Timestamp #115: The Keeper of Traken

Doctor Who: The Keeper of Traken
(4 episodes, s18e21-e24, 1981)

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An old face gets a new face.

Finally back in N-Space, the Doctor and Adric travel near the Mettula Orionsis system, a place known for its universal harmony. In a move that surprises the Doctor, the TARDIS falls into orbit around Traken and an old man appears in the console room. He is the Keeper of Traken, he has taken control of the TARDIS, and he is dying soon and will need to pass his powers to a successor. He asks the Doctor to come, but warns him of danger in the form of a Melkur, a supremely evil creature that was trapped in a garden and turned into a calcified statue. The creature has a fan: A woman named Kassia seems smitten by it.

You know, Adric has an uncanny knack for the TARDIS controls. Is he supremely intelligent and learning how to pilot the blue box, or is he just getting lucky like he did in Nowhere?

Flash forward to present day where Kassia is marrying Consul Tremas, a man who has been blessed as the next Keeper. Kassia is relieved of her self-imposed burden of tending to the Melkur, and Tremas’s daughter Nyssa is prophesied to take up the task. After the ceremony, Kassia returns to the garden to bid farewell to the Melkur, and it speaks to her in a single ominous word: “Soon.”

In the morning, the Doctor and Adric review the Time Lord’s logs (the latter being far more confused about them than the former) to see if he has ever visited Traken. On the planet below a dead body is found under mysterious circumstances. Kassia organizes a meeting of the planet’s consuls and, believing that the event was a murdered, declares that the Fosters (the local guards) be armed. The consuls are unsure.

The Doctor and Adric arrive on the surface and investigate the Melkur. After some wandering about, they are surrounded by armed Fosters. They are taken before the consuls, who have just voted to summon the Keeper and are surprised to discover that their leader has summoned the Doctor to appear before them. The consuls send Proctor Neman and his Fosters to verify the Doctor’s story by visually sighting the TARDIS, but the Melkur shoots red light from its eyes and the craft vanishes before the Fosters arrive.

Wait… what?

The consuls summon the Keeper for his advice. As the Doctor asks him to verify the story, the Melkur arrives. The Keeper declares that infinite evil has invaded the sanctum and disappears, and the assembly draws the conclusion that the evil is the Doctor.

To quote another famous doctor, oh boy.

Kassia declares that the travelers are agents of the Melkur before dramatically fainting. The Doctor, believing in more a scientific reasoning for the events, offers to help Tremas scan the area. Consul Tremas offers them asylum under his privilege, which means if the travelers are at fault, Tremas will share their fate. As they investigate the strange energy fields, the Melkur continues to rampage through the courtyard, and Kassia discovers the corpses in its wake. She hides the bodies before the consuls find them, but the Doctor finds evidence anyway before asking for breakfast. As they eat, Kassia consults with the Melkur, and after the meal, the Doctor and Tremas search for the TARDIS while Adric and Nyssa analyze the data.

The consuls gather in secret to discuss Tremas’s actions and analyses. When it is revealed that Consul Seron also knew of the studies, the assembled consuls suggest that Seron should enter rapport with the Keeper instead of Tremas. Kassia reveals this to the Melkur, receives a special band as a token of its allegiance, and is commanded to be its eyes and ears in the court. Unbeknownst to her, the Melkur is being controlled from a remote location. She leaves the grove through a secret passage, unknowingly witnessed by the Doctor and Tremas.

The Doctor detects a time cone around the TARDIS which has displaced it in time. As he moves off with Tremas to investigate it, Nyssa and Adric attempt to enter the grove, but Nyssa is pulled aside by the consuls. Adric finds the Doctor and Tremas, and they move to a secluded location to discuss the young man’s findings. Adric has found readings consistent with a TARDIS, but not with a Type 40. They are interrupted by Seron’s attempt at rapport, which is successful but disrupted by Kassia as she kills the consul with her new laser vision. She declares the travelers and Tremas as agents of the Melkur, and they are forced to flee into the grove. The Doctor reveals the TARDIS against the protests of the Melkur, but before they can get inside Kassia stuns Tremas and the travelers are captured by the Fosters.

