The Visitation

The Visitation
The Visitation.jpg
Season: 19
Episode: 4
Vital statistics
Air date 15 - 23 February 1982
Written by Eric Saward
Directed by Peter Moffatt
Episode guide
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Kinda Black Orchid

The Visitation is the fourth serial of the 19th season in the British science fiction programme Ye Olde Doctor Whome, which has been described (inaccurately) as a "throwback" (like a very small fish I suppose) and "built on capture-escape-capture storytelling, but ... brimful of oaky, shadowy 17th century atmosphere", possibly meaning it had too much “another daring escape!” story padding and that you’d end up craving some wine to dull any senses left undulled.  But what the hell do I know, I’ve never seen it before, WHOOOOOO!

Vapid Trivia Section For This Episode

  • Trigger warning for iPhone hipsters: The Doctor's sonic screwdriver gets destroyed "forever" in this story. Why? Because your friend and mine John Nothing-Turner said it was too easy a way of solving the Doctor's problems (and may have even vetoed a scene at the end where the Doctor gets another one from a room full of them in the TARDIS).  The sonic screwdriver was never seen again until a regenerated and naked Doctor (Paul McGann) pulled one from nowhere like an arse gun during his early scenes in the Doctor Who television movie, which certainly made that film worth waiting for, right?... right?...  
  • Anyway, Erin C-Word also wrote this damned thing and it was one of the only five episodes produced by JNT that managed to trick 10 million viewers or more into sitting through it, something most of them vowed to never do again. Sewered was of course hired on the spot as script editor after submitting it.
  • What’s that, you want more trivia?  How about how a couple of working titles for this one were The Invasion of the Plague Men despite featuring no such men, and Plague Rats which reveals part of the plot too soon? Still, both of those really feel metaphorically appropriate for JNT’s run on the show, don't they?
  • More trivia? You Doctor Who masochist. Well this one’s a bit cool, maybe: turns out that part of the Terilepton laboratory re-uses a "Hymetusite crystal" from The Horns of Nimon; I sorta tried to watch for that while I watched this story but I must have missed it.  Or slept through that part.  OK, so that one’s not all that cool, that’s why it’s called “trivia.”
  • The Doctor ends up being responsible for some big fire in London and runs like a coward after it's started. This could have been a cute moment but was done in such a rushed and off-handed manner that it doesn't really have any weight.

Carefully Collated List of Notable Story Events & Divers Scenes, Listed Roughly by Episode & in Order of Occurrence:

OK, let’s not put this off anymore - Part One

A lady on a Black Adder set looks outside just exactly when a light zooms across the sky and turns into some stock footage of fireworks, then tells her dad about it in a high school stage production of Jane Eyre.  The light was a spaceship falling to Earth, or perhaps it was one of those old computers from the 1980s where the screen and keyboard are all built into one unit - who the hell knows? We see this thing for all of about three seconds and then cut back to the Costume Drama family. Christ, this is going to be another editing disaster isn’t it?  The woman’s brother has a lot of Chekhov guns and gets to use one against an attacking, heavy-breathing MonsterVision-Cam.  A perfectly JNT-esque glam-robot breaks in just as the woman misses her cue to start running - the episode is less than five minutes old and already has a base under siege.  Then we hear a forty year old truck engine.

Adric is annoying and not even the nicest Doctor ever, Fivey, likes him.  Tegan thinks she’s going home, ha ha!  She also seems to think she can just merrily go home “half an hour” after she first boarded the TARDIS and everything will be OK, forgetting that THE MASTER KILLED HER AUNT about half an hour before she got on board.  Plus I don’t understand why anyone would want to go back to 1981, Thatcher and Reagan were in office and Doctor Who was going down the goddamn tubes.  Adric flips off someone standing behind your left shoulder.  The TARDIS Gang meet some 17th century highwaymen who are defeated by one wispy blond guy in his early 30s wearing celery, two girls and a lad whose first impulse in a fight is to drop to the ground on all fours, hm… Adric then compounds his usefulness by losing his TARDIS homing device and managing to twist his ankle within one fucking minute, I love this character!   Some other highwayman kind of a guy, who claims to be an actor (cough), offers to help them for no reason.  The Doctor points a gun at Tegan and must have been sorely tempted.  Adric says hello like a prat and the Doctor finds a fascinating wall.   The cliffhanger ending occurs when the glitzy-bot locks everyone in a stairwell.

The Second Part: Things Get Dodgy

Part Two starts off by sucking the air out of Part One’s cliffhanger in like two goddamn seconds.  Nyssa stands directly in front of Fivey while touching a breathing honeydew melon right the fuck after he’s told Tegan not to touch anything.  The glam-bot zaps Tegan and the Helpful Highwayman so Nyssa flees while Adric fights the robot and the Doctor does… something.  Adric ends up on the floor and the Doctor also flees after making a bullshit threat to the very slowly-reacting glam-bot while synth arpeggios flutter about on the musical score.  In the greatest fit of anger Fivey has ever mustered on-screen, he shakes his head and asks why Earth people “so parochial?”  Damn dude, calm the fuck down yo!  A growly voice comes from a rubber alien who’s half-lizard and half salad, has no arms past his elbows, a stiff jaw and a breathing problem.

The Doctor meets a happy-looking "salad lizard."

