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You may wish to consult Enlightenment (disambiguation) for other, similarly-named pages.

Enlightenment was the fifth and penultimate serial in season 20 of Doctor Who. It saw the introduction of the Eternals. It also saw the conclusion of the Black Guardian trilogy, with the redemption of Turlough and the first appearance of the White Guardian since The Ribos Operation.

A large number of model shots were used in this story to create the racing scenes and their associated locations.


Materialising on an Edwardian sailing yacht in space, the Fifth Doctor and his companions Tegan and Turlough find themselves caught up in a mysterious and deadly race. The prize is Enlightenment - the wisdom to find your heart's desire - and it quickly becomes clear that one of the crews will let nothing and no-one stop them claiming victory.

As the Black Guardian pressures Turlough to complete his side of their murderous pact, it seems that the Doctor may not survive to cross the finish line...


Part one[]

Turlough's sabotage of the TARDIS has left the control room dark and on backup lights until the systems are repaired. Tegan and Turlough play chess. The Doctor thinks he hears a voice calling him, and instructs Turlough and Tegan to increase the power as he walks into the corridor. He sees the White Guardian having trouble materialising in the TARDIS. Although it is hard to make out what the Guardian is saying, the Doctor learns that danger awaits him, and he is given a set of coordinates. Before the White Guardian can explain further, the Black Guardian appears and interrupts the communication.

The Doctor sets the coordinates and the TARDIS materialises in what appears to be a ship's hold. Leaving Tegan in the TARDIS in case the White Guardian tries to contact them again, he and Turlough leave to explore, barely avoiding one of the officers. The officer has a mechanical, blank expression and is dressed in an Edwardian naval uniform.

Dinner Party

The Doctor and Tegan have dinner.

The Doctor and Turlough enter a room and find it occupied by the crew of the ship. After being ignored and then confronted by the crew, who think the Doctor is their new cook ("Doctor" being seaman's slang for ship's cook), the Doctor speaks with them and learns that they remember nothing of coming aboard. They have been below decks the whole time and the ship has been entered in some sort of race.

Back in the TARDIS, the White Guardian makes contact again and gives Tegan a message: "winner takes all". Tegan leaves to go find the Doctor, and she meets the ship's first mate, Marriner.

An officer with the same distant look escorts the Doctor and Turlough to see Captain Striker, who offers them dinner. The Doctor is surprised to see Tegan there as well, and she relays the White Guardian's message to him. As they have dinner and talk with Striker, it is announced that the wind is picking up and that the race has begun. They go to the wheelhouse, where the Doctor sees a map of the race course, complete with "marker buoys" which he recognises as the planets of Earth's solar system. Marriner operates anachronistic electronic controls; a video screen activates to show the other contestants — a Greek trireme, a 17th century pirate ship and other vessels from different times, all floating in deep space.

Part two[]

It is revealed that Striker and his officers are Eternals, beings who live in the "trackless wastes of eternity". They are also immortal, as opposed to the Doctor and his companions, who are "Ephemerals".

Greek fireworks

The Greek's ship explodes.

When Striker uses the video screen to observe his competitors, the Doctor notes the period detail aboard the Greek trieme — where the captain, Critas, and his crew are dressed in the fashion of Ancient Greece — is all correct. However, when an image of Critas himself appears on the screen, the Doctor notices Critas is wearing an anachronistic 17th century Spanish signet ring with a large red crystal. As the ships round Venus, the trireme suddenly explodes when it tries to overtake the pirate ship. Striker believes it was the gravitational pull that did it, but the Doctor suspects otherwise.

Tegan feels ill, so Marriner escorts her to a room which she soon realises is a mixture of her room in the TARDIS and her bedroom back home in Brisbane - the Eternals have been reading her mind. Marriner seems quite taken by Tegan, finding her mind fascinating and full of life.

In conversation with Striker, the Doctor learns that Eternals use Ephemerals for their thoughts and ideas. The Eternals have lived for so long they are unable to think for themselves. They need human minds to give them existence and entertainment — that is why the ships use human crews. The purpose of the race, however, is more than entertainment. The prize is Enlightenment, the wisdom to know everything.

