Each episode is identified with date of transmission, duration, ratings in millions, and (for 1963-1974 only) archive status.
09 May 1970 | 23'21" | 5.7 | PAL color conversion, 16mm B&W t/r
16 May 1970 | 22'04" | 5.9 | PAL color conversion, 16mm B&W t/r
23 May 1970 | 24'34" | 4.8 | PAL color conversion, 16mm B&W t/r
30 May 1970 | 24'57" | 6.0 | PAL color conversion, 16mm B&W t/r
06 June 1970 | 23'42" | 5.4 | PAL color conversion, 16mm B&W t/r
13 June 1970 | 23'32" | 6.7 | PAL color conversion, 16mm B&W t/r
20 June 1970 | 24'33" | 5.5 | PAL color conversion, 16mm B&W t/r
At a deep-drilling project, one of the maintenance technicians, Harry Slocum (Walter Randall), touches some green slime at the drill head and goes insane. The Brigadier and UNIT are called in to investigate after he kills someone.
In charge of the project is Professor Eric Stahlman (Olaf Pooley) who, along with his personal assistant Petra Williams (Sheila Dunn), is trying to ensure that nothing delays the moment when the drill will penetrate the Earth's crust thus releasing pockets of a new gas - called Stahlman's Gas - which is claimed to be a powerful energy source. Sir Keith Gold (Christopher Benjamin), Executive Director of the project, does not share Stahlman's confidence. He has called in Greg Sutton (Derek Newark), a drilling expert from Kuwait, to seek his advice.
The Doctor, who is using the project's nuclear generator to carry out some experiments with the TARDIS' console, switches on the console for a test, but, at the critical moment, Slocum, who is turning into some form of sub-human monster, attacks the base's power room and increases the output level. There is a surge of energy and the Doctor and the TARDIS console vanish. They reappear moments later when Liz manages to cut the power.
Slocum is found and shot. However a technician, Bromley (Ian Fairbairn), and one of the UNIT soldiers, Private Wyatt (Derek Ware), seem to be suffering from extreme shock. Shortly afterwards, the Doctor sees Wyatt on top of some gasometers - he is turning into the same sort of beast-man as Slocum. He attacks the Doctor but topples from a gantry to his death. Bromley, meanwhile, has also started to change.
Back at the drill head, Sir Keith has collected a vial of strange green slime from around number two output pipe. Stahlman picks up the vial as it is about to crack, and he gets some on his hand. The computer is warning that drilling must be stopped immediately, but Stahlman claims it is inaccurate. He also cuts off the Doctor's power.
Stahlman removes a micro-circuit from the computer but before he can smash it, the Doctor interrupts and immobilises the Professor with Venusian Karate. However the Professor will not admit to having tampered with the computer, and when the Doctor has gone, Stahlman crushes the micro-circuit under his heel.
Back at the outhouse, the Doctor, who has surreptitiously reconnected his power, sends Liz back to the drill head to check some epsilon co-ordinates on the computer. As soon as she has gone, the Doctor makes preparations for another run with the console. Liz realises she has been tricked and she and the Brigadier hurry back to the outhouse in time to see the Doctor, the console and Bessie vanish.
There are 49 hours and 15 minutes to penetration and Sir Keith decides to go to London to get authority to close down the project as Stahlman, already showing signs of 'infection', will not listen to reason.
The Doctor wakes up, apparently in the same place. Outside, he is chased and shot at by troops before being found and arrested by someone who appears to be Liz Shaw. She is, in fact, Section Leader Elizabeth Shaw (Caroline John) and she takes the Doctor, whom she suspects of being a spy, to see the Brigade Leader (Nicholas Courtney). The Doctor realises he has slipped sideways into a parallel world. Here, there are only 3 hours and 22 minutes until penetration, and project Director Stahlmann (Olaf Pooley) is being as pig-headed as his counterpart. The Doctor learns that Sir Keith has been killed in a motor accident on the way to London and that there seems to be nothing to stop Stahlmann.
Alarms ring out as number two output pipe hits problems. In the confusion, the Doctor manages to repair the computer and it immediately advises that they should disperse the pressure and heat by creating a reverse vortex at the bottom of the drill shaft by reversing the systems. This works but Stahlmann intends to restart the drilling as soon as he can. The Doctor is taken to the security cells, from where he escapes when the man in the next cell turns out to be infected by the slime. With three minutes to penetration, the Doctor again appeals to everyone to stop the drilling, but is ignored.
At penetration, earthquakes rock the centre and the Doctor and Sutton try to get the coolant flowing once more. Stahlmann attacks them and they are forced out of the drill head area by the heat. Stahlmann closes the heat shields and proceeds to rub the trapped technicians' faces in the green slime, turning them into sub-human monsters. The Doctor discovers that a fire extinguisher makes a good weapon against the creatures and also realises that this world is doomed. He asks that he be allowed to return to his universe to try and save it. To this end he demonstrates the TARDIS console for the Brigade Leader and the Section Leader. The Brigade Leader insists that the Doctor take them with him, but the Doctor refuses.
