- You may be looking for the space station.
Terminus was the fourth serial of season 20 of Doctor Who. It was the final regular appearance of Sarah Sutton as Nyssa, who parted company with the Doctor in the conclusion of part four. It was the second story in the Black Guardian trilogy.
The TARDIS attaches itself to a space liner after Turlough, still under the Black Guardian's influence, damages its controls. The Doctor and Nyssa meet two space pirates, Kari and Olvir, who have come on board the liner in search of plunder, while Tegan and Turlough get lost in the infrastructure.
The liner docks with what appears to be a hulk floating in space. This is Terminus, which claims to offer a cure for Lazar's disease. It is crewed by armoured slave workers, the Vanir. The cure is administered by a huge, dog-like creature known as the Garm. Nyssa, who has contracted the disease from sufferers transported aboard the liner, discovers that the cure - involving exposure to radiation - does actually work.
The Doctor and Kari learn that the ship, once capable of time travel, was responsible for the creation of the universe when fuel ejected from one of its engines caused the 'big bang'. Aided by Kari and the Garm, the Doctor disconnects an active but damaged engine that is on the point of exploding - something that could result in the universe's destruction.
Part one Edit
Under the direction of the Black Guardian, Turlough manipulates the TARDIS' circuitry in a corridor. Hearing Tegan approach, he hurriedly shuts the roundel he was working behind. Tegan, still suspicious of the new companion, finds him and questions him, her mistrust only exacerbated by the roundel falling open again. When Turlough tries to turn on the charm, Tegan shows him to his room, formerly Adric's.
Once Tegan has left to find Nyssa and complain about his obnoxious personality, Turlough heads to the console room to remove the space-time element from beneath the console. The Black Guardian appears on the scanner screen to encourage his obedience, despite his doubts that the Guardian will preserve his life. While Turlough is unable to remove the element, his sabotage causes the TARDIS to begin breaking up.
Tegan sees one of the fractures in the corridor and runs to find the Doctor. Another fracture appears in Nyssa's quarters. While the Doctor frantically tries to save the TARDIS, the fracture in Nyssa's room resolves into a door with a mysterious skull logo on it. Deciding that the unknown on the other side of the door is better than the certain death in her room, the Doctor tells her to run through the door.
The Doctor, Tegan and Turlough run to Nyssa's quarters. The Doctor throws a chair into the door to keep it from closing and severing the link to the space vessel that the TARDIS, engaging an emergency system, has locked onto. The Doctor goes through the door and tells Tegan and Turlough to stay. After a few minutes, Tegan goes through. The Black Gaurdian tells Turlough to go through and to kill the Doctor. Once Turlough gets through the door it closes behind him.
The Doctor goes ahead to find Nyssa. Tegan and Turlough aren't sure which way the Doctor went. Nyssa, hearing someone coming up behind her, hides. It is the Doctor, though, and he finds her. Meanwhile, two space pirates, Kari and Olvir, board the ship and make their way to the bridge, finding it deserted and running on automatic. Hearing a sound she believes to be Nyssa, Tegan drags Turlough along to help find her. They find a locked door that the voice is coming from. Tegan tells Turlough to find a pry bar and works to try to open the door. While he's away, he hears her yell and comes back to find robed arms trying to pull her inside the door. He helps her to get free of the arms.
On the bridge, Kari and Olvir have taken the Doctor and Nyssa prisoner, believing them rival pirates. Unexpectedly, Kari and Olvir's ship undocks and accelerates away. While Kari tries, first by force and then by negotiation, to persuade the Doctor to take them with him, a computer voice suddenly comes to life. It announces that they are soon to dock at Terminus and all passengers should disembark to avoid an imminent sterilisation.
Olvir realises what this means: the passengers locked in their rooms all have Lazar's disease and they are trapped on a plague ship.
Part two Edit
As the ship docks with Terminus, Turlough and Tegan take shelter under a grating in the floor of the corridor to escape the diseased Lazars. The Doctor warns Nyssa not to touch the Lazars, and stops Kari from shooting them. The three of them head to the bridge to find Olvir. Nyssa finds him cowering behind a chair.
