Doctor Who: State of Decay

"Then die... that is the purpose of guards."

I'm surprised it has taken the show this long to get around to the pitting the Doctor against vampires. They're probably the most iconic horror monster of them all.

'State of Decay', the second story in this loose trilogy, is more of a traditional Doctor Who story from one of the old masters, Terrance Dicks. Dicks originally wrote a version of this story in 1977. It was pulled just before production started because the BBC was producing a high-profile adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula at the same time. 'Horror of Fang Rock', also written by Dicks, was produced instead.

Plot-wise, 'State of Decay' is standard Who fare as the Doctor and Romana land on a new planet and encourage the local group of slaves to rise up against their tyrannical overlords, who this time just happen to be a trio of bloodsuckers who really need to lay off the eyeliner. As such, there a definite sense of been there, done that. Even the idea of a primitive society evolving around the wreckage of a Earth ship is something the show has tackled before -- and better -- in 'The Face of Evil'.

This is another one of those episodes that suffers because the creative team were overly optimistic about what the FX department could produce. A gigantic vampire bat monster is nice in theory, but difficult to realise on screen. I wonder if the director realised this and that's why we see so little of the Great One. Still, the few glimpses we do get are pretty horrendous.

Tom Baker is more energised than he has been so far this season. That's probably because the actors playing the vampires have clearly decided to channel Bela Lugosi, with a side order of Vincent Price, and really ham it up. I'm talking Olympic level scenery chewing here. Maybe not gold medal, but at least worthy of a bronze. Speaking of bad acting, Adric is still around and more annoying than ever. Fortunately, Dicks had trouble fitting him into his redraft of the original script so he spends the majority of the story either off screen or asleep.

Notes and Quotes

--For the only time during his era as the Doctor, Tom Baker had to have his hair permed before filming commenced. It had lost its natural curl due to the actor being in ill health.

--One of the vampires is named Camilla, which is a very likely nod to Carmilla, the vampire novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu which is now a popular web series.

--When director Peter Moffatt received Bidmead's altered script, he demanded the original back, claiming it had lost its Gothic atmosphere. John Nathan-Turner gave him the original, which he made.

-- I love the Doctor rallying the locals with a modified version of the St Crispin's day speech.

--The synthesiser score doesn't really work with a story like this. Oh, where is Dudley Simpsons when you need him?

--The Doctor's new costume actually looks better without the scarf.

--Working titles for this story included 'The Wasting', 'The Witch Lords', and 'The Vampire Mutations'.

--The bats that attack the Doctor and Romana are clearly leftovers from the office Halloween party.

The Doctor: "Night must fall, Romana, even in E-Space."
Romana: "It doesn't feel natural. There's that noise again."
The Doctor: "Only bats. Quite harmless. (a bat swoops down and bites him on the neck.) Argh! Well, in theory. That one was a bit carnivorous."

Romana: "You are incredible."
The Doctor: "Well, yes, I suppose I am. I've never given it much thought."

The Doctor: "Psst, you are wonderful."
Romana: "Suppose I am. I've never really thought about it."

Camilla: "The blood of the dead is stale and flat."

Two and a half out of four St Crispin's day speeches.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Nice review. Thanks Mark.
And +10 points the Tom-Baker-perm nugget.