Saturday, 9 May 2015

Story 126 - Terminus

In which Turlough continues to plot the Doctor's destruction, still acting on the orders of the Black Guardian. He is instructed to sabotage the TARDIS - the Guardian telling him that he will be pulled to safety once his work is done. The outer shell of the ship is compromised by his actions. Nyssa becomes trapped alone in her bedroom as the walls begin to dissolve. The ship has a defence mechanism whereby, in the event of imminent break up, it latches onto the hull of the nearest spacecraft. The Doctor, Tegan and Turlough watch on the scanner as a door appears in Nyssa's room with a macabre skull motif on it, and the Doctor urges her to go through it. They follow shortly after her - and find themselves trapped on what appears to be a deserted spaceship. They must find a way to open the door back through to the TARDIS. Soon after, another ship docks with the craft and two pirates come aboard - Kari and Olvir. They find the Doctor and Nyssa on the flight deck, where the Doctor has found that the ship is on automatic pilot and headed for a location which appears to be at the very centre of the known universe. The pirate vessel suddenly breaks away and flies off. Kari says that their captain told them this was a luxury liner, but Olvir knows what it really is. They are headed for Terminus - a massive space station. The only people who go there are Lazars - people who carry a deadly contagious disease. They are supposed to be cured on Terminus, but no-one has ever been known to return. Olvir knows this as his sister was taken there. As the ship docks with the space station, hundreds of doors open up and the Lazar "passengers" begin to emerge.

Tegan and Turlough take refuge in the under-floor maintenance ducts. Nyssa becomes separated from the Doctor, and Olvir abandons her when he sees that she has the early symptoms of the disease. She finds herself caught up in the crowd of Lazars and is swept into the station. Terminus is run by a company which uses slave labour to man it. They are the Vanir. Their loyalty is bought through an addiction they have to a substance called Hydromel, which the company supplies to them in return for their work. The Vanir wear protective armour to combat high radiation levels at the heart of the station. It is to this part of Terminus that the Lazars are taken - left to be collected by a huge bipedal canine creature called the Garm. As she is not as ill as most of the others, Nyssa is taken to the Garm. Regretting his earlier cowardice, Olvir goes after her. He encounters one of the Vanir named Valgard and from him learns that his pirate captain often offers up some of his crew to the company to become new Vanir - the fate intended for Kari and Olvir. The same thing had happened to Valgard many years ago. The Doctor and Kari also venture into the radioactive zone and come upon the control room. Here they find the mummified remains of the station's original pilot - a gigantic humanoid. The Doctor discovers that Terminus once had time travel capability. The engines are damaged and unstable. The Doctor realises the significance of the station's location at the very heart of the universe. The pilot had travelled back in time and jettisoned fuel which then combusted primordial gasses. This was the event which caused the creation of the universe. At the last moment, Terminus had been thrown forward in time. The Black Guardian instructs Turlough to carry out some sabotage - this time on the Lazar ship which is connected to the station. His actions cause the station's engines to begin to fail.

The Doctor realises that the original engine failure created the universe, but this time it could destroy it. He and Kari aren't strong enough to operate the ship's controls, but realise that the Garm could do it. It cannot act independently, however, being forced to follow the orders of the Vanir through a control box. The Doctor steals this and uses it to bring the Garm to the control room. The creature is as much a slave as the Vanir. The Doctor offers to free it if it stops the engines. In return, he smashes the control box and releases it. Nyssa reveals that Terminus could be made to work if operated properly. She has been cured by the radiation. Also, the Hydromel can be synthesised easily so that the Vanir would no longer be dependent on the company. She elects to remain behind on Terminus to work with the Vanir, now commanded by Valgard after overthrowing their hated leader Eirak. The Garm will also stay on to work willingly with them to help cure the Lazars.
The TARDIS systems have now repaired the damage caused by Turlough's sabotage. The Black Guardian informs the treacherous schoolboy that he has one last chance to destroy the Doctor - otherwise he will be destroyed himself...