The TARDIS is found by the Eternals, who make it vanish. Trapped on board the Edwardian ship, the Doctor and his companions go on deck in space suits. Turlough hears the voice of the Black Guardian taunting him, saying that he is doomed to eternal life aboard the ship. Unable to take the strain, he leaps overboard into space.

Part three[]

Turlough is rescued by the Buccaneer, the pirate ship commanded by Captain Wrack. She sadistically toys with him with her knife, but he convinces her that he jumped overboard to throw in his lot with her and to find out her secret for winning the race. Wrack sends her first mate to present Captain Davey, one of the other competitors, with a red-jewelled sword, and sends party invitations to the to all the captains of the ships.

On board the Edwardian ship, Striker refuses the invitation, but the Doctor accepts, hoping to retrieve Turlough. Marriner offers to escort Tegan and the Doctor to the Buccaneer.

An asteroid storm hits the ships, and as Davey's ship draws level with the Buccaneer, Wrack takes Turlough down to the hold and shows him the entrance to a locked chamber with a vacuum shield, but leaves him outside when she enters. Through the door, Turlough hears the voice of the Black Guardian. Davey's ship then explodes, apparently hit by an asteroid. The Doctor, though, again suspects otherwise, especially since, like Critas's ship, Davey was also challenging the Buccaneer.

Ship ahoy

The race continues.

On board the Buccaneer for the party, the Doctor and Tegan mingle while Turlough sneaks off to examine the locked chamber. He finds an eye-shaped grid open to space, but a pirate locks the door and turns off the vacuum shield. Fortunately, the Doctor finds Turlough before he suffocates.

The Doctor notices the eye-shaped projector above the grid. He theorises that this must be how Wrack transmits the power to destroy the other ships, with some sort of focus. He remembers Critas was wearing an out-of-period clasp with a red crystal, and Turlough tells him that Wrack's gift to Davey had a similar jewel. The Doctor realises the red crystals are the focus. Before they can act on their discovery, however, they are captured by Wrack's first mate.

Meanwhile, Wrack has managed to lure Tegan away from the party to her wheelhouse. She freezes her in time and plants a red crystal in her tiara.

Part four[]

Brought before Wrack, Turlough accuses the Doctor of being a spy and claims he was trying to capture him. Wrack sends the Doctor, Tegan and Marriner back to the Edwardian ship. The Doctor believes Turlough is trying to prove himself trustworthy by stopping Wrack. Unfortunately, Wrack sees into Turlough's mind. She is about to sentence him to walk to plank. She pauses when Turlough tells her that he, too, serves the Black Guardian.

As the ships near the crystalline space station of the Enlighteners, the Buccaneer pulls level with the Edwardian ship. Wrack brings Turlough again to the chamber, this time letting him witness her summoning the power of the Black Guardian. The Doctor, seeing the Buccaneer pull close, realises the focus must have been smuggled aboard somehow. When he describes it, Tegan tells him about the crystal in the tiara. The Doctor smashes the crystal, but only multiplies the power by the number of fragments.

The Doctor gathers the pieces, rushes up to the deck and, just in time, hurls them overboard. They explode. The wind dies and Wrack pulls ahead of the Edwardian ship. The Doctor demands the TARDIS be released to him to stop Wrack from winning and Striker reveals that it was concealed in the Doctor's own mind. Travelling in it to the Buccaneer, the Doctor tries to reason with Wrack, but her first mate shows up with Turlough and she orders the Doctor thrown into space. While Tegan watches from the Edwardian ship, two bodies are ejected into space and the Buccaneer reaches the finish. Marriner is fascinated by the grief that Tegan experiences while believing the Doctor was killed by Wrack. The human crew of the Buccaneer vanish as Tegan, Striker and Marriner board to give their respects to the victor.

Wrack and Mansell in Space

Wrack and Mansell in the void of space.

The Enlighteners turn out to be the Black and White Guardians and the winner is the Doctor, who brought the ship in with Turlough's help when Wrack and her first mate met with an "accident." The Doctor, however, refuses the diamond crystal holding Enlightenment, saying that he's not ready for it. The White Guardian dismisses Striker and Marriner. Marriner resists; he wants to stay with Tegan. However, neither Tegan nor the White Guardian is moved by his pleading. He and Striker vanish into eternity.

