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Two Bagels, one moustache. Doc & Co are split across time in the first part of the Black Guardian Trilogy

On a luxury cruiser, eight mutated space chaps dressed like Björk are deeply regretting their crimes. Centuries prior, they stole a metamorphic symbiosis regenerator from Gallifrey with the intention of turning themselves into Time Lords. Alas, it only served to give their brains a comb-over and subject them to eternal suffering. All they need now is any random Time Lord or Lady to sacrifice their regeneration energy in order to end it.

Meanwhile, coincidentally, The Black Guardian has appeared on Earth and recruited highschooler Turlough, a cocksure cockhat with coincidental knowledge of space and time attending a school where, coincidentally, works Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart. Remember Brigadier Bagels? Well, coincidentally, he barely does. And as a matter of further coincidence, The Doctor and his companions are about to be drawn into a deadly game that might turn Doc into a regular schmo.

Here's what we think of C126 Mawdryn Undead

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

3.8

Jim | @jimmythewho

2.5

Here's what we think of C126 Mawdryn Undead

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

3.8

Jim | @jimmythewho

2.5

Here's what you think 12 Responses to “C126 Mawdryn Undead”
  1. Steven from Canada

    This story is awesome. From fantastic call backs to an amazing story this one has it all.

    The return of the Black Guardian was amazing and caught me by surprise. I absolutely loved the “Key to Time” season (if I ever go back to make reviews expect 5/5 for the whole season) so seeing that loose end tied up was fantastic.

    The crispy Doctor and regeneration fake out was dark and mysterious, though I wish they kept the uncertainty about the true nature of Mawdryn a little longer.

    The production value of this story is incredible. Great costumes, gorgeous sets and awesome music really pull the whole thing together.

    There is one omission that is about as obvious as the Brig’s bald spot: Ian Chesterton. As has probably already been discussed the role the brigadier plays was originally meant for Ian, but due to scheduling conflicts William Russell was unavailable. Much like an emotional distant parent: I’m not angry just disappointed.

    A reunion between the Doctor and one of his first companions would have been fantastic and I would be jumping with joy to see one of my favourite companions back on the screen.
    Now don’t get me wrong I absolutely love the brigadier with all my heart but part of me longs for the alternate timeline.

    There seems to be a trend where the brigadier is becoming the go to replacement companion (I’ll elaborate when we get to the 5 doctors) but I’d argue if replacing Ian was so necessary they should have just used Barbara instead. She’s already a teacher!

    Overall this story earns 4.9 murdered military moustaches out of 5.

    If only it had stuck to the original plan it would have got a perfect mark from me.

  2. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    The Brigadier is back baby! No wait, there’s two of them, argh! And it’s the Black Guardian, with a dead bird on his head. Right…

    So, this one is again a little messy (running theme this season), but generally I like it. Nice time travel ideas of split time zones. Doctor Who often shies away from doing time travel plots but when they work well, they are quite interesting. The plot of the immortal aliens who just want to die is interesting enough (apparently this was the original plot before Saward/JNT added everything else). And David Collins pops up, cool. Him pretending to be the Doctor is funny as Collins plays an alternative Doctor in the Big Finish Unbound range, Full Fathom Five.

    We do have a continuity issue here though as the Brig is retired before the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. But the UNIT stories are set after this (maybe). The events in The Web of Fear are ‘over 40 years’ after The Abominable Snowmen which is 1935, so Web is 1975 at the earliest and The Invasion is ‘over 4 years’ later. Thus Invasion is supposed to be at least 1979 but the Brig has been retired for over two years already. Hmm…Yeah Doctor Who has a messy continuity, nothing new there.

    And we’ve now got a companion who is out to get the Doctor. Fortunately he seems to be not that very good at doing that. I’m sure it’ll be fine…

    This one has some interesting ideas in it but the whole distracts 3.5/5

    Cheers
    Kieren

  3. Ed Corbet

    These openings where they refer to the last story don’t work for me; they mean nothing if you didn’t see the last story and aren’t relevant to anything that unfolds later. References to the Doctor’s regenerations and past in UNIT work better though, as they act to link past events to the current story.

    This week’s returning villain is the Black Guardian, a creepy old man who hangs around with sick school-boys in their pyjamas making them agree to his “terms”.

    Bagels returns; his 83 version has no moustache and no memory, but the 77 Bagels has his moustache (his mantle of power) and his memory is intact and when we next see Bagels, he has his moustache again and his memory, coincidence? … yes, probably.

    Bagels also gives very specific dates for his retirement forgetting the Pertwee era was actually set in the early 80s causing Who chronologists a near 40 year headache.

    So, 77 and 83 Bagels being in the same time-period is dangerous because of the time differential; fine.

    When they touch, energy is released as this differential cancels out; also fine.

    So why do they now need to avoid each other; has the energy not dissipated? Or will that energy be released whenever the Bagels high-five? Unlimited Power!

