Death of the Doctor (TV story)

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Death of the Doctor was the third serial of series 4 of The Sarah Jane Adventures. It was written by Russell T Davies and directed by Ashley Way. It featured guest appearances by Katy Manning as Jo Jones and Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, as part of a second crossover episode with Doctor Who.

It contained the only televised meeting between classic-era companions Sarah Jane and Jo Grant, and the first televised appearance of Jo since The Green Death in 1973.

Behind the scenes, it was the only time that Russell T Davies wrote for the Eleventh Doctor for television, having completely turned over his production responsibilities to the programme the instant that David Tennant's side of the regeneration sequence was completed in The End of Time [+]Loading...["The End of Time (TV story)"].


When the Doctor is declared dead, old companions Sarah Jane Smith and Jo Grant meet for the first time and join forces to discover the truth. As an interstellar conspiracy gathers around UNIT HQ, Clyde finds he holds the fate of the Time Lord in his hand – quite literally!


Part 1[[edit]]

Sarah Jane and the gang are talking to Luke on a webcam when UNIT arrive on Bannerman Road outside her house. She is told by Colonel Tia Karim that the Doctor is dead, but she doesn't believe it. Colonel Karim tells the gang that alien undertakers, the Shansheeth, are organising the funeral. This makes Sarah Jane more suspicious, so much so that she asks who would believe the Shansheeth based on their appearance. Mr Smith tells her the Shansheeth are called the galactic undertakers. That night, Sarah Jane tells Luke the news and that she thinks the Doctor is still alive. Luke thinks the idea is crazy. The next day Sarah Jane goes to the funeral, accompanied by Rani and Clyde. Just as he is getting into the private car, Clyde receives what seems to be a static electric shock to his hand. The gang go to Mount Snowden, home to the UNIT base which will host the Doctor's funeral.

At Snowden, the gang bump into the Groske, a blue, tame version of the Graske. One of the Groske follows them and tells Clyde he "smells like time." Clyde looks at his hand, where he sees artron energy. The gang are taken to the parlour where a gathering of remembrance is taking place. Sarah Jane asks to see the body, but Karim refuses, and Sarah Jane is suspicious until told that his body was too badly damaged. She sits down with Rani and Clyde, confessing that she thinks the Doctor regenerated, and she doesn't even know what face he could be wearing. The Shansheeth play music on the Cradle|a harp to help the mourners remember the Doctor, but their thoughts of him are interrupted by the entry of Jo Jones, who has dropped the flowers she brought. Jo chatters while she and her grandson Santiago pick up the flowers. When they recognise each other, Jo sits next to Sarah Jane. Santiago sits behind Rani and Clyde. Sarah Jane and Jo talk and make friends, as do Santiago, Clyde, and Rani.

After the remembrance, the gang is in a bedroom where Jo agrees with Sarah Jane's belief that the Doctor is still alive. As Clyde, Rani, and Santiago leave the room, they again meet the Groske who told Clyde that he "smells like time". Clyde gives chase, but the Groske jumps into a ventilation shaft.

Meanwhile, Azure of the Claw Shansheeth is "filleting the Cradle" - using the harp from the remembrance to view the memories of the Doctor that were collected at the gathering. The Shansheeth wearing red and yellow agree Sarah Jane and Jo have the strongest memories. They play more music through the vents, putting Sarah Jane and Jo into a trance. Clyde, Rani, and Santiago follow the Groske into the vent, where they lose him, but overhear the Shansheeth discussing their plot to use a memory weave to steal Jo and Sarah Jane's memories — which will kill them. The artron energy on Clyde's hand returns with a bright, blue light, alerting the Shansheeth to their presence. The youngsters shuffle their way backwards out of the vent. Sarah Jane and Jo hear the clatter, which breaks their trance. They run into the corridors and bump into the others. Clyde tells Sarah Jane and Jo that this is a trap and they are the prize.

The Doctor after swapping places with Clyde.

Clyde freezes and starts talking in a different voice, a voice that knows Clyde, Rani, Jo, and Sarah Jane. Clyde regains control of his voice and realises he has someone else's hand. Clyde disappears and the Eleventh Doctor takes his place. Rani, not recognising the Doctor, asks who he is before demanding to know what has happened to Clyde. The Doctor explains that he used Clyde's residual artron energy to switch places with him, which is trouble for Clyde, who is now in a red, wasteland-like planet full of debris. Although she had mentioned that she expected it, Sarah Jane marvels that the Doctor has regenerated again, and helps Rani and Jo see him as the Doctor. At this point, the Shansheeth arrive, and the Doctor strides forward to meet them. Azure shoots the Doctor with an energy beam.

