VHS Release cover
Directed byChristopher Barry
Written byMarc Platt
Produced byKeith Barnfather
Ian Levine
Paul Cuthbert-Brown
Andrew Beech
Running time1 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 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.


Production notes

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.

A clip from one of the scenes with Sarah and the Brigadier was planned to be shown as a flashback in The Sarah Jane Adventures.[1] However, when the BBC requested permission from the owners of the Downtime copyright, it was refused and the clip was not shown.

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

Soundtrack release

Downtime – Original Soundtrack Recording
Soundtrack album by
Ian Levine, Nigel Stock, and Erwin Keiles
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.[2] 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

All tracks are 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[3] and Battlefield[4] (main story); The Web of Fear and Twilight of the Gods (Second Doctor cameo);[5] The Five Doctors and Island of Death (Third Doctor cameo)[6]
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.

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. A substantial amount of behind-the-scenes material was also intended to be released as a separate VHS entitled The Making of Downtime and was even advertised as such on later video releases but did not materialize. The twenty year gap between the VHS and DVD releases was due to rights issues between the three main parties who had funded the initial production.

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.[7][8]

The release of the DVD edition was met with some controversy when the granddaughter of Mervyn Haisman, who had co-created the Yeti and Brigadier with Henry Lincoln attempted to take legal action to block the release of the DVD, rationalizing that permission had not been sought or renogotiated for the DVD release. Additional controversy presented itself in 2012 when Ian Levine attempted to make his own re-edit of Downtime, entitled Downtime Redux which sought to bookend the film with a cameo from 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy in order to show that it was in fact the Doctor who had been manipulating events the whole time.[citation needed] The new edit remains unreleased to this day, primarily due to rights issues with the BBC.


  1. ^ "Interview: Gary Russell [Part 1]". Archived from the original on 15 April 2016.
  2. ^ Downtime – Original Soundtrack Recording
  3. ^ The novelisation cover blurb specifies that the main story takes place after Fury from the Deep.
  4. ^ The video cover blurb specifies that it takes place before Battlefield.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Downtime spin-off DVD Out Today –
  8. ^ "News".