Serial 6E:
Arc Of Infinity


The Doctor's bio-data extract is stolen from the Matrix on Gallifrey. Soon after, a being from an anti-matter universe begins to genetically bond with the Doctor. He and Nyssa return to Gallifrey, only for the High Council to order his execution -- while on Earth, unbeknownst to her friends, Tegan's search for her missing cousin in Amsterdam is somehow tied into the events as well. It is left to Nyssa to uncover the identity of a traitor on the High Council, and to unveil the enemy manipulating the Doctor -- an entity who has long thirsted for revenge against both the Doctor and the Time Lords themselves.


Script editor Eric Saward had greatly enjoyed Johnny Byrne's first Doctor Who serial, The Keeper Of Traken, which aired as part of Season Eighteen. Unaware that that story had been heavily rewritten by former script editor Christopher Bidmead, Saward invited Byrne to submit ideas for Season Twenty on September 30th, 1981. It was thought that Byrne might contribute the year's opening serial, which meant that his storyline would have to deal with a number of requirements.

First, producer John Nathan-Turner wanted to take Doctor Who overseas for just the second time in its history. In 1979, City Of Death had been filmed on location in Paris. Nathan-Turner felt that Amsterdam would be similarly affordable, especially since it was already one of the locales used by the BBC soap opera Triangle. In order to justify the trip, Byrne was asked to make the Dutch city a key aspect of his storyline.

Tegan was left behind on Earth in the cliffhanger ending to Time-Flight, but no specific resolution had been planned

Second, Byrne had to resolve the ending of the Season Nineteen finale, Time-Flight, in which Tegan had been inadvertently left behind on Earth. This cliffhanger had been designed to maintain viewer interest during the nine-month break between seasons, but had been planned without any specific resolution in mind. As a result, it would be Byrne's responsibility to find a way to reunite Tegan with the Doctor and Nyssa. It was suggested that the suspense could be prolonged by deferring Tegan's reintroduction until the second episode of Byrne's adventure.

When he was contacted by Saward, Byrne was already toying with an idea in which an alien uses a bridge between dimensions, called the Arc of Infinity, to cause time shifts in London. Byrne felt that this concept could be relocated to Amsterdam, and it was suggested that Tegan might be holiday there, where she stumbles upon some form of criminal activity which would require the Doctor's attention. (The production team stipulated that this should not involve drug smuggling, the theft of diamonds or Old Dutch Masters, or anything political).

On December 15th, Byrne submitted a storyline entitled “The Time Of Neman”. This involved the Doctor suffering nightmares about his regeneration, which were actually a precursor to the arrival in our universe of an entity called the Avatar, who takes on the Doctor's form and goes to Amsterdam. Operating there as Neman (a name recycled from The Keeper Of Traken), the Avatar begins to take control of human minds, striving to create a form in which it will be able to permanently maintain its existence. The Doctor and Nyssa discover Neman's plot when they land in a future version of Amsterdam, which is populated by robot guards called Sweepers, the elderly Resisters, and barbaric Anarchs. Realising that history has been altered, they travel back in time to present-day Amsterdam. There, the Doctor discovers that Time Lord regeneration is the mechanism by which the Avatar is made manifest. The Avatar is defeated when the Doctor relives his own recent regeneration.

The production team was concerned that the Amsterdam location was essentially incidental to the plot

Nathan-Turner and Saward had immediate concerns about “The Time Of Neman”, most notably the fact that the Amsterdam location was essentially incidental to the plot. It was also felt that the importance of the Doctor's dreams harkened too closely to elements of Christopher Bailey's Snakedance, which was intended to follow “The Time Of Neman” in the transmission order. Furthermore, aware of the success of the Master's return in The Keeper Of Traken, Nathan-Turner wanted his season premiere to bring back another old enemy, and nominated several returning villains as possible replacements for the Avatar. One of these was Omega, a renegade Time Lord who had last appeared in the tenth-anniversary story The Three Doctors, whose inclusion was proposed by the Doctor Who production office's unofficial fan adviser, Ian Levine. Although he was not keen on any of the suggestions, Byrne reluctantly agreed to amend his storyline to include Omega. This pleased Saward, who wanted to revisit Gallifrey during Season Twenty.

