Doctor Who #544: Full Circle Part 3

"These short trips don't usually work. And the chances of reversing a short trip are even more remote. Still, here's hopping."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.8 1980.

IN THIS ONE... Romana falls under the spell of the Marshmen and lets them into the Starliner. The Doctor is angered by the near-vivisection of the baby Marshman.

REVIEW: There's a long reprise that features the Top 2 most bonehead moves of the previous episode, in case you missed them, which leaves 18 minutes of new material, kids. TARDIS inconsistencies continue to build, as the Doctor makes some straw about short hops in space being very difficult, yet it's done three times over the course of the episode. I think it's far more likely that Romana is behind the TARDIS' increased accuracy since she came on board. She calculated these particular coordinates, after all. He won't have her in the crew for long though. I can't help but see this episode as foreshadowing. Possessed by a spider bite that bonds her to the Marshmen (and gives her that Cyberman veiny infection make-up from The Moonbase), she smashes up her room and lets Adric play companion. It's a passive-aggressive way to tell us she's leaving. There's even a sad passing of the torch when Adric fingers her crushed hat from Shada... which might have meant something to the audience at the time had the story actually aired. Good move, Einsteins.

Otherwise, the story is getting better, in no small part because of the renewed focus on the Starliner crew. They attract the Doctor's righteous anger when they try to vivisect the hapless Marshbaby, giving Tom Baker the first strong dramatic scene he's had to play in a while. The baby's violent fit saves its life, but also drives Romana to open the gates to its brethren. The vivisectionist is generally well-meaning though amoral, but you can feel the anxiety coming off the Deciders who let him go ahead with his plans. These aren't villains, just people trying to do their best for their community. Of course, their best isn't very imaginative, and it takes the Doctor to really rattle their cages and dare expose their secrets. We don't learn the entire truth here, not yet, but the accusation of willful procrastination that has kept their society idling for generations is a fair one. They've been maintaining a ship, but haven't told the citizens they can't pilot the craft. In other hands (say Holmes or Adams), this would take a satirical bent. Even the Outlers put to work on the ship doing drone work walk around in a pack of six, which could be a condemnation of the unions. But while there's irony in the Alzarians' situation, there's no sense that it's meant to reflect 1980 Earth. I think it's because the script is by and large humorless, so our brains are never switched to that mode of understanding.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The revelations are good ones and the Doctor's scene with the Deciders is excellent, but the story's potential for satire is wasted.



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