Working Title: Dream Time.
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), John Leeson (Voice of K-9), Lalla Ward (The Second Romana), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric).
Trying to escape from E-Space, the Doctor, Romana, Adric and K-9 instead land in an eerie white void whose only feature is a crumbling old keep. Also trapped in the void is a privateering ship captained by the cruel Rorvik, whose time sensitive pilot, the leonine Tharil Birok, escapes and lures the Doctor into the keep and the mirror gateway beyond. There, the Doctor witnesses the rise and fall of the once-mighty Tharil Empire. He realises he must free the Tharils enslaved on the privateering ship and escape through the gateway, before Rorvik's vengeful actions destroy them all.
Shortly after he assumed the post of Doctor Who's script editor at the start of 1980, Christopher H Bidmead approached renowned science-fiction author Christopher Priest about the possibility of his writing a story for the series. Priest agreed, and together they began working on a serial which would form the final installment in the three part "E-Space Trilogy" Bidmead had concoccted at the request of producer John Nathan-Turner, who wanted each Doctor Who adventure to feel more connected to those preceeding it. This would also be the culmination of another subplot, about the Time Lords wanting Romana returned to Gallifrey, and would feature the departures of both Romana and K-9 from the series, in accord with the production team's desire to make the regular cast more vulnerable (hence the introduction of Adric earlier in the season). Titled Sealed Orders, the adventure was a Gallifrey-based political thriller. Unfortunately, by June, it was becoming clear that problems with the scripts were proving insurmountable. With little time left before work started on Serial 5S, Bidmead had to race to locate a replacement.
Ironically, Bidmead found it in another popular genre writer, Stephen Gallagher, who had started in television at Granada until the success of his suspense novel Chimera gave him the freedom to go freelance. A radio script of Gallagher's, called An Alternative To Suicide, had been forwarded to the Doctor Who production office by BBC Radio 4, who felt it might be more suitable for the series. This led to the commissioning of a story entitled Dream Time, a term arising from the spirituality of the Australian Aborigines. Originally set in a dream reality, the change to the nexus point between N-Space and E-Space (as per the dictates of the story arc) necessitated a change in title, to Warriors' Gate. Gallagher was greatly inspired by the surrealistic films of French director Jean Cocteau (particularly La belle et la bette and Orphee); this influence would ultimately extend even to the make-up and costume designs, notably Pauline Cox's make-up for the Tharils.
Writing the serial proved an arduous process, with Bidmead and first-time director Paul Joyce re-writing the scripts extensively beginning in August. (Indeed, Joyce claims that Gallagher completed only a story outline and that the scripts are entirely his and Bidmead's, although BBC documentation contradicts this.) Partly this was because Bidmead wanted to give Warriors' Gate a more scientific basis, and partly because the series' stars were complaining bitterly about their portrayal. On-set tensions were particularly high around this time because of the illness which had afflicted Tom Baker all season (and was only now beginning to abate) as well as the impending departure of Baker's co-star and lover, Lalla Ward. One aspect which underwent a number of revisions was the name of the time-sensitive leonine race. Gallagher had originally called them Tharks; this changed through Thars to Tharls and, at a very late stage, to Tharils, after fan advisor Ian Levine suggested long-term fans might confuse the name with the Thals from The Daleks and Planet Of The Daleks.
Joyce had mainly directed plays before working on Doctor Who, and approached Warriors' Gate very much as though it were a feature film. This time-consuming methodology quickly brought him into conflict with Nathan-Turner, especially after Joyce negotiated an extra studio day and the use of the Scene-Sync process in exchange for abandoning any location material. Scene-Sync was a technique previously used on Meglos, but one which Nathan-Turner had not envisioned utilising again. To make matters worse, Warriors' Gate was hit by not one but two labour disputes. The first was a strike by the BBC carpenters which delayed taping by several days. As a result, the initial three-day recording block took place from Wednesday, September 22nd instead of Friday the 17th. The second incident arose from an argument between Joyce and John Dixon, who was in charge of lighting. Joyce wanted to include the studio's overhead lights in a shot (implying they were part of the Privateer spacecraft), which Dixon refused to allow; this cost the production another couple of hours.
In the end, because time was growing so short, Joyce had to abdicate some of his responsibilities to assistant director Graeme Harper, particularly during the second block which began on Thursday, October 2nd. Nathan-Turner would later conclude that Joyce was not an appropriate director for Doctor Who; he would not return to the series.
Warriors' Gate also saw the final involvement of Lalla Ward in televised Doctor Who, although footage of her from the untransmitted Shada would be used in the twentieth-anniversary special The Five Doctors in 1983. Two months after leaving the series, Ward and Baker were married, only to separate and divorce less than a year and a half later. Acting became increasingly less of a priority in Ward's life as the Eighties wore on, and more recently she has focussed on writing and illustrating books. In 2000, however, Ward briefly returned to Doctor Who for the audio release The Apocalypse Element.
John Leeson, who had returned to Doctor Who for Season Eighteen with the understanding that K-9 would be written out before the end of the year, also left the series once again with Warriors' Gate. However, such was the public outcry over the robot dog's departure that the BBC agreed to broadcast a pilot episode for a potential series entitled K-9 And Company, starring Leeson and Elisabeth Sladen as the Doctor's former companion, Sarah Jane Smith. This was broadcast on December 28th, 1981, but did not ultimately lead to an ongoing programme. Nonetheless, Leeson returned for The Five Doctors in 1983 and the charity special Dimensions In Time in 1993; he also provided voices for 1988's Remembrance Of The Daleks. Outside of Doctor Who, Leeson has continued both his voice-over and acting work.