This four part adventure was written by Stephen Gallagher, and was broadcast between 15th and 23rd February, 1983. It forms the middle story of the Black Guardian Trilogy, and is significant for seeing the departure of popular companion Nyssa, played by Sarah Sutton.
This was Gallagher's second - and final - script for the series (the first being Warrior's Gate in Season 18). Once again, he was not very happy with the story as it finally turned out, and like his earlier serial there were significant production problems. This time it was mainly due to the industrial action that would eventually see the postponement of the planned season finale.
Some 25 scenes had not been filmed, and these had to be remounted in December 1982 whilst The King's Demons was being recorded. In order to finish this story, the Dalek adventure "Warhead" had to be sacrificed. Luckily Sarah Sutton still had a day to run on her contract, though it meant her having to come back after she had already had her leaving party - which was a somewhat subdued affair as the director Mary Ridge had fallen out with producer JNT over the failure to complete the story as originally planned.
Gallagher's initial idea had been some sort of mechanism from another universe which found its way into this one and actually helped create it. The Vanir came from Norse myths, and so they all ended up with suitably Scandinavian names - Valgard, Sigurd, Eirak and Bors.
The Lazar disease is obviously inspired by leprosy.
Gallagher was particularly unhappy with the on screen realisation of the Garm. He had simply described it as a wolf-like creature, its eyes glowing in the shadows of the radioactive Forbidden Zone. What we got was one of the least favoured creature designs - a big pot-bellied dog-headed thing with an unrealistic mask.

The casting goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. One-time Mrs. Colin Baker Lisa Goddard simply does not convince as a battle-hardened space pirate. She and Dominic Guard (as Olvir) are saddled with truly dreadful costumes as well. Amongst the Vanir, however, are two marvellous performances from Andrew Burt as Valgard, and Peter Benson as Bors.
Nyssa, rather notoriously, gets all hot and bothered and decides to strip down to her undergarments - something definitely put in to "please the dads" watching.
Despite this being Turlough's trilogy as much as the Black Guardian's, there really isn't any room for Mark Strickson's character in the story - so he and Janet Fielding spend most of it stuck in air ducts.
Episode endings are:
  1. As the Lazars spill out of their rooms into the corridors of the spaceship, Olvir cries out that this is a leper ship, and they are all going to die...
  2. Valgard attacks the Doctor, throttling him...
  3. Thanks to Turlough's latest sabotage, Terminus' engines now threaten to destroy the entire universe...
  4. Turlough is given an ultimatum by the Black Guardian - destroy the Doctor, or else...

Overall, quite a good adult story let down by a couple of performances and a poor creature design. 
Things you might like to know:
  • The voice heard on the tannoy system is the same bloke who used to warn London tube passengers to "Mind the Gap" - until replaced by a female voice.
  • A fan visiting the recording caught sight of the Vanir armour and was convinced that this story saw the return of the Ice Warriors. Naturally, he "spoiled" and a few fanzines picked this false rumour up.
  • Despite the TARDIS being of immense size, Turlough gets given Adric's old bedroom - so we get to see a number of props from the previous season.
  • To tie in with continuity to Arc of Infinity, the component beneath the TARDIS console which Turlough attempts to remove is called the Space-Time Element.
  • A number of the TARDIS sequences in Part One were added when this episode was found to be under-running.
  • The fight arranger on this story was John Waller - brought in because he was an expert in medieval fighting practices, as the Vanir used staves. Had they used swords, Waller wouldn't have been needed, as Mark Strickson was a qualified fight arranger in his own right. Doing his own stunts was part of his contract, though he wasn't at all happy at the scraped knees he got when stuck for most of the story in the air ducts.
  • Sarah Sutton wasn't the only TARDIS regular who exposed a bit more flesh than usual, as Janet Fielding famously "popped out" of her bustier during recording - as oft-told on the convention circuit.
  • Kari and Olvir's costumes were supposed to be be blue, but had to be changed to white due to the use of blue-screen CSO.
  • Kari's character was originally going to be called Yoni. This was changed when script editor Eric Saward worked out where this came from. I'll leave you to Google it for yourselves...
  • Whilst Sarah Sutton / Nyssa has never returned to the TV series, her character has been a mainstay of the Big Finish audios - first accompanying the Fifth Doctor in some stories set between Time-Flight and Arc of Infinity, then as a much older version of the character who rejoins the TARDIS crew after her on-screen departure. She has a son called Adric. As for Sarah Sutton herself, she pretty much gave up acting. She had been unhappy at having acted since childhood - without having a proper childhood herself - and regretted never having gone to drama school.

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