Vengeance on Varos was the second serial of season 22 of Doctor Who. It was written by Philip Martin, directed by Ron Jones and featured Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor and Nicola Bryant as Peri Brown.
Seeking the rare mineral Zeiton-7 to repair his TARDIS, the Doctor arrives on Varos, a world where political prisoners and their guards are all subjected to sadistic tortures and executions which the colony's inhabitants view and vote on through interactive television. Accused of being alien infiltrators helping the colony's rebel factions, the Doctor and Peri find themselves the latest unwilling subjects in this most extreme form of reality TV.
On Varos, a planet in the constellation of Cetus, the public torture of the rebel Jondar is broadcast throughout the planet. Citizens Arak and Etta watch the event from their room. Arak complains that they never show anything new to watch. In addition to the lack of new programming, the two must also deal with food rationing. Also, that night will be a punch-in vote ordered by the Governor, and voting is mandatory.
Meanwhile, the Sixth Doctor is repairing the TARDIS console. Peri complains that the Doctor has caused three electrical fires, a power failure, nearly collided with a storm of asteroids, got lost in the TARDIS corridors twice, wiped the memory banks of the flight computer, jettisoned three quarters of the storage hold and burned her "cold dinner", all since the time-travellers left Telos. Minutes later, the TARDIS stops. It has stalled in the middle of deep space and the Doctor can do nothing to fix it.
Sil, the Mentor representative of the Galatron Mining Corporation, is negotiating with the Governor over the price of Varos' Zeiton-7 ore. Their discussion, like many others, ends in stalemate. For many years, the Galatron Mining Corporation has swindled Varos by paying far less for the ore than its market value. To make matters worse, the Chief Officer is in league with Sil. The Governor moves on to conduct the night's vote. He addresses the people, asking for their vote on if they should hold out longer for a fair price on the ore. The Governor loses and is forced to endure Human Cell Disintegration Bombardment. The process slowly kills the target and is carried out because this is the third time his recommendations have failed to pass. The guard Bax recommends that the Governor execute Jondar to please the citizens so he can recuperate before the next vote.
Peri locates the TARDIS manual and presents it to the Doctor. He quickly dismisses it. He says that he knows perfectly well what has caused their dilemma. The transitional elements within the TARDIS have stopped producing orbital energy and they need Zeiton-7 ore to realign the power systems. The Doctor explains Zeiton-7 is exceptionally rare and only comes from one planet: Varos. The Doctor repairs the TARDIS enough to get to Varos. They arrive right before the execution of Jondar is to take place.
The guard on station to watch over the execution believes the TARDIS is a hallucination caused by the Punishment Dome. The Doctor and Peri exit the TARDIS and the guard thinks they are hallucinations as well. With some help from the chained Jondar, the guard is incapacitated. The two free Jondar and make their escape after being cut off from the TARDIS by more guards. They are rescued by Rondel. He has defected after speaking with Areta and decided to help them. But he is killed shortly thereafter by pursuing guards.
The Doctor, Peri, Jondar, and Areta continue through the Punishment Dome, attempting to make their way back to the TARDIS. During a run-in with another group of guards, the Doctor is separated from the others, who are arrested. He enters a corridor that appears a desert. With all of Varos watching, he succumbs to the heat and collapses with his end as a close-up.
During the ordeal, Peri has been brought to the control centre in the company of Sil and the other officers. They question her as she watches them bring the Doctor's body to an acid bath for disposal. It turns out he is not dead; his mind was influenced to make him believe he was dying of thirst in a desert. The Doctor suddenly stands up and walks over to the attendants while their backs are turned. The surprise makes the first attendant jump, pushing the second into the bath. A struggle ensues. The first attendant is pulled into the acid bath by the second attendant. The Doctor strolls out, saying, "You'll forgive me if I don't join you."
After making his way from the acid baths, the Doctor is cornered by Quillam, Varos' chief scientist, and taken away. Back in the control centre, it is decided the Doctor and Jondar will be executed in a good "old-fashioned" way, while Peri and Areta will be reshaped with a cell mutator. The Doctor and Jondar are placed in the nooses while the Governor and Sil watch. At the last moment the Doctor asks the Governor about Sil and his extortion. Sil's bodyguards rush the platform and pull the lever. The two simply fall through the holes, the rope coming right off the support. As it turns out, there was to be no execution — it was all to get information out of the Doctor. The Doctor suspected this when he noticed that they were not being filmed.
The group tries to stop the cell mutator on Peri and Areta, but they are told it's at too advanced a stage. The Doctor and Jondar grab the weapons of nearby guards to intimidate Quillam to deactivate the mutator, but it fails. The Doctor resorts to shooting the entire control panel. The process has stopped in the nick of time and Peri and Areta return to their original form. The four escape back into the depths of the Punishment Dome towards a possible escape route. Peri, still in a stupor from the mutator, is recaptured and taken to the control centre.
