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Terileptils and the Great Fire of London
Now we come to the stage where I believe Season 19 to be at its best! We’re now on one of my favourite stories from the Peter Davison era of ‘Doctor Who’! It was the second to be made in production order but the fourth to be shown on TV in the season. It’s ‘The Visitation’ by Eric Saward!
I found this a lovely story with lots of things happening to feature my favourite TARDIS team in ‘Doctor Who’. I was happy from watching this TV adventure, especially with Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, Janet Fielding as Tegan, Sarah Sutton as Nyssa and Matthew Waterhouse as Adric in it.
This story was originally released on DVD in January 2004. It was eventually repackaged and re-released as a 2-disc Special Edition DVD in May 2013 with the story on Disc 1 and the special features on Disc 2. It’s now a part of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 19’ Blu-ray box set.
I must have seen this story plenty of times especially when going through all of its DVD special features like I did with viewing most of the Season 19 stories of ‘Doctor Who’ in 2008. I don’t know what it is about this tale, but there is a certain charm about that always wants me to come back to it.
In the story, the Doctor and his friends visit the planet Earth. The Doctor is still trying to get Tegan back to Heathrow Airport in 1981. But the TARDIS ends up three hundred years too early somewhere in England, 1666. Tegan isn’t particularly happy about it as she wants to get back home.
But the Doctor and his friends have more things to worry about. The TARDIS foursome has arrived during the midst of the Great Plague and there are angry villagers who want to kill the Doctor and his friends. Our heroes soon gain help from the local highwayman and thespian called Richard Mace.
After managing to escape, the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, Adric and Richard Mace soon discover that the planet is in terrible danger. The lizard-like Terileptils have come to Earth and they want to cause havoc by spreading a deadly version of the plague. Can our main heroes stop the Terileptils in time?
This four-part story by Eric Saward was his first contribution to the ‘Doctor Who’ series. Eric would later go on to be the script editor for the Peter Davison era as well as for the Colin Baker era. Here he delivers an exciting, intriguing tale about aliens that invade this particular period of Earth history.
It’s interesting that this story was originally going to be called ‘Invasion of the Plague-Men’. Thank goodness that title got changed to ‘The Visitation’. Apparently, this ‘Doctor Who’ story’s title can mean a number of things whether it’d be the Terileptils visiting or the Doctor and his friends visiting.
I did like how this story utilised the historical backdrop of the Great Plague and how it affected society with the Doctor and his friends in danger from the villagers trying to kill them. Soon, the story leads to the Great Fire of London. It becomes a significant event in history as well as in the tale.
‘The Visitation’ is also directed by Peter Moffatt, who makes the story look so lavish with some splendid location work in it as well as fine pace and charisma. Beforehand, Peter Moffatt had directed ‘State of Decay’ with Tom Baker. He would direct more ‘Doctor Who’ TV tales after this one.
I like the ‘Doctor Who’ stories directed by Peter Moffatt and ‘The Visitation’ is one of his finest. Behind-the-scenes, Peter Moffatt was a hit with the cast and crew who enjoyed working with him. Even though Peter’s not a fast-paced sci-fi director, he makes up for it with well-paced action scenes.
Peter Moffatt had also worked with Peter Davison before since he directed episodes of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ beforehand. So therefore Peter Davison knew what Peter Moffatt was like and the two got on well with each other. It’s ironic they’ve similar surnames spelt differently. 😀
I’ve had the original DVD cover of ‘The Visitation’ signed by Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse at the ‘Project Motor Mouth 2’ convention in Slough, August 2013. I’ve also had the DVD cover signed by Michael Melia, who played the Terileptil leader in the story, at the ‘Valiant 2015’ convention in Sheffield, March 2015. Having my DVD cover signed makes me glad!
I’ve also had a lovely photo of Nyssa with some Terileptils from ‘The Visitation’ signed by Sarah Sutton for my birthday at the ‘Stars of Time Film and Comic Con’ in Weston-super-Mare, May 2016. It was nice to have that signed for my birthday by Sarah. We’ve become good friends over the years.
I’m very happy to have met all four actors who were the original Season 19 TARDIS team of ‘Doctor Who’ at conventions over the years, especially at the ‘Project Motor Mouth 2’ convention. I’m extremely pleased to have had a group photo with Matthew, Janet, Sarah and me at the convention.
