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Oxygen was the fifth episode of series 10 of Doctor Who.

This episode started a minor arc for Series 10, in which the Doctor is rendered permanently blind after saving Bill from the vacuum of space by giving her his helmet.

This is the first occasion where Nardole joins the Doctor and Bill on an adventure, after he was usually left to stay behind on Earth.


The Twelfth Doctor, Bill and Nardole investigate a strange space station, but are interrupted by walking dead in spacesuits... will they make it out alive? And how much does air actually cost?


On the outer hull of the space station, Chasm Forge, workers Ivan and Ellie make their way to the top of the space station to make repairs. The two are romantically involved and Ellie attempts to tell Ivan via her comms system that she is now ready to have a child with him, but he can't hear her due to interference with the system. Ellie examines her air tank to discover that she is running low on oxygen and is required to purchase more. From behind two figures start walking toward her, also wearing suits but without their helmets -- the humans wearing the suits are obviously dead. Ellie turns to see them advancing on her and she screams, but Ivan can't hear anything. Just as he finishes his repairs, Ivan turns to look behind him and sees the two figures along with a now dead, helmet-less Ellie advancing on him and he screams.

On Earth, the Doctor is in the middle of a lecture which is supposed to be about crop rotation, but he chooses to speak about space instead. After the lecture, Nardole approaches the Doctor and calls him out on his desire to go back into space. When working on the vault, he voices his concern that the Doctor has plans to take another unauthorised trip, but the Doctor rebuffs that, stating that he is still on Earth guarding the vault. Later in the TARDIS, the Doctor is telling Bill about the possibilities that exist with exploring space; he suggests that Bill select a destination for a trip, but then himself sets course to investigate a distress signal. At this point, Nardole arrives and insists that the Doctor remain on Earth and guard the vault. He presents a fluid link component he took from the TARDIS after one of the Doctor's lectures, under the assumption that it would render the TARDIS immobile. However, this was a lie on the Doctor's part as he then suddenly sets the TARDIS engines in flight, much to Nardole's surprise and chagrin, but to Bill's delight.

The TARDIS materialises in a corridor on the space station and the Doctor, Bill and a very-angry Nardole emerge. The Doctor expands the TARDIS' air shell so that they can explore. Bill is amazed by the depths of space when looking out the space station's window, while Nardole is still moaning about the Doctor breaking his oath again. The trio then discovers a man in a suit standing in the middle of the repair bay. Upon examining him, they discover the man to be dead, but Nardole finds his airfield is still up, meaning he didn't suffocate. Bill finds it rather distressing that the mechanical suit is keeping the dead man propped upright. The Doctor examines the computer logs and discovers that the station was declared non-profitable after a majority of its workers were killed.


'Oxygen' Preview Clip 1 Doctor Who Season 10 Saturdays @ 9 8c

Unauthorised oxygen will be expelled.

The three proceed further into the station and discover a suit with no operator doing work. Suddenly, a computer, whose voice Nardole remembers as an ex-girlfriend called Velma, states that there has never been oxygen in the station and the unauthorised oxygen from the TARDIS has been detected and will be expelled. The Doctor, Bill and Nardole race back to the TARDIS when the section starts decompressing the expanded air shell from it. The Doctor seals the section off using the sonic screwdriver, but this leaves them unable to return to the TARDIS. A comms unit suddenly engages on the computer, and the voice on the other end introduces himself as Tasker. While the Doctor, Bill and Nardole are distracted, the suit propping up the dead man becomes active and starts advancing towards the trio. The Doctor tries to disable it with his sonic screwdriver, but the suit magnetically pulls the instrument from the Doctor's hand. The sonic screwdriver is crushed and the suit is disabled. Nardole looks outside and sees that the deceased workers are being operated by the suits and are advancing on them from the outer hull. The Doctor deduces that the oxygen is contained in the suits, so in order to survive they put on the suits present in the repair bay.

