Doctor Who: The Black Guardian Trilogy boxset (DVD TV Series review).

April 9, 2020 | By | Reply More

Doctor Who: Mawdryn Undead by Peter Grimwade

(1 DVD. 4 * 25 minute episodes with extras.

cast: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, Mark Strickson, Nicholas Courtney, David Collings and Valentine Dyall

On Earth in 1983, rogue boarding school boy Turlough (actor Mark Strickson) tries to get fellow school boy, ‘Ippo’ Ibbotson (actor Stephen Garlick) in trouble when he steals a car. Alas he finds there is nowhere to go when a lorry is facing him coming in the opposite direction and veers off, crashing into a field. Stunned, Turlough’s mind is drawn away with the Black Guardian (actor Valentine Dyall) tells him he will get him to his home planet if he kills a despicable villain called the Doctor. Recovering, we discover that the damaged car belongs to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (actor Nicholas Courtney), now a teacher at the school.

The TARDIS, meanwhile, finds itself on a collision course with another spacecraft and the Doctor (actor Peter Davison) materialises it on-board and he, Tegan (actress Janet Fielding) and Nyssa (actress Sarah Sutton) find it deserted. Interrogating its instrument pad, he discovers the spaceship has been on an extended orbit for some 3000 years and that someone left in a transmat device 3 years ago.

Back at the school infirmary, Turlough is ordered by the Black Guardian to go to the hill by the school. Ever the schemer, Turlough has put the blame on Ibbotson for the car but can’t stop him following up the hill. He activates a hidden device that draws the transmat capsule to Earth and leaves in it, leaving a bewildered Ibbotson, who runs back to the school and into the Brigadier who doesn’t believe a word of it.

Here, the story threads combine. The Doctor finds that TARDIS won’t dematerialise and figures out the transmat capsule is on a similar configuration and needs to split them up and then they meet Turlough. To split them, the Doctor takes Turlough in the transmat capsule to Earth with the TARDIS to follow. It barely materialises and vanishes just as Turlough is following through his order to kill the Doctor, who has turned off the calling device for the transmat capsule on Earth. It explodes as the Brigadier and Ibbotson arrive. Both school boys are returned to the infirmary and the Doctor finds the Brigadier can’t remember him but with a few memory jogs finally gets him to remember all his work with UNIT. The Doctor mentions Tegan and the Brigadier remembers meeting her 6 years earlier.

The TARDIS arrives on Earth but not where the Doctor is. The transmat capsule also appears and they believe the fire-burnt man on-board is the Doctor and get him to the TARDIS and who appears to be regenerating. Tegan runs off to get help and bumps into the Brigadier, who clearly remembers everything in 1977 and they return to the TARDIS. The fake Doctor finally convinces them to return the TARDIS to the spaceship.

In 1983, the Doctor realises he can’t get to either the starship or the TARDIS until the Brigadier realises he has Tegan’s TARDIS locating device, although it is broken. The Doctor repairs it and uses the transmat capsule to get themselves and Turlough to the spaceship. The Brigadier thinks his 1977 self didn’t go with Tegan and Nyssa but is wrong. The Doctor orders Turlough to locate the TARDIS while he and the 1983 Brigadier find the Regenerator and realises it’s been stolen from Gallifrey and faulty.

Meanwhile, the weakened fake Doctor (actor David Collings) is loose on the spaceship alone. Turlough finds the control that accesses the inner chamber where seven more people like the fake Doctor are in repose and awaken and leave. They and the fake Doctor, now revealing his true name as Mawdryn, need the Doctor’s regenerative energy to allow them to die. As he explains, he has had 4 of his 12 regenerations and to help him would stop him being a Time Lord.

Between all of this, the Black Guardian is continually changes his plans to Turlough but clearly doesn’t want the two Brigadiers to meet because they would annihilate each other.

The Doctor and the 1983 Brigadier with Tegan and Nyssa leave on the TARDIS and have a problem as the girls rapidly age. He reverses the travel and turns them into children. He has no choice and when he stabilises their ages, returns the TARDIS to the spaceship where Mawdryn and his seven fellows are waiting. For the rest, you can buy your own copy.

In many respects, ‘Mawdryn Undead’ is one of the cleverest ‘Doctor Who’ stories and re-establishes much of the backstory, especially confirming the Davison Who is the fourth regeneration or at least of that cycle as we learnt in 2020. It certainly gave Nicholas Courtney the most work he’s ever done in his tenure. It also demonstrates that other species cannot take on the regeneration properties of Gallifreyans and it was from a mechanical process originally.

