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Warriors’ Gate

In one of the most stylish Doctor Who stories of all time, the Fourth Doctor, Romana, Adric and K9 try to find a way out of E-Space – and back home...


Scratching beneath the surface of Doctor Who’s most fascinating tales...

For those who travel on the time winds the vastness of space is no obstacle.”

Warriors’ Gate is a bit confusing. I don’t think it was intended to be – the actual story is about as simple as you can get,a bunch of slaves are freed and the bad guys’ spaceship blows up – but there is a ‘haunting sense of a story beyond the story’ as its writer Stephen Gallagher once described it. Partly that’s due to the way the story is told – there are no explanations, just clues to piece together – and partly to the way it was made – there are one or two scenes that are missing the crucial shot that reveals what is actually going on.

But mainly, I think, it’s confusing because there is so much else in it – stuff which enriches the story thematically but which doesn’tmake it easier to follow. This is a story that touches on the I Ching, on Jung’s ideas of synchronicity, on quantum theory, on Aboriginal people’s beliefs, on the films of Jean Cocteau. In terms of semiotic thickness it’s probably got more going on than any other Doctor Who story.

Which is why I’ve persuadedDWM to give me an extra couple of pages – and because there is more material on the development of this story than any other from the first two decades, retained in the Hull University Archive. I’d like to thank them for their help in researching this article, along with TV researchers John Williams and Andrew Pixley, and Stephen Gallagher himself.

Part One


Biroc visualises the TARDIS.

The crew of a slaver ship prepares to jump the timelines. The captain, Rorvik (Clifford Rose), orders Packard (Kenneth Cope) to commence ignition. Sagan (Vincent Pickering) announces they have lift off but their enslaved Tharil navigator, Biroc (David Weston), fails to visualise a destination. The ship hits a time rift as the Tharil visualises a tumbling police box.

■ The opening series of slow-moving tracking shots are a clear homage to the opening sequence of L’Année dernière à Marienbad (1961) directed by Alain Resnais, which director Paul Joyce viewed in preparation for Warriors’ Gate. He also viewed Kiss Me Deadly (1955) “to demonstrate some of the qualities he wanted to get into the story” (Christopher Bidmead, DWM 258).

■ The ship’s graffiti includes ‘Kilroy was here’, a popular graffiti phrase dating from World War II. We later learn that a non-speaking member of the crew is called Kilroy; this was a late addition made in the camera script. (For the rest of this article, extra material in the camera script – which could have been added by the cast during rehearsals, or by the director or script editor – will simply be referred to as a ‘late addition’ to avoid repetition.)

■ The camera scripts refer to the ship as ‘the privateer’ but it is not identified as such in the story.

■ The idea of opening with the privateer was introduced in Stephen Gallagher’s second draft, which begins with the privateer being pursued by a blockade ship which blasts their motors just as they are making an evasive manoeuvre. This was changed to the privateer trying to leave the void in the third draft. Gallagher combined the second and third draft openings for the Target novelisation published in 1982.

■ The rehearsal script (paraphrasing Gallagher’s earlier drafts) describes Rorvik as ‘thick-set, bull-like and bearded’ and Packard as ‘tall and gloomy, as if resigned to a lifetime of apologising’. The bridge is a ‘geodesic structure [...] the paint is now streaked and aged, the theme colour being that of rust’. The rehearsal script barely describes Biroc; in the first draft he is ‘tall and broad-shouldered, human in form although his features are leonine’.

■ Rorvik and Sagan are named after science writers David Rorvik (1944-) and Carl Sagan (1934-96). Biroc and Lazlo are named after cinematographers who frequently collaborated with Kiss Me Deadly director Robert Aldrich; Joseph F Biroc (1903-96) and Ernest Laszlo (1898-1984).

■ The rehearsal script includes an extra crewman called Nestor; all his lines are reallocated to Sagan and Packard in the camera script.

■ Gallagher provided text to appear on the privateer’s computer screens; although not legible in the broadcast story, three of the humorous, Douglas Adams-esque, readouts were incorporated into the novelisation. A fourth was prepared for the final part, in which the computer confirms that the warp systems are holding but warns that the coffee dispenser, sauna and massage unit are inoperable, and that an instalment payment on the Mobius generator is now due.

“ Unless we work very closely together, we could be caught here until the crack of doom.”

The TARDIS is also caught in the time rift. Doctor Who (Tom Baker) says he has lost control, much to the frustration of Romana (Lalla Ward).

■ Some dialogue was cut from the rehearsal script, which makes it clear that Romana has “steered” the TARDIS into the time rift. n This script gives the setting as the ‘console room’, the first time it is ever referred to by that name.

In the privateer, Sagan reports that the helm readings show no time, no space. The ship has been damaged and another crewmember, Lane (David Kincaid) goes down to check. He finds a tear in the hull and reports that the power line to the warp drive has almost burned out.

■ In the third draft, this scene begins with Rorvik asking if they are out of the dead zone, and Packard explains that they nearly made it back into normal space but fell back. This scene is then followed by one with Sagan and Jos (another character removed in later drafts) in which Sagan says, “Every try we make, the more I’m sure – we’re in this nowhere grave forever.”

■ he shot through the hull echoes the use of foreground objects in Kiss Me Deadly.

The Doctor considers following intuition, in the manner of consulting the I Ching. K9 (voiced by John Leeson) explains what it is to Adric (Matthew Waterhouse).

■ The I Ching (also known as The Book of Changes) is a Chinese divination manual dating from the Western Zhou period based on the principle of cleromancy; four randomly generated numbers are used to create a ‘hexagram’ – a stack of six lines that are either broken or unbroken (‘yin’ or ‘yang’). There are 64 hexagram combinations, each of which has an entry in the I Ching. There is also the possibility that lines may be transforming from yin to yang or vice versa, offering more nuanced interpretations.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Contents include: A celebration of the classic Target Book covers, including interviews with artists Chris Achilleos, Jeff Cummins and Andrew Skilleter; executive producer Brian Minchin on casting the new companion; an interview with actress Clare Higgins, who plays Ohila, leader of the Sisterhood of Karn; an in-depth look at immortality in Doctor Who; The Fact of Fiction examines two pivotal adventures – Warriors' Gate and The Night of the Doctor; The Time Team watch The Vampires of Venice; a guide to Doctor Who weddings; comic strip – Witch Hunt part 3, written by Jacqueline Rayner and illustrated by Martin Geraghty; Relative Dimensions discusses cosplay for kids; a review of The Complete Series 9 box set; plus news, reviews, previews, competitions, a prize-winning crossword and the Wotcha column.