A man controlled by the alien saves a cute little bunny.   The zombie-slow gem-bot, leading Tegan and Adric to a dungeon cell, fucking turns its goddamn back on them to open it, so why the hell didn’t they run when they had the chance?  Once inside, NOW they agree they have to escape, argh!!  The alien pants and holds up a blue vial.  Adric and Tegan are pretty fucking useless at escaping.  The Doctor and the Helpful Highwayman duck while Nyssa closes a door on the backdrop painting of the forest outside.  A controlled villager talks to the alien on a bad cell phone connection.  Tegan manages to escape, doesn’t help Adric out and listens at a nearby door while the Helpful Highwayman says he desires a horse.  The glam-bot is a very bad shot while the Doctor and the helpful highwayman are about to be executed!

Part Three: Nyssa In The TARDIS

Nyssa entertains herself - and us - while alone on the TARDIS.

In Part Three, the Doctor and the Helpful Highwayman are beheaded - no, just kidding, but I bet you really thought it had happened back then in 1982, the show ended and everything, huh?   All in the space of about twenty seconds we see:

  • Nyssa tidy up her room
  • Adric run out a gate
  • The alien breathes heavily

The editing on this story hasn’t been as bad as some from this era, but that sequence of unconnected shots? Fucking terrible.

“Listen to the state of this fool’s brain!”  Tegan gets a new mind-controlling bracelet and the alien tells her “Do not fight it and you will feel no pain” twice, which is kind of rapey if you think about it.  An old man faints badly.  You can hear Nyssa drop a tool off-camera.  Remember what I said about the editing being ok back in Episode One?  Episode Three completely erased that good will less than ten minutes in, what with these five different scenes running all at once:

  • The Doctor and Helpful Highwayman trying to escape a barn
  • The controlled villagers getting ready to burn said barn (and failing)
  • The alien sending the glam-bot to bring the Doctor back
  • Adric and Nyssa working on a device for the Doctor
  • Tegan packing up blue vials (in what is admittedly one hell of a wildly inventive and riveting moment unlike any packing scenes before on Doctor Who)

Adric doesn’t see something important on the TARDIS scanner and really is a less effective a character than the Doctor during this era.  Nyssa tells Adric he can’t do anything for Tegan and he casually delivers his character's truest lines ever, “No… I can’t do anything for anyone.  I can’t even help you on that.”  Nyssa looks into the camera and asks “why won’t he listen to me?” and then looks into the camera again when he gets captured outside.  The alien loads a cart and looks even dumber wearing a black cloak.  The alien has thousands of cute infected black rats (yes, actual live rats!  Still not as cool as that one time they had a real live bear though).  Tegan starts to open a rat box for the dramatic cliffhanger!   This story has seriously wandered too far afield, like my attention.  

Part Four: Fuck Off, JNT-Era Doctor Who

Nyssa keeps working on that device for the Doctor in the TARDIS, there's some empty box stacking (a true highlight that showcases the quality BBC set and prop design), and the Doctor uses a safety pin like his old sonic screwdriver, contradicting what JNT had just fucking said about the sonic screwdriver - let me quote myself above to make clear just how inane this was, “John Nothing-Turner said [the sonic screwdriver] was too easy a way of solving the Doctor's problems”.  Adric hides behind a tree then follows Death (perhaps a hint of what was to come?).  The Doctor really starts getting fucking sick of Tegan, the glam-bot doesn’t hit Adric hard enough or enough times, the Foley artist misses his cue when Nyssa unplugs the device and by this point I was wondering why an alien who looks like a rotting fish would have a robot with a distinctly human face.  Nyssa looks into the camera again - who was directing this?  Hadn’t she ask Adric for advice on how to act for television by now?   Then motherfucking ADRIC PILOTS THE TARDIS exactly to where the Doctor, Tegan and the Helpful Highwayman are locked inside the house. OK story, that’s it - you have now not only bored me but kicked me in the balls too, so fuck you.  I think the Doctor’s just about as pissed at everybody as I am.  The TARDIS frightens a horse in London while all three aliens are getting high off the breathing honeydew melon.  The Doctor stands beneath a sign listing the superior Doctor who preceded him and starts a fire while the alien starts blowing bubbles and the entire lame pudding goes up in flames.


The Helpful Highwayman was an interesting enough side character, decently played by a gravelly-voiced actor who gives the impression of being a hobo they found sleeping outside the studio's trash cans, or a British thespian Cookie Monster who's been chain smoking for several years minus the blue fur.  He felt natural enough for the time period and fun enough to hang out with, he'd have been a much better continuing companion than these boring kids the Doctor let hang off his legs at the time.  

The story began by setting things up decently enough, making no worse missteps than many previous Doctor Who stories - meaning not everything worked and it was all a bit dull - but the show has been doing that for nineteen seasons by this point, so we're all pretty used to that. But… I wanted to like this one at first, but faced another defeat before the end - curse you JNT, you win again!!  I’ve seen worse Daveyson episodes to be sure, so this one qualifies for “bearable” by comparison, if not by much.  

Oh what the hell. Look, I'm jaded as hell about JNT and hate what the show became after he took charge, but some of you fuckers mysteriously seem to like his trash and what do I know anyway, I like Doctor Who. So what the hell - watch this, love it and go nuts, so it goes. I'll admit it's probably one of the better Raisonson stories - but understand just what that implies.


  • Far too much arsing about in episodes two and three that only leads to a...
  • Rushed ending (this could have maybe been a decent two-parter, unlike the next story…)  
  • Some amateurish stage direction is painfully obvious
  • Glam-glitz-bot with a human face
  • Nyssa does mostly fuck-all around the TARDIS for like ten solid minutes to blow up the razzmatazz-bot
  • Adric whines, is useless, doesn't get beat up enough, pilots the TARDIS and isn’t dead yet