The Visitation (Doctor Who)

The Visitation is the fourth serial of the 19th season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four twice-weekly parts on BBC1 from 15 to 23 February 1982.

119[1] The Visitation
Doctor Who serial
Directed byPeter Moffatt
Written byEric Saward
Script editorAntony Root
Produced byJohn Nathan-Turner
Executive producer(s)None
Incidental music composerPaddy Kingsland
Production code5X
SeriesSeason 19
Length4 episodes, 25 minutes each
First broadcast1523 February 1982
 Preceded by
Followed by 
Black Orchid

The serial is set in and near London in the 17th century. In the serial, a group of fugitive aliens called Terileptils plot to make the Earth their new home by spreading a deadly plague among humanity.


At the manor home of a 17th-century family, some unwelcome visitors arrive.

In the console room, the Fifth Doctor is talking with Adric about the events of their previous adventure on Deva Loka (Kinda). Meanwhile, Nyssa is helping Tegan pack, as they plan to land back at Heathrow shortly after she left to join the Doctor (in Logopolis). Tegan and Nyssa enter the console room to find that they have landed at Heathrow... just 300-some years early. Tegan is distressed and storms out of the TARDIS.

The four gather outside and immediately smell sulphur and head off to find the source. They are then attacked by villagers, but escape. In the confusion, Adric drops his homing device to find the TARDIS and the group is separated. Richard Mace, a highwayman and proclaimed thespian, encounters the group and takes them to safety inside a barn.

While questioning Mace, they find out that some kind of comet recently landed nearby. The Doctor knows it was no "comet" and takes immediate interest in the necklace Mace is wearing. It is actually a bracelet used for prisoner control. The group begins searching the barn and comes across several power packs, and since they are far more fragile than the necklace, it means there were survivors. And so they set off to the nearby manor of the person who owns the barn.

No one answers the front door, so the Doctor and Nyssa find a way in through a window. While searching the manor, they find more power packs, gunpowder and a mark from a high-energy weapon. The Doctor also notices that there is a wall where there shouldn't be one. And while he continues his investigation, Nyssa heads to the front door and lets the others in. But when they return to the wall, the Doctor is nowhere to be found. And as the four stand there trying to figure out where he's gone, a figure shuts and locks the door behind them.

The Doctor then appears through the wall and explains it is a holographic energy barrier. The group walks through and joins the Doctor. Once in the cellar, they notice the place smells of soliton gas. Also in the cellar are caged rats and the device emitting the gas. While the five are searching the room, the figure from before, an android, sneaks up on them. It succeeds in "stunning" Tegan and Adric, while the Doctor, Nyssa and Mace are forced to retreat.

The survivor is a Terileptil fugitive and interrogates Tegan and Adric about the Doctor. Meanwhile, the Doctor and the others find the Terileptil's ship near the manor while they plan on how to deal with the android: A sonic booster set up in the TARDIS might just deal with it. As they leave the ship, a group of villagers, all with the same device Mace found, approach them. They demand that the Doctor come with them, and when he refuses they attack. The three run back into the ship, now under siege by the villagers. The Doctor blasts open the rear hatch of the ship and the group escapes into the forest to find the TARDIS. The controlled villagers followed them at a distance.

Back in the manor, Tegan and Adric have been placed in a locked room. While Nyssa heads back to the TARDIS to work on the sonic booster, the Doctor and Mace decide to question the local miller—who appears to be able to come and go from the manor with ease. Tegan and Adric eventually escape and head up into the manor proper. Adric succeeds in jumping out a window before Tegan is recaptured by the android. Unable to solicit any response from the controlled miller, the Doctor and Mace decide to join Nyssa in the TARDIS. However, just as they are leaving the mill, they are confronted by real villagers and are about to be killed for being "plague carriers".

The Terileptil still needs the Doctor and sends the controlled Headman of the village in to stop them. The villagers then throw the Doctor and Mace into a room in the mill. At the manor, the Terileptil has placed a bracelet on Tegan. And back at the TARDIS, Adric arrives and assists Nyssa in setting up the sonic booster. The Doctor succeeds in disabling two of the bracelets and the Terileptil dispatches the android to retrieve them.

Minutes later, the android, in the guise of the Grim Reaper, bursts into the mill, frightens off the villagers, and takes the Doctor and Mace back to the manor where they find Tegan under the control of the bracelet. The Doctor encounters the Terileptil, but his offer to take him off Earth is rejected. The Terileptil instead plans to kill everyone on Earth and take the planet over. Mace is also equipped with a bracelet and the Doctor is thrown in a room where the Terileptil destroys his sonic screwdriver. The Terileptil brings in a cage with a rat and explains his plan: he is going to use genetically enhanced plague carried on the rats to devastate the population. The Terileptil leaves and the controlled Tegan prepares to open the cage.

