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Inferno

Production Code: DDD

First Transmitted

1 - 09/05/1970 17:15

2 - 16/05/1970 17:15

3 - 23/05/1970 17:15

4 - 30/05/1970 17:15

5 - 06/06/1970 17:15

6 - 13/06/1970 17:25

7 - 20/06/1970 17:15

Plot

The Doctor is an observer and UNIT are providing security cover at an experimental drilling project designed to penetrate the Earth's crust and release a previously-untapped source of energy, named Stahlman's Gas after its discoverer. Professor Stahlman dismisses the concerns of the project's Executive Director Sir Keith Gold and exceeds all safety margins in order to expedite the work.

Soon however the drill head starts to leak an oily green liquid that transforms those who touch it into vicious primeval creatures with a craving for heat. The Doctor is accidentally transported by the partially-repaired TARDIS control console into a parallel universe where England is ruled by a military dictatorship.

The drilling project is at a more advanced stage here and, thwarted by his friends' ruthless alter egos, he is unable to prevent the penetration of the Earth's crust, which ultimately causes the planet's destruction. Escaping back to his own universe, where the drilling is still in progress, the Doctor tries to warn of impending disaster. At first he is disbelieved, but his words are borne out when the power-crazed Stahlman is himself transformed into one of the hideous primordial creatures.

The Doctor, aided by consultant Greg Sutton, kills Stahlman with ice-cold blasts from fire extinguishers. He is finally able to shut down the drilling with only moments to spare.

Episode Endings

The Doctor and the Brigadier discover missing maintenance worker Harry Slocum in the switch room of the project's nuclear reactor. He has mutated into a vicious sub-human creature.

The Brigadier and Liz rush into the hut in which the Doctor has been attempting to repair the TARDIS control console. They are just in time to see the Doctor, the console and Bessie all vanish.

In the parallel universe, the project workers are trying to cope with an emergency caused by a leak in one of the drill head output pipes. The Doctor tries surreptitiously to repair their broken-down computer but is confronted by Platoon Under Leader Benton, who tells him that he can either go with him to face a firing squad or be shot where he stands.

The Doctor tries desperately to persuade the project workers in the parallel universe to stop the drilling, warning that if they penetrate the Earth's crust they will release forces that they never dreamed existed. Stahlman tells Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart to shoot the Doctor and then, as a distant rumbling and screeching noise is heard, he raises a gun to do so himself. The countdown to penetration reaches zero...

The Doctor, sheltering in an office with the Brigade Leader, Section Leader Elizabeth Shaw, Greg Sutton and the project's Assistant Director Dr. Petra Williams, tries to persuade them to help him to return to his own universe. He tells them that he has a plan. Suddenly the arm of one of the primordial creatures smashes through the window in the office door.

The Section Leader shoots the Brigade Leader in order to give the Doctor a chance of escaping. The Doctor tries desperately to activate the TARDIS console as a wall of lava rolls toward the hut...

The Doctor bids farewell to Liz and the Brigadier, telling the latter that he is a 'pompous, self-opinionated idiot,' and then dematerialises with the TARDIS console. He walks back into the hut moments later, sheepishly admitting that he got no further than the nearby rubbish tip. Making light of his earlier remarks, he tries to persuade the Brigadier to have his troops help in retrieving the console. Liz laughs as the two men leave the hut together.

Roots

The Quatermass serials (the installation setting, men turning into monsters, race memory).

1984 and the Star Trek episode 'Mirror Mirror' (the fascist parallel earth).

The Day the Earth Caught Fire.

It's a Wonderful Life.

John Wyndham's 'Random Quest'.

The Troubleshooters.

Doppleganger.

Conan Doyle's 'When the World Screams'.

La Donna e Mobile.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "I keep telling you, Brigade Leader, I don't exist here!"

Brigade Leader Lethbridge Stewart : "Then you won't feel the bullets when we shoot you."

The Doctor : "Listen to that! It's the sound of the planet screaming out its rage!"

Greg Sutton : "Marvellous, isn't it? The world's going up in flames and they're still playing at toy soldiers."

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart : ""Pompous, self-opinionated idiot," I think you said, Doctor."

The Doctor : "Yes, well, we don't want to bear a grudge for a few hasty words, do we? No, not after all the years that we've worked together. Now, come along, my dear fellow. Put on a smile..."

Dialogue Disasters

The Doctor : [Responding to Greg's less than enthusiastic impression of the TARDIS console] "What did you expect? Some kind of space rocket with Batman at the controls?"

