicholas Courtney as 'Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart' in the combined cast for parts one/two, and as 'Brigadier' in the combined cast for parts three/four. All on-screen credits read 'The Brigadier'.
- During the scene in part four where the Doctor's companions are regressed to children, the young Nyssa and Tegan seen were played by Lucy Baker and Sian Pattenden respectively, both of whom were uncredited on-screen and in Radio Times despite having dialogue, albeit one word: “Doctor!”
- Former producer Graham Williams, the creator of the Guardians, did not know about their return in this season and learned about it only years later during an on-stage interview at a Doctor Who convention.
- Originally the slot that this story occupies was to have been given to the long-delayed "The Song of the Space Whale" (or Space Whale), in which Turlough would have been one of a group of colonists. However this was again cancelled and this story took its place.
- Peter Grimwade's previous story, TV: Time-Flight, also takes place in two different times.
- Part one - 6.5 million viewers
- Part two - 7.5 million viewers
- Part three - 7.4 million viewers
- Part four - 7.7 million viewers
Filming locations Edit
- Trent Park campus of Middlesex Polytechnic, Cockfosters, Enfield, Greater London
- BBC Television Centre (Studio 6), Shepherd's Bush, London
Production errors Edit
- In the scene in which Turlough crashes the Brigadier's car, when he closes in on the other car, the next shot shows the car on the other side of the road, then the next shot shows the car on the right side of the road.
- In the same scene, both sides of the road are covered in thick bush, but as the car is about about to crash, an open gate suddenly appears.
- While both aspects of the Brigadier are walking the same stretch of corridor in Mawdryn's ship, a split-screen effect is used to have them both present, then faded out so that one of them can cross the full length of the set. Unfortunately, the fade is obvious in the finished programme as one half of the scene clearly shifts in tone.
- The Black Guardian swore revenge on the Doctor during his fourth incarnation. (TV: The Armageddon Factor)
- Tegan is still unsure if she is finally free of the Mara. (TV: Kinda, Snakedance)
- It is explicitly stated that the Doctor is currently in his fifth incarnation.
- Another example of Time Lord technology being used to create perpetual regeneration was used by the Minyans. (TV: Underworld)
- Turlough's origins are finally explained in his final adventure aboard the TARDIS. (TV: Planet of Fire)
- When Nyssa and Tegan are caring for a decrepit Mawdryn, he is given the red greatcoat that the Doctor wore near the end of his fourth life (TV: The Leisure Hive through TV: Castrovalva); Mawdryn later proceeds to wear this coat for some time.
- The Doctor says, "If I reverse the polarity of the neutron flow...", as sometimes said by the Third Doctor.
- When remembering his time with the Doctor, the older Brigadier recalls:
- a Yeti (TV: The Web of Fear)
- a Cyberman and the Second Doctor (TV: The Invasion)
- the Third Doctor (TV: Spearhead from Space)
- a Silurian (TV: Doctor Who and the Silurians)
- an Axon (TV: The Claws of Axos)
- a Dalek (TV: Day of the Daleks)
- the Master (TV: Terror of the Autons)
- witnessing the Doctor's third regeneration (TV: Planet of the Spiders)
- seeing the interior of the Doctor's TARDIS and the First Doctor (TV: The Three Doctors)
- the K1 robot (TV: Robot)
- a Zygon and the Fourth Doctor (TV: Terror of the Zygons)
- When Tegan is suspicious about Turlough, saying that "Humans just don't walk into transmat capsules", Nyssa then disproves her by saying "like you did, walking into the TARDIS on the Barnet bypass?" (TV: Logopolis)
- Tegan mentions the Mary Celeste. The First Doctor had a hand in its mysterious fate. (TV: The Chase)
- Nyssa wishes that the previously-jettisoned Zero Room was still in the TARDIS. (TV: Castrovalva)
- The TARDIS' homing device is used again. (TV: Full Circle, The Keeper of Traken)
- Charlie Gibbs was another of Turlough's classmates. However, Turlough did not learn until 2013 that Gibbs was also from Trion and that his family supported the opposing faction in the civil war. (AUDIO: Eldrad Must Die!)
- In his 1996 book Who Killed Kennedy, the journalist James Stevens described Brendon Public School as "a minor public school for boys." (PROSE: Who Killed Kennedy)
- Turlough enjoyed studying history while at Brendon Public School. (AUDIO: Phantasmagoria) However, he hated William Shakespeare's works. (AUDIO: The Emerald Tiger)
- As a Time Lord, the Doctor can only regenerate twelve times. (TV: The Deadly Assassin)
- When the Brigadier is being returned to 1983, he notes that the Doctor's "been making some changes around here". Similarly, the Second Doctor previously critiqued his immediate successor's choice of interior decorating, (TV: The Three Doctors) and the Fifth Doctor disliked the Tenth Doctor's "desktop theme". (TV: Time Crash) The Tenth Doctor himself expressed an immediate dislike to his successor's TARDIS interior design. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
Home video and audio releases Edit
DVD releases Edit
This story was released as Doctor Who: Mawdryn Undead.
- Audio Commentary by actors Peter Davison (the Doctor), Mark Strickson (Turlough), and Nicholas Courtney (the Brigadier), and script editor Eric Saward.
- Who Wants to Live Forever? - Making Of documentary
- Liberty Hall - interview with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart at Brendon School
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- Film Trims - from location filming
- CGI effects
- Continuity Announcements
- Isolated Music Score
- Photo Gallery & Production Subtitles
- PDF DVD-ROM material: Radio Times listings, studio floorprints and CGI storyboard sequences.
- Easter Eggs
- Go to the first Special Features page, navigate to Deleted and Extended Scenes and press left to highlight a hidden logo. Press Enter/OK to see a short presentation of interesting facts about the story.
- Go to the second page of Special Features, navigate down to Set Photo Gallery and press left to reveal a hidden logo. Press Enter/OK to see the studio floorplans for the story (these are also on the disc as a PDF).
- Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
- It is available only in The Black Guardian Trilogy boxset.
Box set Edit
Video releases Edit
This story was released on VHS in November 1992 in the UK markets, 1993 in Australian markets and 1994 in US markets.
- Mawdryn Undead at the BBC's official site
- Mawdryn Undead at RadioTimes
- Mawdryn Undead at BroaDWcast
- Mawdryn Undead at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- Mawdryn Undead at The Locations Guide