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Sarcophagus was the ninth episode of Series C it was first broadcast 3 March 1980.


From the VHS release:

With the chance of ever returning to Auron gone, Cally is feeling alone and vulnerable. Then an alien life force reaches out to her mind, from its tomb in space...


In a mysterious space capsule, a group of robed figures perform a ceremony around the body of an alien, conjuring up images of a female figure in green, a male figure in orange doing magic tricks, a female figure in aqua playing a harp, a male figure in red brandishing a weapon, and finally a male figure in black. As they leave, the capsule takes off.

Some time later, the Liberator stumbles across the capsule. Cally appears to sense something from it but denies it. Avon, Vila and Cally teleport over and find the alien corpse but no sign of a crew or controls. Cally realises the capsule is a tomb. Back on the Liberator, Tarrant and Dayna detect a power build up that could be a self-destruct. They try to teleport the three back but only Cally reappears, along with an alien artefact she picked up. She teleports back and grabs Avon and Vila's hands: This time all three of them come through just before the capsule explodes.

The incident creates an atmosphere of tension and mistrust onboard, provoking a fierce argument between Avon and Tarrant. While the others are distracted, Cally activates the artifact and retires to her quarters: She is also hiding a ring that she took from the corpse. She has a vision of herself as the woman in green.

During the night, a power surge from the artefact knocks out most of the Liberator's systems, including Zen and Orac. Tarrant leaves Vila on the flight deck while he and Dayna go to search for the others. Dayna fails to wake Cally and is knocked unconscious by someone. On the flight deck, Vila is menaced by Dayna's harp before being confronted by a gold-skinned alien who resembles Cally.

Both Avon and Tarrant join Dayna and they work out that the alien corpse they find has been using a telepathic link with Cally to recreate itself. Tarrant hurries to the flight deck to confront the alien. She intends to use the Liberator to return home and invites the crew to serve her on the journey, which will last longer than their life spans: In a vision, Tarrant, Vila and Dayna appear as the warrior, the jester and the harpist. Tarrant and Dayna are both overcome by her powers.

Avon enters and refuses to submit, goading the alien into trying to kill him. He has realised that Cally's loneliness and isolation means she isn't resisting the alien. The Liberator consoles explode but Cally refuses to let the alien kill Avon and wakes up. Avon kisses the alien and slips the ring from her finger. He tosses it onto a damaged console, destroying it, and the alien disintegrates. There is a vision of Avon as the black clad figure.

Later, as the crew get underway again, Avon and Cally share significant looks.



Story notes[]

  • This is the first of two episodes written by Tanith Lee, the other being "Sand".
  • This is the first episode to have no mention of the Federation.
  • This is the only episode to have no credited guest actors.
  • Jan Chappell named this as one of her favourite episodes.
  • Not a single word is spoken until six minutes and forty seconds into the episode.
  • Josette Simon sings the song heard in the middle of this episode.
  • Including main, guest, and background characters, this is one of only two episodes in which nobody dies (the other one being "Duel".
  • One of the lines of the song heard in this episode, "Space Is Just a Starry Night", later became the title of a Tanith Lee short story collection published in 2013. The full lyrics are printed at the beginning of the book, and, fittingly, all the stories are of the science fiction genre.
  • This episode was filmed entirely in a studio with no location filming.
  • The first episode since "Volcano" not to have the word 'of' in its title.



Filming locations[]

To be added.

Production errors[]

To be added.


  • Cally mentions that she cannot return to Auron, presumably following the events of Children of Auron.
  • Both Avon and Cally state only another Auron could communicate with Cally, even though Cally has sensed non-Aurons in Shadow, Killer and Dawn of the Gods.
  • Tarrant references the failure of Avon's fraud scheme and his needing Blake to escape, as established in Space Fall, and the fact he expected to have undisputed control of the Liberator until he found Tarrant aboard, as established in Powerplay.


Avon: (Calling from outside Cally's quarters) Cally.
Cally: What is it?
Avon: Well, it looks like a door. And it's closed.

Tarrant: Do you want to forget I said all that?
Avon: It wasn't particularly memorable.

Tarrant: And tomorrow, everything will look different?
Avon: If it does, you can assume you're on the wrong ship.

(After Avon steals the ring during a kiss)
Alien: Give it to me!
Avon: That would be a little foolish, with what I just went through to get it.

Home video releases[]

Series 3 DVD

DVD cover

  • In edited form as part of compilation video Aftermath in 1986.
  • Original BBC video release (Volume 18) in 1992.
  • Fabulous Films video reissue (Volume 18) on 3 May 1999.
  • DVD release as part of the Series 3 box set on 20 June 2005.

External links[]