Inferno : Episode 7
First Broadcast June 20th, 1970 @ 5.15pm (5.5m viewers)
This episode marked the conclusion of Jon Pertwee’s first season in the role of the Third Doctor. It would also see Liz Shaw’s final regular appearance and also the last time the original TARDIS console created for William Hartnell in 1963 was seen on screen. However, it always confused me as a younger viewer how the TARDIS console managed to fit through the exterior doors! When the console was seen again it had been rebuilt but largely matched the original with the main change being a different time rotor. Providing the monstrous element in this story were the Primords, a primordial ooze changing human beings into feral and savage creatures with the transformation of Professor Stahlman in this episode particularly dramatic.
‘Inferno’ is the first venture of Doctor Who into the science fiction staple of parallel universes and is a gripping adventure spread over seven episodes, including some impressive stunts. The parallel universe scenario allows the Doctor to witness the destruction of the Earth, caused by the drilling project which is continuing in our universe, seen at the beginning of the episode as lava engulfs the hut. Actors Nicholas Courtney and Caroline John admitted in subsequent interviews how much they enjoyed playing ‘baddie’ versions of their characters for this story. The eyepatch worn by Courtney as the Brigade Leader was referenced in 2011 with all the cast wearing them, based on a story from the filming of ‘Inferno’ he would often share with fans, following the actor’s sad passing earlier that year.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
Goodbye Liz. I shall miss you my dear.
The final shot of the story and Season 7 belonged to Liz Shaw, chuckling at the Doctor and the Brigadier as they stroll off into the sunset. Sadly this would be the last time Liz Shaw would be seen until a brief cameo in ‘The Five Doctors’, with her departure offscreen by the time the programme returned in 1971. The character had been brought in as a development of previous companion Zoe, an intelligent scientist capable of offering assistance to UNITs scientific advisor. Sadly she didn’t resonate with all the members of the audience, despite the glamorous and often impractical outfits she was given, because of her high intelligence. Producer Barry Letts had decided that a different companion was needed to ask the more obvious questions which the viewers were thinking to keep up to speed with the plot. Expecting to disappoint Caroline John with the news that her contract would not be renewed for the next season, Letts was relieved to find out that John was, in fact, pregnant and had not planned to return the next year anyway. It is a shame that Liz Shaw departs offscreen with no proper goodbye but we are treated to an indication from the Doctor that he will miss her when it appears he has left. Equally disappointing was the fact that her character failed to develop but she fitted the ‘science-heavy’ Season 7 which resurrected the programme’s viewing figures enough to keep the show running and still going to this day.
Doctor Who – Jon Pertwee
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart – Nicholas Courtney
Liz Shaw – Caroline John
Sir Keith Gold – Christopher Benjamin
Director Stahlman – Olaf Pooley
Greg Sutton – Derek Newark
Platoon Under Leader – Benton John Levene
Dr Petra Williams – Sheila Dunn
Director – Douglas Camfield
Producer – Barry Letts
Writer – Don Houghton
Also First Aired On This Day…
- The Sensorites : Strangers in Space