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The Visitation (TV story)

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The Visitation
They're behind you!
Novelised as: Doctor Who and the Visitation
Doctor: Fifth Doctor
Companion(s): Adric, Nyssa, Tegan
Featuring: Richard Mace
Main enemy: Terileptils
Main setting: London, 1666
Key crew
Writer: Eric Saward
Director: Peter Moffatt
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Release details
Story number: 119
Number of episodes: 4
Season/series: Season 19
Premiere broadcast: 15 February - 23 February 1982
Premiere network: BBC1
Format: 4x25-minute episodes
Production code: 5X
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The Visitation was the fourth serial of Doctor Who's 19th season. It featured Doctor Who's explanation for the starting of the Great Fire of London. The story also contained the last appearance of the sonic screwdriver under John Nathan-Turner's tenure as producer. On television, the screwdriver would not return until the 1996 TV movie, and would eventually become a regular feature of the show again after BBC Wales revived the series in 2005.

Behind the scenes, it was important for being Eric Saward's first contribution to the show. Unlike most other cases where the script editor received credit for writing an individual serial, here the script submission came prior to Saward's ascension to the script editor's office. It was essentially the script that landed him the job as script editor, rather than the job which necessitated or allowed his writing of the script.

It was also notable for its high ratings. It's one of the very few stories told in the serial format to improve its ratings with every episode. Excluding Dimensions in Time, the final episode is one of only five produced by JNT to have achieved a rating of 10 million viewers or better. Perhaps more tellingly, that episode was the 40th most-watched episode of the week – one of only four occasions when JNT-produced Doctor Who broke into the top 40. Indeed it was the joint third-highest-ranked episode of JNT's tenure, tying with the final episode of Earthshock.

Synopsis Edit

The Fifth Doctor tries to take Tegan back to Heathrow Airport but the TARDIS arrives in the 17th century instead of the 20th. The time travellers find a space capsule has crash-landed nearby and that its alien occupants, three Terileptil prison escapees, intend to wipe out all indigenous life on Earth by releasing rats infected with an enhanced strain of the great plague.

The creatures are also using a sophisticated android to strike terror into the local villagers. Aided by itinerant thespian Richard Mace, the Doctor tries to unravel the evil plot.

Plot Edit

At the manor home of a 17th century family, an unwelcome visitor arrives.

In the console room, the Fifth Doctor is telling off Adric for being so reckless with the TSS during the events of their adventure on Deva Loka. The whole Kinda tribe could have been wiped out. Tegan is unsure if she is free of the Mara. (Kinda) The Doctor notices a fault in the console. Nyssa is helping Tegan get ready to leave as they prepare to land at Heathrow right after she left (Logopolis). Tegan and Nyssa enter the console room to find that they have landed at Heathrow… three centuries early. Tegan storms out of the TARDIS.

The four gather outside the TARDIS, They smell sulphur and head off to find the source. They are attacked by villagers, but escape. In the confusion, Adric drops his TARDIS homing device and the group is separated. A highwayman and proclaimed thespian, Richard Mace, encounters the group and takes them to safety inside a barn.

While questioning Mace, they find out that some kind of comet recently landed nearby. The Doctor knows it was no comet and immediately takes interest in the necklace Mace is wearing. It is actually a bracelet used for prisoner control. The group begins searching the barn and comes across several power packs. Since they are far more fragile than the necklace, there were survivors. They set off to the nearby manor of the person who owns the barn.

No one answers the front door, so the Doctor and Nyssa find a way in through a window. While searching the manor, they find more power packs, gunpowder, and a mark from a high energy weapon. The Doctor also notices a wall where there shouldn’t be one. While he continues his investigation of the wall, Nyssa goes to the front door and lets the others in. When they return to the wall, the Doctor is nowhere to be found. As the four stand there, trying to figure out where he’s gone, a figure shuts and locks the door behind them.

The Doctor appears through the wall and explains it is a holographic energy barrier. They walk through and join the Doctor. In the cellar, they notice the place smells of Soliton gas. Also in the cellar are several caged rats and the device emitting the Soliton gas. While they search the room, the figure from before, an android, sneaks up on them. It stuns Tegan and Adric. The Doctor, Nyssa and Mace are forced to retreat.

