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From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

"Go through, Nyssa! It's your only chance!"
―The Doctor
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Season Number: Season 20
Story Number: 127
Doctor: Fifth Doctor
Enemy: Black Guardian
Setting: Terminus
Writer: Steve Gallagher
Director: Mary Ridge
Broadcast: 15th February - 23rd February 1983
Format: 4 25-minute episodes
Previous Story: Mawdryn Undead
Following Story: Enlightenment



The TARDIS attaches itself to a space liner after Turlough, still under the Black Guardian's influence, damages its controls. The Doctor and Nyssa meet two space pirates, Kari and Olvir, who have come on board the liner in search of plunder, while Tegan and Turlough get lost in the infrastructure.

The liner docks with what appears to be a hulk floating in space. This is Terminus, which claims to offer a cure for Lazar's Disease. It is crewed by a group of armoured slave workers, the Vanir, while the cure is administered by a huge dog-like creature known as the Garm. Nyssa, who has contracted the disease from sufferers transported aboard the liner, discovers that the cure - involving exposure to radiation - does actually work.

The Doctor and Kari meanwhile learn that the ship, once capable of time travel, was responsible for the creation of the universe when an ejection of fuel from one of its engines caused the 'big bang'. Aided by Kari and the Garm, the Doctor is able to disconnect a still active but damaged engine that is on the point of exploding - something that could result in the universe's destruction.



Part One

Under the direction of the Black Guardian, Turlough manipulates some of the TARDIS's circuitry in a corridor. Hearing Tegan approach, he hurriedly shuts the roundel he was working behind. Tegan still suspicious of the new companion, finds him and questions him, her mistrust only exacerbated by the roundel falling open again. While Turlough tries to turn on the charm, Tegan shows him to his room, formerly Adric's.

Once Tegan has left to find Nyssa and complain about his obnoxious personality, Turlough heads to the console room to remove the space-time element from beneath the console. The Black Guardian appears on the scanner screen to encourage his obedience, despite his doubts that the Guardian will preserve his life. While Turlough is unable to remove the element, his sabotage causes the TARDIS to begin breaking up.

Tegan sees one of the fractures in the corridor, and runs to find the Doctor. Another fracture appears in Nyssa's quarters. While the Doctor frantically tries to save the TARDIS, the fracture in Nyssa's room resolves into a door with a mysterious skull logo on it. Deciding that the unknown on the other side of the door is better than the certain death in her room, the Doctor tells her to run through the door.

The Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough run to Nyssa's quarters, and the Doctor throws a chair into the door to keep it from closing and severing the link to the space vessel that the TARDIS, engaging an emergency system, has locked onto. The trio crawl through the door to pursue Nyssa, only to have it close behind Turlough.

The Doctor goes on ahead to find Nyssa, while Tegan and Turlough stay behind. Meanwhile, two space pirates, Kari and Olvir, board the ship and make their way to the bridge, finding it deserted and running on automatic. Hearing a sound she believes to be Nyssa, Tegan drags Turlough to find her. Instead, they find a locked door through which robed arms try to grab Tegan.

On the bridge, Kari and Olvir have taken the Doctor and Nyssa prisoner, believing them to be rival pirates. Unexpectedly, Kari and Olvir's ship undocks and accelerates away. While Kari tries, first by force and then by negotiation, to persuade the Doctor to take them with him, a computer voice suddenly comes to life, announcing that they are soon to dock at Terminus, and all passengers should disembark to avoid an imminent sterilization.

Olvir realizes what this means: the passengers locked in their rooms all have Lazar's disease, and they are trapped on a plague ship.

Part Two

As the ship docks with Terminus, Turlough and Tegan take shelter under a grating in the floor of the corridor to escape the diseased Lazars. The Doctor warns Nyssa not to touch the Lazars, and stops Kari from shooting them. The three of them head to the bridge to find Olvir. Nyssa finds him cowering behind a chair.

While Tegan finds a ladder out of the underdecks, Turlough hears the voice of the Black Guardian warning him not to fail in assassinating the Doctor. On the bridge, Olvir explains that his sister died from Lazar's disease. He tells them that Terminus is run by a private company, for profit, that uses fear of the disease to demonize the plague victims. While they claim to offer a cure at Terminus, he's never heard of anyone coming back. The Doctor, meanwhile, is stunned to discover Terminus is in the center of the known universe.

Tegan and Turlough, still under the floor, see an armored man patrolling the deck. He gives an order: "Sterilize!"