While Tegan finds a ladder out of the underdecks, Turlough hears the voice of the Black Guardian warning him not to fail in assassinating the Doctor. On the bridge, Olvir explains that his sister died from Lazar's disease. He tells them that Terminus is run by a private company, for profit, that uses fear of the disease to demonise the plague victims. While they claim to offer a cure at Terminus, he's never heard of anyone coming back. The Doctor, meanwhile, is stunned to discover Terminus is in the centre of the known universe.
Tegan and Turlough, still under the floor, see an armoured man patrolling the deck. He gives an order: "Sterilise!"
Within Terminus, Bor is studying a display and muttering, "The reading's still climbing." Valgard, the armoured man from the ship, enters and is horrified to see Bor crossing a line demarcated on the floor. He goes to follow, but stops at the line. Instead, he reports to his commander, Eirak, that Bor has entered the Forbidden Zone, only to be horrified at Eirak's insensitivity and fatalism at their situation.
On the bridge, the computer warns that sterilisation is imminent. Noxious gas flows through the underdecks where Tegan and Turlough are still trapped. The Doctor's entourage on the bridge decide to try to find the entrance to the TARDIS. Nyssa begins to feel feverish, necessitating the removal of her skirt. Realising that she's infected, Olvir recoils, only to see her dragged away by a robotic drone.
Nyssa is brought to Valgard, who is complaining to Sigurd, another Vanir, about Eirak's insensitivity. Referring to himself as a "baggage handler", Valgard himself is insensitive to the plight of the Lazars, caring only for the Hydromel on board the ship. While Sigurd retrieves the Hydromel (stealing a vial to insert in his armour), Nyssa attempts to flee Valgard. Unknowingly, she gives Olvir a chance to slip aboard Terminus. Valgard takes her to meet the Garm. Shortly afterwards, the Doctor finds Nyssa's skirt.
Eirak, resigned to Bor's death, has Valgard call the Garm (a large humanoid with a dog-like head) to ensure that Bor's armour is recovered. The Garm is summoned by a small call box and emerges from the Forbidden Zone.
Not knowing what happened to Turlough and Tegan, the Doctor and Kari flee to Terminus, unknowingly observed by Valgard. He knocks Kari down and then grabs the Doctor by the neck and begins to squeeze...
Part three Edit
Kari regains consciousness and goes for her gun. Valgard uses the Doctor as a shield, so she ricochets the shot from her gun off some nearby scrap metal. The gun's powerpack drained, Kari and the Doctor flee into the Forbidden Zone.
While Olvir steals a Vanir helmet and robe to move around undetected, Tegan and Turlough finally escape from the crawlspace. Trapped with the Lazars, Nyssa appeals to the Vanir for help, to no avail.
Eirak discovers that some of the Hydromel is, in fact, coloured water. Valgard bursts in, reporting of his encounter with the Doctor and Kari. He challenges Eirak's leadership, and Eirak contentiously agrees that, should Valgard return from the Forbidden zone with the intruders captive, Eirak will step down as the leader.
While Nyssa presses one of the Lazars for information, Olvir is detected as an intruder, and Eirak leads a party to find him. However, they find a decoy Olvir had left, and Eirak believes there is no intruder. Seeing to the Lazars, Eirak decides that Nyssa will be the first to be treated.
Exploring the Forbidden Zone to find the source of the radiation they've detected since arriving, the Doctor and Kari come across Bor, now severely burned and in a fragile mental state, lugging a load of scrap metal behind him. Bor leads them to the engines that drive Terminus, one of which is damaged and leaking radiation; he's been piling metal in front of it.
Bor, struggling to focus despite his memory loss, warns the Doctor that if the damaged engine is to explode, it would threaten the entire universe. He also says that one engine has already exploded, a "long time ago". Telling them to check the computer and follow the cables, his explanation is interrupted by Valgard.
