Gridlock was the third episode of series 3 of Doctor Who.

It marked the death of the Face of Boe and his final words to the Doctor, concluding an arc that had been hinted at in New Earth. The Face of Boe's last words would eventually become relevant in Utopia. It also saw the first televised appearance of the Macra since their introduction in 1967's The Macra Terror.

Synopsis[edit | edit source]

The Tenth Doctor takes Martha Jones to New Earth, in the far future, only to find that the entire city has become a deadly trap.

Plot[edit | edit source]

American newscaster Sally Calypso gives the daily travel news to all the cars. Ma and Pa are seated in one of the camper-vans. They call the police for help as they are apparently attacked by something from outside. They are placed on hold by the police computer system and scream as their car is torn apart.

The Tenth Doctor offers Martha one trip into the future, to visit another planet. She asks if he can take her to his home planet, and speculates as to its beauty. He describes Gallifrey's Citadel, mountains, orange sky and other features as if they still existed, but claims he does not want to go home. Instead, he takes her to the year five billion and fifty-three, into a dark alleyway where it is raining, and introduces her to New New York, a city of New Earth. The Doctor mentions that he last visited the planet with Rose and Martha becomes slightly upset, muttering, "Ever heard the word 'rebound'?"

Meanwhile, the Face of Boe sits in a room with Novice Hame. He tells her to find the Doctor before it is too late. She takes out a gun and leaves.

The Doctor and Martha are in a run-down street. Three pharmacists open their market stands and try to sell them patches that dispense "moods". The Doctor is angry but intrigued when a young girl buys a Forget patch after losing her parents to "the Motorway".

Suddenly, a young couple armed with guns grab Martha and haul her away, subduing her with a patch inducing Sleep. The Doctor chases them but they escape in their car. The Doctor asks the pharmacists for directions to the Motorway; they comply, but warn him that he may never see Martha again. He tells them to find alternative employment as he promises to shut down their enterprises by that very evening.

Martha wakes up in the car and grabs a gun, only to learn it is a fake. Her kidnappers introduce themselves as Milo and Cheen. Cheen says she is pregnant and Milo explains that they only took Martha so they could get on the Fast Lane, which requires three adult passengers. They say they can drop her off when they reach their destination — in six years.

The Doctor arrives at the Motorway, where he discovers thousands of hover vans in a traffic jam. He starts to cough and choke from the fumes. A cat person invites him into his car, introducing himself as Thomas Kincade Brannigan and his human wife as Valerie. Their kittens, two months old, were born in the car and have never seen sunlight or trod on ground. The Brannigans themselves have been driving for twelve years, and have travelled only five miles.

As Milo, Cheen and Martha head for the Fast Lane, the Doctor calls the police but is put on hold. Brannigan speaks to some old friends, the Cassini "sisters" who identify the one car from Pharmacytown that has gone to the Fast Lane. The Doctor learns that some people haven't left their cars in upwards of twenty years.

Milo, Cheen and Martha are dropping down to the Fast Lane, but there are strange noises. Cheen tells Martha of stories about cars disappearing but Milo insists they only hear the ventilation shafts.

The Doctor asks if Brannigan and Valerie can drive him down to the Fast Lane (seeing as there are three adult passengers in the car) but they refuse, fearing for the safety of their kittens. The Doctor asks whether they or the Cassinis have ever seen any authorities. The Cassinis reluctantly admit they have not seen any police or ambulances in 23 years of driving. The Doctor believes that the people have been trapped in the under-city and abandoned. Making his own way toward Martha, he opens the shaft on the floor of the car and drops down to the car below. He then moves through several cars, opening the roofs with his sonic screwdriver and continuing through the floor to the car below, posing as a Motorway Footpatrolman to the bemused occupants. In this fashion, he meets several characters including hippies and a nudist couple.

Milo and Cheen's car enters the Fast Lane, but the exits are all closed. A nearby cat driver tells them to escape to the slow lanes above, but Milo does not believe in the danger until he hears the other driver's screams.

