BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Entertainment Cult

Contact Us

Arc of Infinity

Production Code: 6E

First Transmitted

1 - 03/01/1983 18:45

2 - 05/01/1983 18:45

3 - 11/01/1983 18:50

4 - 12/01/1983 18:45


An antimatter creature has crossed into normal space via a phenomenon known as the Arc of Infinity but needs to bond physically with a Time Lord in order to remain stable. A traitor on Gallifrey has chosen the Doctor as the victim.

The High Council, headed by President Borusa, decides that the Doctor's life must be terminated in order to avoid this danger. Tegan meanwhile arrives in Amsterdam to visit her cousin, Colin Frazer, only to learn that he has disappeared. She enters a crypt in search of him and is captured by a hideous creature, the Ergon.

On Gallifrey, the traitor is revealed as Councillor Hedin and his master as the legendary Time Lord figure Omega, who has been trapped for centuries in the universe of antimatter. Omega seizes control of the Matrix. The Doctor however is able to trace him to Amsterdam thanks to clues received via the Matrix from Tegan - who has been taken to Omega's TARDIS by the Ergon.

Omega's body is turning into a replica of the Doctor's, but the bonding is incomplete and there will soon be a massive explosion as he reverts to antimatter. The Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan chase Omega through Amsterdam and eventually corner him.

Omega wills his own destruction, but the Doctor fires the Ergon's matter converter at him and he fades harmlessly away.

Episode Endings

To Nyssa's horror, the Doctor is shot by Commander Maxil of the Chancellery Guard and lies motionless to the ground.

The Doctor is prepared for termination and the equipment activated. Nyssa and the members of the High Council watch as his body fades slowly away. Suddenly the room is bathed in a bright light and a negative image of the antimatter renegade briefly appears in the Doctor's place. Then the process is over and Maxil announces that judgment has been carried out. Nyssa looks accusingly at the Time Lords.

With Hedin exposed as the traitor and shot dead by the Castellan, the Doctor tells President Borusa that urgent action is needed if Omega is to be stopped. Nyssa then draws his attention to the screen behind him and he realises that it is too late: Omega controls the Matrix. A negative image of Omega dominates the Matrix screen.

Tegan tells the Doctor and Nyssa that she has been sacked from her job as an air hostess and that they are stuck with her. Nyssa gives her a delighted hug, but the Doctor appears less pleased...


Omega's degeneration echoes The Quatermass Experiment.

HR Giger (Omega and Ergon design).

An American Werewolf in London (two student types on backpacking hols).

Dialogue Triumphs

Councillor Hedin : [To Omega] "What we are, we owe to you."

Dialogue Disasters

The Doctor : "Impulse laser?"

The Doctor : "A pulse loop, the very thing. Fetch it, Thalia."

Double Entendre

Colin : [An Australian] "Well, I'm not too keen on the Neighbours..."

Robin : [To Colin] "Have I ever led you astray?"

"We must act now!"


It is not explained how Omega survived the events of The Three Doctors, beyond Hedin's unhelpfully dogmatic statement - 'No, he exists'. He has acquired a TARDIS [from Hedin]. It sounds different from the Doctor's when materialising (as does the Master's). In order to remain in our Universe Omega needs to bond with a Time Lord, thus reversing his polarity, and to that end Hedin steals and transmits the Doctor's bio-data extract (see 'The Deadly Assassin', where they are biog data extracts).

Omega left the anti-matter universe in the region known as Rondel, 'the gateway to the dimensions'. According to the TARDIS information banks Rondel is an intergalactic region devoid of all stellar activity, and formerly the location of a collapsed 'Q' star (so named because such imploding stars emit Quad magnetism, the only known 'shield' for anti matter, although it decays very rapidly). The region's colloquial name is the Arc of Infinity, and its star chart reference is 92 63.72 C2.

[Omega has abandoned use of the Gel creatures,] although the Doctor also dismisses the Ergon as one of Omega's less successful attempts at psycho-synthesis. Towards the end of the story Omega boasts that he can build another TARDIS [but given the primitive nature of Earth this seems unlikely].

Nyssa says that the TARDIS navigation system needs some repairs, damage having been caused by the Cybermen in Earthshock (although the Doctor is able to pilot it successfully to Amsterdam). The TARDIS is recalled to Gallifrey, only the third time in the history of the Time Lords that a recall circuit has actually been used (see The Deadly Assassin: it's unlikely to refer to Meglos/Full Circle). Once on Gallifrey the Doctor's TARDIS is incapacitated by the removal of the main space-time element from under the console, although this is later replaced by Damon. [The Doctor asks for an element without a recall circuit, but The Trial of a Time Lord suggests he doesn't get one.] Nyssa's room is closest to the console room (see also The Visitation).