Double Entendre

The Doctor : "If you have a tool, it's stupid not to use it!"

"There's never been a bore like this one!"

Continuity

The Doctor reveals that his normal pulse rate is 170 beats per minute. The TARDIS console can travel by itself, and is removable. [Perhaps this is what allows the Doctor to visit the parallel universe. The Doctor has had little if any experience of parallel universes before.]

The Fascists are led by a 'Big Brother' figure. [In the parallel universe an internal right wing revolution during World War II led to the appeasement of the Nazis.] It is implied that the royal family were executed. The Brigade Leader speaks of the 'Defence of the Republic Act, 1943'. The Party's slogan is 'Unity is Strength'. In their world Stahlman is Stahlmann.

The rifles used by the UNIT troops in the alternative universe are Soviet Simonov SKSs (forerunners of the Kalashnikov AK-47).

Stahlman's gas was a potential energy source found under the Earth's crust.

QV

Venus

Location

A top secret research establishment [an extra scene in the video version of episode five says the project is in Eastchester] and its 'fascist' equivalent, 23 July [1969] (the desk calendar in the Brigade Leader's office shows 23 July - this is cut from the video release). The story takes place over five days. The Doctor is missing for nearly 48 hours from our world [but only 24 hours seem to pass on the parallel Earth according to the penetration count down].

Untelevised

The Doctor met [the future?] King Edward VII in Paris and states he was at Krakatoa during the eruption of 1883.

Trivia

The story title, writer's credit and episode number captions for each episode are faded up and focused over a special stock footage montage of volcanic eruptions following the opening title sequence.

This story marks the last appearance in the series of the original TARDIS control console prop.

The primordial mutant creatures are named 'Primords' in the closing credits of the episodes in which they appear and in publicity material, but are unnamed in the story's dialogue.

Professor Stahlman's alter ego in the parallel universe at one point wears a radiation suit bearing a label on which his surname is prominently spelt 'Stahlmann' - although it is unclear whether this was an intentional indication of a further difference between the two universes or simply an error. He is named as 'Director Stahlman' in the closing credits to Episode 5, but this could itself be an error.

Myth

The 'parallel universe' aspect of the story was added to the scripts at the production team's suggestion to ensure that there was sufficient material to fill seven episodes. (This aspect of the story was present in writer Don Houghton's original outline; the aspect added to the scripts at the production team's suggestion was that of the Primord creatures.)

This was Caroline John's last story as Liz as she was pregnant and could not return for the following season. (Although it is true that the actress was pregnant, Barry Letts was unaware of this when he decided against renewing her contract.)

Goofs

On the Nuclear Output Gauge in the Doctor's workshop, Megavolts is spelled 'Megga Volts'

Bessie travels with the Doctor and the TARDIS console into the parallel universe, despite the fact that it is ten feet away from them [It seems that only those elements that don't already exist on the fascist Earth are transported. Does a police box turn up at the Brigade Leader's HQ at the same time? The Doctor was never exiled to Earth in this world - it would hardly become his favourite planet - or he was killed soon after arriving.]

Fashion Victim

Liz, on the fascist Earth, in a kinky sub SS uniform and knee-length boots ('What are you doing in that ridiculous get up?' asks the Doctor).

Greg Sutton's patterned silk cravat.

The eye patch.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Jon Pertwee

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart - Nicholas Courtney

Liz Shaw - Caroline John

Bromley - Ian Fairbairn

Greg Sutton - Derek Newark

Harry Slocum - Walter Randall

Patterson - Keith James

Petra Williams/Dr. Petra Williams - Sheila Dunn

Primord - Dave Carter

Primord - Pat Gorman

Primord - Philip Ryan

Primord - Peter Thompson

Primord - Walter Henry

Private Latimer - David Simeon

Private Wyatt - Derek Ware

Professor Stahlman/Director Stahlman - Olaf Pooley

RSF Sentry - Roy Scammell

Sergeant Benton/Platoon Under Leader Benton - John Levene

Sir Keith Gold - Christopher Benjamin

Crew

Director - Douglas Camfield

Director - Barry Letts Barry Letts directed, uncredited, the studio recordings for Episodes 3 to 7 as Douglas Camfield had been taken ill, suffering an adverse reaction to drugs that he had been prescribed for a heart condition.