As Turlough helped the Doctor bring the ship in, he is entitled to a portion of the prize. The Black Guardian reminds Turlough of their bargain and says that he can give up the diamond or sacrifice the Doctor to gain both Enlightenment and the TARDIS.

Turlough struggles with the decision, then hurls the diamond at the Black Guardian, who screams as he vanishes in flames. Taking out his contact cube, Turlough finds that what was once also a diamond is now nothing more than a lump of black, cracked carbon; he tosses it into the flames. The Doctor points out that Enlightenment was not the diamond, but the choice itself. The White Guardian warns again that the Black Guardian will return, even angrier now that he has been thwarted twice, and then vanishes. Turlough asks the Doctor to take him back to his home planet, and the Doctor agrees.


Uncredited cast[]



Astronomical objects[]

Foods and beverages[]

  • The Doctor replaces his celery at the party.
  • The Doctor takes a glass of champagne to stop Tegan from taking it.
  • Red wine and rum are also drunk.


  • Tegan and Turlough play a game of chess while the Doctor works on the TARDIS.


  • The Eternals put a photograph of Tegan's aunt Vanessa in her cabin.
  • Farley and Wade were abducted from Earth.



  • The turbulence the TARDIS experiences is time override, according to the Doctor.
  • During the partial blackout, the Doctor use an electric torch to inspect his TARDIS.


Story notes[]