The Chief and Sil make their final move on the Governor, hoping he will be killed in the next vote, securing their control of Varos and the Zeiton-7 ore. Meanwhile, the Doctor, Jondar and Areta make their way into the End Zone of the Dome, where the exit is supposed to be. The vote starts and the bombardment begins, but the guard Maldak has a change of heart and shoots the device to stop the bombardment, saving the Governor and Peri. The three make their way through the ventilation ducts to meet with the Doctor.
The Doctor's group is chased by two cannibals and loses them in some poisonous tendrils. The Chief, Quillam, and two guards arrive on the scene but are ambushed and entangled in the tendrils, killing them. The Doctor's group meet with Peri, the Governor and Maldak. They all make their way back to the control centre and put an end to Sil's plans of controlling Varos. The Galatron Mining Corporation also began to side with Varos; a second source of Zeiton-7 ore has been found and Sil is ordered to obtain the Varosian ore at any price. The Doctor and Peri bid the Governor farewell, taking the replacement ore with them.
The Governor issues a message to the citizens saying that there will be no more injustice, torture and executions. Arak and Etta watch in disbelief, wondering what they'll do with their new-found freedom.
- The Doctor - Colin Baker
- Peri - Nicola Bryant
- Governor - Martin Jarvis
- Sil - Nabil Shaban
- Quillam - Nicolas Chagrin
- Jondar - Jason Connery
- Chief Officer - Forbes Collins
- Arak - Stephen Yardley
- Etta - Sheila Reid
- Areta - Geraldine Alexander
- Bax - Graham Cull
- Maldak - Owen Teale
- Rondel - Keith Skinner
- Priest - Hugh Martin
- Producer - John Nathan-Turner
- Script Editor - Eric Saward
- Writer - Philip Martin
- Director - Ron Jones
- Designer - Tony Snoaden
- Costumes - Anne Hardinge
- Incidental Music - Jonathan Gibbs
- Assistant Floor Manager - Sophie Neville
- Camera Supervisor - Alec Wheal
- Make-Up - Cecile Hay-Arthur, Dorka Nieradzik
- Production Assistant - Jane Whittaker, Pat Greenland
- Production Associate - Sue Anstruther
- Production Manager - Margot Eavis
- Special Sounds - Dick Mills
- Studio Lighting - Dennis Channon
- Studio Sound - Andy Stacey
- Technical Co-ordinator - Alan Arbuthnott
- Theme Arrangement - Peter Howell
- Title Music - Ron Grainer
- Videotape Editor - Hugh Parson
- Video Effects - Dave Chapman
- Vision Mixers - Nigel Finnis, Jayne Beckett
- Visual Effects - Charles Jeanes
- Varosian poison ivy results in instant death.
- Zeiton-7 is bought at a ludicrously low price from Varos by the Galatron Mining Corporation.
- Galatron negotiators, such as Sil from the planet Thoros Beta, exploit the ongoing political vacuum caused by the succession of Governors who are appointed and eventually killed.
- Galatron's chief rivals are Amorb.
- Varos property is owned or policed by a body known as Comtech.
- Varosian transmutation experiments caused self-loathing subjects to become lizard people.
- The Doctor has been conducting some TARDIS repairs, although this has led to three electrical fires, a total blackout and a near collision with a storm of asteroids.
- The TARDIS' latest fault occurs when the transitional elements stop generating orbital energy, leaving the TARDIS midway between Cetus and Sculptor.
- The Doctor says Zeiton-7 is needed to repair the transpower system.
- Peri finds a huge Type 40 TARDIS manual in a workshop. She suggests that the fault might be the comparator.
- This story had working titles of Domain and Planet of Fear.
- This was one of the stories cited by critics who complained the series had become too dark and violent.
- This story, like the rest of Season 22, was produced in forty-five minute episodes, but when sold to other countries such as Australia and America, the episodes were re-edited into four twenty-five-minute episodes. The cliffhangers for parts one and three were the Doctor and Peri arriving on Varos in the TARDIS and the Doctor and Jondar's rescue of Peri and Arreta from the rehabilitators, respectively.
- The Radio Times programme listing for part two in some regions incorporated a small black and white full-length photograph of Sil, with the accompanying caption "Sil. Bad news for the Doctor? / BBC1, 5.20 p.m. Doctor Who".
- Public torture and execution as entertainment go back as far the Romans. The idea of television and manipulation of the media to control the masses has been used in many works of dystopian science fiction.
- Arak and Etta never interact with any other characters in the story, instead merely observing and commenting on the proceedings in a similar manner to a Greek chorus.
