Serial 6R:
The Caves Of Androzani


After landing on the planet Androzani Minor, the Doctor and Peri develop lethal spectrox toxaemia poisoning. As the two search for a cure before it is too late, they become enmeshed in a decades-old feud between the disfigured roboticist Sharaz Jek and businessman Morgus. Jek falls in love with Peri, but the situation only degenerates when the girl rebuffs his affections. Between threats from mire beasts and gun runners, it quickly becomes apparent that the Doctor will never find a cure in time to save both himself and his companion.


When Eric Saward became Doctor Who's script editor in 1981, he decided to educate himself about the show by watching a number of old adventures. In the process, he became particularly impressed with the contributions of one of his predecessors, Robert Holmes. Holmes had been the script editor of Doctor Who between 1974 and 1977, and had continued providing stories for the programme until The Power Of Kroll in 1978. When the idea of a twentieth-anniversary special reuniting every incarnation of the Doctor was mooted in 1982, Saward lobbied for Holmes to tackle the script. Producer John Nathan-Turner was reluctant, because he preferred not to work with writers and directors who had preceded him on Doctor Who. He eventually demurred, but Holmes was not a fan of reusing old characters, and his version of the project -- called “The Six Doctors” -- was ultimately abandoned in favour of Terrance Dicks' The Five Doctors.

Nonetheless, Saward was still eager to work with Holmes, and it was agreed that Holmes should be given virtually carte blanche to provide a story for Doctor Who's twenty-first season. When he discussed the notion with Saward in the spring of 1983, the script editor had only one requirement for Holmes: the adventure had to end with the regeneration of the Fifth Doctor.

The Doctor would regenerate in the year's penultimate serial, to give viewers a chance to get used to the Sixth Doctor

Peter Davison had originally signed a three-year contract to play the Doctor, covering Seasons Nineteen, Twenty and Twenty-One. Nathan-Turner had been optimistic that Davison would remain for at least a fourth season, but shortly after finishing his second year on the show, Davison had confirmed that he would depart after Season Twenty-One. Davison was eager to try his hand at other types of roles, and had been disappointed with the quality of the scripts and production during Season Twenty. At around the same time, the show's other regular artistes -- Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Mark Strickson (Turlough) -- also informed Nathan-Turner that they would be leaving Doctor Who.

Nathan-Turner and Saward set about planning for all of these departures, as well as the introduction of a new companion, Peri Brown. Nathan-Turner decided to have the Doctor regenerate in the year's penultimate serial, the idea being that this would give viewers a chance to acclimatise themselves to the Sixth Doctor before the long break between seasons. This was a disappointment to Davison, who was keen to complete three full years as the Doctor. With the regeneration therefore set to occur in the sixth story of Season Twenty-One, it was agreed that Turlough should leave (and Peri be introduced) in story five, Planet Of Fire, while Tegan would depart in story four, Resurrection Of The Daleks.

When he was offered the chance to write the regeneration story, Holmes was enthused, since he knew that he would have even more freedom than usual in structuring his scripts. On May 6th, Holmes was commissioned to write a storyline entitled “Chain Reaction”. At this point, the Doctor did not regenerate after succumbing to spectrox toxaemia, but simply because of the damage his body sustained in combatting Stotz and his gunrunners. As was often his wont, Holmes drew inspiration from a number of classic horror sources -- most notably the 1911 Gaston Leroux novel The Phantom Of The Opera, which had also inspired elements of his Season Fourteen tale The Talons Of Weng-Chiang.

By the time the scripts were contracted on July 28th, the story's title had become The Caves Of Androzani. The fan press, on the other hand, reported that Holmes was writing a serial called “The Doctor's Wife”. This was how Nathan-Turner had listed the adventure on his planning board, in order to substantiate his long-held suspicion that somebody in the production office was leaking information about upcoming stories.

Suspecting a mole in the production office, John Nathan-Turner listed the title as The Doctor's Wife on his planning board

Saward made only a handful of changes to Holmes' scripts. It was he who concocted the explanation that the Doctor wears a celery stick due to an allergic condition -- with the “Praxsis spectrum” gases which the celery detects actually named after the Praxis typewriter Saward used. More significantly, it was Saward who the scene involving the Doctor's regeneration and the brief coda with the Sixth Doctor. Nathan-Turner wanted to repeat the success of the flashbacks which had accompanied the Fourth Doctor's regeneration in Logopolis, and so hallucinatory appearances by the Fifth Doctor's former companions were added to the script. At this stage, it was believed that theatrical commitments would prevent Sarah Sutton from appearing, and so Nyssa was omitted. The Master was not included at this stage, either, due to concerns about Anthony Ainley's salary demands.

