THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The E-Space Trilogy
Goth Opera
Vampire Science
BBC
State of Decay
The E-Space Trilogy Part Two

Episodes 4 O-positive, anyone?
Story No# 113
Production Code 5P
Season 18
Dates Nov. 22, 1980 -
Dec. 13, 1980

With Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, Matthew Waterhouse,
and John Leeson as the voice of "K9".
Written by Terrance Dicks. Script-edited by Christopher H. Bidmead.
Directed by Peter Moffatt. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.
Executive Producer: Barry Letts.

Synopsis: The Doctor, Romana, and Adric land on a planet where the rulers hold strange powers over their subjects, and are the key to the mystery of "the wasting".


Reviews

A Story to Sink Your Teeth Into.... by Emily Moniz 18/7/97

I watched State of Decay for the first time a few weeks ago, and I was rather impressed overall. This was my first episode with Tom Baker, Romana and K9, and I liked what I saw.

The plot is simple: the backwards vilagers defeat the vampires with the help of the Doctor with a twist. The twist is that the vampires are from Earth originally, they are protecting the Great Vampire, and they want Adric. (And that's quite a twist.) Of course, having seen all of Adric's episodes with Davison, I knew that he came out still alive. Adric is plain annoying with Romana: "One of my family's died for your lot already, and I reckon that's enough. Sorry, Time Lady". By that point, I was praying thay would kill him and have done with it.

I was impressed with Tom Baker's performance, and I loved his speech to rally the villagers by loosely quoting Shakespeare. And Romana was absolutely the perfect companion for that incarnation of the Doctor. She was intellegent enough to know what was going on, and to try and do something about it. K9 was just plain enjoyable, and I liked him very much.

Altogther, I thought State of Decay was a great episode to watch on a summer afternoon, and I recommend it highly.


No, not Dracula, please! by Andrew Wixon 23/11/00

The recent 'rad' vs 'trad' debate really passed me by, but I couldn't help but notice the way that dear old Terrance Dicks, by common assent, was adopted by all concerned as a touchstone of 'trad'-ness. Personally I remain convinced his strengths are as a script-editor rather than a writer, but he's got his name on an awful lot of TV scripts, and most of them are pretty good. Given that the main bone of contention was basically whether or not 'trad' was bad, how can this be?

Looking at State of Decay again now, one is struck by the realisation that this is just about as 'trad' as Doctor Who gets. Oppressive tyrants. Downtrodden and rather hairy rebels. Some wibbly special effects, and a surprising amount of horror for a Saturday teatime show. All in all, rather less stimulating than Horror of Fang Rock, the story written to replace this one when it was put into turnaround in 1977. There's nothing much particularly wrong with or unusually bad about the story, it's just not in the First Rank somehow.

Perhaps the key to why it seems a bit disappointing lies in its' protracted genesis. It was commissioned as the first story of Season Fifteen, presumably while Hinchcliffe and Holmes were still at the wheel; hence the pastiche of vampire legends in particular and Hammer's 1960s and 70s film series in particular. There was presumably some rewriting after Hinchcliffe's departure to reduce the Gothic quotient, and then the script spent three years on the shelf before being reactivated by an incoming production team desperate for material. And so we end up with a Gothic Hammer horror pastiche script, with added jokes, produced by a production team intent on avoiding raids on literature and upping the hard SF content. Brothers and sisters, if one story exemplifies the Tom Baker era in its entirety, this is it.

All the usual Bidmead/Season 18 motifs occur here. The Doctor and Romana frequently refer to themselves as scientists. Much jargonese appears (what exactly is a sociopathetic abcess, anyway?). The visiting cast, almost without exception, resolutely play the archest dialogue absolutely straight. If anything, this is the story's major flaw. Rather than full-bloodedly (sorry) following the scripts' natural inclination towards ever-so-slightly camp melodrama (very late Hammer, that), this is treated as straight drama. Production and script are pulling in different directions, and neither benefit.

And so potentially witty dialogue falls flat on its face, and scenes that could have been amusingly arch and entertainingly hammy just come across as drab and cliched. It's rather like watching a bunch of farmers perform Gold-diggers of 1937 down the local village hall; you can tell there's quite a promising script but it's been poleaxed by lumpenly indelicate acting and production.

All is not lost. Emrys James rises above the lines he's given to turn in a mesmerising performance as possibly the season's best villain. The direction is occasionally surprisingly imaginative, the obvious example being the slow mix through from Aukon to the slo-mo bat in the first episode. The score is as professional as any in the season, if not quite loud enough to drown out the clang of dialogue being badly performed. And, of course, Tom and Lalla seem charmingly besotted with one another. Aaaaahhhh... (Adric, on the other hand, might as well walk around with a placard saying 'I wasn't in the original script and have been added at the last minute'.)

But let's face it, this script would have been much better realised a couple of seasons earlier. As it is, the cry of 'No, not Dracula, please!' comes from the production team as well of the Doctor. Their lack of enthusiasm is palpable, and that's a shame. The lesson here is surely to capitalise on each scripts' own merits rather than imposing your own agenda on them. So in the end, this isn't Terrance Dicks' finest TV hour-and-a-half by any means. But don't blame the script for that.