Action/Stunts - HAVOC stunt group

Assistant Floor Manager - Sue Hedden

Costumes - Christine Rawlins

Designer - Jeremy Davies

Film Cameraman - Fred Hamilton

Film Editor - Martyn Day

Incidental Music - stock

Make-Up - Marion Richards

Producer - Barry Letts

Production Assistant - Chris D'Oyly-John

Script Editor - Terrance Dicks

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Studio Lighting - John Green

Studio Sound - John Staple

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Len Hutton

Writer - Don Houghton

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Do you want to end your lives fighting like animals?' By equal measures, a horror tale, a political fable and a love story ('There's nothing like a happy ending, is there?'). Has there ever been a better scene in Doctor Who than the reflective 'So free will is not an illusion after all' moment? Well-acted and beautifully written, this is one of the best stories ever.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

'Doctor Who... had "come of age" with the horror of Spearhead from Space... the conservationist attitudes of Doctor Who and the Silurians and the anti-racist tones of The Ambassadors of Death. Would Inferno, the final story of that monumental seventh season, live up to the quality of its predecessors? The answer is, it did, and in such a way that, to me, it became an all-time Doctor Who classic.' This assessment by Darren Giddings in Skaro Volume Three Number Three, dated February/March 1983, hit the nail right on the head. Inferno provides a superb ending to the series' seventh season, its gritty realism strongly recalling the style of the seminal Quatermass serials that had been so inspirational in the formulation of the new 'Earth exile' format. The scenes set on the parallel Earth as it nears its destruction are wonderfully realised, and almost unbearably tense. Nicholas Courtney and Caroline John really rise to the occasion and give superb performances as the 'alternative' Republican Security Forces (RSF) versions of their regular characters, and Jon Pertwee is also at his best here. These parallel Earth scenes are, indeed, the most memorable aspect of the story, and the one that has attracted the most comment from reviewers. Mike Ashcroft, for instance, wrote in Oracle Volume 2 Number 11, dated August 1979:

'[The story] could almost have run as a four-parter, totally cutting out the trip to the alternative universe which was virtually inconsequential to the plot. After all, the Doctor could surely have deduced the fate of the world from other sources nearer at hand - it would have been just as plausible.

'This sojourn into alternative reality was though, funnily enough, just about the most interesting part of the proceedings... It gave the production team and the writer, Don Houghton, an almost unique chance to parody the UNIT set-up... For instance,... the Brigadier [was] transformed effortlessly into the aggressive and tough Brigade Leader while donning an [eye-patch] and a totally new uniform to complement this reformed image. He soon became an object of fear rather than a comforting friend.'

Don Houghton's scripts are extremely well written, and the direction is fantastic throughout - remarkably so, given the difficulties that must have been caused when Douglas Camfield fell ill part-way through production. There are some wonderful touches, such as in the first episode where the infected Harry Slocum raises a wrench to attack someone and the next shot is of a hammer knocking a nail into a wall, neatly conveying a sense of extreme violence without actually showing it. The location work, shot in an oil refinery, is very stark and effective - particularly in the scenes where the Doctor is on the run, being chased by RSF forces and menaced by Primords, after his arrival on the parallel Earth.

'Unlike many of the early Pertwee stories,' wrote Giddings, 'this is one which revolves entirely around the Doctor - he is the man alone, not backed up by UNIT, in fact hunted by them in the guise of the RSF... There are many scenes in the production which create a very tense atmosphere, especially those where the Doctor is being hunted on the high metal walkways... [Scenes such as this give] Doctor Who its reputation of "behind the sofa" viewing.'

The arrogant and acerbic Stahlman (both versions) is well portrayed by Olaf Pooley and probably the best of the guest characters, although Greg Sutton, played by Derek Newark (who had been caveman Za in Doctor Who's debut story 100,000 BC), and the slightly underused Sir Keith Gold, played by Christopher Benjamin, are also very good. Petra Williams is rather less impressive, owing mainly to a slightly lacklustre performance by Sheila Dunn (Camfield's wife), but still fulfils her function in the narrative quite adequately.

The only really negative point to be made about the story is that the make-up of some of the Primords is unintentionally rather comical, and that the creatures in general seem rather surplus to requirements - perhaps a reflection of the fact that they had not been part of Houghton's original storyline. 'For better or worse, a staple ingredient of most Doctor Who stories is a monster,' noted Geraint Jones in Doctor Who - An Adventure in Space and Time in 1985. 'In the case of Inferno, I did feel that it was for the worse.'

These however are mere quibbles; overall, Inferno stands as one of the finest stories of the third Doctor's era.

< The Ambassadors of DeathThird DoctorTerror of the Autons >

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.



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