Within Terminus, Bor is studying a display and muttering, "The reading's still climbing." Valgard, the armored man from the ship, enters and is horrified to see Bor crossing a line demarcated on the floor. He goes to follow, but stops at the line. Instead, he reports to his commander, Eirak, that Bor has entered the Forbidden Zone, only to be horrified at Eirak's insensitivity and fatalism at their situation.

On the bridge, the computer warns that sterilization is imminent. Noxious gas flows through the underdecks where Tegan and Turlough are still trapped. The Doctor's entourage on the bridge decide to try to find the entrance to the TARDIS. Nyssa begins to feel feverish, necessitating the removal of her skirt. Realizing that she's infected, Olvir recoils, only to see her dragged away by a robotic drone.

Nyssa is brought to Valgard, who is complaining to Sigurd, another Vanir, about Eirak's insensitivity. Referring to himself as a "baggage handler", Valgard himself is insensitive to the plight of the Lazars, caring only for the Hydromel on board the ship. While Sigurd retrieves the Hydromel (stealing a vial to insert in his armor), Nyssa attempts to flee Valgard. Unknowingly, she gives Olvir a chance to slip aboard Terminus. Valgard takes her to meet the Garm. Shortly afterwards, the Doctor finds Nyssa's skirt.

Eirak, resigned to Bor's death, has Valgard call the Garm to insure that Bor's armor is recovered. The Garm, a mute, dog-like creature that dwarfs Valgard, is summoned by a small call box and emerges from the Forbidden Zone.

Leaving Turlough and Tegan to escape sterilization, the Doctor and Kari flee to Terminus, unknowingly observed by Valgard. He knocks Kari out, then grabs the Doctor by the neck and begins to squeeze...

Part Three

Kari regains consciousness and goes for her gun. Valgard uses the Doctor as a shield, so she ricochets the shot from her gun off some nearby scrap metal. The gun's powerpack drained, Kari and the Doctor flee into the Forbidden Zone.

While Olvir steals a Vanir helmet and robe to move around undetected, Tegan and Turlough finally escape from the crawlspace. Trapped with the Lazars, Nyssa appeals to the Vanir for help, to no avail.

Eirak discovers that some of the Hydromel is, in fact, colored water. Valgard bursts in, reporting of his encounter with the Doctor and Kari. He challenges Eirak's leadership, and Eirak contentiously agrees that, should Valgard return from the Forbidden zone with the intruders captive, Eirak will step down as the leader.

While Nyssa presses one of the Lazars for information, Olvir is detected as an intruder, and Eirak leads a party to find him. However, they find a decoy Olvir had left, and Eirak believes there is no intruder. Seeing to the Lazars, Eirak decides that Nyssa will be the first to be treated.

Exploring the Forbidden Zone to find the source of the radiation they've detected since arriving, the Doctor and Kari come across Bor, now severely burned and in a fragile mental state, lugging a load of scrap metal. Bor leads them to the engines that drive Terminus, one of which is damaged and leaking radiation; he's been piling metal in front of it.

Bor, struggling to focus despite his memory loss, warns the Doctor that if the damaged engine is to explode, it would threaten the entire universe. He also says that one engine has already exploded, a "long time ago". Telling them to check the computer and follow the cables, his explanation is interrupted by Valgard.

Sure that the Doctor and Kari are spies from Terminus Incorporated, Valgard attacks the Doctor with his staff. The Doctor parries and knocks Valgard into the metal Bor had been stacking around the engine. The Garm arrives, and picks up the weakened Bor.

Meanwhile, Nyssa is chained up at the entrance to the Forbidden Zone, and Eirak summons the Garm to take her to her mysterious cure. The Garm, still carrying Bor, enters at the same time Olvir arrives to try to free Nyssa. Unable to free Nyssa, he instead tries to shoot the Garm, only to find his blaster completely ineffective. The Garm takes Nyssa away; Olvir follows them into the Forbidden Zone.

As the Doctor tries to follow the cables that Bor mentioned, Bor himself is being questioned by Sigurd. While still confused due to his radiation sickness, he mentions that the pilot of Terminus is dead, and that if he fires up the engines, the Big Bang will happen all over again. Eirak denies the dying Bor any Hydromel, thinking it to be a waste of their limited supply.

Turlough appeals to the Black Guardian for help getting back to the TARDIS. The angry Guardian at first punishes Turlough for his failure to kill the Doctor, then reluctantly tells him how to recreate the door to the TARDIS. He and Tegan, the latter of whom is still unaware of Turlough's bargain, head back to the ship's crawlspace.

