Doctor Who (1963–1989)
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Vengeance on Varos: Part One 

The TARDIS makes an emergency landing on Varos, a planet that used to be a penal colony, and where the native Varosians are presently entertained by broadcasts of real violence and death. ... See full summary »




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Episode complete credited cast:
Nabil Shaban ...
Nicolas Chagrin ...
Forbes Collins ...
Sheila Reid ...
Graham Cull ...


The TARDIS makes an emergency landing on Varos, a planet that used to be a penal colony, and where the native Varosians are presently entertained by broadcasts of real violence and death. Mistaken for rebels, the Doctor and Peri learn that Sil, an evil delegate of the Galatron mining corporation, bids to rule Varos and to control supplies of Zeiton 7 ore, which is the TARDIS's only fuel source. Written by Daniel Williamson

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Release Date:

19 January 1985 (UK)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This story was written as a replacement for a serial called Song of the Space Whale by comics writer Pat Mills. See more »


Arak: When did they last show something worth watching, eh? When did we last see a decent execution?
Etta: Last week.
Arak: What?
Etta: The blind man.
Arak: That was a repeat.
See more »


Featured in When Worlds Collide (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

Good if not great story which is very much ahead of its time
16 November 2008 | by See all my reviews

"Vengeance on Varos" takes a while to get going, and suffers from the sixth Doctor's often shockingly selfish, callous behavior and even disregard for the life of others. He shows no remorse for his acts of violence, which is particularly at odds with both the character of the Doctor and this story itself, a grim parody of TV viewing, particularly in Britain (punched-in appreciation figures etc.), and an attack on the 'video nasties' which were gaining popularity at the time. The story is well ahead of its time in depicting 'reality television' however, and has even more resonance now than it did in the eighties, and is a better-executed story than Russel T. Davies' "Bad Wolf" saga.

"Vengeance on Varos" is an intelligent and well-scripted story courtesy of Philip Martin, but it's not much fun to watch, honestly. It's enjoyable the same way any serious, dark drama is, but "Doctor Who" without fun isn't really "Doctor Who". While there are some great lines here, there are too few witty exchanges, and much of the dialogue is of an expository nature.

Still, "Vengeance on Varos" achieves its goals, and is grimly comic when it comes to the TV viewing scenes, as well as brutally effective in its most violent and darkest scenes (the acid bath is an unnecessary inclusion, however). The guest actors are superb, especially Nabil Shaban as Sil, and Colin Baker is excellent here. The Sixth Doctor is an interesting experiment, and absolutely terrific when written well, but there are real issues of characterization here which don't fit with what we've seen before and after from other Doctors. Furthermore, the Sixth Doctor is at a real disadvantage when it comes to television stories due to his clothes, which would be, I suppose, somewhat acceptable in stories of a lighter, more cartoonish nature (they've never annoyed me in, say, "Mark of the Rani"), but when you're going for real, gritty drama as much of season 22 does, it just looks ridiculous.

Due to its vicious attack on the 'video nasty' culture, its often grimly funny parody of TV viewing, and the interesting politics on Varos as well as the excellent design work (although the S&M aspects could and should have been toned down, intentional or not!) and acting, "Vengeance on Varos" is one of the more successful Colin Baker stories. While I am not as critical of Colin Baker or his time spent in the role as some others, there was a real lack of proper creative vision at this point, and "Vengeance on Varos" is one of the few stories to escape relatively unscathed.


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