While escaping from the Smartsuits pursuing them, the TARDIS crew are rescued by Tasker, Ivan and other survivors on the station, Abby and Dahh-Ren. The crew tells the Doctor that the suits are the property of the company which has turned access to oxygen into profit and that the suits have received instructions to 'deactivate their organic components'. All other crew members were killed by an electric shock to their nerve systems, rendering them zombies. The crew make plans to retreat across the station's hull and escape to an uncompleted section of the station that isn't present in their station's mapping. Suddenly, the suits break into the section where the crew are hiding and kill Tasker with an electric discharge transmitted by touch. The remaining survivors retreat to an airlock at the end of the section, all putting on helmets to protect themselves from the vacuum. During the process of decompression, the suit Bill took from the repair bay begins to malfunction, deactivating Bill's helmet of its own accord. The Doctor attempts to release Bill's helmet from the suit's grip, but to no avail; he warns Bill that she is about to be exposed to the vacuum and to breathe normally. The airlock opens and Bill loses consciousness when exposed to the vacuum. She briefly reawakens to find herself being walked across the hull by the Doctor, without his helmet, as Ivan and Abby shoot the advancing suits. Bill falls unconscious again.

Bill awakens alone in an empty section of the station. She looks up the hallway to see the suits outside the open door but not entering. Bill is approached by Nardole and Ivan, who reveal that the suits can't get into the section because it's a new area that isn't in their mapping system. Bill asks about the Doctor -- Nardole tells her that he gave her his helmet and walked her to safety, but it did cost him. He tells her that he is in Section 12, a statement which the suits register and begin trying to locate. Bill finds the Doctor sat alone in the section. He stands to face her and reveals that walking in the vacuum unprotected has blinded him. He ensures her that the condition is temporary and that his sight can be restored on his return to the TARDIS. The crew regroup and the Doctor makes plans on how to get them out alive, but Abby doesn't believe him due to his inability to save Tasker and threatens him. At that point, the suits log Section 12 into their mapping system and come in, killing Dahh-Ren. Abby attempts to hold them off, but the crew end up fleeing.

Just before making it to the next section, Bill's suit malfunctions again, magnetising itself to the floor and rendering her immobile. Knowing that there is no way of getting Bill to the next section, the Doctor leaves her behind while the others escape and the suits approach her. Bill makes an appeal to her mum while the suits deliver the electrical discharge and seemingly kill her. The remaining survivors arrive at the station's power room, where the Doctor highlights on the suits' operation being heavily established by a capitalist attitude. The Doctor claims that he is attempting to redirect the flow of water cooling the generators to convert it into oxygen, but instead connects the generators to their suit's life signs, meaning that if they die, the generators will overheat and explode. The Doctor insists that the suits be let in, seemingly as a grand statement about the inevitable downfall of capitalism, and Ivan reluctantly complies. As the suits advance and are about to kill them, the Doctor declares that their deaths would be expensive and the suits stop. The suits analyse the generators and conclude that it would be a greater loss for the company if the crew were to die and the station were to explode, so the suits remove their oxygen tanks and give them to the survivors. The Doctor also re-engages Bill's oxygen tank and Bill revives, her suit's battery having too weak an electric charge to prove fatal.

Back onboard the TARDIS, Nardole restores the Doctor's eyesight, and the Doctor gives Abby and Ivan the option of what they wish to do. They wish to be taken to head office to make a complaint about the company and the events that transpired on Chasm Forge, to which the Doctor complies. Later, back at the university, the Doctor tells Bill that the after-effects of Abby and Ivan's complaint was the catalyst for the eventual downfall of space capitalism. After Bill leaves, Nardole emerges from the TARDIS, still furious at the Doctor's reckless behaviour. He berates the Doctor for endangering himself in a selfish gesture and points out that he knows the stakes of leaving the vault unattended -- if the Doctor were ever injured, or sick, or dead, there would be no-one left to guard the vault effectively. The Doctor refuses to look at him, and as Nardole continues to berate him and demands that the Doctor look at him, he rises and removes his glasses, claiming he 'can't look at anything, ever again'.

He's still blind...


Uncredited cast[]


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.




  • The boiling point of water is much lower in a vacuum.
  • Electrolysis is splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. Nardole assumes this is the Doctor's plan, to produce more oxygen which would last 5 minutes.


