‘Terminus’ (TV)

terminus the-black-guardian-trilogy


Please feel free to comment on my review.

Nyssa leaves the TARDIS

Nyssa working in her room

Here’s my first review of ‘Terminus’ from ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ #413, September 2009:


I was delighted to see my letter in ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ as it was the first time my name came into print. I later showed my letter to Sarah Sutton at the ‘Timey-Wimey 1’ convention in Brighton, November 2014.

Sarah read the letter and she thanked me for writing it, saying it was ‘very sweet’ of me. I’ve now seen Sarah at plenty of ‘Doctor Who’ conventions over the years and it’s amazing how far I’ve come!

‘Terminus’ is the second story of ‘The Black Guardian Trilogy’. It’s a four-part adventure by Steve Gallagher, his second contribution to the series, after he wrote ‘Warriors’ Gate’ for ‘The E-Space Trilogy’.

This story is about a bleak society in the future where Lazars are being sent to the Terminus space station hospital to rot away and die. It also depicts the heart-breaking departure of Nyssa of Traken.

The futuristic setting of ‘Terminus’ is pretty depressing. Terminus is supposed to be this hospital for the sick in space. But the Lazars are badly-treated aboard the station and it’s a very run-down place.

The concept of the Lazar’s disease is pretty frightening. It’s a form of leprosy which was pretty contagious during the Biblical times. I would’ve thought that leprosy had died out many years in the future.

In the story, it turns out that Terminus is at the centre of the universe and it caused the Big Bang. Whether you believe this or not, it’s up to you. I personally don’t, but this was a very intriguing concept.

This story suffered a troubled production, as it was badly affected by industrial action. It was a stressful time for the director Mary Ridge who made this her first and only contribution to the TV series.

The guardians of Terminus are the Vanir. They’re led by Martin Potter as Eirak with Andrew Burt as Valgard, Tim Munro as Sigurd and Peter Benson as Bor. They wear skeletal-like armour on Terminus.

The Vanir are quite ruthless, although they do seem to be pretty weary working aboard the station. They seem past caring concerning the Lazars and they depend on this drug called hydromel to keep them alive.

They have a hulking dog-like beast called the Garm, played by R.J. Bell. The Garm has a towering presence throughout the story, although his full-form isn’t quite what Steve Gallagher had intended.

The story also guest stars Liza Goddard as Kari and Dominic Guard as Olvir. Kari and Olvir are space pirates that come to Terminus. Their space pirate costumes aren’t as convincing as we would expect.

Sarah Sutton is lovely as Nyssa. It’s a shame that this was her last story in the TV series, since it wasn’t Sarah’s decision to leave. I’ve enjoyed and love her scenes with Peter Davison’s Doctor in the story.

I felt for Nyssa when she became infected with Lazar’s disease. I won’t say much about Nyssa taking her skirt off during the story. All I’ll say is that I found Nyssa to be at her most sexiest in ‘Doctor Who’! 😀

Nyssa’s farewell scene was so heart-breaking! Nyssa decides to stay on Terminus to help with saving the Lazars. She shares a tearful farewell with the Doctor and Tegan and I was in tears from watching it.

Sarah Sutton interviewed for the ‘Breaking Point’ documentary for the ‘Terminus’ DVD.

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s a commentary with Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Mark Strickson and writer Stephen Gallagher. There’s also an isolated music option by Roger Limb and an info-text commentary option to enjoy. There’s also a making-of documentary called ‘Breaking Point’ and a featurette called ‘Origins of the Universe’. There are some original storyboards; unused model shots and an impressive CGI effects option to enjoy. There’s also a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF for the story; continuity announcements and a photo gallery for the story. There are two Easter Eggs to look out for on this DVD disc. There’s a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Twin Dilemma’ with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant.

‘Terminus’ is a deeply gut-wrenching and heartbreaking story to feature Nyssa’s exit from the TV series. I didn’t want Nyssa to go and Sarah Sutton is a lovely actress and person from ‘Doctor Who’.

Find out what happens next to Nyssa in ‘The Darkening Eye’ set after ‘Terminus’.