  • The original title for this story was The Enlighteners. Eric Saward changed the title as he believed it might confuse viewers as the two enlighteners weren’t seen until the end of the story.
  • Peter Sallis was booked to play Captain Striker, as Fiona Cumming recalled that he had played a similarly detached character in the 1974 BBC drama The Pallisers. Sallis did attend one day of rehearsal before a strike started and production dates were changed. Sallis was signed up to a Last of the Summer Wine special and so could not make the dates. So, Keith Barron was cast instead. David Rhule was originally cast as Mansell, but he also had to drop out, so singer Leee John replaced him at short notice, despite having no previous acting experience.
  • Every story during Season 20 had the Doctor face an enemy from each of his past incarnations, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the programme. In this trilogy, the enemy was the Black Guardian, who last faced the fourth incarnation at the conclusion of the Key to Time saga in The Armageddon Factor (1979).
  • This was the first Doctor Who production to have been both written and directed by women, Barbara Clegg and Fiona Cumming respectively. The second, The Witchfinders, also starred a woman as the Doctor.
  • The Doctor replaces his stalk of celery with one from Captain Wrack's ship. Rather curiously, both stalks come from buffets which are essentially figments of other people's imagination (Castrovalva and the Buccaneer both being "unreal").
  • The TARDIS camera is located in the beacon atop the police box; Lieutenant Marriner climbs to the top of the ship to peer inside, but apparently cannot hear Tegan.
  • Although the dialogue in which he gives the information is inaudible, the script (or lip-reading his initial message) makes it clear that the White Guardian's mission is for the Doctor to stop Wrack winning the race, which would have devastating consequences for the whole universe.
  • Although it is popularly believed that the story originally featured a suspenseful scene where Wrack and Mansell menace the Doctor at knifepoint in the TARDIS control room which was cut at the editing stage, this is not the case. The photographs that exist of this were specially posed for publicity purposes only.
  • The plot is similar to that of The War Games: both involve aliens abducting humans from various points in Earth's history and using them for their own ends.
  • Barbara Clegg's extended family spanned several social strata, and she noted with interest the way that her wealthier relations interacted with their poorer kin. Clegg was reminded of gods toying with lesser mortals, and this led to her creation of the Eternals. She also sought inspiration in the Bible, deriving the prize of Enlightenment from the Tree of Knowledge in the Book of Genesis. Finally, Clegg seized upon the image of solar winds — actually streams of charged particles ejected from the Sun — to develop the premise of the Eternals racing through the solar system.
  • It was originally intended that Jackson would not reappear after the second episode, but during filming Eric Saward became concerned that it appeared that he had been executed and so he and Clegg rewrote part three to include him.
  • Because part three was discovered to be running short, scenes from part four were brought forward and the final scenes with the Guardians were extended to compensate.
  • Barbara Clegg was a fan of the series and wrote the serial to please her children.
  • Richard Griffiths, Nigel Hawthorne, Donald Houston and Michael Jayston were considered for Jackson.
  • Glenda Jackson was offered the role of Captain Wrack.
  • Fiona Cumming came up with the idea that the Eternals would not blink and cast actors who she believed could provide detached performances.
  • The interior sets of the boats were not built specifically for the programme, but were pulled together from stock items from various prop warehouses.
  • Fiona Cumming had originally hoped to simulate the rocking of the ships by mounting the sets on rollers, but the idea was dropped due to costs. The effect was achieved by moving the cameras instead.
  • The photo of Tegan's Aunt Vanessa, one of the items created by Marriner from the contents of her mind, was shot specifically for the filming, requiring Dolore Whiteman (who had played the character in Logopolis) to be contracted for a one-day photoshoot.
  • The models of the boats, used in the racing sequences, were props sourced by visual effects designer Mike Kelt following extensive research at the National Maritime Museum.
  • The ships were mounted on rods for filming, while the oars were battery operated. The model of Davey's ship remained intact, with explosion being a filmed effect that was edited into the sequence.
  • Mike Kelt was shocked by the dilapidated state of the TARDIS console prop, and was worried about damaging it while filming the explosion from part one. When he asked John Nathan-Turner if he could replace it, he was told there was no money available.
  • The futuristic spacesuits on the Edwardian ship, which Tegan initially thinks are scuba divers' wetsuits, were actually heavy-duty overalls that had been painted black.
  • Janet Fielding struggled with the low cut ball-gown she wore during filming, as it threatened to expose her breasts on a number of occasions. At one point, Peter Davison concluded a line with the ad-lib, “Oh, and Tegan, put your boobs back in!” whereupon Fielding realised that she had accidentally exposed herself.
  • The ball gown worn by Lynda Baron was made especially for the serial and was the most expensive costume on display.
  • The newspaper found by the Doctor in part one was a reprint of The Times from September 1901, while the food and drink served during the party scenes was all real.
  • Mark Strickson was injured while filming the scene of Turlough throwing himself overboard, when the Kirby wire he was suspended from broke, leaving him only able to walk with difficulty for several weeks.
  • During filming, the electricians union, the EEPTU, had begun strike action, which disrupted the filming of a number of BBC productions and potentially meant the final three serials of the season would have to be abandoned. The electricians dispute was settled, but it badly affected the series recording schedule. The crew were able to shoot the following serial The King's Demons on schedule, meaning that there was only one recording block left for the part-completed Enlightenment and the planned season finale, The Return. With some filming already completed, and its importance in concluding the Black Guardian story-arc, it was decided that Enlightenment should take precedence and so it had its second production block moved to January 1983, while The Return was abandoned. Due to the delays, the serial only finished filming around a month before its transmission date, meaning that composer Malcolm Clarke only received the first episode for scoring a week before broadcast, having to rely on musical cues he had recorded weeks earlier without having seen any footage.
  • Barbara Clegg and Cyril Luckham had previously starred in a stage production of Anthony and Cleopatra.
  • Eric Saward takes the credit for getting Barbara Clegg the writing job, citing the lack of female writers on the show. They knew each other from working in radio.
  • Peter Davison thought it was an excellent script, while Mark Strickson felt that only a woman could write the intensity seen onscreen.
  • Fiona Cumming was disappointed that Barbara Clegg was never asked to write for the show again. The two met for the first time when recording the DVD commentary, claiming that they were forbidden to meet. Clegg described discussing anything with Eric Saward as uncomfortable.
  • Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson all disliked the dynamic that had developed between the characters, with Davison wondering why the Doctor would want to travel with a pair that was often portrayed in such a disagreeable light. John Nathan-Turner accepted their criticism, and encouraged them to work together to improve the characterisation.
  • The first draft of part one did not contain any of the material concerning the Guardians, and Turlough was a peripheral figure, with the script focussing on the relationship between Marriner and Tegan.
  • Eric Saward rewrote portions of the script pertaining to the story-arc, particularly the final confrontation scenes at the end of part four.
  • Peter Moffatt had been originally scheduled as the serial's director, but following the problems with the later abandoned Space Whale script, he was asked to helm its replacement due to his experience, and so Fiona Cumming was asked to take over.
  • Barbara Clegg gave many of the Eternals names with nautical connotations. Captain Striker's surname came from a steamboating term for an engineer's apprentice, while Marriner was a slight corruption of “mariner”. Captain Wrack took her surname from an archaic word for a shipwreck. Critas the Greek was inspired by Critias, one of the dialogues of Plato which told the story of Atlantis. Captain Davey was an allusion to the phrase “Davy Jones' locker”, meaning the depths of the ocean.
  • Fiona Cumming had to relinquish an assignment on the soap opera Take The High Road in order to complete the serial.
  • The Black and White Guardians' role was originally filled by beings called the Enlighteners.
  • Eric Saward asked Barbara Clegg to provide an additional ninety seconds of content for episode one, and a further two minutes for episode two. Clegg added dialogue between the sailors and Turlough about the America and Jackson's attempted rebellion.


