‘STATE OF DECAY’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
An Adventure in E-Space with Vampires
‘State of Decay’ is the second ‘Doctor Who’ story of ‘The E-Space Trilogy’ in Season 18. It’s a gothic adventure, full of blood-curdling proportions. It’s also one of a few ‘Doctor Who’ stories to echo Tom Baker at his best in his era and didn’t have much scientific sombreness as most tales of this season.
In this story, the Doctor and Romana visit an alien planet whilst journeying through E-Space in order to escape and find a way back into their home universe. It’s interesting to see the Doctor and Romana at this stage in their travels when trying to get out of E-Space whilst also having adventures.
Upon arrival, the Doctor and Romana discover that the planet they’ve visited is in a ‘state of decay’ (hence the story’s title). They meet the villagers who are scared out of their wits by their rulers. As the Doctor and Romana discover clues about vampire bats and vampirism, things are getting clearer.
The planet is under the rule of three vampires that want blood. They also want to rise up into the sky to escape out of E-Space too. They want to consume other worlds teaming with blood. Can the Doctor and Romana with Adric and K-9 stop the evils of the Three Who Rule and the Great Vampire?
I’ve had the DVD cover of ‘State of Decay’ signed by Matthew Waterhouse at the ‘London Film and Comic Con 2017’, Olympia, July 2017. I enjoyed hearing from Matthew on how he considers ‘State of Decay’, ‘The Keeper of Traken’, ‘Kinda’ and ‘The Visitation’ to be his favourite stories from the series.
It’s always nice to have chats with Matthew about his experiences of ‘Doctor Who’ and what he makes of the current series nowadays. Whist fans are divided over Adric, I do like his character and there are times when Adric can have his moments, especially he’s not seemingly useless all the time.
It’s interesting that ‘State of Decay’ was recorded second in the production slot for Season 18 after ‘The Leisure Hive’ was made. Matthew Waterhouse recorded ‘State of Decay’ first before doing ‘Full Circle’. It must have been nerve-wrecking as well as exciting for him to do playing Adric in the series.
From reading Matthew’s book ‘Blue Box Boy’, his hopes and dreams of working with Tom Baker, his favourite Doctor, were shattered by the time he worked with him on set. There were times when Tom was lenient towards Matthew, other times not so. Lalla Ward wasn’t easy to work with either.
‘State of Decay’ is a four-part adventure by Terrance Dicks. It’s great to have Terrance back for this final season of Tom Baker’s era of ‘Doctor Who’. It’s also rather fitting, considering he wrote Tom Baker’s debut ‘Doctor Who’ story, ‘Robot’. Mind you, a lot’s changed since Terrance introduced him.
Terrance originally wrote ‘State of Decay’ to feature the Fourth Doctor and Leela. It would’ve been the first story to be shown in Season 15 under the Graham Williams era. He originally called it ‘The Vampire Mutation’. But the story was abandoned due to the BBC doing a TV production of ‘Dracula’.
The BBC demanded the ‘Doctor Who’ production team not to do a story about vampires as they believed they would be making fun of the ‘Dracula’ production. Not sure why that would be the case, but there you go. Instead, Terrance penned ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ as the opener for Season 15.
When it came to Season 18 in 1980, producer John Nathan-Turner looked through a number of unused ‘Doctor Who’ scripts and the only one he liked was the vampire story by Terrance Dicks. JNT asked Terrance Dicks to write it for Tom Baker’s final season of ‘Doctor Who’ with him and Romana.
Terrance Dicks happily agreed to write the story for Season 18. But during the writing process, Terrance found himself having behind-the-scenes clashes with script-editor Christopher H. Bidmead. Chris Bidmead wanted to change the tale’s tone to make it more scientific. Terrance didn’t like that.
‘State of Decay’ would be a completely different story if Chris Bidmead had his own way and made it too scientific and futuristic compared to the gothic atmosphere Terrance was trying to create. It goes to show how much had changed since Terrance was script-editor of the Jon Perwee era of the show.
