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Doctor Who: The E-Space Trilogy boxset

01/04/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Doctor Who: The E-Space Trilogy boxset in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: The E-Space Trilogy boxset in the UK

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region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD 1835. 3 DVDs 288 minutes. Price: GBP11.99 (UK) if you know where to look.

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Doctor Who: Full Circle by Andrew Smith

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD 1835(A). 1 DVD 96 minutes 4 * 22 minute episodes with extras)

cast: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, George Baker, Matthew Waterhouse, John Leeson

Romana (actress Lalla Ward) isn’t very happy about returning to Gallifrey because it means the Time Lords want her back. Even the Doctor (actor Tom Baker) says he can’t beat them, as he lost when he tried. Objectively, it does make me wonder in this case as the Doctor still holds the rank of President.

The newly repaired K-9 controls the TARDIS for the trip but there is a space rupture and it takes them a while to realise that although the co-ordinates are correct, they are in fact in E-Space and materialise on the planet Alzarius where a colony of Terradonians have been spending forty generations repairing their Starliner spaceship under the guidance of three Deciders.

Adric (actor Matthew Waterhouse) is trying to get into a rogue bunch of kids group called the Outlers and his initiation involves stealing that planet’s version of melons. However, mistfall is announced and the colonisers seek safety in the Starliner and the Outlers are stuck outside. The senior Decider chases after Adric but is dragged off into the swamp. Adric has a leg injury and comes across the TARDIS and given medical aid.

With the loss of the senior Decider, there is a repositioning of responsibility and Login (actor George Baker) becomes the third Decider. The Doctor and K-9 leave the TARDIS to investigate and see the Marshmen. Adric, meanwhile, recovers and goes after the Outlers to bring them to safety. Unfortunately, returning with them, they threaten Romana before the TARDIS is carried away by the Marshmen.

The Doctor has K-9 follow the Marshmen and gets into the Starliner, unknowingly followed by a young Marshman and captured. After the TARDIS has been attacked by the other Marshmen, Romana finds herself trapped outside and bitten by a hatched spider as Adric accidentally dematerialises the TARDIS instead of opening its doors.

The TARDIS materialises in the Starliner, enabling the Doctor with Adric to return to the cave and an amnesic Romana. Back on the Starliner, the Doctor finally discovers from the Deciders that they have no pilot. A study of the cells from the spiders, Marshmen and the colonists and finds them all related. None of this is helped when an entranced Romana lets the Marshmen into the Starliner and only by assaulting them with oxygen do the colonists survive. The Doctor creates a cure for Romana and gets the Deciders to flood the starship with oxygen to get the Marshmen to flee. As the Marshmen know how to get on-board the Starliner, the Doctor gives the Deciders a crash course on what buttons to use to take off. Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor finds a replacement visual unit that works in E-Space left by Adric and wonders where he went. There’s a few more details than this in the plot but that’s it in a nutshell.

The audio commentary is from actor Matthew Waterhouse, writer Andrew Smith and script editor Christopher Bidmead. Waterhouse points out that this was the second story he filmed and that director Peter Grimwade unwittingly made it a nightmare for him and Tom Baker didn’t like the TARDIS console. A lot of the footage from Black Park’s lake was removed because it wasn’t usable because they weren’t supposed to wear underwear and Adric’s hair was actually a wig. Smith points out that he was able to adjust his story to the suggestions he was given to problems but wrote the novelisation as a means to remedy anything he didn’t like in the final TV version.

There is some discussion about the changes made in episode four which was supposed to be about getting the Starliner off the ground which was changed but Smith concedes that it works out all right and the need to ensure the plot rotates around the Doctor solving the problem. A lot of the improvisation was down to Tom Baker. Smith also points out a scene in the lab where a camera briefly gets into shot. Bidmead points out that Adric is an anagram for Dirac, the famous French mathematician/physicist. There are no actual villains in this story and any damage the Marshmen done was centuries ago when they killed the original colonisers.

A couple things I can make comment on that they, or at least Waterhouse, didn’t know. A man who carries a cane is a quick way to give him some authority. The reason why the passengers in the TARDIS were shook up when it was carried away by the Marshmen is because the console area is on the periphery of the interdimensional area, not helped by the fact that they were also in E-Space.

Watching this for a second time, it did raise a particular query. The crew did bring those melon-like fruit on-board the Starliner before they locked the doors, so why didn’t the spiders hatch there as well? I had a think cos it deserves some sort of solution and decided that if a large creature like a Marshman could be affected by oxygen levels, then its relative and the smaller spiders, would just as likely to killed as well so wouldn’t hatch.

I hate saying this about any person but although Waterhouse admits he was pretty ignorant when young, I can’t see much difference in him as an adult, especially not knowing what DNA is as it’s so much in the news these days.

The extras focus on the making of the story, the problems with K-9 and whether there could be an E-Space or not. Bidmead makes a good point with the latter that he made the effort so that it wasn’t giggle science for all the scientists that were watching. None of the people, including scientists asked, couldn’t quite decide just what E-Space actually is. I always tend to see it as a pocket universe off-set by Gallifrey’s nexus for entering the time travel portal.