The trio are taken to a cell and the consuls are clamoring to resolve who will be the next Keeper since both candidates are now ineligible. Kassia consults with the Melkur who states that Tremas will only continue to live if she continues to serve, and that she must be the new Keeper. On a similar line of thought, the captives discuss the situation and come to a similar conclusion. Since a non-Trakenite cannot touch the Source, one would have to do so through a Traken native. As such, Kassia sways the remaining consuls to her cause.

Nyssa forces her way into the cell block by stunning Proctor Neman and the guards, then frees the captives. Nyssa leads them through the Sanctum as Kassia and the consuls find a recovering Proctor. As the Fosters close in, Tremas leads them all to his quarters, which is the last place that the guards would presumably look. There, the Doctor asks for the master plans for the Source Manipulator, the device that harnesses the Source for the Keeper. After some soul searching, Tremas provides them.

Meanwhile, Kassia reports her failure to the Melkur and is forcefully reminded of her task. Because the universe has a quirky sense of timing, the Keeper enters the last phase of his life, and the transfer of power must occur at the Keeper’s last breath. The consuls summon Kassia for the ceremony.

The Doctor, Adric, Tremas, and Nyssa converge on the TARDIS but are ambushed by the Fosters. At that moment, the Keeper enters his death throes and a storm rages across the planet. Kassia arrives and takes the title of Keeper, allowing the Melkur to touch the Source through Kassia. Inside the Melkur, a hideously scarred form taunts the Doctor, and as the Time Lord’s group leaves the grove, the statue disappears with the sound of a TARDIS.

Ah, yes. We know who this great evil is, don’t we?

The Doctor rushes to the Sanctum to prevent the final transfer of power, but it is too late. The Doctor sends Adric and Nyssa to the TARDIS as a screaming Kassia is enveloped in an energy field and the Melkur materializes on the throne. The Melkur summons Proctor Neman and orders the two remaining consuls, Tremas, and the Doctor confined to quarters. Meanwhile, Adric and Nyssa try to prepare the TARDIS for departure, but the engines are blocked. Adric explains a plan of last resort: Melkur can be defeated by destroying the Source.

Tremas and the Doctor discuss their options. They don’t have the five Consular control rings, but they do have the Source Manipulator plans so there is a chance. Unfortunately, the Melkur knows of the plans and sends Neman and his fancy new control band to retrieve them. When Tremas refuses, the Melkur materializes and forces them to relinquish it. Before fading away in weakness, Melkur destroys the scroll. Afterward, the Doctor ambushes the Proctor and the guards and steals the rings they hold. The Doctor and Tremas head to the Sanctum and attempt to break the Source Manipulator’s source code.

While they work, Adric and Nyssa construct their last resort device and install it at the Source. Melkur also arrives and stops the Doctor three digits shy of success. Tremas attempts to key in the remaining code, but Melkur stops him and forces the former consul to kill Proctor Neman with his own weapon. The Melkur outlines its plans for domination and reveals its true identity after taking the Doctor to its deepest sanctum.

The Melkur is the Master. The statue is his TARDIS.

The Doctor kindly offers to put him down like an rabid dog, but the Master restrains him. The Master reveals that he is on his last regeneration and near death after their battle on Gallifrey, and he plans to steal the Doctor’s mind and use the Source to extend his life beyond the regeneration limit. At the right moment, the Source is disrupted and the Doctor is able to escape the Master’s TARDIS and disconnect him from the Source. Consul Luvic leaps onto the throne to continue the line of Keepers, and the Doctor and Adric take their leave.

All seems well as harmony returns to Traken, but Tremas feels compelled to investigate a newly arrived clock. The consul touches it and it opens to reveal the Master. The evil takes over Tremas’s body and steps back inside the clock, a TARDIS he had hidden inside his old one, before dematerializing.

Nyssa returns to the Sanctum, but her father is nowhere to be seen.

