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From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

"Is this someone's idea of a joke?"
―Doctor Henderson
Spearhead from Space
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Season Number: Season 7
Story Number: 51
Doctor: Third Doctor (introduction)
Companions: Liz Shaw (introduction)
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: Derek Martinus
Broadcast: 3rd January - 24th January 1970
Format: 4 25-minute episodes
Previous Story: The War Games
Following Story: Doctor Who and the Silurians

Spearhead From Space was the first story of Season 7 of Doctor Who, and was the first story to feature Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. The story also introduced new companion Liz Shaw (Caroline John), and launched a multi-year story arc that saw the Doctor exiled on Earth and working for UNIT as its scientific advisor. Nicholas Courtney, as The Brigadier, becomes a regular -- the first time the series had introduced a character who was not (immediately, at least) considered a companion (although he would come to be considered thus in the future).

Spearhead from Space was the first Doctor Who story of the 1970s (although it was produced in 1969), was the first Doctor Who story to be produced in colour, and has the distinction of being the only Doctor Who story (the 1996 TV movie notwithstanding) to be entirely shot on film (the 2005-present revival series is videotaped, with the tapes processed to simulate film).



Exiled to Earth in the late 20th Century by his own people, the Time Lords, the newly regenerated Doctor arrives in Oxley Woods alongside a shower of mysterious meteorites. Investigating these unusual occurrences is the newly-formed United Nations Intelligence Taskforce UNIT for short.

Led by Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, UNIT are soon called into action when people and meteorites start going missing.

Most puzzling of all is the attempted kidnapping of a strange hospital patient a man with two hearts, who insists that he knows the Brigadier. 

The new Doctor soon joins forces with his old friend, UNIT and the recently recruited Dr Liz Shaw, but time is running out. Irregular things are happening at a nearby plastics factory, while faceless creatures lurk in the woods. The Nestenes have arrived, and want to conquer the Earth...


Episode One

UNIT soldiers monitor a curious meteorite shower over Oxley Woods. The meteorites appear to be flying in formation. Meanwhile, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart interviews Dr. Elizabeth Shaw of Cambridge University for the position of UNIT scientific advisor. She is rather dubious at the prospect, and openly derisive of the Brigadier's claim that Earth has interacted with alien races. The Brigadier mentions a mysterious man known only as "the Doctor" who had aided UNIT in the past, but is now nowhere to be found. A local farmer, Sam Seeley, finds one of the meteorites pulsing with energy. The TARDIS materializes in Oxley Woods, and the newly regenerated Doctor emerges and collapses to the ground. He is discovered by a UNIT patrol and brought to Ashbridge Cottage Hospital. Words soon leak out about the hospital's mysterious patient who appears to have two hearts, and soon the lobby is overrun with press -- and a mysterious man named Channing. The Brigadier is alerted to the Doctor's presence, but having regenerated he doesn't recognize him. The Doctor awakens and recognizes the Brigadier, however. After the Brigadier  leaves, the Doctor finds the TARDIS key in his boot, and attempts to leave. On the way, Channing and his associates kidnap him. He escapes in a wheelchair, but then leaves it and returns to the TARDIS on foot. As the Doctor crashes through the trees he is shot down by a UNIT soldier guarding the police box.

Episode Two

The Doctor wakes up and heads into a shower to clean up. He then puts on a smart coat and a black hat. The press, hearing about a "man from space" at the hospital, explain that the meteorites turn out to be hollow globes containing the Nestene Consciousness, a disembodied alien intelligence which can inhabit and animate plastic and create robot-like plastic slaves which can appear either as mannequins or replica Humans. The plastic polyhedron is actually a power unit for a non-physical Alien intelligence known as the Nestene Consciousness. Normally disembodied, it has an affinity for plastic, and is able to animate humanoid facsimiles made from that material, known as Autons.

The Nestene Consciousness have taken over a toy factory in London, and plan to replace key government and public figures with Auton duplicates. The Auton in charge of the factory sends other, less human-looking Autons to retrieve the power units from UNIT and the poacher. Channing, who is a Nestene agent has taken over Auto Plastics to facilitate the invasion. A gentleman named Hibbert is working at the factory. Channing encounters Hibbert and hypnotises him so he can work for Channing.

Later, John Ransome an ex-employee of a local plastics returns to the plastics factory and breaks into his old workshop to find it full of new equipment. As he inspects a strange computer-like device, a plastic shop dummy steps down from a plinth behind him and advances towards him.

Episode Three

Ransome escapes and goes to UNIT. He tells the soldiers about the Auton that he encountered in his workshop. The Auton is sent to retrive the meteorite that Sam Seely found. It escapes UNIT and kills Ransome by shooting him in a UNIT tent. Meanwhile, several other Autons have started a war in the streets of London. They have broken out of a shopping centre, and have shot lots of people, including a policeman. Back at UNIT Headquarters, the Doctor discovers that his TARDIS has been disabled by the Time Lords and he is trapped on Earth.

