‘Mawdryn Undead’ (TV)

mawdryn undead the-black-guardian-trilogy


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Turlough arrives with the Brigadier and the Black Guardian

This is one of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ DVD trilogies from the Peter Davison era!

I have fond memories of ‘The Black Guardian Trilogy’. It has three exciting stories featuring the first appearances of Mark Strickson as Turlough; the return of Valentine Dyall as the Black Guardian and the departure of the lovely Sarah Sutton as the lovely Nyssa, my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion!

I’ve had the DVD covers of ‘Mawdryn Undead’, ‘Terminus’ and ‘Enlightenment’ signed by Sarah Sutton at the ‘Timey-Wimey 1’ convention in Brighton, November 2014. The reason why I had the DVD cover of ‘Enlightenment’ signed by Sarah is in my review for that story. I’ve also had some photos of Nyssa in ‘Mawdryn Undead’ and ‘Terminus’ signed by Sarah at the ‘London Film and Comic Con 2011’ in July 2011.

I’ve also had the DVD cover of ‘Mawdryn Undead’ signed by Peter Davison at the event at the ‘York Unleashed’, York Racecourse, York, August 2017 and Mark Strickson at the ‘London Film and Comic Con 2017’ in July 2017.

I enjoyed ‘Mawdryn Undead’ very much! It features Turlough for the first time and also the return of the Black Guardian. It also features the return of Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

In this story, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan arrive on an abandoned spaceship. They discover a mystery, as the ship has been in orbit of a warp ellipse within two Earth time zones – 1977 and 1983.

Separated from Nyssa and Tegan, the Doctor has some help from his new companion Turlough and his old friend the Brigadier. Will the Doctor survive the menace of Mawdryn and his fellow mutants?

‘Mawdryn Undead’ is a four-part story by Peter Grimwade, who directed many stories including ‘Earthshock’. Grimwade came up with ‘Mawdryn Undead’, inspired by ‘The Flying Dutchman’ legend.

This story predates the timey-wimey stories by Steven Moffat and is well directed by Peter Moffatt. The story also has Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, who makes a triumphant return to the TV series.

It’s like the Brigadier has never been away! I like how Nick Courtney gets to play two Brigadiers in this story and there’s a brilliant flashback scene (in the CGI version of the story) where he remembers the Doctor.

Mark Strickson stars as Turlough for the first time in this story. I’ve met Mark at a number of conventions in places like Weston-super-Mare, Newcastle and Birmingham. He’s a great guy to meet and chat to!

Turlough is an alien public schoolboy that the Doctor meets and he’s secretly working for the Black Guardian as an assassin to kill the Doctor. He’s so devious, selfish and manipulative in his first story.


Valentine Dyall returns as the Black Guardian. He previously appeared in ‘The Armageddon Factor’ at the end of ‘The Key to Time’ season. It was a delight and a treat to see him in this story and in his own trilogy!

The Black Guardian seeks revenge following ‘The Key to Time’ season and he employs Turlough to kill the Doctor. Valentine Dyall delivers a menacing and booming performance as the Black Guardian in this story!

David Collings guest stars as Mawdryn in this story. David was in ‘Doctor Who’ before in ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’ and ‘The Robots of Death’ and he has played Legolas in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ radio series.

Mawdryn is a tragic character in this story. He’s trapped aboard the spaceship with his fellow mutant brothers. Mawdryn’s people are immortal and they cannot die. They need the Doctor’s help by stealing his remaining regenerations.

Peter Davison is brilliant! I really like his innocence as the Doctor in this story. I also like his scenes with Nyssa and Tegan aboard the spaceship and he seems to be accepting Turlough very quickly in this story.

The Doctor is delighted to see his old friend, the Brigadier, again. I liked it when Peter’s Doctor is about to make a noble sacrifice to save Nyssa and Tegan and it was very dramatic and moving to see.


Sarah Sutton is a joy to watch as Nyssa! She seems side-lined I’m afraid, but I love her screen time in this story. I love Nyssa’s costume, as it’s a blue-grey jacket and skirt and she looks so lovely and glamorous.

I liked it when Nyssa shows her caring side in this story, especially when she’s looking after Mawdryn in the TARDIS. She also shows sympathy for Mawdryn when they learn the truth about his condition.

‘Mawdryn Undead’ is a great story to kick off ‘The Black Guardian Trilogy’. It’s a great introduction to Turlough as a companion and features a superb return for the Brigadier and the Black Guardian in it.

