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Search Out Space was a special crossover episode between Search Out Science, a children's education programme, and Doctor Who that aired on BBC Two in 1990. It was written by Lambros Atteshlis and Berry-Anne Billingsley. It was also produced by the former and directed by the latter.

Sylvester McCoy reprised his role as the Seventh Doctor thus this story served as an extension of his time as the incumbent Doctor. Sophie Aldred also reprised her role as Ace. John Leeson provided the voice of K9 for the first time since The Five Doctors. Notably this was the first on-screen story since Survival and therefore the first on screen story released during the "wilderness years".

Despite an apparently fourth-wall-breaking setup, the story would contextualise this as the Doctor taking part on an in-universe quiz show. It was further placed in regular Doctor Who continuity by the short story Storm in a Tikka. The latter links it to Dimensions in Time, also aired during McCoy's time as the incumbent Doctor, which had the TARDIS team of Ace and K9 also.

The story also marks the final on screen usage of the Keff McCulloch Doctor Who theme used since Time and the Rani in 1987.


The Doctor, Ace, K9 and Cedric are taking part in a game show to see who can win The Ultimate Challenge — the biggest gameshow in the universe.

The contestants are forced to answer fairly basic questions about space, with severe punishments if they get it wrong.


The Doctor runs on stepping stones lying in space and runs across them. He then jumps onto his hovering platform. The Doctor tells his audience they've been selected to take part in The Ultimate Challenge. The Doctor acts as host. He then announces the fellow challengers which are his companion Ace, from Earth, Cedric from Quirk and former companion K9 said to be renowned for his superior powers of logic.

The Doctor then presents the first question to Cedric. He has thirty seconds to answer. What shape is the Earth? The Doctor tells the audience if they want to join in they can watch Cedric try and guess. Cedric materialises on a picnic table outside an Earth pub. He says he’s not from this planet, but thinks he knows the answer. Beside him on the table are three models of Earth in different sizes. Those sizes being round, flat and square. He then wants some more evidence before he makes his guess.

Just above Cedric, in the sky, the TARDIS materialises. K9 claims to be up there in space, despite not being in space. From a computer room in the TARDIS, K9 flies the ship and sends Cedric a clue. Cedric is sent a picture of the Earth, but sadly the picture doesn’t help him determine if it’s a sphere or a circle.

Ace, in a tree, then aids the audience and Cedric with a clue as she stares into the distance with paper rolled to be a telescope ish thing. She says if someone stranded on a desert island saw a ship on the horizon would they see the ship itself or the top of the mast first. The paper then teleports from Ace’s hand into Cedric’s. Cedric then unrolls the paper to see a drawing of the horizon with a boat present. He says it’s as he thought. The Doctor then says he’s got all the clues can he solve the challenge. Cedric then pulls out a cylindrical shaped Earth say it’s that size. This is followed by a wrong answer buzzer sound. He realises he's wrong and doesn't understand why. The Doctor says it's a perfect challenge for his audience to figure why Cedric was wrong.

The Doctor then hurries things along as he floats in the Earth's orbit. He then challenges everyone to answer what makes day and night. Cedric is then in his spaceship flashing a torch at a model of the Earth while repeating "day time" and "night time" then address the audience as ladies, gentlemen and aliens. He then spins the Earth model. The Doctor gets dizzy watching Cedric spin the model. He then asks the other challengers to provide a clue. Ace says to think about how the Sun moves during the day. K9 says to think about how the stars move at night. As a map of the stars appears the Doctor asks the audience if they can solve the challenge. The Ultimate Challenge then cuts to a commercial break.

The first commercial break features an advert for a travel agents. The shop window is full of notices. An astronaut, a human and a wolf-type creature point to a spinning shelf of postcards in the advert. We then get a voice-over by Cedric in an American accent who advertises holidays on Mercury. Ace says from their they ship the holidaymakers to Venus. Cedric then mentions a trip to rocky Mars. Ace then mentions a trip to Jupiter. Cedric follows with a mention of Saturn.

The Doctor is at a snowscape which he describes as a Christmas scene. He then encounters a polar bear and wishes him a nice morning. He then cues the snow and winds while complaining that the temperature is now -5 degrees. The Doctor then reads the third challenge, The Game of But. Someone has to come up with a theory and someone else has to come up with a but. The Doctor says the challenge is between Cedric, Ace and K9. What makes summers hot and winters cold? he asks.