Stahlmann and the infected technicians emerge from the drill head. Benton (John Levene) is attacked and turned into a monster himself. Liz, Greg and Petra agree to help the Doctor escape and manage to get the power switched on and routed to the TARDIS' console. Liz shoots the Brigade Leader when he tries to stop the Doctor, and, as a tide of lava approaches the outhouse, the Doctor finally escapes back to his own universe.
He is found in a coma by Liz. The emergency flange blows on number two output pipe, and the Doctor manages to mutter the solution to Liz: reverse all systems. The Doctor eventually recovers and finds that Sir Keith is not dead. This world is different and can therefore be saved. He hurries to the drill head and starts smashing the equipment with a metal bar. Stahlman has him arrested but he escapes from the UNIT soldiers and returns to the drill head, where Stahlman has now transformed into a sub-human creature. He is disabled by being dowsed with fire extinguishers and the Doctor cuts off the nuclear power and initiates shut-down. With 35 seconds to go, the drill stops and the countdown is aborted.
The Doctor makes one final trip with the console, after calling the Brigadier 'a pompous, self-opinionated idiot'. Unfortunately he travels only as far as a rubbish tip down the road.
Synopsis from Doctor Who: The Third Doctor Handbook by David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker, reprinted with permission; further reproduction is not permitted.
Considered one of the best stories of its era, "Inferno" has long been the subject of a myth that it was extended with the entire "parallel universe" story to fill out seven episodes; this is, however, untrue, as the only story aspect added to the original outline was the Primord creatures. This was Caroline John's last story; she and the producers mutually agreed to her departure after the filming of this story, and therefore no departure scene was produced. After original director Douglas Camfield fell ill, Barry Letts directed the studio blocks for episodes 3-7 (uncredited). The working titles for the story were "Operation: Mole-Bore," "The Mo-Hole Project" and "Project Inferno". The video release included an extra scene cut from the original UK transmission, with Pertwee doing a voice over as a radio announcer; it was felt that viewers at the time would recognize him. Nicholas Courtney and Caroline John were credited for episode 5 as "Brigade Leader Lethbridge Stewart" and "Section Leader Elizabeth Shaw". The story title and other credits were superimposed over footage of volcanic eruptions. The mutants are known in the credits as Primords, though they are never addressed as such during the story.
For more in-depth information about the contents of this story, a complete episode-by-episode detailed breakdown can be found at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
Released in the UK [June 2006] and Australia/New Zealand [July 2006] (BBC DVD catalog #1802); episodic format, photomontage cover. Due for release in US/Canada in September 2006. Includes commentary by Nicholas Courtney, John Levene, script editor Terrance Dicks and producer/director Barry Letts; "Can You Hear the Earth Scream?," a 35-minute "making of" documentary which includes interviews with Dicks, Letts, Levene, Courtney, Caroline John, Ian Fairbairn and stunt arranger Derek Ware; "The UNIT Family (Part One)", a 36-minute documentary featuring a look at the first half of the "UNIT family" from the Third Doctor's era with interviews with Letts, Courtney, Levene, Dicks, John, Ware and UNIT Creator Derrick Sherwin; "Visual Effects Promo Film," an excerpt from an early sales pitch from the BBC Visual Effects department featuring rare Doctor Who footage; "The Pertwee Years Intro," a short intro by Jon Pertwee originally included on BBC Video's "The Pertwee Years"; a Jon Pertwee radio announcement; a PDF of the 1971 Doctor Who Annual; Radio Times billings; plus photo gallery and production notes.
Released as "Inferno" in the UK [May 1994] and Australia/New Zealand [July 1994] (BBC catalog #5269), US/Canada [September 1995] (WHV catalog #E1298); episodic format, cover illustration by Colin Howard. Release is a two-tape set in the UK, US/Canada; released on one tape in Australia/New Zealand. Video release includes an additional scene in episode 5 not included in original transmission. The US/Canada release mistakenly claims that the story is in black & white though it is indeed in color. Episode 7 was also released on "The Pertwee Years" release in the UK [March 1992] and Australia/New Zealand [August 1992] (BBC catalog #4756), US/Canada [October 1992] (WHV catalog #E1182).
Some selections from this story (music and/or sound effects) have been released on "Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Volume Two - New Beginnings, 1970-1980" (BBC Music WMSF 6024-2).
Novelised as "Doctor Who -- Inferno" by Terrance Dicks (Target #89), hardcover and paperback, first released in 1984 with cover art by Nick Spender.
For more details on the various novelizations of this story, with additional background material, artwork and details of both UK and foreign releases, visit On Target
Descriptions of each story screen capture above right, top to bottom:
- The Brigade Leader (Nicholas Courtney) in the alternate universe
- Benton (John Levene) turned into a Primord
- the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) in Bessie
- Section Leader Elizabeth Shaw (Caroline John)
- Greg Sutton (Derek Newark) with Petra Williams (Sheila Dunn)
- the Doctor at the TARDIS console
- the Doctor with his sonic screwdriver