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From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

"We will ravage this planet!"
The Poison Sky
Series: Doctor Who - TV Stories
Series Number: Series 4
Story Number: 192b
Doctor: Tenth Doctor
Writer: Helen Raynor
Director: Douglas Mackinnon
Producer: Susie Liggat
Broadcast: 3rd May 2008
Format: 1 45 minute episode
Prod. Code: 196 b
Previous Story: The Sontaran Stratagem
Following Story: The Doctor's Daughter



The Valiant clears the ATMOS gas as the Sontarans activate their master plan to turn Earth into a cloning planet. UNIT is left defenceless, with a traitor in their ranks. And as interplanetary war edges closer, the Doctor has to fight to keep both Martha and Donna alive — but will he have to make the ultimate sacrifice?


Sylvia manages to free Wilf from the car by smashing the window. The Doctor sends Donna Noble back to the TARDIS while he sets off to figure out what the Sontarans are up to. After studying the gas, UNIT determines that it will need to reach 80% density to become poisonous. Elsewhere, Clone Martha has the hypnotized UNIT soldiers Harris and Gray transport the TARDIS to the Sontaran flagship. Realising that he is trapped, the Doctor attempts to goad the Sontarans into revealing their plan: the Sontarans are smart enough not to fall prey to this ploy, but the Doctor does trick them into manoeuvring the TARDIS out of the main war room, placing Donna in a position to help.

Against the Doctor's advice, UNIT decides to use nuclear weapons against the Sontarans; however, Martha's clone has covertly copied the launch codes, and stops every attempt they make to fire the weapons. This in itself shows a hidden agenda: nukes would not have harmed them in the first place, which combined with the unidentifiable elements in the gas, suggest that the Sontarans have an interest in keeping anything from disrupting the atmospheric conversion. At the same time, the Sontarans mobilize a contingent of troops to retrieve and protect the clone. With the Sontarans' ability to jam most conventional firearms by expanding the copper-lined bullets, the UNIT troops are quickly slaughtered and the factory is secured.

Rattigan leaves the Sontaran mothership to gather his students. He plans to take them to another planet and begin the human race anew. The students merely laugh him off, even when he brandishes a gun. When he returns to report his failure, the Sontarans likewise ridicule his efforts, having never planned to take him or his students anywhere. Rattigan teleports back to his mansion before they can kill him, and the Sontarans lock the teleport pods behind him.

Meanwhile, the Doctor instructs Donna on how to reopen the teleport pods. As she makes her way through the ship, UNIT begins a counterattack, loading their weapons with non-copper bullets and using the aircraft carrier Valiant to clear the gas. The counterattack is a success, and the UNIT troops are able to put the Sontarans on the defensive. The distraction allows the Doctor to make his way to the cloning room where Martha is being held. Having figured out long before that the clone wasn't the genuine article, he severs its connection to Martha, leaving it to die. Martha convinces the clone to betray the Sontarans in its last moments, and the clone reveals that the poison gas is actually "clone feed" for Sontaran clones: they are converting the planet into a giant breeding world. With Donna's help, the Doctor is able to reactivate the teleport pods, allowing him to rescue Donna, steal back the TARDIS, and teleport into Rattigan's mansion.

With the equipment Rattigan's students built, the Doctor builds his own atmospheric converter, igniting the atmosphere to clear out the poison gas. However, he knows the Sontarans won't accept defeat so easily, and teleports to their ship with the converter, planning to give them the choice between retreat or death. The Sontarans choose the latter, but at the last moment, Rattigan teleports himself to the Sontaran ship and brings the Doctor back to Earth, sacrificing himself to destroy the Sontarans.

With the day saved, the Doctor and Donna say their goodbyes to Martha, only to have the TARDIS spring to life and begin piloting itself to places unknown before she can leave.


Production crew


  • The Doctor mentions the Rutans and their war with the Sontarans.
  • The Brigadier is said to be stranded in Peru. He has obviously been knighted as Colonel Mace refers to him as "Sir Alistair". This is the first reference to the character in Doctor Who since the 1989 story Battlefield, although several references occurred in the first season of The Sarah Jane Adventures, broadcast in 2007.
  • The Doctor asks "Are you my mummy?" while wearing a gas mask like the Empty Child from (DW: The Empty Child)
  • The Doctor addresses the Sontarans "under Jurisdiction Two of the Intergalactic rules of engagement" which is very similar to the Shadow Proclamation.
  • The Doctor watches Tommy Zoom while waiting for the Sontarans to stop chanting. This is similar to when The Master watches other shows such as Teletubbies and The Clangers.
  • UNIT uses the Valiant to blow away ATMOS' gases. When the Doctor admires the ship and Colonel Mace asks if he has a taste for it, the Doctor is quick to reply "Not at all. Not me." This can be interpreted as masked reluctance from the Doctor to acknoledge any similarities between himself and The Master, who was very keen on the Valiant. Most likely, though, it was simply the Doctor reacting to the unpleasant memories of his year spent in captivity aboard the vessel.
  • The Valiant's laser is similar to that of Torchwood 1's one used against the Sycorax, which in turn was very similar to the Death Star's laser from the Star Wars movies. (DW:The Christmas Invasion)
  • During the pollution crisis the American newsreader mentions that it is the "end of days" which was also said after Owen opens the rift and caused shockwaves around the world. (TW:End of Days)
  • The Doctor mentions Jack Harkness when he confronts the Martha clone.
  • Luke Rattigan believed the Sontarans would take him and his followers to Castor 36, a planet orbiting Alpha Geminorum.
  • The close-up of the news reader's eyes and mouth reminisce the Doctor's message during Blink.