The stage is set with this wonderful story. Next week, the Doctor falls.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Logopolis

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #114: Warriors’ Gate

Doctor Who: Warriors’ Gate
(4 episodes, s18e17-e20, 1981)

timestamp-114-warriors-gate

 

Romana bids the Doctor farewell on a timey-wimey wibbly-wobbly adventure.

The adventure opens on a bay full of hibernating beings, the universe’s slowest countdown, and a batch of Kilroy Was Here graffiti. The crew in charge of the ship is trying to escape wherever they are through a time rift, but they fail. One of the crew, a feline creature with psychic capability, visualizes the TARDIS. From the start, the story establishes a sense of authenticity, from the graffiti to the joker crewmen who are mocking the proceedings. I knew guys like that in the Navy. Hell, I knew pretty much this entire crew in the submarine force.

The feline creature is being escorted below when he breaks free of his captors and runs. A crewmember named Lane sees him, but can’t find the words to make the report. On the TARDIS, Adric flips a coin and punches a random button, an act that drags the TARDIS into the same space as the running creature and the stranded spacecraft. A place called Nowhere.

Okay, seriously, why is this kid fiddling with the console?

The TARDIS doors open and the creature boards the craft, phasing between timelines with an energy of time winds that burns out the console and K9. The creature phases into the TARDIS’s timeline and identifies himself as Biroc (a shadow of his past and their future), warns them of the people that are following him, and then runs from the craft. The Doctor pursues, leaving Romana, Adric, and K9 behind to determine that this place where the coordinates are all zeroes is the intersection between E-Space and the “normal” N-Space universe.

The stranded crew detects the TARDIS on their scanners and investigate, chancing that the new arrival will have parts to fix their burned out warp drive. Since underway waits for no man, they venture into the void and try to break into the TARDIS. Romana decides to confront them, leaving Adric in the TARDIS and covertly signaling to him before leaving with the stranded crewmen. Adric soon follows with a debilitated K9, and eventually goes it alone after K9 experiences significant computational errors.

This new companion is not winning any popularity contests with me. Go back for the dog.

The Doctor catches up with Biroc at a dusty and cobwebbed medieval dining hall, but Biroc disappears through a mirror. The Doctor, on the other hand, has a close encounter with armored skeleton wielding an axe. During the cat and mouse, they are joined by a second warrior and the Doctor tricks them into destroying each other.

On the stranded starship, the crew determine that Romana is a time-sensitive, and they force her into the navigation chair. She is able to conjure the destination image so she is left in the chair despite the risks to her mental well-being. The crew sets out on foot for the castle on the monitor, which happens to be the same building where the Doctor is investigating the skeletons and their secrets. K9 arrives as the Doctor discovers that the skeletons – the Gundans – are machines built by human slaves of the cat creatures – the Tharils – to fight against their masters. The masters fled through a Gateway, and the Doctor uses K9 as an alternate power source to keep the Gundans awake long enough to find out that there are three of these Gateways. His investigation is halted when the crew arrives, prompting one of the Gundans to destroy the other and escape through the mirror. The crew chases the Doctor and K9, but the Time Lord escapes through the mirror. On the other side of the mirror, he finds Biroc, who explains that the Doctor could pass through because he was touched by the time winds. K9 can follow when the time is right, but when he does, he will be trapped on that there permanently.

That does not bode well. Regardless, the Doctor follows Biroc on a blue-screen journey to a strange mansion.

Back on the ship, two crewmen revive a hibernating Tharil with a massive electric shock. The dazed and confused Tharil navigates to the bridge and finds Romana trapped in her chair, and though she thinks it is there to harm her, the creature attempts to set her free. The Tharil hides as the crewmen arrive in pursuit.

K9 accompanies the crew back to their ship, but is tossed out. This provides Adric, who has been navigating Nowhere through flips of the coin, a chance to sneak aboard and stumble into Romana. Rather, she stumbles into his hiding spot. The hiding spot, a large piece of machinery, is wheeled outside the ship where the pair encounter K9. The robot dog is investigating the apparent shrinking of Nowhere and is screaming warnings, which draws crewmen who capture Romana. She is immediately rescued by the Tharil, who is named Lazlo, and he takes her to another timeline.