Meanwhile, Brannigan's car is sliced into by what they assume to be pirates, only for Novice Hame to poke her head inside instead. Holding them at gunpoint, she demands to know where the Doctor is.

The Doctor reaches the last level, just above the Fast Lane, in the car of a Bertie Wooster-like business man. The Doctor clears the fog so that he can see what's below and discovers that the Fast Lane is filled with Macra. The Doctor explains to the business man that the Macra feed upon toxic gas. Once in history they built an empire using human slaves to mine gas to feed them, but have since devolved into hungry non-sentient beasts.

As Milo and Cheen's car races along the Fast Lane, the Macras' huge claws attempt to crush it. Reasoning that the light and motion of the vehicle attract the Macra, Martha has Milo turn off the power. It works, but they now only have eight minutes of air.

Novice Hame makes it to the bottom of the motorway to the car that the Doctor is in. She tells him how she has repented her sins under "his" guidance and teleports the Doctor against his will to the upper city. The Doctor demands to see the Senate over the trapped people in the Motorway, but Hame tells him that they are inside the Senate. Willing the goddess Santori to bless them, Hame turns on the lights to reveal the Senate chamber, tiered seats filled with skeletons. The Senate, the city and everyone else died twenty-four years ago. When the Doctor asks how, Hame removes a mood patch from one of the dead. A new mood drug, Bliss, was created and everyone became addicted to it, unable to stop taking it. A virus mutated inside it and became airborne, killing the entire world in seven minutes flat and dying itself when there was no-one left to feed on. However, there was just enough time to seal the walkways and the flyovers to the lower levels, denying the virus access to them. The citizens in the undercity have not been betrayed and abandoned - they have been saved.

The Senate, killed by the virus many years before.

The Doctor questions how Hame could have survived, and she tells him that "he" protected her and has waited for all this time. Hearing a familiar telepathic voice, the Doctor runs to meet the Face of Boe. Hame explains that she was made his nurse as penance for her sins and that the Face shrouded her from the virus with his smoke, but the city's power grid died with no-one maintaining it. The undercity would have fallen into the sea, but the Face of Boe wired himself into the mainframe, giving his vital life force simply to keep the basic functions going. The Doctor questions why they did not contact any of the surrounding worlds for help, but Hame reveals that the last act of the Senate was to declare New Earth unsafe and activate an automatic quarantine which lasts for one hundred years. The Face of Boe implores the Doctor to save the trapped people.

On the Motorway, Milo's car is running out of air and, despite Milo and Cheen's doubts, Martha says the Doctor will think of something. Milo starts the power up again, giving them air but exposing them to the Macras' grasp. As the car races along, they are briefly caught by one of the claws but are knocked free by another Macra.

In the city, The Doctor asks Hame to help him restore power, but there is not enough. The Face of Boe, in one last act of self-sacrifice, gives even more of his "life force" to power the equipment. The Doctor pulls a lever, opening the seal at the top of the Motorway. In Brannigan's car, they hear a loud booming noise and Valerie hides the kittens whilst Brannigan looks out of the hole Novice Hame left in the roof. High above, the roof of the Motorway begins to split open in sections, allowing the sunlight to flood in and warm the undercity for the first time in two decades. Taking the place of Sally Calypso, who was just a hologram anyway, the Doctor broadcasts to the ecstatic motorists, telling them to drive upwards and out. Led by a whooping Brannigan, the thousands of trapped cars accelerate upwards and into the light. This clears the way for Milo's car to escape from the Macra. Meanwhile, Hame cries out as the Face of Boe's glass begins to shatter.

Martha arrives at the Senate building where she sees the skeletons and meets the dying Face of Boe, who is sprawled out on the ground. The Doctor urges him to live since, as Boe says, the two of them are each the last of their kind; but the Face responds, "Everything has its time". As promised, he whispers his great secret to the Doctor — "Know this, Time Lord; You are not alone" — before passing away. An expression of shock and disbelief crosses the Doctor's face as Hame weeps.