The Doctor convinces Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart that he is the same man who aided him before to defeat the Yeti and the Cybermen, despite his change in appearance. The Doctor creates an electroshock device that he believes will disable the Autons. The Brigadier telephones his regular army contact General Scobie to ask for support in investigating Auto Plastics. Scobie agrees to meet the Brigadier but hangs up as there is a knock at his front door. Scobie opens the door to reveal an exact duplicate of himself, who advances on him.

Episode Four

Scobie phones the Brigadier again and tells him the factory is locked. The Doctor and Liz visit Madame Tussauds, a museum in London, and discover hundreds of dummy replicas of important people replicas. The Doctor meets Hibbert and hypnotises him to believe Channing is his enemy. Hibbert attempts to kill Channing but he is killed instead by an Auton. At dawn the Autons are activated, and they attack some police stations. The UNIT soldiers reach the plastics factory and attack it, but they discover the Autons can not be destroyed by gunfire. The Doctor and Liz break into the factory, where the Doctor finds that the Nestene Consciousness has created a monstrous tentacled body for itself inside a tank.

As the Doctor struggles with the creature, Liz presses a button on the little machine, and repels the Nestene consciousness into space. Without the motive power of the Consciousness, the Autons will have no more power, and they collapse. Channing, revealed to be no more than a sophisticated Auton, is likewise deactivated. The Brigadier floats the offer to the Doctor to let him work on a means to escape Earth while meanwhile helping UNIT stop future alien invasions. The Doctor, with misgivings, agrees, and Liz also agrees to become his new assistant. The Brigadier goes to prepare the paperwork and asks the Doctor what his name is. "Smith", replies the Doctor. "Doctor John Smith".



  • UNIT Commissionaire - Derrick Sherwin
  • UNIT Soldiers- Roy Brent, Alan Cooper, Victoria Croxford, Trevor Cuff, Antonio De Maggio, Dave Dewhurst, Rachel Hipwood, Michael Horsburgh, John Hughes, Marie Johnson, June Johnson, Arthur Judd, Vicky Maxine, Patrick Milner, Dave Mobley, Robert Needham, Iain Smith, Hugh Wood
  • Auto Plastics- Constance Carling, Christine Bradley, Denis MacTighe, Brian Nolan, Lindy Russell, Rosemary Turner, Robert Windman
  • Extras - Barry Ashton, Keith Ashley, Bernadette Barry, David Billa, Joy Burnett, Arnold Chazen, Alan Clements, Diana Collins, Fred Davis, Gary Dean, Grace Dola, Michael Earl, Walter Goodman, Alan Granville, June Gray, Michael Harrison, Denis Haywood, Roger Houghton, Derek Hunt, Alfred Hurst, Brian Justice, Vi Kane, Peter Kaukus, Barry Kennington, Leonard Kingston, Sheila Knight, Gideon Kolb, Doris Lang, Kenneth Lindford, Norman Littlejohn, Reg Lloyd, Anthony Maine, Claire Maine. Bill Matthews, David Melbourne, Roger Minnis, Lola Morrice, Robert Murphy, Lesley Pates, Maurice Quick, Henry Rainer, Laurence Ross, Christopher Rushton, Tom Segal, Maurice Selwin, Keith Simon, John Spradbury, Sandy Stel, Cara Stevens, Cy Town, Hein Viljoen, Sonny Willis



  • The Doctor can communicate with his eyebrows in the language of the planet Delphon.
  • The Time Lords have changed the dematerialization codes for the TARDIS
  • UNIT have monitoring stations and a London HQ.
  • The Doctor uses the alias John Smith.
  • This episode contains a lot of new information about the Doctor's physiology. We discover the Doctor has a binary vascular system, that his blood type isn't comparable to any human one, and that he can willfully go into a coma. This is also the first time that we see regeneration as a difficult physical process, with lingering effects.
  • Unlike the Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Doctors (DW: Robot, Castrovalva, Time and the Rani), the Third Doctor immediately recognizes people he's known in his previous body. In this instance, he recognizes Lethbridge-Stewart the first time he sees him. On the whole, the Third Doctor endures the effects of regeneration in much the same way that the Tenth Doctor did (DW: The Christmas Invasion).
  • The rationale the Brigadier gives Liz for aliens suddenly being interested in Earth is used, almost word-for-word, by the Tenth Doctor, when he tries to explain to Prime Minster Harriet Jones why the Sycorax won't be the last aliens to visit Earth. (DW: The Christmas Invasion)

