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Terminus

Production Code: 6G

First Transmitted

1 - 15/02/1983 18:55

2 - 16/02/1983 18:45

3 - 22/02/1983 18:55

4 - 23/02/1983 18:45

Plot

The TARDIS attaches itself to a space liner after Turlough, still under the Black Guardian's influence, damages its controls. The Doctor and Nyssa meet two space pirates, Kari and Olvir, who have come on board the liner in search of plunder, while Tegan and Turlough get lost in the infrastructure.

The liner docks with what appears to be a hulk floating in space. This is Terminus, which claims to offer a cure for lazar disease. It is crewed by a group of armoured slave workers, the Vanir, while the cure is administered by a huge dog-like creature known as the Garm. Nyssa, who has contracted the disease from sufferers transported aboard the liner, discovers that the cure - involving exposure to radiation - does actually work. T

he Doctor and Kari meanwhile learn that the ship, once capable of time travel, was responsible for the creation of the universe when an ejection of fuel from one of its engines caused the 'big bang'. Aided by Kari and the Garm, the Doctor is able to disconnect a still active but damaged engine that is on the point of exploding - something that could result in the universe's destruction.

Episode Endings

As lazars emerge from sealed compartments and jostle their way through the corridors of the liner, Olvir hysterically shouts that this is a leper ship and they are all going to die.

An armoured Vanir, Valgard, drops the staff with which he has been attempting to choke Kari and turns his attention instead to the Doctor, grasping him about the throat and stating that he is going to kill him.

Turlough, on the Black Guardian's instructions, sabotages some equipment aboard Terminus. In the control room, the effects are seen by the Doctor and Kari: an automatic sequence has begun to jettison fuel from the damaged engine. The Doctor tells Kari: 'If we don't do something quickly, the whole universe will be destroyed.'

Nyssa decides to part company with the Doctor and remain with the Vanir to help them run Terminus as a proper hospital. Turlough meanwhile is given an ultimatum by the Black Guardian: this is his last chance to kill the Doctor.

Roots

Polanski's Repulsion (Tegan attacked by arms).

Papillon (a leper colony as sanctuary for convicts).

Things to Come (pirate costume design).

Gallagher's An Alternative to Suicide (exploitative company).

Norse mythology (Valgard, Eirak, Sigurd, Bor, the Garm).

Dialogue Triumphs

Bor : [On discovering that he is not dead.] "It's a relief. I am hoping for something rather better on the other side."

Dialogue Disasters

The Black Guardian : [Telling Turlough how to disable the TARDIS] "Operate the blue switches!"

Kari : "Freeeeeeze!"

Continuity

Terminus is at the centre of the known universe. The craft was once capable of time travel (though the Doctor doesn't explain who built it). When one of its jettisoned fuel pods exploded in a void, it caused a chain reaction [that led to Event One]. The ripples followed the craft through time throwing it billions of years into the future.

The TARDIS' space time element is beneath the console (it is, according to the Black Guardian, 'the heart of the TARDIS': see Arc of Infinity). When removed [in flight] this causes the jamming of the column and dimensional instability. On impending break up, the TARDIS fail-safe seeks out and locks onto the nearest spacecraft. The Doctor states it has never worked before.

Lazar's disease is cured by a massive dose of radiation, but this is a crude method, sometimes exchanging one killer disease for another. Nyssa thinks she can put into practice her Traken education, so elects to stay with the Vanir, promising to synthesize a form of Hydromel, the drug supplied by Terminus Incorporated.

Kari and Olvir's 'chief' is named as Colonel Periera by Valgard, who worked for the raider for five years until being turned in for the reward money.

QV

The TARDIS Scanner

Location

A ship travelling to Terminus and Terminus itself.

Links

Trivia

There is excellent set design work by Dick Coles.

Nyssa leaves the TARDIS crew in a moving scene at the story's end.

Myth

This story was originally to have featured the Ice Warriors. (It wasn't.)

