Serial 6M:
The Awakening


The Doctor takes Tegan to the village of Little Hodcombe to visit her grandfather. The villagers, led by Sir George Hutchinson, are reenacting events from the English Civil War, including skirmishes which took place near the town. But the recreations have revived the Malus, an alien entity buried beneath a ruined church which feeds on the passions inflamed by war and death. Time is becoming distorted while Hutchinson -- who has fallen under the Malus' influence -- works to set the creature free, putting Tegan's life at risk in the process.


Eric Pringle was working for an insurance company when he began submitting story ideas for radio and television. In addition to several radio commissions, Pringle scripted episodes of Pretenders and The Carnforth Practice. In 1975, he was commissioned to write a Doctor Who adventure called “The Angarath”, although this ultimately went unproduced. Nonetheless, Pringle was a regular viewer of Doctor Who, and he was encouraged to devise new ideas for the programme by his agent, Peter Bryant, who was also a former Doctor Who producer.

In August 1981, Pringle offered two new four-part stories to the Doctor Who production office. One, entitled “The Darkness” and apparently featuring the Daleks, provoked little interest from script editor Eric Saward. Saward was more enthusiastic about Pringle's other submission, called “War Game”, which was inspired by the author's passion for the English Civil War. Saward pegged it as a potential storyline for Doctor Who's twenty-first season, and after a delay of some months while he lined up the final serials of Season Twenty, Saward commissioned Pringle to write a full storyline for “War Game” on March 3rd, 1982.

Due to a lack of sufficient incident, Eric Pringle was asked to truncate his adventure to two episodes

At this stage, Pringle began to realise that his idea might lack sufficient incident to sustain four episodes. Nonetheless, he completed his story breakdown and submitted it to Saward on July 16th. At this point, Saward became worried that “War Game” might prove too costly to make, and voiced his concerns to Pringle when they met to discuss the story on September 1st. Nonetheless, he agreed to commission the script for part one the next day. On December 3rd, the remaining three scripts were commissioned, but by now both Saward and producer John Nathan-Turner were having doubts about the serial. They shared Pringle's concern that “War Game” did not warrant four episodes; as a result, Pringle was asked to truncate his plot to two installments, a change the writer did not dispute. Part one was recommissioned on December 13th, at which point the serial was rechristened The Awakening. (The title “Poltergeist” may also have been considered at one point.)

Although Pringle worked closely with Saward in completing his two scripts, Saward felt that the finished drafts were still too long, and carried out additional rewrites to address the problem. He also wanted to diminish the supernatural element of The Awakening. He provided the Malus with a backstory connected to the Terileptils he had created for Season Nineteen's The Visitation, in an effort to strengthen the science-fiction aspect of the adventure. Other changes involved the manifestation of the Malus in the church (the creature was originally to emerge from out of the wall, rather than be uncovered behind it) and the addition of a scene incorporating Kamelion, the robotic companion who would be introduced in Season Twenty's The King's Demons. In this scene, Tegan encounters Kamelion interfacing with the TARDIS computer via a corridor roundel, and the robot claims to be learning about the time machine. To avoid having to rehire Gerald Flood, who had provided Kamelion's voice in The King's Demons, Saward depicted the robot as imitating the Doctor and Turlough -- much to Tegan's discomfort.

Pringle was not particularly pleased with Saward's rewrites, believing that they made the story confusing and rushed. The Awakening would be his only contribution to Doctor Who. Pringle thereafter wrote primarily for radio, although he also authored the Big George trilogy of children's novels. He died on April 13th, 2017.

The director assigned to The Awakening, now designated Serial 6M, was rookie Michael Owen Morris. Morris had already worked on Doctor Who as a production assistant for The Pirate Planet in 1978. The Awakening would be his only credit on the programme as a director, although it was at one point planned that he would return for Season Twenty-Two. The story Morris was intended to direct, entitled “The Space Whale”, was shelved and replaced with Vengeance On Varos, at which point Morris decided to move on to a different assignment. Morris would subsequently direct episodes of such programmes as Campion, The Bill, Casualty and EastEnders.

The Awakening would be designer Barry Newbery's 14th and final Doctor Who serial

Amongst Morris' crew for The Awakening was designer Barry Newbery. Newbery's Doctor Who credits stretched all the way back to its very first serial, 100,000 BC, in 1963. He had designed thirteen Doctor Who adventures over the years, but his work on the programme had become more sporadic recently, and indeed his name had not appeared in the closing credits since The Invisible Enemy in 1977. The Awakening would be Newbery's fourteenth and final Doctor Who serial, and indeed was almost amongst the final work of his storied career. Soon after fulfilling his duties on Serial 6M, Newbery accepted early retirement from the BBC. Over the ensuing years, he would maintain his interest in Doctor Who, however. Newbery contributed to several Doctor Who DVDs, and in 2007 he was given a tour of the Doctor Who production facilities at Upper Boat Studios by executive producer Russell T Davies. He passed away on February 25th, 2015.

Four days' location filming was allocated to The Awakening, as well as an additional day for the actors to familiarise themselves with the horses. This took place on July 18th, 1983 at Tarrant Monkton in Dorset, where the scenes at the ford would be filmed the next day. At this point, it was realised that Jack Galloway, who played Willow, had not been entirely truthful in claiming to be an experienced rider... after he was quickly dumped by his horse into the drink! For the first time, Peter Davison donned a slightly redesigned costume: his jumper was given larger stripes, and green lining was added to his shirt in place of the original red.

