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21 July 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 567: State of Decay, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I know I’ve banged on about it during the other two episodes of this serial, but I really do love that Adric has a story more-or-less separate from that of the Doctor and Romana for the most part here. It’s not until almost the very end of today’s episode that Romana actually finds Adric, and the Doctor has yet to see him! It means that there’s an interesting new vibe to the series, which can only be described as ‘parents and child’.

This is best exemplified during the Doctor and Romana’s daring escape from the tower, when they reach the door, freedom in their grasp... and then they stop because they can’t simply leave Adric behind now that they know he’s there (even though he shouldn’t be - as far as they were concerned, they’d ‘sent him to bed’ at the end of the last story). It’s rather lovely, and the way that they bicker about who’ll go and get the kid and who’ll go and get on with the proper adventure is brilliant. It’s a bit of a shame that this TARDIS team will only have one more story together, before it’s changed again.

I’m also enjoying all the new Gallifreyan lore that’s being introduced here. It seems quite soon after we had a lot of information about the very early days of the Time Lords in Shada, though I suppose that won’t have mattered at all on original transmission, but I really do enjoy delving into the dark and mysterious past of this ancient race from time to time. I especially love that we first get the Doctor musing that there are vampire legends on almost every civilised world, before going on to give us the tale of these creatures in the form of a legend, a fairy story that was told on Gallifrey. It also means that we get to hear him speak again of the old hermit who used to live in the mountains not far from his home (he lived a very sheltered life), who was first mentioned in The Time Monster, and played a fairly significant role during Planet of the Spiders. You have to wonder if this simply comes down to the script being written by Terrance Dicks, who would have over-seen those stories at the time.

From there, we go on to the Doctor getting the true record of the tale from the TARDIS. There’s something rather brilliant about the idea that the information is so old and out of date that the main databanks on the ship don’t contain it, and he has to get out some more antiquated equipment before he can have his theory backed up. I think this is the only disappointment that comes from all of this - his theory is completely backed up. In a story which has very cleverly played with the way that language changes over time (in the names of the crew members evolving and changing while they’ve been on this world), I’d have liked to see the official story of the great war against the vampires be slightly different from the subsequent retelling to a young Doctor in the form of a story. That feels like a bit of a missed opportunity when you consider the richness in other areas of this serial.

My slight worry for this next episode is that it may feel like a bit of a let down after all this build-up. The Record of Rassilon makes a point about how these creatures are damned near impossible to kill, and how they’re some of the most powerful beings to ever exist, and yet the Doctor and friends only have 25 minutes or so to kill not only the last of them, but the most powerful one, too! Considering that they’ve saved the reveal of this demon for the final episode, you have to hope that he’ll live up to the hype...

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