Story notes

  • Helen Raynor wrote this episode. Her Series 3 episodes Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks both occupied fourth and fifth episode in the series. This two part episode also occupies episode four and five. She also wrote Ghost Machine & To the Last Man of Torchwood
  • This the second part of a story which began with The Sontaran Strategem.
  • This story and The Sontaran Stratagem are Douglas Mackinnon's first stories as director.
  • When the Doctor cuts off Staal's speech on the video screen in mid flow, a clip from CBeebies cartoon Tommy Zoom is featured. The original plan to use a clip from Shaun the Sheep fell through.
  • Billie Piper appears very briefly as Rose Tyler on the TARDIS's screen in this episode. She receives screen credit, and is fourth-billed, for a performance that lasts less than one second and which was actually shot for another episode.
  • According to Russell T Davies in an interview in DWM Issue 396, the cameo by Rose was not in the original edit of the episode, but was added just before broadcast when Davies learned how successful her unbilled cameo in Partners in Crime was. Although it was reported that the clip came from "an untransmitted scene" from another episode, in fact, according to the DVD commentary for Midnight, the scene was shot especially for Midnight during production of Turn Left and Davies dropped the scene into The Poison Sky, too. Davies said that, like Partners in Crime, advance review copies of this episode did not include the cameo. This scene was directed by Alice Troughton.
  • The music that plays when the Valiant appears is strikingly similar to "The Master Tape", one of the Murray Gold themes for The Master. Of course, since The Master helped build the Valiant, this isn't too surprising...
  • When Martha Jones wears the Doctor's jacket at the end of the episode, she says she feels like "a kid in my Dad's clothes." The following episode features an actual daughter of the Doctor.
  • This is the first episode to feature Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, and Catherine Tate all together as Rose, Martha, and Donna, respectively.
  • The Doctor says to the clone Martha: "Avanti" which is "Let's go" in Italian. This is probably to confirm his suspicion of her clone nature. The real Martha would know that the Doctor usually says "Allons-y" which is "Let's go" in French.


  • 6.5 million viewers

Myths and Rumours

  • Billie Piper's brief cameo was taken from an earlier episode, most likely The Idiot's Lantern in which she was also shown shouting silently from a TV screen. In fact, the scene was filmed especially for Midnight, and inserted into this episode at the last minute.

Filming locations

To be added


  • The Valiant last appeared in DW: Last of the Time Lords.
  • At the end of the episode, when the TARDIS flies off, the Doctor says his "What, what, what?!" line from Donna's first appearance in DW: The Runaway Bride and also from The Voyage of the Damned when the Titanic smashed through the TARDIS.
  • Rose Tyler appears on the TARDIS scanner screen for a split second, she appears to be shouting 'Doctor!' and was last seen in DW: Partners in Crime. This is not the first time Rose has attempted to communicate with the Doctor though a television screen, as she also attempted this in DW: The Idiot's Lantern.
  • The Valiant's laser appears to be the same that Torchwood used in DW: The Christmas Invasion (Similar, not the same - this one's much smaller)
  • The Doctor thanks Donna and Martha just before he sacrifices his life. He last said this to Donna in The Sontaran Stratagem' when she was supposedly leaving him.
  • In the New York scene a building with the name Butler Institute can be seen on one of the buildings, the Butler Institute first appeared in NA: Cat's Cradle: Warhead.
  • Gas was released over London previously in PDA: Amorality Tale.
  • The Doctor gave clues to Donna about what action to take via a visual link, but the Sontarans didn't know it was happening. The Doctor did a similar thing in DW: The Age of Steel, when he gave clues to Mickey about how to stop the Cybus Cybermen.
  • In DW: Turn Left, the Sontaran invasion was stopped by Torchwood 3. The atmosphere was reverted to its previous state and the Sontaran flagship exploded by Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones. Jack Harkness was stranded on the Sontaran's home planet.