    This story actually remembers that Doctor Who’s about time travel and plays out the unfolding mystery across the two time-periods well, although I’m not watching it again in case it doesn’t make sense when you start examining it.

    2.8

    Ed Corbet

  4. Peter Zunitch

    After watching this series dozens of times over 37+ years, I can honestly say the worst thing about it is that I still can’t spell “Mawdryn”. Okay slight exaggeration there. It does have some other flaws but they are always overshadowed by pluses.

    There’s a lot of corridor wandering, but that’s okay as you never tire of seeing the sets and costumes. There’s also little action, but Peter Davison’s energy is in overdrive, and he heightens every scene. Turlough is another whiney dude, but Mark Strickson acts with such conviction he’s just wonderful. Finally, there are soooo many coincidences, but what can’t be chalked up to the Black Guardian’s influence is just so cool that I pity anyone who harps on about the plot instead of just enjoying the story for the wonderful ride it is.

    For true fans, there’s nostalgia galore here as well. Mr, Courtney emblazons the screen in two fabulous yet subtly different performances. Between him and Valantine Dyall, it’s no wonder I keep coming back to this story. The rest of the supporting cast are perfect in their parts as well. Nyssa, Tegan get great parts. They and the Brig would have made a wonderful spinoff series.

    I love the concept here, I love the circular progression, and I want to visit a hotel with a space art deco theme. I would have given it either 4.2 ringed planet-topped control consoles, or 4.2 80’s game console machine sounding consoles, but I got amnesia and forgot to do either.

  5. Tracey from America | @yecartniatnouf

    The brig? Turlough? Black guardian?? Time travel as major story element??!
    Where to begin?
    Let’s talk Turlough. The introduction of this character sets up a mystery that does not pay off until his last episode. I find this annoying and frustrating, like all the Harry Potter books.
    Then there’s the Black Guardian. Who is he? What’s his beef with the Doctor? Is he gone for good?
    Spoilers: we don’t know, unclear, and nope!
    It’s been so long since we saw BAGLS we needed two of him to make it up to us. The pair of Brigs manage to short out the device that was about to steal Doc’s regenerations, a la Jennifer meeting herself in Back To The Future II. Past BAGLS gets a raw deal; he has a breakdown and has to live the next six years without any memories of Doc. Future BAGLS fares better. It seems his grasp of exactly what Doc got up to in the TARDIS was always shaky at best. Finally he has come to fully appreciate what the TARDIS can do.
    What should I say about the multiple tracks of time running through this story? Quite interesting, a little confusing. I hope you all talked about how likely or unlikely it is that a burnt humanoid might be a regenerating Doctor. With multiple time tracks you just never know. There was that episode with horrifying burnt future Clara after all.

    Rating: the color of the time of day when you notice it’s not that time of day anymore

  6. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    Episode 1

    • Turlough, you annoy me already. Come back Adric, all is forgiven.
    • It’s Bagels!!!!! We’ve missed you so much!

    Episode 2

    • Big like – Bagels remembering his UNIT past.
    • The ‘Doctor’ is going to need some Salvon.
    • BAGELS SQUARED!!!!! Oooh, this is all getting more interesting…
    • Best. Cliffhanger. Ever! The dude has a spaghetti brain pulsating from his head!

    Episode 3

    • Like – the freaky Black Guardian appearing in the statue. Nice.

    Episode 4

    • Funniest moment – the Tegan and Nissa children. I laughed my beer out of my nose!
    • Ooooh, that catty look Tegan and Nissa share at Turlough joining team Tardis…I sense tension!

    Summary: surprisingly interesting, plus two Brigadiers. Harrah!

    Rating: 3.7/5 pulsating spaghetti brain people shuffling around an Art Deco spaceship for all eternity.

  7. Tanz Sixfingers | @Tanz6fingers

    Hi Ho Jim and Leon!
    Take a deep breath and savor this serial; this is my very favorite classic Who story.
    “Mawdryn Undead” heralds the return of not just one, but two instances of BAGLS, who has not been seen since “Terror of the Zygons” seven seasons ago. Sporting his actual mustache, the Brig finally gets to meet the newest Doctor, and we get to see what retirement, and a temporal paradox, does to him. We also get to see what happens to non-Time Lords when they cross their own time stream. As Tegan would say,
    Valentine Dyall returns as the marvelously sinister Black Guardian, starting off a 3-serial story arc of him set on destroying the Doctor.

    We also get the introduction to a very mysterious and complicated new companion, Vislor Turlough, who is clearly not from Earth and knows the basics of time travel, although we don’t get his first name for a while and no one questions why he goes by just his last name.

