Vengeance on Varos (TV story)

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Vengeance on Varos was the second serial of season 22 of Doctor Who. It introduced the alien Sil and the Mentor species.

As part of the 60th anniversary celebrations in November 2023, the story was re-released as the third episode of Tales of the TARDIS. Each serial within it was edited together to form a single episode. Newly filmed material with the serial's original cast bookends each episode. (TV: Vengeance on Varos)


Seeking the rare mineral Zeiton-7 to repair his TARDIS, the Doctor arrives on Varos, a world where political prisoners and their guards are all subjected to sadistic tortures and executions which the colony's inhabitants view and vote on through interactive television. Accused of being alien infiltrators helping the colony's rebel factions, the Doctor and Peri find themselves the latest unwilling subjects in this most extreme form of reality TV.


Part one[[edit]]

Sil abuses the system.

On Varos, a planet in the constellation of Cetus, the public torture of the rebel Jondar is broadcast throughout the planet. Citizens Arak and Etta watch the event from their room. Arak complains that they never show anything new to watch. In addition to the lack of new programming, the two must also deal with food rationing. Also, that night will be a punch-in vote ordered by the Governor, and voting is mandatory.

Meanwhile, the Sixth Doctor is repairing the TARDIS console. Peri complains that the Doctor has caused three electrical fires, a power failure, nearly collided with a storm of asteroids, got lost in the TARDIS corridors twice, wiped the memory banks of the flight computer, jettisoned three quarters of the storage hold and burned her "cold dinner", all since the time-travellers left Telos. Minutes later, the TARDIS stops. It has stalled in the middle of deep space and the Doctor can do nothing to fix it.

Sil, the Mentor representative of the Galatron Mining Corporation, is negotiating with the Governor over the price of Varos' Zeiton-7 ore. Their discussion, like many others, ends in stalemate. For many years, the Galatron Mining Corporation has swindled Varos by paying far less for the ore than its market value. To make matters worse, the Chief Officer is in league with Sil. The Governor moves on to conduct the night's vote. He addresses the people, asking for their vote on if they should hold out longer for a fair price on the ore. The Governor loses and is forced to endure Human Cell Disintegration Bombardment. The process slowly kills the target and is carried out because this is the third time his recommendations have failed to pass. The guard Bax recommends that the Governor execute Jondar to please the citizens so he can recuperate before the next vote.

Peri locates the TARDIS manual and presents it to the Doctor. He quickly dismisses it. He says that he knows perfectly well what has caused their dilemma. The transitional elements within the TARDIS have stopped producing orbital energy and they need Zeiton-7 ore to realign the power systems. The Doctor explains Zeiton-7 is exceptionally rare and only comes from one planet: Varos. The Doctor repairs the TARDIS enough to get to Varos. They arrive right before the execution of Jondar is to take place.

The guard on station to watch over the execution believes the TARDIS is a hallucination caused by the Punishment Dome and shoots at it. The Doctor and Peri exit the TARDIS and the guard thinks they are hallucinations as well. With some help from the chained Jondar, the guard is incapacitated. The two free Jondar and make their escape after being cut off from the TARDIS by more guards. They are rescued by Rondel. He has defected after speaking with Areta and decided to help them. But he is killed shortly thereafter by pursuing guards.

The Doctor, Peri, Jondar, and Areta continue through the Punishment Dome, attempting to make their way back to the TARDIS. During a run-in with another group of guards, the Doctor is separated from the others, who are arrested. He enters a corridor that appears a desert. A mirage of Peri taunts him as he suffers. With all of Varos watching, he succumbs to the heat and collapses with his end as a close-up.

Part two[[edit]]

During the ordeal, Peri has been brought to the control centre in the company of Sil and the other officers. They question her as she watches them bring the Doctor's body to an acid bath for disposal. It turns out he is not dead; his mind was influenced to make him believe he was dying of thirst in a desert. The Doctor suddenly stands up and walks over to the attendants while their backs are turned. The surprise makes the first attendant jump, inadvertently pushing the second attendant into the bath. A struggle ensues. The first attendant is pulled into the acid bath by the second attendant. The Doctor strolls out, saying, "You'll forgive me if I don't join you."

After making his way from the acid baths, the Doctor is cornered by Quillam, Varos's chief scientist, and taken away. Back in the control centre, it is decided the Doctor and Jondar will be executed in a good "old-fashioned" way, while Peri and Areta will be reshaped with a cell mutator. The Doctor and Jondar are placed in the nooses while the Governor and Sil watch. At the last moment, the Doctor asks the Governor about Sil and his extortion. Sil's bodyguards rush the platform and pull the lever. The two simply fall through the holes, the rope coming right off the support. As it turns out, there was to be no execution — it was all to get information out of the Doctor. The Doctor suspected this when he noticed that they were not being filmed.

