Doctor Who #542: Full Circle Part 1

"Sensors indicate. No vocabulary available."
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Oct.25 1980.

IN THIS ONE... First appearance of Adric. The TARDIS lands in E-Space where they're remaking Creature from the Black Lagoon.

REVIEW: Full Circle continues the recent tradition of having the Time Lords putter inside the TARDIS for the entire first episode while the setting and guest characters are set up in full. It's not my favorite way of starting an episode, even if it seems effective in showing us a new world. I just don't see why we can't discover that world through our heroes' eyes. At least, this time, most of the TARDIS scene are character-based as opposed to technology-based. The call from Gallifrey is undoubtedly to recall her home after the quest for the Key to Time (the high-ups seem to know about it though it was the Guardians' affair), but she's taken to the life of a renegade (possibly why she felt the need to regenerate) and doesn't want to go. The Doctor should be helping her, not obeying the recall order, but perhaps he's hoping to get her assigned to his TARDIS officially once they get there. Who knows. At least he remembers Leela and K9's twin and wants to check in with them (an uncommon amount of continuity). We get to see Romana's room too. Lots of cushions.

In Doctor Who history, this is all overshadowed by the introduction of a new companion, the infamous Adric. Now, it's traditional to make mention of Matthew Waterhouse's terrible rookie acting, but I don't think he's THAT bad in this episode. At least, not in the location scenes, where he's a good sport and goes on a swim rather than let some stuntman do it. In the studio, however... He just never knows where to stand, gestures look painfully rehearsed, and his walk - oh God, his walk! - is simply bizarre, too deliberate and unnatural. There. You happy? Of course it would help if Adric was actually an endearing character, but in his scenes here, he hurts a girl, arrogantly calls himself a member of the elite even as he pledges for his brother's Tom Sawyer riverside frat, and... faints! All we really know about him is that he's good at maths (boooo-ring!) and heals quickly (his character sheet is all stats and no personality). At least he tried to help the old Decider out of the mud before it swallowed him up.

The fact that we're in E-Space, aside from making the depths of outer space dark green instead of black, doesn't change much. Alzarius might be any planet in the actual Whoniverse. It's represented by a nice riverside location (with nearly naked boys swimming in it), with an interesting forest (though what's that unmotivated red light when people run through its ferns?), and this Eden turns to Hell when Mistfall arrives, the river bubbles and marshmen walk out. It almost felt like the Holmes era again. Its people are a simple people, but they come from a crashed ship, the Starliner, and hope to one day return to the stars. At least, the commoners do. The Deciders look like they're sitting on more information. Part 1 sets up a number of mysteries, both implicit and explicit, and that should drive the next episodes well enough.

THEORIES: We'll talk about the nature of E-Space later, as details are revealed, but the TARDIS' entry into this other universe at this juncture seems suspect. In later stories, there'll be a lot of mathematical talk about figuring out the physics of getting into or out of a CVE (Charged Vacuum Emboitment), but in Full Circle, it happens "accidentally". Could Romana's feelings about returning to Gallifrey have made some connection with the TARDIS' telepathic circuits to prevent that return? After Full Circle, the TARDIS apparently travels for months on the look-out for a CVE, but it's only when Romana decides to stay in E-Space that the ship is able (allows itself?) to return to N-Space. Coincidence?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Romana's plight takes a back seat to the introduction of a future companion. His world is interesting, but he's a bit of a jerk. Important, though it needs more active Time Lords.


snell said...

"The Doctor should be helping her, not obeying the recall order, but perhaps he's hoping to get her assigned to his TARDIS officially once they get there."

It should be noted that the Doctor instantly dropped everything to obey the Time Lords' recall order at the end of The Hand Of Fear, as well. Perhaps, post-War Games & post-marooned on Earth, he's become a little shy about offending them, lest he have his identity and freedom taken away again...

Siskoid said...

That's an excellent point.

He can't even play the President card anymore.


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