Doctor Who #543: Full Circle Part 2

"How odd. I usually get on terribly well with children."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.1 1980.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor goes into the Starliner while the the Outlers hijack the TARDIS and Romana gets bitten by a humongous spider.

REVIEW: I hate to keep playing timekeeper here, but only some 19 minutes of new material in this, and a LOT of it is padding as the Doctor skulks silently through the woods and then the ship. When somethings DOES happen on screen, it's usually the heroes doing something stupid or incomprehensible. The worst instance of this is without a doubt Romana going on and on about the river fruit spider (ewww, they've been eating that; do they all have a bad case of worms? it would explain the way Adric walks) being "just a spider" as the Outlers run. While I'm glad to see the female companion isn't squeamish (in this particular instance), that thing is immense and deadly-looking. It's just not credible that she would stand nonchalantly as the thing jumped on her face (list makers take note: this is the second time a cliffhanger has Romana bitten by a bug bite; time to invest in some kind of spray). The Doctor opens the door to the Starliner, lets the baby Marshman in, inadvertently arms it, and for some reason doesn't hear the message piped through the corridors (conveniently-placed P.A. speakers, I guess). I totally don't believe him when he protests that he likes to leave things as he found them, the old meddler. Has writer Andrew Smith (or script editor Chris Bidmead) not seen an episode since the Hartnell days? As for Adric, there doesn't seem to be much to motivate his refusal to lead the Outlers to the TARDIS for safety, though as it turns out, they do attack Romana. Still, Full Circle should have decided if Adric wanted to be an Outler (as he claims) or if he just wanted to be near his brother to criticize his choices. And then he dematerialized the TARDIS because he flips a tiny switch instead of opening the door with the big giant lever? Come on!

But the stupidity isn't all the characters'. Take, for example, the tedious stuff about the TARDIS' weight. Not only do Romana and Adric discuss it in "Decider talk", making it over-complicated with "five times ten to the six kilos in your gravity", but that figure is obviously wrong. First, why not just say 5 million kilos? Second, not ony have we seen the TARDIS carried off by savages and such in the past, but IT HAPPENS IN THIS VERY EPISODE! There's no way the TARDIS interface (the door/box) weighs as much as the interior dimension - it's lighter on the outside! So excuse while I roll my eyes at the supposed danger of the Marshmen using the TARDIS as a super-heavy battering ram. The episode is showing signs of Bidmead's influence and I don't like it. Basically, his interest in very boring things like maths and computation (let's just call them undramatic, math lovers!) and yet complete failure to represent them believably in a real world context. The JNT era has just traded technobabble with mathbabble. It certainly doesn't inspire confidence that his idea for a new companion is a math wiz, like the Time Lords aren't already walking calculators. Speaking of JNT, his hatred of K9 (obviously a war of the initials) goes a bit too far in this episode. Just as K9 rolls in with his fun action theme, an Outler with a simple stick knocks his head off. Sure, he can be repaired, but that one's a bit distressing for the kiddies who love the metal pooch. So Full Circle has tonal problems too.

So can I say a few good things about the episode? Of course I can. I like how the new Head Decider is shaken by the secrets he must keep. I like how Login (why don't they all have computery names like this?) forsakes his daughter, but is quick to regret when he hears she might still be alive. The Doctor vs. the Deciders has its moments of humor, though we're far from his old insolence. The Marshmen are impressive-looking monsters, and in a twist, we're sympathetic to the the baby one (not that it looks any different from the rest, but we're told this). Those cries of distress make me root against the Alzarians. Romana keeps her cool not just against the spider, but when an Outler puts a knife to her throat, a knife she picks up and hands back to him at the end of the fight. It's the kind of gesture we've come to expect from the Doctor and appreciated in Romana.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low
- While I still feel invested in the mystery and the Alzarians' fate, the main characters are acting like complete morons. Rarely has the TARDIS crew seemed more ineffectual - and we're talking about four nominal geniuses here!

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