The Girlfriend Experiment Pt 2 by Cainim Truax 19/3/01

Having survived Full Circle's Scientific inadequacies with my Newbie, (to Doctor Who that is) girlfriend Larissa, I figured it was smooth sailing into the next bit of Adventure, State of Decay. I mean, it was a simple Vampire horror story, right? No science at all to worry about.

Well, I was sort of right. Larissa as always loved Tom Baker, she says that even if the plot is weak Tom is always entertaining. It's fun to re-live the magic of Doctor #4 through a new fan's eyes. She thought the mood suited the story well and once again that Adric wasn't as annoying as his reputation (We'll see what she thinks a little further down the line).

That's where the magic of the story ended for Larissa. I was informed afterward that she has always found (as do I) the idea of vampires to be silly. So the story had to fight an uphill battle from the beginning. The conclusion bothered her in that she found the accuracy of the Doctor's Rocket shot to be unbelievable. Those seemed to be legitimate complaints.

Then it was revealed what monster was released by our previous viewing of Full Circle.

The cool, if poorly executed concepts in Full Circle have made Larissa look to Who for cool new concepts rather than a fun adventure. The only new concept she found in State of Decay was REALLY LARGE VAMPIRES. That apparently was not enough.

This bodes well for our next adventure, Warrior's Gate, but what lies ahead? Will the magic of some of my other favorites be lost on her? Time and the tapes will tell.

I, personally, have always loved State of Decay. It's got campy villains, the best Doctor, silly natives. and the overthrow of a terrible evil. What puts it over the top for me is that it's one of the few episodes that I actually can remember watching as a child in the mid-eighties. So since there must be some reason I remember it, I give it...

7 Doctors(Out of 8)

Larissa's Score
4.5 Doctors (Out of 8)

By the way, If anyone has experiences introducing the Doctor, to their friends or family. I'd like to hear them (both positive and negative). Thanks


The good old days by Mike Jenkins 31/10/01

I am thankful that John Nathan Turner let us have one last harrah with adventure, intrigue and fun. And unlike later adventure stories such as Earthshock and Arc of Infinity, the acting is good, it doesn't relly on Glossy images, and there is also philosophy and a deep plot.

The scenes between Tom and Lalla are so riveting they could make you laugh, cry or even arouse you (I don't care what anyone says, she's bloody well prettier than Mary Tamm). Although the vampires are acted well, it is their voices which are the true highlight. When Zargo says "We will drink your blood slowly" it makes you want to get down and thank the all mighty for such a masterpiece. Terrance Dicks makes Robert Holmes look like a children's writer, and unlike Holmes, Dicks was able to keep his edge. The villagers are a little cliched but acted very well, particularly the elder. It proves that in the Eighties, Doctor Who would be in anything but a State of Decay.


Forgotten? by Mark Irvin 6/11/01

State of Decay is one of those stories that never seems to receive a great deal of attention from fans. And to be honest - I'm not exactly sure as to why. Perhaps it's a victim of the high standard that was achieved during Baker's run. I think that many of his serials a criminally underrated, due to level of consistency that was produced in Doctor Who during this era. This consistency makes many of these stories easy to forget. They transpire from a period when excellence was expected as normality. Dare I say it, for example - if State of Decay was made during Davison or McCoy's runs, it might even have been hailed as a classic. I think I may have found myself slightly guilty in this regard - ranking stories in relation to the standard that surrounds them.

Possibly my favourite aspect of this story - is the deeply serious angle that is achieved by the Fourth Doctor here. This tone was often missing from his earlier seasons with the substitution of humour. This was definitely not a bad thing, just a different approach and incidentally small pieces of humour are still evident here. You tend to share the immense feeling of isolation that confronts the Doctor and his dilemma on this occasion. This time there's no question of receiving any outside help. He is the only one who can save the Universe from the Vampires and it's his responsibility. "If any Timelord should find the Great Vampire, they should do everything within their power to stop him....... even if it means surrendering his own life."

In addition, the theme concerning the Lords subduing resistance by banning knowledge and technology was a good one, if a little unoriginal. I can relate to criticisms aimed at the convenience of the Doctors "rocket shot" but actually I rather liked the idea, albeit poorly realised on screen.

As performances go, the Vampire Lords are well acted and convincing with Aukon leading from the front. At times they go a bit "over the top" but only slightly. Even the fan's perennial "whipping boy" Adric wasn't that bad. (Gee! give the poor guy a break!) Tom Baker and Lalla Ward continued their brilliant partnership here, displaying a wonderful chemistry, illustrated in this short exchange.

Romana - "The information was stored in certain Tardises.....Type 40's"
Doctor - "Psssst.............The Tardis is a Type 40"
Romana (innocently) - "Oh Really"
Doctor - "Psssst...........Do you know that you are wonderful"
Romana (with a smile) - "Well I suppose I am"
To to be truthful - you have to really see this scene to appreciate it's beauty. I also enjoyed the part where the Doctor rallies the resistance "All rise in the name of E-SPACE" - brilliant stuff.

Even the music is worth a mention and was well suited to the proceedings.

