Reimagining Doctor Who

Flight Through Eternity

Episode notes

If you can take the bones of this story and reshape them into a character-led piece that allows the four protagonists to reflect on and process the traumas that they have just lived and which unfolded before them on Skaro, and to then flesh that out with a greater exploration of the telepathic abilities of the TARDIS and Susan, in turn being able to introduce the sentience of the TARDIS; that is, to introduce the fifth character of the show, and one that will become immensely important to the on-going series.

Once again, we have to look at the Nigel Robinson novelisation for the greater depths to this story. Exploring the interior of the TARDIS should be epic, fantastical, even unnerving. It should be everything that we have previously hoped for from a TARDIS-set story, paralleled to the psychological aspects hinted at in the original (which is really the symbolist representation of the fear, anger, and trauma of the characters having been retched from their lives in London, 1963 and as a set of emotional consequences resulting from their adventure on Skaro).

These psychological aspects refer to the scenes rooted in Coal Hill High School and in The Daleks, reflecting the ‘bottle’ nature of this episode, achieved by leveraging the time that would be available on the sets and locations as shot during the first two stories to extend the scenes beyond the TARDIS (while justifying the construction of the TARDIS set that would serve for the duration of these reimagined series, and will later double for the Master’s TARDIS interior, too), making the scenes where Ian and Barbara believe they are in the Coal Hill staff room more immediately apparent and understandable to the audience than in the original by here cutting between the actual Coal Hill and the TARDIS console room sets.

The resolution in the original involving the explanation that the TARDIS has been trying to warn its crew about its impending death and its spiral towards what is essentially Event One through symbolist imagery by insisting through that symbolist imagery on harmony between its inhabitants – though not by repressing those issues, but by properly and adequately having them dealt with, both individually on the part of each character and between themselves – is secondary in this retelling. Whilst it’s important to establish that the TARDIS is a semi-psychic entity, and would be sharing in the same psychological trauma of its occupants, and that right now it needs them to function as a team, if not a family, should all be framed against a greater threat. Yes, Ian must accept that his science is comparatively infantile and that he is not in control; something that takes away from his entire sense of self in these utterly alien environments; Barbara, that she has been kidnapped and, we learn, consequently removed from caring for her aged mother; Susan, that she has lost her perceived and perhaps actual last chance of a normal life, which she so enjoyed on Earth; and the Doctor, that he cannot simply fade away, as he tried to do in running away to London, 1963, but that he must do what he now knows is right, no matter how hard that is, as proven to him through his revelation of self-discovery on Skaro. But what this story ultimately lacks in its original form is a true antagonist. Here, we get a terrifyingly powerful entity that has invaded the TARDIS and disguises as a member of its travelling crew.

It is important that we get to the point where that entity is defeated through an understanding that, between them, each of the characters understand that they are now each others’ family – at least in terms of a survival unit – and, as such, they have to be the best possible team together. And that’s where this story takes us.

Cold Open

The episode opens in the Coal Hill High School staff room, where Barbara is visibly having nightmares of the Daleks in their city on Skaro and of the events of the evening at the junkyard at Totter’s Lane. When the Doctor’s face looms into view, she awakens in her chair with a frightened gasp. Heart thumping, Barbara looks around her and is thankful that she finds herself at Coal Hill, and that there is nobody there to notice that she had fallen asleep. Barbara checks the time, but the clock in the staff room isn’t just broken – it’s melting.


Act One

Orientation & Exposition

Cut to Ian, who has also fallen asleep at his desk and is experiencing nightmares, this time of the monsters that take Elyon at the Lake of Mutations and Antodus falling into the mouth of the Slyther in the Mountains on Skaro before the Doctor’s hardened face also comes into view and leers at him. Awaking with a shout in an otherwise empty science laboratory classroom, he goes to the door to check on the unnerving silence. Nobody is around. It’s then that he notices Barbara running through the corridors, and calls out to her.

Ian catches up with a still dazed Barbara. Finding themselves back at Coal Hill School, neither wants to talk about their seeming nightmares concerning Daleks and the Doctor. Instead, they skirt around the issue, trying to convince the other of their sanity – and themselves. Barbara asks what Ian is doing at the school on a weekend. Ian is taken aback, as though realising for the first time that it is a Saturday – the 23rd of November, 1963 – and says he could ask her the same thing. They smile as though half in some silent agreement on the reality that they have contrived but perhaps more so at the awkwardness of finding themselves alone together. Barbara tries to defuse the situation by saying that she is wedded to her job. Ian’s face falls at this. In that instance, the pallid daylight drops to the darkness of pitch night around them. Then the lights flicker on around the school. Barbara checks her watch and asks Ian what the time is. Ian’s wristwatch appears to have malfunctioned. In truth, its face has melted, which he attempts to hide but it is seen by Barbara, who says that she does not believe the coincidence. Without explaining, Barbara runs off in search of something, and Ian follows her, desperately wondering why there is nobody else around.

