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24 September 2014

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Warriors' Gate

Production Code: 5S

First Transmitted

1 - 03/01/1981 17:20

2 - 10/01/1981 17:10

3 - 17/01/1981 17:10

4 - 24/01/1981 17:10


The TARDIS is hijacked in the vortex by a time sensitive Tharil named Biroc, and brought to a strange white void. Biroc wants to free the others of his race who are being transported in a slave ship, captained by Rorvik, which is also trapped in the void. The only other thing present in the void is an ancient gateway leading to a decrepit banqueting hall.

This is the domain of the Tharils, who in a previous time were cruel masters to their human slaves but have now repented. The humans built the Gundan robots to kill the Tharils, and this led to the latter race's downfall.

Rorvik tries to break through the gateway, and thereby gain access to N-Space, by blasting it with his engines. The blast is simply reflected back, however, destroying the ship and freeing its prisoners.

Romana and K9 elect to remain in E-Space to help liberate the remainder of the Tharil race, while the TARDIS - now occupied only by the Doctor and Adric - is able to return to N-Space.

Episode Endings

The Doctor has followed Biroc to the gateway, wherein he finds a cobwebbed and deserted banqueting hall. He stoops beside a large mirror to examine Biroc's discarded chains. Behind him, one of the two armour-clad figures standing near the mirror comes to life. It strides towards the Doctor, raises an axe and sweeps it down at his back.

Aldo and Royce, two of Rorvik's crew, attempt to revive a Tharil prisoner but injure it instead. After they have gone, the Tharil rises from the table where it has been left and makes its way to the bridge. Romana, strapped immobile in the navigator's chair, strains at her bonds as the Tharil approaches. She screams as it reaches for her face.

The Doctor is led by a female Tharil to a feast taking place in the banqueting hall at the time of the Tharils' dominance. Romana, watching from a gallery, suddenly senses that the Doctor is in danger. As time contracts around them, Gundan robots invade the hall and smash an axe into the table. The Doctor and Romana suddenly find themselves back in the 'present', surrounded by Rorvik and his men. Rorvik comments that he is surprised to find them here.

Romana elects to stay with the Tharils in E-Space to help them free their people, and K9 stays with her. The Doctor and Adric leave in the TARDIS, heading back to N-Space.


Rock video (you almost expect Duran Duran to be playing the Tharils).

Waiting for Godot (the two clowns).

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (the coin).

Frederick Pohl's Gateway.

The I-Ching.


Star Trek's The City on the Edge of Forever.

Julius Caesar ('You were the noblest Romana of them all').

Philip K. Dick's The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (time sensitives).

Alice in Wonderland (the Cheshire cat).

Gallagher's own work (Dying of Paradise (Rorvik).

The Babylon Run (spaceships crashing in unexpected places).

Visually influenced by Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête and Orphée.

Dialogue Triumphs

Biroc : "Others follow."

The Doctor : "Others?"

Biroc : "Believe nothing they say. They're not Biroc's kind."

Romana : "What are you?"

Biroc : "A shadow of my past and of your future."

Rorvik : "Run Doctor! Scurry off back to your blue box. You're like all the rest. Lizards when there's a man's work to be done. I'm sick of your kind. Faint-hearted, do-nothing, lily-livered deadweights. This is the end for all of you. I'm finally getting something done!"

The Doctor : "One good solid hope's worth a cart-load of certainties."

Adric : "Will Romana be all right?"

The Doctor : "All right? She'll be superb!"

The Doctor : "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it."

The Doctor : "You're a machine, aren't you? I usually get on so well with machines."

Rorvik : "I'm finally getting something done!" [A real madman's cry.]

[The reason Romana should believe Biroc] "Because he was running."

The Tharils : [A chilling comment on their slaves ] "They're only people."

Dialogue Disasters

Romana : "Astral Jung!"

Romana : "The backblast backlash'll bounce back and destroy everything."


Romana doesn't want to go back to Gallifrey, and she leaves the Doctor in order to give the Tharils time technology. She's fully qualified to work on K9 [and on robots in general]. Half the shelves in the TARDIS stores are empty. K9 contains plans for all TARDIS functions.


Zero coordinates, a plain surface micro-universe at the boundary of E- and N-Space [created to serve as a defensive perimeter for the Tharil Empire].

Future History

Humans use enslaved Tharils to navigate hyperspace, effectively travelling in time (cf Planet of the Spiders, The Stones of Blood). A Tharil can walk the wind (navigate the vortex?) unharmed. The Tharil Empire used to exist in E-Space, raiding N-Space for human slaves, but the humans created the Gundans, who breached the Gate and destroyed the Empire.


Kenneth Cope plays Rorvik's second in command, Packard. Cope had previously played the ghostly detective Marty Hopkirk in the sixties series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), amongst many other notable roles.