State of Decay is a high quality serial, which I always enjoy immensely but probably just misses out from the "classic ranking". The whole thing contains a sensational atmosphere and ties in well with the E-space plot structure. Against my better judgement I might give this on a rough rating. How about an 8 out of 10?


A Review by William Berridge 1/11/02

Good Dr Who tends to work in one of two ways. One approach baffles the viewer with a complex and occasionally inexplicable plot, the scientific contents of which have varying degrees of plausibility. This approach is the less common, but tends to produce the most 'classics' (in my humble opinion): Ghost Light, Kinda, Warrior's Gate, and others. The other, more frequently used technique, is to create a straightforward adventure romp, which is to a greater or lesser extent ripped of from some classic storytelling source: Arthurian legends, Frankenstein and Sherlock Holmes, to name but few, have all found their way into our beloved series, rather clumsily disguised by the laser guns, robots and green blobs which provide the sci-fi element. Just a brief glance at State of Decay's synopsis tells us which category it falls into.

It's easy to see how this might disappoint some fans who had seen the former approach being made more prevalent by Bidmead in season 18, and would have hoped the second instalment of the Tardis' trip to an alternative universe would be something a little more original that what State of Decay is, a vampire story of the first order. In fact, State of Decay could easily not have been part of the E-Space trilogy at all, being as it is rather artificially worked in via the idea of the Great Vampire vanishing through the CVE.

Nevertheless, I find State of Decay makes a refreshing change from the... less straightforward approach adopted during season 18 (not that I don't appreciate the show's change in direction, I just think one of the series' strengths has been the complete diversity of each story from the one preceding it). Seeing as Dicks decided he was going to write a vampire story, it would be amiss to leave out the vampire bats, terrified villagers, and stakes through the heart, but fortunately he does not allow the story to be completely derivative. The one exception is the terribly cliched 'Oh! You've hurt yourself... let me sssssee...' line Camilla gets to deliver when Romana conveniently cuts herself. There's really no excuse.

Given the obvious limitations of the story, it would require a great deal of good plotting (within its limits), good production values, and well written and acted characters to make it come anywhere near to 'classic' status. Fortunately, it gets these for the most part, ensuring a special place in my own heart as one of the two stories I still think twice about watching late at night. (Curse of Fenric is the other - spot the obvious connection). The eerie music is a contributory factor to this, and thankfully so is the decision to allow the humour to compliment the plot, rather than vice versa. Little touches like Romana's treading on the Doctor's toe only bring brief relief to the tension in the exploration of the tower/ spaceship. For every piece of light acting by Baker, there's a genuinely scare bit, such as when the Doctor discovers the fuel tanks are full of human blood. This comes second only to the haemovores rising out of the sea in my list of all-time scary scenes.

The vampire's actors also do well, making up for the story's limited budget which could only provide them with some fake fangs and silly face paint (and a silly beard, in Zargo's case.) The way they deliver their lines stays (just) the right side of ham- I love the cold way Zargo states 'we will drain the blood from your bodies slowly', and Aukon's evil callousness is seen when he tells Hebris 'Then die... that is the purpose of guards.' The characterisation is further enhanced by the rivalry between Aukon, the servant of the Great one, and the jealous other two - it's a pity this enmity was rather forgotten as the story climaxed. Unsurprisingly, however, most of the villagers and rebels come across as... well, stock villagers and rebels. Ivo's wife deserves a special mention for saying 'besides, resistance would be useless.' The rebels couldn't possibly seem less effective, lead as they are by a dopey old man who keeps banging on about 'needing more time'. Even in the final battle K9 does all the work for them. Ivo and Hebris are slightly more interestingly portrayed, largely due to the subplot about Ivo's son, especially his realisation what the vampires have done with him. He does, however, drop sadly out of character at the end when he decides to apologise for being rude about K9... though 'Well done, dog!' seems to be more of a congratulation than an apology.

The regulars are predictably excellent (Tom Baker puts Kenneth Brannagh's Henry V to shame), with the obvious exception of the much reviled Adric. Why the production team decided to characterise the next member of the Tardis crew as an obnoxious brat is quite beyond me. Telling Ivo's wife 'whatever you say' is his most cringeworthy moment, though informing Romana 'One of my family's died for your lot already. I reckon one's enough.' comes close. Apparently however, this was all part of his ingenious plan to save them both, though quite how he intended to effect this plan is another matter, with three rather nutty vampires and a bunch of guards to face. Unsurprisingly, his valiant attempt at resistance lasts all of 2 seconds. It is a small mercy he spends one and a half episodes entranced.

Ultimately, Dicks succeed in adding a more original 'who-ish' slant to the plot, with a space-ship filling in for the traditional stake. Also, in that scene in the first episode when the 'backwards peasant' Ivo suddenly pulls out a communicator, he subverts the audience's expectations very well.

Also the notion of 'the Wasting' might have added something to the plot, if we ever found out what it actually was. The again, almost all the elements of the next story, the classic (well I think so) Warrior's Gate, were like this (three gateways being one, Time Winds, etc...), so I won't complain.

The effects are reasonably good, for 1980, especially in the three vampires's 'going to pieces'. The effects team did well to realise the audience's imagination could create the great vampire better then they could, and so mercifully a full-size model never appears in the story. The one that appears on Kalmar's scanner, however, looks like something bought from Toys' r' Us for Halloween.