Panning up to the night sky and zooming through space in on a distant star, down to one of its encircling planets, the night sky shot dissolves into the vast plains of Skaro’s wastelands. The Doctor is lying on the ground, unconscious. In his mindscape, he stands in the citadel of the Daleks, facing down their Emperor. At first, he is defiant, but when they reveal that they have captured Susan he implores them not to hurt her, admitting that he will do what they say so long as she is unharmed.

We cut to Susan in what looks to be an ordinary suburban bedroom. She is asleep in her bed, covered in fashion magazines from the time and spent chewing gum wrappers litter the floor. An alarm bell rings and the radio comes on with a jangly guitar sound we first hear on the radio in the pilot episode. Her homework and school books are sprawled on a nearby desk. She is clearly at home – except this is actually a house in London on Earth on a Saturday morning in late November of 1963, not her bedroom aboard the TARDIS. She reaches out and silences the old-fashioned alarm clock, but we close in on its face as it begins to melt. Cut to Susan in the downstairs hallway, dressed for school. She calls out to her Grandfather, but there is no answer from upstairs, so she shouts her goodbyes down up into the gloom. Susan exits the front door of her home – but the door to the house has become the external doors to the TARDIS and she finds herself in a seemingly-familiar semi-darkness.

Searching frantically for any sign of life through classrooms, corridors, and playgrounds, Ian and Barbara instead find the school entirely deserted – until they get to the reception foyer, where the only person is an old man, unconscious on the floor with a nasty cut to his head. Barbara begins to attend to the old man’s wound while Ian seeks help in the street outside after finding the school’s phoneline is down. Ian moves into the street outside but it isn’t the scene he was expecting to find. Instead, all he can see is the unnervingly endless starfield of space.

Cut back to the Doctor in the citadel of the Daleks on the Skarovian plains. With Susan, Ian, and Barbara standing by as prisoners, the Doctor argues not with the Daleks, it becomes clear, but with his darker impulses, which are merely given voice by the Daleks. The voices rise to a cacophony of accusations, stating that he should not have endangered Susan, that he should not have taken Ian and Barbara from their time, that he should find somewhere where nobody will find him and stay there. But he knows, he cannot stand by and do nothing. The Daleks themselves have proven to him that he cannot do that; that he can’t simply choose to fade away from this universe now that he knows the threats posed to it. He must stand for what he knows to be right, to uphold the promise he has made not just to Susan but now also to Ian and Barbara. All the while, the alien clock that countdowns to the neutron bombs’ detonation begins to melt.

At that moment, there is a glitch in time and the scene falls away for each of them. Susan is no longer at ‘home’. Ian and Barbara are no longer in the foyer of Coal Hill School. The Doctor is no longer in the Daleks’ chamber. They all are gathered, standing around TARDIS console, the console room now shrouded in darkness. The Doctor appears to be missing, but is actually laying unconscious on the floor, a nasty wound to the top of his head evident through a large blood stain on the bandaging Barbara has applied.

As Susan’s, Ian’s, and Barbara’s delusions are broken, the Doctor stirs, saying that he can’t take Susan back. The name acts as a wake-up call to Ian and Barbara, remembering Susan Foreman and flashing forward through the events aboard the TARDIS, then of their encounter with the Daleks and the Thals on Skaro, before the face of the Doctor comes into view, both in their minds and at their feet.

Susan is alarmed to see the Doctor unconscious on the floor.

First Turning Point

At that moment, an overwhelming light appears from the Space/Time Visualiser above them. It intensifies further when behind them the doors open as though controlled by an invisible will, the light eventually blinding them in a white-out. Within the faraway depths of the Ship, a cloister bell begins to ring. With each toll, we cut to each of the melting clocks we have seen, lastly focussing on the Daleks’ figures as they signify the countdown to zero.

There is a bright light that encroaches on the Dalek citadel; the blast of a neutron bomb. Its blinding light dissolves through a whiteout into the inside of the TARDIS, its doors now thrown open as a monstrously powerful energy wave penetrates its console room, rumbling loudly and with great menace towards the four gathered travellers. And then they are consumed by it.