The crew take the machine, a giant laser, back to the mirror Gateway. While they set up the laser, they witness Romana and Lazlo pass through the mirror. The pair walk to the mansion and as they travel, Romana notes that Lazlo’s injuries are healed. When they arrive, they find the Doctor dining with Biroc and a group of Tharils, but the mood turns sour when a Tharil assaults one of the human slaves. The Tharils turn on the Doctor, and when the room is stormed by the Gundans to start the revolution, the Doctor and Romana are whisked back to the present and the stranded crew.

I feel bad for the actress who was the playing the slave. When the Tharil strikes her, he backhands her square in the left breast. That had to hurt.

The Doctor explains to the ship’s captain that only time-sensitives can transit the mirrors, and K9 arrives with news that the super-massive dwarf-star alloy that comprises the ship’s hull is driving Nowhere’s destruction. The Doctor deduces that the crew are slavers who trade in time-sensitives, and as the crew holds him at gunpoint and demands the secret to the Gateways, Biroc concedes that the Doctor was right and advises him to do nothing. He is saved by Adric, who arrives and uses the laser as a distraction.

He is one lucky kid. Please tell me he’s not the Most-Important-Companion-In-The-Universe.

In a panic, the slavers attempt to blast through the mirrors and fail. They then use the ship’s engines, an act that will inadvertently destroy everything. The captain orders the remaining Tharil slaves to be rapidly awakened, hoping that at least one of them will survive the process to navigate them home. The process does not work. Unwilling to leave while the slaves are still on the ship, the Time Lords try to sabotage the engines. They are soon discovered by the captain, and then rescued by Biroc and transported back to the TARDIS. Meanwhile, Lazlo frees the remaining Tharils and kills their keeper.

What was with Romana hitting the captain with a clipboard? Seriously.

Romana takes the opportunity to leave the Doctor and the TARDIS, taking K9 with her through the mirror to help the Tharils. She can offer time technology and the Tharils will help her travel throughout E-Space and free all of Biroc’s people. As the ship engages the engines, the TARDIS dematerializes, and the slave ship explodes. The TARDIS returns to normal space and leaves Romana and K9 to start their new quest.

This story was one of mind-bending science fiction with a social justice element. The best part was that, instead of playing the “slavery is bad” trope straight, this story twists it by having the original captors becoming oppressed and realizing that they were in the wrong. Biroc learned a lesson that helped shape the story going forward. I liked that aspect immensely.

The only major fault I can find is that the ending was really rushed. Doctor Who hasn’t been strong to this point in saying goodbye to companions, and this is no exception.

Of course, that leads me to thoughts on Romana. In both the Seventeenth Series Summary and Sixteenth Series Summary, I wrote about how she felt like another iteration of the Doctor. The Doctor Redux, if you will. I still come back to the thought that Romana has steadily gotten worse as the character becomes more experienced. Don’t get me wrong, Lalla Ward is a great actress, just like Mary Tamm, but the chemistry is wasted in the writing and the behind the scenes tension between the lead actors. Frankly, I think she overstayed her welcome.

I think that if the Key to Time arc would have had a stronger emphasis on developing Romana as a Time Lord, maybe even as a conduit to channel the Doctor’s nature to the rest of Gallifrey by having her take a position of power in the post-The Invasion of Time civilization. President? Maybe. But definitely something where she and Leela can knock the rest of the Time Lords down a peg or two.

If wishes were horses, right?

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Keeper of Traken

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #113: State of Decay

Doctor Who: State of Decay
(4 episodes, s18e13-e16, 1980)

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“The Doctor is not weaponless. He has the greatest weapon of all: Knowledge.”

Beneath a protective castle with village dwellings huddled like ducklings round their mother, it is the time of selection, and Captain of the Guard Habris is instructed to choose well. The best in the village are pulled aside by the village elder Ivo, and Habris chooses from among them. He also chooses the elder’s son, leaving the man and his wife distraught. Out in the cosmos, the Doctor and Romana continue their search for another path out of E-Space. K9 detects the planet from the opening scenes, and away they go.

