Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Full Circle

Draith and Dexeter investigare killer cantelopes!
‘Full Cirlce’, written by Andrew Smith who at the time was 17 years old, sees the Doctor and Romana head to a place called ‘E-space’, a universe with negative coordinates. We see some interesting new creatures and ideas in a story I can at least say I enjoyed more than the previous two, without being amazed or anything like that.
Marshmen rise from the swamp
It’s got a bit more ‘soul’ than the last two stories. It also has its limitations. It deals with some interesting issues, particularly about scientific exploration of  species other than ‘human’, and indeed with the concept of evolution. Not bad for a 17 year old!

Christopher H Bidmead has been making his mark on the series already, so I think he probably had a lot to do with this script. Having said that it’s still a story with severe limitations, and one that asked a lot of the director and designers. We have the ‘marshmen’, who are really the same as the humans, but much earlier in the evolutionary cycle. Then we have these spiders which look pretty darned scary in most shots (mixed in with the odd shot where they look completely fake!) who also share the same DNA. It’s a bit confusing.
Romana is savaged by a spider

Whilst I was reasonably impressed with the spiders, the Marsh-men look pretty rubbish up close. Fantastic when they are walking out of the swamp during ‘mistfall’, but when they linger for any length of time on screen they look very poor – their design appears to made from the bottom of bathmats.
The characters are not that well written. We have a group called ‘outlaws’ who are just really naughty children, and of course we have Adric, played by Mathew Waterhouse, destined to become a companion by story’s end. Sort of. He stows away. The character is presented as a know-it-all type, which isn’t a good basis to start a companion character, but Waterhouse’s acting is fine. It’s nevertheless a strange match with the Doctor and Romana.
Marshman under the knife
Then we have three ‘Deciders’, the people who run the society. James Bree and Alan Rowe play two of the Deciders. The third Decider is Login, played by George Baker, perhaps the strongest character of the story. He, at least, is someone we care about. Tom Baker seems to be more at ease and gives his best performance thus far of the season, whereas Romana has a bad time of it getting bitten by a spider and turning nasty for a time. Lalla is always good.
The story is set in a community, but it’s difficult to understand the community. They appear to live in a sort of Eden, with a huge space ship at its door which they prep for takeoff, however the technology from the space ship in no way appears to affect the society. They are busy prepping it, replacing parts, yet seem to live very simple lives. We never see their dwellings either. When they have to return to the safely of the space ship, they take barely anything with them. I wondered if they still lived permanently in tents or something
Bree, Baxter and Lowe do some deciding.
The ending is a bit… flat really. They force the marshmen out of the Starliner and take off. The issue was that no-one knew how to launch the ship – the manuals told them how to fly after takeoff. Oh, and the Doctor works out that they’ve been preparing for launch for 40,000 generations. Oh please! In that time they would have developed technology with the Starliner at hand. And the space ship, despite regular and constant maintenance, would not be in any condition to take off, or indeed stand.
It’s still a little dull this one, but not as much as the first two of Season 18. Some interesting ideas at the very least.


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