Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Countdown - Gridlock

To celebrate the fact that 2013 is the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, we are taking a look back at all of the episodes of the show which featured David Tennant as the Doctor. At the end of our look back we'll be asking you, the fans, to vote for what you think is the ultimate David Tennant episode of Doctor Who....

We continue with the next David Tennant episode.... Gridlock
Read our previous Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Countdown posts here.

18. Gridlock

First Broadcast on 14th April 2007. Running Time: 45 Minutes. Viewing Figures: 8.41 million.
Written By Russell T Davies.
Directed By Richard Clark.
Executive Producers Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner. Rating: 8/10.


The Doctor just can't keep away from New Earth, and he's got a new companion to impress, so he and Martha are soon off on a quick jaunt to New New York. Their trip doesn't turn out quite how the Doctor imagined though as the inhabitants of the city are preoccupied with regulating their own emotions, clogging motorways, and making good their escape. So what lies at the heart of this desperate and spectacular city?

Extras: Promotional Photos | On Set Photos | Videos | Articles | MP3 Commentary

Production Notes:

Gridlock is a very important episode in the history of Doctor Who as it is the 727th story, making the show officially the longest-running sci-fi series in the world, beating Star Trek which had 726 episodes.

To add a bit of continuity to the series Russell T Davies decided to return to New Earth in this episode.
The Doctor had previously visited there with former companion Rose Tyler in the 2006 episode New Earth.

The episode also marks the return of The Face Of Boe. This was to be his third appearance in the series, having previously featured in The End Of The World and New Earth. 
In Gridlock he finally reveals his message to the Doctor, that he is not alone, this is a crucial moment in the story arc of the Tenth Doctor.

From the very beginning  Davies decided that he did not want Gridlock to be a direct sequel to New Earth and so he set the episode 30 years on from when the Doctor and Rose had visited.
He also moved the action to New, New York, which had only been seen from a distance in the previous episode.

Whilst devising the monster Davies considered a huge reptilian creature of the Godzilla style and an enormous octopus.  Then he remembered a 40 year old Doctor Who monster that would fit the bill perfectly, the crab-like Macra of the 1967 serial The Macra Terror.

Davies revealed that he took inspiration form the 2000AD comic strip. He based the look of New, New York on Mega-City One, and the bowler hat wearing Businessman was based upon Max Normal from the Judge Dredd strips . Reporter Swifty Frisko from The Ballad Of Halo Jones gave him the idea for Sally Calypso. 
Davies also notes that Brannigan's appearance was based on "Ratz", a CGI disembodied cat's head that was a presenter on BBC One's Live & Kicking in the early 1990s.

Gridlock was part of the third production block of the series and was filmed with The Lazarus Experiment. Both episodes were directed by Richard Clark.

Production on the episode began on 18th September 2006 at the Temple Of Peace in Cardiff. The Face Of Boe's retreat scenes and Sally Calypso's news bulletins were filmed here.
The following week filming moved to the BBC studios at Upper Boat for the TARDIS interior and greenscreen work.
The interiors of the cars were also filmed at Upper Boat. Only one car set was used and it was redecorated for each different car.

The Undercity alleyway was actually the Maltings in Cardiff Bay -  filming there began on the 28th September and lasted two days.
The Doctor's chase scene with Milo, Cheem and Martha through the warehouse was filmed at the Ely Papermill in Cardiff. 
Work on Gridlock then wrapped up at Upper Boat, with sequences inside the cars completed on 2nd October, and inserts and remounts undertaken on 18th October and 7th November.

According to Russell T Davies' Doctor Who Magazine column this episode uses the most CGI in the series.

The Face Of Boe - Friends We Meet Again
The Face Of Boe was a 1.5 metre alien head, suspended in a glass tank and wreathed in smoke. He was the oldest inhabitant of the Isop galaxy and the last member of Boekind. Believed to be millions of of years old, legends stated that the Face Of Boe had watched the universe grow old, and that before his death he would impart a great secret to a homeless wanderer like himself, a lonely god.
Although he was reported to be pregnant with Boemina by the Boewatch programme on BadWolfTV in 200,000 the Face Of Boe was alone again in the year 5 billion, by which time he had based himself on the Silver Devastation and acted as sponsor of the Earthdeath spectacle on Platform One, when Lady Cassandra tried to stage her fraudulent hostage situation (The End Of The World).
23 years later, the Face Of Boe summoned the Doctor to meet him in Ward 26 of the New New York Hospital, where he was dying of old age(New Earth). Here he was under the care of Novice Hame, a Catkind nurse with whom he could communicate telepathically as he slept, singing songs in her mind whilst she kept him company and maintained his smoke. When the Doctor eventually came to hear Boe's final secret, the Face willed himself away using pure mental power, keeping his secret until their next and final encounter.
He then remained on New Earth, in the city of New New York, where the Bliss virus wiped out the population of the Overcity. The Face Of Boe then ensured Hame's protection from the virus by shrouding her in his smoke, before wiring himself into the city's mainframe, giving his life force to maintain the Motorway and it's inhabitants until the Doctor returned. He gave the last of his energy to help release the population from the Undercity, and was released from his tank by the Doctor and Hame for one last time before he perished.
His dying words were a message for the Doctor "You are not alone" ..