Eventually, Peter Moffatt, who previously worked on ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ with JNT as the production unit manager, was chosen to direct ‘State of Decay’. He agreed to direct the story via invitation from JNT on the basis that it would be a gothic tale. He liked doing that kind of storytelling.
When Peter saw the changes made to Terrance’s original script by Chris Bidmead and that it was too futuristic and scientific, he told JNT how unhappy he was. Fortunately JNT was persuaded to get Chris Bidmead to revert the script back to its original gothic form, to which Terrance was very pleased.
So Terrance’s original story came out alright in the end and he was very grateful to director Peter Moffatt for letting that happen. There are noticeable Chris Bidmead elements in the story to be found in terms of terminology and technology; but overall Terrance Dick’s original vampire tale is intact.
Now speaking personally, I’m not a fan of vampires. I don’t go looking for a vampire story when it comes to watching ‘Doctor Who’. But I certainly enjoyed this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure with vampires in it and the ‘logic’ of how vampires can exist within the ‘Doctor Who’ universe is fascinating indeed.
The world that Terrance Dicks creates in the story by having the vampires as enemies of the Time Lords was intriguing to discover. It is scary to think vampires can actually exist in the ‘Doctor Who’ universe and that they happen to have fought wars with Rassilon and the Time Lords in outer space.
It’s ironic because I would read more ‘Doctor Who’ vampire stories in ‘Goth Opera’ and ‘Blood Harvest’ as well as writing a vampire story myself called ‘The Victorian Vampires’. ‘State of Decay’ is a wonderfully directed tale by Peter Moffatt and it does suit the Tom Baker era very beautifully here.
Mind you, there is the argument this is a rather tame vampire story as there’s not much blood or gore as you would expect. But Terrance Dicks went with the Hammer Horror approach to writing a vampire story instead of writing what Bram Stoker had written in ‘Dracula’, which must have been gory.
Peter Moffatt would go on to direct more ‘Doctor Who’ stories in the Peter Davison and Colin Baker eras. They include ‘The Visitation’, ‘Mawdryn Undead’, ‘The Five Doctors’, ‘The Twin Dilemma’ and ‘The Two Doctors’. It is good he worked well with the actors when directing this ‘Doctor Who’ story.
There were tensions initially between director Peter Moffatt and Tom Baker, but it was good that, according to him, Peter took Tom to one side to try and persuade him not to be difficult when acting on the set. Afterwards, it seemed that Tom worked fine with Peter Moffatt during the tale’s making.
Matthew Waterhouse returns as Adric in this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. This is of course after Adric stowed away aboard the TARDIS in ‘Full Circle’. It’s interesting how Adric starts his journey as a ‘Doctor Who’ companion in this tale, albeit when he wasn’t invited to join the TARDIS by the Doctor.
Adric tries to find the Doctor and Romana once he is out of the TARDIS and after he got stopped by K-9. He’s soon lured by the vampire lord Aukon who offers him immortality. It was unnerving when Adric seemed to be under hypnosis by the vampires before Romana and Tarak came to ‘rescue’ him.
It was a little disturbing when it seemed that Adric had joined the vampires and betrayed Romana in ‘Part Four’. But it turned out that Adric was only play-acting to ‘rescue’ Romana, which would be a recurring trait in his character. Adric has a go at trying to stop Aukon in the tale, but it doesn’t work.
I enjoyed Tom Baker’s Doctor in this adventure. This is a ‘Doctor Who’ adventure that really suits him, especially with the gothic atmosphere echoing from the early Philip Hinchcliffe era. Tom’s Doctor comes across as pretty aloof and he does have some pretty funny lines when he utters them.
I liked it when the Doctor said “Hello!” to one of the scared villagers before he runs away. I also enjoyed it when Tom’s Doctor reacts to Romana stepping on his toe at one point. Sarah Sutton on ‘Behind the Sofa’ enjoyed Tom Baker’s line “There’s nothing worse than a peasant with indigestion.” 😀
It was interesting to see Tom Doctor’s reactions to the revelation that the vampires in this story were pale intimations of the ones who served the Great Vampire long ago. Tom’s Doctor gathers the villagers to lay an attack against the vampires’ castle called the Tower while he finds a way to kill the Great Vampire.