The group tries to stop the cell mutator on Peri and Areta, but they are told it's at too advanced a stage. The Doctor and Jondar grab the weapons of nearby guards to intimidate Quillam to deactivate the mutator, but it fails. The Doctor resorts to shooting the entire control panel. The process has stopped in the nick of time and Peri and Areta return to their original form. The four escape back into the depths of the Punishment Dome towards a possible escape route. Peri, still in a stupor from the mutator, is recaptured and taken to the control centre.

The Chief and Sil make their final move on the Governor, hoping he will be killed in the next vote, securing their control of Varos and the Zeiton-7 ore. Meanwhile, the Doctor, Jondar and Areta make their way into the End Zone of the Dome, where the exit is supposed to be. The vote starts and the bombardment begins, but the guard Maldak has a change of heart and shoots the device to stop the bombardment, saving the Governor and Peri. The three make their way through the ventilation ducts to meet with the Doctor, who then steals and begins to drive a patrol car.

The end of Varosian "entertainment."

The Doctor's group is chased by two cannibals and loses them in some poisonous tendrils. The Chief, Quillam, and two guards arrive on the scene but are ambushed and entangled in the tendrils, killing them. The Doctor's group meet with Peri, the Governor and Maldak. They all make their way back to the control centre and put an end to Sil's plans of controlling Varos. The Galatron Mining Corporation also began to side with Varos; a second source of Zeiton-7 ore has been found, the invasion of Varos is cancelled and Sil is ordered to obtain the Varosian ore at any price. The Governor then asks for twenty credits per unit, much to Sil's horror. The Governor thanks the Doctor and Peri and asks if there's anything he can do for them in return for their help. The Doctor modestly remarks he could do with some Zeiton-7 to fix his TARDIS and the Governer replies that he can have as much as he needs and tells them Maldak will arrange it. The Doctor and Peri bid the Governor farewell.

After the success of the revolution, the Governor issues a message to the citizens saying that there will be no more injustice, torture and executions. Arak and Etta watch in disbelief as their video screen goes blank, showing nothing but video snow, and are left wondering what they'll do with their new-found freedom.


Uncredited Cast[[edit]]


Uncredited crew[[edit]]


  • Varosian poison ivy results in instant death.
  • Zeiton-7 is bought at a ludicrously low price from Varos by the Galatron Mining Corporation.
  • Galatron negotiators, such as Sil from the planet Thoros Beta, exploit the ongoing political vacuum caused by the succession of Governors who are appointed and eventually killed.
  • Galatron's chief rivals are Amorb.
  • Varos property is owned or policed by a body known as Comtech.
  • Varosian transmutation experiments caused self-loathing subjects to become lizard people.


  • The Doctor has been conducting some TARDIS repairs, although this has led to three electrical fires, a total blackout and a near collision with a storm of asteroids.
  • The TARDIS' latest fault occurs when the transitional elements stop generating orbital energy, leaving the TARDIS midway between Cetus and Sculptor.
  • The Doctor says Zeiton-7 is needed to repair the Transpower system.
  • Peri finds a huge Type 40 TARDIS manual in a workshop. She suggests that the fault might be the comparator.

Story notes[[edit]]

