Which One : The return of (retired) Lethbridge Stewart, the Black Guardian and a “pot noodle” scalped Mawdryn.
Cast : The Doctor : Peter Davison
Tegan : Janet Fielding
Turlough : Mark Strickson
Lethbridge Stewart : Nicholas Courtney
Mawdryn : David Collings
Black Guardian : Valentine Dyall
Headmaster : Angus MacKay
Ibbotson : Stephen Garlick
Dr Runciman : Roger Hammond
Matron : Sheila Gill
Written By : Peter Grimwade
Produced By : JNT
First UK Broadcast : 1 – 9 February 1983.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : The Tardis is caught and trapped by a seemingly empty spaceliner. Meanwhile, alien school pupil Turlough, who is under the influence of the Black Guardian – is sent to intercept the Doctor. Turlough’s teacher is now retired UNIT Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart but he cannot remember his past meetings with the Doctor.
Whats good : The return of the Brig. Mawdryn is an unusually benevolent Who villain. The twisty, forgetful and muddled past of the story.
Whats bad : Mawdryn’s pulsating pot noodle brain is a bit wrong.
Review With Spoilers : Mawdryn Undead marks the return of the Brigadier. Retired from UNIT and now working as a Maths teacher. One of his pupils; called Turlough, is a “Trion” alien – masquerading as a human school pupil.
It also marks the first story in a 3-story arc – known as the ‘Black Guardian Trilogy‘. Unbeknown to the Doctor, the Black Guardian has also returned to wreak revenge after the events in the ‘Key-To-Time‘ season. By recruited Turlough, through a mind control crystal to draw the Doctor into a trap.
The appearance of one of the Mawdryn, as a horrifically injured man shakes events up. As he claims to be the newly regenerated Doctor – (with the real Doctor somewhere else at this point!). Nyssa and Tegan have no choice but to help him back to the Tardis.
He soon recovers enough to change into his true form. A zombified old man with a horrifying pulsating pot noodle brain, sticking out of the top of his head.
For a secondary villain to Turlough and the Black Guardian, Mawdryn are unusually benevolent in their actual intentions, at least – initially. They aren’t here to invade Earth, steal its resources or kill humanity – they just want to die.
Having attempted and failed to harness the Timelord’s regenerative power, they were left with undead immortality; which didn’t extend to their now decaying bodies.
“The Time Lords abandoned us. Perpetual torment and despair. But the ending will come soon. I, Mawdryn, shall be a Time Lord!” Mawdryn
Mawdryn want the Doctor to willingly give up his remaining 8 regenerations, to create enough power to kill them. Obviously the Doctor is at odds with this idea and resists them.
It’s also nice to see the Brigadier back after an 8-year absence. However, his part was meant to be played by First Doctor companion – Ian Chesterton (William Russell).
Scheduling conflicts meant that Russell couldn’t appear – so the Brig was chosen instead. Obviously, Ian Chesterton was a teacher in the First Doctor’s era and it made more sense him being in Mawdryn Undead as a teacher – instead of the Brig.
But I suppose after retiring from UNIT, the Brig would have to do something. Although, I always felt his special army advisor role in Battlefield made more sense, for his militarial background – than being a school teacher.
Overall, Mawdryn Undead marks a satisfying beginning to a three story arc, involving The Black Guardian’s attempts to equal the score with the Doctor. Its worth a watch, just for the pulsating pot noodle brain.