Cedric is then in his spaceship, now steaming with heat, conducting another experiment. He again states he's not from Earth, but he thinks he knows the answer. He then starts touching a model of the Earth and says that it travels around the Sun. He then theorises in the winter the Earth must be further away from the Sun and in the summer it must be closer by. Ace, sat in a dinghy in an Australian lake, then tells the audience Cedric is wrong. K9 states there's always another possibility. K9 theorises, while looking at the TARDIS monitors, that perhaps in the winter the Sun gives out less heat. Ace, putting on an Australian accent, suggests if that were true the whole Earth would have winter at the same time. K9 then does an experiment with some targets outside and suggests in winter the heat is more thinly spread. Ace then experiments with an Earth globe.

The Doctor interrupts them to conduct his own demonstration. The Doctor walks on a dotted circle, around a yellow ball, spinning his umbrella demonstrating the Earth spinning around the Sun. A model Earth spins as he does this. The Doctor repeats his actions and then jumps onto his red platform and shouts that it's time for a commercial break while pointing into the corner.

The commercial break shows footage of NASA astronauts on the Moon while the voiceover speaks about how dirty the spacesuits can get in the rough and tumble of moonwalking. Super White washing powder is recommended to clean them and remove even the most ground in lunar dust. A Super White item then flies on the screen with a promise that the whiteness is out of this world.

The Doctor, while sat flying around the moon on his flying platform, welcomes back his audience into the next stage of The Ultimate Challenge. He says K9 will assist him and asks why the Moon appears to change shape. Ace and Cedric give the audience a couple of clues before guessing starts. Ace then begins to mess in front of distorted mirrors with a light. Cedric, inside his spaceship, has an image of a Moon crest. He says the only reason you can see the Moon is because the light from the Sun is bouncing. He then asks if a Moon crest is what the Moon actually looks like, laughs and then teleports away. K9, inside the TARDIS, supposes the Moon is a ball like the Earth and tells Cedric to conduct an experiment by spinning with a model of the Moon. The Doctor then thanks his hyper intelligent friend Cedric and reads the next Moon question to his audience. How would one find out how many days are in a lunar month? He then rips out a hand drawn chart as a clue.

We then have a commercial break with Cedric, now with an American accent, in a kitchen dressed as a chef. Cedric offers a slice of lunar luxury by demonstrating how to make a lunar landscape in the comfort of your own home. He then shows a square bowl full of icing sugar. He then drops fruit and golf balls into it, which he describes as especially designed meteorites, leaving behind what look like craters on the icing sugar surface. He then places a plastic rocket in the end product. He then winks at the audience.

The Doctor, stood on his platform, now in front of a red part of space announces the next subject stars. He tells everyone to hold their breath as they journey into space. He then flies away. The Doctor then says round one is a team game called Who, How, Where, Why and What?. He then says we'll start the round with "who" and points to himself. Then asking who can see the stars in the day time.

Cedric (Search Out Space)

Cedric assists the Doctor

Ace responds to the Doctor saying she can see the stars in the day time as she is at Jodrell Bank Observatory radio telescope. Its huge telescope can pick up the stars' emitted radio signals and feed them into a computer which draws pictures of the sky. A picture of a galaxy is then displayed. She then asks when people can see stars with an ordinary telescope. Cedric, in front of stars, replies that the answer is at night. He then elaborates you can see the stars at night without a telescope. He then asks how many stars there are. Ace, now sat in the radio telescope, says there are billions and billions of stars, but from Earth we can only see a couple of thousand. Ace then asks how you count them. Cedric suggests stretching a coat hanger into a square, holding it up into the sky and counting how many there are in the square over and over again. Then they can be added all together. He then asks after K9 and shouts for him. K9 then begins reporting from the depths of space which he describes as very cold, very dark and very empty. He says from there he can see billions of stars, but they look a very long way away. He then asks two questions when can he come down and which way is down.

This is followed by a commercial break advertising trips into space. One of the people doing the voiceover is the Seventh Doctor in a Yorkshire accent. He says if you go into space you can take the weight off your feet as there is no gravity. It is also stated that you'll love eating your first meal in space and not to delay. Then it says to book today.