I enjoyed the timey-wimeyness of the story and how cleverly well-written Peter Grimwade has made the story within the two time zones. I was so looking forward to seeing the next story in the trilogy…

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s a commentary with Peter Davison, Mark Strickson, Nicholas Courtney and script editor Eric Saward, an isolated music option by Paddy Kingsland and an info-text commentary option to enjoy. There’s also a making-of documentary called ‘Who Wants to Live Forever?’ and a lovely short drama called ‘Liberty Hall’ starring Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier.

There’s an impressive CGI effects option to enjoy, some deleted and extended scenes; film trims and out-takes from the story. There are PDF materials including a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story and ‘CGI Storyboards and Studio Floorplans’. There are some continuity announcements and a photo gallery and set photo gallery of the story. There are also two Easter Eggs to look out for on this DVD.

There’s a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Twin Dilemma’ with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant.

Check out my ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ Review – Issue #110 with Sarah Sutton.

‘Mawdryn Undead’ rating – 9/10

mawdryn_undead_novel 2676-doctor-who-mawdryn-undead-2-paperback-book


Please feel free to comment on my review.

The Flying Dutchman in Space

‘Doctor Who – Mawdryn Undead’ has been a pleasurable book to read!

I purchased this Target novelization of the ‘Doctor Who’ story, with the novelization of ‘Arc of Infinity’, at the ‘Regenerations 2011’ convention in Swansea, September 2011. I found this a better and an improved novelization by Peter Grimwade on one of his TV stories compared to ‘Time-Flight’.

‘Mawdryn Undead’ was originally transmitted on TV in 1983. Peter Grimwade, who wrote the original TV story, novelized ‘Mawdryn Undead’ for the Target range of ‘Doctor Who’ books. The book was published in 1984 and was divided into eight chapters, not twelve as I had expected this one to be.

The story was the first in ‘The Black Guardian Trilogy’ on TV. I enjoyed reading this story in prose form. I found that Peter Grimwade had enhanced the story in the book, with further character development on Turlough and the Brigadier and more detail on Brendan School and Mawdryn’s ship.

I assume that Peter Grimwade found ‘Mawdryn Undead’ a happier experience with novelizing his scripts into prose form compared to ‘Time-Flight’. I make this assumption as it doesn’t seem like he’s rushing with telling the story in ‘Mawdryn Undead’ as he had done with novelizing ‘Time-Flight’.

Of course there were moments in the story when Peter Grimwade tended to paraphrase some of the dialogue of characters into exposition. But that didn’t distract me from my enjoyment of the story, as I was able to home in on the characters and follow their journeys through without difficulty.

I purchased the 1990s edition of the Target novelization of ‘Mawdryn Undead’ when at the ‘Regenerations 2011’ convention in September 2011. I like the front cover for the book by Alistair Pearson, as it features images of the Fifth Doctor, Mawdryn, the Black Guardian and Turlough on it.

At the beginning of the book, there is a quotation from ‘The Flying Dutchman’ by Richard Wagner. It was interesting to have that quotation at the start of the book and it helps to set up the atmosphere for ‘Mawdryn Undead’, as to what the story’s about with Mawdryn and his people on a ship for eternity.

Peter Grimwade does well with introducing Turlough as the new companion to ‘Doctor Who’ in the series through this book. It was interesting to discover how Turlough sees things from his point of view during the story, and how he has contempt for his life at Brendon School and he’s so unhappy.

Of course Peter Grimwade, being the creator of Turlough in his first story, is able to home in on his thoughts and feelings during the book. He also does well with hiding Turlough’s alien origins in the story, something that he wouldn’t reveal until later when he wrote Turlough’s exit in ‘Planet of Fire’.

It was interesting to see how Turlough inwardly teases and belittles his friend Ibbotson (or ‘Hippo’ as he calls him) in the story. Sometimes it comes across as Turlough being a bully to Hippo at school, but it turns out that he actually considers him to be his best, perhaps only, friend at Brendon School.

An interesting point to note is that Brendon School is revealed as the school that Turlough goes to, which was never revealed in the TV story. Peter Grimwade enhances on the school’s history, since he knows aspects of the boys’ public school inside-out, from the teachers to the military corps there.

I liked how Turlough’s relationship with the Black Guardian is developed in the story. Turlough is clearly an unwilling partner in his bargain with the man in black. Sometimes when Turlough thinks of thoughts against his partner, the Black Guardian causes him to get headaches and he restrains himself.

I liked one aspect when Turlough and the Black Guardian meet. Turlough meets the Guardian whilst ‘floating in an enormous candyfloss of cloud’. This was interesting, as it was different to the dodgy effects in the original TV story and it matches well to the CGI effects for the ‘Mawdryn Undead’ DVD.

The Brigadier is well-handled as a character in this ‘Doctor Who’ book. I liked how Peter Grimwade handles the stories of both the Brigadier from 1977 and the Brigadier from 1983. The reasons for the Brigadier’s ‘nervous breakdown’ get explored in this story and it’s interesting how it gets built upon.

