Nyssa (Doctor Who)

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Doctor Who character.
Nyssa in her original "fairy skirt", used from The Keeper of Traken to Castrovalva
First appearance The Keeper of Traken (1981)
Last appearance Terminus (1983) (regular)
Dimensions in Time (1993) (charity special)
Portrayed by

Sarah Sutton

Lucy Baker in Mawdryn Undead (uncredited)[1]
Affiliated Fourth Doctor
Fifth Doctor
Species Trakenite
Home planet Traken
Home era 1981

Nyssa is a fictional character in the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. She is played by Sarah Sutton. Although Nyssa was created by writer Johnny Byrne for a single Fourth Doctor serial The Keeper of Traken, the production team subsequently decided she should be retained as a continuing character. Nyssa returned in the following serial, Logopolis, in which the Fourth Doctor regenerated, and remained as a companion of the Fifth Doctor. She was a regular in the programme from 1981 to 1983.

Character history[edit]

Nyssa is an aristocrat of Traken, the daughter of Tremas[2] (a consul of the Traken Union) and stepdaughter of Kassia. She aids the Doctor and Adric when the Master wrests control of the Keepership by first manipulating and then murdering her stepmother, but is herself hypnotised and kidnapped by him after he takes control of her father's body. After being freed from the Master's control, she is brought to Logopolis by the Watcher and discovers that Traken has been destroyed[3] as a side effect of the Master's tampering with the Logopolitan's formulae. She subsequently joins Adric and Tegan Jovanka as a companion and member of the TARDIS crew, and witnesses the Fourth Doctor's regeneration into the Fifth.

During her journeys with Tegan and Adric aboard the TARDIS, Nyssa finds herself trapped in a mathematical equation by the Master – whom she hates as he is now using "that face" (her father's). She also encounters a race of androids and their insane ruler, helps foil the genocidal plans of a wounded Terileptil and incidentally starts the Great Fire of London, and discovers her uncanny resemblance to a 1920s English socialite Ann Talbot.[4]

Adric's death while battling the Cybermen affects the TARDIS crew deeply. When confronted by an illusion of him created by the Master shortly afterwards, both Nyssa and Tegan are initially taken aback, until Nyssa notices Adric is still wearing his now-destroyed badge. During this adventure, Nyssa also displays a previously unseen psychic ability when she is contacted by the Xeraphin.

After Tegan is accidentally left at Heathrow at the end of the events in Time Flight, Nyssa travels alone with the Doctor for an unspecified period.

Nyssa and the Doctor are reunited with Tegan while fighting Omega in Amsterdam and on Gallifrey. Later, they help Tegan battle her inner demons (personified by the Mara), and in the events of Mawdryn Undead they meet the Doctor's old friend and ally Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. It is during this adventure that the TARDIS crew adopts Turlough, an alien posing as a pupil at an English boarding school, who has secretly entered into a bargain with the Black Guardian to assassinate the Doctor. His interference with the TARDIS infrastructure destabilises it and it locks onto a seemingly derelict space station, Terminus, separating Nyssa from the others. Nyssa's adventures with the Doctor come to an end here, as – to Tegan's horror – she elects to stay to help free the enslaved guards and turn the station into a real hospital. The Doctor is moved by this noble gesture and parts saying that he thinks she is very brave. Nyssa's deep affection for the Doctor is demonstrated at this point when she kisses the Doctor goodbye.

The Fifth Doctor hallucinates Nyssa warning him not to die during his regeneration at the end of The Caves of Androzani and the character appears alongside the Fifth Doctor and Peri Brown in the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time.

Nyssa is last mentioned by the Tenth Doctor in the 2007 Children in Need episode "Time Crash"[5] when he asks his Fifth incarnation where he is in his own relative timeline.

Appearances in other media[edit]

Although Nyssa's fate after the TARDIS is not certain, the spin-off novel Asylum by Peter Darvill-Evans, relates that she left Terminus and settled down as an academic in a university on an unspecified planet. In Asylum, Nyssa encounters the Fourth Doctor from a time before he met her. The Doctor must ensure the younger Nyssa survives to meet him in his past and her future. This leaves him with the knowledge that he will have to be extremely careful dealing with Nyssa when they eventually meet to avoid changing history.

Since then Nyssa has appeared in several audio plays, still voiced by Sarah Sutton alongside Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, produced by Big Finish Productions. Primeval, set in Traken's past, provides an explanation for Nyssa's sudden collapse at the end of Four to Doomsday and her apparent development of psychic abilities in Time-Flight. Other stories in this time frame include new temporary companions Thomas Brewster and Hannah Bartholemew. The 'Winter' segment of Circular Time, by Paul Cornell and Mike Maddox, is set some years after Asylum and shows her with a husband, Lasarti, and a baby daughter, Nica. In Heroes of Sontar, Nyssa tells Tegan that she has two children named Adric and Tegan.

When she sees the regenerating Fifth Doctor in her dreams and believes this may be the last time she sees him, Nyssa accepts that he is still travelling and having adventures somewhere. However, fifty years after leaving them, Nyssa meets the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough (a short while after they left her from their perspective) in Cobwebs. She begins travelling with them again to research a cure for a lethal plague, but in the course of her travels she is physically de-aged back to the same age she was when she originally left the crew. In Prisoners of Fate, the TARDIS is drawn to a planet where the Doctor's original TARDIS has crash-landed, and the crew end up meeting Nyssa's son, Adric, over two decades after Nyssa resumed her travels with the Doctor, preventing her from simply picking up her life once again now that she knows she didn't go back. Nyssa and her son are able to combine their research to cure the plague, but Nyssa is prevented from reuniting with Adric when the TARDIS is caught in a CVE while en route to the next planet and is sent back to E-space, Nyssa ultimately sacrificing her own chance to escape so that her fellow travelers can return home, remaining in E-Space to power the equipment needed to open a portal back to N-Space. The audio ends with Nyssa, now an old woman, tending a garden in E-Space after spending the last decade teaching others how to treat the sick, observing that E-Space is showing new signs of life after the Doctor expressed concern that this world would only have a few centuries of life left.

Nyssa appears in the Short Trips audio "A Heart on Both Sides", where she is depicted running a medical ship during the Time War, unknowingly aided in her efforts by the Eighth Doctor (who assists Nyssa under the alias of 'Doctor Foster' to avert a rumour he heard in the future of a ship matching the description of Nyssa's being destroyed).

List of appearances[edit]


Season 18
Season 19
Season 20
Season 21
30th Anniversary Charity Special

Audio dramas[edit]

Younger Nyssa

Older Nyssa

Short Trips audios[edit]

  • The Deep
  • Seven to One
  • The Lions of Trafalgar


Virgin Missing Adventures
Past Doctor Adventures

Short stories[edit]



External links[edit]