Lalla Ward as Romana is pretty good in this adventure too. I loved it when the Doctor and Romana were climbing into the inspection hatch of the former Earth spaceship that became the vampires’ Tower. Romana and the Doctor witness that chamber of corpses and the fuel tanks containing blood.
It’s interesting how Lalla and Tom weren’t looking at each other at times during the making of this story, as their relationship was on and off due to the tension between them. There is one moment when Tom’s Doctor tells Romana she’s wonderful, which could be a potential “I love you!” moment.
Lalla Ward gets to change costumes in each story she’s in during her time in ‘Doctor Who’. Here she dresses up in two costumes. One is an Edwardian country-like gamekeeper-styled of costume for Lalla Ward’s Romana and the other is a very beautiful dress when she’s about to get sacrificed in this story.
K-9, voiced by John Leeson, spends most of the time in the TARDIS. I do feel sorry for K-9 in this season as he often stays put in the TARDIS and gets mistreated at times. But at least Terrance had some sympathy for K-9 and didn’t abuse him like other writers tended to at this point for Season 18.
K-9 becomes useful when assisting the Doctor to find out more information about the vampire legends. I enjoyed those scenes in the TARDIS when the Doctor is using ticker-tape to decode some information about the legends of Rassilon and vampires and K-9 chips in with titbits of information.
The Doctor also has K-9 become useful in leading the rebellion against the vampires at their Tower. K-9 has to give the signal for everyone to evacuate the Tower once the Doctor’s got his plan in motion during the story’s climax. Ivo does ridicule him, but K-9 comes across as very good in the tale.
The Three Who Rule are the vampires that rule the alien planet that the Doctor and Romana visit. They are terrifying and hungry for blood, though I am curious about how the original human pilots of the Earth ship that slipped into E-Space mutated to become vampires. It’s not so clearly established.
The vampires are as follows. There’s William Lindsay as Zargo the King; Rachel Davies as Camilla the Queen and Emrys James as Aukon the Councillor. Zargo and Camilla are rather keen on devouring somebody’s blood but Aukon always seemed to be restraining before the time of ‘the arising’ comes.
There is a certain Welsh aspect to this story especially with actors like Emrys James playing the vampire Aukon. Clinton Greyn who plays Ivo in this story is also a Welsh man. Perhaps Peter Moffatt has a fondness for the Welsh accent as well as the Welsh country, utilising it in ‘The Five Doctors’. 😀
There is the Great Vampire of course, but I found that to be disappointing when it came to the end of the story. The Great Vampire, when he rises, happens to be…just a hand. I don’t know why they couldn’t show the full form of the giant monsters in the tale. Even Terrance Dicks wasn’t happy here.
The frightened village is led by Clinton Greyn as Ivo. He would go on to play a Sontaran in ‘The Two Doctors’ with Colin Baker. Ivo is a weather-beaten man who looks after his people; keeps the village together and selects the victims that are to be taken for the feasting, to which he is unhappy about.
The story also features Rhoda Lewis as Marta, Ivo’s wife; Arthur Hewlett (who would go on to be in ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ with Colin Baker) as Kalmar and Thane Beattany as Tarak. Tarak assists the Doctor and Romana when he goes to rescue them from the Tower before he meets a very sticky end in this.
There’s also Iain Rattray as Habris, the head guard of the vampires’ Tower who takes away the selected villagers for the vampires, including Ivo and Marta’s son, Dean Allen as Karl. There’s stunt performer Stuart Fell as Roga, a guard who recognises Tarak as a traitor before he gets knocked out.
I do like the design work on this story including the sets and the costumes. It does feel pretty gothic and unnerving for a 1980s ‘Doctor Who’ story. I wonder if the red walls in the corridors of the Tower are rusted metal with the former Earth ship decaying over time when it became the vampires’ Tower.
I love the concept of a castle turning out to be a spaceship, especially when it blasts off during ‘Part Four’. It had a ‘Thunderbirds’ style to it when it wan taken off by the Doctor. The scout ship of course becomes the ‘bolt of steel’ to kill the Great Vampire and to crumble the three vampires into ‘pieces’.