‘Terminus’ rating – 8/10



Please feel free to comment on my review.

Breaking Point with Nyssa

Back in December 2014, I had the ‘Doctor Who – Terminus’ novelization for Christmas!

I found the ‘Terminus’ novelization to be a lovely book that I enjoyed reading. I wanted to have this book when I asked what I wanted from my parents for Christmas. I was thrilled and amazed to have the book on Christmas Day. I couldn’t wait to read it. I eventually read the novelization in May 2015.

I’ve later had the ‘Terminus’ novelization signed by Sarah Sutton at the ‘Carlisle Comic Con’ in March 2018. I’m very pleased Sarah signed the book for me. ‘Terminus’ is a very special story for me as it got me to attend ‘Doctor Who’ conventions and meet Sarah Sutton. It comes ‘full circle’ for me here.

This is of course the Target novelization of the ‘Terminus’ TV story from ‘The Black Guardian Trilogy’. The story features the final TV appearance of Sarah Sutton as Nyssa, my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion from the Fifth Doctor era. Whilst her last TV story; Nyssa would return in audio adventures.

Through the Target novelization, I wanted to discover more about the ‘Terminus’ story. I’m glad I did. Reading the book has helped me to appreciate Nyssa’s swansong and enjoy more of the world of ‘Terminus’. It is also one of the longest in the Target novelization range of ‘Doctor Who’ books. 😀

The book is by Stephen Gallagher writing as John Lydecker. It was published in 1983 – the same year the TV story was transmitted on BBC1. John Lydecker is a pseudonym Steve Gallagher used for his original Target novelization. Why he used a pseudonym instead of his own name is a mystery to me.

The novelization is 159 pages long and contains no chapters. In my opinion, this is an odd way to write a book. It’s strange to read the book in a chapter-less way and with few appropriate breaks in the story. You have to make your own chapters as I did it in placing my bookmark in the novelization.

Despite this misgiving, I found the book to very enjoyable to read. The author writes descriptive detail for the characters and the places. He immerses you into the story far better compared to what was featured in the TV story. The author also improves scenes compared to what’s in the TV version.

The ‘Terminus’ novelization can now be an enjoyed as an audiobook by BBC Audio. Unlike the ‘Warriors’ Gate’ audiobook, which was totally different to the actual published novelization, the ‘Terminus’ audiobook is a direct, unabridged reading of the original 1983 Target novelization here. 🙂

This I’m happy with. There was no need to change anything with the ‘Terminus’ novelization as it was a pretty straightforward story on TV and in novelization form compared to ‘Warriors’ Gate’ in TV and original novelization form. I find ‘Terminus’ a more enjoyable adventure than ‘Warriors’ Gate’ is.

I purchased the ‘Terminus’ audiobook from Amazon.co.uk in its 5-disc CD format rather than purchasing it as a download. I hoped one day that the BBC would do an audiobook version of the story in novelization form and hoped that Sarah Sutton would be the narrator of the ‘Terminus’ story.

Sarah has a lovely reading voice as she did ‘The Moon Stallion’ audiobook. It would’ve been fitting to have her as the reader for Nyssa’s swansong in novelization form. Sadly that’s not the case. Instead the ‘Terminus’ audiobook is read by…Steven Pacey?! The guy who played Del Tarrant in ‘Blake’s 7’?!

Okay, now this is particularly interesting. BBC Audio is renowned for casting various actors to read certain ‘Doctor Who’ audiobooks. Sometimes they get an actor/actress to read an audiobook of a story which he/she had no part in. This seems to be a very reoccurring pattern in Target audiobooks.

Now there are some instances I can forgive here. I’m fine with Geoffrey Beevers reading some Third Doctor Target audiobooks because the Master’s in them and he played the Master himself. I’m okay with Jon Culshaw reading the ‘Warriors’ Gate’ Target audiobook as he does a good Tom Baker voice.