I'm not going to argue this is a classic - the term is so subjective anyway - but this story is well worth watching at any time, especially after dark.


Bloody good by Tim Roll-Pickering 18/11/02

This story sees the series revisiting the 'Gothic horror' style of the mid 1970s with an extremely dark vampire tale. State of Decay is a welcome return to the series by Terrance Dicks, featuring some strong ideas and execution to tell a strong tale that manages to hide the strong plot similarities to the preceding Full Circle (a spaceship crashing on a planet long ago with a backward society developing around it over generations) and so the tale feels extremely fresh. The writing is competent and the plot logical and the only letdown comes from some poor cliffhangers that don't feel like particular climaxes for the story. This story is the middle part of the 'E-Space trilogy' but could easily have worked by itself as the wider trilogy at the moment feels like little more than an element to enforce random landings on alien planets.

Of the cast the honours have to go to the 'Three Who Rule'. Emrys James (Aukon), Rachel Davies (Camilla) and William Lindsay (Zargo) each bring to their roles a strong sense of authority, whilst at the same time making each distinctive from the other. It would be so easy for them to have played their parts as though they were near-zombies but wisely this has been avoided and instead we the two rulers and the wise man, appropriately straight out of legends. Of the regulars it is absolutely clear in some scenes, most obviously the one where the Doctor and Romana are locked in a cell together, just how close Tom Baker and Lalla Ward were at this stage and the result is an exceptionally close rapport between the Doctor and his companion. Matthew Waterhouse is competent as Adric and manages to break a clich?in the scene where he refuses to risk his life to save Romana, being more concerned with his own. This is a refreshing change from the 'heroic thoughtlessness' of many previous companions and makes Adric more interesting to watch. The rest of the cast have predominantly supporting roles but none of them let the side down.

Productionwise State of Decay is exceptionally competent. Another good score by Paddy Kingsland sets the mood of the story almost perfectly, whilst the locations sequences are handled well. The sets all look good as does much of the modelwork and the only disappointment comes at the end of the story when the Doctor launches the ship and it is clearly CSOed over a background whilst in flight. Otherwise the climax as the ship destroys the Great Vampire, followed by the rapid ageing of the Three Who Rule is spectacular. Ageing is a clear theme emerging in this season, giving a strong sense of foreclosure and it helps to build up expectations for the climax. There's a huge amount of blood in this story which merely adds to the downbeat tone and it never feels artificial at all. All in all this is a very strong tale. 9/10


The fun's about to end... by Joe Ford 2/11/03

I am quite surprised I enjoy this story as much as I do because re-watching recently I have noticed just how much the production is sort cobbled together. Certainly it has the very poor production values for the glossy season eighteen and has the most traditional plot ever seen in the show's history.

However the story manages to overcome these drawbacks and escape any great criticism on the strength of the acting and the enthusiasm of the writer Terrance Dicks.

If you locked Philip Hinchcliffe, Graeme Williams and John Nathan-Turner in a conference room together and asked them to produce a story I should imagine it would turn out very much like State of Decay. The story has several unique flavours that three of the most influential producers of the show adopted during their time. Certainly it is an expression of the gothic horror Hinchcliffe brought to the show being for all intents and purposes a Hammer pastiche (popular with Robert Holmes, top script editor during those wonderful three years) but then it also has a strong comedy flavour favoured by Williams during his fabulous three years of frothy entertainment. State enjoys its sarcastic edge, poking fun at the genre it is mimicking and happy to provide a good backbone to the story where the traditional plot fails. And nestled quite comfortably in JNT's stylish first year as producer it also contains some strong scientific ideas, Chris Bidmead refusing to let the story wallow in melodramatic happenings.

It has possibly the strangest feel of any Doctor Who story, the three influences each taking centre stage sporadically throughout the four episodes but mashing together into something original as a result.

It has pointed out by many people that the show has an almost erotic subtext thanks to the touchy-feely bad guys, the Three Who Rule. Watching it in 2003 there is little that is questionable at all but it certainly highlights the story as one that was willing to be a bit different. Enjoyably, much of the sensual subtext seems to be gay related (up yours Thatcher!) Camilla has an unusual taste for Romana's blood, rushing to tend her hand when she is cut and staring at her with lust in her eyes during their initial scene together. Her "there are compensations" whilst gazing at the aristocratic Time Lady still sends shivers down my spine. Plus Aukon's interest in Adric (oh yuck) is a fine indication of his feelings, I have never heard a man whisper "come" in another's ear quite so erotically before. The ultimate demonstration of just how sensual they are comes in episode four where Aukon holds the Doctor and Romana's hands together whilst Camilla and Zargo touch their shoulders. An extremely revealing moment.

The Three are the stars of the show but not because of their perverted villainy. The performances are near perfect with Rachel Davies taking the honours as the most effective vampire. She has the ability of sending shivers down your spine just with the power of her voice ("Countless inhabited worlds all waiting to feed our hunger!" she seethes) and plays the part with grand, operatic gestures that give her character a dangerous, quietly menacing feel. Emery James chews the scenery fabulously; Aukon is a superb lead baddie using his dialogue to enhance the theatrical nature of his character. I love his scene stealing exclamation "You will drink the blood of TIME LORDS!" Very funny and quite scary too. Impressive. He flits between the jokes and the horror with ease, no wonder Lalla Ward enjoyed working with him so much. William Lindsay doesn't get as many chances to light up the screen being the most subdued of the Three but his quiet "Why am I still afraid?" says everything about his thoughtful character.