Sure that the Doctor and Kari are spies from Terminus Incorporated, Valgard attacks the Doctor with his staff. The Doctor parries and knocks Valgard into the metal Bor had been stacking around the engine. The Garm arrives, and picks up the weakened Bor.
Meanwhile, Nyssa is chained up at the entrance to the Forbidden Zone, and Eirak summons the Garm to take her to her mysterious cure. The Garm, still carrying Bor, enters at the same time Olvir arrives to try to free Nyssa. Unable to free Nyssa, he instead tries to shoot the Garm, only to find his blaster completely ineffective. The Garm takes Nyssa away; Olvir follows them into the Forbidden Zone.
As the Doctor tries to follow the cables that Bor mentioned, Bor himself is being questioned by Sigurd. While still confused due to his radiation sickness, he mentions that the pilot of Terminus is dead, and that if he fires up the engines, the Big Bang will happen all over again. Eirak denies the dying Bor any Hydromel, thinking it to be a waste of their limited supply.
Turlough appeals to the Black Guardian for help getting back to the TARDIS. The angry Guardian at first punishes Turlough for his failure to kill the Doctor, then reluctantly tells him how to recreate the door to the TARDIS. He and Tegan, the latter of whom is still unaware of Turlough's bargain, head back to the ship's crawlspace.
As the Doctor and Kari reach Terminus Control and find the corpse of the pilot, Olvir discovers the Garm chaining Nyssa up in the engine room. He rushes to her, only to be caught off guard by Valgard. Turlough, meanwhile, has discovered the circuitry that the Black Guardian indicated; his manipulations of it result in a shower of sparks.
The Doctor discovers that Bor's description was not accurate in saying a previous engine had exploded. In fact, Terminus was a time ship that had dumped its fuel while in time-flight to avoid an overload. The fuel, dumped into a void, had started a chain reaction, resulting in the biggest explosion ever: Event One.
Deducing what had happened, the Doctor comes to a terrifying conclusion: while the exploding fuel had created the universe, the same events occurring now would undoubtedly destroy it. He also makes a second discovery: that the fuel dump process was automatically started by the computer - a process that has just begun.
Part four Edit
Valgard and Olvir continue to fight, while the Garm takes Nyssa away. The younger and healthier Olvir defeats Valgard, only to realise Nyssa is gone. Turlough and Tegan, meanwhile, see the door to the TARDIS begin to reappear, and return to the circuitry in the crawlspace.
Olvir attempts to retrieve his gun from the pool of radiation generated by the engine. Valgard comes to and warns him not to try, lest he receive a fatal dose of radiation. Valgard reveals that, like Olvir, he was once a pirate, and learned combat from Olvir's commander. That commander later betrayed Valgard, turning him in for a reward and condemning him to a life of slavery on Terminus. Valgard begs Olvir for sympathy, but he ignores him to find Nyssa. After Olvir leaves, Valgard stands, revealing his ploy to be a ruse, and retrieves Olvir's abandoned gun by using his staff.
The Doctor and Kari are struggling to throw the switch to stop the fuel dump, but are unable to get it to budge. Meanwhile, Turlough and Tegan's work in the crawlspace is interrupted by an announcement from the computer: the star liner is beginning to move. Tegan runs to the bridge to attempt to stop the departure. The computer ignores her protests as the engines begin to glow.
Turlough, alone in the ship's corridor with the door back to the TARDIS fully materialised, smiles to himself. On the bridge, the computer announces the launch is being aborted. Turlough runs to the TARDIS console room.
Nyssa awakens in a white chamber to discover all the symptoms of Lazar's disease are gone. In Terminus control, Kari watches the Doctor struggle with the control, and observes aloud that the pilot must have had the strength of a giant. The Doctor has a realisation: the Garm!
In the console room, Turlough is again berated by the Black Guardian for the Doctor's continued presence in the universe of the living. Turlough's crystal begins to glow.