Act Two

Rising Action

The Doctor rises to his feet and springs to the controls on the console. He closes the outer doors, silencing the howl of the vortex beyond and with it the ringing of the cloister bell. Looking at the instruments and the time rotor, the Doctor deduces that they have undoubtedly landed – even if the sight beyond the doors has revealed only the Space-Time Vortex, and the scanner does not show any place, suggesting that they are still in flight. Susan is checking on the dressing to the Doctor’s wound. She clearly experiences a psychic exchange with the Doctor, from which Susan emerges with a sense of clarity and purpose, nodding her head in agreement and thinking, via voiceover, “Yes, Grandfather”.

Barbara doubts him, and expresses so, to which the Doctor reacts badly, saying that he has studied with the finest minds of the universe and will find the answer while her primitive mind will not be able to even comprehend the question. Furious, Barbara refutes the Doctor’s suspicions with a recap of their recent adventure on Skaro, where she and Ian risked their lives to save the Doctor and Susan from the Daleks, and cites Ian’s bravery in their being able to get away and back aboard the TARDIS. During this argument, Susan picks up the remainder of the bandages and surreptitiously places the pair of scissors in her jacket pocket. Ian plays peacekeeper, but the Doctor now turns on him, asking if he has touched the controls. The Doctor is placated by Susan’s reassurances from the other side of the console that they haven’t, and moreover that they would not have been able to reset the TARDIS’ flight path even if they wanted to. The Doctor and Ian form a peace pact before leaving to investigate the engines of the TARDIS by oil lamp.

Ian gets lost, amid the antiques that line the TARDIS corridors. He begins to suspect that the Doctor has purposefully shaken him off his trail, and notices what seems to be a shallow breathing that simultaneously sounds both near and far away. The unnerving sound of the breathing becomes synchronised to the lighting in the depths of the TARDIS. A series of locked doors lead him in a particular direction, as though something was guiding his progress. Visually, he can no longer distinguish between the inside of the TARDIS and the corridors of Coal Hill. The resulting paranoia makes it difficult for Ian to determine reality from his imagination, and he is overwhelmed by the baroque complexity and alienness of the TARDIS as juxtaposed against the familiar scenery of his mundane past life that he fears he cannot return to.

Susan and Barbara have a conversation in which we learn that Susan looks after her grandfather as much as he likes to think that he looks after her, while Barbara reveals that she also regularly visits and looks after her aged mother for whom she now worries having being whisked off into Time and Space. Susan begins to feel fatigued and is chaperoned by Barbara to her room.

Leaving Susan to sleep, Barbara goes on to explore an impossibly large library aboard the TARDIS that goes on and on. The room eventually begins to take the form of both her classroom and Ian’s laboratory at Coal Hill School. She begins to feel overwhelmed by the almost endless shelves of books, experiment exhibits, and written formulae, and has to breathe slowly to prevent herself from panicking. As she calms herself, she hears a steady breathing mimicking her own. It is the same noise that Ian heard in the previous scene. Barbara becomes convinced that it is her ageing mother having another of her attacks. Barbara locates the source of the distress behind a locked door and goes to smash it open after she cannot unlock it. At that point, she is assaulted by books, boxes and various bits of inanimate scientific equipment that begin to fly directly towards her. With no other route to escape, she instead runs back down the corridor that led her to this place.

In the dark, Ian sees a sinister silhouette plugging away suspiciously at the controls of an imposing machine that he imagines drives unseen giant wheels and turbines for ends unknown. Ian thinks the sees the eyes of the figure flash red for the briefest moment. The figure turns out to be the Doctor, who acts suspiciously upon Ian’s arrival as though he is surprised that he has returned at all. The Doctor and Ian then continue further into the fifteen interconnected rooms where the engines and regulators that power every function of the TARDIS are located, and discover that while everything is working, the power is not being channelled correctly. Ian tries to escape and is almost suffocated by the lack of air in one of the interior rooms into which he has been sent by the Doctor to undertake a check. He begins to hallucinate, seeing Barbara’s classroom and hearing the voice of a frail old woman calling for help.

Back in Susan’s room, the girl is experiencing nightmares. At first, they centre on her emotional distress at leaving London in 1963, a time and place where she envisages a home and a future of her own. Her projected home begins to be intermingled with images of the ordeals that Barbara and Ian have just experienced and their own nightmares. At that point, Barbara returns to Susan’s room. Susan thanks her for leaving her hot tea, but Barbara says she didn’t make the tea before beginning to tell Susan about what just happened to her. Susan again experiences a telepathic communion with the Doctor, whose voice warmly rings out in her mind: “You’re welcome, Child.” Susan again snaps out of the reverie and interrupts Barbara, asking what she was doing in her Grandfather’s laboratory. As Barbara tells her of the fantastic events, Susan begins to describe the same experience, which she saw in the form of a nightmare as she slept. Susan tells Barbara that the door to the room that Barbara saw and that she saw in her nightmare is the door to an old storeroom, which is lead-lined against its stock of radioactive isotopes. If she’d have entered without a protective suit, Barbara would have been dead within a minute. Susan also tells Barbara of a nightmare she had of Ian being running out of air in one of the engine rooms. The psychokinetic display of the attack of objects in the laboratory, and of Ian’s asphyxiation in the engine room suggests to Susan that an invisible force has come aboard the TARDIS. Susan and Barbara run to the console room so as to warn the Doctor about what has happened and for Susan to tell him what she thinks is happening.

