Full Circle
Target novelisation
Doctor Who - Full Circle

Author Andrew Smith Cover image
Published 1982
ISBN 0 426 20150 7
First Edition Cover Andrew Skilleter

Back cover blurb: Romana has been recalled to Gallifrey by the Time Lords - a summons that cannot be ignored, despite her extreme reluctance to give up the freedom and excitement life as the Doctor's companion has brought. The time travellers' course is set, the flight path is clear, estimated time of arrival on Gallifrey is in thirty-two minutes - then the unexpected happens... The full significance of their temporary loss of control over the TARDIS is only gradually brought home to the Doctor. For it is not on Gallifrey that they land but on the terror planet Alzarius, and at a time when the legendary Mistfall comes again - when the giant scaly creatures that inhabit the planet's swamps leave the marshes and go on the rampage, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake...


The E-Space Trilogy Begins... by Andrew Feryok 25/7/07

"Tell Dexeter... We've come full circle..."
- Decider Draith to Adric as he is being dragged into the marsh by creatures page 31, chapter 2
When I think of this story, this is the one line that sticks out to me the most for capturing this story. It's cryptic and you spend the entire story wondering what in the world he is talking about. In fact, I had seen this story numerous times on television and VHS and still had no real idea as to what he or the title meant by "full circle". I realized it had something to do with evolution but not much else beyond this. Now, having read Andrew Smith's adaptation of his thrilling television adventure, I think I have at last gotten my answer!

I am normally a slow reader, but I managed to breaze through this book in two days. Andrew Smith was a young teenager when he wrote the television story and this book and his prose style is phenomenal. It is simple, but full of description so that you really get the feeling of the story: the atmosphere of the smoggy marshes, the cold monotony of the colony ship, the sense that ancient secrets are waiting to be uncovered, and the sense of danger to everyone including the Doctor! Andrew Smith's descriptions are great and I only wish he had written more novels for the Doctor Who range.

The characters are very well written. Interestingly, Smith makes no references to what the Doctor, Romana, K9, or Adric look like. And yet through their actions and dialogue he gets captures them perfectly to the point where you can easily see them in your mind's eye. The fourth Doctor in particular is fantastically written. Most authors (particularly Terrance Dicks) seem to glaze over his attributes and write him as a generic Doctor with Tom Baker's description. But Smith really gets the "feel" of the character. He captures the balancing act between Tom Baker's sense of verbal and physical humor, and his sharp intellect and moral outrage. This particularly comes to the fore when the Doctor confronts the Deciders both times in the Great Book Hall. The first time he meets them, he spends most of the time cracking jokes and trying to bring them down a peg. But the second time he meets them, his rage is such that we really feel that he is much more in charge than the Deciders and to see them dithering while the Doctor unleashes revelation after revelation in their face and making them face the truth they dare not acknowledge is exciting!

K9 is taken out of the story far too early to really get a sense of his character, but you do get the feeling from both the Doctor and Romana that they have affection for the robot dog and are concerned by his destruction, much as they were in The Stones of Blood. Romana is also well written, capturing her alien aloofness, her mild sense of humor, and high intelligence. Unfortunately, she gets the bad the end of the stick with a rather lame subplot involving ferrying around a bunch of angry teenagers. But when she becomes a marsh person, Smith does some interesting things with the Doctor's interaction with her as he desperately tries to bring her back to normality.

I was surprised by how well Adric comes across. I really should not have been considering Adric was Smith and JNT's creations, but he particularly comes across well in this story. For one thing, Smith is allowed to get inside the minds of both Adric and his brother Varsh, something he was not allowed to do due to the limitations of the actors and the medium. But in the book we really see how close Adric and Varsh are, especially since both their parents are dead and they are the only family they have for one another. This is particularly interesting when Varsh must make decisions to side with his brother or retain his leadership with the Outlers. This is made even more potent for Varsh since Adric is not only an Elite, but an elite of the Elites with his prowess in mathematical excellence. For the Outlers to embrace Adric they would have to embrace everything they hate about the Starliner society! Unfortunately, the other Outlers do not come across well. In fact, they come across worse than in the television show with Tyson being nothing more than a crazed lunatic with no motivations and Kaera being a spoiled and haughty brat.

Now for the Marshmen! Smith really embellishes them in the book and they become a much more brutal threat than they were on the television screen. For one thing, they now have the ability to rapidly adapt to their environment. When they first enter the Starliner, they have clawed feet, but within a few hours they develop smooth feet in order to operate efficiently in the ship! This hyper-adaptivity shows up elsewhere making them a sort of "organic Borg". Even better, it finally leads to the explanation of why the Starliner crew have never been to Terradon. Smith writes a prologue to the book detailing the arrival of the first colonists and this at first seems to contradict the later revelation. That is until the idea of the Marshmen's adaptivity is introduced. It seems that the Starliner crew were actually wiped out by Marshmen, but since they could adapt to the environment so quickly, they evolved rapidly into new versions of the dead Starliner crew, essentially replacing them! Smith also adds a section at the end of the story from the perspective of the Marshmen's leader in which we finally learn their motivations. The Marshmen are fanatical about protecting their natural world and saw the arrival of the technology driven colonists as a blight on the land which could potentially spread. They therefore killed the Starliner crew to prevent them from overrunning the planet. But then a segment of their race evolved into the creatures they tried to destroy and so they have been fighting a war ever since to prevent the spread of these creatures. A truly unique biological and sci-fi situation that is unique to Doctor Who!

Overall, a great story to start the E-Space trilogy which is my very favorite story arc in Doctor Who. It is truly amazing that the E-Space trilogy managed to attract so many good writers and interesting concepts. I think the E-Space trilogy, and in particular this story, best captures what JNT set out to do in making the show more "hardcore sci-fi". Andrew Smith is a wonderful author and his adaptation of his television adventure is one of the best Fourth Doctor stories I have read and I hope that the rest of the books in the trilogy will hold up just as well! 10/10