My first meeting with Peter Davison was in Slough and he was a delight to meet! It was a brief meeting as he was making ‘The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot’ at the time. But I’m glad I met him and told him how much I liked ‘The Visitation’. He liked it when I told him Nyssa was my favourite companion.
I enjoyed Peter Davison’s Doctor in this! He delivers so much energy and enthusiasm as the Doctor, showing concern for his companions when in trouble. He clearly likes Nyssa and it was funny when the Doctor tolerates Tegan’s bossiness in the TARDIS, as he does not understand why she overreacts.
I also first met Janet Fielding in Slough since she organised the ‘Project Motor Mouth 2’ event. I was delighted to meet her. She said “Hiya Tim” to me when we first met. 😀 It was a lovely first meeting and I told Janet how much I enjoyed her in the Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’, to which she liked.
Janet Fielding as Tegan has such vibe and fiery energy. She does moan at a lot I’m afraid, since she’s annoyed and angry with the Doctor for failing to return her to Heathrow Airport. She’s soon in trouble and has a bad time with getting imprisoned and mind-controlled by the Terileptils in the tale.
I’ve seen Sarah Sutton at many conventions. It was lovely to see her at the Slough event in August 2013 and she was happy to see me. I like it when we share friendly banter with each other at conventions. Sarah was glad I liked ‘The Visitation’, especially since she prefers the historical stories.
Sarah Sutton is tremendous as Nyssa. I enjoyed her scenes with the Doctor and when she was building the sonic booster in the TARDIS. She gets to destroy the Terileptil android. I liked it when Nyssa felt sad about destroying the android as this demonstrates her own empathy and compassion.
I’ve also seen Matthew Waterhouse at conventions and it was nice to see him at the Slough event in August 2013 too. Back then, I’d finished reading his insightful memoirs about being in ‘Doctor Who’ called ‘Blue Box Boy’. It’s especially nice to talk to him on his insight in ‘Doctor Who’ at conventions.
I did find Matthew Waterhouse as Adric annoying and underused at times here. He gets scolded by the Doctor, but has an interesting bond with Richard Mace. Adric does feel useless when he can’t help Nyssa in the TARDIS. But at least he gets to fly the TARDIS to save the Doctor, Tegan and Mace.
I was pleased when I discovered Michael Robbins was in this as Richard Mace. Michael Robbins is well known for playing Arthur in the TV sitcom series, ‘On the Buses’ – “What a lot of rot you talk!” Michael Robbins is brilliant, giving a fruity performance that was sometimes hard to take seriously. 🙂
Richard Mace is a roughened, charming highwayman and a ‘once noted thespian’. It was great to see Michael Robbins as Mace have scenes with the Doctor. Mace helps the Doctor and his friends with stopping the Terileptils. Michael Robbins balances the comedy and drama well in Richard Mace here.
The monsters are the lizard-like Terileptils. There are three of them for this story and they range from different colours including red, blue and green. I liked the Terileptils as reptilian monsters. Lizards can often be scary in ‘Doctor Who’. It’s such a shame the Terileptils appeared in one TV story.
Michael Melia (well-known for playing Eddie Royle in ‘Eastenders’) guest stars as the Terileptil Leader. The Terileptil Leader looks amazing in his mask and costume and Michael Melia delivers an astounding performance. I enjoyed chatting to Michael at the ‘Valiant 2015’ convention in Sheffield.
The Terileptils are a race of reptiles that have this obsessive love of art, beauty and war. They are advanced in their technology, keep snazzy-looking androids and breathe a hot atmosphere of soliton gas. They crash-landed on Earth 1666 before taking over a country mansion as a base of operations.
The three Terileptils in this are on the run from the prison planet of Raaga. They want to colonise the Earth by destroying the human race with a deadlier version of the plague, using rats to enhance the infection. The Doctor is appalled by their viciousness, but the Terileptils justify themselves so easily.
I do like the Terileptils a lot. The costumes were of the time in the 1980s and they could have looked more agile since they seemed so rigid on screen. I hope the Terileptils will return to ‘Doctor Who’ someday on TV or audio. They have had mentions in the new TV series of ‘Doctor Who’, so why not?