  • Nardole mentions that he hasn't seen his true face for years. He swapped it for his current one on the run.
  • The Doctor intentionally "maxes out" his companions' adrenaline as "fear keeps you fast." Fear also causes an acceleration in breathing, though, which would constitute a waste of oxygen credits while on Chasm Forge.
  • When the suits kill the crew, they deactivate the organic component and disable the central nervous system.
  • Bill wonders what happens if she were to throw up in the space helmet.
  • After having been exposed to the vacuum of space, Bill suffers from oxygen deprivation.
  • The Doctor says he has spare eyes in the TARDIS, though they're from lizards, though the validity of this claim is never brought up.


  • The space helmets experience an error on the Radio Com Channel.
  • The Doctor calls distress calls "[his] theme tune", and emphasises that "[he] only [sees] the true face of the universe when it's asking for [his] help."
  • Chasm Forge uses artificial gravity.
  • The Doctor is happy that the "space doors", as Nardole calls them, are of a classic design. They have pressure seals and hinges. He and Nardole disagree on whether space doors should go "shuck-shuck" or groan like these do.
  • The smartsuits employed at Chasm Forge uses gyro stabilisers, magnetic boots and gloves, and has on-board computers. According to the Doctor, it can run, jump and update one's Facebook. They also have force fields to keep the air in, and oxygen tanks for air supply. The suits' AI have "limited problem solving".
  • The Smartsuits have unfolding helmets.
  • To send the distress call, the miners boosted a smartsuit through the dish.
  • Nardole relates the smartsuits' nav system to "when your satnav doesn't know a new road".
  • The Smartsuits uses a Powercell to get into the Power Core.
  • The Doctor hacks into the Coolant System.
  • The Doctor likens the Smartsuits to an algorithm and a spreadsheet.


  • The Doctor claims he has "stuff in [the TARDIS] that'll cure anything", though he is unable to completely heal his eyes.


  • The Doctor once told Nardole that the TARDIS can't go anywhere without the fluid link K57. However, he reveals this to be untrue after Nardole steals the fluid link in an attempt to prevent the TARDIS from taking off.
  • The air shell emanating from the TARDIS can provide oxygen to enough of the space station for the TARDIS crew to stroll around.


Units of measurement[]

  • Distance is measured in average breaths, rather than in metres.


Business and economics[]

  • The smartsuits are made by Ganymede Systems.
  • Ganymede provides oxygen for personal use only, charging credits for air, and making breathing into a capitalist endeavour. Unauthorised oxygen is automatically expelled, to protect market value.
  • The Doctor sees the endpoint of capitalism as "a bottom line where human life has no value at all".
  • According to the psychic paper, TARDIS crew is from the Union.



  • Chasm Forge is a station for mining copper ore.
  • The managers of Chasm Forge are seeking a bottom line for oxygen usage, and are seemingly prepared to kill off and replace workers if they're using too much of it.

Foods and beverages[]

  • The Doctor says that it takes five minutes to "boil the hell out of an egg."
  • Bill mentions lasagna when giving examples of what a restaurant review is.
  • The Doctor sent Nardole out for crisps.
  • The Doctor tells Dahh-Ren he sent him out for a latté.
  • The Doctor says the phrase "the universe is your crustacean".


  • Nardole recognises Bill's smartsuit's interface voice as his ex Velma, and remembers her as a "nice girl, [was an] actress. Bit orange, left me for an AI at a call centre."
  • As a result of saving Bill from dying through exposure to the vacuum, the Doctor has now become blind. An attempt to return his vision was made, but only the colour in his eyes returned.

Time Lords[]



  • Inspired by films like Gravity, Steven Moffat wanted to explore the extent to which the vacuum of space was inherently inimical to human life.
  • The Chasm Forge space station was named after the Valley Forge from Silent Running, which itself referred to the site of an encampment for George Washington's Continental Army during the American Revolution.


  • The Doctor uses the phrase "fun fact!" in his lecture.
  • The Doctor mentions, amongst other things the smartsuits can do, updating Facebook.
  • Dahh-Ren cannot understand why Bill would experience racism herself. He suspects her to be racist because of her reaction to his blue skin. Nardole says that "some of [his] best friends are bluish".
  • The Doctor insinuates that the purpose of jokes, in general, is to distract people from whatever's about to kill them.
  • The Doctor jokes that "too many rescue ships" is a "first-world problem".
  • The Doctor quips that he thought he was just tweeting, rather than locking the crew out of the subroutine.
  • Bill wonders whether the deceased man in the working suit has "his tunes on", when he doesn't respond.
  • While standing with Dahh-Ren, Nardole states that some of his best friends are "bluish". This joke, of calling a blue person "bluish" as if it is their race, was first seen in the 1969 Beatles animated film The Yellow Submarine, where it was used by a Blue Meanie in an attempt to identify if the Beatles were a member of their ranks. The original use was meant as a satire of the then-common phrase "you don't look Jewish", but it was not intended to be derogatory.
  • Two references to Star Trek are made:
    • The Doctor makes a speech about space being "the final frontier", quoting the monologue that opens each episode of Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
    • Nardole mentions the "Swish Swish" sound the doors always make. The Doctor says he hates that noise.