The original DVD special features were as follows. There were audio options including a stereo sound audio mix option for the story; a DVD audio commentary with Matthew Waterhouse, director Peter Moffatt and writer Terrance Dicks as well as an isolated music option by Paddy Kingsland. There was also an info-text commentary option to enjoy. There was ‘The Vampire Lovers’ making-of documentary with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews and film trims of the story. There were also three vampire featurettes called ‘Leaves of Blood’; ‘The Blood Show’ and ‘The Frayling Reading’. There were also BBC continuity announcements of the story; a photo gallery of the story with an info-text option and a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story. There was also a ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for ‘The Rescue’ and ‘The Romans’ with William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill and Maureen O’Brien.
On Disc 4 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 18’ Blu-ray, the stereo sound audio mix option for the story; the DVD audio commentary; the isolated music option; the info-text commentary option; ‘The Vampire Lovers’ making-of documentary; the film trims; the ‘Leaves of Blood’ featurette; ‘The Blood Show’ featurette; ‘The Frayling Reading’ featurette and the ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF can be found on there. The BBC continuity announcements and the photo gallery (without the info-text option) for ‘State of Decay’ have been updated for 2019 on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the ‘Behind the Sofa’ feature on ‘State of Decay’ with Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor); costume designer June Hudson and John Leeson (K-9) as well as Wendy Padbury (Zoe); Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Sarah Sutton (Nyssa). There’s also a BBC News Report announcing Tom Baker and Lalla Ward’s wedding (taken from the ‘Logopolis’ DVD). There’s the Pickwick Talking Books audiobook of ‘State of Decay’ read by Tom Baker to enjoy. There’s also a brand-new Blu-ray audio commentary for ‘State of Decay’ on Blu-ray with Lalla Ward and Rachel Davies, moderated by Matthew Sweet.
On the PDF front, as well as the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story, there are also production documents and scripts for the story. You need a special Blu-ray computer drive for that.
‘State of Decay’ is a chilling and disturbing gothic tale in Season 18 of ‘Doctor Who’. It might not be so bloody and gory as you would expect, but it certainly is bloodcurdling and sends chills down your spine. It’s a TV story that would start off a trend of vampire stories in ‘Doctor Who’ in other mediums.
You will need to have a strong stomach and a bolt of steel to brave your fears against the vampires! Overall, I enjoyed this adventure and was looking forward to what would happen next to the Doctor, Romana, K-9 and Adric. Will our four heroes find a way out of E-Space? Or will they be stuck forever?
‘State of Decay’ rating – 8/10
‘DOCTOR WHO AND THE STATE OF DECAY’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Vampire Lovers
The Wasting doesn’t get mentioned at all in this novelization of ‘State of Decay’!
I previously reviewed the ‘Full Circle’ novelization/audiobook with my review of the TV story. So it was only fair that I reviewed the rest of ‘The E-Space Trilogy’ novelizations with ‘State of Decay’ and ‘Warriors’ Gate’. I was looking forward to reading the ‘State of Decay’ novelization and listen to the audiobook.
‘Doctor Who and the State of Decay’ was published in January 1982, over a year since the TV story was transmitted from November to December 1980. Terrance Dicks novelized his TV scripts into prose for the Target novelization range of ‘Doctor Who’ books which he made a big contribution to.
I’ve read a number of Target novelizations of ‘Doctor Who’ by Terrance Dicks beforehand, so I knew what to expect with this one. I’m glad Terrance got to novelize ‘State of Decay’. It’s claimed to be a surprisingly straightforward novelization of the story. Only I don’t see why anyone should be surprised.
It has been stated that Terrance never got on well with script editor Christopher H. Bidmead during the making of the story. It’s clear from this novelization of the story that Terrance Dicks decided not to include many technical terms added in by Bidmead, wanting this to be straight-forward as possible.
The omission of the Wasting references is a good example of this. As Terrance Dicks stated in ‘The Vampires Lovers’ DVD documentary for ‘State of Decay’, Chris Bidmead’s idea to call the story ‘The Wasting’ might be construed for many to say, “You’re ‘wasting’ everybody’s time with this nonsense.”