I haven’t seen this story for a long time but it holds up well and spotted all the subtleties this time. Great fun but be careful of being pulled into swamps.

Doctor Who: State Of Decay by Terrance Dicks

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC . 1 DVD 96 minutes 4 * 21 minute episodes with extras)

cast: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, Matthew Waterhouse, William Lindsay, Rachel Davies, Emrys James, Clinton Greyn and Arthur Hewlett

The Doctor (actor Tom Baker) and Romana (actress Lalla Ward) arrive on the only other inhabitable planet K-9 can find in E-Space. They discover a deteriorating village who have been handing over their best people to the lords in the tower. They go off to the tower but are captured by the rebels and they get some old technology working. The discovery that a thousand years ago that an Earth starship called the Hydrax landed here and the Lords are its crew. Convincing the rebels that they are their side, they continue with their journey to the tower but are attacked by bats and captured. While the lords are busy, the two Time Lords confirm that the tower is actually the Hydrax and worse are vampiric and drain the blood of the villagers to feed an even bigger vampire.

Meanwhile, the stowaway Adric (actor Matthew Waterhouse) had gotten to the village, hidden by its people but ultimately captured by one the lords, Aukon (actor Emrys James) and on his way to be an offering himself but being considered to becoming one of the chosen ones.

The captured pair of Time Lords put together their stories of vampires and that their own people killed all but one and realise it is now below them on this E-Space planet. Romana also points out that the Type 40 TARDISes were equipped with knowledge of how to beat the vampires. One of the rebels posing as a guard gets them out and tells them of Adric’s capture. They divide their efforts with the Doctor to get the information in the TARDIS and Romana and the rebel to get Adric. Unfortunately, they are captured and the rebel killed by the two vampires, Zargo (actor William Lindsay) and Camilla (actress Rachel Davies). Aucon arrives and is happy to know that Romana is a Time Lord and the best sacrifice to the Great Vampire.

The Doctor gets the TARDIS to the rebels and convinces them to attack the tower and neutralise the guards while he finds a heavy metal bar to pierce the Great Vampire’s heart as it rises. For how, you’ll have to watch the story.

The audio commentary is between director Peter Moffatt, scriptwriter Terrance Dicks and actor Matthew Waterhouse. Dicks points out that he had a script involving vampires back when Leela was a companion but because of conflicts with the BBC doing a TV adaptation of ‘Dracula’, they weren’t allowed to do it. Producer John Nathan-Turner came across the script and Dicks re-wrote it totally for E-Space and had a lot of argy-bargy with script editor Christopher Bidmead over its title. Moffatt points out that two of the actors, William Lindsay and Arthur Hewlett died shortly after the story was completed. Dicks explained that before the dawn of home video recorders, people couldn’t really double-check for errors but he learnt to be accurate from books as people could always check the relevant page but on TV you could always get away with a lot more. Moffatt reveals that the final script he was given wasn’t the one he first saw and insisted that all the futuristic revisions script editor Christopher Bidmead added were removed. Dicks explained that scriptwriters weren’t always available for revisions but intense changes really should have been agreed with the original scriptwriter.

Obviously, with the nature of this story, the extras focus is mostly on vampires, their origins and how they’ve changed over the years. Oddly, little of this actually focuses on how this was done in ‘Doctor Who’. There is also some focus on the nature of blood and its attraction. There is the usual feature about the making of the story with pieces from cast and production and a good example of how a glass slot is put together to extend a set by painting. These days, such thing would be done by CGI and rotate with the camera. Back in the 1980s, you pretty much had to tie the camera down or giveaway how something wasn’t really there. Another lost art. The ‘Film Trims’ show the number of times the rocket met the Giant Vampire hand and a strong reminder that they never got it right in one.

‘State Of Decay’ has some comparison to the gothic atmosphere in the earlier Baker season stories like ‘The Brain Of Morbius’. Doing vampires up to this point means all the classic horror stories had been covered. Although this story is very theatrical, it still hits the mark today and holds up rather well. I would question how they can keep up a decent food stock of humans when they are undernourished and take the best pick each time but I guess Aukon knew the Fasting was coming and didn’t really care. Don’t volunteer to stand in lines as you don’t know what you might be picked for.

Doctor Who: Warriors’ Gate by Steve Gallagher

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD1835(C). 1 DVD 96 minutes 4 * 23 minute episodes with extras)

cast: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, Matthew Waterhouse, Clifford Rose, Kenneth Cope, David Weston, Robert Vowels and John Leeson

Of all the ‘Doctor Who’ stories, my memory of ‘Warriors’ Gate’ was it appearing to be written on acid because it is totally weird. Seeing it again now, I wondered how more adult eyes would make more sense of it now and I wasn’t exactly young when I saw it the first time around.

