Doctor Who: The E-Space Trilogy - Full Circle/State of Decay/Warriors' Gate (Stories 112-114)
The E-Space Trilogy is a well-regarded trio of stories from the tail end of Tom Baker’s tenure as the Doctor (and the show’s 18th season), and find him lost in a parallel universe full of alarming new foes; the trilogy also serves as a farewell to one of the Doctor’s best-loved companions, Romana (Lalla Ward) and an introduction to one of his most controversial, the teenaged Adric (Matthew Waterhouse). The TARDIS enters the alternate universe--known as Exo-Space or E-Space in 1980’s Full Circle, which finds the Doctor and Romana charting a course for their home planet of Gallifrey but instead finding themselves on the planet Alzarius, where a small band of humanoids find conflict within their number as well as from menacing, reptilian Marshmen. One of the humanoids, a teenager named Adric, stows away aboard the TARDIS and accompanies the Doctor to a new planet in State of Decay; there, they discover a medieval-like society in the grip of three lords who demand sacrifice from the population. The true identity of the lords lends an air of Hammer-style horror to the story, which is perhaps the most engaging of the set. Finally, an escape route from E-Space is revealed in Warriors’ Gate, but first, the Doctor and his companions must contend with a slave ship and its cargo of lion-like creatures called Tharils. Though the Doctor is eventually freed from E-Space, his departure does not come without its costs, as revealed by the final fate of Romana and fan favorite K-9 Mk II.
Though by no means among the best of the Baker episodes, the E-Space Trilogy delivers plenty of thrills in its three stories. Fans may find areas to quibble over--especially in regard to Adric, whose presence pales in comparison to Baker’s previous companions--but they bear up well in regard to solid plotting and consistent entertainment, especially when compared to the lighter tone of the previous season, which was overseen by Douglas Adams of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame. Baker and Ward are once again the anchors of the show, and her departure is an unfortunate one (the Doctor would struggle to find an equally strong companion in the years that followed); Baker of course, remains a pleasure as the Time Lord, though one can occasionally perceive his growing dissatisfaction with the role (he would depart the series at the end of the season). And perhaps that’s the reason why he is absent from the set’s wealth of extras, leaving Waterhouse to contribute the majority of the commentaries, though Ward weighs in on Warriors’ Gate. Archival footage from UK TV chronicles Waterhouse’s debut on the series and preserves the original continuity announcements from the BBC broadcasts, while featurettes cover everything from Ward’s stylish wardrobe to the making of each episodes. One of the most interesting extras is “Leaves of Blood,” a 20-minute examination of vampires in literature and history, and featuring comments by such noted authors as Ramsay Campbell and Kim Newman. Deleted scenes and an isolated score option round out the supplemental features. -- Paul Gaita