Doctor Who Story 054 – Inferno (and Excuses)

Story by Don Houghton
Directed by Douglas Camfield

Somewhere in the last few weeks I forgot to review Inferno. I watched it with my wife, but I never got around to reviewing it. Work got busy; I set up a new blog about Stephen King; you know, the usual excuses. So I apologize for my negligence. Besides, I can’t start watching Terror of the Autons until I have a few thoughts about Inferno posted here.

Source: Copyright 1970 by BBC.

From the DVD: A top secret drilling project headed by Professor Stahlman is attempting to penetrate the earth’s crust, and the Doctor and Liz Shaw are on hand to observe. Tensions and professional jealousies plague the project, but things really heat up when a mysterious green substance is found leaking from the drill head. Just when UNIT needs the Doctor most, a time experiment throws him into a parallel universe where everyone he knows has changed for the worse.

This story wraps up the rather successful series seven. What better way to end a season than to destroy an alternate earth! I tell you, Don Houghton was decades ahead of RTD where over-the-top finales are concerned!

All kidding aside, Inferno was an excellent story with great pace, genuine chills, and quite a bit of heady sci-fi concepts. This was a seven part story that was stuffed full of ideas. While the monsters seem a bit arbitrary, at least they keep the tension going and provide us with a few good chase scenes. Choosing to let The Doctor see the consequences of Stahlman’s drilling via alternate universe was a fun idea. We get to see the world destroyed and we get to see the Doctor save it. Having our cake and whatnot.


  • Fascist UNIT was an interesting concept. Keeping with the idea that these are the same characters who developed differently due to different choices and circumstances, Liz has a good and noble core to her. The Doctor is able to appeal to her sympathies and scientific sensibilities. The Brigade Leader, however, seems to be a lost cause.
  • All the characters were very-well written and portrayed. The antagonism between Stahlman and Sir Keith was wonderful. Christopher Benjamin (who portrayed Sir Keith) is always a pleasure to watch.
  • Excellent story all-round

Low Point

  • I’m not opposed to the monsters, but I don’t really know why there was a green slime that turned people into wolves. Something more could have been done with this.

Final Verdict: Inferno was a lot of fun. I watched it with my wife; she was captivated! A great end to a truly great season.

Source: TARDIS Newsroom web site. Copyright 1970 by BBC.

5 thoughts on “Doctor Who Story 054 – Inferno (and Excuses)

  1. You might like to know that writer Don Houghton was contracted to write a 4 part story, and did so. His original storyline featured just what you see on the screen in the completed 7 parter – except there was no parallel world!

    Needing 3 extra episodes, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks asked for an expansion of the story, but on condition that – for reasons of budget – no extra sets or actors could be used.

    Don Houghton came up with a proposal for a sub-plot set on an alternate Earth, with the Tardis slipping sideways in time during a test run, where all UNIT personel were duplicated, except the Doctor.

    On the strength of 7 excellent scripts for this serial, Don was invited to write a further serial for the following season, and came up with another winner, the brilliant ‘Mind of Evil’.

    1. I’m definitely looking forward to ‘Mind of Evil’. Unfortunately, it may be a while before I can watch and write about it since the DVD isn’t out yet and I don’t have access to a video tape.

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