- The story was chosen by BBC America to represent the Colin Baker era during their 50th anniversary programming. Edited into an omnibus format, it was aired by BBCA on 29 June 2013, after the debut of their homegrown special called, The Doctors Revisited - The Sixth Doctor. It also aired in the United Kingdom later in the year on 27 October, along with the Revisited special, on the Watch channel.
- A deleted scene shows an extended conversation between the Doctor and Peri on the immobile TARDIS. The Doctor's attempt to fix the chameleon circuit from the previous story is mentioned. Apparently, it continued to malfunction during an offscreen adventure, where the TARDIS materialised as a pyramid on the frozen plains of Yuin 9. Afterward, the Doctor stabilised it back to generating the police box appearance. Peri jokes the TARDIS might end up as Nelson's Column until the Doctor shouts at her for insulting his workmanship.
- Part one - 7.2 million viewers
- Part two - 7.0 million viewers
Myths and rumours
- The original title of this story was "The Song of the Space Whale." ("Song" was in fact a completely different story by Pat Mills which was rejected in favour of this one.)
- A controversy persists regarding the scene where the two guards fall into the acid pit, as it looks as if the Doctor has pushed them in. A still on the Doctor Who Image Archive website seems to confirm that they do in fact fall in accidentally. The Doctor's quip after they die further exacerbates the controversy.
'* In part two, when Sil tells the Chief Officer of his plan, the green light on his chest which flashes as Sil speaks flashes for the Chief Officer's speech as well.
- Sil returns in TV: Mindwarp (part of The Trial of a Time Lord) and PROSE: Mission to Magnus/ AUDIO: Mission to Magnus.
- Residual effects of her experiences on Varos cause Peri to again assume birdlike features in PROSE: State of Change.
- The Sixth Doctor novel PROSE: Time of Your Life, the Seventh Doctor story TV: The Happiness Patrol and the Ninth Doctor story TV: Bad Wolf all have themes and motifs very similar to those used in this story.
- The Governor's speech, "But now death is my only friend. My constant and loving companion," is slightly paraphrased by the Doctor when speaking to Rose at one point in TV: Rose.
- Sil's ordering of his attendants to moisturise him are similar to Lady Cassandra's in TV: The End of the World.
- Upon meeting an older version of Peri in Los Angeles in 2009 who possessed no memory of their travels together beyond their first encounter, (TV: Planet of Fire) the Doctor mentions Sil in an attempt to jog her memory. (AUDIO: Peri and the Piscon Paradox)
- Jondar is tortured in a similar manner to how Henry van Statten tortured the Ninth Doctor in 2012. (TV: Dalek)
- Peri finds the TARDIS manual. (TV: The Pirate Planet, TV: Four to Doomsday)
- Peri states that she lived three centuries before Varos's residents were born. From this information, one can deduce that this story takes place in at least the 23rd Century.
Home video and audio releases
Released as Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos, this was the fifth and final release of 2001.
- PAL - BBC DVD BBCDVD1044
- NTSC- Warner Video E1718
- On the Studio Floor ... - Behind the scenes footage of the making of the story.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes/Out-takes
- Unmixed Soundtrack Option
- Photo Gallery
- Production Subtitles
- Commentary: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Nabil Shaban
- Starring Colin Baker
- By Philip Martin
- Produced by John Nathan-Turner
- Directed by Ron Jones
- Incidental Music by Jonathan Gibbs
- Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.
Special Edition release
- Many of the stories released on DVD during the first few years were subsequently re-released with improved quality and extras, as special editions and "Revisitations" box sets. Vengeance on Varos was initially not included, but 2|entertain asked fans to campaign if they would like this to change. Subsequently, the story was announced for a special edition release. The serial was released on 10 September 2012.
- Commentary: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Nabil Shaban
- 5.1 Sound Mix - Brand-new optional sound mix.
- Nice Or Nasty? - Cast and crew discuss the making of.
- The Idiot's Lantern - Look at the medium of television within the Doctor Who narrative.
- Tomorrow's Times: The Sixth Doctor
- Deleted & Extended Scenes
- Behind The Scenes
- Alternative Music Clip - Acid bath scene.
- BBC News - Coverage of Colin Baker's casting.
- Breakfast Time - Colin Baker.
- Saturday Superstore - Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant.
- French & Saunders - Doctor Who sketch from 25 January 1987.
- Radio Times Listings
- BBC Sales Sheet
- Photo Gallery
- Coming Soon Trailer - The Ambassadors of Death (TV story).
- Isolated Music Score
- Original Studio Production Audio
- Production Information Subtitles
- This story was released as Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos.
- BBC Episode Guide for Vengeance on Varos
- A Brief History of Time (Travel): Vengeance on Varos
- The Doctor Who Restoration Team's Vengeance on Varos page