The audio commentary is with actors Peter Davison, Mark Strickson and Nicholas Courtney with script editor Eric Saward. The original plan was to bring back Ian Chesterton instead of the Brigadier and setting but actor William Russell was unavailable. John Nathan-Turner created Turlough so it was a BBC owned character than that of a writer which would require paying royalties. The Black Guardian’s communication device is actually a water tap. I think I might actually have seen one around even today.

Oh, don’t skip the credits in the first episode. Mark Strickson explains that there was no rehearsal for the filmed sections. Peter Davison explains the two Moffits and it is nothing to does with time differentials. They make an interesting observation as to just where did Mawdryn get his clothes from, especially as it matches his seven crewmates on their starship. I did have a ponder on this. In many respects, Mawdryn’s people are in a temporal stasis. Although their physical form continues to mutate, I suspect their clothes just returns to what it was each time.

This DVD was created in 2009, so all the extras were made in that year.

The 24½ minute ‘Who Wants To Live Forever?’ covers the production and how close the story was to the legend of ‘The Flying Dutchman’. Mark Strickson admits that he had only ever seen one episode before. This is actor David Collings third appearance in ‘Doctor Who’.

‘Liberty Hall’ is a 7 minute featurettes with Lethbridge-Stewart being interviewed about his time after UNIT and he only taught for 7 years. I’m surprised he only got a CBE, though.

‘Deleted And Extended Scenes’ at 5 minutes is just that. The 3½ minute ‘Film Trims’ shows clapperboard activity whereas the 5½ minute ‘Out-takes’ shows who fluffs the lines. I can’t help by feel the ‘CGI Effects’ option should have been given at the beginning of the stories than put there as an after-thought. The ‘Photo Gallery’ runs at 7½ minutes with the ‘Set Photo Gallery’ at 1½ minutes kept separate. Collecting just over an hour’s worth of material.

Subjectively, ‘Mawdryn Undead’ could quite happily be updated to the modern day simply because so much time travel lore is applied now and I doubt if newer fans would have any confusion here. Oddly, without the Black Guardian/Turlough sub-plot, there is little in the way of conflict in this story. The Doctor is just forced into his actions or rather lack of them and the solution is out of his hands.


Doctor Who: Terminus by Steve Gallagher

(1 DVD. 4 * 25 minute episodes with extras.

cast: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, Mark Strictson, Valentine Dyall, Liza Goddard, Dominic Guard, Peter Benson, R.J. Bell, Andrew Burt, Martin Potter

Turlough (actor Mark Strickson) is still obeying the Black Guardian (actor Valentine Dyall) as he is shown which roundel to turn off the controls so the space/time element in the TARDIS control console can be removed. He thinks he hasn’t been seen but Tegan (actress Janet Fielding) is suspicious but only wants to show him his room that once belonged to Adric. A side point here, I thought all previous companions rooms were sealed once used. He doesn’t stay there long but goes to the main room to disconnect the TARDIS, which causes a distortion centred in the lab where Nyssa is working.

The Doctor gets to the console and redirects the camera inside the TARDIS and orders her through the portal than be absorbed there. They get to the lab and the Doctor throws a chair in the portal, preventing it closing, telling Turlough and Tegan to stay with the TARDIS. A book Nyssa was carrying is on the floor near the portal and the Doctor realises they are on a spacecraft.

Please note, I’m bulking the story threads or it’ll be like a yoyo.

Of course, neither Tegan or Turlough obey the instruction and alas the portal door closes behind them. They hear a voice behind a door thinking Nyssa is behind it. Tegan orders Turlough to find a crowbar but all he finds is the closed portal door. When called back, he sees Tegan has been caught by several arms from the door. They flee, hearing the announcement of disembarkment hide under the floor and get trapped when the people crossing squeeze it shut.

Meanwhile, two raiders, Kari (actress Liza Goddard) and Olvir (actor Dominic Guard) have gotten on board after the cargo. The Doctor finds Nyssa and then held at gunpoint by them in the spaceship bridge. The raiders spaceship suddenly flees and they want the Doctor’s spaceship. He compromises by asking them to holster their weapons.

There is an announcement over the spaceship’s tannoy saying they have arrived at Terminus which frightens Olvir who flees. The Doctor investigating the spaceship’s computer system finds that they are at the centre of the universe with the cargo ordered to disembark. Nyssa finds Olvir when looking for some more computer memory chips and when they get back he explains they are on a plague ship. The cargo which turns out to be people are infected with lazar disease.