We are mere seconds away from Tom and Lalla grabbing each other on set and getting it on! Another delight of this story is the terrific amount of flirting going on by the two leads. It is the last story that they spend any substantial time together and they make the most of it, every scene they share punctuated by a playful attitude that would be sorely missed in the next three years. Episode three comes as close as they dared, sharing a cell, swapping stories and complimenting each other with coy gazes. Have the Doctor and his companion ever been this close? Not even his moments with Susan can touch the warmth expressed between these two and it is wonderful to watch. You get very involved in their relationship and as a result the next story is a real heart breaker (especially when you think who the Doctor will be stuck with).

Ahhh yes Adric, Matthew Waterhouse's debut acting case (although not his first story I might point out before obsessed fans jump down my neck!) on the show. Well he is as spectacularly awful as ever, so bad it is a joy to watch him try. Too complicated a character? Sure thing Matthew, that is a VERY convincing excuse to why you're so crap in the part. Why then can't you even manage a short walk between the console room and the door in your first scene in this story convincingly? The robot dog upstages you in every way! At least he is funny/charismatic/functional... you're just annoying. The production seems aware of the fact and hides him away most of the time and just watch the punch the air scene where Romana suggests they have to rescue the irritating twerp. "Adric!" the Doctor spits out with utter disgust as though the very idea is repulsive. Hehehehe. "I'm sorry Time Lady but one of my family's died for your lot already... I'd say one's enough" Kill the brat! Kill the brat!

When the story remembers its horror roots it manages to pull off some highly atmospheric moments. The chase by the bats through the dark woods is well done (even if the cliff-hanger is a bit useless) and the sequence at the end of episode three where Romana creeps into the cobwebby bed chamber of Zargo and Camilla to rescue the bowler haircut kid is shot for shot perfect. The aggressive rock music, Tarak being thrown across the room, Camilla advancing on Adric, Zargo pulling the knife from his chest and waving it into Romana's face... a big thumbs up from the horror fan in Joe. The last episode rips off every hammer film spectacularly, the SF credentials out the window in favour of entertaining melodrama. Romana about to be sacrificed, Vampires baring their fangs excited at the feast, a terrifying creature about to rise from a long sleep, the massacre of innocent guards... isn't it all gloriously cliched? And done with such childish panache you can't help but get drawn in. The story doesn't really want to scare you but give you a good time and by its climax I was satisfied, greedily so.

My qualms about the production extend only to the special effects, which are extremely disappointing. Doctor Who is infamous for its quaint FX but State of Decay has no real excuse, The Leisure Hive and Full Circle before it both had sumptuous production values. It would appear the money has run out and we're forced to laugh at the pathetic shots of the tower, so obviously a model and how Terrance must have been disappointed when they sabotaged his grand finish involving a scout ship and a Great Vampires heart! Sky ray lolly anyone? Even more subtle effects such as the rock Romana throws at Aukon are sadly inefficient.

The look of the story however is quite appealing. Each set has a jumbled, falling to pieces feel to it that suits the season theme of entropy. The Hydrax is a mixture of grand colourful rooms and cold, metallic access panels... clearly in need of a paint job. The rebel's base with its scientific instruments strewn about is exceedingly dated but suits the story perfectly. Even the TARDIS is looking a bit shabby these days, the queasy console groaning as the column rises and falls. The feeling of lost hope the story suggests is complemented by the design. Good work.

Isn't the music a joy? Why hasn't this score been released on CD like the others in season 18? Paddy Kingsland is making a statement; he refuses to let the show drag you into its horrific material and instead opts for a shocking rock score, filling later episodes with some real pulse racing stuff. The 80's have arrived folks and let's be LOUD and PROUD about it! The music at the climax is extremely exciting. Compare this to Dudley Simpson's cod horror score for The Brain of Morbius (good though it was!) and see how things have changed in the new decade.

I really like State of Decay even if it does stick out like a sore thumb surrounded by all the hard SF tales around it. It doesn't want to impress you with scientific mumbo jumbo but simply tell an effective story. It succeeds, a final stab at experiencing the fun of the universe before all the serious stuff starts.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 25/2/04

Generally speaking there are two types of vampire stories, and State Of Decay being written by Terrance Dicks (not known for pushing the boundaries storywise) mixes both traditional and futuristic elements. The result is an enjoyable tale blessed with an atmosphere of oppression.For starters, we have a new take on Gallifreyan lore and their war with the vampires; not only does this add to Time Lord mythology it also makes for entertaining viewing thanks to the characterisation of the three villains (notably Zargo and Camilla`s resentment of Aukon`s greater power.)