There was something about the Brigadier that was rather out-of-character for me. When the Brigadier inspects the damage to his Humber car, he declares that Turlough deserves capital punishment. This means that he wants Turlough dead! I say! That’s rather extreme isn’t it, Brigadier?

It was interesting that the older Brigadier confessed to the Doctor that he was scared about what was happening to him during the story. I also found it interesting when the Brigadier is ‘transported’ back to Palestine as a young man, whilst confronting Mawdryn after he discovers he’s not the Doctor.

I liked it when Tegan meets the 1977 Brigadier for the first time and she feels safe around him, because he reminds her of Captain Stapley from ‘Time-Flight’. It was a nice and interesting link to that story, considering Peter Grimwade wrote ‘Time-Flight’ and that Tegan thought highly of Stapley.

I liked the references made to ‘The Flying Dutchman’ ship when comparing it to Mawdryn and his people by the Brigadier to the Doctor. This adds nicely to the inspiration of ‘Mawdryn Undead’ by Peter Grimwade, when he was writing this story for TV and it enhances the characters of Mawdryn’s kind.

Sadly the backstory of Mawdryn isn’t well-developed. It’s more the same as it was in the story and it’s muddled about why Mawdryn wants to be a Time Lord one minute and then the next wants him and his brothers to die. It was interesting that he was described as reptilian and more alien in the book.

The characters of Nyssa, Tegan and the Doctor are well-handled in the story. Tegan gets heavily focused as a companion compared to Nyssa, as it was in the TV story. But I liked how Peter Grimwade stresses on Tegan’s bluntness and Nyssa’s gentle compassion, especially as they deal with Mawdryn.

The scene lengths in this story are much longer just as the eight chapters are much longer. Also there’s less cutting of scenes to spoil the flow of action in the story as it tended to be in the TV story. One example is the scene when the Doctor meets the Brigadier for the first time on the obelisk hill.

I liked that scene featuring the Doctor’s conversation with the Brigadier about U.N.I.T. on the hill and not back at the school. It seemed to make sense, especially when Hippo didn’t need to go back to the Headmaster’s office for some strange reason in the TV version. The Brigadier takes the Doctor to his hut from the hill.

The story concludes with Turlough joining the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan in the TARDIS and there’s an extra scene where the Brigadier is content and happy after the events of this story. It would have been nice to have seen that, since the TV version seemed to end abruptly with saying goodbye to the Brigadier.

I would like there to be an audiobook of this Target novelization of ‘Mawdryn Undead’. I’ve seen Sarah Sutton read an extract of the book ‘Mawdryn Undead’ on the ‘Myth Makers’ interview with Peter Grimwade on DVD. I’m convinced Sarah would make a wonderful narrator of the story from watching that!

‘Doctor Who – Mawdryn Undead’ is a better book by Peter Grimwade to read compared to his book for ‘Time-Flight’. I enjoyed reading the book for this review as well as exploring more of Turlough’s introduction and the return of the Brigadier and the Black Guardian to ‘Doctor Who’ in the TV series.

‘Doctor Who – Mawdryn Undead’ rating – 9/10

The previous story

For the Fifth Doctor was

For Tegan is

For Nyssa is

For the Brigadier is

  • ‘Heart of TARDIS’ (Book)
The next story

For the Fifth Doctor is

For Tegan is

For Nyssa is

For Turlough is

For the Brigadier is

Return to The Fifth Doctor’s Timeline
Return to Tegan’s Timeline
Return to Nyssa’s Timeline
Return to Turlough’s Timeline
Return to The Brigadier’s Timeline

2 thoughts on “‘Mawdryn Undead’ (TV)

  1. Awesome review of the episodes & the novelization Tim, this is a great story & i fondly remember watching it on tv eating my sausage & chips at my nans.

    I love how you compare the novelization to the actual transmitted episodes & give a awesome explanation of the additional content.

    A fantastic written review my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Simon.

    Glad you enjoyed my reviews on ‘Mawdryn Undead’, both the TV story and the novelization. I’m glad you have fond memories watching this story and having sausage and chips at your nan’s. Yummy!

    This is a special story for me, especially as it’s the first of a special trilogy of ‘Doctor Who’ stories that inspired me to go to conventions and meeting people like Sarah Sutton. Glad you like how I’ve compared the novelization to the TV episodes and the additional content provided in the novel from the TV story. The novelization for ‘Mawdryn Undead’ by Peter Grimwade is definitely superior to his novelization for ‘Time-Flight’.

    Glad you enjoyed my review, Simon. Looking forward to hearing from you again soon!

    Tim. 🙂


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