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Dr Who

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From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

"The Doctor and the TARDIS - well, how could I forget?"
―Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
Mawdryn Undead
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Season Number: Season 20
Story Number: 126
Doctor: Fifth Doctor
Writer: Peter Grimwade
Director: Peter Moffatt
Broadcast: 1st February - 9th February 1983
Format: 4 25-minute episodes
Previous Story: Snakedance
Following Story: Terminus



A warp ellipse draws the TARDIS off course. The Fifth Doctor's companions are separated from him not in space, but in time, and he has to deal with a treacherous schoolboy named Turlough. But why does the Doctor's old friend the Brigadier not remember him at all?


Part One

In 1983, the former Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart teaches mathematics at Brendon Public School, where Turlough is a student. Turlough convinces Ibbotson to go on a joyride with him in the Brigadier's car, which crashes. While unconscious, Turlough is contacted by the sinister Black Guardian. The Black Guardian offers Turlough transportation off Earth if he will kill the Doctor. At the same time, the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa have problems of their own. The Doctor's TARDIS is caught in a warp ellipse and materializes on board a starliner locked in a perpetual orbit in time and space. Turlough, under the Black Guardian's instructions, transports himself onto the liner from Earth by means of a transmat capsule and encounters the TARDIS crew. The Doctor travels to Earth via transmat, taking Turlough with him, to get rid of the transmat interference that is trapping the TARDIS on the liner. As the Doctor is sorting out the device, Turlough, responding to the Black Guardian's exhortations, picks up a large rock and prepares to smash it down on the back of the Doctor's head...

Part Two

The Doctor is knocked backward by a small explosion, forcing the rock out of Turlough's hands. Unfortunately, when the TARDIS tries to materialise on Earth, it vanishes. The Doctor meets the Brigadier at the Brendon school, but is puzzled when his old comrade-in-arms does not remember their time together at first. When the Doctor says he has to find Tegan and his TARDIS, the Brigadier remembers meeting her in 1977. The Doctor realises that the TARDIS is right there - just six years earlier - and tries to get the Brigadier to remember the events that led to his nervous breakdown in 1977.

In 1977, Tegan and Nyssa encounter the transmat capsule, but inside is an alien-looking humanoid whom they initially believe is the Doctor, horribly injured. Meeting the younger Brigadier, they bring him and the alien back to the starliner. Tegan, Nyssa and the Brigadier enter the TARDIS control room. The alien, who is a scientist called Mawdryn, now wearing the Doctor's old coat, turns to face them. The top of his skull is missing, revealing his pulsing brain. Nyssa screams in horror.

Part Three

As Mawdryn explains to Nyssa, Tegan and the Brigadier what is happening, they only succeeded in trapping themselves in a cycle of perpetual mutation and regeneration and now long for death. When the Doctor finds out that there are two Brigadiers aboard, he has to try to keep the two apart lest the resulting energy discharge prove catastrophic.

Trying to leave in the TARDIS, the Doctor discovers that Tegan and Nyssa have been infected by the same malady as Mawdryn and his compatriots. The only cure, it seems, is to do what Mawdryn demands: the Doctor must give up the energy from his remaining regenerations. The mutants take their places in the regeneration room and Mawdryn pleads with the Doctor to help them die by giving them his energy. The Doctor refuses, explaining to Tegan that if he did so it would meant he end of him as a Time Lord...

Part Four

Hooking himself up to Mawdryn's apparatus, the Doctor is about to sacrifice himself when the two Brigadiers meet and touch hands, causing a discharge of temporal energy at precisely the right instant. Tegan and Nyssa are cured, the alien scientists succeed in ending their undead existence, and the Doctor remains a Time Lord. The younger Brigadier, however, will not remember his time with the Doctor until they meet again in 1983. The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan deliver the 1983 version of the Brigadier back home. Turlough is in the TARDIS control room when they return. He asks if he can join them, and the Doctor comments that he already has. In space, Mawdryn's ship self-destructs.