After the Doctor has mapped the spaceship, Nyssa says they ought to split into two groups to go back to the TARDIS. The Doctor goes with Kari while Nyssa goes with Olvir and get in the worse trouble as she’s become infected and something in the process decides to lose her skirt. No, I never figured this slow strip when I originally saw it in the 1980s. Somehow they get split and Nyssa gets captured by the Vanir, a clean-up/guard crew who are going to disinfect the spaceship. Bor (actor Peter Benson), one of their number, is missing and they decided to tell the Guam (actor R.J. Bell) so if dead they can retrieve the precious armour they wear.

In the vents, Tegan and Turlough have to avoid the various disinfectants but also escape from the tunnels.

The Doctor and Kari encounters Valgard (actor Andrew Burt) who tries to kill them. He is stunned by Kari, but the gun’s charge is now spent. They do find the radioactive burnt Bor who is attempting to block up the exposed reactor and confirms the Doctor’s theory of where the radiation is coming from. Even more worrying that the first engine exploded caused the Big Bang. A second explosion would also destroy it.

Just in case you think Nyssa is forgotten, she is locked in, dressed in a gown, with the lepers but later, as she looks the least affected by the lazar disease is taken to see the Guam. Olvar disguises himself as one of the Vanir, although his subterfuge is spotted, he gets away and in pursuit of Nyssa. The Vanir leader Elrak (actor Martin Potter) says he will stand down to Valgard if he can find Olvar but as this is in the radiation zone doesn’t think it will be a long leadership.

On the spaceship linked to Terminus, Tegan and Turlough are on the bridge when its computer announces it is about to disengage. Turlough excuses himself to look for some wiring but really to ask the Black Guardian for help. Tegan comes looking for him and they disconnect some wires in the tunnel. Alas, they make things worse and in the main Terminus explosive fuel is being vented and the Doctor and Kari aren’t strong enough to reverse the switch. The Doctor signals the Guam who can and the Time Lord disengages the computer. In return, he destroys the signal box that controls the Guam.

Nyssa is taken by the giant Guam and Olvar finds his gun has no effect on him. He also bumps into Valgard and after a scuffle and chat leaves him. He pursues the Guam and finds Nyssa in a locked room and finds she has been cured by the Guam but she thinks it’s far too primitive a technique and needs some refinement. At this point, you need to buy and watch for yourself. I should give one spoiler, mainly Nyssa stays behind to fulfil the cure.

It’s very weird with this story as there’s no indication what the Doctor has been doing on the TARDIS while his companions work or bicker. He also seems lost or slow occasionally. Look at how Nyssa has to urge him to look at the spaceship’s computer system.

This has to be one of the most complicated ‘Doctor Who’s stories in a while but the pace is sedate with too many threads for each group. These days, I don’t find it a problem but you do need to give it your full attention.

The audio commentary is between actors Peter Davison, Mark Strickson and Sarah Sutton with scriptwriter Stephen Gallagher. The explosion that gave the arrival of Kari and Olvir was so loud that it was heard in the BBC1 News studio live at the same time. There’s a serious discussion about production interference in the script and Gallagher gives some examples from the script of things he wasn’t aware of, like Nyssa’s change in costume.

Oh, the Tegan and Turlough scenes were mostly done on film and the rest on video if you want to see a comparison. According to Gallagher, having some filmed scenes gives an additional day video taping. The actors regard Gallagher as the font of knowledge as he explains that the Vanir and such are based off Norse mythology names, even if the Guam looks like Hector from a cheap animation series on the BBC called ‘Hector’s House’ back in the way. Never saw him like that, rather more like a white scotty dog.

‘Breaking Point’, running at 23 minutes has cast and production discussing the story. Oddly, the one person missing throughout all of this is Janet Fielding. There is some focus on director Mary Ridge and the problems she had when she lost a day filming because of an upcoming BBC electricians strike. Her previous work was based on lingering shots which would explain why the Doctor stared into the air so long. Sarah Sutton explains that it wasn’t her decision to leave, just not having her contract renewed.

It took Patrick Moore and Dr. John Mason 6½ minutes to discuss the ‘Origin Of The Universe’.