Olvir confronts the Garm about what he does to the Lazars. The suddenly loquacious Garm defends his actions as saving some that would otherwise die, and takes Olvir to Nyssa. Sigurd, meanwhile, decides to steal some Hydromel to ease Bor's pain.
The Doctor and Kari summon the Garm. Olvir forces his way into the chamber in which Nyssa is recovering, and is rewarded for his efforts by Nyssa throwing him to the ground and straddling him ready to strike. Nyssa has realised that the "cure" of radiation could work consistently if it were properly studied.
As the engine continues to build to overload, the Garm begins to force the override lever back. Terminus itself begins to shake. At first, even the Garm's strength seems insignificant, but eventually he manages to push it back. After it is shut off, the Doctor disconnects the computer from the system. The Garm pleads for something in return: his freedom.
The Doctor smashes the box that controls him, and leaves to finish the shutdown of the engine. Valgard ambushes the Doctor and Kari, only for them to be rescued by Olvir and Nyssa. Nyssa believes that the Garm, now free, could help her improve the treatment of the Lazars. Valgard protests that, even if this were true, the Terminus Corporation wouldn't care, and as long as they control the Hydromel, the Vanir are slaves. Nyssa, however, realises she could synthesise and even improve the Hydromel. The Corporation would be unable to retaliate, since the soldiers they might send would never enter a Lazar colony. Like the Garm, the Vanir are now free.
Eirak returns, and Valgard produces the Doctor, reminding Eirak of their deal. Sigurd supports Valgard, and even Bor says, "It's time for a little chat."
As the Doctor advises Valgard on how to improve Terminus, Nyssa makes an announcement: she is staying at Terminus to help the Lazars. With a kiss on the Doctor's cheek and a hug for Tegan, her life has changed.
Turlough slowly wakes up on the floor of the console room, as the voice of the Black Guardian echoes through the room: "This is your last chance, boy... Kill the Doctor!"
- The Doctor - Peter Davison
- Tegan - Janet Fielding
- Nyssa - Sarah Sutton
- Turlough - Mark Strickson
- Black Guardian - Valentine Dyall
- Kari - Liza Goddard
- Olvir - Dominic Guard
- Inga - Rachel Weaver
- Eirak - Martin Potter
- Valgard - Andrew Burt
- Sigurd - Tim Munro
- Bor - Peter Benson
- Tannoy Voice - Martin Muncaster
- The Garm - R.J. Bell
Uncredited cast Edit
- Assistant Floor Manager - Polly Davidson
- Costumes - Dee Robson
- Designer - Dick Coles
- Fight Arranger - John Waller
- Film Cameraman - Remi Adefarasin
- Film Editor - Frances Parker
- Film Sound - Graham Hare
- Incidental Music - Roger Limb
- Make-Up - Joan Stribling
- Producer - John Nathan-Turner
- Production Assistant - Rena Butterwick
- Production Associate - June Collins
- Script Editor - Eric Saward
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Lighting - Sam Barclay
- Studio Sound - Scott Talbott
- Theme Arrangement - Peter Howell
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Visual Effects - Peter Pegrum
Diseases and illnesses Edit
- Lazar's disease is curable via massive doses of radiation.
- Hydromel is a vaccine which staves off Lazar's disease.
- Nyssa recalls that Adric used to perform the calculations she needs for her experiments.
- The Vanir are slaves of the Company.
- Robotic drones are used on Terminus to sterilise the vessels that dock there.
- Terminus is at the centre of the known universe.
- The Terminus craft was once capable of time travel. When one of its jettisoned fuel pods exploded in a void, it caused a chain reaction. The ripples followed the craft through time, throwing it billions of years into the future.
- The Doctor's TARDIS' space-time element is beneath the console. The Black Guardian calls it the heart of the TARDIS.
- Turlough is given Adric's room in the TARDIS.
- When the TARDIS is threatened with break-up, it will attempt to lock onto the nearest safe place in space-time (in this case, a starliner), to allow its passengers to escape. The Doctor claims it has always had this protocol, but it's never worked before.