But in this instance, it’s rather odd to have the guy who played Del Tarrant in ‘Blake’s 7’ reading the Target audiobook for ‘Terminus’ since he didn’t appear in ‘Terminus’ at all. I don’t recall him playing one of the Vanir or one of the Lazars in the TV story. So why should he narrate this Target audiobook at all?

Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed Steven Pacey’s reading of the story and he does a good job being a good narrator. But I’m surprised by the BBC’s weird choice for a ‘Terminus’ narrator. I even shared this with Sarah in Glasgow, August 2019 and she agrees with me how very odd that choice is.

The only thing I can connect Steven Pacey to in ‘Terminus’ is that he worked with the director Mary Ridge since she directed a lot of the ‘Blake’s 7’ episodes he was in. Okay, that would make sense. But even then, it’s still a pretty weak connection to cast Del Tarrant’s actor to read the ‘Terminus’ audiobook.

If I was given the choice, I would’ve chosen Sarah Sutton, Peter Davison, Mark Strickson or Janet Fielding to read the audiobook. They were personally involved in the making of the story. I wouldn’t cast someone uninvolved with ‘Terminus’ simply because he’d worked with the director beforehand.

Sarah herself said to me that Steven Pacey wouldn’t be able to carry the emotional aspects of the story as he was reading it. I concur! Steven Pacey’s a very good actor and a good reader, but he’s totally miscast here. This isn’t the last time that BBC Audio would do something like this either here.

I know that Michael Cochrane is the reader of ‘The War Machines’ audiobook. I do like Michael Cochrane, as I’ve enjoyed seeing and hearing him in ‘Doctor Who’ in stories like ‘Black Orchid’ and such. But Michael Cochrane isn’t ideal as that story’s reader since he didn’t appear in the TV story himself.

Anyway, rant over. Going back to the novelization itself, I noticed that Stephen Gallagher as the author altered the dialogue between characters compared to what was in the actual TV story. This does make the story feel very stronger and more character-driven compared to just being functional.

I’ve noticed that Steve Gallagher as the author does well with the scene setups throughout the novelization, especially with descriptions for the space liner and aspects of the Terminus hospital. It enriches the world the characters inhabit as layer gets unravelled about what’s occurring in the tale.

As on TV, the story’s subject/context in novelization form is intelligent and very science-fiction-driven. This is especially in connection to the space station and the futuristic scenario of the Lazars; the Vanir and the Garm. More specifically, the build-up to the Big Bang reveal is well-detailed in the book.

The Terminus being revealed as the centre of the universe is interesting. Whilst I don’t agree with the concepts put forward by Steve Gallagher in TV and novelization/audiobook form, it’s an interesting notion that someone could’ve rebooted the universe and we did not realise it during all of that time.

Turlough’s character gets given more depth in the novelization. I like how the author goes into his mindset with what he thinks to be deceptive; sabotage the TARDIS; associate with Tegan and keep in contact with the Black Guardian. You learn more about why Turlough does what he does in this story.

You get to understand his motivations and possibly why he’s anxious to fulfil his part of the bargain with the Black Guardian and killing the Doctor. It’s interesting how Steven Pacey voices the Black Guardian, not sounding like Valentine Dyall and how the character is not fully revealed until the end.

I also like how the author develops some of the supporting characters such as Olvir. It gets mentioned that Olvir comes from a rich family background before it went into poverty. I like how Valgard the Vanir gets developed and how his hatred towards leader Eirak gets explored in the book.

The author makes certain changes to improve the story. One of these changes is Turlough using the abacus beads for him and Tegan to find their way back to the TARDIS aboard the space liner. This works well in story terms, especially before that robot drone picks them up and discards them away.

A very notable change is how the Garm gets portrayed in the book. Steve Gallagher wasn’t happy with how the Garm was realised on TV. So he reverted back to having the Garm in his shadowy form with glowing red eyes and for it to never to be seen in full view, which works effectively in the book.

There’s also a scene change where Eirak challenges Valgard to bring the intruders – the Doctor and Kari – back from the Forbidden Zone. Eirak does this by offering his hydromel to Valgard. This is rather different in the TV version since Eirak offered Valgard to step down as the leader of the Vanir.