The Terileptil Leader keeps a snazzy-looking android that works for him at the mansion. The android is meant to be a thing of beauty, but it didn’t quite turn out to be what writer Eric Saward had envisaged. It looks too ‘discotheque’, having plenty of diamonds and crystals all over the body work.
The android should have been more human in appearance, as it looks more like a robot instead of an android. But appearances aside, the android does a good job in scaring the villagers when it dresses up as the Grim Reaper. It gives the Terileptils the advantage in getting what they want on the Earth.
The sonic screwdriver gets destroyed in this story. I was shocked as much as the Doctor was. The producer John Nathan-Turner didn’t like the sonic screwdriver and neither did Eric Saward. For this TV adventure, it decided to get rid of the sonic screwdriver. It would not return until ‘The TV Movie’!
I felt for the Doctor when he was helpless and he had to drop his sonic screwdriver to the floor when the Terileptil Leader saw him. The Terileptil Leader destroys the sonic screwdriver and it bursts into flames. I couldn’t believe it! They can’t destroy the sonic screwdriver! I felt they ‘killed an old friend’. 😀
In the end, it turns out it was the Doctor who had caused the Great Fire of London when he and his friends tried to stop the Terileptils’ diabolical plans. This was something that appealed to Peter Davison when he read the script, since he enjoyed the Doctor meddling with history unintentionally.
I did like how this story ended with the Doctor and his friends in the TARDIS. Tegan, Nyssa and Adric are concerned but the Doctor believes the fire to run its course. We then see Pudding Lane getting caught up in flames and we then have that familiar ‘Doctor Who’ theme music echoing at the end. 😀
The original DVD special features were as follows. There were film trims of the story and the ‘Directing Who – Peter Moffatt’ interview where he looks back on the ‘Doctor Who’ stories that he directed in the series. There was also the ‘Writing A Final Visitation’ interview with writer Eric Saward and the ‘Scoring The Visitation’ interview with composer Paddy Kingsland, conducted by Mark Ayres. There was a photo gallery of the story and an info-text commentary option to enjoy. There was also a mono sound audio mix option for the story; a DVD audio commentary with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse and director Peter Moffatt as well as an isolated music option by Paddy Kingsland. There was also an Easter Egg that contained BBC trailers and continuity announcements for ‘The Visitation’.
There was the making-of documentary, ‘Grim Tales’, with cast and crew interviews; ‘The Television Centre of the Universe – Part 1’ documentary and the ‘Doctor Forever!’ documentary called ‘The Apocalypse Element’ that looks into the ‘Doctor Who’ audio adventures including BBC and Big Finish. There were also PDF materials including a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story and a ‘BBC Enterprises Sales Sheet’. There was also a ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for the 2-disc Special Edition DVD of ‘Inferno’ with Jon Pertwee, Caroline John and Nicholas Courtney.
On Disc 4 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 19’ Blu-ray, the ‘Directing Who – Peter Moffatt’ interview; the ‘Writing A Final Visitation’ interview; the ‘Scoring The Visitation’ interview; the mono sound audio mix option for the story; the DVD audio commentary; the isolated music option; the ‘Grim Tales’ making-of documentary and the ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF can be found on there. The film trims (with studio footage); the info-text commentary option; the photo gallery and the BBC trailers and continuity announcements for ‘The Visitation’ have been updated for 2018 on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the ‘Behind the Sofa’ feature on ‘The Visitation’ with Peter Davison (the Fifth Doctor); Sarah Sutton (Nyssa); Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) as well as Mark Strickson (Turlough) and Sophie Aldred (Ace). There’s also the ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for ‘Black Orchid’ with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse.
On the PDF front, as well as the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story, there are also production documents and scripts for the story. You need a special Blu-ray computer drive for that. The ‘BBC Enterprises Sales Sheet’ PDF isn’t included. ‘The Television Centre of the Universe – Part 1’ documentary and the ‘Doctor Forever!’ documentary ‘The Apocalypse Element’ aren’t included on ‘The Visitation’ Blu-ray disc for the Season 19 Blu-ray box set either.