In an attempt to get the TARDIS back to N-Space, the Doctor (actor Tom Baker), Romana (actress Lalla Ward) and Adric (actor Matthew Waterhouse) find themselves trapped in neutral space, manipulated by the imprisoned Tharil navigator Biroc (actor David Weston) on-board a human privateer starship also trapped in E-Space. He escapes them and boards the TARDIS guiding it into a place near the gateway although he is out of phase with them. The Doctor follows him but loses him as Biroc crosses through a mirror. He is attacked by a pair of robot Gundans but fortunately they smash each other up and the Doctor is able to access one of their memories to find out what they were doing.

While all this is going on, Captain Rorvik (actor Clifford Rose) and members of his crew discover the TARDIS and a reluctant Romana goes out to see them, warning Adric not to follow. They think she knows how to sort their engines out and also suspect she’s a time-sensitive. On board their ship, she is imprisoned in their navigation system and pin-points the gateway and they head off in that direction.

Adric and K-9 attempt to follow but it is only the latter what gets to the gateway and aids the Doctor to supply the power to read the Gundan’s memory in time for Rorvik and his crew to listen in. One of the other Gundan’s awakes and although the Doctor and K-9 attempts to flee, it is only the Time Lord who phases through the mirror. A side note from this is that one of K-9’s radar ears is taken by Adric to help the dog gauge distance and isn’t returned because the boy gets lost but K-9 gets his ear back. I did ponder on a solution for this and my solution is that because time is getting increasingly unstable that K-9 becomes one with its past and future self.

The Doctor discovers Biroc waiting there and follows him into the past and a feast with the Tharils where he discovers they were once enslavers themselves in the past. Romana arrives with the aid of another recovered Tharil from the starship and realises the Doctor is in trouble gets to him just as the Gundans attack and both Time Lords return to the present and the guns of Rorvik. K-9 arrives and warns them the E-Space continuum is shrinking although the Rorvik doesn’t believe it. The time travellers escape and Rorvik’s means to break through the mirror fails and he resorts to targeting the exhausts of the starship to destroy the gateway.

With everyone back inside the TARDIS and realising that Rorvik’s plan will doom them all, the Doctor and Romana get inside the exposed engines of the starship to short-circuit them. The Doctor loses a fight with Rorvik but Romana completes the plan and the starship ultimately implodes. Romana, still not willing to return to Gallifrey, decides to stay with the Tharils to help rescue their kind and the TARDIS is finally free to return to N-Space.

There, I think I finally understand everything even if I’ve ignored some of the side-plots although I suspect watching Steven Moffatt’s current Who stories makes this simpler in after-thought.

In many respects, this is probably the first time the Doctor and Romana have met another time-sensitive species and it’s a shame that we never meet the Tharils again. I suspect that with Romana’s help, she pulled those that are captured away from our reality shortly after their capture and were quickly forgotten. That aspect of the story is still open-ended and it would be nice to see the return of the Tharils and even Romana in the modern day.

The audio commentary is between actors Lalla Ward and John Leeson with director Paul Joyce, script editor Christopher H. Bidmead and visual special effects designer Mat Irvine. With so many talking you would have thought things would have over-balanced somewhat, although that only happened once and it’s a bit hard to work out who was overall in charge although they all deferred to Lalla Ward. There was a lot of talk about the special effects with Mat Irvine explaining how Quanta theory worked and how the technicians until recent times re-built equipment to BBC standard. Paul Joyce gave insight in that there was no director training other than on the job. Although there was much debate about Tom Baker attacking the scripts, I was surprised that Christopher Bidmead doesn’t explain why Steve Gallagher’s script was massively re-written.

The extras are quite massive this time. Not only alternative versions of scenes, which are hard to tell the difference from the final version, and the usual photos, some showing the green background. It did dawn on me this time why the Doctor’s costume was changed to burgundy, more to do with having no colour conflicts with either Chroma-key or Quanta effects.

‘The Dreaming’ explains why Steve Gallagher’s script had to be re-written. As he himself explains, it was written like a novel than like a screenplay. Reminds me a lot of how Alan Moore wrote his ‘Watchmen’ scripts putting everything and the kitchen sink and letting his artists take out what they wanted. In Gallagher’s case, this was script editor Christopher Bidmead with the occasion comment from director Paul Royce who proved himself dispensable on the set after getting fired and then re-hired because only he knew how it should be filmed (sic). There’s more here than that and even the cast confess they didn’t know what they were really doing.

‘The Boy With The Golden Star’ has actor Matthew Waterhouse go over his time on the show as Adric. What was more interesting was ‘Lalla’s Wardrobe’ and an examination of all the costumes she wore as Romana. It was great seeing the actual designs for her clothes and some publisher really ought to get permission and show the designs for all of the companions. It’s been done for the aliens and I’m sure this would also sell well.

Don’t think I’m having a particular downer about ‘Warriors’ Gate’, it’s still one of the most oddest stories and a shame that its ideas were never used again. I almost got the impression that the Tharils were an older species than the Time Lords. Now there’s a thought.

GF Willmetts

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