As the Doctor and Kari reach Terminus Control and find the corpse of the pilot, Olvir discovers the Garm chaining Nyssa up in the engine room. He rushes to her, only to be caught off guard by Valgard. Turlough, meanwhile, has discovered the circuitry that the Black Guardian indicated; his manipulations of it result in a shower of sparks.

The Doctor discovers that Bor's description was not accurate in saying a previous engine had exploded. In fact, Terminus was a time ship that had dumped its fuel while in time-flight to avoid an overload. The fuel, dumped into a void, had started a chain reaction, resulting in the biggest explosion ever: Event One.

Deducing what had happened, the Doctor comes to a terrifying conclusion: while the exploding fuel had created the universe, the same events occurring now would undoubtedly destroy it. He also makes a second discovery: that the fuel dump process was automatically started by the computer - a process that has just begun.

Part Four

Valgard and Olvir continue to fight, while the Garm takes Nyssa away. The younger and healthier Olvir defeats Valgard, only to realize Nyssa is gone. Turlough and Tegan, meanwhile, see the door to the TARDIS begin to reappear, and return to the circuitry in the crawlspace.

Olvir attempts to retrieve his gun from the pool of radiation generated by the engine. Valgard comes to and warns him not to try, lest he recieve a fatal dose of radiation. Valgard reveals that, like Olvir, he was once a pirate, and learned combat from Olvir's commander. That commander later betrayed Valgard, turning him in for a reward and condemning him to a life of slavery on Terminus. Valgard begs Olvir for sympathy, but he ignores him to find Nyssa. After Olvir leaves, Valgard stands, revealing his ploy to be a ruse, and retrieves Olvir's abandoned gun.

The Doctor and Kari are struggling to throw the switch to stop the fuel dump, but are unable to get it to budge. Meanwhile, Turlough and Tegan's work in the crawlspace is interrupted by an announcement from the computer: the star liner is beginning to move. Tegan runs to the bridge to attempt to stop the departure. The computer ignores her protests as the engines begin to glow.

Turlough, alone in the ship's corridor with the door back to the TARDIS fully materialized, smiles to himself. On the bridge, the computer announces the launch is being aborted. Turlough runs to the TARDIS console room.

Nyssa awakens in a white chamber to discover all the symptoms of Lazar's Disease are gone. In Terminus control, Kari watches the Doctor struggle with the control, and observes aloud that the pilot must have had the strength of a giant. The Doctor has a realization: the Garm!

In the console room, Turlough is again berated by the Black Guardian for the Doctor's continued presence in the universe of the living. Turlough's crystal begins to glow.

Olvir confronts the Garm about what he does to the Lazars. The suddenly loquacious Garm defends his actions as saving some that would otherwise die, and takes Olvir to Nyssa. Sigurd, meanwhile, decides to steal some Hydromel to ease Bor's pain.

The Doctor and Kari summon the Garm. Olvir forces his way into the chamber in which Nyssa is recovering, and is rewarded for his efforts by Nyssa throwing him to the ground and straddling him. Nyssa has realized the the "cure" of radiation could work consistently if it were properly studied.

As the engine continues to build to overload, the Garm begins to force the override lever back. Terminus itself begins to shake. At first, even the Garm's strength seems insignificant, but eventually he manages to push it back. After it is shut off, the Doctor disconnects the computer from the system. The Garm pleads for something in return: his freedom.

The Doctor smashes the box the controls him, and leaves to finish the shutdown of the engine. Valgard ambushes the Doctor and Kari, only to be rescued by Olvir and Nyssa. Nyssa believes that the Garm, now free, could help her improve the treatment of the Lazars. Valgard protests that, even if this were true, the Terminus Corporation wouldn't care, and as long as they control the Hydromel, the Vanir are slaves. Nyssa, however, realizes she could synthesize and even improve the Hydromel. The Corporation would be unable to retaliate, since the soldiers they might send would never enter a Lazar colony. Like the Garm, the Vanir are now free.

Eirak returns, and Valgard produces the Doctor, reminding Eirak of their deal. Sigurd supports Valgard, and even Bor says, "It's time for a little chat."

As the Doctor advises Valgard on how to improve Terminus, Nyssa makes an announcement: she is staying at Terminus to help the Lazars. With a kiss on the Doctor's cheek and a hug for Tegan, her life has changed.

Turlough slowly wakes up on the floor of the console room, as the voice of the Black Guardian echoes through the room: "This is your last chance, boy... Kill the Doctor!"




