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The Time Warrior was the first serial of season eleven of Doctor Who. The story finally revealed the name of the Doctor's home planet as Gallifrey. It also featured the first appearance of the Sontarans, as well as companion Sarah Jane Smith.

Script editor Terrance Dicks gave Robert Holmes the task of writing a story set in a medieval castle. Holmes was less than enthusiastic about this direction, feeling that historical serials were boring, twee, whimsical and relics of the show's original educational mission. Nonetheless, he agreed to Dicks' suggestion of an adventure set in medieval times, provided that it would feature no historical personages and would include a strong science-fictional element. Holmes reversed the roles in giving Dicks the setting of a lighthouse for Horror of Fang Rock in 1977.[1]

The story introduces a new opening sequence that includes a slit-scan "time tunnel" effect. It also introduces a new, diamond-shaped logo. These remained in use until 1980. This is the first story in the series history to refer to each segment as a 'Part' rather than 'Episode'. This remained until the end of the classic series with the exception of Destiny of the Daleks.


When scientists start to go missing in the 20th century, the Doctor is called in by the Brigadier to investigate. His investigations lead him to deduce that they are being kidnapped through time, and he sets off in pursuit, unknowingly kidnapping journalist Sarah Jane Smith in the process.

Arriving in the middle ages, the Doctor and Sarah find themselves caught up in the machinations of the robber baron Irongron and his "star warrior". The alien, a Sontaran named Linx, is arming him with modern weapons in return for helping him repair his damaged ship, and it's up to the Doctor and Sarah to stop him from ruining the Earth's timeline.


Part one[]

In the Middle Ages, the bandit Irongron and his aide Bloodaxe, together with their rabble of criminals, spot a "falling star" crashing to Earth. They find the crashed object, a spaceship of a Sontaran warrior named Linx. The alien claims Earth for his empire then sets about repairing his ship, offering Irongron "magic weapons" that will make him a king in return for shelter. They strike a bargain, though Irongron remains suspicious of the alien.

The Third Doctor and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart are investigating the disappearance of several scientists from a top secret scientific research complex. They do not know Linx has used an osmic projector to send himself forward seven hundred years and has kidnapped the scientists, then hypnotised them into making repairs on his ship. The projector only lets him appear in another time for a brief period but long enough to kidnap the scientists and steal equipment. While the Doctor investigates, he meets an eccentric scientist called Rubeish and a young journalist called Sarah Jane Smith, who has infiltrated the complex by masquerading as her aunt, the virologist Lavinia Smith. Later that evening Rubeish disappears, and the Doctor uses the data he has gathered to pilot the TARDIS back to the Middle Ages, not realising new companion Sarah has stowed away on board.

Irongron is a robber baron who has stolen his castle from an absent nobleman, and relations with his neighbours are appalling. Indeed, the mild Lord Edward of Wessex has been provoked into building an alliance against him and, when this is slow in developing, Lady Eleanor sends the archer Hal on an unsuccessful mission to kill Irongron. When Sarah follows the Doctor to Irongron's castle, she is seized by one of his guards, while the Doctor witnesses Linx removing his helmet.

Part two[]

Irongron is in a foul mood when a captured Sarah is brought before him. His mood improves when Linx presents him with a Robot Knight which is then put to the test on a captured Hal. The archer is only saved when the Doctor intervenes from afar by using a crossbow to shoot the robot control box from Irongron's hands. The ensuing confusion lets both Hal and Sarah flee, and they head for Wessex Castle. There, Sarah concocts a plan to kidnap the Doctor, who she thinks is working for Irongron rather than against him.

Meanwhile the Doctor has realised that Sarah is in the time period and has been captured. He finds Linx's lab, where the kidnapped scientists have been hypnotised except for Rubeish. He is caught by Linx, who restrains him using a head device, but Rubeish frees him when Linx leaves. The Doctor then leaves to search for Sarah, but is chased by Irongron and his men. When the Doctor stumbles, Irongron raises his axe.

Part three[]


Sarah Jane Smith quizzes the Doctor - The Time Warrior - BBC

Sarah quizzes the Doctor.