This story was actually promoted in Radio Times as the first in a new season of Doctor Who. This was due to the fact that, unusually, the season had broken for two Saturdays over the Christmas holiday period.

Lazlo, the Tharil prisoner revived toward the end of Part Two, is never referred to by name in the story's dialogue; his name is given only in the closing credits.


In episode two, a Gundan's axe falls onto the Doctor's back, without harm.

In episode three, a boom mike pokes out from behind the MZ.

Adric takes K9's ear, but when the dog arrives at the Doctor, he's got both.

When Packard swings K9 overhead, its hollow interior is visible.

And surely Dwarf Star material is impossible to collect?

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Tom Baker

Adric - Matthew Waterhouse

Romana - Lalla Ward

Voice of K9 - John Leeson

Aldo - Freddie Earlle

Biroc - David Weston

Gundan - Robert Vowles

Lane - David Kincaid

Lazlo - Jeremy Gittins

Packard - Kenneth Cope

Rorvik - Clifford Rose

Royce - Harry Waters

Sagan - Vincent Pickering


Director - Paul Joyce

Assistant Floor Manager - Val McCrimmon

Costumes - June Hudson

Designer - Graeme Story

Executive Producer - Barry Letts

Incidental Music - Peter Howell

Make-Up - Pauline Cox

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Graeme Harper

Production Unit Manager - Angela Smith

Script Editor - Christopher H Bidmead

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - John Dixon

Studio Sound - Alan Fogg

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

Visual Effects - Mat Irvine

Writer - Steve Gallagher

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

Things that are great about Warriors' Gate: the direction, the coin, the gardens, the design, the effects triumph of firing the ray at the mirror, the music, the knocking over of the overfilled cup, the banal villainy of the crew who stop their slaver work for lunch, Kenneth Cope, Romana's gorgeous leaving scene...

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

'A mysterious white void; a crippled ship; an apathetic crew; the exit from E-Space? Thus began a superbly enigmatic Doctor Who story worthy of the excellent new production which has been the hallmark of the eighteenth season.' This positive assessment of Warriors' Gate, given by Peter Anghelides in Oracle Volume 3 Number 10, dated August 1981, has been echoed by many other reviewers.

Often, however, the praise has been qualified by the observation that the scripts by debut writer Steve Gallagher (now better known as thriller writer Stephen Gallagher, whose work has been adapted for television in Chimera and 1998's Oktober, which he also directed) expect rather too much of the viewer in terms of being able to work out what is going on from the limited clues provided. It is indeed doubtful that anyone could truly follow the story on just a single viewing.

'The confused plot resulted from a lack of clear explanations,' commented Robert Craker in TARDIS Volume 6 Number 1, dated April 1981. 'We had some glimmerings, but being told snippets a bit at a time is nearly as confusing as being told nothing at all.' The problem is that practically nothing is fully explained. The origins of the Tharils, the motivations of Rorvik and his crew, the functions of the gateway, the properties of the mirrors - all are left, to one degree or another, mysterious.

Visually, though, the story is undeniably stunning, boasting some superb utilitarian sets and an array of imaginative and well executed video effects, such as the one used to depict the Tharils moving through the void. There are some truly memorable moments scattered throughout the four episodes, including one in which time comes to a temporary standstill during the flipping of a coin in Part One, the harrowing electrocution of Lazlo in Part Two and the equally unsettling death of Sagan in Part Four.

The performances by the guest cast are also praiseworthy. David Weston's restrained and noble Biroc is one of the best, as is Clifford Rose's marvellously manic Rorvik. The light relief supplied by Freddie Earlle as Aldo and Harry Waters as Royce is also especially welcome in an otherwise bleak story.

'Rorvik and his crew are a mixed bunch,' wrote Karen Davies in Celestial Toyroom Issue 245 in 1997. 'Clifford Rose gives an excellent performance as a man whose sanity is hanging by the merest of threads. Exasperated by his crew's inefficiency, he is unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation. Kenneth Cope is the voice of reason, combined with the shrewd intelligence of a man who has realised exactly how little work he needs to do to keep his job.'

Another aspect of note is that the story's episode endings are all outstanding - always a good sign. In fact the cliffhanger conclusion to Part Three is one of the series' all-time classics: tense and full of drama, leaving the viewer on the edge of the seat and desperate to know what happens next. And then we come to the end of Part Four. The idea of Romana, having effectively served her apprenticeship aboard the TARDIS, leaving to become a 'female Doctor' in E-Space, taking K9 with her for assistance, is quite wonderful, and arguably the most fitting departure ever given to one of the Doctor's companions.

To have had her returning to Gallifrey and taking up some high office, which would perhaps have been a more obvious way for the production team to have written her out, would have been a complete betrayal of the character. As Peter J Finklestone wrote in Web Planet Number 7 in 1981, 'What price a Romana and K9 in E-Space offshoot series?'

< State of DecayFourth DoctorThe Keeper of Traken >

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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