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Doctor Who: Inferno

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Doctor Who: Inferno (1965) starring Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney
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Doctor Who: Inferno (1965) starring Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney

In Doctor Who: Inferno, an unsuccessful trial run with the TARDIS console throws the Doctor into a parallel universe. Where his old friends are rather nasty characters. And two worlds may die …

Part 1

UNIT is at a project run by Professor Stahlman who intends to penetrate Earth’s crust. But the drilling has already released something deadly from beneath the Earth’s surface.

Part 2

The green slime oozing from the drill head is transforming men into monsters. Stahlman refuses to listen to the warnings and resorts to sabotage to continue his project.

The Doctor: Well, I’ll tell you something that should be of vital interest to you, Professor.
Professor Stahlman: [Unintelligible]
The Doctor: That you, sir, are a nitwit!

Part 3

Transported to a parallel world, the Doctor discovers that England is under military rule. And that on this world, the drilling is at a more advanced stage.

Doctor Who: But I don’t exist in your world!
Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart: Then you won’t feel the bullets when we shoot you.

Part 4

In the parallel world, the drilling project is about to penetrate the Earth’s crust. The Doctor, arrested as a spy, is unable to convince his capators of the dangers.

The Doctor: Listen to that! That’s the sound of this planet screaming out its rage!

Part 5

In the parallel world, Earth’s crust has been penetrated. Which releases terrible forces from within the Earth. The Doctor must escape back to our world to prevent the same catastrophe.

Greg Sutton: It’s marvelous, isn’t it? The world’s going up in flames and they’re still playing at toy soldiers!

Part 6

As the parallel Earth faces destruction, the Doctor is desperate to return to our world. If he can, there’s still time to warn them of the same danger. But time is running out.

Greg Sutton: So that’s the contraption, is it?
The Doctor: The console, Mr. Sutton, the console.
Greg Sutton: Well, I thought it’d be a bit more impressive than that.
The Doctor: What did you expect? Some kind of space rocket with Batman at the controls?

Part 7

The Doctor has escaped the dying parallel Earth. He’s returned to our world, and has very little time to halt the drilling project. Or our Earth will suffer the same fate.

[last lines]
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart: “Pompous, self-opinionated idiot” I believe you said, Doctor?
The Doctor: Yes, well, we… we don’t want to bear a grudge for a few hasty words, do we?
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart: Mmm.
The Doctor: No, not after all the years we’ve worked together. Now come along, my dear fellow. Put on a smile! Let’s remember all…
[trails off as Liz laughs]

Cast of characters

Editorial review of Doctor Who: Inferno courtesy of

An experiment gone awry sends the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) to a parallel universe where his friends and companions are members of a fascist regime in this thrilling and popular episode from the long-running British science fiction series Doctor Who. Inferno is the name of a project designed to drill into the Earth’s core and release a powerful energy source called Stahlman’s Gas; what’s yielded instead is an insidious substance that transforms men into monsters.

The resulting chaos interrupts the Doctor’s travel in the TARDIS and knocks him into an alternate Earth run by a military dictatorship, and where Project Inferno’s progress threatens to bring about an apocalypse. This seven-part story arc from 1970 is a high-water mark for the already superb Pertwee-era Doctor, a tense, imaginative adventure that evokes the U.K.’s chilling Quatermass TV productions and movies in its mix of science fiction and horror.

Fans will particularly appreciate the opportunities afforded to longtime Who supporting players Nicholas Courtney (as the Brigadier) and Caroline John (as the Doctor’s companion Liz) to step outside their usual roles and essay memorably villainous turns as their parallel-Earth selves. 

DVD extras

The double-disc presentation of Inferno offers the by-now-standard wealth of extras, including commentary by Courtney, script editor Terrance Dicks, producer/director Barry Letts, and co-star John Levene (Sgt. Benton) and lengthy featurettes on the making of the story and the UNIT brigade during Pertwee’s tenure (the latter featuring interviews with much of the supporting cast and crew). A short deleted scene from the episode (featuring Pertwee in a rare second turn as the voice of a radio announcer), a promo film for the BBC Visual Effects Department (which features clips from the Who stories Ambassadors of DeathCaves of Steel, and a missing episode from Doomwatch), and PDF files of the 1971 Doctor Who Annual and Radio Times round out the supplemental features. –Paul Gaita

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