  • This story had working titles of Domain and Planet of Fear. The latter was ruled out as it sounded too similar to Planet of Fire.
  • This was one of the stories cited by critics who complained the series had become too dark and violent, most notably for the acid bath scene.
  • This story, like the rest of Season 22, was produced in forty-five-minute episodes, but when sold to other countries such as Australia and America, the episodes were re-edited into four twenty-five-minute episodes. The cliffhangers for parts one and three were the Doctor and Peri arriving on Varos in the TARDIS and the Doctor and Jondar's rescue of Peri and Arreta from the rehabilitators, respectively.
  • The Radio Times programme listing for part two in certain regions incorporated a small black-and-white full-length photograph of Sil, with the accompanying caption "Sil. Bad news for the Doctor? / BBC1 5.20 p.m. Doctor Who". (original published text)
  • Public torture and execution as entertainment go back as far the Romans. The idea of television and manipulation of the media to control the masses has been used in many works of dystopian science fiction.
  • Arak and Etta never interact with any other characters in the story and play no part in the main plot, instead merely observing and commenting on the proceedings in a similar manner to a Greek chorus.
  • The story was chosen by BBC America to represent the Colin Baker era during their 50th-anniversary programming. Edited into an omnibus format, it was aired by BBCA on 29 June 2013, after the debut of their homegrown special called, The Doctors Revisited - The Sixth Doctor. It also aired in the United Kingdom later in the year on 27 October, along with the Revisited special, on the Watch channel.
  • A deleted scene shows an extended conversation between the Doctor and Peri on the immobile TARDIS. The Doctor's attempt to fix the chameleon circuit from the previous story is mentioned. Apparently, it continued to malfunction during an off-screen adventure, where the TARDIS materialised as a pyramid on the frozen plains of Yuin 9. Afterwards, the Doctor stabilised it back to generating the police box appearance. Peri jokes the TARDIS might end up as Nelson's Column until the Doctor shouts at her for insulting his workmanship.
  • While Eric Saward liked the script, he felt it was poorly directed and that Peri's role in the action was not sufficiently prominent.
  • Colin Baker ad-libbed the "Perrier Water" gag.
  • Sil was originally a minor role, while the Governor was the main villain. Eric Saward suggested making him the main villain and the Governor his accomplice.
  • Nicola Bryant named this story as a favourite, while Colin Baker said it contained his favourite cliffhanger.
  • Brian Blessed, George Baker, Keith Barron, John Carson, Frank Finlay, Julian Glover, John Hallam, Terrence Hardiman, John Hurt, Derek Jacobi, Michael Jayston, Dinsdale Landen, Ian McKellen, Anthony Valentine and David Warner were considered for the Chief Governor.
  • Tony Caunter, Tom Chadbon, Peter Childs, Michael Culver, James Ellis, Tom Georgeson, John Hallam, Terrence Hardiman, Don Henderson, John Hollis, Ronald Lacey, Edward Peel, Clifford Rose, John Savident, George Sewell, Patrick Stewart, Donald Sumpter and Malcolm Tierney were considered for the Chief Officer.
  • Alun Armstrong, Nicholas Ball, Jim Broadbent, Andrew Burt, Tony Caunter, Tom Chadbon, Peter Childs, Kenneth Cope, Paul Darrow, Tom Georgeson, John Hallam, Brian Miller, Tony Osoba, Edward Peel, Carl Rigg, Colin Scully, Donald Sumpter and David Warwick were considered for Arak.
  • Stephen Yardley was considered for the Chief Officer before being cast as Arak.
  • David Banks was offered the role of Jondar.
  • At the time, Robin of Sherwood aired opposite Doctor Who. Ironically, Jason Connery would later star in that series.
  • Ron Jones was delighted with the script and was a fan of Philip Martin's work.
  • Nabil Shaban was cast because Martin Jarvis had worked with him in 1981 and his wife remembered him when he reported the difficulty in casting Sil to her.
  • The marsh minnows gave Nabil Shaban the runs.
  • According to Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant noticed how attractive Jason Connery was.
  • Filming the scenes with Peri as a bird was hard for Nicola Bryant, as she developed an allergy to the feathers.
  • During the first recording of the noose execution scene, part of the set collapsed under the weight of the actors. Fortunately, this did not happen when Colin Baker and Jason Connery actually had their necks in the nooses (although in that case, for safety reasons the nooses were not actually tied up).
  • Nabil Shaban remarked in the DVD commentary that, on the last night of recording, the crew heavily ran over time and he was unable to have his make-up completely removed so was forced to drive home partially looking like Sil. He was so eager to get home that he drove too fast and was pulled over. He was rather amused by the face the policeman pulled when he saw him.
  • Philip Martin originally submitted the script for Season 20, where it would have featured the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan Jovanka, but it was repeatedly pushed back and re-written. In its final draft, the story had a number of comedic sequences, most of which wound up being cut, and one of which, the acid bath sequence, was played seriously. The result was that the final story was much darker than originally intended.
  • Sil's name was inspired by the Silurian period of Earth's history, which occurred more than four hundred million years ago, immediately prior to the development of complex land-based lifeforms.
  • This was originally meant to be the fifth story of the season. It was moved forward when "The Song of the Space Whale" was abandoned.
  • Michael Owen Morris was originally supposed to direct.
  • BBC producer Alan Shallcross wrote his colleagues to encourage them to make a greater effort to hire performers with physical disabilities. Shallcross's memo was conveyed to Ron Jones, which led him to audition Nabil Shaban, who was intrigued by the prospect of portraying a villain as complex as Sil, and accepted the role. Shallcross, however, was outraged to learn that his appeal had led to Shaban being cast as a monster.
  • The sequence in which two Varos guards fell into a vat of acid proved difficult to stage. Ron Jones remained dissatisfied even after several retakes, and he was aware that it suggested the Doctor's culpability in the men's demise. Philip Martin had conceived it as an essentially comedic routine, and was disappointed by its on-screen realisation.
  • Sil's costume originally consisted of two pieces (the tail being distinct from the rest of the body), but it was soon found that this gave Nabil Shaban almost no flexibility to move his head. As a result, the cowl was separated and glued to Shaban's face, although the July heat meant that it consistently came unstuck and had to be repaired.
  • Philip Martin originally conceived the amphibious Sil as a reaction to a quote he recalled from Isaac Asimov, who had observed that aquatic creatures rarely featured in science-fiction film and television.
  • Eric Saward felt that the scripts were under-running, so he expanded both Quillam's and Rondel's roles to create additional material.
  • In The Five-ish Doctors Reboot, a fictionalised Colin Baker traps his family in the house to force them to watch the Special Edition DVD of this story. He regards it as an "absolute classic."
  • This is the first story since Tegan Jovanka's introduction in Logopolis in which she is neither seen nor mentioned in any capacity.
  • Philip Martin was chosen to write for the series because Eric Saward was a fan of his series Gangsters. Of the new writers hired for the season, Martin was the only one Saward liked, hence why he was brought back for Season 23.


