Downtime (Doctor Who)

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VHS Release cover
Directed byChristopher Barry
Written byMarc Platt
Produced byKeith Barnfather
Ian Levine
Paul Cuthbert-Brown
Andrew Beech
Length1 episode, 70 mins.
First broadcast2 September 1995 (1995-09-02) (release date)
← Preceded by
Followed by →
Dæmos Rising

Downtime is a direct-to-video spin-off of the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was released direct-to-video and produced by the independent production company Reeltime Pictures, it is a sequel to the Second Doctor serials The Abominable Snowmen (1967) and The Web of Fear (1968).

Downtime stars Nicholas Courtney, Deborah Watling, Jack Watling and Elisabeth Sladen reprising their roles as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Victoria Waterfield, Professor Edward Travers and Sarah Jane Smith, respectively, it introduces the character of Kate Lethbridge-Stewart.


Sometime after Victoria had parted company with the Doctor on 20th century Earth (Fury from the Deep), she is lured back to the Detsen Monastery in Tibet (The Abominable Snowmen) by a dream telling her she'll find her late father there. Instead, she finds the Great Intelligence, which still possessed the mind of Professor Travers (The Web of Fear).

15 years later, Victoria is the vice chancellor of New World University. New World is an institution that claims to offer spiritual guidance to distraught youth. In reality, New World is the headquarters for the Intelligence's new plan to conquer the world by infecting all of the computers. Both the administration and students await the coming of a "new world" that will be heralded by the chancellor, the Intelligence-possessed Travers.

Victoria's motives are well-meaning but misguided, having been manipulated with a promised "light of truth"; the students themselves have been brainwashed through their computer courses and are slaves of the Intelligence. Outsiders refer to them as "chillys".

The Intelligence needs a final missing Locus to attain its goal, it believes the Brigadier has it, but the locus (a small wooden carving of a yeti) is actually with his daughter Kate and grandson Gordon on their narrowboat.

New World attempts to gather information on the Brigadier by asking Sarah Jane Smith to investigate him. Sarah lies about knowing the Brigadier and later warns both him and UNIT; the Intelligence then arranges a meeting between the Brigadier and a corrupt UNIT captain named Cavendish.

Throughout the story the Brigadier is aided by a New World student named Daniel Hinton, a former student of his from the Brendon School; the Intelligence's conditioning failed on Hinton, though at times he is still under its influence and at one point becomes a Yeti. He can communicate with the Brigadier through the bardo or astral plane.


  • Nicholas CourtneyBrigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. The hero of the story, the Brigadier is targeted by the Great Intelligence in revenge for their defeat in the previous story The Web of Fear. Now living by himself, the Brigadier is initially distant from his daughter Kate (and it is implied that he is separated from Doris). At the story's conclusion, Lethbridge-Stewart learns that he is grandfather to Gordon James, his daughter's only child.
  • Elisabeth SladenSarah Jane Smith. A journalist working for Metropolitan Magazine, Sarah-Jane is initially contacted by Victoria Waterfield to provide information on UNIT Personnel, including the Brigadier. Suspicious of their motives, Sarah-Jane attempts to contact the Brigadier and, at the story's conclusion, allies herself with his daughter Kate.
  • Deborah WatlingVictoria Waterfield. A former companion of the Doctor, Victoria feels alone and stranded in the 20th century. Using money that her father has left her, she has built the New World Campus and is, naïvely, trying to locate her father using the locus; the Great Intelligence takes advantage of her naivety and her position as Vice-Chancellor but she eventually sees through their deception. At the end of the story, with the Great Intelligence defeated she disappears with no known trace.
  • Jack WatlingProfessor Edward Travers. A former adversary of the Great Intelligence who has faced them twice before (in the stories The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear, Travers is now their pawn and seeks freedom through finding the last locus.
  • Beverley CressmanKate Lethbridge-Stewart. The only daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Kate lives with her only son Gordon James ('Gordy') on a houseboat. Unbeknownst to her, she possesses the last remaining locus in a toy chest, which has taken the form of a wooden yeti carving. Kate is initially resentful of her father, blaming his work for the disintegration of their family, although they make their peace at the story's conclusion.
  • Mark Trotman – Daniel Hinton. A former student of the Brigadier's at Brendon School, the rebellious Hinton is initially immune to the influence of the Great Intelligence, although her later comes into contact with one of the yeti control spheres and is transformed into one. A computer hacker, he is friends with the university's DJ Anthony and attempts to warn the Brigadier about the Great Intelligence's plot before he is revealed as the trap designed to capture him, it is implied at the end of the story that Hinton has died and entered the astral plane, through which he communicates with the Brigadier's grandson.
  • Geoffrey Beevers – Harrod Haroldson. A former RAF officer, Flight Sergeant Haroldson is now homeless and has earned the nickname 'Harrod's' because he is fussy about where he sleeps as a vagrant. Harrods is loyal to the Brigadier and attempts to help him mount a defence against the Great Intelligence.
  • Peter Silverleef – Christopher Rice. The marketing manager at New World University, Rice is a pawn of the Great Intelligence and attempts to seize power for himself at the story's conclusion but is destroyed in the crossfire.
  • John Leeson – Anthony. The DJ of New World University, Anthony is antagonistic towards Victoria and Christopher Rice, resentful of having to transmit propaganda; after he attempts to broadcast the truth, he is consumed by the Great Intelligence.
  • Miles Richardson – Captain Douglas Cavendish. A UNIT captain who is, in reality controlled by the Great Intelligence, he attempts to extract information about the final locus from Lethbridge-Stewart. Cavendish survives the conflict and resigns from UNIT, his story is continued in the follow-up drama Daemos Rising.
  • James Bree – Lama. The Lama at the Det-Sen Monastery, he appears at the beginning of the story attempting to warn Victoria away from the Great Intelligence.
  • Kathy Coutler – Receptionist.
  • Alexander Landen – Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart

Production notes[edit]

The initial script read through took place in March 1995, with filming beginning on Friday 24 March in South-West London with the scenes set at the Brigadier's home.

The university campus scenes were shot at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. DWB Editor Anthony Brown, who had attended UEA, suggested the location after another had fallen through, as the distinctive Ziggurat-shaped student residences Norfolk and Suffolk Terrace echoed pyramid motifs in the script. UEA students were recruited as 'Chillys' (extras) through the campus newspaper Concrete. Filming at the university was delayed slightly when the fire alarm sounded during the recording of some internal scenes.

Production of some external scenes had to be rescheduled thanks to unseasonal spring snow storms — ironically, snow was conspicuously absent from the first Yeti story, The Abominable Snowmen.

The later Reeltime production Dæmos Rising followed up on some of the elements of this story, specifically with the characters of Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and Captain Cavendish.

Daniel Hinton is named after Craig Hinton, the Doctor Who fan and novelist.

Soundtrack release[edit]

Downtime – Original Soundtrack Recording
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedDecember 1995
LabelSilva Screen

Music from this video composed by Ian Levine, Nigel Stock, and Erwin Keiles was released on CD by Silva Screen Records in December 1995;[1] the 'Monastic chant' heard in the opening and closing themes was the same chant that was used in the Doctor Who story Planet of the Spiders.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Ian Levine, Nigel Stock, and Erwin Keiles.

1."Introduction: Detsen Monastery and Title Sequence" 
2."Astral Plane" 
5."First Chase" 
6."Second Chase" 
8."Chase/Astral Plane" 
9."Brigadier's Lost Memory" 
11."Message Understood" 
12."He Fell" 
14."Astral Plane" 
16."I'm Still Alive" 
17."Danny Was Right" 
18."Double Cross" 
20."Build Up" 
24."Family/Yeti Themes" 
26."Single Sting" 
30."Yeti March" 
33."Family Theme" 
34."End Credits" 


AuthorMarc Platt
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Virgin Missing Adventures
Release number
Victoria Waterfield
Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart
Sarah Jane Smith
Set inPeriod between
Fury from the Deep[2] and Battlefield[3] (main story); The Web of Fear and Twilight of the Gods (Second Doctor cameo);[4] The Five Doctors and Island of Death (Third Doctor cameo)[5]
PublisherVirgin Books
Publication date
January 1996
Preceded byLords of the Storm 
Followed byThe Man in the Velvet Mask 

In 1996 a novelisation of Downtime by Marc Platt was published by Virgin Publishing as part of their Missing Adventures line, it expands greatly on the original story and features many differences in plot. It is the only Missing Adventure not to centre on the Doctor, although the Second Doctor makes a cameo at the start of the novel, and the Third Doctor makes a cameo at the end, it is one of only two non-BBC, Doctor Who-related productions to be novelised. The other was Shakedown which was published as part of the Virgin New Adventures line of books.

The novelisation included an 8-page photo insert of behind-the-scenes images taken by photographer Robin Prichard during the film production.


The film was a direct to video VHS release in 1995. Then, in 2015 One Media iP Limited acquired the drama and re-released it as a 2-DVD boxset in November 2015; the second disc contains two behind-the-scenes documentaries showing the filming of the drama and the post-production process.[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Downtime – Original Soundtrack Recording
  2. ^ The novelisation cover blurb specifies that the main story takes place after Fury from the Deep.
  3. ^ The video cover blurb specifies that it takes place before Battlefield.
  4. ^ The (Second) Doctor's Timeline at The Whoniverse gives support for specific placement of the Second Doctor's cameo relative to other spin-off media.
  5. ^ The (Third) Doctor's Timeline at The Whoniverse gives support for specific placement of the Third Doctor's cameo relative to other spin-off media.
  6. ^ Downtime spin-off DVD Out Today –
  7. ^

External links[edit]