DOCTOR WHO Historicals - THE VISITATION

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London's Burning - and there's no sign of  'George Green' or 'Billy Ray'! Christopher Morley passes the buckets of water and guides you through the historical-ish Fifth Doctor adventure, The Visitation.


Hold on to your hats- things are about to get a little hot! No, the Doctor isn't about to ask Nyssa & Tegan how they'd feel about a little action in the TARDIS hot tub alongside himself & Adric..we & they are off to the London of 1666, which means the Great Fire! The Visitation is also often credited as being the story which propelled its writer Eric Saward into the script editor's chair. Whatever you may think of the direction in which he steered Who during his reign, there's much to enjoy here!

Continuing his quest to get Ms Jovanka back to Heathrow on time to actually start her job as an air hostess, its a case of ' so near & yet so far' as while ' Sexy' does indeed find her way to London, its in the wrong era. As fondly remembered a few incarnations later in The Crimson Horror

Help is at hand for all of you who curse your inexperience in temporal matters (this may serve as a fine solution to all your wibbly wobbly timey wimey queries). Perhaps to ease his frustration Five has a go at Adric for being so reckless back on Deva Loka ( Kinda). Tegan's still a little worried that some vestige of the Mara's power may be inside of her too...


She won't be any happier when she finds out one of the world's busiest airports hasn't even been built yet either...



The heady stench of sulphur fills the air outside. Naturally, they might be expecting a friendly welcome from a band of cheeky Cockneys as they investigate the source of the not particularly pleasant smell. Step in time, step in time, defy the laws of science, step in time!

Formation rooftop dancing is the last thing on the minds of the band of villagers they encounter, though. Yes- hard as it may be to believe, our nation's fair capital wasn't always the global & cultural behemoth it is now. Before the Doctor has chance to muse on what lies in store for it there's an escape to be plotted! Luckily salvation arrives in the unlikely form of highwayman & theatrical performer Richard Mace, who guides them to a barn- a handy safe-house indeed.

But there's more to all this than Londoners not wanting to indulge in their proud tradition of cheeky chappery for some reason. While questioning Mace as to what exactly is going on, mention of a comet recently landing nearby piques the interest of the man in the cricket get-up. He's also noticed something about the necklace old Dickie's wearing! After all when is a necklace not just a necklace? When its actually a means of prisoner control! Not much of a riddle, we know, but still.


Another mystery needs solving now, then. Who took Richard prisoner in the first place? Handily there's a manor house nearby, so the answers to the big question should be straightforward. Ring the doorbell, hope to be invited in for a chat & be on your way after thanking your hosts for their time, is how things should run. But this is the Doctor we're talking about. Almost inevitably nobody's home so the group has to take the standard burglar's way in- through a window. They're just lucky Crimewatch doesn't exist yet either, if you ask us!

So what's inside the house? While playing the oddest game of Through The Keyhole ever- again, years before it was invented- they find more of the power packs they'd earlier discovered in the barn as well as a stash of gunpowder & evidence suggesting something a bit more powerful than your standard gun of the time had been used fairly recently. There's even a wall where there shouldn't be one. Sadly not of the Pink Floyd variety either, though the Doctor has been known to chill out to them on occasions.

Everyone who hasn't gone behind the wall is locked inside the room by an android! Handily Five appears from within his strange new prison just long enough to explain that its a holographic energy barrier, so his friends rejoin him. They quickly begin a search for clues- but that android pops up again, forcing a bit of a hasty retreat. At least we can finally piece together who it was working for as well as who took Mace prisoner. It was a trio of nasty Terileptils! The bad-ass lizards have got a plan to wipe humanity from the Earth, & it involves some rats the group happened across during their search of the cellar..


Starting to see where this is going? If not, mention of the Black Death should refresh your memory! In popular estimation anywhere between 75-200 million people could have died from it, but it isn't actually the poor old rats who should take the blame. More accurately its the Oriental rat fleas ( so named for their choice of host) who would take up residence on the furry critters living aboard merchant ships as they made their way along the major trade routes of the period. So, to the rats, we apologise wholeheartedly! Shame on you, fleas!

Terileptil control also explains why the villagers were acting a bit funny earlier, & why they're so keen to stop a sonic booster that might disable the android & indeed control bracelets from being retrieved from the TARDIS- the chase is on, with the possessed mob thinking the Doctor & chums are carriers of the plague..things get really heated when Tegan is brought under Terileptil control! Not only that but the trusty old sonic screwdriver is destroyed..oh dear.


But why was the screwdriver given the order of the boot? Producer John Nathan-Turner is said to have decided that it offered too convenient a solution to the problems faced by the Doctor & so ordered its destruction- boo, hiss. So, what caused the Great Fire? Here it's an explosion caused by a Terileptil weapon overloading & detonating, causing Pudding Lane to go up in smoke. The history books tell it slightly differently, though!

Popular theory suggests that a long drought led to Thomas Farriner's bakery ( the centre of the fire) to crumble- having been made from wood, it would have been bone dry not to mention incredibly weak structurally speaking. Luckily the Farriners escaped unharmed through an upstairs window- their maid, who was too scared to make the leap of faith & thus perished, became the first to die. The fire would rage from September 2-5 ( a Sunday to a Wednesday), with the Tuesday the most destructive day of the whole terrible spectacle.


Mercifully there seem to have been relatively few deaths, though the outlook was bleak for the Catholic population- theories spread that the fire was their work, based on the false confession of Robert Hubert, a French watchmaker. He first claimed to have started a fire in Westminster on the orders of the Pope, but changed his story to say that he first struck at Pudding Lane- despite not actually arriving on London soil until two days after the Great Fire started! He was hanged in spite of the facts, a sorry state of affairs indeed.

Some even suspected King Charles II of kicking things off to avenge his father's execution- by which time the Doctor & friends were far away preparing for a little cricket & the events of Black Orchid! And as a bonus fun fact, if you think you recognise the bloke playing the Squire from somewhere, you probably do- its John Savident, aka Coronation Street's Fred Elliott.

Sadly old Fred dies on his wedding day, the fates & indeed Corrie's writers depriving us of the chance to see Weatherfield's resident butcher simply regenerate. At least he gets chance for a sort of 'farewell tour' before he pops his clogs. Now where have we seen that before, eh? But at least his was an enjoyable visit to an entirely different corner of the universe- Peter Davison himself also considers The Visitation one of his own ' top three' stories from his time aboard the TARDIS.

Indeed he continues to serve as a vocal champion of all things Who! Just to put you out of your misery, his other favourites from the Fifth Doctor's era are Earthshock & The Caves Of Androzani- not bad choices at all really!

Previous Pure Historicals

The Reign Of Terror 
The Romans
Warped Factor
Words in the key of geek!