At the last moment, Ian is relieved to discover he has somehow managed to arrive at the door and panicking, with the last reserves of air left in his lungs, manages to unlock the door. The Doctor is not concerned that he almost ran out of air, in fact he is almost cross, while he is hardly relieved to hear Ian managed to escape just in time. Instead, the Doctor resolves to go back to the console room, open the TARDIS doors – and throw everyone off his Ship!

Crisis Point

In the console room, Susan tries to determine their location with the view scanner, but she only finds images which she recognises as records of the TARDIS’ earlier trips. The last image, a picture of a melting clock, puzzles her and terrifies Barbara.

At that moment, the Doctor returns to the console room with Ian, scolding Susan for touching his machine. The Doctor forces his way to the console and, against Susan’s protestations, he again throws open the TARDIS doors. He accuses Ian and Barbara of wishing to get control of his ship and threatens to throw the humans off it.

Barbara turns on the Doctor, insisting that he is paranoid and that he cannot control the TARDIS himself. But by now, Susan is convinced that an alien intelligence entered and has been aboard the TARDIS for some time…

Meanwhile, the winds of the Time Vortex howl into the console room, threatening to wash them away into the void to the sound of the tolling cloister bell. Above them, the scanner depicts all of Time and Space, which morphs into the image of a melting clock face.

The Doctor laughs, his eyes flaring red, and declares that he has sabotaged the TARDIS’ power source. Within moments, the TARDIS and everything in it will be destroyed.


Act Three


The Doctor rounds on Ian and Barbara, his eyes still consumed in a red blaze. He sneers that of course they could not have been able to sabotage the TARDIS. He then turns to face Susan, admonishing the child for being so trusting of her grandfather. She clearly experiences another psychic exchange with the Doctor, but we don’t hear what is said between them. The open doors continue to fill the console room with the same blinding light that they saw before. Susan at first timidly stands up against the figure of the Doctor, explaining to the others that this is not her grandfather.

Susan has figured it out: The Doctor has been missing, replaced in the moment that the doors opened to the Vortex for the first time. Further, her inspection of the wound on the Doctor’s head revealed that it was not of the nature of a wound as it affects their people, and so that this could not be the Doctor.

The figure of the Doctor reveals itself to not be the Doctor after all, eyes still glowing. The invading force that has taken the shape of the Doctor will expel the others into the wastes of the Space-Time Vortex before the TARDIS is destroyed.

But Susan continues: The real Doctor is still aboard, only they cannot see him; that he has been placed out of phase with the timestreams of the rest of the Ship; the melting clocks indicating that time is out of joint. Nonetheless, the Doctor has been here all along, trying to warn them and to keep them safe – whether as the reason behind the mystery of the flying books and boxes that prevented Barbara from entering the radioactive isotope storeroom, or in the way Ian felt that he was physically guided through the labyrinth of the appallingly dangerous engine rooms and his near asphyxiation, and even in the way that he has looked after Susan while she slept. Displaced within the relative dimensions of the TARDIS, he has been able to be everywhere at once, acting all this while as their protector.

Now in a desperate state, Susan withdraws the pair of scissors she had previously hidden in her pocket, reasoning from the fact of its wound that it can be harmed. She stabs at the apparition, but it dissipates into inky clouds of matter that reconstitute back into guise of the Doctor’s form. The invader simply scoffs at Susan, but she again lurches to attack. She is stopped at that exact moment when the TARDIS rotor opens, and the same brilliant light as seen earlier emerges this time from within the depths of the console.


Susan explains that the heart of the TARDIS is opening, that the ghost that inhabits the machine is breaking free of its form. The light at the heart of the TARDIS begins to exert its power against the invading force. At first, the TARDIS’ power is restored, its lights returning to normal and its doors closing shut, the consuming threat of the Vortex now allayed. With the TARDIS no longer in imminent danger, signalled by the cessation of the chimes of its cloister bell, its internal temporal dimensions are realigned and the Doctor – the real Doctor reappears from behind the console, having been phased back into existence.