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Peter Davison

Nyssa - Sarah Sutton

Tegan - Janet Fielding

Turlough - Mark Strickson

Black Guardian - Valentine Dyall

Bor - Peter Benson

Eirak - Martin Potter

Inga - Rachel Weaver

Kari - Liza Goddard

Olvir - Dominic Guard

Sigurd - Tim Munro

Tannoy Voice - Martin Muncaster

The Garm - R J Bell

Valgard - Andrew Burt

Crew

Director - Mary Ridge

Assistant Floor Manager - Polly Davidson

Assistant Floor Manager - Adrian Heywood

Costumes - Dee Robson

Designer - Dick Coles

Fight Arranger - John Waller

Film Cameraman - Remi Adefarasin

Film Editor - Frances Parker

Incidental Music - Roger Limb

Make-Up - Joan Stribling

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Rena Butterwick

Production Associate - June Collins

Script Editor - Eric Saward

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Sam Barclay

Studio Sound - Scott Talbott

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

Visual Effects - Peter Pegrum

Writer - Steve Gallagher

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'There is no return. This is Terminus.' Once remembered for all the wrong reasons (Nyssa dropping her skirt and the fact that the rumoured appearance of the Ice Warriors failed to happen), Terminus has matured and now stands revealed as an excellent example of pure, technobabble-free SF within the series' format. Nyssa's farewell with the Doctor ('You're a very brave person') is one of the series' most emotional moments.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Terminus is a story that, in theory, has quite a lot going for it. The idea that the universe was created due to the actions of a time-travelling spaceship is an ingenious and appealing one, reflecting writer Steve Gallagher's hard science-fiction influences; the Vanir are interesting and impressively costumed characters; and the Garm is an unusual and well realised 'monster'.

What really lets it down, however, is its shortage of incident, coupled with its unremittingly grim atmosphere. 'This was the most disappointing story of the season for me,' wrote Andrew Calderbank in TARDIS Volume 8 Number 2, dated June 1983, echoing the views of many. 'The first two episodes were so slow that they almost went backwards; I was continually willing something to happen - but nothing did.'

Peter G Lovelady, commenting in Shada 14, dated March/April 1983, suggested that the problem lay in the scripts: 'Gallagher's splitting up of the main characters so early on was really a double-edged sword - it was fine in the first episode but it left Tegan and Turlough trapped in the ship for three more episodes with little to do except escape two stages of sterilisation by miraculous chance...

'It is acceptable (even desirable) to pace the first and possibly the second episodes slowly: but we then expect some acceleration and revelation. This Gallagher failed to deliver, which points [toward it being] too [insubstantial] a story.'

Alec Charles, however, felt that the blame for the story's failure rested elsewhere, as he explained in Aggedor Issue 4 in 1983: 'I think what really let Terminus down was the production and terrible acting - note how the best bits [were] those which featured the regulars in the TARDIS. The script... was simply superb - and its message was present, but not intrusive.'

Neil Sadler, writing in Cloister Bell 6/7 in 1983, expressed dissatisfaction with the story's characters, and more particularly with the performances of the guest cast: 'Liza [Goddard's Kari served] as a companion [substitute] character, although goodness knows with three companions wandering about I would hardly have thought this necessary, and Goddard's... acting was very poor, especially in comparison to Nerys Hughes's Todd who performed a similar function in last year's Kinda. Dominic Guard was similarly disappointing as Olvir (loved that pony-tail!) and it seemed a wasted opportunity not to pair him off with Nyssa at the end, which would have been the sole reason for having him in the serial. [Amongst] the Vanir..., only Bor, a minor character, was well acted by Peter Benson.'

Even the story's best features and most interesting concepts have drawn criticism from some reviewers. Lovelady, for example, disliked the idea of the 'big bang' starting as an explosion of fuel from one of Terminus's engines: 'Okay, so the Black Guardian said it's not impossible to go meddling with time, but sending bombs back into the past must surely break all the rules. And then the Doctor says the fuel was jettisoned into a void which becomes the universe. Since Terminus was already in a universe it can't possibly have created its own. In my opinion the idea was just needlessly hyperbolic.' Calderbank was similarly unimpressed by the story's furry monster: 'I can think of no Doctor Who monster that has terrified me less than the Garm... Lightbulb eyes bug me.'

It must say something for the impact of the rest of the story that Terminus's most well-remembered incident is one in which Nyssa, for no apparent reason at all, suddenly removes her skirt. Guy Clapperton recalled this with amusement in Aggedor Issue 4 in 1983: '"So there I am in this spaceship at the centre of the universe surrounded by lepers - and suddenly nearly all my clothes fall off! But it's all done in the best possible taste!" Was that a quote from Kenny Everett or Sarah Sutton? As it happens, it's a quote from me, because I just made it up, but it could have been either. Nyssa's loss of costume was a cheap gimmick to get the lads watching what was otherwise a pretty drab story.'

'The climax to the story was non-existent,' wrote Sadler, 'and the inclusion of the nonsense about the beginning and end of the universe was the work of a decidedly desperate author. The leaving of Nyssa and the end with the Black Guardian finished off the story on a high note but the rest... was slow and completely unoriginal.'

Harsh words, perhaps, but on the whole Terminus does unfortunately rather deserve its poor reputation.

< Mawdryn UndeadFifth DoctorEnlightenment >

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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