The Awakening

DVD NTSC
Region 1

DVD PAL
Region 2
Box Set
VHS Video
NTSC A
NTSC B
PAL
(Doctor Who Story No. 132, starring Peter Davison)
  • written by Eric Pringle
  • directed by Michael Owen Morris
  • produced by John Nathan-Turner
  • music by Peter Howell
  • 2 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: Hoping to visit with Tegan's grandfather in 1984, the Doctor and friends discover the village of Little Hodcombe in the midst of recreating their civil war battle of 1643. What is causing the war games' instigator Sir George to encourage excessive over-zealousness in the townsfolk? What is the meaning of the many bizarre haunting apparitions appearing all over the village? And who or what is about to be re-awakened from within the church walls?

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by director Michael Owen Morris, script editor Eric Saward, and moderator Toby Hadoke.
  • "Return to Little Hodcombe" on-location retrospective making-of featurette (19 min.),
    adding Janet Fielding (Tegan), Keith Jayne (Will Chandler), and the locals...
  • "Making the Malus" prop featurette (7 min.) with visual effects designer Tony Harding and modelmaker Richard Gregory.
  • Peter Davison (The Doctor) receives a Golden Egg Award for the story's spectacular news-making blooper (2 min.)
  • Now & Then location featurette (7 min.)
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes (9 min.)
  • Isolated music score by Peter Howell
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.


Nestled cosily up near the beginning of season 21, this is one of Peter Davison's more obscure adventures. Featuring some of the year's best production values, and a fast pace that rivals the new millennium version of the show, the story still doesn't quite make its way into the highest ranks, and may indeed leave its audiences wondering after the fact just what it was really all about.


At its core, it seems to want to tackle themes and subject matter similar to "Snakedance" (story no. 125), or even the Star Trek original series' third season episode "Day of the Dove", with a psychic creature attempting to feed off of the violent & fearful energy of other beings close by. But the story suffers a number of holes in character motivation, the biggest of which drains almost all believability out of the premise itself. Instead of harnessing emotionally real conflict such as the bitter Federation/Klingon rivalries in "Day of the Dove", or here the actual 1643 English civil war battle, the Malus creature in "The Awakening" attempts to utilize a 1984 mock-up, and it never really is made clear why participants on either side of this recreation would take it to the extremes that would generate the emotional energy the creature needs. How do you get a whole village to agree to suspend their regular lives for several days or more, and pretend they're all living as they would have 340 years ago? That's enough of a stretch. Getting them to go so far as to start killing each other is completely unbelievable. "Day of the Dove" partly solved this by showing that its creature was capable of inserting false memories into its victims (Chekov most memorably), to help fuel their ferocity.

The civil war recreation aspects of the story are really upstaged by the extremely successful creepy atmosphere surrounding the story's many scenes featuring bizarrely different apparitions and inexplicable phenomena. The story might have held together much better if it had, as in "Snakedance", let the people's fear of these manifestations fuel the creature's psychic energy needs. Indeed, one has to wonder as the backstory comes out, how the Malus didn't achieve a more successful awakening during the actual civil war battle in 1643. If it couldn't manage it then, surely it doesn't stand a chance now.

Many of these considerations only come up in the last quarter of the story, since earlier portions still work well while holding the premise back as part of the mystery that needs to be solved. The Doctor is kept very busy as a lead investigator in this tale, amongst the other good quality story beats he is engaged in. Both Tegan and Turlough split off on their own adventures for much of this, allowing Will Chandler and more significantly Jane Hampden to fill in as pseudo companions, with Jane fulfilling the typical function of pulling answers out of the Doctor to help the audience understand what's going on. Many of the connections between this story and "The Visitation" (story no. 120) turn out to be a really nice touch.

The Jane Hampden character also gets a few nice pseudo-companion bits of business concerning the function of the new red handle on the new TARDIS console, making definitive the idea that it operates the main door, just as Nyssa had done for the old console in "Castrovalva" (story no. 117). Nice, and very hard to miss. The TARDIS isn't otherwise presented in an absolutely ideal way for new viewers, but they may well get the hang of it before the end of the story, and/or decide they want to stick around for more of it in the next one.

The Doctor also becomes busily engaged in problem-solving mode in the story's final scenes, which is great. What may be somewhat lost on viewers is the idea that most of the defeat of the Malus is achieved by the Doctor pressing some buttons in the TARDIS. But the final fix needs to occur during the confrontation with Sir George, and as far as tying this part into the story's premise goes, what we get on screen is a bit of a mess. We don't get the brilliance of finding a center of stillness within oneself, or of turning the situation around to a mood of camaraderie and good cheer. It totally remains the sort of tense conflict that would fuel the creature, seriously undermining the obvious thematic point that the story should have been aiming for, substituting a silly bit of passive-aggressive syndrome for Will. And bizarre too is the assumption that Sir George is dead, when he's simply shown to safely fall behind what's left of a wall into a bit of harmless smoke. You would have thought someone might want to help him out of the church before it collapses on him.


But so much of the rest of this story works, and it proceeds with a pace and energy that covers over most of the other holes. Director Michael Owen Morris is on form, and the story features lots of enjoyable location shooting in good weather. And with such a fast pace and so much movement on screen, it is difficult to memorize and get bored of during repeat viewing. Indeed, had some of these action beats made their way into "Snakedance", perhaps that story would be more widely and easily acknowledged as Davison's best.

Daves Chapman and Jervis work together to do video effects on this story, and achieve a lot of really neat stuff for the various apparitions. Perhaps this work is helped by the fact that their effects are usually presented as mysteries when they appear, meaning that the audience isn't dragging expectations into the experience that aren't being met, as would be the case with missing lasers.....
After having done both of the previous Mara stories, composer Peter Howell should be on familiar footing tackling this story's subject matter, yet he manages to create a very unique haunting sound for this story, and plays a lot of little tunes that should be familiar and bright, but are just "off" enough to creep one out instead. Very cool. Music is a really effective element giving this story its superb atmosphere.
Music by Peter Howell
A suite of 3:26 duration is available on:
Audio CD
Doctor Who - The Five Doctors
Silva Screen FILMCD 710

More info & buying options

It's interesting to note how this is very nearly another story well outside the Black Guardian trilogy that wants to lock Turlough up in the first episode and not let him out until the last. Technically, the scene of Turlough getting caught had to be shifted into Part Two because Part One was running long. However, despite a magazine quote in which Mark Strickson complains that he spent the whole story being locked up, Turlough's bout of the prisoner dynamic is quite short here, and alleviated by the fact that he brings out some important information for the plot while he is in it. It's a far better showing for him here than back in "The King's Demons" (story no. 129).

Interesting too are the notes that Kamelion was originally written into a small scene in the beginning, and probably videotaped as well, but this was trimmed for time. An extended version might be very interesting, if the footage still exists....


I almost suspect that, had the character motivations been brought up to work with this story's premise, it might have been the gem of the season. However, this is much too important a thing to miss, particularly during the concluding moves, and "The Awakening" probably won't be able to climb too high in the rankings as it stands. It remains highly enjoyable however, and speaks loudly of the generally exciting quality of season 21.



This story is available on DVD and VHS video:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
Box Set
for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC A for North America
NTSC B for North America
PAL in the U.K.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Frontios"



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