It's not the last we hear from the Face. In later adventures The Doctor's close friend and occasional travelling companion, the immortal Captain Jack Harkness, fondly remembered being nicknamed the Face Of Boe, leading the Doctor to realise that he would live to become the Face Of Boe himself....

The Brannigans:
Thomas Kincade Brannigan was an eccentric Catkind driver in the Motorway tunnels of New New York who, along with his wife Valerie and their litter of kittens offered the Doctor a lift. Brannigan initially thought the Doctor was a little bit dim, then quite rude, but after a while he gained a great deal of respect for the Time Lord. Valerie was amused by the Doctor at first, but got anxious about his influence when he began insisting that as they had three adults on board they should head to the fast lane to look for Martha Jones. She was adamant that she would not take her kittens down there. The Brannigan's car was one of the first to get out of the Motorway system and up to the Overcity once the Doctor had opened the roof.

The Danger Below:
The Macra were massive crustaceans which had most likely escaped from the New New York Zoo at some point and were living beneath the lanes of the enclosed New New York Motorway, feeding off the exhaust fumes.
The Macra had once ran an empire of enslavement and terror centuries before, but over the aeons had developed into mindless brutes, acting only on instinct. As a result, cars reaching the lowest level, the Fast Lane, tended to be swatted down by the Macra, who regarded them as pests to be knocked aside. When the Doctor opened the covered Motorway and freed the cars trapped inside, the Macra were left down there, presumably to be rehoused in the Zoo at some point as the exhaust fumes they thrived on would soon dissipate.


Thomas Kincade Brannigan: This Martha, she must mean a lot to you.
The Doctor: Hardly know her. I was too busy showing off.

The Doctor: New New York can start again. And they've got Novice Hame. Just what every city needs, cats in charge.

The Doctor: I lied to you, 'cause I liked it. I could pretend, just for a bit, I could imagine they were still alive underneath the burnt orange sky. I'm not just a Time Lord: I'm the last of the Time Lords. The Face of Boe was wrong. There's no one else.
Martha Jones: What happened?
The Doctor: There was a war. A Time War. The last great Time War. My people fought a race called the Daleks for the sake of all creation, and they lost. They lost. Everyone lost. They're all gone now, my family, my friends, even that sky. Ah, you should have seen it, that old planet. The second sun would rise in the south, the mountains would shine. The leaves on the trees were silver. When they caught the light every morning, they lit the forest on fire. We always had...


  • Reportedly, the longest traffic jam ever recorded occurred on the French motorway between Lyon and Paris on 16 February 1980 - that one tailed back for 109 miles! Before the Doctor helped rescue the citizens of New New York, at an average speed of 5 miles every 12 years, it would have taken cars over two and a half centuries to travel that distance!
  • Brannigan, Boe and Nurse Hame were just three of the 44 prosthetic and animatronic monster creations featured in Series 3 in total... and this figure doesn't include the numerous other smaller prosthetic elements! It takes four days to make one Cat Nun prosthetic, and each can only be used once. A new face was needed for every new filming day.
  • The beautiful description of Gallifrey's burnt orange skies and silver leaves was first heard way back in the 1964 story The Sensorites. You finally get to see it in its true splendour in The Sound of Drums
  • The only other occasion that the Doctor has faced his crabby opponents was in 1967, when his second incarnation (Patrick Troughton) defeated them in The Macra Terror.
  • The Businessman that the Doctor meets isn't the first character to wear a bowler hat in the series; Trevor Sigma in The Happiness Patrol and the Time Lord in Terror of the Autons also notably sported the stylish headgear. Although bowlers went out of fashion in the UK by the 1980s, it seems that by the year five billion and fifty three, they're back in vogue for the sartorially conscious commuter!


  • David Tennant - The Doctor
  • Freema Agyeman - Martha Jones
  • Ardal O'Hanlon – Thomas Kincade Brannigan
  • Anna Hope – Novice Hame
  • Travis Oliver – Milo
  • Lenora Crichlow – Cheen
  • Jennifer Hennessy – Valerie
  • Bridget Turner – Alice
  • Georgine Anderson – May
  • Simon Pearsall – Whitey
  • Daisy Lewis – Javit
  • Nicholas Boulton – Businessman
  • Erika Macleod – Sally Calypso
  • Judy Norman – Ma
  • Graham Padden – Pa
  • Lucy Davenport – Pale Woman
  • Tom Edden – Pharmacist #1
  • Natasha Williams – Pharmacist #2
  • Gayle Telfer Stevens – Pharmacist #3
  • Struan Rodger – The Face of Boe