The survivor is a Terileptil fugitive. He interrogates Tegan and Adric about the Doctor. Meanwhile, the Doctor and the others find the Terileptil’s ship near the manor. They plan how to deal with the android: A sonic booster set up in the TARDIS might just deal with it. As they leave the ship, a group of villagers, all wearing the same device Mace found, approach them. They demand the Doctor come with them. When he refuses, they attack. The three run back into the ship, now under siege by the villagers. The Doctor blasts open the rear hatch of the ship and the group escapes into the forest to find the TARDIS. The controlled villagers follow them at a distance.

Back in the manor, Tegan and Adric have been placed in a locked room. Nyssa heads back to the TARDIS to work on the sonic booster. The Doctor and Mace go to take a horse from a nearby mill to make their way back to the manor. Tegan and Adric escape from the room and go into the manor proper. Adric jumps out a window before Tegan is recaptured by the android. Just before leaving the mill, the Doctor and Mace are confronted by real villagers and are about to be killed for being "plague carriers".

Yet the Terileptil still needs the Doctor. He sends his controlled villagers in to stop them. The villagers throw the Doctor and Mace into a room in the mill. At the manor, the Terileptil has placed one of the bracelets on Tegan. Back at the TARDIS, Adric arrives and assists Nyssa in setting up the sonic booster. The Doctor disables two of the bracelets and the Terileptil sends the android to retrieve them.

Minutes later, the android, in the guise of the Grim Reaper, bursts into the mill, frightens off the villagers and takes the Doctor and Mace back to the manor. They find Tegan under the bracelet's control. The Doctor encounters the Terileptil and his offer to take him away from Earth fails. The Terileptil plans to kill everyone on Earth and take over the planet. Mace is also equipped with a bracelet and the Doctor is thrown in a room where the Terileptil forces the Doctor to drop his sonic screwdriver and then destroys it with his weapon to make sure the Doctor cannot escape. As his ruined tool burns to cinders, the Doctor sadly remarks, "I feel as though you've just killed an old friend." The Terileptil brings in a cage with a rat and explains his plan: he will use genetically enhanced plague carried on the rats to devastate the population. The Terileptil leaves the room and the controlled Tegan prepares to open the cage.

The Doctor disables the bracelets and stop both of them. The Terileptil leaves for his base in the nearby city and sends the android to take control of the TARDIS. The Doctor, Tegan and Mace escape from the room and search the Terileptil’s lab. It is empty. Mace tells the Doctor that the nearby city the Terileptil referred to is London. The android arrives at the TARDIS but is dealt with by the sonic booster Nyssa finished. Adric and Nyssa move the TARDIS to meet the Doctor and the others at the manor.

Pudding Lane on fire

The fire's true importance revealed.

Using the TARDIS scanner, the Doctor locates the Terileptil in London. The TARDIS rematerialises there and the five enter the building. With the Terileptil leader are two other Terileptils who get the jump on the Doctor and Mace. They stop them, but one of the Terileptil’s weapons overloads and detonates. The explosion destroys the building and starts a raging fire, into which they throw the plague serum. Mace stays behind to fight the blaze as the Doctor, Adric, Tegan, and Nyssa leave in the TARDIS.

The fire is at Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire of London started.

Cast & Characters Edit

Crew Edit

A sonic farewell Edit

In use since the 1968 Second Doctor serial, Fury from the Deep, the Doctor's sonic screwdriver was destroyed here by the Terileptil leader. It's done without any especial fanfare and is only marginally important to the plot. Modern audiences, used to seeing the sonic destroyed and almost instantly replaced in stories like Smith and Jones and The Eleventh Hour would probably imagine that the Fifth Doctor gets a new one in the next story. Even contemporary audiences would have had cause to expect a replacement was at least easy to craft, since they had seen Romana II make one only a couple of years earlier in The Horns of Nimon.

Instead, this incidental destruction is indeed the end of the sonic screwdriver in the so-called "classic series".

It wasn't the original plan, though. Eric Saward's script initially carried an ending scene where the Doctor would simply get a replacement from a room full of the devices in the TARDIS. Producer John Nathan-Turner nixed the scene because he actively wanted to get rid of the drive, which he thought of as a narrative crutch that writers should be forced to avoid. Accordingly, the sonic didn't come back on television until the next story not produced by JNT.

Narratively, however, the apparent permanency of the sonic's destruction wasn't explained on television until Time Crash, where the Tenth Doctor implied that the Fifth Doctor failed to replace it simply as a matter of personal choice.

