Doctor Who #547: State of Decay Part 2

"There's nothing worse than a peasant with indigestion. Makes them quite rebellious."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.29 1980.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor and Romana meet the vampires and discover the Tower is actually a spaceship. Aukon makes Adric his "Chosen One".

REVIEW: It strikes me how much of a capable draftsman writer Terrance Dicks is, maybe because craftsmanship has been hard to come by in the past couple of seasons. Elements, once introduced, tend to pay off (like they should). For example, one of the rebels was once a guard, so he can sneak into the Tower to try and rescue the Time Lords. Dicks also doesn't rely on characters acting stupidly to move his plot forward, so the rebels actually debate and come to a compromise instead of some fool rogue plowing ahead with his plans no matter what. And most importantly, Dicks has thought his premise and its consequences through. The Lords of the Tower's names changed over the centuries through consonantal shift (educational!) and the Doctor can find his way inside the Tower because he's conversant with the type of ship. The pilot room has been left untouched because no one goes there or uses it, while the fuel tanks have been filled with blood to feed "the Great One". The vamps obviously plan to create of themselves, but they've bred the peasants to be sheep, with none of the qualities needed to become "Lords", so cocky Adric looks like a good prospect.  This world MAKES SENSE.

Its characters do too. The village headman can't bear to hear his wife talk about their son Karl, and she just won't shut up about him. All completely natural, and you almost wish their Karl really was inducted in the Tower guard instead of winding up among those bloodless husks down in the bowels of the ship. The technophile rebels are reasonable. The head guard is quick to offer excuses. Lord Aukon springs a surprise "selection" at the inn in case the previous day's planned visit was staged to only offer the dregs of the village (from the extras lined up, I could believe me - me, I'd probably avoid the inn like the Wasting). The vampires have the somewhat clichéed moment where a character cuts themselves and they show a little bloodlust, but it's nice to see they're not the same person written twice over. The Queen is obviously smarter than her husband, though she perhaps has less self-control, and the King lets slip the vital clue about the "ship of state" (he hasn't lost his old vocabulary).

As in Part 1, the leads get to be witty and though Lalla Ward tends to look bored in isolated moments (working AND living with Baker can be straining), their chemistry still provides fun moments reminiscent of their relationship in City of Death (which I'd call their high point). Baker gets to use his story telling skills and that marvelous voice of his to give some creep factor to his musings on the universality of vampire legends. The beating of a hideously large heart certainly helps give the subsequent scenes atmosphere. Adric... Adric is mostly used as an exposition receptor, and his insolence isn't particularly entertaining compared to the Doctor's, but he's got a good entranced scene where the vamps swing a knife close to his eyes and he doesn't react. This is an serial that doesn't mind going dark, but never crosses the line into needless, shocking violence.

- Maybe I'm starved for competence - I do require all stories to feature worlds that are well thought-out and characters with proper motivations - but State of Decay is more than competent. It's got a strong script AND effective execution.



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