What has become of Gallifrey? Who are the marauding outliers? What lurks beneath the marsh? That was the billing for the Radio Times TV Guide in England on October 25 1980 in what would be the start of the E-Space Trilogy in Doctor Who. Tom Baker’s stint as the Fourth Doctor begins to wrap up as we review today’s DVD episode, Full Circle.

This is the beginning of the end for the 4th Doctor, K-9 and Romana. Come along as we review part 1 of the E-Space Trilogy, FULL CIRCLE!

The Plot:
The Doctor tells Romana that it’s time to go home as she’s being summonged by the Time Lords, but soon the TARDIS is yanked through to another dimension. Instead of being on the planet Alzarius in an alternate universe. As the Doctor tries to figure out what’s wrong with the TARDIS we’re introduced to the Outlers, rebels on the planet who refuse to become a part of the soceity which appears to have been built around a crash landing.

Among the Outlers is Adric, who while trying to earn his place in the gang ends up watching as the leader of the Terradonians (Adric & the Outler’s race) is killed by a mysterious swamp creature. Adric ends up finding the Doctor and Romana and tells them of the leader’s death as a result of Mistfall, a strange periodic change to the planet’s environments.

The Doctor goes to investigate with K-9 when he comes across some of the swamp creatures. They are known as the Marsh Men. The Doctor is off to find off more about them while Adric returns the Outlers to the TARDIS. Once there the TARDIS is carried off by the Marsh Men.

The Doctor is forced to go to the Terradon’s village where they have retreated into their spaceship as a result of Mistfall. Soon the Doctor realizes that all is not as it appears on the spaceship as the elders appear to be keeping their people in a constant state of rebuilding the spaceship. According to legend they’re rebuilding the ship to return to Terradon but they’ve been repairing it for CENTURIES!

Eventually a strange spider bites Romana and she becomes infected with a strange illness that makes her relate to the Marsh Men. The Doctor works on a cure while trying to convince the leaders of the Terradons, known as the Deciders, to leave the Marsh Men alone and leave Alzarius as their ship is clearly repaired and has been for some time.

Soon Marsh Men have broke into the ship, decapitated K-9 and are running amok. It’s up to the Doctor with a little help from Adric to defeat the Marsh Men and convince the Deciders to overcome their fears of flight and pilot their spaceship off of Alzarius. Along the way we learn the true secret of the Marsh Men and the real reason that the Terradons have never left Alzarius.

The Verdict:
A clever idea for a story (spoilers ahead) as the Terradons are a fictional race. Evolved from Alzarius, they kept their people in line by having them constantly rebuild a ship that wasn’t broken. Presumably these people are Alzarians who evolved from the Marsh Men.

There are a few flaws in logic there and perhaps the story would have been better served if they were truly crash landed aliens as opposed to the natural inhabitants of Alzarius. It’s not until the final act that the last little secret is revealed and while it does end up messing some of the logic up, it doesn’t hinder the strong story otherwise.

Unfortunately things do get a bit bogged down in this four parter as Adric’s side plot doesn’t seem very well served. Romana getting infected helps to move the Marsh Men into the main plot, but it doesn’t really seem to serve much other purpose. The Marsh Men themselves look pretty good at points and other times they look like crappy rubber suits. They’re also probably the least interesting monsters in all of Doctor Who.

What the hell are you doing with K-9’s head, Doctor?

The story shows the end and bit of a decline of an era and even Tom Baker doesn’t look like he was having a whole lot of fun doing this one. Of course the story is pretty strong if not very well executed and if you can look past some of the weaker points you can enjoy a decent but hardly top notch story.

Bonus Grade: 7 out of 10

I really liked Romana’s “possessed” makeup. It doesn’t look like much in the pictures, but they did a cool effect where you can see the colors pulsating through her face. Very cool use of an archaic effect to maximum potential. Poor K-9 gets no love in this episode. Oh and the part where the Doctor is using K-9’s head to ward off the Marsh Men is very surreal and not in a good way. At the time Lalla Ward and Tom Baker were divorcing and you can almost feel it in the episode.

Bonus Features:
This DVD comes as part of a 3-disc set but you can also get it individually. Surprisingly there are a decent amount of features. In addition to all four parts, you get a 24 minute documentary on the making of the episode.

This episode is important for a few reasons, first Adric becomes a new assistant and second that the story was written by 19 year old Andrew Smith. This was the beginning of an end of an era and the beginning of a new era as well. The title Full Circle is somewhat appropriate as a result.

Unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot to focus on about the episode and a large portion of it is spent on the flaws. Everyone sort of bags on Adric and how the writers failed to write well enough for him and some even blame Matthew Waterhouse for his performance as him. We get interviews from some of the usual suspects as well as Andrew Smith, Lalla Ward (Romana) and even a few cameramen. It’s a nice little feature although I wish they’d spent more time actually discussing the episode itself, such as the creatures and spaceship design.

Next we have a small feature on K-9 and the subsequent removal of him from the series. Again a large portion of the people interviewed rag on K-9, which is somewhat hilarious considering his popularity with a lot of fans. John Leeson the voice of K-9 laments how the writers stopped carrying about the character and started trying to get rid of him long before they actually did.

Then we have a rather long 14 minute documentary on the possibility of “E-Space” and if parallel universes such as the one they arrived in via a Charged Vacuum Emboitment can exist. It’s a pretty interesting study on the theory behind some of these ideas and they include interviews with some brilliant scientist guy who knew Albert Einstein. He wears a monicle and thus looks like a James Bond villain.

That documentary feels a little long though and really isn’t as interesting as it could be. It’s cool if you like science and such, but it’s not like the “E-Space” itself was at all a focal point of this serial.

Finally we have a Swap Shop episode featuring Matthew Waterhouse. Swap Shop is some sort of kiddie version of TRL as best I can tell and it’s absolutely ridiculous. I’ve seen a few of these on the DVDs and they suck so bad. Kids who appear mentally retarded call in and ask how old the actors playing the Doctors are in every one of these I’ve seen. Seriously kids, why do you care? The host is the biggest douche ever too, asking a question as if he knows all and then seemingly spacing out when the answer is presented. Matthew Waterhouse is actually a pretty fantastic interview here with far more charm and charisma than he ever had as Adric which makes me wonder if what was said above about the writers screwing up Adric isn’t correct. Waterhouse takes charge of the interview and shills a bunch of Doctor Who toys that I wish I had.

Bonus Grade: 7 out of 10

2 Responses to Doctor Who DVD Review: Full Circle

  • cp uk says:

    The brilliant scientist is Sir Patrick Moore, who helped NASA map the moon, and has been a TV presenter here in the UK, pretty much since TV was invented. He's listed in the phone book and when he was in better health you I heard you could just turn up at his home and he'd give you a tour of his observatory. A real eccentric, a real legend.

  • Nice, he wasn't recognizable to me (though I didn't bother to look him up as I found it funnier to just mention his attributes) but he was pretty fascinating to listen to.

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