After recording at Tarrant Monkton wrapped on the 19th, cast and crew moved to Shapwick, where filming took place at the market cross (for some of the scenes on the village green) and the Church of St Bartholomew. The team remained in Shapwick on the 20th, when Bishops Court Farm served as the Wolsey property and additional material was filmed at St Bartholomew. This included the arrival of the Doctor, Wolsey and Will Chandler in a horse-drawn cart at the false lych gate Newbery had constructed in front of the church. At first, the horse was reluctant to approach the lych gate because his mare was grazing in a field nearby. Morris decided to bring the mare inside the churchyard -- out of shot -- to encourage the animal to behave properly. Unfortunately, the horse became so excited that, on the take, it proceeded to follow the actors through the lych gate, destroying it in the process. Luckily, the shot up to that point could still be salvaged for use in the finished episode. This accident became a popular selection for blooper reels, beginning with the September 10th edition of Noel Edmonds' Late, Late Breakfast Show. It even made its way to the international market, featuring on programmes such as Television Bloopers And Practical Jokes in the United States.

At the Church of St Bartholomew, the horse drawing the cart followed the actors through the lych gate, destroying it

The final two days of filming took place at Martin in Hampshire on July 21st and 22nd. Additional scenes on the Little Hodcombe green were recorded, and the shot of the trooper on the hillside was taped at nearby Martin Down. A press photocall for The Awakening was held on the 21st, although Nathan-Turner was irritated to see that the reporters were less interested in Doctor Who than in Peter Davison's wife, actress Sandra Dickinson, who had accompanied him to the location. The next day, all of the scenes in the stable where Turlough and Verney are held prisoner were completed at Damers Cottage.

Rehearsals for the studio session of The Awakening followed, during which Keith Jayne's character, the young seventeenth-century peasant Will Chandler, became very popular with the cast and crew. Some discussion ensued about retaining Will as a regular companion, but Nathan-Turner and Saward finally decided that the character would not have a lasting appeal for viewers.

Meanwhile, on July 28th, Nathan-Turner organised a press conference to announce that Peter Davison would be leaving Doctor Who before the end of Season Twenty-One. Speculation immediately ran rampant as to who might be chosen to play the Sixth Doctor, with Brian Blessed -- best known for roles in Z Cars and I, Claudius -- championed by the newspapers. Unbeknownst to the press and the public, however, Davison's successor had already been cast, as Colin Baker had agreed to tackle the role a month earlier.

The Awakening was completed over the course of a single three-day studio block, from August 4th to 6th in BBC Television Centre Studio 6. The primary set was the church nave, which was used on all three days. Also recorded on the 4th were scenes in the barn and the underground passage, as well as the TARDIS corridor sequence involving Tegan and Kamelion. The next day dealt with material in the vestry, the crypt, Wolsey's parlour, and the box room where Tegan changes into her Queen of the May costume. Except for the vestry, all of these sets were reused on the 6th, alongside the TARDIS console room.

In post-production, it was found that part one badly overran its twenty-five minute timeslot. Even after deleting the lengthy Kamelion sequence -- which was felt to be extraneous to the story's requirements -- the episode was still too long, and Nathan-Turner was forced to win special permission from the BBC to avoid more drastic editing.

  • 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 #282, 22nd September 1999, “Archive: The Awakening” by Andrew Pixley, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #1, 2001, “Hide And Seek” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • In-Vision #72, June 1997, “Production” edited by Anthony Brown, Cybermark Services.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 19th Jan 1984
Time 6.41pm
Duration 25'18"
Viewers (more) 7.9m (61st)
· BBC1 7.9m
Appreciation 65%
Episode 2
Date 20th Jan 1984
Time 6.41pm
Duration 24'47"
Viewers (more) 6.6m (84th)
· BBC1 6.6m
Appreciation 63%

The Doctor
Peter Davison
Janet Fielding
Mark Strickson
Jane Hampden
Polly James
Sir George
Denis Lill
Colonel Wolsey
Glyn Houston
Joseph Willow
Jack Galloway
Will Chandler
Keith Jayne
Christopher Saul
Andrew Verney
Frederick Hall

Written by
Eric Pringle
Directed by
Michael Owen Morris
Produced by
John Nathan-Turner

Title Music composed by
Ron Grainer
Incidental Music
Peter Howell
Special Sound
Dick Mills
BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Production Managers
Mike Hudson
Liz Trubridge
Production Associate
June Collins
Production Assistant
Rosemary Parson
Assistant Floor Manager
Marcus DF White
Film Cameraman
Paul Wheeler
Film Sound
Bryan Showell
Film Editor
MAC Adams
Visual Effects Designer
Tony Harding
Video Effects
Dave Chapman
Dave Jervis
Vision Mixer
Paul Wheeler
Technical Manager
Alan Arbuthnott
Camera Supervisor
Alec Wheal
Videotape Editor
Hugh Parson
Studio Lighting
Peter Catlett
Studio Sound
Martin Ridout
Costume Designer
Jackie Southern
Make-Up Artist
Ann Ailes
Script Editor
Eric Saward
Title Sequence
Sid Sutton
Barry Newbery

Working Titles
War Game

Updated 19th May 2017