Story notes[]


Jamie Mathieson, Mimi Ndiweni & Kieran Bew - The Aftershow - Doctor Who The Fan Show

This episode's Aftershow on Doctor Who: The Fan Show.


Series 10 Teaser - Doctor Who - BBC

An early teaser with clips from this episode. The Doctor's eyes are not shown to be cloudy in his Oxygen scenes.

  • The episode was briefly re-named Zero Hour, because there was concern that the subplot about oxygen conservation wasn't substantial enough to warrant the original title. However, it was then decided that Jamie Mathieson had achieved a suitable balance between this element and the killer Smartsuits.
  • Two scenes of the blind Doctor were featured in an early teaser shown at the end of The Return of Doctor Mysterio [+]Steven Moffat, Doctor Who Christmas Special 2016 (BBC One, 2016)., except his eyes weren't cloudy in order to not to spoil this plot point.
  • On The Fan Show, Jamie Mathieson worried that this episode would turn out "too political", due to its blatant anti-capitalist themes.
    • Notably, the very next series made an episode with a pro-Capitalist and anti-anti-Capitalist message.
  • Assistant Director Lauren Pate plays the student who questions the Doctor in the opening scenes.
  • Three out of the five guest actors in this episode had previously voiced roles in Big Finish Doctor Who or Bernice Summerfield. Namely, Kieran Bew was in The Lady of Mercia and The Helm of Awe, Peter Caulfield was in Cold Fusion, and Mimi Ndiweni was in Big Dig.
  • On The Fan Show, Jamie Mathieson said that an ongoing joke on set was calling Peter Caulfield "Blue Peter".
  • Jamie Mathieson's original pitch was rejected by Steven Moffat for being too dark. Instead, Moffat asked Mathieson to develop an adventure which would represent Bill's first experience in space.
  • The original outline involved crystalline space parasites, whose queen could mimic the sound of a distress signal in order to draw spaceships to their doom. The parasites could leap from vessel to vessel, and their gaze allowed them to influence people's thoughts. When the Doctor and Bill arrived, several ships, including some that were at war with each other, had been lured to the parasites' nest. As the parasites picked off the ship's crews one by one, the survivors were forced to make difficult decisions due to their limited reserves of oxygen. Another source of drama was the paranoia which stemmed from the uncertainty over which individuals had been brainwashed by the parasites. There would also be a climactic conflict about whether the parasite queen should be allowed to survive. Considering the original brief, Jamie Mathieson decided to reemphasise the theme of space as the enemy. Instead of the mind-controlling parasites, the ships would now be plagued by their own dead, who had turned into zombies after being exposed to the absence of air pressure in the vacuum. Forming an uneasy alliance with a group of survivors led by Kline, the Doctor and Bill found a variety of ways to navigate between the different vessels. The Doctor eventually discovered that the zombies were being created by a crystalline entity living in a nearby asteroid, which he convinced to cease its attack.
  • Having been peppered with questions about the series by twelve-year-old Ivan, the son of his friend Darren, Jamie Mathieson used both names for members of the spaceship crew; the latter became Dahh-Ren.
  • Dahh-Ren was originally described as having an arachnid face. He became a blue-skinned alien in order to spare the expense of fabricating a spider-like prosthetic.
  • The zombies were originally known as Carriers, since they could now infect others with a touch, and there were originally two other survivors: Maddox, a female soldier, and a male hacker called Karlo. With the Doctor and Bill, they made their way through various spaceships while evading the Carriers. Aboard one, the Doctor reversed the gravity so that they could pull themselves along furniture bolted to the floor while the Carriers were trapped on the ceiling. Intent on keeping their numbers small in order to conserve oxygen, Tasker murdered Karlo because his skills were deemed redundant in comparison with the Doctor's. He also tried to kill Bill, before the Doctor observed that he actually offered less to the group than any of the others. Tasker later sacrificed himself to slow down the Carriers. Maddox became a Carrier, and she was able to act as a conduit for the gestalt entity of which the Carriers were a part. She revealed that the infection started when a mining ship began excavating strange crystals from a nearby asteroid. Maddox infected Ivan, who killed Dahh-Ren. The Doctor was able to reactivate one of the vessels, using its missiles to destroy the asteroid and the ships, while teleporting himself and Bill back to the TARDIS.
