CRRRaSh! 394 Doctor Who: Underworld

By Roy Mathur, on 2021-07-09, at 23:00:00--23:31:21 BST, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen

The State of the Rewatch

Again, I'm exhausted. I shopped in preparation for what our illustrious Prime Minister is non-ironically calling Freedom Day. I also started a last re-check of my novel the Horus Box, which I'll talk about in the next weekly geekly rambly thingy.


Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion(s): Leela: Louise Jameson, K9: John Leeson
Director: Norman Stewart (Long serving DW production assistant, directed this and The Power of Kroll)
Writer: Bob Baker and Dave Martin (writing team that worked on several Doctor Who stories starting with The Claws of Axos covered in pod 246)
Producer: Graham Williams
Location: BBC Television Centre Studios TC3, Shepherd's Bush October 1977 and model filming at Bray Studios, Slough September--October 1977.
Broadcast: Story 096/serial 5 of season 15, 4 x 22 minute episodes, 7 January--28 January 1978. It follows The Sun Makers that we covered in pod 392.

On this Day

I can't find anything specific to this day, but this was the month the Sex Pistols broke up.

What Happens

Doctor, Leela and K9 arrive in the TARDIS at the edge of the cosmos. They find a spiral nebula, and a trace of an ion drive. Following it, they arrive on a ship. The Doctor recognises the ship as that of the long destroyed Minyan civilisation. When the Times Lords were new to spacetime exploration, they met the Minyans who thought of them as gods. Flattered, the Time Lords improved Minyan technology until they used it to destroy themselves.

They meet the ancient crew, kept alive through Time Lord technology with a regeneration machine. They are on a quest to find a missing colony seeding ship after their civilisation was destroyed. They follow the colony ship into the spiral nebula with the Doctor's help, but are buried in a rocks and crash into a small planet formed in the same way by the ship they were following.

The survivors of the colony ship are called slave Trogs, who mine the planetoid for the human Guards and their robotic Seer overlords, all ruled by the Oracle; the colony ship's computer. The Doctor, Leela meet a young Trog and rescue this father, who was to be sacrificed, as well as other slaves.

After a false truce arranged by the Oracle, the crew of questing Minyans are given fission bombs disguised as the race bank cannisters. Within only moments left to spare, the Doctor retrieves the genuine real race banks cannisters, which he substitutes for the bombs, and leads the remaining Trogs to the ship. They witness the destruction of the planetoid as they escape and the Doctor wishes them well before departing in the TARDIS.

What I Thought

After The Sun Makers, I asked for proper hard science fiction and I got it. In Underworld, the Doctor explains gravitational attraction between dense and less dense objects in space, though the way it was executed would have taken years not seconds. There was also the 2000 megaton (2 billion megaton) bomb, that blew up the planet, Alderaan-like, which I thought, as a non-physicist, seemed convincing.

Those meddling Time Lords! They learned the hard way of what could happen when a technologically advanced civilisation interferes with a primitive one and that led to their policy of non-intervention.

Leela's horrible yellow outfit returns!

K9 does a lot of heavy lifting; tracking, navigating, and blowing things up. He's making things too easy for the Doctor, in the same way that the sonic screwdriver is overused in New Who.


I had nothing, so I actually had to Google the text string "doctor who underworld trivia". That is how far I've sunken. IMDB has some unverified trivia, stating:

According to the production notes, the recently released Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) influenced certain aspects of the production, especially when it was learned that the film would be released in the UK ten days before Underworld was scheduled to air.


The episode was broadcast only a few days after Blake's 7 (1978) debuted. Composer Dudley Simpson worked on both shows and, according to the DVD production notes, snuck a reference to the theme music into the score for the episode.