Hal shoots the axe out of Irongron's hand, allowing the Doctor to escape. The Doctor is able to convince Sarah and Edward that he was trying to stop Linx and agrees to help construct a defence against an attack on Wessex Castle by Irongron's men.

The next morning, the robber baron and his troops assault the castle using rifles supplied by Linx, scarcely fooled by dummies the Doctor has made to make it appear as though the castle has more soldiers than they do. As they march forward, the Doctor unleashes smoke bombs and stink bombs, which scare them away. The failure further sours the relationship between Linx and Irongron, which has deteriorated since the robot knight fiasco and the point at which the robber saw the Sontaran's true visage beneath his helmet.

The Doctor now decides to lead an attack on Irongron's castle, and he and Sarah enter dressed as friars. He offers to help Linx if he sends the scientists back home, but Linx refuses and shoots the Doctor...

Part four[]

Timewarrior ep4

The new TARDIS team.

The Doctor isn't harmed, and Linx is rendered immobile when Rubeish, acting on a hint from the Doctor, hits his probic vent (a Sontaran refuelling point on the back of their necks which is also their main weakness). Rubeish and the Doctor use the osmic projector to send the scientists back to the twentieth century. Sarah now inveigles herself into Irongron's kitchen, using the opportunity to drug the food, thereby knocking out Irongron's men.

A recovered Linx now determines his ship is repaired enough to effect a departure. Once more he encounters the Doctor, and they wrestle in combat. A crazed and half drugged Irongron arrives and accuses Linx of betraying him; the Sontaran responds by killing him. As Linx enters his spherical vessel, Hal arrives and shoots him in the probic vent, and the Sontaran warrior falls dead over his controls, triggering the launch mechanism. Knowing the place is about to explode when the shuttle takes off, the Doctor hurries the last of his allies out of the castle. It explodes moments before the Doctor and Sarah depart in the TARDIS.



Uncredited crew[]


  • Rubeish mentions namesakes.
  • Irongron has an armourer.
  • The King of England is involved in "his interminable wars". (Robert Holmes's pitch refers to King John as the monarch, making this John's lengthy war with France). [3]


The Doctor[]

  • The Doctor uses his Venusian aikido on Irongron and Bloodaxe.
  • The Doctor proves himself good at fencing.
  • The Doctor states that he would like to study art under Rembrandt.

Foods and beverages[]

  • Irongron has only sour wine in his castle.


  • Lavinia Smith is in America at the moment.

References to popular culture[]

  • Sarah Jane first thinks Irongron's men are students doing a "rag day joke", then that this is "one of those tourist places".
  • The Doctor uses the metaphor of dancing polka while de-hypnotising the scientists.




  • The Doctor uses his newly constructed rhondium sensor as both practical scientific apparatus and a kind of alarm clock.


Story notes[]

