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Full Circle. Ponderings.

August 20, 2015

full circle

One of the best things about posting Whovian ponderings on Whovian sites is that you will always find defenders of stories you don’t particularly like.  Say you don’t like a story and someone will rush to its defence (though I have yet to try this with Time of the Rani or Twin Dilemma).  It’s very cheering to know that such is the heritage of this show that there are no seasons that are wholly unloved.  No stories either.  Probably  not individual enemies.  Every adventure has its champion.  Which adds up to an extraordinary legacy of complicated and varied love.

But I still can’t quite love stories like Full Circle.  I suppose the problem I have with the Bidmead era involves the very spare quality of the scripts.  The wearisome attempts to “lighten things up” imposed upon Graham Williams and then embraced by Douglas Adams needed to be reversed.  But it’s as though having stripped away the gaudy paint, the Bidmead house style scrapes further – actually damaging the grain of the wood.

(Note Jonathan Swift – A Tale of a Tub, 1704)

Without memorable dialogue, stories succeed or fail on the basis of visuals and music.  The inherent interest of the basic storyline is also foregrounded.  Andrew Smith’s Full Circle offers us a good idea, a genuinely startling evolutionary premise. Paddy Kingsland’s score is one of the better ones from the early 1980s.  In short, this is a story with a sense of mystery but no sense of threat.  It is elegant without being urgent.  You can sort of appreciate what they were trying to do in formal terms, but it’s hard to feel particularly involved.  It’s a story that summarises better than it describes.

The single best bit involves the Doctor remonstrating with the “Deciders” over the imminent vivisection of a marshman. Despite being somewhat brusque, off-hand and arrogant, the Fourth Doctor was all too rarely angry, and it is always a treat to see him when he is.

Also nice to see George Baker, for my generation, the definitive degenerate emperor Tiberius.  There is, incidentally, a remarkable overlap between the casts of Doctor Who and I Claudius.  The first four Julio-Claudian emperors have all appeared in Doctor Who. The first five if you count Christopher Biggins in a Big Finish.  George Baker plays a good man on a steep learning curve.  He does his best, but like everyone else – his dialogue is too colourless and spare to allow his character to breathe.

And of course, we are introduced to Adric.  Adric is the most hated companion in the history of the franchise.  Whether or not he deserved to be is a separate issue.   There’s a strong case to be made for rehabilitating him.  I’m not the boy I once was and perhaps neither is Adric.  But the sheer overwhelming and visceral extent to which he was hated at the time his adventures were first broadcast is a matter of fact, not opinion.

So I can watch Full Circle, looking at its best elements appreciative.  But it’s not one that extorts love and affection from me.

And there is no villain in this story.  Just saying.

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