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • We can see the Sontaran teleport discs are on the TARDIS doors but when we see it in the background of Skorrs message one is on the front and one on the side. A beep is heard when the teleport disks are attached to the TARDIS. This sound is heard three times, and three disks can be seen on the TARDIS on board the Sontaran Warship (just about).
  • The thermal energy being released by igniting the entire planet's atmosphere should've had some negative effect as opposed to dissipating instantly; As in-story proof (not even counting real-world physics), when the effect was repeated on the Sontaran ship, it exploded violently. The Sonataran gas was burnt up instantly on earth, so the fire could not continue burning as it had no fuel source. The Doctor had to recalibrate the device for Sontaran air, which may have been more flammable than the ATMOS gas, and the entire spaceship, not just the surface, was filled with this gas.
  • When General Staal watches from the Sontaran spaceship, the ignition seems to start from the dark side of the Earth, although London is in clear daylight.
  • Let's also note that since the poison gas was even on ground level rather than just those high in the atmosphere, igniting the atmosphere could have also meant burning all the gas on ground level. Light a candle in a room where someone is smoking a cigarette and the smoke is attracted to the flame.
  • On that same note, wouldn't burning all the gas in the atmosphere also end up burning all the oxygen too, thus suffocating the whole planet? Air consists mainly of Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide, Water, Methane, and Oxygen. Maybe the ATMOS gas was more reactive than air. Also, the doctor quite obviously realised it was very risky as he crossed his fingers, maybe it could have. The gas wasn't being burnt, exactly, it was being run through a chemical process by the atmospheric converter designed to create an Earthlike atmosphere on another planet. "Burning the sky" is a bit of whimsical language.
  • As confirmed in DW: World War Three nuclear release codes are held by the United Nations and needs an official agreement to be able to release them so how is it that UNIT can get them so easily? They may by the Unified Intelligence Taskforce but they still need to go through the UN to get the codes. The previous use was sometime earlier; perhaps the "Homeworld Security" department now allowed for certain protocols to be bypassed in such an emergency. Also, despite the name change, UNIT may still be affiliated with the United Nations, perhaps giving them this authority. Given the ATMOS crisis, it's easy to believe an official agreement was speedily reached by the nations of the world.
  • Russia is not part of the worldwide nuclear grid, despite Russia having the second largest arsenal on the planet. (Israel goes unmentioned as well, but this is excusable as Israel has never officially admitted to having nuclear weapons)
  • How is it that the clone Martha can download enough control onto a handheld device so quickly and with no-one noticing? If the Sontarans can create a clone in a matter if minutes, they've devised a way for fast downloads. In any event, there's no reason at that point for anyone to doubt her identity or motives, especially as she is linked to working with the Doctor. The previous solution would be limited by units upload speed, but the software could be hosted on a server (cloud computing).
  • Martha's clone doesn't express any concern for "her" fiance, Thomas Milligan as events unfold, which is understandable; less understandable is the lack of any obvious concern for his well-being by the real Martha. Tom spent a year in an alternate timeline on the run from a renegade Time Lord; Martha knows he can look after himself. Also, just because we don't see her express concern doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
  • If the TARDIS fixes itself to the spot it lands, how do the Sontarans teleport it, and how do they move it around the Sontaran Ship? It is a known fact the TARDIS's systems have never been 100% reliable. It has been quite firmly established that the TARDIS can be moved by external forces (numerous examples exist of it being carried and teleported).
  • Mace says at 80% people start dying, it was previously stated death had been recorded in Tokyo. He was saying it was 80% in London. In other, more congested cities of the world, such as Tokyo, there are more cars so the gas would have reached 80% sooner.
  • During the warehouse battle, around when the Doctor tells Donna, "Hold on, I'm coming", the film crew can be seen reflected in a door at the right of screen.
  • When Colonel Mace confronts Commander Skorr, he raises his gun twice; Once in one shot, and immediately after in the other.

DVD and other releases

Series 4 Volume 2: The Sontaran Stratagem - The Poison Sky - The Doctor's Daughter - The Unicorn and the Wasp DVD Cover

External Links

  • Official BBC Website - Episode Guide for The Poison Sky
Sontaran Television Stories
Doctor Who: The Time Warrior  • The Sontaran Experiment  • The Invasion of Time  • The Two Doctors  • The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky
The Sarah Jane Adventures: The Last Sontaran  • Enemy of the Bane
Minor Appearances: Logopolis  • The End of Time
Other: A Fix with Sontarans  • Shakedown: Return of the Sontarans
Series 4
Mini-episode: Time Crash  • Christmas Special: Voyage of the Damned

Partners in Crime  • The Fires of Pompeii  • Planet of the Ood  • The Sontaran Stratagem  • The Poison Sky  • The Doctor's Daughter  • The Unicorn and the Wasp  • Silence in the Library  • Forest of the Dead  • Midnight  • Turn Left  • The Stolen Earth  • Journey's End

Christmas Special: The Next Doctor  • Mini-episode: Music of the Spheres

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

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