Doctor Who – The Black Guardian Trilogy

And so we come to the backlog of classic Doctor Who DVD releases. I’ll need to catch up quickly, because there are loads more coming over the next few months. We’ll start with this set of stories from February and March 1983. Peter Davison is the Doctor, with Janet Fielding as Tegan, Sarah Sutton as Nyssa and Mark Strickson as Turlough.

Mawdryn Undead

A nicely time-twisting story. Our old friend the Brigadier is now a maths teacher at a private school, where Turlough, one of his students appears to be an exiled alien. Turlough is approached by our old fiend the Black Guardian, who still bears a bit of a grudge against the Doctor for not letting him play with the Key to Time. The Guardian wants Turlough to kill the Doctor in exchange for being allowed to go home.

Then there’s Mawdryn and his colleagues. A group of aliens who tried to use Time Lord technology to extend their lives indefinitely. Well, it sort of worked, but not in a way they liked. Now they want an end to their dreadful eternally decaying existence.

And it all comes together nicely. For a start, the Brigadier doesn’t remember the Doctor, or any of their adventures, which is a bit odd. And there’s lots of fun with matter transmitters, travelling backwards and forwards in time, and of course the Doctor almost making a heroic sacrifice. And Turlough joins the TARDIS crew.

Extras include:

  • Who wants to live forever – the usual look back with the cast and crew
  • Liberty Hall – an only moderately silly item in which a journalist interviews the Brigadier
  • Deleted scenes, out-takes and the ubiquitous production subtitles


Turlough gets everyone into trouble when, at the prompting of the Black Guardian, he sabotages the TARDIS, which manages to lock onto a space liner. To avoid being killed by some technobabble, Nyssa enters the ship, and the Doctor tries to find her. It all gets a bit nasty, as the ship is taking diseased patients to Terminus, a space station which is claimed to be at “the exact centre of the universe”, which caused several astrophysicists to explode, but never mind. There’s a singuarly badly created monster, more fun with the Guardian, and Nyssa decides to stay behind to help the patients.

Extras include:

  • Breaking point – cast and crew look back on the production, which was a little more awkward than some…
  • Origins of the Universe – A look at the science that’s messed around with in the story with Sir Patrick Moore and Dr John Mason
  • Optional CGI effects, model shots, and production subtitles


In which the TARDIS materialises on what appears to be an old sailing ship. Only the ship turns out to have some very unlikely technology on board, and indeed turns out to be sailing in space. Its captain and officers turn out to be Eternals, yet another of those insufferable superior races that are so bored with their lives that they like to play silly games with “lesser” races. They’re having a bit of a race with other Eternals, in the hope of winning the Ultimate Prize: Enlightenment.

There’s more devious stuff from the Guardian and Turlough, and ultimately Turlough has to make a decision. Fortunately, he gets it right, and the Black Guardian disappears in a puff of pantomime smoke. Well, perhaps not, but it would have worked…

This two-disc edition comes with a new 75 minute edit by the original director, complete with new CGI effects and surround sound on the second DVD. Extras are spread over both discs and include:

  • Winner Takes All – the standard cast and crew looking back thingy
  • Casting Off! – actors including Peter Davison talk about their perspective on working on Doctor Who
  • Single White Female – Barbara Clegg, writer of this story, looks back on her career in general, and Enlightenment in particular
  • The Story of the Guardians – short documentary on the Black and White Guardians
  • Lots more!

The trilogy is flawed, but still fun. Peter Davison is just getting into his stride as the Doctor, and it shows a bit at first, but it’s all pleasantly watchable.