Also the term ‘the Wasting’ is only mentioned in one episode of the story – the first one. It was never mentioned again. So the threat for the villagers by something called ‘the Wasting’ is rather redundant afterwards. So it makes sense Terrance Dicks omitted ‘the Wasting’ from the novelization.
Plus, and this is an important note, I didn’t register Romana saying a lot of the technical terms given to her by Chris Bidmead when she’s in the throne room with the Doctor; Camilla and Zargo in the story. So this feels less a Chris Bidmead-influenced story and more a Terrance Dicks-influenced story.
The story was divided into 14 chapters in the book. This is unusual, since most Terrance Dicks novelizations are 12 chapters, with 3 chapters for each of the four episodes. But you can say Chapter 1 serves as the prologue and Chapter 14 serves as the epilogue for this ‘State of Decay’ novelization.
I did find it surreal that I was reading four chapters for ‘Part One’, then three for ‘Part Two’, three for ‘Part Three’ and finally four for ‘Part Four’. But this is of course based on Terrance Dicks’ scripts and he has the liberty to expand his TV story in any form he wishes. And indeed he does expand the story.
I felt that Terrance Dicks allowed us to explore more of his world in ‘State of Decay’ by giving detailed descriptions of the vampire planet and allowing more of the characters’ perspectives to be developed on. It’s something not usually found in many of Terrance Dicks’ ‘Doctor Who’ novelizations.
The audiobook for the ‘State of Decay’ novelization was released in January 2016. It was read by Geoffrey Beevers with John Leeson as the voice of K-9. I purchased the audiobook for the ‘State of Decay’ novelization as a download via Audible, which I enjoyed listening to on my tablet whilst reading the story.
Now I must admit, I was surprised and puzzled that Geoffrey Beevers was chosen to be the narrator of the ‘State of Decay’ audiobook. This is because Geoffrey Beevers had nothing to do with ‘State of Decay’. He was in ‘The Keeper of Traken’ where he played the Master. Same Season 18, wrong story.
But as I read the story with the audiobook in the background, it all made sense. Geoffrey Beevers was a fine choice to read the ‘State of Decay’ audiobook. I would have preferred Tom Baker, Lalla Ward or Matthew Waterhouse to read the story, but I can see why Geoffrey Beevers read the story.
This is a vampire story and you need someone with a rich voice to enhance the gothic atmosphere in the audiobook. Geoffrey Beevers provides that gothic atmosphere because of his rich voice, as he was scary as both the Master and the Melkur in ‘The Keeper of Traken’. Therefore I’m fine with this.
When Geoffrey Beevers provides the voices for the Three Who Rule – Aukon; Zargo and Camilla, he makes them sound creepy and disturbing as elegant vampires. His female voice for Camilla was delightfully eerie to listen to. I also enjoyed it when he voiced villagers like Ivo and Kalmar on audio.
I don’t think Geoffrey is good on the voices for Tom Baker’s Doctor, Romana and Adric in the audiobook, but they are passable to enjoy. Before this audiobook, I enjoyed Geoffrey Beevers’ reading of ‘The Space War’ novelization on ‘Frontier In Space’. The same applied with this audiobook.
I was pleased to hear John Leeson provide the voice of K-9 in this audiobook of ‘State of Decay’. As with the TV story, K-9 doesn’t appear much since he’s mostly confined inside the TARDIS. There were times when I forgot John Leeson was providing the voice of K-9, due to his lack of appearance in this.
But it was nice to hear K-9 interact with the Doctor when he returned to the TARDIS to find out more information about the Record of Rassilon. In fact, the whole scene with the Doctor and K-9 finding out about ‘vampires’ and ‘bowships’ inside the TARDIS is done in one scene and is without any cuts.
Yeah! In the TV story, we had to keep cutting from the Doctor and K-9 inside the TARDIS to Romana and Tarak ‘rescuing’ Adric in the Tower. In the novelization, Terrance has both scenes separately and not inter-cutting with each other. It made it seamless and easy to follow and enjoy.