Reference is made to the Doctor's failure to return Romana, (see Warriors' Gate). Although capital punishment has long been abolished on Gallifrey (cf vapourizaion in 'The Deadly Assassin), a single precedent for the Doctor's termination does exist (see The Brain of Morbius). The Doctor also becomes the second Time Lord to survive termination, and once more finds himself in the Matrix (see The Deadly Assassin). The Doctor's palm print has been cancelled so that he cannot open doors, but he can still remember the President's code (4553916592). Damon is a friend of the Doctor's [the implication is that the Doctor met him (not necessarily for the first time) during the events of The Invasion of Time]. The Doctor asks Damon about Leela (she is well) and expresses regret that he couldn't get to her wedding. Hedin is also an old friend of the Doctor's.

Tegan has lost her job and was hoping that meeting Colin Frazer, her favourite cousin, would cheer her up. Colin [like Tegan] comes from Brisbane (in Castrovalva Tegan painted a very unflattering picture of the city).


Temporal Grace

The TARDIS Scanner


Gallifrey, Amsterdam [the 1980s, some time after Time Flight].


Future Doctor Colin Baker makes his Doctor Who debut as Maxil - and gets to shoot the current incumbent of the lead role in the closing scene of Part One.

Ian Collier takes on the role of Omega, originally played by Stephen Thorne in season ten's The Three Doctors. Collier had appeared once before in the series, as Stuart Hyde in season nine's The Time Monster.

Distinguished actor Michael Gough, who had previously played the Celestial Toymaker in the eponymous season three story and been married to Anneke Wills, alias the Doctor's companion Polly, appears here as the misguided traitor, Hedin.

Leonard Sachs, previously seen as Admiral de Coligny in season three's The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve, plays the latest incarnation of Borusa, now elevated to the position of Lord President.

Producer John Nathan-Turner makes a Hitchcock-like cameo appearance in the Amsterdam location scenes.


New regular costumes for Nyssa and Tegan are seen for the first time in this story. (Although Tegan's new costume makes its debut here, Nyssa's is not seen until the following story, Snakedance. This myth derives from the fact that numerous publicity photographs of the two actresses wearing their new costumes were taken during Arc of Infinity's location shoot in Amsterdam.)


A silly bit as Omega does a quick impression of Reeves and Mortimer's the Ponderers in the third episode.

The sequences with Hedin get increasingly daft, with Michael Gough required to wave his Time Lord pencil around in ever increasing excitement.

If the Doctor is executed, won't Omega just bond with another Time Lord?

John Nathan Turner appears on screen in episode four trying to persuade a passer by not to get into shot.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Peter Davison

Nyssa - Sarah Sutton

Tegan - Janet Fielding from epsiode two

Cardinal Zorac - Max Harvey

Chancellor Thalia - Elspet Gray

Colin Frazer - Alastair Cumming

Commander Maxil - Colin Baker

Councillor Hedin - Michael Gough

Damon - Neil Daglish

Hotel Receptionist - Maya Woolfel

Lord President Borusa - Leonard Sachs

Robin Stuart - Andrew Boxer

Second Receptionist - Guy Groen

Talor - John D Collins

The Castellan - Paul Jerricho

The Ergon - Malcolm Harvey

The Renegade / Omega - Ian Collier


Director - Ron Jones

Assistant Floor Manager - Lynn Richards

Costumes - Dee Robson

Designer - Marjorie Pratt

Film Cameraman - Fintan Sheehan

Film Editor - Bernard Ashby

Incidental Music - Roger Limb

Make-Up - Frances Needham

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Diana Brookes

Production Associate - June Collins

Script Editor - Eric Saward

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Don Babbage

Studio Sound - Trevor Webster

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - Chris Lawson

Writer - Johnny Byrne

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

If you can put to one side the premise, and the sub-horror film scenario of two young men staying overnight in a crypt, then there's more than a little fun to be had here. Nyssa gets to shoot loads of people, and the Amsterdam footage is great, although the chase in the final episode is long-winded.