Part 2[[edit]]

Caught in the energy beam, the Doctor disappears and Clyde reappears. He and Clyde keep swapping places. The energy beam disengaged, the Doctor, Jo, Sarah Jane, Rani, and Santiago run from the Shansheeth and find safety behind a locked door. The Doctor takes Jo and Sarah Jane by the hand. All three swap places with Clyde on the alien planet. As the Doctor works on the machine he used to swap places, they talk. The Doctor says he looked in on Jo and all his old companions before he last regenerated. He tells Jo that her forthcoming thirteenth grandchild will be dyslexic, but a great swimmer. With the help of Sarah Jane's sonic lipstick and some natural tea carried by Jo, the Doctor adjusts the machine so they can travel to Earth without sending Clyde to the planet.

Clyde and Rani talk with Santiago. He hasn't spoken to his parents in six months. Meanwhile, Colonel Karim is working with the Shansheeth. They are plotting to use Jo and Sarah Jane's memories of the TARDIS to create a new TARDIS key, so the Shansheeth can stop death across the universe by interfering with the timelines.

Rani, Santiago, and Clyde are rescued by a Groske and taken through the ventilation shafts. They come to a hiding place, but Karim discovers them. She locks them in and turns on the heat, making the place so hot the children may boil. The Doctor, Jo, and Sarah Jane come to the rescue, but the two companions are kidnapped and strapped into the memory weave. Their minds are scanned and they begin remembering the TARDIS. These memories begin to generate a new TARDIS key as the Shansheeth and Colonel Karim make their intentions clear.

The Doctor, Rani, Clyde, Santiago, and the Groske come to the door of the room where Sarah Jane and Jo are strapped into the memory weave. It is locked. The Doctor tells them to remember all of their adventures with him, in as much detail as possible. Sarah Jane and Jo both remember past encounters with the Doctor and all the creatures and enemies they met. Clyde and Rani tell Sarah Jane to remember their experiences fighting aliens as well. Santiago tells Jo to remember all the places she's visited. Jo remembers all the countries she has been to as Sarah Jane remembers her battles with aliens.

The Shansheeth begin panicking as the memory weave reaches critical. The Doctor reminds Sarah Jane and Jo that there is an empty, lead-lined coffin waiting next to them to be used. Karim tries to get in the coffin with them, but they keep her out as the memory weave explodes, frying the Shansheeth to "fried chicken", killing Karim, and blasting the doors off. The Doctor and Sarah Jane's companions enter the room and open the coffin, to find Sarah Jane and Jo hugging each other out of fear. They notice the Doctor and everyone else looking down at them and laugh happily that they survived.

The TARDIS materialising in Sarah Jane's attic.

The Doctor takes them in the TARDIS and materialises in Sarah Jane's attic. Mr Smith detects the time fluctuations of the incoming TARDIS and activates to state that it has landed. Clyde and Rani exit the TARDIS and Clyde is stunned to find they're back at Bannerman Road. Rani complains to Mr Smith that the Shansheeth were evil but Mr Smith tells her that they actually encountered a rogue group and the Wide Wing of the High Shansheeth Nest have sent their apologies. Santiago is shocked that they have a sentient computer, which trumps anything he's seen. In the TARDIS, Sarah Jane and Jo examine the new interior. Jo feels the TARDIS is the same no matter how it looks. Jo says she could stay and travel with the Doctor forever, but notes he could get in trouble with the Time Lords. Sarah Jane and the Doctor remain quiet, but the Doctor tells her that it's about time he got going. Sarah Jane and Jo tell the Doctor that if he ever did die, they believe they'd feel something. The Doctor agrees and whispers that the entire universe might shiver if he died. He then shouts to make his old friends jump and they exit the TARDIS. They all watch as it dematerialises.

Jo and Santiago leave for Norway and the trio are left behind. Sarah Jane says that she googled TARDIS and learned of others whom she believes to have been companions of the Doctor. She tells them of Tegan, fighting for aboriginal rights in Australia; Ian and Barbara Chesterton, Cambridge professors who are rumoured not to have aged since the 1960s; Harry Sullivan, her old friend from UNIT, who worked on finding remedies for diseases; Ben and Polly, running an orphanage; and "a Dorothy-something" who has raised millions of pounds through her company "A Charitable Earth".

As they watch Jo and Santiago leave, Sarah says, "With friends like us, he's not really going to die, is he?"



General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics

General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

Unlike most other SJA stories, Russell T Davies, being the writer of this story, did not get a "created by" credit.




  • Karim refers to Clyde, Rani and Santiago as "three ASBO kids".
  • Karim refers to the kids as the Brady Bunch.