I like how the story opens in the first chapter with setting up the vampire world and how Ivo loses his son during the selection by Habris. Reading the chapter allowed me to explore the characters’ thoughts; feelings and motivations as well as how the Tower and the village ‘centre’ was portrayed.
There are subtle changes to the cliff-hanger endings for ‘Parts One and Three’ of this story in the novelization. In the ‘Part One’ cliff-hanger, it ends with the Doctor and Romana being chased by a swarm of bats. In the TV version, ‘Part One’ ended with so many bats swarming toward our heroes.
‘Part Two’ resolved that cliff-hanger rather weakly with the bats swarming away. In the novelization however, Terrance Dicks combines both the cliff-hanger of ‘Part One’ and the resolution in ‘Part Two’ by having the Doctor and Romana see many bats swarm towards them before they see them swarm away.
This works well in the novelization and I wish that had been achieved in the TV version with better editing. The image of the bats swarming for the Doctor and Romana is so well-defined in ‘State of Decay’ that it’s let down in the ‘Part Two’ resolution. Thankfully this isn’t the case in the novelization.
The ‘Part Three’ cliff-hanger is also different in that it has Adric throwing a sharp knife at Zargo to defend himself and Romana. Zargo however manages to pull the dagger out of his chest to show how ‘immortal’ he is. This was scary to read in the novelization and I wish that was in the TV version.
Speaking of Adric, Terrance Dicks doesn’t delve too much into the origins of where he came from in the previous story. There’s no mention of Alzarius and there’s no explanation of how and why Adric stowed aboard the TARDIS. But perhaps Terrance Dicks did not have access to the ‘Full Circle’ scripts.
There’s another change I like in the novelization where Romana corrects Tarak inserting the key card into the door of the Inner Sanctum where Zargo and Camilla live by reinserting it herself. The guard there has his lines changed when he realises that Tarak is ‘Tarak the traitor’ before he’s knocked out.
This works better in the novelization compared to what Romana said to the guard in the TV story by saying she’s Camilla’s ‘blood group separator’. I think having the guard recognise Tarak in the novelization works better than what the TV story did and I’m certain Terrance Dicks thought so too.
During the climax where the Great Vampire rises, his appearance is slightly better than the one in the TV story. Just slightly! In the TV story, all we got was a giant hand rising up and not doing much. In the novelization, the Great Vampire struggles to get out from the ground and this goes as far as his shoulder.
I would’ve preferred it if the Great One’s torso had got out and he showed his vampire glory before the scout ship stabbed him as the Doctor’s ‘bolt of steel’. At least that’s what I would have done if I novelized ‘State of Decay’. The version in Terrance Dicks’ novelization is a little better, but not much.
The last chapter of the story, which is three pages long, features a longer scene where Adric asks the Doctor what he’s going to do with him before the Doctor tells him he’s going straight home. This is a better in the novelization compared to the TV story, as it was quickly rushed before the tale ended.
At least Terrance Dicks didn’t have the Doctor pulling Adric by the ear as originally scripted in the TV story. Hopefully Terrance Dicks realised the mistake of writing that in the story. In the novelization, there’s an extra scene where the Doctor, Romana, Adric and K-9 are in the TARDIS before take-off.
The story closes with Kalmar watching the TARDIS depart and being marvelled by it. It was interesting how Kalmar viewed the Doctor as a scientist in the story, especially when asking questions about whether the villagers can get off their planet; find a way out of E-Space and get back to Earth.
‘Doctor Who and the State of Decay’ has been an enjoyable novelization of the TV story. It is a reasonably straight-forward novelization. I have been able to notice some of the subtle changes Terrance made in certain scenes, but it doesn’t change the plot and the characters in the actual tale.
I greatly enjoyed Geoffrey Beevers’ narration of the story via the audiobook. It was an interesting choice to have Geoffrey read the story when he had no part in the production of it. But it makes sense as he has a rich reading voice and it’s also a joy to have John Leeson providing the voice of K-9.
‘Doctor Who and the State of Decay’ rating – 8/10
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