Martha and the Doctor arrive back at the alleyway. The pharmacists have all closed and left. Martha asks what the Face of Boe meant and whether she is why the Doctor is not alone. The Doctor shakes his head; he does not want to talk about Boe's words, but Martha refuses to move until the Doctor tells her the truth. The Doctor admits he is the last of his kind, explains about the Last Great Time War and the Daleks and then goes on to describe Gallifrey. Far above the slums, the over-city thrives with the newly freed motorists. The sun sets orange over New New York, which lives once more.

Cast[edit | edit source]

Crew[edit | edit source]

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

References[edit | edit source]

Culture[edit | edit source]

A motorway car's poster totes "Bad Wolf" in Japanese.

  • Ma and Pa wear the same clothes as the couple (actually father and daughter) in the painting "American Gothic".
  • The Japanese kanji for "Bad Wolf" appear on a poster on the wall of the Japanese hippies' car.
  • The travellers of the Motorway sing the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross".
  • The hymn playing over the rebirth of the city is "Abide with Me".

The Doctor's items[edit | edit source]

Individuals[edit | edit source]

  • The Face of Boe meets the Doctor once more as he promised on their previous meeting. He later expends all his energy to open up the Motorway exit and dies, imparting the Doctor with his last words, "You are not alone."
  • Alice and May began their journey twenty-three years ago.

Substances[edit | edit source]

  • New Earth suffered a pandemic from the man-made drug Bliss.

Religion[edit | edit source]

Species[edit | edit source]

Locations[edit | edit source]

Story notes[edit | edit source]

  • Russell T Davies explains in Doctor Who Confidential as well as the audio commentary that the look of this episode was inspired by Mega City One from 2000 AD's Judge Dredd comics. The character of the Businessman was modelled after the character Max Normal.
  • The Face of Boe's secret is revealed in this episode to the Doctor: "You are not alone." The meaning behind this statement is revealed in the episode Utopia. Initially, Davies had intended to have the Face of Boe reveal this in New Earth, however he decided to postpone this revelation when Billie Piper informed him she intended to leave at the end of series 2.
  • This episode formed the final chapter in a loose trilogy about the fate of the human race after the expansion of the sun destroys the Earth in the year 5,000,000,000. The previous two episodes in this trilogy were The End of the World and New Earth.
  • This episode is the first of series 3 to feature the recurring motif of fake guns, foreshadowing the fake gun in Last of the Time Lords. In this episode, Martha is kidnapped at fake-gunpoint.
  • The Macra appear for the first time in 40 years. They last appeared in The Macra Terror.
  • Gridlock aired 40 minutes late due to the BBC's coverage of the FA Cup.
  • Russell T Davies mentions on the audio commentary that Murray Gold wrote a different hymn with choral voices for the finale, but it sounded too much like part of the soundtrack score rather than the travellers singing it. Therefore they used Davies original choice of "Abide with Me" instead.
  • Martha points out that selling "moods" is no different than selling drugs.

Ratings[edit | edit source]

  • 8.40 million viewers - BARB final ratings[1]
  • 8.0 million viewers - Overnight ratings
  • 0.83 million viewers - BBC3 repeat ratings

Myths[edit | edit source]

  • Due to Milo's similar hairstyle, his appearance in the Series 3 Coming Soon trailer led many people to believe that the Ninth Doctor would return in this episode.

Filming locations[edit | edit source]

  • The scenes between the Face of Boe, Novice Hame and the Doctor were filmed at the Temple of Peace in Wales.

Production errors[edit | edit source]

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.
  • The drivers' seats in New New York are on the right side of the car. This is despite the fact that New New York is based upon New York, where the drivers' seat is on the left side of the car.
  • When the Doctor opens the bottom door of the Businessman's car, the computer's voice does not say 'capsule open' as it did in the all the other cars he passed through to reach the bottom.

Continuity[edit | edit source]

Home video releases[edit | edit source]

Series 3 Volume 1 DVD Cover

External links[edit | edit source]

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

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