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The Visitation

Production Code: 5X

First Transmitted

1 - 15/02/1982 18:55

2 - 16/02/1982 19:05

3 - 22/02/1982 18:55

4 - 23/02/1982 19:05

Plot

The Doctor attempts to take Tegan back to Heathrow Airport but the TARDIS arrives in the 17th Century instead of the 20th. The time travellers discover that a space capsule has crash-landed nearby and that its alien occupants, three Terileptil prison escapees, intend to wipe out all indigenous life on Earth by releasing rats infected with an enhanced strain of the great plague.

The creatures are also using a sophisticated android to strike terror into the local villagers. Aided by itinerant thespian Richard Mace, the Doctor tracks the Terileptils to their base in Pudding Lane, London. The creatures are ultimately destroyed when a fire breaks out and the Terileptil leader's weapon explodes - also setting off the Great Fire of London.

Episode Endings

The travellers investigate an apparently deserted manor house, where the Doctor finds a fake wall at the bottom of a flight of steps. Nyssa goes to fetch Tegan and Adric, but when they get to the steps the Doctor has gone. The android closes and bolts a door behind the three friends, trapping them. Tegan calls out to Doctor.

The Doctor and Mace find themselves surrounded by villagers and sentenced to execution. They are forced to kneel with their heads bowed before a man who prepares to decapitate them with a scythe.

The Terileptil leader leaves the Doctor locked in a cell with Tegan and Mace, who are both now under the alien's control. The Doctor tries desperately to break through Tegan's conditioning, but, as instructed, she starts to open a cage full of plague rats...

The travellers leave in the TARDIS. Tegan is concerned about the fire that has broken out, but the Doctor knowingly comments they should let it run its course. The sign on the wall outside the Terileptils' base reads 'Pudding Lane'

Roots

Pepys.

Saward's 1970s radio plays (Mace).

Dialogue Triumphs

Terileptil : "Where is this Doctor from?"

Tegan : "He's never told us. He likes to be mysterious, although he talks a lot about... er... Guildford. I think that's where he comes from."

Terileptil : "You're being a very stupid woman."

Tegan : "That isn't a very original observation."

Richard Mace : "I have appeared before some of the most hostile audiences in the world. Today I met death in a cellar. But I have never been so afraid until I met the man with the scythe."

The Doctor : "How do you feel now?"

Tegan : "Groggy, sore and bad tempered."

The Doctor : "Almost your old self."

Continuity

The TARDIS' lateral balance cones are 'playing up' (probably 'temperamental solenoids'), foiling the Doctor's attempt to get Tegan back to 1981 Heathrow 'We're about 3 years early.'

Adric's homing device (see Full Circle) is dropped in the fight with the villagers. Reference is again made to Adric's ability to recover from injuries quickly. He and Nyssa are able to pilot the TARDIS on their own.

The Terileptils are very intelligent semi-reptilian creatures who have a heightened appreciation of aesthetics and warfare. They have developed advanced androids. These Terileptils have escaped from the Tinclavic mines on Raaga (see The Awakening), where they have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Terileptils cannot last for long without breathing soliton gas: the substance is volatile when mixed with oxygen. The Terileptils' control bracelets are made of polygrite: the substance, and the power packs, are found in many parts of the Universe. Their usual form of lighting - vintaric crystals - is also common.

The Doctor's sonic screwdriver is destroyed. Thankfully, he finds a safety pin in his pocket.

QV

Temporal Grace

Location

Somewhere near London, 1666.

Links

Trivia

In a brilliantly written and directed 'prologue', a local Squire and his family are wiped out by the Terileptils and their robot.

There are continuity references back to Kinda when Tegan and Nyssa speak in the TARDIS in Part One.

The sonic screwdriver, a remarkable tool used by the Doctor off and on since season five's Fury from the Deep, is destroyed in Part Three.

The Terileptil leader's mask was the first example in Doctor Who of an effect achieved with animatronics - the use of mechanically controlled components to achieve lifelike movement.

The character Richard Mace had previously featured in three plays - The Assassin (1974), Pegasus (1975) and The Nemesis Machine (1976) - that Eric Saward had written for BBC Radio 4.

Goofs

The android wears poorly disguised cricket gloves (cf Silver Nemesis).

The Miller's donkey seems to resent Mace's attention, and, when Nyssa is attacked by the android, the room begins to shake before she switches on the machine.

When the Doctor is searching for the Terileptils' London base, the scanner shows a 'brown and white' 17th Century print of London's streets, rather than an image drawn up by the TARDIS' sensors [See Full Circle.]

The future archaeologists that Nyssa refers to will probably be rather more puzzled by the Terileptil ship and base.

