Magic Bullet Productions

38 Stupid Things about “Mawdryn Undead”
(And 12 Cool Ones) 
(But we're not telling you which is which) 
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)

By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore

Originally published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 456

1. Why did the Brigadier buy that car? He showed no real interest in vintage cars during the UNIT years, so either this is a new hobby, or he's got his personality mixed up with the Third Doctor's.

2.How many members of the viewing public are going to know who the Black Guardian is, especially since he last appeared in 1979, sporting a beard and a very different outfit?

3. For that matter, we don't even get the briefest explanation as to why he's pursuing the Doctor with such energy.

4. Also, although they've got Valentine Dyall and Nicholas Courtney back, you've also got Angus MacKay as the Headmaster, who previously played Borusa in “The Deadly Assassin”, and Borusa, who appeared earlier this season in “Arc of Infinity”, was played by Leonard Sachs. If you start trying to think all this through, it does your head in.

5. Forget the bird on his head, it's the chic leopard-skin lapels that really make the Black Guardian's outfit special.

6. “I may not be seen to act in this. I must not be involved”. Considering that the last time the Black Guardian met the Doctor, he was threatening to “disperse every particle of your being to the furthest reaches of eternity”, why's he suddenly going in for discretion now?

7. When William Russell proved unavailable, why did nobody do the logical thing and contact Jacqueline Hill, rather than trying to force either Harry Sullivan or, as it turned out, the Brigadier into a schoolteacher role?

8. Nyssa's Terrible DialogueWatch: “You will forget the Mara, Tegan. It won't always be as painful as it is now”.

9. What are the odds that Sheila Gill's character was written in entirely so that someone could begin a line with “Oh, Matron”?

10. If Mawdryn's spacecraft is in a “fixed orbit in time as well as space”, and has been for three thousand years, then the question remains of why the Tardis hasn't crashed into it before.

11. Or, for that matter, the Monk's Tardis, the Master's Tardis, the Rani's Tardis, the space/time teleporting bowler-hatted Time Lord seen in “Terror of the Autons”...

12. Between Mawdryn's ship and the Gallifrey scenes of “Arc of Infinity”, we're getting far too many alien civilisations which look like the foyers of 1980s hotels.

13. “It's more like the Queen Mary than a spaceship”, observes Tegan, and Nyssa refrains from saying, “please remember, I'm from an Impressionist-influenced alien civilisation light-years and centuries distant from yours, what the hell is this Queen Mary of whom you speak?”

14. And at that, why shouldn't a spaceship look like the Queen Mary? Who died and made Tegan the authority on what spacecraft interiors should look like?

15. “Ah, Headmaster, I trust you flogged that young man to within an inch of his life?” It was a much different time at the BBC in the 1980s.

16. While we normally quite like the modern souped-up special effects on the DVDs, we have to question why the designers think a three thousand-year-old spacecraft, from a different civilisation, would feature as entertainment what looks distinctly like a videogame from the 1980s.

17. Mind you, the fact that this graphic links in with the Doctor's observation that the inhabitants would need to be entertained “for a very long time. Possibly through infinity” might make this a sly jab at the addictive properties of simple videogames.

18. “If you took more regular exercise, Ibbotson, not only would your body be less disgusting, but you'd enjoy a healthier imagination”. And the Brigadier gets altogether too personal.

19. The reason why Mawdryn isn't aboard the spaceship in 1983, is because the events which occur when the Tardis goes back to the spaceship in 1977, which are in the Doctor and his companions' immediate future, have already taken place.

20. The Tardis toolkit, previously seen in “Earthshock” and “Arc of Infinity”, makes another appearance. We're getting a little bit sick of it now.

21. There's a logical explanation for why the Tardis goes back to 1977 when the transmat control unit blows up – because it's the year the transmat capsule first landed on Earth – which is completely rogered by the fact that the Tardis arrives before the transmat capsule.

22. The Doctor, in Part Two, says “I must have miscalculated the offset”. But for him to miscalculate it so precisely seems a little odd.

23. In Part Three, Mawdryn and Nyssa theories that it's because of the warp ellipse causing temporal anomalies. So that's three attempts to cover it, none of them completely satisfactory.

24. “I hate those transmat things. Like traveling in a food mixer, and just as dangerous”. A line which raises the question of exactly when Tegan actually traveled in a transmat, and why she's taken against them to such a degree.

25. It makes a certain amount of sense that Tegan and Nyssa think that Mawdryn is the Doctor when they find him in the transmat capsule, because they believe they've arrived in 1983, and don't know there are two versions of the same time capsule in two different time zones. However, since the audience does know this, and can quite clearly see that it's a different man, their confusion is less convincing.

26. It makes considerably less sense that the 1983 version of the Brigadier assumes Mawdryn is the Doctor when he encounters him aboard the ship in Part Three, since at that point he looks nothing like him and the Brigadier's assumption is simply based on the Doctor's observation that a piece of machinery called the Metamorphic Symbiosis Regenerator could do “very nasty things to a genuine Time Lord”. 

27. Since when are UNIT a secret organisation? They're clearly well known to the British and international authorities during the Pertwee Era.

28. How is the Brigadier capable of maintaining such a total memory block on the existence of the Doctor, since his activities with UNIT must be a matter of some public record? Even if the fact that the Doctor's an alien from the planet Gallifrey is hushed up, and if by some bizarre occurrence his name never came up when the Brigadier spoke with Benton or Harry Sullivan, he would at least be on the record as UNIT's scientific advisor.