The Doctor then welcomes his audience back while crouched on his floating platform. He then says next is a colourful challenge. What is yellow or red or brown or black or orange or blue? he asks. He then says there is thirty seconds to solve the challenge and zooms away. K9 states it's an easy question. He then produces a floating video in space and says things change colour as they get hot. Firstly it goes red hot, the orange hot, then yellow hot and eventually white hot. The Doctor states it's true, but the answer he is looking for is something in space. K9 acknowledges this and states a piece of debris is heading towards him. K9 states it isn't colourful, but declares it no problem as he can make it colourful by heating it with his laser. The debris then gets red hot, yellow hot, and bluey-white; however, it isn't the answer the Doctor is looking for. What about the stars? he asks.

The Doctor then sends K9 to a metallic looking building in broad daylight. Much to K9's confusion as there are no stars there. He declares it a funny place to look for stars. K9 strolls across a bridge only to see a blue smartie on the floor. He says it must be a clue. Ace, watching him on a videolink, says to think colours. K9 states it is supposed to be a bluey white star which is a new born star. The Doctor asks if K9 can work out the others before the time runs out to which Ace and Cedric cheer him on. K9 says a yellow smartie is a middle aged star like the Sun. K9 then races across the bridge. The orange smartie represents a weaker star getting near the end of its lifetime. He then races to the next one. K9 finds a red star which is a red giant which is a star that's burned up all is fuel and is getting cooler. He then sees a brown smartie and during his confusion Cedric and Ace continue to scream at him. The pressure gets too much for K9 so he teleports away. Ace cries about it.

The Doctor says K9 has failed and that he's lost K9 and seems annoyed that he's got to go and rescue him. K9 then floats in space towards the Sun and says he's getting too hot. His circuits are overheating and he says he was happier when he was cooler. The Doctor materialises his TARDIS at the right moment for K9 to come aboard. K9 states it was a bit warm and the Doctor says it isn't surprising as the temperature of the core of the Sun is 15 million degrees. He then adds that if a person was even 2 million miles away a pinhead at that temperature would still kill you. The Doctor then starts flying the TARDIS too close to the Sun still, much to K9's distress. K9 warns that it's getting hotter and the Doctor replies it would do as they get closer. K9 wishes it would stop and the Doctor scoffs saying that the Sun is the energy source of the Solar System and without it they'd be two lumps of frozen carbon. K9 asks the Doctor if he's intentionally flying the TARDIS into the Sun, he replies he hopes not as he dematerialises at the right moment.

We then cut to a commercial break declaring Earth as "probably the most beautiful planet in the solar system". As it's stated we see a shot of Earth from space as well as scenes of mountains, oceans, birds, hippos, elephants and trees. It was advertising "Holidays on Earth with Galactic Getaways".


The Dalek and company.

The Doctor then runs across space as he says congratulations as they've reached the final question in The Ultimate Challenge, the most ultimate challenge of them all, the Key to the Universe. The Doctor says the key to the universe is hidden somewhere in the universe and, in thirty seconds, where is it? Ace then scans a map of the universe with a magnifying glass. K9 says in every galaxy are billions of solar systems. Cedric says every solar system could contain a dozen planets. Ace says in every planet could be room for a billion keys. We then see a planet full of aliens and a Dalek is amongst them. From the TARDIS K9 says it is impossible as he doesn't know what the key looks like and couldn't find it in thirty seconds. He then declares the task hopeless. The Doctor says this is the right answer and bizarrely produces an ice cream, which he says isn't hopeless, as if by magic.



Uncredited crew[]


The Doctor[]

  • The Doctor wears his duffel coat, as featured in Season 26's Battlefield and The Curse of Fenric, along with a colourful scarf at the snowscape.
  • The Doctor carries his wooden football ratchet.
  • The Doctor puts on a Yorkshire accent while providing a voice-over for one of the commercial breaks.
  • The Doctor has a model of his TARDIS in his TARDIS computer room.

The Challengers[]

  • K9 is renowned for his superior powers of logic.
  • K9 can control the TARDIS from a large computer aboard the Doctor's TARDIS.
  • K9 can pilot the TARDIS alone.
  • Cedric is the most intelligent inhabitant of the planet Quirk.
  • Cedric wears a silver space suit with red helmet. He also has sunglasses.
  • Cedric has a spaceship where he conducts experiments.