Story notes Edit
- This story has one of three descriptions of how the universe started; the others are in TV: Castrovalva and AUDIO: Slipback. As the exact fuel used by Terminus is never mentioned, but apparently produces radiation as a side-effect of energy generation, it's plausible to believe that Terminus is fusion-powered by hydrogen and its release of fuel and the in-rush of hydrogen mentioned in Castrovalva are the same event.
- This story is well-remembered for its controversial (at the time) scenes in which the conservative Nyssa gradually removes some of her clothes, leaving her in little more than a shift by the story's end.
- Strangely enough, despite the grim tone of the story and its themes of disease and death, it is the only story from season 20 in which no-one dies.
- Hydromel comes from two ancient Greek words — the word for "water" and the word for "honey". Hydromel translates as honeyed water or mead.
- Martin Muncaster's role as the voice of the spaceship's computer was credited as "Tannoy Voice" under the mistaken belief that "tannoy" was a generic term for a public address system. Shortly after part one aired, the production office received a letter from Tannoy Ltd. pointing out that the term "Tannoy" was actually a registered trademark referring to products manufactured by them.
- Tegan and Turlough do not have anything to do with this story's main plot, and they hardly interact with any of the guest cast members.
- Until 2018's TV: The Woman Who Fell to Earth, this was the last television story to have three regular companions. This is excluding stories like TV: Boom Town and TV: The Impossible Astronaut which had Mickey and River respectively as major supporting characters and who could argued to be companions for those stories.
- This is one of the only stories where the TARDIS interior is seen but not the exterior.
- Part one - 6.8 million viewers
- Part two - 7.5 million viewers
- Part three - 6.5 million viewers
- Part four - 7.4 million viewers
- This story was originally to have featured the Ice Warriors. (It wasn't, although there was talk of the Ice Warriors reappearing during Season 20.)
Filming locations Edit
Production errors Edit
to be added
- This is the second story in the "Black Guardian Trilogy", which began in TV: Mawdryn Undead and ends with TV: Enlightenment.
- Nyssa meets the Doctor in her future (though his past) in PROSE: Asylum.
- Nyssa also meets the Doctor at the end of his fifth regeneration in AUDIO: Winter.
- The Black Guardian refers to the space-time element as "the heart of the TARDIS". The "heart" of the TARDIS would later be important to the plots of TV: Boom Town and The Parting of the Ways, where it would be shown as an intense light.
- The Doctor uses the same term, "Event One", to describe the Big Bang as was used in TV: Castrovalva.
- Adric's room remains virtually untouched from its last appearance in TV: Earthshock. As a result, it still contains a caduceus necklace from the Kinda tribe (TV: Kinda) and the Terileptil android's skull mask from its "Death" costume (TV: The Visitation). In addition, the star chart from TV: Logopolis is visible in the back of the room.
Home video and audio releases Edit
DVD releases Edit
- Audio Commentary by actors Peter Davison (the Doctor), Mark Strickson (Turlough) and Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) and writer Stephen Gallagher
- Breaking Point - Making Of documentary
- Origins of the Universe - Sir Patrick Moore and Dr John Mason discuss the science behind the Big Bang
- Original Storyboards - for spaceship sequences
- Unused Model Shots
- New CGI Effects option
- Photo Gallery
- PDF DVD-ROM material - Radio Times listings
- Easter Eggs
- Go to the first page of Special Features. From Audio Options, press up to highlight a hidden logo. Press Enter/OK to see the countdown clocks from each of the four episodes.
- Go to the second Special Features page, navigate to Menu and press down to highlight a hidden logo. Press Enter/OK to see a short presentation of interesting facts about the story.
Box set EditIt was released as issue 140 of Doctor Who DVD Files.
Video releases Edit
- This story was released on video in 1993 in episodic format in UK and Australian markets and 1994 in US markets.
Digital releases Edit
- The story was released to download on iTunes.
- It is also available for streaming in the US through Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video in the UK.
- Terminus at the BBC's official site
- Terminus at BroaDWcast
- Terminus at Shannon Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel)