The Abominable Snowmen

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This article is about the Doctor Who serial. For the hypothetical creature called "abominable snowman", see yeti. For the fictional portrayal of said creature in this and other Doctor Who stories, see Yeti (Doctor Who).
038 – The Abominable Snowmen
Doctor Who serial
Abominable Snowmen.jpg
Jamie and Victoria pursued by the Yeti
Writer Mervyn Haisman
Henry Lincoln
Director Gerald Blake
Script editor Peter Bryant
Producer Innes Lloyd
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer None
Production code NN
Series Season 5
Length 6 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missing 5 episodes (1, 3-6)
Date started 30 September 1967
Date ended 4 November 1967
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Tomb of the Cybermen The Ice Warriors

The Abominable Snowmen is the mostly missing second serial of the fifth season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which originally aired in six weekly parts from 30 September to 4 November 1967. The story is notable for the introduction of recurring foes, the Yeti. Only one of the six episodes is held in the BBC archives; five remain missing.


Professor Edward Travers, an anthropologist and explorer, is awoken from his sleep when he hears the screams of his companion. He is horrified to see a lumbering, hairy creature standing over his friend's lifeless body.

The TARDIS has materialised on a cold and windy hillside. The Doctor is delighted at their destination and tells his companions Jamie and Victoria to start searching for a 'Holy Ghanta'. They have landed in Tibet, and the Detsen Monastery will "give them a welcome of a lifetime" if they arrive with the Ghanta: a bell and holy Buddhist relic the Doctor took three hundred years ago for safe-keeping.

While the Doctor steps outside to investigate, Jamie and Victoria locate the Ghanta along with a sword Jamie keeps. Meanwhile, the Doctor is certain he is being watched and elects to travel to the monastery first to prepare the way. En route, he finds the remains of Travers's camp and the dead body. He takes the rucksack with him as evidence.

Victoria gets bored of being stuck in the TARDIS and convinces Jamie to explore. They discover huge animal footprints that encircle the TARDIS.

The Doctor arrives at the monastery and encounters a group of armed monks. Travers is also present, spots his rucksack in the Doctor's hand, and believes the Doctor is responsible for the death of his friend. The Doctor is thrown into a cell to await the monks' decision about his guilt.

Back on the hillside, Jamie and Victoria follow the footprints to the mouth of a cave. They go inside, and Victoria spots a huge creature at the cave mouth. The pair watch as massive claws push a boulder, trapping them inside.

In the cell, the Doctor gets a visit from Travers, who mentions the Yeti but the Doctor knows that the Yeti are timid creatures.

Back in the sealed cave, Jamie has discovered a pyramid of small silver spheres placed on a raised plinth. The boulder shifts, and a Yeti enters the caves. Jamie tries to defend them with his sword, but the creature snaps it in two.

Jamie and Victoria evade the Yeti and depart with one of the strange illuminated spheres. They head toward the monastery, where the Doctor is still being detained on Khrisong’s orders. He has, nevertheless, been able to pass on the Ghanta to the friendly monk Thonmi. Thonmi takes it to Abbot Songsten, who is in communion with the master of the monastery, Padmasambhava. Padmasambhava knows the Doctor from his previous visit, and though he knows of the Doctor’s wisdom, he fears he will intervene in The Great Plan. Thonmi is told to depart, his memory wiped of what he has heard, though given the instruction that the Doctor should be released unharmed.

The Doctor has meanwhile been placed on trial and, as a test of whether he controls the Yeti, is tied to the doors of the monastery to lure the Yeti out. Travers has by now met Jamie and Victoria, who convince him the Doctor is no threat. The trio return to the monastery to see the Doctor freed on the Abbot’s instructions. Shortly afterward, the Yeti advance in an abortive attack on the monastery, during which one of them is overpowered and rendered dormant. The Doctor deduces it is a robot, controlled by a missing spherical unit from its chest cavity. Elsewhere in the monastery, the sphere brought back by Jamie comes to life.