Meanwhile, in print, the Virgin New Adventures restored the sonic to the Seventh Doctor even prior to the release of the 1996 tele-film, but a variety of confusing and contradictory explanations were given. Of greatest relevancy to The Visitation however, was the notion that the Doctor got the screwdriver back because he successfully "sued the Terileptils for criminal damage". (PROSE: GodEngine)

References Edit

  • Tegan assumes the Terileptil's interest in the TARDIS means that, like Monarch, he wants to "ride in it".
  • Whilst in the TARDIS prior to landing, Tegan talks to Nyssa about her recent possession by the Mara on Deva Loka.
  • Ralph brings the Squire a drink of posset.

Species Edit

  • The Terileptils are very intelligent semi-reptilian creatures who have a heightened appreciation of aesthetics and warfare.
  • These Terileptils have escaped from the Tinclavic mines on Raaga, where they have been sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Terileptils cannot last long without breathing soliton gas; the substance is volatile when mixed with oxygen (it smells a bit like sulphur).

London Edit

TARDIS Edit

  • The TARDIS' lateral balance cones are "playing up" (probably "temperamental solenoids"), foiling the Doctor's attempt to get Tegan back to 1981 Heathrow.
  • Adric drops his TARDIS homing device in a fight.
  • When the Doctor is searching for the Terileptils' London base, the scanner shows a "brown and white" 17th century print of London's streets.

Technology Edit

Story notes Edit

  • The working titles for this story were The Invasion of the Plague Men and Plague Rats.
  • The opening sequence in the TARDIS follows on directly from Kinda. Since The Visitation was filmed before Kinda, Peter Davison and Matthew Waterhouse had to act out their characters' responses to the events of Kinda based solely on the script.
  • Radio Times credits John Savident (The Squire) as 'Squire John', and Michael Melia (Terileptil) as 'Terileptil Leader'.
  • The Terileptil mask marks the first use of animatronics in the series.
  • Eric Saward attributes the name 'Terileptil' to the words "territorial reptiles" in Doctor Who: The Making of a Television Series.
  • Writer Eric Saward originally created the character of Richard Mace for several radio plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in the 1970s. [source needed]
  • The initial idea for this story was suggested to Saward by a former girlfriend who had recently read about the plague and the fire. [source needed]
  • One part of the Terileptil's laboratory re-uses a Hymetusite crystal from The Horns of Nimon.
  • Director Peter Moffatt strongly disliked Paddy Kingsland's incidental music for this serial, saying it was replete with "turgid chords". (DCOM: The Visitation) However, Kingsland called Moffatt his "favourite director to work with". (DOC: Scoring The Visitation)

Ratings Edit

  • Part one - 9.1 million viewers
  • Part two - 9.3 million viewers
  • Part three - 9.9 million viewers
  • Part four - 10.1 million viewers

Myths Edit

  • An outtake exists of a horse walking through and destroying a wooden archway. The outtake exists and has been broadcast many times. It has been misreported as coming from this story; in truth, it occurred during production of TV: The Awakening.

Filming locations Edit

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.
  • When the doors open in the interior of the crashed ship, you can clearly see that the forest in which the craft is supposedly located is not there.
  • When the Doctor decides that Nyssa should go to the TARDIS alone, while he and Richard Mace go to see the miller, she leaves back in the direction from which they had entered the clearing.
  • When Nyssa says, "We should go and get andrid and Tegan", she says "Andrid" instead of Adric. This is probably because she is thinking "android."
  • Adric says, "The Doctor and the Tegan." This is probably because he is thinking "the Doctor."
  • The Doctor pulls the bracelet off the leader of the village, but when it shows the leader again, he is still wearing the bracelet.

Continuity Edit

Home video and audio releases Edit

DVD releases Edit

This story was released as Doctor Who: The Visitation.

Released:

PAL - BBC DVD BBCDVD1329
NTSC - Warner Video E2157

Contents:

  • Easter Egg: Continuity announcements. To access this hidden feature, press left at "Play All" from the main menu.

Notes:

Video releases Edit

This story was released as Doctor Who: The Visitation / Black Orchid with Black Orchid as part of a two tape set.

Released:

  • UK July 1994
PAL - BBC Video BBCV5349
  • Australia August 1994
PAL
  • US June 1996
NTSC

Doctor Who Illustrated Guides Edit

The Making of a Television Series

The Making of a Television Series is a guide to the production of this story.

External links Edit


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