The castle looks like a rocket – Can they possibly telegraph the twist any more heavily? – which matches with K9’s assessment of high technology on the planet. The Time Lords go exploring while K9 guards the TARDIS and Adric skulks about. They arrive as Ivo and Habris argue, and his request to meet a scientist is met with fear and alarm. When the Time Lords leave, Ivo pulls out a hidden radio unit and spreads the word to someone named Kalmar.

Ivo reports back to the king, queen, and court adviser – the Three Who Rule, with makeup consideration provided by The Rocky Horror Picture Show – with news of the Doctor and Romana. The adviser, Aukon, sends his bat servants to find them. In the interim, the Time Lords are surrounded by what look like Dungeons & Dragons druids who lead the travelers to Kalmar and a cave full of technology. Unfortunately, scientific knowledge is forbidden on the planet, and the penalty for knowledge is death. Everyone works in the fields as soon as they are able.

The Doctor fixes the gear in the cave and it displays information about the Earth cargo vessel Hydrax, its mission, and its crew. The three officers – Captain Miles Sharkey, Navigator Lauren MacMillan, and Science Officer Anthony O’Connor – bear a striking resemblance to the Three Who Rule. The Doctor decides to meet them, and Kalmar sets them free. As they make their way through the forest, Aukon’s bats attack!

Ah, the time honored tradition of swinging rubber bats on a fishing pole around your actors.

As the bats depart, Habris arrives and ushers the Time Lords to the court of the Three Who Rule. The king and queen entertain the Time Lords – the dialogue is clumsy: “We know everything here,” but, seconds later, they admit that they don’t know why the Time Lords are there – and provide a venue for a discussion on class politics. The Doctor tests a theory by toasting Romana, breaking her glass and cutting her thumb. Strangely, the king and queen are entranced by the blood. The discussion continues as Romana and the Doctor muse of the reverse evolution of the planet’s society: A literal state of decay.

*ding* There’s the title.

After the Doctor mentions the Hydrax, Habris arrives to ferry the king and queen to the Time of Arising. They leave the Time Lords alone in the throne room, and our heroes put the pieces together. Lo and behold, the castle is the missing ship. They explore the ship and track a strange thumping noise to a cargo bay. Inside, they discover a collection of exsanguinated corpses. Their blood is being stored in the fuel tanks. Proceeding deeper, they trace the fuel lines into the cave network beneath the castle.

At this point, it is time to catch up on the Adventures of Adric.

Adric attempts to leave the TARDIS but is stopped by K9. After a minor twist of logic, he is allowed to leave on his own. Adric makes his way to the village and is caught trying to steal food. The elder and his wife take him in for the night as a surrogate for their son. Adric passes the time by working for his benefactors, and as they explain their lives on the planet, he recommends insurrection. In a surprise move, Habris arrives for another bout of selection, this time by Aukon who selects Adric because the boy is an alien. Aukon takes Adric to the queen and king in the caves beneath the castle. Aukon wants to use Adric for his plan, and convinces his co-conspirators to follow along. Adric, strangely, is silent for this whole affair.

Back to our normally scheduled plot.

The Time Lords explore the caves, musing on legends of vampires throughout time and space. It all comes together when they find Aukon in the Resting Place, his domain as a vampire. Aukon tries to convince the Doctor to join him, offering the knowledge of the Great One – “he who brought us here” – on how to leave E-Space, but the Doctor is not swayed. Aukon reveals that Adric will be the first of the chosen ones, leaving the Time Lords distraught that he is here and not on his home planet. Aukon unleashes all of psychic power on the Doctor, but Romana throws a stalagmite at him, the vampire releases his grip. Discovering that they are Time Lords, Aukon declares them the enemy, and they are surrounded by the Three Who Rule. The Time Lords are selected as a sacrifice and taken to a cell.

The Doctor reminisces on the teachings of his old hermit mentor, including a tale of a war between Gallifreyans in the Age of Rassilon and a race of vampires who simply vanished. A standing order remains: If the Vampire King is found, he must be destroyed.

I imagine that the entire “you’re wonderful” moment in the jail cell must have been a bit awkward given the real-life conflict between the two leads.