Production values are generally high,the tower looks gothic and authentic, whilst the village looks spartan. Only the shots of the tower taking off and the occasional rubber bat mar the show in any way. The regulars are great, Tom Baker is particularly grim,without being dark,and Lalla Ward portrays terror effectively. For once K-9 is used effectively rather than being simply abused too, despite the fact that he largely remains in the TARDIS. Adric enters his annoying phase here, his attitude towards the villagers and Matthew Waterhouse`s acting in general being a case in point.This aside State Of Decay remains a refreshing take on vampires in the Doctor Who universe.


The Great One Rises by Jonathan Middleton 19/8/06

State of Decay is argue ably the most traditional stories of season 18 (not counting Meglos which is just unoriginal and cliched). What I mean is this story could have been made in season 13 with the Doctor and Sarah, thanks to a clever and original script from Dicks (although it my have been re-worked by Bidmead). Blessed with excellent direction from Peter Moffat, State of Decay is truly an underrated classic which, if it had been aired in the Davison era, would have been considered a classic by fandom.

Baker puts in a marvellous performance as the Doctor. By now all memories of "My arms my everything" are now banished and the humour which had been one of the major problems of season 17 is now played at a reasonable level and is actually funny. I laughed my head off at the "you trod on my toe" bit and there is one wonderful scene where he is reading about how the vampires were destroyed and he discovered how the great vampire survived the look on his face says it all: "Oh dear god", continuing his season 18 renaissance. Lalla Ward gives a good performance and unlike in season 17 is not an unbearably smug snob but a funny and nice person who has a superb chemistry with Baker. As well as that, there are good scenes which demonstrate their chemistry and that she is a good actress (namely because she was shagging him at the time). I can see why people despise Adric and Waterhouse so much. To be fair to Waterhouse this was his first story he recorded and isn't his worst performance ever but of his stories with Tom Baker this is his worst. The fact is, he's an annoying brat who betrays the Doctor and Romana. Whether he was doing this as a bluff or out of a desire for power is unclear; however Waterhouse really is terrible. A pity, because in other stories of this season he was a competent actor and Adric was even likeable.

Emrys James is mesmerising as Aukon. He manages to convey how good an actor he is, managing to make Aukon truly dangerous. Unlike Zargo and Camilla he's the power behind the throne who dominates the screen with his performance oozing menace. William Lindsay is also good as Zargo, showing how ruthless he is, yet also he may not want to be part of it as when he says "Why am I still afraid?" and "A ship of state must have a pilot." Rachel Davies oozes menace as Camilla, a voracious animalistic woman with a lesbian undertone; when she wants to hold Romana's hand it's not out of concern. Clinton Greyn does a good job as Ivo showing him as a gruff but sympathetic figure, as someone who hates serving the lords but has no choice and is pushed over when his son's killed. Iain Rattray is reasonable as Habris showing a clear loyalty to the lords but yet a sort of friendship with Ivo. Arthur Hewlett is good as Kalmar, a man obsessed with science. It's because every time I've seen him he seems to be playing very old men. Thane Bettany is all right as the impatient Tarak who is desperate to overthrow the lords but the role isn't that important really. Rhoda Lewis is again all right as Marta conveying the weariness of some people in the village.

Peter Moffat in my opinion is an underrated director who deserved more praise than he got for his work. His work on State is superb: the bat superimposed on Aukon's face, the revelation of the room where people get drained of their blood, the opening shot the rocket taking off, the cliffhanger to parts one and two, the three who rule's deaths and the waking of Camilla and Zargo.

Paddy Kingsland's score is his best score for the programme. I cannot believe Clayton Hickman called this "Cheesy Synth Music". CHEESY SYNTH MUSIC? This is a haunting, moody, atmospheric which perfectly captures the gothic feel of the story. One moment which is just wonderful is when Zargo and Camilla enter the inner sanctum the music is just perfect and captures the feel of the story.

Christine Rusco's excellent design work for this story is truly magnificent, capturing the period gothic appeal of the story and the Hammer feel which is truly excellent and with the inner sanctum and the throne room being particular standouts.

Now then a scene that is often criticized is the scene where Zargo and Camilla use a key card to enter the inner sanctum yet they forbid technology. It's perfectly normal for dictatorial regimes to be blatant hypocrites and they probably forbid it to prevent opposition from springing up.

So a good story which is truly underrated by fandom and deserves more praise than it gets from some quarters. So despite one or two flaws it's a good story.

8/10


A Review by Tom Marshall 3/5/10

Of the three stories which comprise the E-Space Trilogy, State of Decay is certainly the most 'normal'. That isn't to say this is as bog-standard, formulaic a Who story as you are going to find: not at all. That would be Robot. However, it does follow set patterns, which we might expect from a standalone story: it borrows heavily from SF and horror films, it has a sense of mystery leading up to a climax, and it mashes well the horror, humour and science-fiction of Tom Baker's tenure as the Doctor.

If you think of each story as having four areas, State of Decay scores very well in three. It gets top marks in conception, production/direction and acting; where it chiefly fails is in execution (and by that I mean Dicks' plot). Even here it would probably get four out of five, but there are just a few too many flaws in the narrative to go unnoticed.

