CRRRRS 497 Doctor Who: Mawdryn Undead

By Roy Mathur, on 2023-08-09, at 13:03:12--13:42:03 BST, for Captain Roy's Rusty Rocket Radio Show

Revisit Journal

Hello, fellow Whovians. I am back.

Sorry for my absence from the revisit show. There was hubbub, now reduced to a simmer, equipment upgrades (still in progress), and then I couldn't get back into the flow. In fact, I did everything except podcast, including getting back into walking and making my Lakaz Mathur bramble preserve from the juicy blackberries in my garden.

Also, this is timed to go out on Doctor Who Podcast Day, which according to Twitter account @dwpday---#dwpd (Doctor Who Podcast Day)---is "...Celebrating the history, community and creativity within Doctor Who podcasting..."


Fifth Doctor: Peter Davison
Companion(s): Nyssa: Sarah Sutton, Tegan: Janet Fielding, Vislor Turlough: Mark Strickson
Notable Cast: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart: Nicholas Courtney, Black Guardian: Valentine Dyall
Director: Peter Moffatt
Writer: Peter Grimwade
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Locations: Trent Park Campus, Middlesex University and BBC Television Centre, Shepherd's Bush (1982)
Broadcast: Season 20, serial 3, story 125, following Snakedance covered in 492, 4 x c. 25 minute episodes, first broadcast 1--9 February 1983
Media: Target novelisation by Peter Grimwade (1983), VHS (1992), DVD Black Guardian Trilogy (Mawdryn Undead, Terminus, Enlightenment (2009), DVD Doctor Who DVD Files Issue 50 (2010)


Down Under by Men At Work is number one in the UK.

What Happens

At a boarding school, a pupil, Turlough---in actuality an alien stranded on Earth---pressures another boy to steal a teacher's car. They crash and while unconscious, the evil Black Guardian offers Turlough a way off Earth if he kills the Doctor.

The TARDIS, trapped due to a warp ellipse caused by another ship, almost crashes, but the Doctor materialises it aboard the luxurious vessel. On board, they find a transmat capsule linking 1977 Earth with 1983 Earth. Turlough arrives in the transmat capsule. The Doctor takes Turlough back to Earth in the capsule, hoping to repair the rift in time, thus freeing the TARDIS, and tells Nyssa and Tegan to stay behind.

On 1983 Earth, the Doctor meets a retired Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart teaching mathematics at Turlough's school. He can't remember the Doctor, until the Doctor reminisces and his memories begin to surface.

Nyssa and Tegan find a badly burnt man on the ship who says he is the Doctor. In 1977 Tegan bumps into a younger Brigadier who tries to help.

In 1983, the Doctor, Turlough, and the Brigadier use the transmat capsule to return to the ship. We find out that Mawdryn is one of eight scientists trying to unlock the secret of Time Lord regeneration with stolen Gallifreyan technology. The experimentation went horribly wrong, causing them to become undead and then exiled to the ship for eternity. Mawrdryn wants the Doctor Doctor tyo give up his remaining regenerations to cure them, allowing them to die. They try to leave, but Nyssa and Tegan, infected by Mawdryn, begin to sicken, so the Doctor agrees to Mawdryn's plan. At the last moment, the 1977 and 1983 Brigadiers, wandering around the ship, enter the medical chamber and touch causing a catastrophic explosion. The energy transfer kills Mawdryn's people, cures Nyssa and Tegan, and the Doctor is left unharmed.

The Brigadiers are returned to their respective time streams. The younger of the pair is stunned by the explosion, which explains the amnesia, and Turlough is welcomed as a new companion by the Doctor, though Tegan is suspicious.

What I Thought

The boys are played by adults. Mark Strickson was twenty-four, his friend looks even older. It's creepy.

Turlough's a bit of a bullying git in his rock'n'roll shoes, amorality, and arrogance. He's as bad as Adric. We aren't going to get a less annoying male companion until New Who's Mickey Smith.

The Brigadier expects the boys to be thrashed within an inch of their lives. Ah, good old British private schools.

The luxury ship is very cool, with an opulent Art Deco style, potted golden plants, and the very pinnacle of 80s entertainment: it's own fancy Space Invaders arcade cabinet... in colour!

Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart! An old friend returns!

The Brigadier's digs are just a bloody big shed, with the Trooping of the Colour playing in the background (ugh). And, of course, we know what terrible fate lies ahead for him in New Who. Poor bastard. Mind you, much as I like the Brigadier, he did try to commit genocide by blowing the Silurians to bits in Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970).

In 1977, Tegan meets some teenagers. Some are wearing Silver Jubilee t-shirts. I'm pretty sure I had one of those and even went to a street party back in '77. What can I say? It was a very different time.

Mawdryn's pulsating brain effects were disgusting. It looks as though the top of his head was torn off and a bowl of spaghetti dumped into the bloody ragged hole. Is that spaghetti supposed to be the actual brain? Oh my god, it was horrendous.

The scientists long dress-like outfits and their silent gliding movements through the ship were unnerving.

Ah... the jealousy the rest of the universe has for Time Lord technology, expressed succinctly in New Who:

A Time Lord's body is a miracle. Even a dead one. There are whole empires out there who'd rip this world apart for just one cell. We can't leave him here. Or anywhere.---River Song, Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut (2011)

Conclusion? The premise is simple: the TARDIS encounters a ship of scientists attempting to to reverse their failed experiments in immortality, and who are finally granted their wish to die via a ludicrous deus ex machina, while the Doctor's destruction is surreptitiously plotted by the Balck Guardian through his unwilling proxy Vislor Turlough; an alien stranded on Earth. What complicates matters to the point of incomprehensibility is the endless to-ing an fro-ing through time and space. It's a mess of spaghetti to rival that contained within the hideous pulsating mass in Mawdryn's undead skull. In fact, it's so confusing I'm not entirely sure I have the sequence of events laid out properly in my synopsis, even after watching the story twice.


According to BBC's The Fourth Dimension, the Brigadier wasn't supposed to make an appearance as a maths teacher. Instead Ian Chesterton, formerly of Coal Hill School and the first Doctor's companion, was to return as a science teacher.

Up Next

Expect a very very full geek show next due to my increasing and extreme lateness, for which I (almost) apologise (almost) profusely, but not quite.

Hint: The situation would be helped immeasurably by listener participation. As I'm sure the Brigadier would say it would, "Boost the troop morale! What!"