A member of Kalmar’s rebellion, Tarak, has gained access to the castle and is searching for the Doctor. He frees them, but Romana refuses to leave until she finds Adric. They decide to split up: The Doctor heads for the TARDIS to read up on the Vampire King while Romana searches the inner sanctum. Meanwhile, Ivo approaches Kalmar for help avenging his son’s death, but the rebel is unsure.

The Doctor seems to know Count Dracula. Maybe he’s having flashbacks to the Dracula-bot in The Chase?

Romana finds Adric near the sleeping king and queen, and as she shakes him free of his trance, the royals awaken and kill Tarak. With the guard’s blood now stale and flat (and a seeming inability of Romana and Adric to run away), they ensnare our heroes for a more lively feast. Aukon blocks their joy by taking them as sacrifices for the Time of Arising. He needs their energy to leave E-Space and pillage the universe.

The Doctor moves the TARDIS to Kalmar’s cave and appeals for the insurgent’s help. Kalmar is unswayed until he sees the image of the King Vampire, Aukon’s great Chosen One. After that, he’s all in. The group plans their assault, and the Doctor puts K9 (and his nose laser) in charge of the army. They storm the castle: K9’s army keeps the guards at bay, Ivo confronts Habris for the death of his son, and the Doctor ascends the rocket and launches a scout ship. Meanwhile, Romana is enthralled and prepared for sacrifice, including bats swooping in to bite her. Adric tries to fight for her, but he is stopped and removed from the altar.

The Doctor’s scout ship lifts off, angling for the stars, but as the Vampire King arises from the depths, the rocket changes course and plunges into the creature’s heart and killing it. The Three Who Rule turn on the Doctor, but without the King to sustain them, they rapidly age and crumble to dust. The Doctor ties up loose ends by setting up the Hydrax’s computers for Kalmar’s use while Ivo apologizes to K9 for doubting the robotic dog. The Time Lords depart, continuing their search for a way out of E-Space and promising to take Adric home.

Two additional highlights: First, I loved the Three Wise Monkeys (“see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil”) salute by the villagers. It was a perfect encapsulation of their attitudes toward the mysteries surrounding their very existence. Second, K9 on the throne made me laugh, but I did wonder how he got up there.

The big negative here is Adric. The character is wasted in this story. I mean, in the Romana era of the franchise, K9 has usually taken the short straw with minimal screen time, but the newest companion is nothing but a narrative prop in this tale.

That said, State of Decay landed with a high three rating. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Warriors’ Gate

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

 

Timestamp #112: Full Circle

Doctor Who: Full Circle
(4 episodes, s18e09-e12, 1980)

Doctor Who

 

A funny thing happened on the way to Gallifrey.

The first chapter in the E-Space Trilogy kicks off with our traveling Time Lords tying up loose ends. They drop off “Clark Kent” and set course for Gallifrey, but Romana doesn’t want to go. She’s addicted to the adventure, despite only being tasked with helping resolve the Key to Time crisis. Luckily for them, the TARDIS passes through an indescribable phenomenon and ends up in E-Space, an alternate universe.

There is a village nearby where humanoids are living an agrarian lifestyle, however the TARDIS scanners show that the Time Lords should be on Gallifrey. As the Time Lords troubleshoot the TARDIS, a senior villager known as a Decider investigates strange eggs in the river fruits. Among the villagers are a group of rebels called the Outlers who steal from the village to survive outside the community. One of the Elites in the village, a boy named Adric, is petitioning for membership in the rebel group to join his brother Varsh. To prove his worth, he must steal some river fruit for the Outlers. During his attempt a strange phenomenon called Mistfall begins, and the First Decider (and keeper of the System Files) orders the villagers into the Starliner, a derelict starship bordering the community. Despite not having the entire village aboard, the Deciders order the ship sealed to protect those inside.

Adric takes the opportunity to complete his task, but he is chased by the First Decider. During the pursuit, the Decider falls and is pulled into the river. Adric tries to save him and fails, but is left with a message: “Tell Dexeter we’ve come full circle.” Hey, it’s the title!