The Doctor now stands next to his doppelganger, staring at its red-eyed form and demanding to know who or what it is. The figure refuses to say, saying that the Doctor as a force for good must be stopped, but it is now trapped aboard the sanctity of the Doctor’s TARDIS. It can no longer do any harm as the TARDIS itself, now restored, prevents anyone from harming any of them – except the invading force.

The Doctor – the real one – stands at the controls to his TARDIS, affronted that it dares to come into his home and to accuse them all using their own private fears and shame, and expels the invader by reopening the outer doors of the TARDIS and having the TARDIS remove it. The doppelganger is dragged out into the Space-Time Vortex, and screams that it will return in revenge…


The Doctor pats the TARDIS console, thanking it for saving them all and telling his companions that the machine is alive. The warmth and sanctity of the TARDIS returns, and is even amplified.  The Doctor then apologises for the danger in which he has placed Ian and Barbara, resolving to return them to their rightful time and place. He explains that he was afraid that their discovery of the TARDIS would eventually lead to the Doctor and Susan being discovered and separated. Ian asks by whom, but neither the Doctor nor Susan reply after exchanging a look between themselves. Instead, the Doctor says that he now understands that not only did he act wrongly but that he must now face up to the evils in the universe – something that is too great a danger to also now expect two schoolteachers from twentieth century England to face with him. He at last confesses that he cannot control his ship, that its navigation system is broken, like its chameleon circuit, and consequently, he does not know how soon he will be able to return them to London 1963.

Ian again questions the Doctor, this time what just happened to them all. Susan explains explains that she figured this out at the moment when she had a psychic exchange with the Doctor at the console just before the invader was exposed and the real Doctor was phased back into synch with the inner dimensions of the TARDIS. She knew then that an incredibly powerful force invaded the TARDIS at the moment the doors first opened, taking the form of the Doctor in an attempt to destroy them while it pushed the Doctor into a parallel set of temporal and spatial dimensions inside the TARDIS, as though it wanted the Doctor to watch on helplessly.

 But that’s not all. The Doctor explains that the TARDIS was also attempting to protect each of them from the danger posed by the invading force by communicating its impending peril by feeding its passengers with visions that forced them to face the issues that have been coming to a head between them and to work together as they did to bring the Doctor back before the Ship was destroyed.

To what end, asks Barbara, at last breaking her silence. Compassion, states the Doctor: “As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves”. In an extended dialogue-led scene, together, the TARDIS crew talk through things, reasoning that the TARDIS understands their fears, and was projecting them into each others’ minds so that they can resolve them, individually and together, and with empathy: For Barbara, it is her anxiety about her abrupt removal from her elderly mother for whom she cares; for Ian, it is the loss of control arising from the overwhelming sciences far beyond his understanding; for Susan, it was the despair at a vision of domesticity that has been broken and the loss of what she believes was her only chance at a ‘normal’ life; and, for the Doctor, a fear arising from a vision of a universe swept aside by the Daleks while his people did nothing, and as he attempted in vain to hide and run away from both sides with his granddaughter.

As the answers lie within them, so it lays between them – and that they cannot withstand the forces of the universe that acts against them if they do not work together as a team, the best team. Therefore, the Doctor continues, the TARDIS cannot withstand the forces of the universe without the understanding of its passengers – it is also a member of their team. Ian and Barbara express their incredulity at the TARDIS being alive, to which the Doctor smiles knowingly and Susan calls it a ‘she’. But which force could the old Ship not withstand, the Doctor muses, successfully changing the subject. There is no force that could be beyond its engineering tolerances – except a force equal or opposite to that which created the universe in the first moment of Time itself. Ian scoffingly asks if the Doctor means to say that what they saw take his form was nothing short of the Devil himself, but the Doctor cannot return any kind of answer, muttering something about ‘The Accuser’ (for which the Aramaic root is ‘Satan’). In truth, he does not know.


The TARDIS lands, and the Doctor declares that the readings are safe. It is indeed Earth that he has returned them to. The Doctor again apologises to Ian and Barbara for his recklessness, but while Ian accepts straight away, Barbara cannot and moves outside. In the snowy wastes outside, the Doctor apologises again to Barbara, who ironically points out that he clearly hasn’t returned them home, and who finally accepts his plea. The foursome prepares to explore their new surroundings, this time a snowy planet. Ian, Barbara, and Susan move ahead while the Doctor locks up the TARDIS, only for Susan to have discovered a giant footprint in the snow…

Remember to share your thoughts in the comments section below, please.

(Available 23 April 2023)


(Previous episode: The Daleks)

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