Now called “The Time Of Omega”, Byrne's scripts were commissioned on January 13th, 1982. As work on them proceeded, it was decided that Sarah Sutton would leave Doctor Who partway through Season Twenty. To pave the way for Nyssa's departure, Byrne was asked to write the character as being more mature than previously depicted. Another reference to past occurred when the Lord President, originally unnamed, was identified as Borusa, last seen as a Cardinal in The Invasion Of Time. Meanwhile, Cardinal Zorac was originally called Zoral.

Increasingly aware of Doctor Who fandom, Nathan-Turner decided that he wanted Omega's return to be a surprise for them, and so, around the end of February, the title of Byrne's adventure became Arc Of Infinity. The scripts began to arrive around this time, and unfortunately the production team was still dissatisfied with Byrne's handling of the Amsterdam setting. Although the writer had tried to justify the location by including elements such as a fusion booster which only functions below sea level, it was felt that Byrne had not made Amsterdam sufficiently integral to the story. No obvious solution to this problem presented itself, however, and so no significant changes were made to Byrne's scripts.

Although Arc Of Infinity was planned as the first story of Season Twenty, it was agreed that it should follow Snakedance into production, so that the Amsterdam shoot would take place in the warmer May weather. As a result, Arc Of Infinity was designated Serial 6E. Its director would be Ron Jones, who had last worked on Time-Flight. As pre-production progressed, Nathan-Turner encouraged costume designer Dee Robson to deviate from the way Omega had appeared in The Three Doctors. Nathan-Turner thought that this would further help preserve the surprise of the villain's identity, and could be justified by Omega's nigh-total control over mass and form in his antimatter domain.

Colin Baker was disappointed that accepting the role of Maxil meant that he could never play the Doctor himself

Meanwhile, amongst the guest artistes cast by Jones in Arc Of Infinity was Colin Baker, playing Maxil. Baker had been suggested to Jones by assistant floor manager Lynn Richards, on the basis of his role in the Blake's 7 episode City At The Edge Of The World. Although eager to appear in Doctor Who, Baker was disappointed at the thought that he could now never play the Doctor himself. Ironically, just over a year later, Baker would find himself offered the role of the Sixth Doctor...

Location filming in Amsterdam took place between May 3rd and 7th. A number of venues were employed, especally for the chase sequence in episode four, which Jones had largely composed himself while reconnoitering possible locations. Crowd control proved to be a major issue throughout the shoot, with Dutch viewers recognising Peter Davison from his role as Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great And Small. Nathan-Turner tried to assist Jones in dealing with the onlookers, and indeed is visible in the transmitted version of Arc Of Infinity, shooing away a group of gawkers in the background of the episode four scene in which the Doctor and Nyssa use a telephone box. At one point, Nathan-Turner's attempts at crowd control became dangerous when an elderly woman assumed he was a thief and attacked him. Meanwhile, on the night of the 6th, several members of the cast and crew decided to take a walk around Amsterdam. Unfamiliar with the city, they suddenly found themselves in its infamous red light district, where Janet Fielding was mistaken for a prostitute.

Back in London, studio work for Arc Of Infinity began with a two-day session in BBC Television Centre Studio 1, on May 17th and 18th. In addition to material in the youth hostel and the cafe, the first day concentrated on scenes in the TARDIS corridors and console room, during which Baker found that his plumed headpiece -- which he'd nicknamed “Esmerelda” -- was too tall to accommodate his entrance through the TARDIS doors. Consequently, Baker decided to carry the headpiece for the majority of his screentime. May 18th dealt with sequences in Nyssa's room, as well as the Amsterdam crypt and its adjoining passages. The Ergon costume, contracted out to props makers Imagineering, debuted on this day. The Ergon was envisioned as a construct made up of bones, reminiscent of the eponymous creature in the 1979 film Alien. Sadly, however, this effect did not come off, and although there was no time to modify or replace it, the costume was judged a failure.