‘The Visitation’ is a fabulous ‘Doctor Who’ story from the Peter Davison era. It’s one of my favourites as it contains a comedic feel in a historical period setting. I also like the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric and I’m glad that I’ve met all four actors who played their TARDIS characters in this series.
I also enjoyed the Terileptils and found them an interesting race of ‘Doctor Who’ monsters. Michael Robbins also delivers a splendid performance as Richard Mace in this adventure! I was looking forward to seeing more of the Season 19 TARDIS team of ‘Doctor Who’ after seeing ‘The Visitation’!
‘The Visitation’ rating – 9/10
I’ve been lucky over the years to attend ‘Doctor Who’ conventions and see my favourite stars from the TV series, including Sarah Sutton, Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson. So I got a tingle of excitement and nervousness watching the 45-minute ‘Grim Tales’ making-of documentary on DVD.
This was of course included on the 2-disc Special Edition DVD of ‘The Visitation’ released in 2013 during the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’. I know that purchasing ‘The Visitation’ Special Edition DVD just for that making-of documentary sounds ridiculous, but with Sarah Sutton appearing in it, I’d buy it. 😀 Of course it’s available to watch on the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 19’ Blu-ray!
‘Grim Tales’ is unique as a making-of documentary. It has Mark Strickson (who plays Turlough in ‘Doctor Who’) guiding Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding as they look back on the making of this story. They do this by revisiting the filming locations used in ‘The Visitation’, which was so exciting.
They revisited Black Park in Buckinghamshire and ended up at the manor house in Tithe Barn in Berkshire where they had a celebratory ‘Visitation’ cake. Sadly Matthew Waterhouse wasn’t able to attend for this making-of documentary, but still Peter, Sarah and Janet ‘amusingly’ remembered him.
It was exciting to hear Peter, Sarah and Janet recount their memories on making ‘The Visitation’, including Michael Melia as the Terileptil and Michael Robbins as Richard Mace. There were moments of humourous quips between the group as well as fond, happy memories of working with each other.
There were inserts of interviews with other cast and crew members who worked on ‘The Visitation’ during the Peter, Sarah, Janet and Mark bits. These include Michael Melia; Peter Van Dissel who played the Android; writer Eric Saward; designer Ken Starkey; costume designer Odile Dick-Mireaux; etc.
Revisiting ‘The Visitation’ in ‘Grim Tales’ with Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding, moderated by Mark Strickson, was a joy for me to see. It’s surreal for me to have met these actors in real-life and watch them share their memories of making this story whilst revisiting the filming locations.
The ‘Grim Tales’ making-of documentary of course became popular on ‘The Visitation’ DVD and the approach to have Mark Strickson as a host with the cast members was re-used again for the Season 19 Blu-ray box set. It was used for the ‘Time Trap’ making-of documentary for ‘Castrovalva’ and the ‘Double Trouble’ making-of documentary for ‘Black Orchid’ where Mark Strickson guides Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding and Matthew Waterhouse to recount making these stories. 😀
‘DOCTOR WHO AND THE VISITATION’
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How Terileptils Work In A Book
I enjoyed the Target novelization/audiobook of ‘Doctor Who and the Visitation’ by Eric Saward!
It was fun to read the Target novelization with the audiobook narrated by Matthew Waterhouse in the background. Saying that, I feel that this isn’t one of the best ‘Doctor Who’ novelizations/audiobooks I’ve read/heard. I was hoping to discover more about this amazing story!
Surprisingly, the ‘Doctor Who and the Visitation’ audiobook is a 3-disc set. This is rather unusual as ‘Doctor Who’ audiobooks are normally 4 or 5 discs on CD. This is because Eric’s novelization is slim and isn’t expansive as the novelizations/audiobooks of ‘Logopolis’; ‘Castrovalva’ and ‘Earthshock’.
The book is based on the original TV story, ‘The Visitation’, with Peter Davison’s Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric. It’s one of my favourite TV stories featuring the Terileptils and the Great Fire of London. I wanted to explore more of this story and I hoped the Target novelization/audiobook would provide that.
I purchased the Target novelization of ‘The Visitation’ at the ‘Stars of Time’ event in Weston-super-Mare, July 2012. I didn’t read the book until I purchased the audiobook. It was a treat to read the book and listen to the audio at the same time and note the differences between the TV story and the novel.