Best of all is Davison's little performance as Omega, who walks like a child waking up in an adult's body, and seems to be learning from his new surroundings just as he begins to degenerate. However, it's a shame that Gallifrey is now such a drab, spartan place, almost entirely devoid of Time Lords.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Arc of Infinity is a prime example of a story with very high production values but, ultimately, not much else in its favour. The location filming in Amsterdam; Omega's new costume; the new outfit and hairstyle for Tegan; the glitzy new designs for Gallifrey. It all looks very nice, but where's the substance? One could in fact argue that in this instance the production team's apparent determination to foreground the series' glossy visuals actually acts as a positive obstacle to the telling of a coherent and exciting story. This is true particularly of the extensive location sequences, which at times seem more appropriate to a travelogue than to a science-fiction drama series.

'The use of foreign locations in the [series] has always been a bone of contention within fandom,' observed Duncan Harvey in DWB No. 124, dated March 1994. 'While it is true that they prove that there is life beyond London and the Home Counties, in Arc of Infinity there is little justification for setting the story in Amsterdam. We are given a rather dubious explanation concerning the water pressure available to the fusion booster below sea level (which rather ignores the water pressure available in any city from the domestic water mains!), but one can't help but think that the money would have been better spent elsewhere. Worst of all is the gruesome way that we are introduced to the setting of Amsterdam. Director Ron Jones uses a blatantly unsubtle establishing shot which would not look out of place in an ITC film series, and when combined with the strains of "Tulips from Amsterdam" all that is missing is a Simon Templar style voice-over introduction...'

The contrived idea of Tegan being abandoned by the Doctor at the end of the previous season precipitates the use of an even more artificial plot device to bring her back into the picture at the beginning of this one, as Gary Levy pointed out in DWB No. 1, dated August 1983: 'A major error was the way Tegan was reintroduced. What a coincidence that her cousin, whilst on holiday, should get involved in the evil plot being hatched by the Doctor's old enemy Omega!... If Doctor Who is to [be turned] into a sci-fi version of... Dallas then at least do it in a believable fashion.'

Another problem with the scripts is that they place rather too much emphasis on the build-up to the surprise revelation of Omega's involvement at the end of Part Three. Although this is fine for the fans, who actually know who Omega is, it must fall very flat for the more casual viewer. It also means that the character's identity has to be rather clumsily disguised for most of the story. Ian K McLachlan, writing in TARDIS Volume 8 Number 1, dated March 1983, thought that it was a mistake for the character to be brought back at all: 'After all, he was a classic villain. It would have been better to have let him rest in peace rather than have a feeble excuse for a reappearance. As somebody said: the villain of the tenth season becomes just another one of the twentieth.'

David Atkins, writing in the same issue of TARDIS, made some valid criticisms of the story's token monster: 'Although most of the costumes were splendid, with the Ergon we were treated to one of the most absurd sights ever seen in the [series]. He was really quite indescribable, although... "a plucked chicken" [comes close]... The Doctor described it as one of Omega's less successful attempts at psycho-synthesis. I can't help but agree.'

There are however a few redeeming features to Arc of Infinity. Tegan's initial distance from the main action gives Nyssa a chance to shine, and her character is particularly well handled - perhaps not surprisingly, given that the writer is her creator Johnny Byrne. Omega is also well characterised, and Peter Davison gives an excellent performance in his dual role in the fourth episode. Some reviewers, indeed, have reacted very positively to the story.

Douglas Potter, another of those who commented in TARDIS Volume 8 Number 1, was full of praise for it: 'Plot, scenery, locations, all merged with the most meticulous acting. Michael Gough was magnificent as the proud scheming Hedin and his scene... with Leonard Sachs' Borusa shows how actors half their age cannot play a part with such care. Ian Collier's Omega was a sad pathetic figure, half wanting revenge and half rest. Omega's moment of happiness by the barrel organ in Amsterdam was very sad and brilliantly portrayed -... Stephen Thorne was not missed. Peter Davison was at his brilliant best and I can give him the real tribute that I no longer miss Tom Baker.'

Arc of Infinity is not exactly a bad story but, as McLachlan concluded, it could have been much better: 'Sequels don't have to be as good as the original story. They must be better. And certainly I felt that Arc of Infinity was a pale imitation... Oh I enjoyed it all right. I was enthralled as the episodes danced before my eyes. But at the end I was left with an empty feeling. The feeling that it should have been so much better. All the ingredients were there. But somehow they didn't gel.'

< Time FlightFifth DoctorSnakedance >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy