Serial 6F:
Mawdryn Undead


An alien named Turlough lives in secret amongst boys at an English boarding school where the Brigadier is now teaching maths. He is contacted by the Black Guardian, who wants him to kill the Doctor. The TARDIS, meanwhile, has brought the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan to a space station trapped in a warp ellipse. It serves as a prison for a team of scientists led by Mawdryn, who tried to steal the secrets of the Time Lords and were placed in a state of perpetual regeneration as retribution. It is up to the Doctor to find some way to help Mawdryn, but doing so may cost him his remaining regenerations.


During the spring of 1981, Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner decided to drop Adric from the series, believing that the character was not succeeding as a companion. In part, this was because Nathan-Turner did not think Adric had been developed in a way that properly explored some of his original ideas for the character, such as an untrustworthy streak which he felt would add to the sense of danger and suspense in Doctor Who. The producer still believed that this was a direction worth exploring, and in May he began devising a new male companion along these lines. His ideas were much to the liking of script editor Eric Saward, who was excited by the proposition of an “evil” companion.

On May 15th, Nathan-Turner released a character outline for the new companion, Turlough, a human-like alien of mysterious origins. Turlough would be the focus of a trilogy of stories at the heart of Season Twenty, continuing a pattern of short, linked arcs which the producer had employed throughout Seasons Eighteen and Nineteen. This time, the stories would concern the machinations of the Black Guardian, who had originally been introduced during the Key To Time storyline that ran throughout Doctor Who's sixteenth season. Turlough would be revealed as an agent of the Black Guardian, secretly scheming to kill the Doctor.

John Nathan-Turner envisioned the trilogy of stories as slowly peeling back the layers of Turlough's duplicity

Nathan-Turner envisioned the new trilogy of stories as slowly peeling back the layers of Turlough's duplicity. In his introductory adventure, Turlough would arrange to have the Doctor save his life in his, paving the way for him to journey in the TARDIS. He would then covertly act against the Doctor in the trilogy's middle installment. The final story would see the Doctor defeat the Black Guardian, whereupon Nathan-Turner and Saward could either retain Turlough as a permanent companion, or write him out of the series if the character was not felt to be working out.

The story intended to introduce Turlough was “Space-Whale” by Pat Mills and John Wagner. Mills and Wagner were the authors of the regular comic strip in the Doctor Who Weekly magazine, and had begun developing a proposal for the TV series in late 1980. It was agreed that Turlough would be added to their storyline, appearing as one of several travellers who are stranded in the belly of a great spacefaring whale. It was planned that “Space-Whale”, designated Serial 6F, would air as the third story of Season Twenty.

Unfortunately, “Space-Whale” quickly ran into a number of problems. First, Wagner (who had always been skeptical of the story's chances of success) asked to be removed from the project around the time that scripts were commissioned under the title “The Song Of The Space Whale” on December 2nd. Then, as Mills worked on the scripts, he found himself butting heads with Saward over the portrayal of the supporting characters. By May 1982, it was felt that there was insufficient time to address all of the perceived problems with “The Song Of The Space Whale”. Although Saward would continue working with Mills on the scripts, a new adventure would take its place in Season Twenty.

At first, Enlightenment -- the story intended to conclude the trilogy of adventures -- was brought forward in the production order to take the place of “The Song Of The Space Whale” as Serial 6F. Around this time, however, Saward had been discussing ideas for Doctor Who with Peter Grimwade, a director who had also written Time-Flight for Season Nineteen. Grimwade was interested in writing a Doctor Who version of the story of the Flying Dutchman, a mariner's legend which originated in the eighteenth century about a ghost ship whose sailors are doomed to plough the seas forever. Grimwade's notion was to centre a story on a spaceship which travels ceaselessly through the stars, carrying a crew of immortals.

Peter Grimwade wanted to bring back Ian Chesterton, one of the original Doctor Who companions

Grimwade also wanted to write about a series of interrelated events which take place in the same location, but in different time periods. His inclination was to have these periods be centuries apart, but he was encouraged to make them more proximate so that one character could be present in both time periods. Ian Levine, who was acting as the Doctor Who production office's unofficial continuity adviser, suggested that this character could be one of the Doctor's former companions. Grimwade liked this notion, and thought of science teacher Ian Chesterton, one of the programme's original protagonists. This led Grimwade to situate his storyline at a boys' school in England, a setting which would allow him to draw on his own upbringing. The title became Mawdryn Undead. Although popular myth suggests that “mawdryn” is a Welsh word meaning “undead”, it appears more likely that Grimwade invented it by blending the individual Welsh words “marw” (“dead”) and “dyn” (“man”).

