Doctor Who #545: Full Circle Part 4

"We're all basically primeval slime with ideas above its station."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.15 1980.

IN THIS ONE... The Alzarians are revealed to be the Marshmen's descendants and the ship leaves after oxygenating the monsters out.

REVIEW: This is rather like The Mutants, isn't it? A planet where evolution is proceeding in strange and improbable ways, where the monsters are really another form of the native "humans". It's not entirely clear WHAT the evolutionary set-up is, truthfully. When the cells from the spiders, Marshmen and Alzarians are shown to be "the same", it sounds like they're trying to say these are different stages of the same organism's life cycle. But what's actually on screen is merely the more reasonable revelation that the Alzarians are native to the planet and not transplanted "Terradonians". The dialog is either too technical (from the Time Lords) or too simple (from his Outler assistants) to make that clear. And with Romana acting like a bored cat, swatting at the air as if she was turning into a marsh creature, and the big to-do about Adric's cellular regeneration abilities, it really does seem like a story about a metamorphosing species. Instead - and again, I think this is a more believable story, or else the Deciders wouldn't have stuff about the Marshmen in their books - what we see is two strands of evolution side by side, sort of like where Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons shared the planet. The Marshmen, primeval cousins of the Alzarians, just come out when the planet cools down is all. It's a strong SF premise, but the dialog doesn't quite bring put it across.

The idea that the Starliner crashing and creating a whole culture, mythology and science, indeed an entire re-writing of a people's identity is a good one, and (inadvertently?) mirrored in the Doctor's use of K9's head as a mask to strike fear into the Marshmen who were previously using it as an axe head. It's a neat image and recalls the cargo cults of the Pacific. With his two companions having lost their heads, it's good to see the Doctor  do something interesting. This season, the show's often been content with providing eye candy as opposed to well thought-through plots and witty dialog. In this case, plenty of extras on both sides when the Marshmen make their move. Unfortunate that in the climax, the Deciders' debates are boring and rather pathetic. Maybe they should be called Procrastinators instead. In Login, they seem to have elected the first Decider with any kind of active leadership in generations, and finally the ship takes off, leaving the Marshmen to their own devices.

So what about Adric? Interestingly, he doesn't join the crew at the end of the episode. It's left as a surprise for the next. He leaves a gift, a spare part from the Starliner that is exactly like the frizzed-out part from the TARDIS. It's a ludicrous coincidence, of course, that a ship from Terradon in E-Space would be exactly the same as one manufactured on Gallifrey. Or does the TARDIS' innards have a translation circuit of their own? They do seem to change over time... Though he still doesn't know what to do with himself when he's on camera, Adric isn't quite the character fans will come to hate. I wouldn't call his brother's death touching exactly (it's savage and harrowing though), but there's something to Adric inheriting his rope belt, I suppose. But as the episode leaves it, he was just a guest player and an okay one. Had they left well enough alone... but State of Decay was produced first, so...

THEORIES: So what the heck is E-Space? It's not a parallel dimension like the one in Inferno. It's smaller than our own universe (N-Space), apparently, and its green tinge might mean physical laws are different there (though it's hard to say; Full Circle's science isn't any wonkier than Leisure Hive's or Nightmare of Eden's, for example). Not parallel, but when you superimpose N-Space's absolute coordinates on E-Space's, you do get planets in the same spaces. Alzarius is right on top of Gallifrey, so should we see a connection between Time Lord regeneration and Alzarian quick healing and super-evolution? The ship, apparently crewed by humans, came from Terradon, not a far cry from our own Terra, i.e. Earth. Are those parallels, or extreme coincidences? And what should we make of Exo-Space having negative coordinates? It's obviously not an anti-matter universe like Omega's realm. Is it some kind of under-universe, sitting on the reverse side of space-time? The way I see it is as a reflective pond on space-time, not quite covering the whole of it. Some objects (planets and stars) are reflected in the pond, though there's a certain distortion. And apparently, you can't dive in at any point you'd like. The question as to why a move to E-Space was necessary beyond giving Romana an exit strategy that didn't involve her returning to Gallifrey, and the only thing I can come up with is that Bidmead read some fool article on imaginary numbers and plugging negative coordinates into physics equations. They still make something of it in the next two stories, but it need not have been so convoluted. Alien planets and starships are the same in any universe.

VERSIONS: The Target novelization includes a prologue in which the Starliner crashes, and more detail on the evolutionary link between riverfruit, spiders, Marshmen and Alzarians. Most characters are given a second name, there are more Outlers (to kill off), and Garif and Keara are wimpier than on television.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Though the explanations are a bit of a muddle and zombie cat isn't the best use of Romana, the episode looks quite good, the inferred explanations are sound, and Adric isn't seen to join the regular cast.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A great location and a strong SF concept - and of course, the all-important introduction of a new companion - hampered by short running times, poorly thought-through ideas, and confusing scientific rationales. It's perfectly okay, but it could have been much better than that with an extra draft or two.

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