  • Working titles for this story included The Fugitive, The Time Fugitive and The Time Survivor.
  • This story features the debut of a new opening and closing title sequence designed by Bernard Lodge and realised using a process known as "slit scan". The opening title sequence features for the first time the distinctive diamond-shaped logo for the series.
  • Beginning with this story, individual episodes are listed as parts. This replaced the previous system of calling them episodes, established in 1966 with The Savages. The naming structure introduced in this serial was used through to Survival in 1989, with the single exception of Destiny of the Daleks.
  • Beginning with this story, the Doctor would be credited as "Doctor Who" as opposed to "Dr. Who". This would continue until Logopolis, and was revived as the credit in the first season of the revival.
  • Elisabeth Sladen is credited as "Sarah Jane" in Radio Times for parts one to three.
  • The Radio Times programme listing for part one was accompanied by a black-and-white illustration by Peter Brookes depicting Linx using his gun to shoot an axe from a hand, and the Brigadier, Sarah and the Doctor in front of Irongron's castle, with the accompanying caption "Into the past — to find the future. The redoubtable Dr. Who returns with a new assistant, journalist Sarah Jane Smith, and Lethbridge Stewart to fight The Time Warrior in not-so-merrie England: 5.10". (original published text)
  • Barry Letts wanted Bob Hoskins to play Irongron. He was unavailable, but he did recommend David Daker.
  • Gallifrey was originally referred to as "Galfrey" in the scripts.
  • This episode is set shortly after Jo has left, as in Death of the Doctor, Sarah Jane told Jo that she arrived "just after" her departure.
  • The special edition release of this serial includes new effects through computer-generated imagery, including energy rays from Linx's handheld laser and a rendered CGI explosion that shows Irongron's castle being blown up as opposed to a practical effect where the explosion is seen from afar and rocks are dislodged, merely implying the destruction of the castle.
  • The original script contained a full-scale battle scene of knights in armour attacking the castle. Terrance Dicks realised that this was way beyond the show's budget, so he changed it to the Doctor repelling invaders with smoke bombs.
  • In the original script, it was the Doctor who killed Linx by shooting an arrow into his probic vent.
  • According to the trivia subtitles on the DVD, the UNIT dating controversy could have been avoided — a cut line from the sequence where Linx interrogates Sarah Jane would have had her specify that she came from 1974.
  • Robert Holmes's only memory of the shoot was that Terrance Dicks ate kippers with vinegar on the train to the location filming.
  • Robert Holmes had conceived of the Sontarans after reading On War, a ten-volume treatise on military strategy compiled in the early nineteenth century by the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz. To offset his ennui with the actual business of writing a storyline, Holmes prepared his submission in the form of a military communique between the Sontarans "Hol Mes" and "Terran Cedicks".
  • Barry Letts originally hoped to direct the serial himself, but he and Terrance Dicks were busy gearing up for production on Moonbase 3.
  • Linx's appearance was a collaboration between costume designer James Acheson and make-up designer Sandra Exelby, who worked from Robert Holmes' scripted description of a cross between a human and a toad. 
  • During production, it was discovered that Kevin Lindsay had a heart condition that affected his breathing. To avoid strain, he would sometimes wear only his Sontaran helmet without the mask underneath. Unfortunately, he collapsed, causing the production schedule to be amended to allow him rest periods.
  • There were talks about retaining Hal as a second companion and Barry Letts approached Jeremy Bulloch to enquire about his schedule, but nothing came of it.
  • Hal originally had an introductory scene that featured the archer flirting with a serving girl named Mary, and explained that he had accompanied Sir Edward on one of the Crusades, helping him return home after falling sick in the Holy Land. The loss of this sequence resulted in all of Mary's dialogue being excised from the finished serial and, as a result, actress Jacqueline Stanbury would no longer be listed in the credits.
  • The name Irongron came from the histories of Denmark.
  • Kevin Lindsay insisted on pronouncing "Sontaran" by stressing the second syllable ("son-TAR-an") rather than using Robert Holmes's envisioned pronunciation, which stressed the first syllable ("SON-tar-an"). When Alan Bromly attempted to correct Lindsay's pronunciation, the latter shot back with "Well, I think it's 'son-TAR-an', and since I'm from the place, I should know." Bromly backed down, and the "son-TAR-an" pronunciation would become the canon one.
  • Peckforton Castle was owned by an American family and the production crew were asked to remain within the designated areas and not disturb the family, since another production crew that used castle caused problems and were over-friendly.
  • Production was slightly altered for scenes involving the TARDIS after it was discovered that the prop had been left in London, and the production schedule had to be amended.
  • Visual Effects Designer Jim Ward designed Linx's handheld weapon and the device with two Sontaran flags.
  • For an early scene, David Daker and John J. Carney took horse riding lessons, whilst extras David Buswell, Tom Atkins and Dick Weable were all experienced riders. The horses came from Glebe Farm in Ruislip.
  • Jon Pertwee ad-libbed the scene where the Doctor overpowers the sentries.
  • The arrows that struck Linx's robot were never fired at all. They were inserted into the costume and a mixture of film cutting and sound effects were used to create the impression of an arrow being fired.
  • For the destruction of Irongron's castle, Barry Letts suggested mixing shots of the castle and a quarry exploding, giving the impression of the castle collapsing. However, Terrance Dicks suggested using a model shot akin to the destruction of the church at the end of The Daemons.
  • Linx's death was achieved by inserting an arrow into his probic vent during a recording break and then having Kevin Lindsay react as if he was really hit.