Although it was initially thought that Grimwade's story might appear late in Season Twenty, when “The Song Of The Space Whale” was dropped from the schedule, Grimwade was asked to hurriedly prepare his adventure to replace it. A storyline was commissioned on May 27th, quickly followed by the full scripts on June 4th. Enlightenment was restored to its original place in the production schedule, with Mawdryn Undead now becoming Serial 6F. By now, Grimwade and Saward had settled on 1983 and 1977 as the serial's two time periods, the latter offering the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II as a backdrop for the story's events.

Unfortunately, William Russell, who had played Ian Chesterton, was not available to appear in Mawdryn Undead due to commitments in the theatre. The production team then unsuccessfully contacted Ian Marter about reprising his role as Harry Sullivan, who had accompanied the Fourth Doctor during Season Twelve. Finally, Nathan-Turner turned to Nicholas Courtney, who had played Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart of UNIT on a recurring basis from 1968 to 1975. Courtney had attended Tom Baker's farewell party in early 1981, and at that time indicated to Nathan-Turner that he would be willing to return to Doctor Who for the first time since Terror Of The Zygons. It now transpired that Courtney was available during the recording dates for Mawdryn Undead.

The Brigadier being retired in 1977 birthed the most notorious contradiction in the Doctor Who chronology

Although it was not a natural fit for the character, Grimwade inserted the Brigadier into his storyline, the idea being that he was now retired from UNIT and teaching maths. Levine pointed out that setting part of the story in 1977 would now break with the continuity of Lethbridge-Stewart's original serials, which had been set a few years ahead of their broadcast dates. It would be inconsistent to depict the Brigadier as being retired in 1977 when stories such as Pyramids Of Mars indicated that he was still active with UNIT into the Eighties. Nathan-Turner liked the hook of the Silver Jubilee setting, however, and did not act on Levine's advice... in the process birthing what is perhaps the most notorious contradiction in the Doctor Who chronology.

In writing the scripts for Mawdryn Undead, Grimwade wanted to suggest that part of the reason the Doctor is so accepting of Turlough is because he still misses Adric; this motive was eventually dropped, however. Turlough's headmaster was originally called Mr Sellick. Grimwade also specified that a flashback sequence should be included in the episode two scene where the Doctor helps the Brigadier regain his memory. This practise had met with some acclaim in two recent serials -- Season Eighteen's Logopolis and Season Nineteen's Earthshock -- both of which had been directed by Grimwade. It also jibed with Nathan-Turner's desire to appeal to the programme's fanbase.

Assigned to direct Mawdryn Undead was Peter Moffatt, whose most recent Doctor Who work had been on The Visitation a year earlier. Prominent in Moffatt's cast was Valentine Dyall, playing the Black Guardian. Dyall had originated the role in 1978's The Armageddon Factor and agreed to reprise it for the new trilogy of stories, despite being in ill health.

The other key cast decision for Mawdryn Undead was the part of Turlough himself. This proved to be an arduous process, and Nathan-Turner began to grow concerned that no suitable actor would be found. Finally, Nathan-Turner's partner, Gary Downie, recommended a young actor named Mark Strickson, who had recently appeared in a minor role in a few episodes of the medical drama Angels. Strickson had gotten his start in theatre, and had also recently appeared on television in Juliet Bravo and Strangers. Strickson auditioned for Turlough, and Nathan-Turner found himself in agreement with Downie's assessment.

John Nathan-Turner was informed that the production team of Angels was planning to make Mark Strickson a regular

Before he could offer Strickson the role of Turlough, however, Nathan-Turner was informed that the production team of Angels was planning to make Strickson a regular. Although the actor had not formally agreed to joining Angels permanently, its writers were already preparing scripts which incorporated his character. Strickson, however, was irritated by the presumptuousness of the Angels producers, and decided to join Doctor Who after all. On June 14th, he was contracted for eighteen episodes, encompassing the remainder of Season Twenty.

Strickson naturally had very fair, blond hair, which was problematic because it was felt that this made him resemble Peter Davison too closely. Nathan-Turner suggested that Strickson might shave his head to play Turlough. The actor was agreeable, but only on the condition that he receive an extra fee to compensate for the possibility that this hairstyle might make it difficult for him to find work in the weeks immediately following the end of his tenure on Doctor Who. Nathan-Turner was not inclined to meet Strickson's request, and make-up designer Sheelagh Wells was instead able to come up with a way to efficiently dye Strickson's hair red. His hair was also cut shorter than Davison's to further differentiate the two actors. It was Strickson's idea to dress Turlough in dark, sombre clothes, because he felt this would make an effective contrast with the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan.