  • Ace references desert islands and the horizon.
  • Ace explains that the Earth is shaped like a sphere.
  • The travel agents has postcards of London including St Paul's Cathedral and Big Ben.
  • Cedric mentions winter and summer.
  • Ace visits a lake in Australia.
  • Ace says it's winter in Australia when the United Kingdom is in summer.
  • Ace says there are billions and billions of stars, but from Earth we can only see a couple of thousand.

The Solar System[]

  • Mercury is baking hot and the planet closest to the Sun.
  • Venus is full of smog, fog and acid rain.
  • Mars is next to Earth and is rocky.
  • Jupiter is a gassy planet eleven times bigger than Earth.
  • Saturn is a gassy planet with rings.
  • The Doctor mentions a lunar month.
  • The Doctor says the temperature of the core of the Sun is 15 million degrees. If a person was even 2 million miles away a pinhead at that temperature would still kill them.
  • The Doctor says the Sun is the energy source of the Solar System and without it him and K9 would be two lumps of frozen carbon.


  • The Ultimate Challenge is the biggest game show in the universe.
  • The Doctor presents an advert for a travel agents.
  • The travel agents has an advert that reads "there's so-ho-ho much more at Holimarine Holiday Parks".
  • The Doctor meets a polar bear.
  • The challengers take part in the Game of But and Who, How, Where, Why and What?.
  • Ace sits in a dinghy while pretending to be Australian.
  • Ace calls K9 and Cedric possums.
  • Super White washing powder is used to clean astronauts' spacesuits as it removes lunar dust.
  • Cedric mentions meteorites as he does an advert for the Mega Cosmic Lunar Landscape Kit.
  • Ace says stars don't just give out light but also radio signals.
  • K9 says the depths of space are very cold, very dark and very empty.
  • K9 mentions red hot, the orange hot, then yellow hot and eventually white hot.
  • K9 sees different coloured smarties on the floor. They are used to represent stars in their various colours.
  • The blue smartie represents a bluey white star which is a new born star that's very hot.
  • The yellow smartie represents a middle aged star like the Sun which is cooler than the bluey white star.
  • The orange smartie represents a weaker star getting near the end of its lifetime.
  • The red smartie represents a red giant which is a star that's burned up all is fuel and is getting cooler.
  • K9 sees a brown smartie.
  • The advert for Galactic Getaways featured footage of mountains, oceans, birds, hippos, elephants and trees.
  • K9 says in every galaxy are billions of solar systems.
  • Cedric says every solar system could contain a dozen planets.
  • The Doctor refuses to explain the Key to the Universe and instead shows an ice cream.

Story notes[]

The Ultimate Challenge

The Ultimate Challenge title card.

  • The story uses Delia Derbyshire's second theme as the opening theme, but closes on the Keff McCulloch theme that was used for the entirety of the Seventh Doctor era prior.
  • The K9 and Company theme tune plays when K9 visits an observatory.
  • The target age of the special was nine to eleven year olds.[6]
  • The story features the Doctor on a fictional show called The Ultimate Challenge that he is the host of and Ace, K9 and Cedric are the challengers of. It would cut to in-universe commercial breaks where the Doctor and his team would sometimes portray different roles. It's important to note these aren't different characters portrayed by the cast, but play acting by the fictional characters.
  • Search Out Space is one of many Doctor Who on screen stories from the 1990s with Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor. The others being 3-D Week, Dimensions in Time, The Movie, Destiny of the Doctors, and The Disney Club.
  • This would be the penultimate televised story with Ace as the incumbent companion with the final being Dimensions in Time.
  • The Seventh Doctor wore his Season 26 attire with the brown jacket in this story. He also carried a modified version of his umbrella with white dots so the umbrella shows up against the starry background.[7]
  • The model of K9 featured in this story was intentionally more emotional and flustered than his literally-minded persona from Season 15 to Season 18.[8]
  • The story features a brief cartoon scene with various aliens depicted and most notably a Dalek is present.


