Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor story. Today is the Fourth Doctor adventure Full Circle...
Welcome to Azarius: land of mists & melon fruitfulness. Home of Deciders that can't decide on a Star liner that's perpetually preparing to leave but never does, like Waiting For Godot with control panels & flashing lights.
It's a nice little story with no out & out villains because although there are spiders, that bite. There are also Marshmen, that hit & Terradonian colonists that experiment on baby Marshmen, painfully. In fact the scene where Dexeter (Tony Calvin) is about to cut open the head of the poor little Marshman, which is intercut with the post-spider bit Romana screaming in agony is mildly uncomfortable to watch.
This piece of experimentation gives Tom Baker an excellent chance to roll out his righteous indignation & anger at the three Deciders who he holds responsible. It's a good solid scene.
Full Circle is - as you all know - the first of the E-Space Trilogy. The TARDIS stumbles through a CVE (a Charged Vacuum Em...Em...something) & finds itself in a different universe instead of Gallifrey, which is where the Doctor & Romana were supposed to be going. The Timelord's want Romana back.
Instead they find themselves on Alzarius whose pastel-coloured clothed natives seem to have a reasonably idyllic life swimming, fruit picking & constantly repairing their damaged Star liner so that they can return to Terradon. Unfortunately it turns out once every fifty years comes Mist Time. This involves mist, clearly & the emergence of nasty spiders who bite gives you Mike Tysonesque tattoos.
The bite also links you to the Marshmen mentally in some way & makes you behave in a rather primitive fashion. Or at least that's what happened to Romana. The same marks seemed to show up on Tylos (Bernard Padden) & Varsh (Richard Willis) after the were killed by the Marshmen, for reasons that were a wee bit unclear but I think were to do with the genetic link between the spiders, the Marshmen & the Terradonians.
Tylos & Varsh are two of the Outlers who seem to be a gang of bored teenagers who've (understandably) fled the dullness of the Star liner for a cave. Varsh leads them. He's a cynical bugger with a distrust of what he's told by the Deciders. He has a brother. That brother is Adric (Matthew Waterhouse).
This is Adric's first story & it is hard to review it without being weighed down by the baggage & general fan hostility aimed at Adric/Matthew Waterhouse. He's one of the more unpopular Doctor Who companions but to be honest I never found him that annoying at the time. No one likes a smart arse though & having a teenage male smart arse - & a maths geek to - was probably not the best choice for a new companion. Waterhouse isn't too bad in this story but he's clearly not the world's greatest actor, especially when he has to combine movement & emotion at the same time such as when he has to try & save Varsh. I'll undoubtedly talk about Adric more as we go on.
The best performances though come from the three Deciders: Nefred (James Bree); Garif (Alan Rowe) & Login (George Baker). They do a fine job of combining authority with total ineptness & leadership with quite epic levels of procrastination. They also take what they are doing seriously, which is key to guest parts in Doctor Who. The minute an actor decides that it is only Doctor Who so why be serious is the moment it all falls apart.
Actually Lalla Ward gets to do slightly more than usual to after the spider bite, which is nice to see, especially in the scene where she attacks the Doctor & he talks her down a little.
The realisation that the Terradonians aren't in fact Terradonians at all but decedents of the super-speedy evolving Marshmen is fed gradually in. There's an awareness that there's a secret there somewhere that no one wants to talk about (or knows) & the clues are fed in until we know almost before the Doctor does, which makes a change.
The exterior scenes are also nicely done, interestingly lit & sun-bleached it does a good job of aliening up a Home Counties pond & park.
So a nice little story & this feels like a Season Eighteen story: lots of science & seriousness unlike Meglos. So we bid farewell to Alzarius & get ready for some hot Vampire action. Yep, it's State of Decay next.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.