For example, although the scenes in the TARDIS are by their nature pretty wonderful, the scriptwriter comes across as a little at a loss for what to do if halfway through Part Three the lead character returns to the TARDIS for a bit. Continuous toing-and-froing to the laboratory run by the peasants also gets a little tedious after a while, whilst K9 does far too little (that, I suppose, could be misconstrued as a blessing depending on your outlook on robot dogs; I guess he might ruin the overall 'tone' of the story). Adric, meanwhile, reasonably promising in Full Circle, has very obviously been shoehorned into the script at a late stage and seems very out of character with his other appearances in later stories. Some of the early scenes in the village drag a little too.

However, that's fortunately all that is wrong with State of Decay and for the most part one cannot fail to be entertained by the end of Part Four. It boasts a lavish production; perhaps not as visually stunning as Full Circle but that was exceptionally cinematic and if this four-parter did not sit next door to it then I feel sure it would be held in higher esteem. The acting is for the most part high, particularly from the regulars and the villains (with only one exception and I'll try not to mention him in this review because he gets slated too much as it is). The concept is also fantastic; looking back it's hard to believe it took the show a full 18 years to do a vampire story!

Coming after the greens and mossy browns of Full Circle, the chilling forests and swirling greys and browns on display here are an excellent visual contrast. The opening forest shots after the the Doctor and Romana leave the TARDIS are slightly too similar to Alzarius, but that's a minor niggle and some of the dusk filming is particularly evocative. The world of the peasants is reasonably well created (if a tad cliched; as the Doctor himself says, the tower and village is a very typical medieval scene) and their clothing is also in keeping with their technology.

The Tower itself, quite a central part of the narrative in some ways, is served well. It might be a blatant model, but any classic story with an exciting set-piece or a stunning alien vista is going to be done using a model, so get over it! The shots of the Tower are quite exciting and foreboding, particularly the one at night in Part Four - and having it actually a spaceship rather than a gothic tower is typical of the sci-fi ideals Bidmead and Nathan-Turner were ushering in with the new decade. Inside the tower itself, the guards are also a reasonable part of the script and their garb feels typical of the medieval society the story is set in; they could've walked straight out of The Ribos Operation. The design within is moodily lit and impressive in a small-budget, claustrophobic way, directed imaginatively by Peter Moffatt (always was an underrated director).

In fact, continuing the directing theme, some of the direction here is incredible. Perhaps not quite enough to match the sheer classiness of Full Circle but parts are simply perfect and others are very, very imaginative. I absolutely adore the slow-motion fade from Aukon's sinister face to a flapping bat in Part One: helped all the more by Emrys James' silky delivery of the dialogue "My servants will find them..." Part One's cliffhanger is badly scripted although Moffatt makes of it what he can, whilst Part Two is much better, a really tight moment and with a wonderful final shot of Aukon's eyes. The other two things I would have mention from the director would be every time Zargo and Camilla go a bit wilder and more bestial (including the tremendous Part Three cliffhanger) and their graphic age-to-death scene which was much better done than I'd expected (later blatantly copied by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, I reckon). And Paddy Kingsland's rocked-up score is also marvellous.

Matthew Waterhouse as Adric (damn I said I wouldn't mention him) fares badly in his acting debut, and it's obvious he was a late addition to the script. He has very little to do and, incredibly, the Doctor and Romana don't realise that he's even in the story until Part Three: he's definitely the weakest part of the characterisation. The peasants aren't all that bad, if a tad cliched like most parts of the story, but it's with the two leads and the villains that the acting becomes almost electric.

Tom Baker and Lalla Ward have quite stunning chemistry. I enjoyed their romping about in City of Death, but this is almost in a different league. Every moment is just how the Doctor's relationship to the companion should be: friendly, familiar, a tad flirty but not too much. Their "You're wonderful" scene in prison is just marvellous, and their almost double-act moments ("Inspection hatch!") had me in stitches. Some of the comedy, in fact, could've been taken right out of City of Death and the much-maligned previous season; it's very much that sort of humour. But the more serious presence of Tom Baker in his final year is ever-present: his sombre, sonorous voice perfectly lends itself to lines such as "It isn't rocket fuel, it's blood..." and the three speeches, one about vampire legends on almost every planet, one the ancient and poetic words of the Record of Rassilon, and the last arousing the peasants with a Henry V quote.

Three particular actors all give stunning turns as Aukon, Zargo and Camilla, the Three Who Rule: among the greatest 'human', if human these can be called, villains the show has ever seen. Both Zargo and Camilla - which makes sense as they're king and queen - are played with a sense of royalty and dignity, and yet sheer unadulterated bestiality when they are hungry for blood. Aukon, however, is the one who is really in control: you can tell that just by looking at him. He is more steeped in mythology, softer spoken, less straightforward a villain. And yet when the script calls for it Emrys James hams it up to the charming max: the best line being "You die. That's the purpose of guards." Marvellous!

Some fans might feel a little let down by the climax, but the shot of the hand emerging from its resting place (the hand! It's huge!) is quite a definitive one of the vampiric nature of the story, and while the FX is bad, it's Doctor Who, and this is only a slight sour taste in the mouth after the marvellous gateau we have just sampled. In conclusion, then, State of Decay is a charming example of Tom Baker on fine even in his final year, and it perfectly encapsulates the gothic horror, charming humour and tough science fiction of the three eras of his Doctor.