  • Search Out Science was divided into four five episode blocks with the last of each filmed as a special. Search Out Space was commissioned as a “Planet Earth” special of Search Out Science. This would be a one-off as all other Search Out Science episodes were non-narrative documentaries whereas this was scripted fiction and the only crossover.[9]
  • Lambros Atteshlis and Berry-Anne Billingsley wrote the first draft of the script in early 1990. It was later modified after discussions with Robin Mudge. Originally K9, Ace and Cedric were meant to be contestants with the Doctor as an intergalactic game show host, but it was felt this didn't involve the audience enough so it was changed to the Doctor as a quiz master. This was Mudge's only alteration. Mudge felt the viewers were now unseen adventurers aided by the stars[10]
  • Atteshlis wanted to crossover Search Out Science with Doctor Who saying "space is a fairly popular subject in the national curriculum and we had to think of a way to excite the children's imagination".[11]
  • Atteshlis personally contacted Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred asking if they'd like to take part in the story and was amazed by their initial enthusiasm. The educational aspect was most appealing to them.[12]
  • The producers then contacted Stephen Johnson to portray Cedric because of his availability and due to the fact he'd previously appeared in Corners with Aldred in 1988. He'd also worked with Berry-Anne Billingsley prior.[13]
  • Pre-filming Visual effects designer Mat Irvine rebuilt the K9 prop from inside out with new electronics and disc ears which was fine ribbed mesh. K9 gained a model racing car differential fitted to the front axle which gave K9 front wheel drive and the ability to drive on shallow steps and uneven pavements. He also had handles so he could be carried by the crew and a blue metallic finish.[14]
  • Assistant producer Peter Findley doubled as set designer. He dressed the studio’s control gallery with a TARDIS roundel wall so it’d become the TARDIS interior. Findley became responsible for how the episode looked. He located the filming locations Avalon Travel Agency and The Danish Kitchen in Ealing. They were located near BBC premises. [15]
  • Assistant floor manager Crispin Avon doubled as props buyer. He provided the “world shapes, planetary postcards” and a “alien hairy arm” for the travel agents scene.[16]
  • While not clear where Cedric was conducting his experiments. It’s confirmed by DWM 170 to be Cedric’s spaceship. The spaceship was filmed in a disused foot tunnel in the London Underground which ran parallel to Shepherd’s Bush Station. The area was without rails and quiet after the mid-evening service.[17]
  • According to The Handbook: The Seventh Doctor location filming for Search Out Space took place on 14 May, 15 May, 18 May and 21 May 1990. While filming took place at BBC Model Stage on 20 May 1990. The filming at Ealing Studios took place on 25 May 1990.
  • John Leeson didn't have his K9 voice treated in post production as per The Five Doctors. [18]



  • Mark Duncan wrote a feature on it in DWM 170 in an article called The Searchers.
  • Dimensions in Time, the next proper televised adventure with the Seventh Doctor, would continue to depict him travelling with Ace and K9.
  • The novel The Blue Angel would reuse Cedric and depict him travelling with a future incarnation of the Doctor.
  • Search Out Space was a focus of the Short Trip Storm in a Tikka which bridged the gap with the other Seventh Doctor nineties televised special Dimensions in Time due them both depicting the Seventh Doctor travelling with Ace and K9 together.
  • K9 again would be used to teach the audience about space in K9's Question Time which aired during Stargazing Live.
  • An official portrait of K9 was uploaded to an official Doctor Who website that seemingly depicted an event from the latter end of Search Out Space when the Doctor collects him in the TARDIS from outer space.[22]
  • Alan Barnes wrote a feature on the story in DWM 584 where he theorised that the Doctor was actually taking part in The Ultimate Challenge to please the Gods of Ragnarok. A previously unreleased photograph of Sylvester McCoy in the blue screen was also published.


Home media releases[]

External links[]


  1. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  2. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  3. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  4. DWM 584
  5. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  6. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  7. http://0tralala.blogspot.com/2013/11/doctor-who-1990.html
  8. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  9. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  10. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  11. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  12. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  13. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  14. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  15. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  16. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  17. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  18. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  19. https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/a292fc439c5343d38a3af3b24b4329af
  20. https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/a292fc439c5343d38a3af3b24b4329af
  21. DWM 170 - The Searchers
  22. https://www.doctorwho.tv/characters/k-9