As with Season Nineteen, there was an almost three-month break in the production of Season Twenty to allow Davison to record episodes of his sitcom Sink Or Swim, which was now in its final year. Mawdryn Undead was the first story to be made following this hiatus, with four days of location filming taking place from August 24th to 27th. The venue was Middlesex Polytechnic in London, which posed as Turlough's school and its environs. Courtney was made up slightly differently to play the two versions of the Brigadier. The 1977 model retained the character's familiar moustache, while the 1983 Brigadier was clean-shaven; the latter also had greyer hair, including a bald spot.

On September 15th a photocall was held to introduce Mark Strickson as Turlough

Studio recording began with a two-day block on September 8th and 9th in BBC Television Centre Studio 6. Scenes recorded included those in the TARDIS console room, the school corridor and sick bay, the transmat capsule, and (on the 9th) the Brigadier's residence. The latter included the flashback sequence, which incorporated images of a younger Brigadier (from The Three Doctors), a Yeti (The Web Of Fear), a Cyberman (The Invasion), the Second Doctor (The Three Doctors), an Axon (The Claws Of Axos), a Dalek (Day Of The Daleks), the Third Doctor (Spearhead From Space), the First Doctor (The Three Doctors), the K1 Robot (Robot), a Zygon (Terror Of The Zygons), and the Fourth Doctor (Terror Of The Zygons).

On September 15th, a photocall was held to introduce Strickson as Turlough, and to bid farewell to Sarah Sutton, whose last story as Nyssa would be Terminus, the next serial in production. The second studio session then took place over three days beginning September 22nd, this time in TC8. The first order of business was a remount of the TARDIS console room scenes involving Mawdryn. This came at the request of Sheelagh Wells, who was disappointed with the way the mutants' brain protuberance blended with their actual skin. In the intervening fortnight, costume designer Amy Roberts had added a metal headband to the mutant's outfits, hiding the join. The remainder of the second studio block largely concerned material in the mutants' space capsule, although scenes in the TARDIS corridors were also taped on all three days. In addition, the void sequences involving Turlough and the Black Guardian were recorded on September 24th.

  • 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 #223, 17th January 1996, “Archive: Mawdryn Undead” by Andrew Pixley, Panini UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #1, 2001, “Diamond Life” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • In-Vision #65, June 1996, “Production” edited by Anthony Brown, Cybermark Services.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 1st Feb 1983
Time 6.51pm
Duration 24'03"
Viewers (more) 6.5m (103rd)
· BBC1 6.5m
Appreciation 67%
Episode 2
Date 2nd Feb 1983
Time 6.46pm
Duration 24'33"
Viewers (more) 7.5m (83rd)
· BBC1 7.5m
Appreciation 70%
Episode 3
Date 8th Feb 1983
Time 6.50pm
Duration 24'32"
Viewers (more) 7.4m (84th)
· BBC1 7.4m
Appreciation 67%
Episode 4
Date 9th Feb 1983
Time 6.47pm
Duration 24'33"
Viewers (more) 7.7m (78th)
· BBC1 7.7m
Appreciation 68%

The Doctor
Peter Davison
Sarah Sutton
Janet Fielding
The Brigadier
Nicholas Courtney
Black Guardian
Valentine Dyall
Mark Strickson
Angus MacKay
Stephen Garlick
Doctor Runciman
Roger Hammond
Sheila Gill
David Collings
1st Mutant
Peter Walmsley
2nd Mutant
Brian Darnley

Written by
Peter Grimwade
Directed by
Peter Moffatt
Produced by
John Nathan-Turner

Incidental Music
Paddy Kingsland
Special Sound
Dick Mills
BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Production Manager
Ann Aronsohn
Production Associate
June Collins
Production Assistant
Valerie Letley
Assistant Floor Manager
Ian D Tootle
Film Cameraman
Godfrey Johnson
Film Sound
Ron Brown
Film Editor
Chris Woolley
Visual Effects Designer
Stuart Brisdon
Video Effects
Robin Lobb
Vision Mixer
Carol Johnson
Technical Manager
Alan Arbuthnott
Senior Cameraman
Robin Barnes
Videotape Editor
Rod Waldron
Studio Lighting
Don Babbage
Studio Sound
Martin Ridout
Costume Designer
Amy Roberts
Make-up Artist
Sheelagh Wells
Script Editor
Eric Saward
Title Sequence
Sid Sutton
Stephen Scott

Updated 4th January 2011