Travers worries that the real Yeti are under threat from the robot ones, but some of the others suspect he is controlling the robots. Outside the monastery, he observes two of the robots come to life and head for Detsen. It appears the creatures are under the control of Padmasambhava, who is moving Yeti-like chess pieces around a map of the area. Inside the monastery, the sphere moves toward the dormant Yeti robot with the Doctor and monks looking for it, having worked out its purpose. Khrisong finds a sphere outside the walls of Detsen, and the others observe the two Yeti retrieving it without harming it, leaving the Doctor to conclude that the two were obeying orders. The Doctor decides to return to the TARDIS with Jamie to get equipment to track the missing sphere. The pulsing globe reaches the dormant Yeti and revives it, causing the robot to menace Victoria and Thonmi.

The awakened Yeti battles its way out of Detsen, killing warrior monks and leaving Khrisong angry that Thonmi opened the door to allow it to flee – albeit to avoid further bloodshed. Victoria and Thonmi are imprisoned for supposedly reviving the creature. The freed Yeti takes the sphere to the cave on the mountain, unaware it has been observed by Travers. Songsten arrives, guarded by Yeti, and bearing a glowing pyramid of spheres. The party deposits the pyramid in the cave and departs. Travers sneaks into the cave and finds the pyramid pulsing with life. He flees and makes for the monastery. The Abbot reports to Padmasambhava that their plan is working, and the old master replies that the Great Intelligence is taking on corporeal form. To make way for the next phase, Padmasambhava orders, all monks must leave the monastery.

When the Doctor and Jamie reach the TARDIS, they find it guarded by another Yeti, but it is inactive and the Doctor takes out its control sphere, which then returns to life. Jamie prevents it from re-entering the dormant Yeti by lodging a rock in the open chest cavity. They head back to the monastery, where the Doctor forges an alliance with Khrisong based on the need to enable the monks to stay at the monastery. Realising the monks will not leave peacefully, Songsten opens the gates of the monastery to more Yeti.

Victoria has given her jailers the slip and ventured alone to the Inner Sanctum of the monastery, where she finds Padmasambhava. Victoria realises he is commanding the robots around the countryside. He wipes her mind of their meeting and summons more Yeti to attack. In another part of the monastery, Travers has returned from the mountain but is incoherent. On command, the Yeti retreat from the monastery once more, killing another monk on the way. Everyone decides the monks must depart. Padmasambhava only wished to scare the monks away, not kill them, and he sends Victoria as his emissary, speaking with his voice, to urge them to leave. When the Doctor discovers Padmasambhava is still alive after three hundred years, he heads to the Inner Sanctum, where Padmasambhava explains that he encountered the formless Great Intelligence on the astral plane and the entity borrowed his form in order to conduct an experiment. The experiment is now out of control and the old man seemingly passes away. Seconds later, the body of Padmasambhava is reanimated by the Great Intelligence, but the Doctor has returned to his friends and does not know this. The Doctor helps Victoria recover from her trance-like state and listens to Travers, who is recovering his senses and explains about the cave and the pyramid. The Doctor pieces together the nature of the threat while Travers recalls that Songsten was in the cave too. It is clear Songsten is the link between the Yeti and the monastery.

In the Inner Sanctum, Songsten has bowed to the will of the Great Intelligence and slays Khrisong. The Doctor and his friends arrive and overpower Songsten, realising he has been entranced. Songsten is bound and returned to the other monks, and the violence of his manner persuades them that he is the threat to Detsen. The Doctor tells the monks to flee so that he can defeat the Intelligence. With Jamie, Victoria, and Thonmi, he plans to destroy the equipment the Intelligence is using through Padmasambhava to control the robotic Yeti. They venture to the Inner Sanctum, where the Doctor distracts the being while Thonmi and Jamie destroy the equipment used to relay instructions to the Yeti. Destroying a further pyramid of spheres expels the Intelligence and, left in peace, Padmasambhava dies. With the danger over, the travelers depart the monastery. Travers accompanies them up the mountain and his belief in the real Yeti is renewed when he spots one. He charges off to investigate as the TARDIS departs.


The Great Intelligence, the Yeti, and Professor Travers return in The Web of Fear and the spin-off video Downtime. Travers is also mentioned in the 1968 serial The Invasion. According to the DVD release, the latter serial was intended to include the character, yet due to the unavailability of actor Jack Watling, a new character, Professor Watkins, was created instead.[1]

According to the radio drama Golden Age, Torchwood India collected the Yeti spheres.

