Review of Doctor Who ‘State of Decay’ (Series 18)

Neela Debnath

doctor 2 300x223 Review of Doctor Who ‘State of Decay’ (Series 18)

Romana and the Doctor (BB)

In the run up to the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’ in November 2013, Neela Debnath with the help of BBC DVD, will be writing a review focusing on one story from each of the previous 31 series of the show. Each review will offer readers a snapshot from every series of ‘Doctor Who’ and celebrate the longest-running science fiction television programme in the world.

Series 18 is Tom Baker’s final one as the Doctor but before he bowed out he had some exciting adventures as the Time Lord, unfortunately, State of Decay is not one of them. The serial was part of the E-Space trilogy, a sub-story arc within the series which connected Full Circle, State of Decay and Warriors’ Gate.

The E-Space trilogy involved the Tardis falling out of the normal universe, known as N-Space, and into another smaller cosmos called E-Space via a phenomenon known as Charged Vacuum Emboitment.

At the start of State of Decay, the Doctor and Romana (Lalla Ward) find themselves still trapped in E-Space within which they find a mysterious planet run by a trio of Lords named Zargo (William Lindsay), Camilla (Rachel Davies) and Aukon (Emrys James). It emerges that this trio have been turned into vampires by the last vampire in the universe.

Along with Romana and K-9 (voiced by John Leeson), the Doctor has another companion who has joined him without his knowledge. Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) stowed away on the Tardis at the end of Full Circle. He is from the planet Alzarius and is the youngest male companion to have travelled with the Doctor.

It is not until half way through State of Decay that Romana or the Doctor realise that Adric has joined them and his presence changes the interplay between the Doctor and his companions. He is very much a liability who has to be looked after. In this serial he gets himself into trouble when he joins forces with the vampires and plans to become one of them.

His immaturity shows that he is still very much a boy despite his extraordinary mathematical capabilities. Adric also has a cheeky spirit which makes him quite endearing rather than irritating – he manages to outwit K-9 with logic and leave the Tardis. It is up to Romana, K-9 and the Doctor to look after him and make sure that he stays out of danger. They essentially serve as his mentors and as surrogate parents.

Overall series 18 explored the theme of entropy, the ‘decay’ that the title of this serial refers to is the degeneration of the feudal society that the Doctor and his companions have found in E-Space. State of Decay is an average serial that relies too heavily upon the vampire genre as a source of intrigue and entertainment. The Lords seems to be parodying Hammer Horror films and it is just ridiculous rather than scary. Regrettably, the performances are just hammy and pantomime.

The story is not the most inspiring of tales but it is an interesting piece of Doctor Who mythology. The Doctor suggests that vampires just appeared in the universe and that the Time Lords fought a long and bloody battle against them until only one remained. In the Doctor Who universe vampires can be destroyed by a wooden stake through the heart, beheading and by metal bowships, designed by Rassilon, the found of the Time Lord society on Gallifrey.

The lives of the peasants are glossed over and it seems odd that by the end they too want to leave E-Space and go to earth even though they have no real motive to go there. Instead they could evolve their own technology and society. There are no real saving graces in this serial and the only reason that a contemporary viewer may want to watch this one is for the comedy value of the vampires.

Perhaps the only reason to watch it is Baker. The thing about his era is that even if the story is dire, his presence as the Doctor makes it watchable. His performance plays between drama and comedy and it is entertaining to watch, particularly as Baker errs towards the side of comedy. The actor served the longest tenure as the Time Lord and in the minds of many is the only Doctor there is, therefore it is with a sense of sadness that we draw to a close his years as the Time Lord.

For more information about the classic series of ‘Doctor Who’

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DVD & image credit: BBC

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  • VicTheBrit

    Did anyone ever get the sack for deleting all those Dr Who episodes in the 70s?

    Or were they just promoted out of harm’s way?
    The BBC should digitally remaster all those Dr Who episodes that survived the purge.

  • Banksy

    This is extraordinarily badly written. Because it’s a ‘blog’, does that mean the Independent is happy to publish it without a sub-editor?

  • Graeme Robertson

    this one wasn’t wiped nor was it in the 70s

  • VicTheBrit

    You are right, State of Decay was broadcast in 1980. However the wiped episodes covered the period from 1965 to 1969 and were destroyed in the 70s – this is what my post stated. Please make sure what you’ve read before posting…

  • Blartfarble

    I think his point was that your comment had absolutely nothing to do with the article on which you’re commenting. Please make sure you’ve read the article before posting.

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