And that other genius, Toby Whithouse, is giving us vampires this year too. Can't wait...


A Review by Matthew Clarke 17/7/11

Disconcertingly, after the attempt to break into 'hard science' territory with Full Circle, we are back in Hammer Horror territory with a story about old-fashioned fanged vampires. This story seems like it is in the wrong season and ought to be a Hinchcliffe-era story. (Terrance Dicks originally wrote it to open Season 15, but it got shelved until it was picked up again by the economically-minded John Nathan Turner.) What sets it apart from all those Hinchlife Hammer re-workings is its magnificent production values which put the Seventies' stories to shame.

I find it remarkable that fans, in general, do not consider this story to be a classic. The usual verdict tends to be that State of Decay is a good story, but not that interesting. In my opinion, it is better than Brain of Morbius, much better than Pyramids of Mars and easily the equal of Horror of Fang Rock (which Dicks hastily wrote to replace this story in Season 15). Like all of the classic stories, it has faults, but these do not stand out because of its well-paced narrative and highly effective production.

Terrance Dicks has a reputation as a 'traditionalist' Doctor Who writer and certainly State of Decay takes many stock elements of Doctor Who: tyrants needing to be overthrown, 'Creature Feature' horror, the value of scientific knowlege and ancient evil. This risks cliche, but Terrance Dicks knows them well enough to make them work. The revelation that the tower is a spaceship is brought out early on in the story. Other Doctor Who writers would probably have made this overly dramatic and brought it out towards the end, under the misguided notion that this is something of great interest to the viewers. State of Decay has a much faster and more exciting pace than the Seventies' stories in a similar style. Dicks was a master of his craft.

A good deal of Doctor Who fails to generate atmosphere and this is always a big failing. In contrast, State of Decay is dripping from bucketloads of atmosphere. The woodland and the gothic sets both contribute to this, as well as the script's descriptions of the ancient menace involved. This is the perfect story to watch on a cold, dark winter evening, with a glass of red wine or a pint of ruby ale in one's hand. Thanks for this go to Nathan-Turner's push for strong production values. We see some marvellous camera-work and effective use of location filming, as well as some brilliant sets: the gothic tower and the rebel HQ with its abandoned machinery.

I love the fact that this story ties into the lore of Gallifrey. The idea of the powerful Time Lords having an ancient arch-enemy in the vampires is very inspired. Despite the clear 'trad' leanings of this story, the Virgin New Adventures have been considerably inspired by it. I am a huge fan of Neil Penswick's The Pit that deals with the theme of horrors from the Gallifreyan Dark Times. It is not made clear in that story whether the Yssgaroth Old Ones are the vampires or some other Lovecraftian extra-dimensional monstrosity. Strangely, when Terrance Dicks himself used this story in his New Adventure novel, Blood Harvest, he re-wrote the background of State of Decay, introducing the idea that there were far more inhabitants of the planet, including other vampire lords. I suppose this makes a bit more sense than there being just one village on the planet.

I think that it was a very smart move to leave the Great One largely to the imagination of the viewer. Imagined terrors are always better than clumsy monster props and suits. We could probably have done without the fleeting image on the scanner, though I think the claw emerging from the ground is more effective than some people allow.

The vampires are brilliantly characterised, with the cunning and ambitious Aukon and the more venal Zargo and Camilla. Aukon seems to be the real power amongst the Three Who Rule. He also comes close to stealing the show with Emrys James' camp but chilling performance. Their final disintegration is very convincingly done. The peasents are a little cliched, but they fit perfectly into the pseudo-medieval world of the story.

Tom Baker and Lalla Ward are at their best, with Romana showing genuine terror and the Doctor clearly chilled by the thought of horrors from the Dark Times. There is plenty of humour and Baker's 'St. Crispin's Day' speech is a classic moment. Adric is a little annoying, but it is more interesting to have a companion who does the dirty on the Doctor instead of turning into an instant hero. What makes him work here is that he gets an instant telling-off by Romana. Adric's blaming his brother's death on the Doctor would probably have evoked sympathy from the soft-hearted Fifth Doctor. Adric was a companion for the Fourth Doctor and Romana who needed them to keep him in line. Without them, he became a nuisance.

There is something of an irony in this story in that while it supposedly holds out the value of learning and scientific knowlege, in the end it is the brute fore wielded by an ex-guard and his fellow rebels that brings down the vampires' misrule. The scientific studies of Kalmar are shown to be rather useless.

Two obvious faults with State of Decay stick in my mind. Firstly, what in E-Space is the 'Wasting?' It sounds an intriguing idea, but it is never explained. It reminds me a little of 'The Nothing' from the film NeverEnding Story, a kind of unstoppable force of existential decay. What the theologian Karl Barth had in mind when he wrote of the 'Nothingness'. Or maybe some kind of cosmic terror, a vague entity we might see in a H.P. Lovecraft story, like The Colour Out Of Space. Sadly, we never learn anything about what it is meant to be. The second fault is the bizarre desire of Kalmar to return to Earth. There has never been any suggestion in the story that his people are from Earth; they are certainly not descendants of the Hydrax crew.

Maybe it's because I am a bit of a Goth at heart, but I love this story despite my preference for more 'rad' elements in Doctor Who.