29. And how is it that the Brigadier has apparently never spoken with Yates, Jo, Liz or Sarah Jane in the intervening years?

30. Of course, it's an idea which would work perfectly for Ian Chesterton/Barbara Wright, who just disappeared from a junkyard in 1963 and turned up a couple of years later. The only witness to the events in between was Barbara Wright/Ian Chesterton (Delete where applicable).

31. And actually would work perfectly well with Harry Sullivan, most of whose adventures with the Doctor took place off of Earth.

32. UNIT ContinuityWatch: Sorry, fans, UNIT continuity was rogered long before “Mawdryn Undead” came along, since “Terror of the Autons” can't take place any later than mid-1971 (due to signs referring to the Ministry of Technology, disbanded in late 1970), and “The Mind of Evil” is stated to take place a year later, and this is completely irreconcilable with the idea that Sarah Jane comes from 1980 as stated in “Pyramids of Mars” and “The Web of Fear” takes place in 1975. Stephen James Walker has come up with a fantastic theory which rationalises all of this, but we can’t for the life of us remember what it is.

33. We know it's 1977 because a team of strapping young men turn up in Silver Jubilee T-shirts. As opposed to, say, them slouching past with piercings, multi-coloured Mohican haircuts and Sex Pistols gear.

34. “The Brigadier had always enjoyed a good crisis – not to mention the company of a pretty girl. He poured [Tegan] a generous measure of his best malt”. That's from the novelisation, and you can make of it what you will.

35. “Already the elements of chance are ranged against the Doctor” (The Black Guardian, Part One) “What worries me is the level of coincidence in all this" (The Doctor, Part Two). Is this metatextual, or just an attempt at a get-out?

36. Why does Mawdryn say in Part Two that he intends to become a Time Lord, when in fact that isn't his intention at all?

37. Where is Nyssa looking when she calls to Tegan outside the Tardis in Part Two? Tegan and the Brigadier come into shot from a completely different direction.

38. The Brigadier says he's seen regeneration “twice before”. He hasn't. He only actually saw the Doctor regenerating in “Planet of the Spiders”. Perhaps he's suffered another memory loss prior to this story?

39. Why does Nyssa say in Part Three that they can't leave Turlough, since at this point in the story she should believe he's been atomised by the transmat?

40. The Blinovitch Limitation Effect's use here is not incompatible with “Day of the Daleks” – the reason why a time traveller can't go back along their own timeline and undo their previous actions is because it would create a paradox, and meeting themselves is just a further wrinkle on that.

41. If the mutants can take on the appearance of the natives of other planets, why don't they do that, since the version with the exposed brain doesn't look very comfortable?

42. Presumably the guidance relay in the obelisk was placed there by the people who exiled the mutants in the first place. However, the question still remains of how it got there, specifically, since the mutants have been in exile for three thousand years.

43. The Doctor says he's only regenerated four times. Which would imply the earlier incarnations seen in “The Brain of Morbius” were part of an earlier cycle of regenerations (as in “The Time of the Doctor”).

44. Turlough and the Black Guardian could easily be taken out of the narrative entirely. That's actually not a problem, because clearly, the events of the story originally happened without them being present, however, the Black Guardian plans to use Turlough to change history by getting him to stop the Brigadier touching himself (yes, yes, we know) and releasing the burst of energy needed at that precise moment, meaning the Doctor will have to give up his future regenerations to save the mutants. So it does make sense  but only after some thought from the audience, and there's nothing to encourage the audience to put in the effort.

45. Also, the way it's played in Part Four, it's like the Black Guardian has only now thought of keeping the two Brigadiers apart, which makes no sense whatsoever.

46. Actually, why aren't the Doctor and the Brigadier affected by the virus? Possibly, it's some kind of magic alien virus that requires direct skin-to-skin contact with one of the mutants to transmit.

47. Why don't both Brigadiers lose their memories when they touch?

48. Since we haven't seen Doctor Runciman in some time, and since he's now made up to be his younger, 1977, self, viewers might be forgiven for wondering who the hell he is when he turns up at the end of Part Four.

49. Things in this story that aren't coincidence: The Tardis comes across Mawdryn's ship, which is caught in a warp ellipse, and is forced to materialise aboard it to avoid collision. The crew learn that a transmat capsule left the ship six years previously, landing on Earth in 1977. The Doctor takes the transmat back to Earth in 1983 to fix the beam so it will switch off properly, but breaks the unit. In 1977, Nyssa and Tegan find the capsule, with Mawdryn aboard. The Tardis reverses its coordinates and lands back on the ship in 1983.

50. Things in this story that are pure coincidence: Mawdryn stole technology from Gallifrey and has wound up in a tormented state which only the Doctor can resolve. Turlough  who isn't a normal human boy, but secretly an alien with the knowhow to operate such a device  finds the transmat capsule and travels to Mawdryn's ship. The Tardis materialises briefly in 1983 but then goes back to 1977, before the transmat capsule gets there. Tegan meets the Brigadier in 1977. Mawdryn is burnt, and is of a similar physical type to Peter Davison, meaning Nyssa and Tegan mistake him for the Doctor. The Brigadier, who was given the homing device by Tegan in 1977, gives it to the Doctor in 1983, and he uses it to detect that the Tardis is aboard Mawdryn's ship in 1983. There are eight mutants, and eight regenerations remaining for the Doctor to give them. The two Brigadiers touch at precisely the moment the countdown reaches zero.


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