The Caves Of Androzani was designated Serial 6R, and would be helmed by Graeme Harper. Although Harper had never directed for Doctor Who before, he was no stranger to the programme. Originally a child actor, with credits including the film Noddy In Toyland, Harper became interested in working behind the camera as he grew older. He joined the BBC as a floor assistant and gradually rose through the ranks, working on Doctor Who as both an assistant floor manager (on Colony In Space, Planet Of The Daleks and Planet Of The Spiders) and a production assistant (on The Seeds Of Doom and Warriors' Gate). Harper's was also one of the faces seen during the Doctor's mind duel with Morbius in The Brain Of Morbius.

Harper had been of enormous assistance to Nathan-Turner on Warriors' Gate, largely taking over from director Paul Joyce partway through production, and Nathan-Turner encouraged Harper to enroll in the BBC's internal directors course. Harper followed the producer's advice, and afterwards found himself working on episodes of Angels and The District Nurse. He was still eager to direct for Doctor Who, however, and approached Nathan-Turner at a Christmas party. Happy with Harper's Angels episodes, Nathan-Turner agreed to bring him aboard for The Caves Of Androzani.

Harper had high hopes for the cast of Serial 6R, especially with regard to the role of Sharaz Jek. Eager to hire an actor with a distinctive voice, Harper approached, amongst others, Tim Curry (renowned for playing transvestite Dr Frank-N-Furter in the 1975 cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and indeed aspired to attract the interest of rock stars Mick Jagger and David Bowie. In the end, the part went to ballet dancer Christopher Gable, who had originally been considered for Salateen. Harper was also eager to invest The Caves Of Androzani with a realistic edge, inspiring the use of actual machine guns (firing blanks) rather than futuristic props.

To give the story a realistic edge, Graeme Harper decided to use actual machine guns rather than futuristic props

Harper had hoped to take advantage of a lot of location filming for The Caves Of Androzani, but in the end, only three days -- from November 15th to 17th -- were allocated to the serial. These were for scenes on the surface of Androzani Minor, represented by the Masters Pit at Stokeford Heath in Dorset. The area was popular for pheasant hunting, and so locals were paid not to fire their guns for the duration of filming.

Studio recording was then scheduled to begin with a two-day block on December 1st and 2nd. However, the BBC was once again hit by industrial action: a year after a strike by the electricians' union had cost Doctor Who the final story of Season Twenty, the scenery shifters now elected to walk off the job. While the dispute was settled in time to salvage the second studio session from December 15th to 17th, the two lost days would have to be made up. It was therefore decided that The Caves Of Androzani would take over two studio dates originally intended for the Sixth Doctor's debut adventure, The Twin Dilemma, on January 11th and 12th, 1984. Fortunately, Nathan-Turner was also able to arrange for new dates for The Twin Dilemma, so that Season Twenty-One would air in full. One concern about the revised recording dates for The Caves Of Androzani surrounded the availability of Maurice Roëves (Stotz), who lived in New York. It was feared that the role might have to be recast, with the location filming remounted, but money was eventually found to keep Roëves in the UK for the duration of the shoot.

Work at BBC Television Centre finally got under way on December 15th; this was originally planned for Studio 1, but was ultimately moved to TC6. For the first studio session, scenes in the caverns and the Conglomerate office were scheduled for all three days, while the sets for Chellak's office, quarters and headquarters were needed for the first two days. Other recording during this block included material in the lift (on the 15th), the detention cell and Jek's workshop (on the 16th), and the control room of Stotz's ship (on the 17th). The costume for the Magma Beast debuted on the last day of the block; Nathan-Turner was very disappointed by the finished product, although he had no choice but to allow taping to proceed. Much like the Myrka in Warriors Of The Deep at the start of the season, the Magma Beast costume was barely finished before it was needed in the studio, meaning that the performer inside the suit, Colin Taylor, was given virtually no time to become accustomed to it.

One scene dropped to save time was an action sequence in which the Doctor kills the Magma Beast by tricking it over a chasm

After the holidays, cast and crew returned to TC6 for Serial 6R's rescheduled two-day recording block, starting on January 11th. The first day dealt with scenes in the caves, the workshop and the armoury, as well as in Chellak's office and quarters. Harper had proved to be a meticulous director, often recording scenes shot by shot. The unfortunate result of this level of precision was that The Caves Of Androzani gradually fell badly behind schedule, and as the last day of recording loomed, it became clear that Harper would be unable to complete all of the required material.

Working quickly, Holmes and Saward collaborated on ways to simplify the remaining sequences. The opening TARDIS scene was discarded, to be replaced with voiceovers dubbed over some location footage. As originally written, this would have depicted the Doctor studying the surface of Androzani Minor on the TARDIS scanner, and explaining that he wants to collect sand in order to practise the art of glassblowing. Also dropped was a major action segment, in which the Doctor kills the Magma Beast by tricking it into jumping over the edge of a chasm.