  • Part one - 8.7 million viewers
  • Part two - 7.0 million viewers
  • Part three - 6.6 million viewers
  • Part four - 10.6 million viewers


  • Potatoes were unknown in England until Sir Walter Raleigh brought them back from the Americas in the 16th century, but they are referred to in this story. (This is a common misconception — no potatoes featured in this story, but they are referenced in the novelisation of this story.)

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.
  • Irongron's gun goes off before he fires it.
  • When looking at the robot, the actor's eyes can be clearly seen through the eye holes.
  • In part four, just before the Doctor, Sarah, and Hal enter Linx's workshop, a stagehand can be heard for a moment shouting a verbal cue off-screen.
  • When the Doctor and Sarah enter the TARDIS at the end of part four, one of the TARDIS' side windows can briefly be seen from the inside, revealing it to be a prop.
  • The insertion of stock footage of a quarry explosion to represent the destruction of Irongron's castle in part four is obvious and unconvincing, with the rocky mountainside landscape (complete with a layer of grass growing on top) seen in the explosion shot bearing no resemblance to the medieval castle seen throughout the rest of the story.


Home video and audio releases[]

DVD releases[]

This story was released as Doctor Who: The Time Warrior.

Released: Region 2 3 September 2007, Region 4 3 October 2007 and Region 1 April 2008.

Special Features[]

  • Commentary by Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Barry Letts (Producer) and Terrance Dicks (Script Editor)
  • Beginning the End - The cast and crew of The Time Warrior look back on the making of this story, in this newly produced documentary. Featuring Elisabeth Sladen, Donald Pelmear (Rubeish), Jeremy Bulloch (Hal), Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks and Keith Cheetham (designer)
  • CGI Effects - Choose to watch the story with some of the original effects replaced by 16 new CGI sequences
  • Continuity Compilation - A selection of off-air continuity announcements for the original BBC transmission of The Time Warrior.
  • The Doctor Who Annual 1974 (DVD-ROM PC/Mac)
  • Radio Times Billings - Original listings from Radio Times (DVD-ROM PC/Mac)
  • Photo Gallery
  • Production Subtitles
  • Coming Soon Trailer - The Key to Time
  • Easter Eggs:
    • The Time Warrior Firsts: Short featurette detailing various "firsts" introduced by this serial, including the first appearance of Sarah Jane, the first appearance of a Sontaran, the first use of the slit-scan title sequence, and others. To access this hidden feature, press left at Special Features on the Main Menu to illuminate the Doctor Who logo.
    • Terrance Dicks bonus interview talking about his relationship with Barry Letts. To access this hidden feature, press left at Back on the second page of the Special Features menu to reveal a hidden Doctor Who logo.


  • Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team. Unfortunately, during re-mastering, on-screen credits for David Daker (Irongron) and John J. Carney (Bloodaxe) were omitted from the closing titles of part one by mistake.
  • The DVD release was also the first time the serial was available complete and uncut.

Box set release: This story was released in the Bred for War DVD box set on 5 May 2008 along with the other classic series Sontaran stories. The DVD is the same as the one sold separately. It was later released in Australia on 8 July.

It was released as issue 53 of Doctor Who DVD Files.

Digital releases[]

This story is available:

  • in iTunes stores (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, UK and US) as part of the Doctor Who (not Doctor Who: The Classic Series) collection Monsters: The Sontarans, which additionally includes the stories The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky;
  • in non-continental iTunes stores (Australia, Canada, UK and US) as a standalone season of Doctor Who: The Classic Series;
  • on Amazon Video (UK) as Season 70 of Doctor Who (Classic) series;
  • for streaming through BritBox (Canada and US) as part of Season 11 of Classic Doctor Who.

VHS releases[]

This story was released in compilation form as The Time Warrior in the PAL format in 1989, and was released in Australia several months before the UK release. The sleeve of the Australian release credited Elisabeth Sladen and Nicholas Courtney as well as Jon Pertwee.

External links[]



  1. In part two of the television story The Sontaran Experiment, Sarah Jane Smith tells Field Major Styre that Linx was destroyed in the 13th century.


  1. Beginning the End
  2. 2.0 2.1 Accidentally uncredited on-screen for part one on DVD release.
  3. Robert Holmes: A Life In Words - "Interlude VIII: The Time Fugitive" (Richard Molesworth)