The Time Warrior: Part One

First Broadcast December 15th, 1973 @ 5.10pm (8.7m viewers)

Following the sad departure of Katy Manning as Jo Grant Season 11 would begin with a new companion. Producer, Barry Letts had already developed Jo and Liz Shaw before her but with Sarah Jane Smith he struck gold. Simply creating a character who defined as an investigative journalist fulfilled the requirements of the companion perfectly. The purpose of The Doctor’s companion is largely to ask the questions that the audience are pondering. Through those answers, the plot can be conveniently explained to viewers. Casting Sarah Jane Smith as an investigative journalist immediately instils the qualities of curiosity, a desire to learn and a questioning of events.

Elisabeth Sladen - Doctor Who -The Time Warrior (c) BBC
Elisabeth Sladen – Doctor Who -The Time Warrior (c) BBC

It is quite quickly revealed that Sarah has infiltrated the research complex by masquerading as her aunt. This demonstrates a bravery which would come in particularly handy over the next few years. That character was of course wonderfully brought to the screen by actress Elisabeth Sladen. Her warmth and likeable nature resulted in the famous ‘thumbs-up’ from Jon Pertwee. The rest, as they say, is history.

In addition to Sarah Jane Smith’s debut, this episode also saw the first appearance of the Sontarans. Having been seen throughout it was only in the cliffhanger that this new creature’s hideous visage was revealed…

Doctor Who -The Time Warrior (c) BBC
Doctor Who -The Time Warrior (c) BBC
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)

The Sontaran first appears from his crashed ship which itself is a brilliantly designed sphere. The creature too would become a design classic with the powerful shape, large collar and domed helmet with the similarly shaped head inside. He immediately claims the planet for the Sontaran empire, in a Robert Holmes subtle dig at the Americans planting a flag on the moon. It is only at the very end of the episode that Linx removes his helmet. Observed by the concealed Doctor, the Time Lord nods as if he recognises the alien. It is a typical Doctor Who cliffhanger, revealing the monster but is delivered perfectly. Perhaps it helped make the Sontarans so particularly memorable that a return appearance was inevitable. ‘The Sontaran Experiment’ even replicates this cliffhanger with a dramatic reveal of a Sontaran at the end of Part One.

‘The Time Warrior’ is an excellent story. It was the first foray into historical Earth for a little while, since ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ in 1967 and proved to be the Third Doctor’s only onscreen trip back in time. Like that story, the historical environment was added to with a futuristic science fiction element. These pseudo-historical stories would subsequently feature more often, most recently in The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived. However ‘The Time Warrior’ would prove to be rightly remembered for introducing us to two significant characters in Doctor Who’s history; Sarah Jane Smith and the Sontarans.


Jon Pertwee – The Doctor
Elisabeth Sladen – Sarah Jane Smith
Nicholas Courtney — Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
Kevin Lindsay — Linx
David Daker — Irongron
John J. Carney — Bloodaxe
Alan Rowe — Edward of Wessex
June Brown — Lady Eleanor
Jeremy Bulloch — Hal
Donald Pelmear — Professor Rubeish
Sheila Fay — Meg
Gordon Pitt — Eric
Steve Brunswick — Sentry


Directed – Alan Bromly
Written – Robert Holmes
Script Editor – Terrance Dicks
Produced – Barry Letts

Also First Aired On This Day…
  • Nightmare of Eden: Part Four
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures: Enemy of the Bane: Episode Two (BBC One)


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