Story Notes

  • This is the first story featuring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor, as well as the first appearance of companion Liz Shaw and villains the Nestene Consciousness and its servants the Autons.
  • There is a new title sequence designed by Bernard Lodge (who designed the previous title sequence).
  • There are scenes featuring real waxworks shot at Madame Tussaud's in London.
  • This story had the working title of Facsimile.
  • Due to a scene-shifters' strike, this story is completely shot on film and almost completely on location.
  • The actor playing the Doctor is credited for the first time as 'Doctor Who' in the closing credits as opposed to 'Dr. Who' which had been the norm since 1963. This form of credit would continue until the end of the Tom Baker era in 1981, after which the credit became the correct form, 'The Doctor'.
  • Among the props seen on the Doctor's workbench is the Morok freezing machine from The Space Museum (which was recycled previously as an x-ray laser in The Wheel in Space), and a control panel form one of Tobias Vaughn's machines, from The Invasion.


  • Episode 1 - 8.4 million viewers
  • Episode 2 - 8.1 million viewers
  • Episode 3 - 8.3 million viewers
  • Episode 4 - 8.1 million viewers


to be added

Filming Locations

  • Location filming took pace at the BBC facility of Wood Norton near Evesham and in the nearby pub in Radford.
  • Madame Tussaud's in London

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • If UNIT is a top secret organisation, how does the media know about it? Perhaps UNIT is an "open secret" as MI5 and MI6 used to be i.e. people knew about the intelligence organisations but the government did not officially acknowledge their existence. Or perhaps it is a secret organisation in the vein of the CIA, in which the existence of the group is not secret, but its activities.
  • In the cliffhanger of part 1, why would the UNIT soldiers open fire on someone they don't know? Even if it is a secure area wouldn't shooting someone be a bit unprofessional for UNIT? With white clothes and erattic movements, the doctor could have been mistaken for another alien by an inexperienced soldier.
  • If the Nestenes needed to take control of a plastics factory to create Autons, and they gained control of said factory through Channing, an advanced Auton, then who created Channing? Perhaps Channing was a Scout Auton and fell to Earth with the first Energy Unit
  • The freshly regenerated Doctor sports a visible tattoo on one arm (which can be seen during the shower sequence), even though he hasn't been "alive" long enough to get one. NA: Christmas on a Rational Planet suggests that this tattoo was applied to the Doctor by the Time Lords to mark him as an exile or criminal.
  • Why don't the Nestenes kill the General, one duplicated, instead of leaving him in a wax museum?
  • The Doctor is gurning as he's attacked by tentacles.
  • At the start of episode two the Doctor clutches his head before being shot.
  • At the beginning of the story, the Brigadier says that since UNIT was formed there have been two attempts to invade the Earth and that the Doctor helped on both occasions. The only invasion attempt between the time UNIT was formed and the beginning of this story was during The Invasion Most likely there is an undocumented adventure that pits UNIT and the Doctor against an threat. 'The simplest explanation (and undoubtedly the real world one) is that the Brigadier was including DW:The Web of Fear. Even though it was not technically a UNIT operation, it did lay the groundwork for the forming of the operation. Another possibility is that UNIT was formed before the events of The Web of Fear, but the British branch was only established after the events of that story.



DVD, Video and Other Releases

DVD Releases

Released as Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space, this release was slipped into the DVD schedule by BBC Worldwide so that a second DVD could be released in 2000. In the event, the DVD was delayed till the following year.


NTSC - Warner Video E1120


  • UNIT Recruitment Film
  • Trailer
  • Photo Gallery
  • Production Subtitles
  • Easter Egg (Test Footage for the titles sequence.)
  • Commentary: Nicholas Courtney and Caroline John

Rear Credits:


  • The Fleetwood Mac song Oh Well - Part One has been removed from the DVD.
  • Editing for DVD release completed by Doctor Who Restoration Team.

Video Releases

Released as Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space.


  • First Release:
PAL - BBC Video BBCV4107
NTSC - Warner Video E1163

Notes: Released in an edited movie-format, with the Fleetwood Mac song Oh Well - Part One removed.

  • Second Release:
PAL - BBC Video BBCV5509

Notes: Released unedited.


Main article: Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion

Unofficial prequel

In the mid-1990s, production began on a fan film entitled Devious, which takes place prior to Spearhead from Space and featured Jon Pertwee as the Doctor. Pertwee died soon after filming his scenes and as of 2009 the film remains a work in progress. Although not authorised by the BBC, a 12-minute excerpt from the film was included on the BBC Video DVD release of DW: The War Games in 2009.

External Links

  • Official BBC Episode Guide for Spearhead from Space
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide detailed synopsis of Spearhead from Space
  • A Brief History of Time (Travel) Guide to Spearhead from Space
  • The Locations Guide to Doctor Who - Spearhead from Space
Season 7
Spearhead from Space  • Doctor Who and the Silurians  • The Ambassadors of Death  • Inferno

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

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