The Doctor overcomes Mace and Tegan using spare power packs. The Terileptil leaves for his base in the nearby city and sends the android to take control of the TARDIS. The Doctor, Tegan and Mace escape and search the Terileptil's lab to find it completely empty. Mace tells the Doctor that the nearby city the Terileptil was referring to was London. The android arrives at the TARDIS and is successfully dealt with by the sonic booster Nyssa finished. Adric and Nyssa then move the TARDIS to meet the Doctor and the others at the manor.

Using the TARDIS scanner, the Doctor locates the Terileptil in London. The TARDIS rematerialises there and the five enter the building. With the Terileptil leader are two others who get the jump on the Doctor and Mace. They manage to stop them, but the Terileptil leader's weapon starts to overload and detonates. The resulting explosion destroys the building and starts a raging fire. Mace stays behind to fight the blaze as the Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric leave in the TARDIS.

It is revealed that the fire is at Pudding Lane, the location where the Great Fire of London started.

Broadcast and reception

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
1"Part One"24:1115 February 1982 (1982-02-15)9.1
2"Part Two"24:2616 February 1982 (1982-02-16)9.3
3"Part Three"24:2422 February 1982 (1982-02-22)9.9
4"Part Four"23:3223 February 1982 (1982-02-23)10.1

The story was repeated on BBC1 across four consecutive evenings from 15–18 August 1983, achieving viewing figures of 4.3, 4.6, 3.6 and 4.8 million viewers, respectively.[3]

At the time of original broadcast, the series as a whole was getting watched in 39 countries worldwide, with around 88 million viewers abroad and an average of 10 million in the domestic market.

Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping gave a favourable review of the serial in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), writing, "A good, hearty action romp, crisply written and engaging, although critics might say that it's too straight-forward. There's only one proper character (Richard Mace), which gives Peter Davison and Michael Robbins the space to turn in a pair of lovely performances. The end result is a stylish slice of pseudo-historical nonsense."[4] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker called The Visitation "a very enjoyable story, and one of the highlights of the season". They praised the location filming, but noted a weakness was "Matthew Waterhouse's peculiar performance as Adric".[5] In 2012, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times said that the story was "pedestrian in places, [but] Saward does execute one or two dramatic flourishes". He said that Davison was growing into the role and the companions given something to do despite being "variable", and was mixed towards the design of the Terileptils.[6] Reviewing the special-edition DVD release for SFX, Nick Setchfield gave The Visitation three-and-a-half out of five stars. He noted that it was a "throwback" and "built on capture-escape-capture storytelling, but it's brimful of oaky, shadowy 17th-century atmosphere".[7]

Peter Davison stated that The Visitation is one of his three favourite serials from his time on the programme.[8]

Commercial releases

In print

Doctor Who and the Visitation
AuthorEric Saward
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
19 August 1982

A novelisation of this serial, written by Eric Saward, was published by Target Books in August 1982. Its cover was originally to be painted like the other Target Doctor Who novels, but an objection by Peter Davison's agent resulted in a photographic cover being used instead. This was the only Peter Davison story to have its novelisation titled as Doctor Who and the... in its original edition. An unabridged recording of the Target novelisation was released in 2012, read by Matthew Waterhouse.[9]

A behind-the-scenes book following the production process of the story was printed by Andre Deutsch Limited in 1982. Text by Alan Road, illustrations by Richard Farley.

Home media

The Visitation was released on a VHS double pack with Black Orchid in July 1994. It was released on DVD-Video in the United Kingdom on 19 January 2004, and used material from the 16 mm film prints, which still exist in the BBC Archives. A special edition of the story with additional features was released on DVD on 6 May 2013. It was subsequently included in the 2018 Blu-Ray release of the entire 1982 Doctor Who season.


  1. From the Doctor Who Magazine series overview, in issue 407 (pp26-29). The Discontinuity Guide, which counts the unbroadcast serial Shada, lists this as story number 120. Region 1 DVD releases follow The Discontinuity Guide numbering system.
  2. "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  3. "Doctor Who Guide: broadcasting for The Visitation".
  4. Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The Visitation". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.
  5. Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. Mulkern, Patrick (19 January 2012). "Doctor Who: The Visitation". Radio Times. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  7. Setchfield, Nick (3 May 2013). "Doctor Who: The Visitation - Special Edition Review". SFX. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
  8. Masters, Tim (21 November 2013). "Peter Davison: 'I was quicker than most Doctors'". BBC News. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
  9. "Doctor Who THE VISITATION review AUDIOGO - EOH". Retrieved 2013-10-09.

Target novelisation

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