Now this does sort of happen at the story’s conclusion where Valgard takes over from Eirak after he and Sigurd agree to Nyssa’s plan of making hydromel themselves aboard the Terminus and improve the hospital conditions. But it did seem to come out of nowhere as I revisited the book with the audiobook.

The author also avoids including too many cuts to scenes in the novelization as it happened a lot in the TV version. He focuses on the character’s perspectives and sometimes focuses on one character in one scene rather than multiplying it with too many characters’ perspectives via those various cuts.

An example is the focus on the TARDIS interior’s disintegration from the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough’s perspective in the console room. This was intriguing as we don’t see it from Nyssa’s perspective in her bedroom. I would have liked to know what Nyssa thought and felt in those scenes.

Another example is the build-up to Olvir rescuing Nyssa on the Terminus. In the book, we don’t hear much from Olvir after a Lazar-infected Nyssa’s been taken away by the robot drone. Eventually, he does turn up to rescue Nyssa and we have a brief explanation on what happened to him in-between.

Oh yeah, incidentally. Throughout the book, Steve Gallagher doesn’t refer to the titular space hospital as simply ‘Terminus’. He refers to it as ‘the Terminus’. This is rather odd and disconcerting considering the characters in the TV version called it ‘Terminus’ instead of ‘the Terminus’. Very odd.

There are additional scenes featuring the Doctor, Nyssa, Kari and Olvir. The two space raiders debate over whether to trust the Doctor and Nyssa, before the Doctor find a way to persuade them. There’s also an extra scene where the Garm escorts Olivr to the Recovery Room where Nyssa’s recuperating.

Of course, the highlight of this book for me is Nyssa. I’m very pleased with how the author develops Nyssa’s character in the book, especially as this is her last story from the TV series. In the book, Nyssa’s the one who realises that the Terminus is at the centre of the universe instead of the Doctor.

I found Nyssa’s journey with being infected by Lazar’s disease and witnessing the horrors of the Terminus very moving. It’s gruelling in both in TV version and in book form. I felt for Nyssa and the books handles this effectively in what happens to her and whether she’ll get cured from the disease.

Nyssa’s departure is well handled in the novelization. It’s intriguing how the Doctor knows Nyssa will be staying on Terminus after going through a dreadful experience. Sadly she doesn’t kiss the Doctor on the cheek to say goodbye as in the TV story. But I still found it to be a touching farewell in the book.

‘Doctor Who – Terminus’ has been a great novelization/audiobook to read! Stephen Gallagher writing as John Lydecker does a brilliant job novelizing his TV story. It’s far better than the original novelization for ‘Warriors’ Gate’ and I’m so pleased to have read it. I’m equally pleased I’ve heard it on audio too.

Steven Pacey is miscast as the reader for the ‘Terminus’ audiobook, but I still enjoyed him reading it as he does a good job. The novelization enhances the story greatly and it provides a moving departure for Nyssa of Traken in ‘Doctor Who’. This however would be Nyssa’s first exit in the series! 😀

Incidentally, the Target audiobook’s cover has the skull that appears on the doorway linking between the TARDIS and the space liner compared to the original Target novelization that just had photo images of Peter Davison’s Doctor and Valentine Dyall as the Black Guardian. Intriguing differences between covers! 🙂

‘Doctor Who – Terminus’ rating – 8/10

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4 thoughts on “‘Terminus’ (TV)

  1. Timelord 007

    It’s not really the end for Nyssa in fact it’s only the beginning lol, yeah this is a very underrated story & as you say my friend the industrial action didn’t help director Mary Ridge being a first time director on a sci-fi tv show, the pacing a little slow in places & the backstory needed a bit more depth.

    Sarah Sutton is brilliant as Nyssa & her character shines throughout this adventure, her selfless nature to risk her own life to help others in trying to find a cure for the virus is classic Nyssa.

    I’m so glad your comment got featured in DWM my friend, brilliant, i love how you compare the episodes to the novelization this is a great idea & gives a alternative perspective.