  • Part one - 7.2 million viewers
  • Part two - 7.0 million viewers

Myths and rumours[[edit]]

  • The original title of this story was "The Song of the Space Whale." ("Song" was, in fact, a completely different story by Pat Mills which was rejected in favour of this one.)
  • A controversy persists regarding the scene where the two guards fall into the acid pit, as it looks as though the Doctor has pushed them in. (A still on the Doctor Who Image Archive website seems to confirm that they do in fact fall in accidentally. The Doctor's quip after they die further exacerbates the controversy.)

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.
  • Peri has a miniature abacus hanging from her belt, which changes to a miniature locomotive at certain points throughout the story - depending on the recording block. (Nicola Bryant explains on the DVD commentary that this was because her dressing room was broken into during recording and the abacus, along with some shoes and underwear, were stolen.)
  • Before the TARDIS appears, the countdown to Jandor's execution is only one minute. Yet more than a minute passes before the Doctor actually begins tinkering with the laser.
  • At numerous points throughout the story, Nicola Bryant lapses back into her natural English accent.
  • In part two, when Sil tells the Chief Officer of his plan, his translator which flashes as Sil speaks flashes when the Chief Officer speaks as well.


Home video and audio releases[[edit]]

DVD Release

Released as Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos, this was the fifth and final release of 2001 and the first to feature the Sixth Doctor. It features a different image of Colin Baker on the cover to later releases (in common with The Robots of Death, The Caves of Androzani and Remembrance of the Daleks, the first stories released for the Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Doctors).


NTSC- Warner Video E1718


  • On the Studio Floor ... - Behind the scenes footage of the making of the story.
  • Trailers
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes/Out-takes
  • Unmixed Soundtrack Option
  • Continuities
  • Photo Gallery
  • Production Subtitles
  • Commentary: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and Nabil Shaban

Rear Credits:


Special Edition release[[edit]]

  • Many of the stories released on DVD during the first few years were subsequently re-released with improved quality and extras, as special editions and "Revisitations" box sets. Vengeance on Varos was initially not included, but 2|entertain asked fans to campaign if they would like this to change. Subsequently, the story was announced for a special edition release. The serial was released on 10 September 2012.


  • Commentary by Colin Baker (the Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri) and Nabil Shaban (Sil)
  • 5.1 Sound Mix - Brand-new optional sound mix
  • Nice Or Nasty? - Cast and crew discuss the making of Vengeance on Varos
  • The Idiot's Lantern - A look at how Doctor Who has incorporated the medium of television within its narrative
  • Tomorrow's Times: The Sixth Doctor
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes - Over fifteen minutes of excised material, including previously unreleased footage exclusive to this Special Edition
  • Behind The Scenes
  • Outtakes
  • Alternative Music Clip - Acid bath scene
  • BBC News - Coverage of Colin Baker's casting as the Doctor
  • Breakfast Time - Colin Baker
  • Saturday Superstore - Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant
  • French & Saunders - Doctor Who sketch from 25 January 1987
  • Trailers & Continuities
  • Radio Times Listings & BBC Sales Sheet
  • Photo Gallery
  • Coming Soon Trailer - The Ambassadors of Death
  • Isolated Music Score
  • Original Studio Production Audio
  • Production Information Subtitles

Video Release[[edit]]

This story was released as Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos.


  • UK VHS cover

    UK VHS cover

  • AUS VHS cover

    AUS VHS cover

  • US VHS cover

    US VHS cover

  • Blu-Ray[[edit]]

    The story was released on Blu-ray as part of The Collection: Season 22 on 20 June 2022

    External links[[edit]]