Everything that ‘State of Decay’ was, ‘Warriors Gate’ isn’t. It is not a simple, traditional logical story, un-complicated by babble. It is not straight-forward, it doesn’t have easily recognisable characters, and it does not return to the elements that had made Doctor Who so successful over the years. However, I really like it. I pronounce it the best story of Season 18.
|Royce and Aldo|
Why? Well, it’s really out there, it’s very clever and the direction is attempting to present Doctor Who in a way which takes it away from the standard multi-camera set up which has been so limiting for the series over the first 18 years. The director Paul Joyce went to hell and back trying to make the story, and despite all the difficulties churned out four excellent episodes of Doctor Who. Is the story easy to understand? No. It’s not. Is it really strange and weird in places? Yes it is! Would I recommend it to friends who were not Doctor Who fans? Never in a million years. But still, I really liked it.
Why? What? I have to justify myself? Ok well let’s see. ONE – characters. The story centres around a group of humans who have come to Warriors Gate to take slaves which they can sell because the slaves are ‘time sensitives’ – they can see through the time lines and navigate space ships. This ship has the worst crew known to space travel.
|Romana is faced with Rorvik|
We have Royce and Aldo, who seem to be based on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet. They always toss a coin to make decisions. They are periphery characters who don’t do a lot, appear to mostly be ‘along for the ride’, but they also add a dose of humour. The Captain of the vessel, Rorvik, is played supremely by Clifford Rose. It’s a great performance of a Commander with an inept crew slowly but totally losing the plot.
|Biroc leads Romana through the haze.|
There’s a bit of humour in the story, which is overall very dark. The time sensitives are being taken as slaves, but we also see that they treated humans as slaves too when they had a great empire. Is it a comment on the nature of living beings? That there is a circle of life. You had slaves, then you became slaves? Some sort of ironic justice? Biroc is the main time sensitive character. They all have the same costume (which has become an issue in season 18 – lots of sameness about the costuming. Oh, you’re all from the same place? Well I expect you all wear the same clothes too!) with beards and big hair.
Warriors Gate is on the coordinates of 0-0-0. What that means is it’s the intersection being N and E-space. There seems to be a sort of strange world between the two, through the mirrors as it
What is a little unclear is how the Doctor ends up passing through to N-space at the end. Whilst the space ship blows itself up by trying to back-blast a way through the mirror that was always doomed to fail, the Doctor is told ‘do nothing’. He takes off and it seems is let through by Biroc. That’s the only way I could make sense of it – Biroc and his kind have the power as time sensitives to open the way through to the other universe.
|The Doctor, Biroc and Romana fade from view.|
The ending is muddied by the rushed and frankly bizarre exit of Lalla Ward who decides she needs to stay and help Biroc free slaves on many planets in E-Space. Apart from one line to Adric in episode one, this is not really foreshadowed and there’s no real affinity built between Biroc and Romana. So it’s very odd. K-9 has had a hell of a season, and we finally say goodbye to the robot dog as well in this story when the Doctor gives him to Romana. Sadly, he spends most of his final story a gibbering mess.
At least the fact that they are in E-space is relevant for this story, unlike the previous two which could have been set anywhere. It’s a different Universe – so HOW is it different? That’s what needed to be addressed and really wasn’t. Bidmead was very excited about this script, written by Steven Gallagher. I can see why, it’s right up his alley with terms of what he was looking to do with the show.
Design-wise it’s great. The ship is well realised, the void that they are stuck in is too, and the gate looks beautiful. The Gundan robots also are a work of beauty. The ideas of using black and white photographs for the land ‘beyond the mirrors’ was a great idea that doesn’t quite work in every shot sadly.
The director uses a lot of hand held camerawork and shoots through grates and gantries and the feel is far less static than your standard Doctor Who tale. I think Paul Joyce did a great job.