    Other likes:

    • the plot is centered on time travel and Time Lord lore.
    • the music is wonderful
    • the Doctor shows he has tools other than the sonic screwdriver
    • the TARDIS homing beacon! Why isn’t this ever used again!?
    • the visuals for BAGLS remembering!
    • continuity to how many regenerations Time Lords get, the Zero Room, and Mawdryn wearing the maroon coat from Tom Baker’s last season to add to his impersonation

    Dislikes:

    • The date continuity error has to be addressed, but it is because initially it was Ian Chesterton who was returning, not BAGLS, and the date was set in the story then. Later script editor Eric Saward (SAY ward) failed to check when the UNIT stories occurred (the dates were never mentioned in the stories, on purpose, but they were supposed to have taken place 15-20 years in the near future.) I remember them saying “Invasion” was supposed to be set in 1986, and this also accounts for the advanced gadgetry UNIT has, and the various space mission stories of the Third Doctor’s era. For this, I dock it 0.2
    • Nyssa gets stuck in the tardis AGAIN.
    • Lack of more than one female supporting character (Matron).

    I loved this serial, and binge watch it whenever I need to be cheered up.

    My rating: 4.6 trips up the hill to the obelisk out of 5.

    ~Tanz Sixfingers

  8. Paul Waring | @pwaring

    The Brigadier is back! That alone makes Mawdryn Undead worthy of your time. With lines such as ‘if I was suffering from amnesia, I’d be the first to know about it’ and ‘I’ve never encountered such destructive power as I have seen displayed here and now by the British schoolboy’, what’s not to like?

    The affliction of Mawdryn and his companions is interesting, and perhaps poetic justice for their misguided experiments. Whilst they are not particularly threatening in their own right, their ability to effectively trap the Doctor on the ship and guilt-trip him into helping them makes them different to most adversaries.

    The Black Guardian however is a bit of a mixed bag as villains go. In theory he’s ridiculously powerful, yet it turns out he can’t kill the Doctor, except via proxy.

    Turlough makes for an interesting companion – we’ve had members of the TARDIS team who didn’t like the Doctor initially, but this is the first one who is out to kill him. The only downside is that the companions are often seen as representing the audience, but it’s a bit hard to relate to someone who is trying to kill the main character. Then again, Turlough fails so miserably in his mission that one wonders why the Black Guardian chose him in the first place.

    Overall, and mainly for the introduction of Turlough and the reappearance of the Brigadier, this story gets: 3.5/5

  9. Andy Parkinson | @caffreys71

    What-ho Chaps

    You asked for some shorter minis, so here goes-

    BAGLS is in it

    5 out of 5

    Seriously though, Mawdryn Undead has an old foe in the shape of the Black Guardian who despite being all powerful still needs to enlist a whiny duplicitous character in Turlough – seriously we’ve just got rid of Adric and now we’re introducing another treacherous asshat? At least this time though Mark Strickland can actually act. Is it me or do Turlough and Hippo remind you of Boris Johnson and David Cameron? I can totally see them slamming each other’s dicks in drawers and having inappropriate relations with pigs.

    Most importantly BAGLS is back!!!! Yay! Nicholas Courtney plays his role delightfully.

    Likes

    • The design of the Starliner interiors is lovely. It has a look similar to the Sand Mine in Robots of Death
    • David Collings is excellent as Mawdryn as is the exposed pulsing brain, brilliantly gross!

    Beefs

    • I wish we had more of a backstory as to who Mawdryn and the other undead are
    • Why do Tegan and Nyssa think Mawdryn is the Doctor when his clothes hair and other features are clearly not him? I know it’s to drive the plot, but it’s stupid.

    Overall, it’s a bit of a mish-mash of a story, but enjoyable all the same. And of course, it has BAGLS who is simply wonderful.

    I award this 4.3 clearly polystyrene rocks out of 5

    Andy Parkinson
    @caffreys71

  10. 100WattWalrus

    Pop a comment, Leon said, so here ya go: “The Three Doctors” was the first time BAGLS entered the TARDIS. Pretty sure you made a big deal about it at the time, but it’s been a while since I listed to that episode.

  11. Neil | @neilandrozani

    We meet Turlough and his enormously fat friend Ibbotson who is cheerily referred to as ‘Hippo’ – problem is, the actor isn’t that huge at all! The music gets off to a mad, techno start and we meet the panto Black Guardian who has a great voice, but a not-so-great dead bird on his head. Another new costume for Nyssa this time and it’s miles better than the last one! Great location work and the private school setting works well.
    The big shining star of this story is the return of the Brig! Nick Courtney is fantastic and his flashback sequence is a stunner. I really love how the outside of the Brig’s cabin is very neat and tidy in 1977 but in 1983 it’s tatty and unkempt. Wonderful attention to detail.
    Other highlights include the impressive transmat prop on location, the gorgeous set design of Mawdryn’s ship, the pulsating brains of the aliens and the way they glide around their ship.
    Overall, a good intro for Turlough and an interesting new take to have an ‘evil’ companion.
    I do like this story but it runs out of gas in the final 2 episodes.
    Rating – 3.0

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N142 World Enough and Time