The Abominable Snowmen proved to be popular with viewers, which pleased the producers enough that they soon brought the monsters back in The Web of Fear and intending a third story in the next season until falling out with the production over The Dominators. This was partly an effort to provide a new "signature enemy" for the series to replace the Daleks. At the time of production, Dalek creator Terry Nation was trying to create an American television show based around the Daleks, and refused to grant the show permission to use the Daleks during this period. The Yeti would appear once more in The Five Doctors.

The Great Intelligence appeared, without the Yeti, in 2012's "The Snowmen", and 2013's "The Bells of Saint John" and "The Name of the Doctor".


Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Episode One" 30 September 1967 (1967-09-30) 24:15 6.3 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode Two" 7 October 1967 (1967-10-07) 23:15 6.0 16mm t/r
"Episode Three" 14 October 1967 (1967-10-14) 23:55 7.1 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode Four" 21 October 1967 (1967-10-21) 24:11 7.1 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode Five" 28 October 1967 (1967-10-28) 23:51 7.2 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode Six" 4 November 1967 (1967-11-04) 23:31 7.4 Only stills and/or fragments exist

All episodes except for episode two are missing.

The North Wales mountain pass at Nant Ffrancon doubled as Tibet for the filming of this serial.[5] Filming was done there from 4 to 9 September 1967.[5]

Cast notes[edit]

The character of Professor Travers is played by Jack Watling, the father of actress Deborah Watling, who plays Victoria. Norman Jones later played Major Baker in Doctor Who and the Silurians and Hieronymous in The Masque of Mandragora. Rapalchan is played by David Baron, often said to be the playwright Harold Pinter under a stage name. Pinter has since denied this rumour. David Baron was indeed Pinter's name for the purposes of Equity, the British actors' union, but he had relinquished it by the time this serial was produced.

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen
Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen.jpg
Author Terrance Dicks
Cover artist Chris Achilleos
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
21 November 1974
ISBN 0-426-10583-4

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in November 1974. At Barry Letts' request several Buddhist terms used in the screenplay as names were modified for the novelisation. There have been French, Portuguese and Turkish editions. When Target Books began numbering its releases in 1983, it chose to do so alphabetically rather than based upon publication or broadcast order. As a result, the novelisation of The Abominable Snowmen was identified as book number 1. An un-abridged reading of the Target novel was released by BBC audio on CD in February 2009. It is read by David Troughton, the son of Patrick Troughton who played the Doctor in this story.

Home media[edit]

In 1991, Episode 2 was released on VHS as part of "The Troughton Years". In 2004, that episode, along with a handful of clips gathered from other sources, were digitally restored and released on the Lost in Time DVD.

All known copies of Episode 2, including audio recordings made by fans during the original broadcast in 1967, contain a brief audio dropout late in the episode. The Doctor is examining a captured Yeti and is supposed to say "You were right about one thing Victoria — this creature certainly doesn't seem to be flesh and blood!" In what appears to have been a fault with the master videotape recording, the sound cuts in with "...toria..." The original VHS release of the episode saw the soundtrack manipulated to cover the dropout, whilst maintaining the running time of the episode. The DVD release contains a "patchwork repair" of the fault, performed by Mark Ayres of the Doctor Who Restoration Team, using the appropriate words spoken by Troughton with the correct vocal inflections, taken from other Second Doctor episodes.

The audio soundtrack, along with additional linking narration by Frazer Hines, has been released on MP3 CD, along with The Web of Fear.[6] A collection box entitled "Yeti Attack" contains both Yeti adventures on normal CD.[7]


  1. ^ Doctor Who - The Invasion (DVD). 2 Entertain Video. 2006. 
  2. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "The Abominable Snowmen". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-06-18. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  3. ^ "The Abominable Snowmen". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  4. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-07-05). "The Abominable Snowmen". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  5. ^ a b "Doctor Who Locations". 
  6. ^ "Abominable Snowman Audio". 
  7. ^ "Attack Radio Collection". 

External links[edit]