Races and species[[edit]]


  • A trailer was broadcast featuring the Eleventh Doctor.
  • Russell T Davies thought about using Death of the Doctor as the name for The End of Time Part 2.[1]
  • This episode marks the last on-screen adventure that Sarah Jane has with the Doctor.
  • This story features the last appearance of the Eleventh Doctor's original tweed coat.
  • This is one of the first times since the revival of Doctor Who that the issue of how many regenerations has been mentioned, with the number given as 507. This is in contrast to the fact that it has previously been mentioned as being only twelve, giving each Time Lord a total of thirteen lives. Russell T Davies, who wrote this episode, stated in an interview, "They only said 13 once or twice." [2][nb 1] It's worth noting that, within the context of the episode, the Doctor is simply teasing Clyde. In a serious context, he really is limited to twelve regenerations, which he confirms in The Time of the Doctor [+]Loading...["The Time of the Doctor (TV story)"].
  • The death of Tia Karim marks one of the few times in the young viewer-friendly Sarah Jane Adventures that a human adversary has been killed through the direct actions of the heroes. In contrast, in Secrets of the Stars, it is left ambiguous as to whether Martin Trueman is killed or not.
  • Steven Moffat suggested that Amy Pond make a cameo, but the budget didn't stretch to hiring Karen Gillan.
  • Finn Jones and David Bradley both had roles on Game of Thrones, Jones as Loras Tyrell and Bradley as Walder Fey. Matt Smith would later star in the prequel series House of the Dragon.
  • Finn Jones would later star in Iron Fist opposite Sacha Dhawan.
  • This story contains the most extensive updates of past companions since The Five Doctors.
    • Liz Shaw is stranded on a UNIT Moonbase and cannot get back until Sunday. The fact she's alive and well contradicts the events of the novel Eternity Weeps, set in the early 2000s, in which she died, though in that novel she was also working on the Moon for UNIT. The reference means all three of the Third Doctor's female companions are recognised in this story.
    • The Brigadier is stranded in Peru, on an ongoing mission. He is also said to be in South America in The Poison Sky [+]Loading...["The Poison Sky (TV story)"] and The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith.
    • Jo has seven children and twelve grandchildren, with a thirteenth on the way. The Doctor says that the thirteenth will be dyslexic, but a great swimmer.
    • As far as she is aware, Jo hasn't seen the Doctor since the events of The Green Death, though she did try to call him through UNIT but was told he had left, though Planet of the Spiders has Jo corresponding with the Doctor and UNIT via mail, however.
    • Tegan Jovanka is fighting for Aboriginal rights. This reference indicates that Tegan is still alive in 2010, despite having a life-threatening health condition in 2006, as shown in The Gathering.
    • Ben Jackson and Polly Wright are running an orphanage in India.
    • Harry Sullivan is said to have worked with vaccines and saved thousands of lives. He is referred to in the past tense by Sarah. Harry was previously implied to be dead in the novelisation of The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith. The actor who played Harry, Ian Marter, died in 1986.
    • Ian and Barbara Chesterton are professors at Cambridge and, according to rumours, haven't aged since the 1960s, suggesting something they encountered in their travels with the Doctor caused them to stop ageing. The reference is the first on-screen confirmation that the two married at some point after the events of The Chase; the wedding was later depicted in the comic story Hunters of the Burning Stone. Other stories showed the rumour about their age to be false, such as Ian Chesterton: An Introduction, The Five Companions, Sphere of Influence and The Power of the Doctor [+]Loading...["The Power of the Doctor (TV story)"].
    • A companion called Dorothy is said to have raised billions of pounds through her charity "A Charitable Earth." As the charity spells out the words "ACE," this is likely the Seventh Doctor's companion Ace. Different media have offered differing futures for Ace, so this does not necessarily contradict any particular one. In DWMSE 32, Davies indicates that, had the series continued, he intended to reintroduce Ace in a future storyline.


  • Part 1 — 0.92 Million[3]
  • Part 2 — 0.96 Million[3]

Filming locations[[edit]]

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.

to be added


Home video releases[[edit]]

DVD releases[[edit]]

  • This story was included in the Complete 4th Series DVD release (Region 2 release: 31st October 2011).
  • It was also released in the Complete Collection Series 1-5 box set release (Region 2 release: 6th February 2012).
  • Death of the Doctor was also included as a special feature on the special edition DVD of The Green Death, with optional commentary by Katy Manning and Russell T Davies.

Blu-ray releases[[edit]]

  • Death of the Doctor was included as a special feature in Doctor Who: The Collection - Season 10, released in the UK on 8th July 2018, and released in the US (as Jon Pertwee - Complete Season Four) on 15th October, 2019.

External links[[edit]]



  1. Contrary to Davies's comments, the 12-regeneration limit has in fact been referenced on numerous occasions, and was a major plot point in at least three television stories: The Deadly Assassin, Mawdryn Undead, and Doctor Who: The TV Movie. The idea of regeneration limits had been addressed numerous times as well, such as in The Five Doctors and The Twin Dilemma.