  • Part one - 6.6 million viewers
  • Part two - 7.2 million viewers
  • Part three - 6.2 million viewers
  • Part four - 7.3 million viewers

Filming locations[]

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • In part one when the ship experiences turbulence, the liquid in the glasses doesn't. The effect used to achieve the shake — that is, literally shaking the camera — doesn't actually have a physical impact on anything in the shot.
  • The cliffhangers and reprises in the next episode don't always match in this story. Of course, none of the following are evident in the 21st century "special edition" omnibus compiled by the director for the DVD.
    • Part two ends with Turlough climbing onto the railing and jumping off, with the Doctor shouting, "NO!". The next episode, however, begins with Turlough climbing onto the railing with the Doctor shouting, "Don't be an idiot!" before Turlough jumps off.
    • When Wrack freezes Tegan at the end of part three, her eyes are wide open, yet when she is unfrozen again at the beginning of part four, her eyes are shut.
  • When the Doctor is forced to stand over the hole into space in part four, his left foot (viewers' right) briefly passes through through the floor next to the hole.
  • In Part Four, after Turlough remains behind on Wrack’s ship, Mark Strickson can be clearly seen to be still wearing his wedding ring on his left hand.


Home video and audio releases[]

DVD releases[]

This story was released as a two-disc set, along with Mawdryn Undead and Terminus, as part of the DVD set The Black Guardian Trilogy. The second DVD was a Special Edition movie-length feature with added modern CGI, a 5.1 remix and 16:9 widescreen.

Special Features[]

Disc 1 - Standard Edition[]
Disc 2 - Special Edition[]
  • Feature Length Version - A totally new edit of the story featuring 5.1 Surround Sound and new CGI effects, overseen by original director Fiona Cumming
  • Re-Enlightenment - The production team of the new version discuss their approach
  • Original Edit Comparison - A comparison of the original opening of Part Three and the transmitted one
  • Film Trims
  • Finding Mark Strickson - Mark Strickson looks back over his acting career
  • Finding Sarah Sutton - Sarah Sutton looks back over her acting career
  • Russell Harty's Christmas Party - A 1982 Christmas show featuring Peter Davison
  • PDF Material - The Radio Times Doctor Who 20th Anniversary Special and the Doctor Who office 'Production Bible' (DVD-ROM - PC/Mac)
  • Easter Egg: Making "The Guardian Trilogy" DVD box set photo gallery. To access this hidden feature, press left at Finding Mark Strickson on the Special Features menu to reveal a hidden Doctor Who logo.


DVD cover[]

Box set cover[]

Blu-ray releases[]

Enlightenment was released as part of The Collection: Season 20 on 18 September 2023.

Video releases[]

Enlightenment was released on VHS on 15 February 1993.

External links[]