The Ergon was meant to be reminiscent of the eponymous creature from the 1979 film Alien

The second studio block was three days in length, running from May 31st to June 2nd; again, the venue was TC1. Various sets were employed on the first day: Hedin's office, Omega's TARDIS, the Matrix, and the Gallifreyan computer room. Further scenes in the Doctor's TARDIS were also completed on this day. Additional material in Omega's TARDIS and the computer room was captured on June 1st, alongside various Gallifreyan corridors and the security compound where the TARDIS materialises. Finally, the 2nd was largely concerned with scenes set on Gallifrey: the Council chamber, the termination area, and the offices of the Castellan and another Time Lord. An insert of the explosion in the Ansterdam pump house in was also taped.

Like Season Nineteen, Season Twenty would see two episodes aired each week. Instead of broadcasts on Mondays and Tuesdays, however, the new season was scheduled to be transmitted on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in most of the country. The exception to this rule was the season premiere -- Arc Of Infinity part one -- which aired on Monday, January 3rd, 1983. In recent times, great pains had been taken to preserve the identities of returning villains in the closing credits. To this end, Ian Collier was billed as “The Renegade” at the end of the the first two installments, with his credit finally reverting to “Omega” for part three.

  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Fifth Doctor by David J Howe and Stephen James Walker (1995), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0 426 20458 9.
  • Doctor Who: The Eighties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1996), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 680 0.
  • Doctor Who Magazine #261, 11th February 1998, “Archive: Arc Of Infinity” by Andrew Pixley, Panini UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #1, 2001, “Diamond Life” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • In-Vision #63, March 1996, “Production” edited by Anthony Brown, Cybermark Services.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 3rd Jan 1983
Time 6.46pm
Duration 24'37"
Viewers (more) 7.2m (74th)
· BBC1 7.2m
Appreciation 69%
Episode 2
Date 5th Jan 1983
Time 6.47pm
Duration 24'42"
Viewers (more) 7.3m (66th)
· BBC1 7.3m
Appreciation 70%
Episode 3
Date 11th Jan 1983
Time 6.52pm
Duration 24'37"
Viewers (more) 6.9m (89th)
· BBC1 6.9m
Appreciation 67%
Episode 4
Date 12th Jan 1983
Time 6.46pm
Duration 24'28"
Viewers (more) 7.2m (82nd)
· BBC1 7.2m
Appreciation 66%

The Doctor
Peter Davison
Sarah Sutton
Janet Fielding
Lord President Borusa
Leonard Sachs
Councillor Hedin
Michael Gough
Ian Collier
Commander Maxil
Colin Baker
The Castellan
Paul Jerricho
Neil Daglish
Chancellor Thalia
Elspet Gray
Cardinal Zorac
Max Harvey
Robin Stuart
Andrew Boxer
Colin Frazer
Alastair Cumming
John D Collins
Hostel Receptionist
Maya Woolfe
The Ergon
Malcolm Harvey
Second Receptionist
Guy Groen

Written by
Johnny Byrne
Directed by
Ron Jones
Produced by
John Nathan-Turner

Incidental Music
Roger Limb
Special Sound
Dick Mills
BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Production Manager
Ralph Wilton
Production Associate
June Collins
Production Assistant
Diana Brookes
Assistant Floor Manager
Lynn Richards
Film Cameraman
Fintan Sheehan
Film Recordist
Bill Wild
Film Editor
Bernard Ashby
Visual Effects Designer
Christopher Lawson
Video Effects
Dave Chapman
Vision Mixer
James Gould
Carol Johnson
Technical Manager
Bob Hignett
Senior Cameraman
Alec Wheal
Geoff Clark
Videotape Editor
Graham Hutchings
Rod Waldron
Studio Lighting
Don Babbage
Studio Sound
Trevor Webster
Costume Designer
Dee Robson
Make-up Artist
Fran Needham
Script Editor
Eric Saward
Title Sequence
Sid Sutton
Marjorie Pratt

Updated 16th August 2009