    I remember watching this on tv again at my nans eating my dinner which included chips lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tim Bradley Post author

    I know, I know. I was getting really emotional from writing this review after watching Nyssa’s exit in ‘Terminus’!

    I’m surprised it was a struggle for director Mary Ridge, since she directed episodes of ‘Blake’s 7’ before this. You’d think she’d be able to cope with those sorts of pressures regarding filming. It’s very unfortunate that industrial action happened when it did during the making of this story. I’m sorry that it wasn’t a purely good time for Sarah Sutton when she was doing her swansong in the TV series.

    I’m very pleased Sarah as Nyssa shone throughout for you in this adventure. I’m pleased she didn’t die during this adventure and like you said it truly defines her character to stay behind on Terminus and to help those who need help and are in sickness to find a curse for Lazar’s disease. I found the emotional departure of Nyssa between her, the Doctor and Tegan overwhelming and I was, and still am, in tears from watching it.

    I’m amazed my letter about Nyssa got featured in the ‘Galaxy Forum’ of one issue of ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ after watching ‘Terminus’ a month later. It was a happy time for me and it prompted me to write to Sarah Sutton and then go to the conventions to meet her. Glad you like my comment being featured in DWM.

    Glad you like my comparison of the TV story and the novelization. I enjoyed both versions and the novel certainly does provide more insight into the story than ever before, especially with the author writing it under a pseudonym.

    I’m glad you remember watching this story on TV, especially with your chips at your nan’s. 😀

    Thanks Simon.

    Tim. 🙂


  3. Williams Fan 92

    Great review Tim.

    ‘Terminus’ is yet another story to add to my favourite Fifth Doctor stories. It was very tense when Nyssa came down with the Lazars disease. I was relieved when she was cured and felt sad when she made the decision to stay on Terminus to turn it into a proper hospital. However, I thought it was weird that she didn’t touch any of the Lazars and yet was still infected, whereas Tegan was touched by them and she wasn’t infected.

    Can you imagine if Turlough hadn’t managed to sabotage the Tardis and Nyssa had stayed. Then again Terminus would not have been able to be improved, so maybe Turlough did something good, even if Nyssa’s life was risked.

    The ‘Finding Sarah Sutton’ interview was enjoyable as well. It was nice to see photos of Sarah when she was younger, even before ‘Doctor Who’. It was lovely to meet her at Bedford, which I will explain in more detail when I do a report on my experience there. I wonder when Sarah will next be doing a convention.

    I hope the Target audiobook read by Steven Pacey will be good. I will soon be reading ‘Into the Death Space’ to see what Nyssa did on Terminus when Billy stayed with her. I noticed that Nyssa’s next story is ‘The Darkening Eye’. I thought that story was set during Season 19.

    P.s. what do you think of my ideas for Season 1 of ‘The Fifth Doctor by Williams Fan 92’.

    Take care, WF92.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi WF92,

      Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘Terminus’. Hope to update it when it comes to Season 20 on Blu-ray.

      Yeah it was wierd Nyssa caught Lazar’s disease when she didn’t touch anyone yet Tegan seemed immune when touched by one of the Lazars. Maybe Lazar’s disease doesn’t affect humans severly compared to Trakenites. Or perhaps Tegan has a higher immunity level compared to the humans of the Terminus future. At least Nyssa’s farewell was emotional and well-handled compared to how Tegan’s departure was handled in ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ in my humble opinion. I think things would be very different if Turlough hadn’t sabotaged the TARDIS in the first place.

      Glad you enjoyed the ‘Finding Sarah Sutton’ interview. I don’t know when Sarah will do another convention. Hopefully it’ll be soon. She assured me she’s hoping to do a convention sometime in 2022.

      Hope you enjoy the ‘Terminus’ Target audiobook as well as ‘Into the Death-Space’. ‘The Darkening Eye’ does take place during Season 19, but there are also scenes with the Patient in that story set after ‘Terminus’. I’ll share my thoughts on your Fifth Doctor stories blog post later today.

      Many thanks,

      Tim 🙂

      Liked by 1 person


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