Adric runs through the forest and stumbles into the TARDIS. The Time Lords tend to the boy, who recovers unbelievably fast, and the Doctor investigates the marshes with K9. A group of Swamp Thing creatures emerge from the murky waters and stretch their fins, prompting the Doctor and K9 to retreat. After watching them from seclusion, the Doctor tasks K9 with following them while he attempts to make contact. Romana gives Adric a homing beacon, and he returns to the Outlers only to lead them to the TARDIS. The rebels hold Romana hostage and take over the ship. Meanwhile, Login, the father of Keara (the only girl in the Outler group) becomes a new Decider. Thus another conflict is born.

The Doctor returns to find the TARDIS missing. It has been taken by the Marshmen to a nearby cave, an act that throws everyone off balance inside and defuses the hostage situation. When K9 tracks the TARDIS to the cave, he is immediately beheaded by the Marshmen. With help from the Outlers, Adric and Ramona deduce that the TARDIS is being set up as a battering ram against the starship.

With nowhere else to go, the Doctor heads for the Starliner and gains access with his sonic screwdriver. Of course, the absent-minded Time Lord leaves the hatch open, and an inquisitive Marshman child follows him into the ship. They are both eventually captured, and the Deciders experiment on the child much to the Doctor’s displeasure.

When the Marshmen leave the cave, Romana’s group leaves the TARDIS to investigate but are attacked by a cluster of spiders. Adric accidentally locks Romana out and dematerializes the TARDIS, and the Time Lady is bitten. The TARDIS materializes on the Starliner in front of the Doctor, and he and Adric return to the cave to collect K9 (sans head), a dead spider, and an enthralled Romana. By the time he returns to the ship, the Deciders have pardoned the rebel children and Dexeter has started a lobotomy on the Marshman child. As Dexeter cuts into the child, Romana screams from her room on the TARDIS and, telepathically, the child reacts by killing the scientist and (eventually) itself.

A now incensed Doctor turns on the Deciders and reveals their duplicity: The Starliner has been ready to leave the planet for centuries but the farce of repairing it for the great journey has continued because no one knows how to pilot it. Chagrined, the Deciders provide the Doctor tools to analyze the spiders, but his investigation is interrupted when the enthralled Romana leaves the TARDIS and opens the emergency exits, releasing the Marshmen upon the starship.

While the Doctor and Adric search for Romana, they put the pieces together. The spider and the Marshman child share DNA, the invading Marshmen are more inquisitive than violent, and Adric’s wounds healed quickly. The Doctor finds Romana (and K9’s head) and returns to the lab to continue his research. After the Marshmen invade the ship’s control room and mortally wound the new First Decider, he adds another piece of the puzzle: The villagers have never been anywhere but the planet.

Oh, boy.

The Marshmen invade the lab, but the Doctor’s team is able to drive them back with pure oxygen. Ramona arrives and Adric stuns her with a blast of oxygen, providing the Doctor a chance to administer a serum and reverse the infection. After she recovers, the secret is finally revealed: The villagers are descended from the Marshmen, who in turn descended from the spiders. The Marshmen killed the original crew 40,000 generations ago and evolved to take their place. They have indeed come full circle.

While driving the Marshmen away and sealing bulkheads to isolate them, Varsh is killed, leaving Adric with no surviving family. Meanwhile, the Doctor and the remaining Deciders crank up the oxygen levels and drive the Marshmen off the ship. They convince the Doctor to help them learn to fly, and he sets them on the right course before leaving on the TARDIS with a new image translator courtesy of Adric to continue their voyage.

Little do they know that their benefactor has also stowed away on the TARDIS.

The location shoots added some depth to this story, and complemented the improved story and pacing. That isn’t to say that the latter elements were perfect, since the plot seemed rather thin in the first half because of all the setup. Luckily it picked up a bit in the second. The callbacks to Leela and Andred, as well as Romana’s origins on the show.

Unrelated to the final score, Full Circle – Part One is effectively my birthday episode since it is the closest to my date of birth.

 

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: State of Decay

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.