  • The Doctor's TARDIS' space time element is beneath the console.
  • When the TARDIS is threatened with break-up, it will attempt to lock onto the nearest safe place in space-time (in this case, a starliner), to allow its passengers to escape. The Doctor claims it has always had this protocol, but it's never worked before.
  • Lazar's Disease is curable via massive doses of radiation.
  • Terminus is at the centre of the known universe.
  • The Terminus craft was once capable of time travel. When one of its jettisoned fuel pods exploded in a void, it caused a chain reaction. The ripples followed the craft through time throwing it billions of years into the future.
  • Turlough is given Adric's room in the TARDIS.

Story Notes

  • This is the first instance of the Doctor being able to 'spy' on his companions using the TARDIS scanner.
  • This story has one of three descriptions of how the universe started, the others are in DW: Castrovalva and BBCR: Slipback (although the canonicity of the second could be debated). As the exact fuel used by Terminus is never mentioned, but apparently produces radiation as a side-effect of energy generation, it's not implausible to believe that Terminus is fusion-powered by hydrogen, and its release of fuel and the in-rush of hydrogen mentioned in Castrovalva are the same event.
  • This story is well-remembered for its scenes in which the conservative Nyssa gradually removes some of her clothes, leaving her in little more than a shift by the story's end.
  • Sarah Sutton would reprise her role as Nyssa in the 1993 special Dimensions In Time and would also reprise her role in many Big Finish stories.
  • Strangely enough, despite the grim tone of the story and its themes of disease and death, it is the only story from season 20 in which no-one dies.


  • Part 1 - 6.8 million viewers
  • Part 2 - 7.5 million viewers
  • Part 3 - 6.5 million viewers
  • Part 4 - 7.4 million viewers


  • This story was originally to have featured the Ice Warriors. (It wasn't.)

Filming Locations

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • If the Doctor is correct that Terminus created the universe while time traveling, then the entire universe is a predestination paradox.
  • As the Doctor points out, the engines of Terminus must be incredibly powerful to move a ship that size through time. The builders of Terminus must have known that an emergency necessitating a fuel dump was possible for them to build in systems to handle the process. It sounds as if the only reason that the first explosion didn't destroy the universe is that, at the time it happened, there was no universe to destroy. Did the builders of Terminus not realize that they had built engines so powerful that a catastrophic failure - something any engineer should take into account - could threaten the entire universe?
  • Olvir appears completely oblivious to the gigantic Garm and Nyssa's screams at the start of episode four, even as it occurs about a meter from where he's standing. He doesn't even look at the Garm as it walks away.
  • Did Tegan really stop the space liner's launch just by pounding on the ship's console as if it were an old TV?
  • The origin of the Terminus station is left a little unclear. What was its original function? How did its original pilot/owners and their ability to travel in time get forgotten? How did it come into the possession of Termius Inc? It originally belonged to some alien race. It's pilot was killed in the way postulated by the Doctor. It was found floating in space as a derelict and salvaged by Terminus Inc., and partially adapted for their needs. They then installed the Garm and the Vanir, without bothering to make a full check of the interior due to the radiation levels in the forbidden zone, and because they didn't really care what happened to the Lazars.
  • How does Turlough's tampering with the electronics on board the transport ship at the climax of episode three, lead to the triggering of the automated fuel-dumping proceedure within the Terminus control room, in the forbidden zone? It doesn't. It is just a coincidence that the two events occur simultaneously.


  • This is the second story in the "Black Guardian" Trilogy, which ends with DW: Enlightenment.
  • Nyssa meets the Doctor in her future (though his past) in PDA: Asylum.
  • Nyssa also meets the Doctor at the end of his fifth regeneration in BFA: Circular Time.
  • Turlough is given Adric's room in the TARDIS: there are visual references to DW: Kinda (the double helix), The Visitation (the android's mask) and Logopolis (the star chart).
  • The Black Guardian refers to the space-time element as "the heart of the TARDIS". The "heart" of the TARDIS would be later important to the plots of DW: Boom Town and The Parting of the Ways, where it would be shown as an intense light.
  • The Doctor uses the same term, "Event One", to describe the Big Bang as was used in DW: Castrovalva.

DVD and Video Releases

  • This story was released on video in 1993 in episodic format.
  • This story along with Mawdryn Undead and Enlightenment (TV story) was released in The Black Guardian Trilogy Boxset on 10th August 2009.


Main article: Terminus (novelisation)

External Links

  • BBC - Doctor Who - The Classic Series - Episode Guide: Terminus
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide - Detailed Synopsis - Terminus
  • Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel) - A Brief History of Time (Travel): Terminus
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 "Terminus (TV story)" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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