Even with these cuts, recording still finished with only seconds to spare. Taping on this day once again involved the caves, the workshop and the armoury, plus the lift shaft, the TARDIS console room and the spectral appearances of the Fifth Doctor's previous companions. Because of the production's delay to January, Sarah Sutton was now available to appear as Nyssa, although she was suffering from chicken pox at the time. The production team had also managed to come to terms with Anthony Ainley to return as the Master, and Matthew Waterhouse signed a new agreement to appear as Adric. Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson were still under contract to play Tegan and Turlough, while Gerald Flood had already prerecorded dialogue for Kamelion.

Colin Baker recorded his opening moments as the Doctor on January 12th

Also present was Colin Baker, recording his opening moments as the Doctor. He had been formally contracted for this episode and The Twin Dilemma, on September 30th. Peter Moffatt, who would be directing The Twin Dilemma, was in attendance to watch the scene as well. Baker's girth was too great to properly fit into Davison's costume, and so he was forced to give his performance with the trousers undone -- permitting him the opportunity to moon Davison's wife, actress Sandra Dickinson.

The conclusion of work on The Caves Of Androzani wrapped up Peter Davison's time on Doctor Who, although his era wouldn't officially end until the broadcast of the regeneration sequence on March 16th. Ironically, Davison was now regretting his decision to leave Doctor Who. He had been much happier with the scripts for Season Twenty-One -- and The Caves Of Androzani in particular -- and had become concerned about leaving behind the security of a regular job. These fears were soon proved unwarranted, as Davison's services would continue to be in high demand. In addition to making further episodes of All Creatures Great And Small, Davison also starred in programmes such as A Very Peculiar Practice, Campion, Ain't Misbehavin, At Home With The Braithwaites and The Last Detective, as well as movies including Black Beauty and stage productions like the Monty Python musical Spamalot. Davison also maintained his ties with Doctor Who, appearing in the thirtieth-anniversary special Dimensions In Time, the Children In Need special Time Crash, and numerous audio plays for Big Finish Productions starting with The Sirens Of Time in 1999.

  • 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 #279, 30th June 1999, “Archive: The Caves Of Androzani” by Andrew Pixley, Panini UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #1, 2001, “Hide And Seek” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • In-Vision #76, February 1998, “Production” edited by Anthony Brown, Cybermark Services.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 8th Mar 1984
Time 6.41pm
Duration 24'33"
Viewers (more) 6.9m (66th)
· BBC1 6.9m
Appreciation 65%
Episode 2
Date 9th Mar 1984
Time 6.41pm
Duration 25'00"
Viewers (more) 6.6m (75th)
· BBC1 6.6m
Episode 3
Date 15th Mar 1984
Time 6.42pm
Duration 24'36"
Viewers (more) 7.8m (62nd)
· BBC1 7.8m
Appreciation 65%
Episode 4
Date 16th Mar 1984
Time 6.41pm
Duration 25'37"
Viewers (more) 7.8m (62nd)
· BBC1 7.8m
Appreciation 68%

The Doctor
Peter Davison
Colin Baker
Nicola Bryant
Sharaz Jek
Christopher Gable
John Normington
Robert Glenister
Maurice Roëves
Martin Cochrane
Roy Holder
Barbara Kinghorn
David Neal
Ian Staples
The Master
Anthony Ainley
Matthew Waterhouse
Sarah Sutton
Janet Fielding
Mark Strickson
Voice of Kamelion
Gerald Flood

Written by
Robert Holmes
Directed by
Graeme Harper
Produced by
John Nathan-Turner

Title Music composed by
Ron Grainer
Incidental Music
Roger Limb
Special Sound
Dick Mills
BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Production Managers
Elizabeth Trubridge
Corinne Hollingworth
Production Associate
June Collins
Production Assistant
Juley Harding
Assistant Floor Manager
Susan Hedden
Film Cameraman
John Walker
Film Sound
Malcolm Campbell
Film Editor
Roger Guertin
Visual Effects Designers
Jim Francis
Stuart Brisdon
Video Effects
Dave Chapman
Vision Mixer
Dinah Long
Design Effects
John Peyre
Technical Co-ordinator
Alan Arbuthnott
Camera Supervisor
Alec Wheal
Videotape Editor
Steve Newnham
Lighting Director
Don Babbage
Studio Sound
Scott Talbott
Costume Designer
Andrew Rose
Make-Up Designers
Jan Nethercot
Shirley Stallard
Script Editor
Eric Saward
Title Sequence
Sid Sutton
John Hurst

Working Titles
Chain Reaction

Updated 22nd October 2011