THIS STORY TAKES
'THE E-SPACE TRILOGY'
DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD
1835) RELEASED IN
ATTEMPTING TO RETURN
HOME TO GALLIFREY, THE
DOCTOR, ROMANA AND
K-9 FIND THEMSELVES ON
THE PLANET ALZARIUS.
AS THE LOCAL
IN TERROR TO THEIR
DOCTOR SETS OUT TO
INVESTIGATE, AND A
GROUP OF YOUNG REBELS
TAKE ROMANA HOSTAGE
IN THE TARDIS. BESIEGED
BY THE REPTILIAN
CREATURES RISING FROM
THE MARSHES, THE
COLONISTS ON THE
STARLINER FACE A
BLEAK FUTURE WITHOUT
THE DOCTOR'S HELP. CAN
HE UNCOVER THE DARK
TRUTH ABOUT THE
MISTFALL BEFORE IT IS
25th october 1980 - 15th november 1980
The January DVD box set is starting to become something of tradition, and I must say that it is a welcome one. Even taking into account the nine further serials that have been slated for release in 2009, that still leaves the Restoration Team with a good five years’ work ahead of them. And so if box sets such as this one can get the classic stories on my shelf faster, then
I am certainly all for them.
And although it is clearly not as exciting or as lavish a proposition as 2007’s “New Beginnings” release or even last year’s “Beneath the Surface”, “The E-Space Trilogy” box set is more than equal to the serials that it houses.
“Full Circle” is the first story in the trilogy, and it also has the dubious distinction of being the first story from season eighteen that I find even remotely tolerable.
Above: Contemporary script editor Christopher H Bidmead discusses "Full Circle" and E-Space
The special features of the “Full Circle” disc, as one might expect, focus heavily on the fact that the script was written by Andrew Smith, an acne-ridden seventeen year-old member of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society. Smith, now working as a policeman, is on hand for both the commentary and the flagship twenty-four minute documentary, “All Aboard the Starliner”, to offer some fascinating insight into his unique experience in writing for the show at such a young age. He is joined by the story’s script editor, Christopher H Bidmead, who
is as forthcoming and as forthright as ever (particularly when he is trying to distance himself from Adric’s creation); as well as the boy wonder himself, Matthew Waterhouse, who takes his peers’ Adric-bashing with remarkable good humour. Indeed, Smith, Bidmead and Waterhouse are all very keen to point the finger of blame for Adric elsewhere!
Tom Baker’s presence is notably lacking, which at first I found disappointing, but the truth of it is that the commentary probably would not have been half as balanced and insightful had he been involved, as the others would not have got a word in! More entertaining, perhaps, but certainly not as insightful. For her part Lalla Ward (Romana) contributes to the documentaries but not, oddly enough, the commentary.
The bonus feature that impressed me the most though was “E-Space – Fact or Fiction?”, a fifteen-minute featurette which examines the science behind Exo-Space and indeed parallel universes in general. Whilst not being too scientific for the lay person to follow, the feature is tremendously thorough and features contributions from the likes of Paul Parsons (The Science of Doctor Who) and even Sir Patrick Moore. Thanks to this special feature, at long last I can profess to fully understand Gary Russell’s “Spiral Scratch” novel, and am even able to feign a crude understanding of the differences between quantum realities and cosmological ones. Brilliant stuff.
The remaining features are less noteworthy – unless you are keen to see a fresh-faced Waterhouse chat with Noel Edmonds, that is, or see poor old K-9 take as much of a bashing as Adric.
As for the serial itself, although it is not the greatest Doctor Who story in the world, “Full Circle” is certainly refreshing and vibrant. New broom John Nathan-Turner had been ringing in the changes right from day one, most palpably in the series’ new title sequence and theme tune, however, it was not until “Full Circle” that many of Nathan-Turner’s more subtle changes begin to show. Take the TARDIS interior, for example – something that by this time had become something of a bad joke thanks to serials like “The Invasion of Time”. In “Full Circle”, we see the TARDIS interior looking bright, clean and consistent. Every room shown is furnished with those trademark roundels and so consequently, quite possibly for the first time in the series’ history, you can actually believe that you are looking at the dimensionally transcendental interior of a hyper-advanced time capsule.
Secondly (and much less happily) “Full Circle” is also notable for introducing us to the ill-fated Adric - a whole new breed of companion. The petulant, obnoxious and much maligned alien boy genius slash Artful Dodger character was Nathan-Turner’s first stab at the ‘interesting and cosmopolitan’ companion – and without a doubt his worst. With hindsight, this is hardly surprising given the ‘boy genius slash Artful Dodger’ brief, as it does not take a Christopher H Bidmead to work out that these two gimmicks are mutually exclusive; mutually exclusive, that is, unless you stick the character in Hustle and give him a PC and a modem. Ah well, at least Adric can say that he was the first companion to get his own theme tune.
Visually, the four rather short episodes look very striking indeed, even today. The Marshmen are realised relatively well (though I cannot say the same for the spiders) and the location sequences are absolutely gorgeous. The performances are good too, particularly those of Tom and George Baker.
Most important of all though – yes, more important than matching interior TARDIS door knobs and boy genius theme tunes - “Full Circle” is predominantly a charming and well-crafted story; no small feat given that it came from the pen of a teenage fan.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007, 2009
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