The rest is mostly very, very short. The ‘Original Storyboards’ at 79 seconds compares the effects shots of the raiders spaceship landing on Terminus to instruction. You do have to wonder how there were 3½ minutes of ‘Unused Model Shots’ although these were principally of the raiders spacecraft. The ‘CGI Effects’ gives you an opportunity to have modern effects for another viewing of the story.

Finally, an 8 minute ‘Photo Gallery’ which also answered a question from the story as to how did Nyssa get irradiated with radiation that killed the lazer disease. You can see from the photos, just how close she was to the reactor that Bor was covering over. Presumably, there was enough shielding to prevent a lethal dose.


Doctor Who: Enlightenment: Special Edition by Barbara Clegg

cast: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strictson, Valentine Dyall, Cyril Luckham, Keith Barron, Lynda Baron, Christopher Brown and Tony Caulter

I always felt ‘Enlightenment’ as being a bit surreal, even before watching it again.

The Doctor is still repairing the TARDIS console for its lack of power when he receives words ordering him to boost it and gets a hologram image of the White Guardian (actor Cyril Luckham) of extreme danger and co-ordinates to where they should go. He doesn’t have to punch them in as the TARDIS materialises in what appears to be a ship’s hold. The Doctor decides to leave Tegan in the TARDIS in case the White Guardian returns and can complete his message and, not trusting Turlough, takes him with him outside to see where they are. They eventually find the crews’ quarters can learn some vital things that they can’t remember boarding but are getting ready for the race. One of the officers comes for the Doctor to meet the captain.

Tegan isn’t alone for long as the White Guardian returns, warning they must ensure that the race is won. She also spots someone outside and then finds herself fleeing from the first officer of the ship who finally calms her down and offers to take her to the Doctor and Turlough.

The Doctor joins Captain Striker (actor Keith Barron) for dinner with two of his officers and Tegan joins them. She then gets invited to the wheel house with the captain and the Doctor goes off in the opposite direction to find Turlough and then they go the wheel house themselves. There they discover that the Edwardian ship they are on is actually in space and Tegan gets seasick. The first officer called Marriner (actor Christopher Brown) escorts her to a cabin and a sip of some apparent keog/rum that makes her sleepy for a while.

Ordering Turlough to see if she’s all right, the Doctor discovers Striker and his officers are Eternals who use ephemerals, mortals that is, for their imagination and are mind-readers and they are in a race with similar sailed vessels using the Solar System as their race track and, when Turlough and the recovered Tegan arrive back, they see another craft explode. They are told the crew died but their officers will return to their own planet. Turlough finds some time to be alone and uses his communicator to call the Black Guardian who stuns him for failing to kill the Doctor.

With Tegan uncomfortable, the Doctor takes her back and they fund the stunned Turlough and decides that both should be in the safety of the TARDIS, only to find because he thought of it, the captain has removed it. Instead, they are given spacesuits to go on deck. A panicked Turlough hearing the Black Guardian telling him he will be stick on the ship definitely, jump overboards. Despite attempts to rescue him, Turlough is picked up by the crew of the race leader Captain Wrack (actress Lynda Baron). She doesn’t trust him but likes his ambition and decides to hold a dinner party before the last leg of the race.

Back on Striker’s ship, Marriner is enjoying Tegan’s emotions until she discovers she can block him. They receive the invitation and although Striker declines, he allows the Doctor and a dressed up Tegan and Mariner to attend on his behalf.

Before evening, Wrack is showing Turlough around the ship but leaves him out of the gridroom and a vacuum shield is off. Another ship is destroyed and he wants to know how Wrack did it.

That evening (quite how that is defined in space isn’t explained) on board Wrack’s ship, the Eternals are fascinated by Tegan. Turlough is missing, below decks investigating the chamber but finds himself locked in when one of the crew locks the door and opens the vacuum shield and the air is leaking away.

Wrack also has whisked Tegan away and puts her in a trance as she prepares a jewel to go in her tiara. The Doctor wants to know where Turlough is and Marriner gives some direction but it is faint. It is enough for Doctor to rescue Turlough, work out the source of Wrack’s power and explains his plan to stay aboard although Turlough thinks he has the better chance. The decision is taken from them as they are captured and the Doctor and Tegan, along with Marriner, are returned to Striker’s ship.

The Doctor realises what Wrack has done to act as a homing device but can he turn the tide and win the race. Of course, from here is spoiler although this is the point where Turlough breaks free from the Black Guardian’s control. Enlightenment.

