Doctor Who – Terminus (The Black Guardian Trilogy Part 2)

Doctor Who Story 126 – Terminus

Written by

Steven Gallagher

What’s It About?

The TARDIS merges with a cargo ship which is carrying victims of Lazar’s Disease to the medical station Terminus. Nyssa contracts the disease while the Doctor and a space-pirate captain must rescue her. Meanwhile, Tegan and Turlough become trapped in duct work.

Am I Dead Yet?

The Doctor is attacked by a VanirAh, “Terminus.” I saw this one twelve years ago on VHS. I remembered being struck by the visuals, but being somewhat clueless as to what was going on. I didn’t know these companions, and I barely knew this Doctor. This time around, the characters made far more sense, at least from context. In all, I think “Terminus” is a highly ambitious story that doesn’t quite come together as well as it could. But I’m giving it high marks anyway because there are a lot of interesting ideas and because I think everyone gives it their best.

Gallagher drew quite a bit from Norse mythology for “Terminus.” The Garm refers to a dog in Norse mythology that guards the entrance to Hel. And this would be a good view of the Terminus station—Hel. I don’t refer to a fire/brimstone hell, but a realm of darkness and misery. Everyone on the Terminus station is dying and in misery. As mentioned in my “Mawdryn Undead” review, this trilogy contemplates issues of mortality and immortality. Life and death are a major theme running through this group of stories. But another aspect of the mythological Garm is that its howl would usher in Ragnarok, which is the end of the world. We learn during the course of this story that a radiation dump from Terminus station caused the Big Bang. A second radiation dump would destroy the universe. So, in a way, “Terminus” is an amalgamation of Norse mythology in much the same way that “Underworld” and “The Horns of Nimon” are retellings of Greek mythology. But where those stories are largely production failures, “Terminus” does capture the bleak, cold feel of the Norse ethos. The apocalypse or destruction of all things needs more of a bleak, cold feel. On the whole this story isn’t the best directed, but there are many things it does quite well. The Vanir armor is skeletal. Practically, the armor is unusual, but symbolically it works. Terminus station is cold, dark, and bleak. Personally, I think “Terminus” is a gem. The story and ideas are excellent, and the production works to capture the metaphor, if not realism. It is well worth engaging with this story and its ideas. Much like his previous Doctor Who story (“Warrior’s Gate”), Steven Gallagher’s “Terminus” is best approached metaphorically. It would have been great to see what Peter Grimwade would have done with this story.

A final note. Nyssa departs in this story. From the documentary material, this wasn’t Sara Sutton’s choice, which is a shame. For the dynamic of the show, however, it may have been a good move. Mark Strickson is doing a good job with the moral dilemma of Turlough. Tegan has been better since her return. Nyssa, sadly, has been woefully underdeveloped for her entire run on this show. Thus, her departure was unemotional for me. I’m actually happy to see her go. I want to see Tegan and Turlough become compelling characters, should they get better material to work with. I’m also quite curious to see what Big Finish has done with Nyssa. There is enough material in “Keeper of Traken” to follow through with, but the show has never done it. But Big Finish has occasionally picked up these dropped threads and woven brilliant stories with them. Additionally, I know they have told some stories with Tegan, Turlough, and a post-Terminus Nyssa. How fascinating would that be? Oh, and one of those stories is written by Marc Platt and is about the Mara? I think I know where my Christmas money is going this year.

My Rating


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