  • Although Steven Moffat liked the script, he felt that its ambition needed to be scaled down. For his part, Jamie Mathieson thought that the elements of the Carriers and the search for oxygen tended to be in competition, rather than complementing each other. Instead of being animated by the effects of the crystals, Moffat suggested that the Carriers could instead be corpses propelled by their spacesuits. Mathieson agreed with this approach, although he was aware that the monsters would have to be presented differently from the Vashta Nerada, which had taken the form of spacesuited skeletons.
  • Originally, it was Tasker who survived electrocution, only to find herself amongst the spacesuit corpses; however, she subsequently suffocated because she was unable to obtain more oxygen.
  • In the second draft, Jamie Mathieson reused the name Kline for a Ganymede Systems bureaucrat who confronted the Doctor at the climax.
  • In the second draft, after his threat to blow up Chasm Forge provided him with the opportunity to get the survivors aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor destroyed the space station anyway.
  • The Doctor's blindness was originally cured by the end of the episode. Steven Moffat, feeling that that this would have weakened the story, agreed to Jamie Mathieson's suggestion that it should be permanent, as Moffat now wanted to explore the ramifications of his sacrifice in subsequent stories.
  • The episode formed Block Four of season ten alongside The Eaters of Light [+]Rona Munro, Doctor Who series 10 (BBC One, 2017)..
  • Matt Lucas ad-libbed the line, "Some of my best friends are bluish".
  • The scene where the Doctor, Bill and Nardole first encountered a Smartsuit corpse had to be re-mounted, since the original make-up on extra Tim Reid had now been deemed too gruesome.
  • The Empire State Building mast built for The Return of Doctor Mysterio [+]Steven Moffat, Doctor Who Christmas Special 2016 (BBC One, 2016). was repurposed for the opening scene.
  • Steven Moffat decided to give the vault subplot a greater presence throughout the first half of season ten. With new scenes added to Thin Ice [+]Sarah Dollard, Doctor Who series 10 (BBC One, 2017). and Knock Knock [+]Mike Bartlett, Doctor Who series 10 (BBC One, 2017)., the vault chamber footage recorded for this episode was no longer entirely suitable. As such, Charles Palmer filmed additional sequences on the vault chamber set at Roath Lock. He also captured a closing shot which revealed the vault's occupant to be Missy, which was taped later the same day, at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff, but was dropped in editing.
  • Jamie Mathieson chose the name Ganymede Systems as an allusion to Gus, making the episode a prequel to Mummy on the Orient Express [+]Jamie Mathieson, Doctor Who series 8 (BBC One, 2014)., explaining why Gus had been so determined to snare the Doctor.


  • 3.57 million (UK overnight)
  • 5.27 million (UK final)[2]

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.

to be added


Tied to you

The Fifth Doctor makes his way through the vacuum of space. (TV: Four to Doomsday)

Home video releases[]

DVD & Blu-ray releases[]

  • This episode was included in the Series 10, Part One DVD and Blu-ray boxsets in region 1/A on 6 June 2017, in region 2/B on 29 May 2017 and in region 4/B on 31 May 2017.
  • This episode was also released as part of the Complete Tenth Series DVD and Blu-ray boxsets in region 1/A on 7 November 2017, in region 2/B on 13 November 2017 and in region 4/B on 29 November 2017.

Digital releases[]

  • In the United Kingdom, this story is available on BBC iPlayer.

External links[]


  1. BBC Doctor Who website (13 May 2017). Oxygen: The Fact File. BBC Doctor Who. Retrieved on 14 May 2017.
  2. Ratings DW