The audio commentary is with actors Peter Davison and Mark Strickson, writer Barbara Clegg and director Fiona Cumming. Davison loves the darker lightning that removes the bleached look with Cumming it explaining it coming from the absorbed energy to power up the White Guardian hologram. The White Guardian (actor Cyril Luckham) also first appeared in ‘The Ribos Operation’. If it hadn’t been for electricians strike, it would have been Peter Sallis playing the Striker role. There is some discussion about no blinking when applied to the Eternals although actors generally don’t blink as much.

Strickson relates that the Kirby wire holding up when he leapt out of the ship, which we also discover is called The Shadow, broke and he fell 20 feet. Fiona Cumming points out that the directors were not allowed to talk to their writers directly and about bringing in any series within budget if they wanted to be kept employed. Davison points out the difference in TV pace over the years and also how we quickly adapt to changes when we see it. Although we know this kind of thing, it’s interesting seeing it being recognised elsewhere.

A real bundle of extras. Starting with 24 minutes of ‘Winner Takes It All’ with cast and crew discussing the story. Principally, a combination of strikes and Yuletide muddled where stories were used and cast availability. How a change of costume for Tegan for the dinner softened her appearance. Keith Barron enjoyed the intensity of his role. It’s a shame Lynda Baron wasn’t available. Mark Strickson makes an astute observation that Barbara Clegg’s script brought a level of emotional depth that they hadn’t had before.

‘Casting Off’ at 10½ minutes does explore how both Lynda Baron and Keith Barron helped the other cast on their sides to do their best. A rare insight of behind the scenes.

‘Single White Female’ at 5 minutes examines Barbara Clegg’s career as an actress and scriptwriter. She moved from stage to radio and TV simply because it paid more than £12 a week on the stage. Amongst her credits is adapting ‘The Chrysalids’ for radio and I remember listening to it at the age of 11 while I was home with a very serious illness on the radio ‘Woman’s Hour’ in the afternoon.

‘The Story Of The Guardians’ addresses just what they are, the nearest thing to gods. You do have to wonder why they haven’t been resurrected for the modern ‘Doctor Who’. The history of the late Cyril Luckham and Valentine Dyall is given by their now adult children.

The 6 minutes of ‘Storyboards’ by their special effects designer Mike Kelt compares to the filmed version, which you can see full screen as well. Considering the small budget they had, I’m more impressed now than when I originally saw it.

The 7 minute ‘Photo Gallery’ has a surprise ending showing the special effects and the boats being moved by a giant trolley car. Magic.

On the second DVD, director Fiona Cumming explains she jumped at the chance at being offered to do an upgrade of the original special effects to CGI. I have to confess that when I watch ‘Enlightenment’ as a 75 minute film, the only time the change in effects was really efficient towards the end of the race when the sails were raised.

Something that I did wonder on my third visit to this story is that there are certain parallels to ‘The War Games’, more so as the ephemeral/mortal crews died when the ships were destroyed. Whereas the Time Lords terminally dealt with the War Chief and War Lord being executed. The Eternals with their continuing games did not get such a fate or any recriminations from the White Guardian.

OK, more extras and we are back in 2009, starting with the 14 minute ‘Re-Enlightenment’ where director Fiona Cumming goes over with the production team decide on what is needed for the new CGI effects made in 4 months in Canada. The 2½ minute ‘Original Edit Comparison’ did just that applied to the first episode. The 5 minute ‘Film Trims’ shows the openings of various scenes as the clapperboard claps action.

‘Finding Mark Strickson’, running at 8½ minutes has the actor going over his history as a musician, replacing his brother at an audition, developing a love for acting and later, after ‘Doctor Who’, into natural history films, giving Steve Irwin his first break.

‘Finding Sarah Sutton’, running at 7¾ minutes, had her starting off in ballet before she got picked out for junior acting and on TV appearing in ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ (1973) and ‘The Moon Stallion’ (1978). She plays down how many series she’s been in but regrets that she never did time in drama school after her junior career,

Finally, Russell Harty’s Christmas Party has Peter Davison and his then wife, Sandra Dickinson, performing a pantomime song. Bearing in mind Dickinson does a more growly voice as Grandma Tracy in the CGI version of ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’, this gives another opportunity to hear her normal voice.

GF Willmetts

April 2020

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC. 4 DVDs 375 minutes 3 stories, 4 episodes each and one 75 minute film with extras. Price: I pulled my copy for £15.99 (UK). ASIN: BBCDVD 2596)


Category: Doctor Who, TV

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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