The novelization is divided into 11 chapters and was published in 1982 after the TV story was transmitted. This is unusual as ‘Doctor Who’ novelizations by Terrance Dicks are divided into 12 chapters with 3 chapters for each of the four episodes. Eric Saward didn’t do that for this novelization.
Eric Saward novelized ‘The Visitation’ with a few changes. He more or less sticks to what was in the original TV story, though he compressed scenes to a minimum in each chapter. He’s removed all of the cliff-hangers and it’s probably why the novelization is shorter to make it for a 3-disc set rather than a 4-disc set.
But Eric manages to add some additional descriptions for certain scenes. This includes having the beginning of the story from a fox’s perspective for the Terileptil ship crash-landing to Earth. He also removes the ‘Kinda’ links at the beginning since he didn’t like including them when writing the story for TV.
The four TARDIS regulars are well-written by Eric Saward in the book. The Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric are as they were in the TV story, although Eric has improved some of their dialogue when the characters interact with each other. The action scenes are also balanced with the characters in them.
I liked the change that Eric makes in the novelization with Nyssa and Adric’s exchange in the TARDIS. Instead of having Adric abruptly leave Nyssa to go out and search for Tegan and the Doctor, Nyssa gives Adric a homing device before going out. I wish that was shown in the original TV story.
Matthew Waterhouse (who played Adric in the TV series and who I’ve met at conventions) is a very good narrator. Matthew is no stranger to audio, since he’s done Big Finish audios for the ‘Dark Shadows’ series. He has also returned to ‘Doctor Who’ playing Adric first in ‘The Fifth Doctor Box Set’.
Here, Matthew brings the story and the characters of ‘The Visitation’ to life on audio. As Matthew knows Peter, Sarah and Janet very well, he’s able to articulate their voices for their characters. He manages to keep the reader/listener engaged throughout, especially for this 3-disc set of a slim novelisation.
I liked how Richard Mace is handled in the novelization. Eric didn’t like how Richard Mace was portrayed by Michael Robbins in the TV story. Over the years, Eric has changed his mind about the performance and for me I couldn’t help but think of Michael Robbins as Mace when reading the book.
I liked how Matthew Waterhouse does the voice for Mace in the audiobook. I’ve discovered that Matthew read the book without having Michael Robbins’ performance in mind. This rather shocked me as I initially thought Matthew was doing a Michael Robbins version of Mace in the audiobook.
I was hoping to explore more of the Terileptils and their background in the novelization. Sadly this wasn’t provided and it’s a shame as Eric Saward could have given more details about them, including having names for them. Matthew does well with the voices for the Terileptils by giving them hissing tones.
There is one change from TV to book and that is that the mansion’s cellar being illuminated with vintravic crystals. This wasn’t in the TV story as the cellar was gloomy on TV compared to the Terileptils’ control room. I wondered why that was the case since it makes the scene visually different.
This change shifts the dialogue that the Doctor had about vintravic crystals to Mace. The dialogue is put into the cellar scene instead of the escape pod scene that occurs later with the Doctor, Nyssa and Mace. I’m unsure which is more effective to have the vintravic crystals dialogue in the cellar or in the escape pod.
Eric Saward’s love for history is well-demonstrated in the book with the opening scenes and the details of the Great Plague. The descriptions of the villagers’ hostility towards strangers are very well-written. The urgency of threat from the plague is well-emphasised, especially when the Terileptils enhance the infection.
The build-up and the reveal of the Great Fire of London is well-handled. Eric doesn’t reveal the location of Pudding Lane until the very end. This provides readers the hint that this was where the Great Fire started. The climax between the Doctor and his friends against the Terileptils is well-written.
I did enjoy reading and listening to ‘Doctor Who and the Visitation’. It’s a nice if slim novelisation of the TV story. I wish that more could’ve been delved into with the Terileptils, but Eric Saward writes well and is straight to the point. I also enjoyed Matthew Waterhouse’s narration of the story in the audiobook.
If you want more of the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric in a novelisation/audiobook with character development, check out ‘Doctor Who – Black Orchid’. That’s a brilliant audiobook to enjoy!
‘Doctor Who and the Visitation’ rating – 6/10
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