Fashion Victim

Nyssa's fluffy ear muffs.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Peter Davison

Adric - Matthew Waterhouse

Nyssa - Sarah Sutton

Tegan - Janet Fielding

Android - Peter van Dissell

Charles - Anthony Calf

Elizabeth - Valerie Fyfer

Headman - Eric Dodson

Miller - James Charlton

Poacher - Neil West

Ralph - John Baker

Richard Mace - Michael Robbins

Terileptil - Michael Melia

The Squire - John Savident

Villager - Richard Hampton

Crew

Director - Peter Moffatt

Assistant Floor Manager - Alison Symington

Costumes - Odile Dicks-Mireaux

Designer - Ken Starkey

Film Cameraman - Peter Chapman

Film Editor - Ken Bilton

Incidental Music - Paddy Kingsland

Make-Up - Carolyn Perry

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Julia Randall

Production Associate - Angela Smith

Script Editor - Antony Root

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Henry Barber

Studio Sound - Alan Machin

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

Visual Effects - Peter Wragg

Writer - Eric Saward

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Why are the people of Earth so parochial?' A good, hearty action romp, crisply written and engaging, although critics might say that it's too straight-forward. There's only one proper character (Richard Mace), which gives Peter Davison and Michael Robbins the space to turn in a pair of lovely performances. The end result is a stylish slice of pseudo-historical nonsense.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

'The Visitation, for me, was television at its most magnificent,' enthused Mark Willis in TARDIS Volume 7 Number 2, dated May/June 1982. 'It was virtually flawless.' Willis was not the only person singing the story's praises. John Moran, for example, wrote in the same issue of TARDIS: '[It] was a hit for me simply because it was set in a certain period of the 17th Century when a national disaster occurred and this was one of the basic ingredients of the story - the Black Plague. It is a very subtle but very clever way of writing a Doctor Who story [to take] actual occurrences... and [build] a story round [them].'

Paul Dixon, another correspondent to the same magazine, commented: 'The sequences simply oozed with atmosphere - helped particularly by the fantastic music and chilling breathing noises of the aliens. The android cleverly interpreted by the manor owner as one of the creatures in armour was fairly good, but I disliked the decorated cricket gloves it wore.'

Producer John Nathan-Turner once suggested that The Visitation's relatively high proportion of location filming - which is admittedly excellent - was the factor most responsible for its popularity amongst the series' fans. As these contemporary reviewers' comments would indicate, however, there is actually far more to it than that. Simply put, writer Eric Saward in his debut contribution to the series has come up with a fine pseudo-historical Doctor Who story, complete with a superb supporting character in the person of Richard Mace.

Not every review of the story has been so positive, however. 'In a recent issue of the satirical multimedia fanzine Spot,' reported Alex Roberts in DWB No. 127, dated June 1994, 'Sophie Street condemned The Visitation as a thinly veiled rip-off of all of Four to Doomsday's best ideas: "space opera repeats itself as pseudo-history: for the first time as Bigon's Greek tragedy, for the second time as Richard Mace's farce". She argued that Saward's script had more similarities to Terence Dudley's than just the beheading cliffhanger: "For three green amphibian Urbankans read three green Terileptils; for synthetic ethnic minorities read villagers (both controlled by devices mounted at their wrists); for frogs read rats. The settings are starkly different, but not much else is."'

Roberts went on to dispute Street's observations: 'What she fails to acknowledge is the fact that The Visitation is not simply a set of superficial plot devices: the joy of the story lies in its characters, its dialogue and, in particular, that refreshingly old-fashioned setting. The Visitation is, after all, the first Doctor Who story to be set exclusively in the planet Earth's past since Horror of Fang Rock four years previously, and its 17th Century scenery is... crucial in establishing not only The Visitation's storyline but also its unique feel. Along with The Time Warrior and The Masque of Mandragora, it is one of the very few colour stories which comes anywhere near to exploiting the dramatic potential of its historical backdrop: Pyramids of Mars and Horror of Fang Rock (fine though they are) could have been set at virtually any time, in any isolated spot, in any corner of a TV studio, without necessitating much severe alteration to their storylines.'

Even the most highly acclaimed of stories can have their weaknesses, however, and here - as is often the case in the eighteenth and nineteenth seasons - the main problem is Matthew Waterhouse's peculiar performance as Adric. His irritatingly petulant delivery of much of his dialogue (such as in the scene where he bleats about the Doctor never being around when he is needed); his inability to show any convincing emotion (as evidenced at the point where he discovers to his 'delight' that Nyssa is still alive)... these and other factors combine to make one sometimes wish that he had never started travelling with the Doctor in the first place.

All in all, though, The Visitation is a very enjoyable story, and one of the highlights of the season.

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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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