Story Notes

  • Every story during Season 20 had the Doctor face an enemy from each of his past incarnations. For this trilogy, the enemy was the Black Guardian, who last faced the fourth incarnation of the Doctor at the conclusion of the Key to Time saga in 1979.
  • David Collings, who played Mawdryn, also appeared in the Fourth Doctor stories DW: Revenge of the Cybermen as Vorus and DW: The Robots of Death as Poul, and would himself play an alternate Doctor in Big Finish Productions' Doctor Who Unbound audio drama, Full Fathom Five.
  • The original intent of the production team was for the character of Ian Chesterton, one of the original regulars from the series' first two seasons from 1963-65, to return for a guest appearance in this story, hence the school setting as Chesterton was a science teacher. However, actor William Russell proved to be unavailable. Some consideration was given to using instead the character of Harry Sullivan, who was a regular in the programme for a season in the mid-1970s, before the return of Lethbridge-Stewart was eventually decided upon.
  • Radio Times credits Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in the combined cast for Parts One/Two, and as Brigadier in the combined cast for Parts Three/Four. All on-screen credits read The Brigadier.
  • Former producer Graham Williams, the creator of the Guardians, did not know about their return in this season and learned about it only years later during an on-stage interview at a Doctor Who convention.
  • Originally the slot that this story occupies would have been given to the long-delayed "Song of the Space Whale" (or "Space Whale"), in which Turlough would have been one of a group of colonists, however this was once again cancelled and this story took its place.
  • Peter Grimwade's previous story, DW: Time-Flight, also takes place in two different times.


  • Part 1 - 6.5 million viewers
  • Part 2 - 7.5 million viewers
  • Part 3 - 7.4 million viewers
  • Part 4 - 7.7 million viewers


to be added

Filming Locations

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • Mawdryn Undead has the unfortunate distinction of contributing to one of the biggest and most widely discussed contradictions in the Doctor Who universe: the "UNIT dating controversy".
  • The Brigadier states that he has seen the Doctor regenerate twice. In fact, he has only seen him regenerate once, in DW: Planet of the Spiders The former might refer to ST: The Touch of the Nurazh or his thoughts on that the Third Doctor had changed back to the Second in DW: The Three Doctors. Alternatively, he might simply have chosen his words poorly and been referring to his knowledge of the Doctor's regeneration from Second to Third, even though he did not physically witness it. Also, his actual words are that he has 'seen it twice' which could just as easily refer to the after effects of regeneration (amnesia, disorientation, etc) and not the process itself.
  • With a whole cosmos to choose from, couldn't the Black Guardian have selected a more reliable assassin to deal with the Doctor than Turlough? He is limited to picking someone who will come in contact with the Doctor, having no power to directly influence what happens within the universe. Turlough is the most likely candidate of who he has to choose from.
  • If Mawdryn and his associates really wanted to die, couldn't they simply have rigged the engines of their ship to explode (as we see happen at the end of the story). The explosion would surely have been enough to scatter their molecules across space, making further regeneration impossible. The same would, after all, certainly kill a Time Lord. Their journey was in part meant to be a punishment. The engines might have been designed to be tamper-resistant.


  • The "Black Guardian Trilogy" continues in the story DW: Terminus.
  • The Doctor last encountered the Black Guardian in DW: The Armageddon Factor, in which he also hinted that what he thought was the White Guardian in DW: The Ribos Operation may have been the Black Guardian posing as his counterpart.
  • At the story's opening, Tegan is still unsure if she is finally free of the Mara, a reference to the previous story, DW: Snakedance.
  • Mawdryn Undead also makes the first explicit statement in the series that the current Doctor is the fifth incarnation.
  • Turlough's origins are finally explained in DW: Planet of Fire.
  • There are a series of flashbacks as the Brigadier remembers including:


DVD, Video and Other Releases

This story along with DW: Terminus (TV story) and DW: Enlightenment (TV story) was released in The Black Guardian Trilogy Boxset on 10th August 2009 in the UK.

This story was released on VHS in November 1992.


Main article: Mawdryn Undead (novelisation)

See Also

to be added

External Links

  • BBC - Doctor Who - The Classic Series - Episode Guide: Mawdryn Undead
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide - Detailed Synopsis - Mawdryn Undead
  • Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel) - A Brief History of Time (Travel): Mawdryn Undead
  • The Locations Guide to Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures: Story Locations - Mawdryn Undead
Season 20
Arc of Infinity  • Snakedance  • Mawdryn Undead  • Terminus  • Enlightenment  • The King's Demons  
20th Anniversary Special: The Five Doctors

This article uses material from the "Mawdryn Undead" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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