1. Full Circle
2. State of Decay
3. Warriors' Gate
The E-Space Trilogy
A Story Arc

Story No#s 112-114 Crossing a CVE to E-Space
Season 18
Dates Oct. 25, 1980 -
Jan. 24, 1981

With Tom Baker, Lalla Ward,
Matthew Waterhouse, and John Leeson as the voice of "K9".
Produced by John Nathan-Turner.


A Review by Michael Hickerson 21/11/97

At long last, the E-Space trilogy sees the light of day on video. And to be honest, it's long overdue. (I won't waste words or time with a diatribe on the cost of the boxed set!)

Bridging Two Universes by Mike Morris 14/7/00

Season 18 could be said to bridge two eras of Doctor Who, without really being a part of either of them. But, when you actually look at Season 18 in detail, this isn't wholely true. The Leisure Hive and Meglos are, fundamentally, pretty similar to Season 17 (marvellously silly monsters and simple plotting), whereas The Keeper of Traken and Logopolis are essentially concerned with getting the dynamics of the Doctor's regeneration in motion and assembling the Davison-era companions. As such, they're strongly linked to the era of the Fifth Doctor.

Between them is that entity known commercially as the E-Space trilogy. The guts, the balls of Season 18. It wasn't billed as a trilogy at the time, and the plots work independently of each other, but never have three stories been so closely linked, The Trial of a Time Lord excepted (and that's only one story, anyway).

At the start of the trilogy, we're pretty much where we were at the end of the Williams era. We have the dream-team of the Doctor, Romana and K9 wandering around and doing whatever the hell they like, having fun, saving planets (mostly) and defeating any rulers who don't read The Guardian (or at least The Observer). At the end we have a brooding, taciturn Doctor and a young space kid for company, both of whom aren't long for this world.

What can cause such a momentous changeover? Another universe, that's what. It's as if the conundrum of being trapped in E-space is the Doctor's last hurrah. Essentially he's doing the same thing as always, defeating the bad guys but blithering on about negative co-ordinates as he does so. And yet, things aren't quite the same. In Full Circle the Doctor doesn't know where he is, and spends most of the story trying to figure that out. Rather than single-handedly saving the day, he guesses the evolutionary loop of the planet and shows the Alzarians how to fly their spaceship; hardly his greatest ever feat. In State of Decay he's more cautious, sneaking around the planet for an episode or so before working out that he's really in familiar territory. By the time of Warrior's Gate he's floundering in a universe he simply doesn't understand, and can only get out by relaxing and going with the flow. Romana grows up and strikes out on her own, and what's more she takes K-9 with her. This time the Doctor doesn't bother building a new one.

The stories themselves fall into the category of Very Good Indeed. Full Circle's reliance on plot twists mean it loses its value the more you watch it (which is hardly a heinous crime), but there's enough happening to sustain interest. State of Decay, meanwhile, is very much an old-school story, with too little plot rather than too much. What carries it through is its melodramatic direction and the Baker-Ward interplay -- only Tom and Lalla can make a locked-in-a-cell scene that entertaining (The door! The door hit the Doctor! Don't you see, it hit the Doctor! It works on so many levels!!!). Then there's Warriors' Gate, which is so phenomenally complicated that it should never have been commissioned. But now that the series is dead, we can look back and see it for what it is; brilliant, experimental TV drama with astonishing visuals.

Unifying the three, besides the obvious E-Space plot, are similarities in plot and strong character arcs. All three stories have similar themes - slavery, stagnation and the Doctor as a catalyst for rebellion. In the first two the Doctor causes change, and at the end is still trapped. In Warriors' Gate he "does nothing", and finally escapes.

Then there's the characters. The Doctor's plight I've already mentioned. In addition we see Romana becoming more and more independent of the Doctor, and finally departing. Her leaving scene is wonderful. If you only watch Warriors' Gate Part 4 it seems too brief and rushed, but within the context of the trilogy as a whole it makes perfect sense. It's happy, and fond, and the final shot of Warriors' Gate is just wonderful.

In the midst of all this we have a new companion to deal with. As if to compensate for the change in the Doctor's disposition, and Romana's slow maturing as a fully-fledged Doctor Mk II, no risks are taken with Adric. He's instantly dislikeable, blessed with incredible intelligence and a large appetite. Just in case this concept isn't quite enough to make him hate-figure extraordinaire, Matthew Waterhouse makes sure that Adric delivers every line in an overstated, horribly earnest way that makes me think of the conclusion of Earthshock with a happy grin. In Full Circle the Outlers bully him mercilessly. I don't blame them. As time goes by, Adric evolves seamlessly from irritating kid to irritating companion, and establishes himself as my least favourite regular bar none.

Meanwhile, K-9 spends most of the time broken, malfunctioning or locked in the TARDIS, a victim of the wrath of Christopher H. Bidmead, who couldn't stand the "magic wand" aspect he brought to the show. You know, I've always been terribly fond of magic wands. Oh well. If the trilogy has a flaw, then the omission of K-9 is it.

So, IMO, these are the aspects that make the trilogy work as a trilogy. The stories themselves are fine in their own right, but if you take the time to watch them in order they become far more rewarding. Yeah, the first two aren't great - good, but not great - in themselves, but the links work so well that the payoff in Warriors' Gate is well worth waiting for. And, looking at things on a more Who-ish level, there's other benefits. Great cliffhangers, great monsters, more jokes than Season 18 is usually given credit for, and a nice back-to-basics feel; the Doctor, once more, is a traveller lost in a universe of wonders, desperately trying to get home.

I'm not going to claim that the stories are perfect. But the trilogy, and the way it works, is pretty damn close. Odd that all of the interlinked story arcs during the JNT-era got less and less successful after this, which suggests to me that Chris Bidmead must have been the main influence.

This trilogy, of course, leads nicely into another. And, although twenty-four episodes continuously is rather Too Much Of A Good Thing, I think everyone should watch Full Circle through to Castrovalva at least once. Honest. It may take you a month, but it's worth it.