Thursday, 31 October 2013
State of Decay written by Terrance Dicks and directed by Peter Moffatt
What’s it about: The Doctor comes face to face with an old enemy of the Time Lords…
Lovely Lalla: More confident than ever and decked out in a gorgeous long beige overcoat, Romana practically owns the show at this point. It would appear that Bidmead has finally figured out what to do with the character and decided to let her go out on a high. There is the vaguest of lesbian undertones as Romana cuts herself and Camilla salivates over her bleeding thumb (and the line ‘there are compensations’ whilst eyeing her up is the most blatant single entendre in the whole series). Romana seems uncomfortable with the attention but then again I think anyone would be uncomfortable having a vampire eying them up. When the Doctor and Romana start going on about yawning chasms and a socio-pathetic abscess its almost as if JNT is determined to convince the viewer that his opinion on this TARDIS team being too smart is correct. I have never heard such clunky, unnaturalistic dialogue. Tellingly, neither of them spoke such shocking lines until JNT took over. How cute is the scene where the Doctor is trying to look for the inspection hatch (already discovered by Romana) and she lets him think he has found it? When the Doctor is trying to creep Romana out about Vampires she strokes her neck nervously. The scenes between the Doctor and Romana when they are locked up are the last great hurrah for these two (they don’t spend enough time together in Warriors’ Gate to really make an impact as a couple) and are imbued with warmth and affection. Clearly Tom Baker was having a ‘fancy the ass off of Lalla Ward’ day that day because the Doctor tells Romana she is wonderful in a way that he only usually reserves for the TARDIS. It's an intimate scene and thank goodness Moffatt chose a day to direct it when they are making moon eyes at each other. It's a beautiful scene.
Boy Genius: Let me ask you…how can you look unconvincing walking across a room? Now I’m no actor but I think even I could pull that one out of the bag. If this was the best JNT could find when he auditioned for Adric then perhaps he should have scrapped the whole idea. Waterhouse is unbelievably stiff in the part and I really mean that as it sounds. Some people are unbelievable in roles because they have been miscast (say Howard Cooke as Pex in Paradise Towers) but they have a fair stab at in anyway and others are stiff because of inexperience (say the little girl Squeak in Survival) but give it a go and earn points for trying. Matthew Waterhouse is so wooden in his portrayal of Adric I find it unbelievable that anyone could be that blank and mechanical. He's like a little wooden boy being operating by invisible strings off set. Nobody behaves in such a robotic fashion in real life so why would they feel the need to portray a character like that, as a deliberate choice. As written by Terrance Dicks Adric is a cheeky opportunist and with the right person in the part (imagine The Awakening’s Keith Jayne or the Sarah Jane Adventures’ Daniel Anthony) he would be extremely likable and a lot of fun but when Waterhouse says lines like ‘gotcha’ to K.9 I simply want to hang him from the rafters with barbed wire and castrate him with a pair of rusty forceps. Squeaky voiced, petulant and by all accounts a little horror on set, I would have fired him on the spot after watching his performance in this story (technically his first). And spare me the thought of Aukon and Camilla lusting after Adric. To be fair Waterhouse makes a great zombie but all he has to do is stand stock still and expressionless and that is his greatest skill as an actor. His unjustified middle class smugness in the last episode is potentially the most irritating the character ever was (hmm…maybe not, Four to Doomsday?). Pretending or not he sounds like a stroppy, petulant, ungrateful twat who needs his blood sucked out as soon as possible.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The peasants are simple folk. Rich affair would only distress them’ ‘Quite right! It would probably give them indigestion!’
You’re wrong. The Doctor is not weaponless. He has the greatest weapon of all. Knowledge.’
‘Why am I still afraid?’
‘Countless inhabited planets all waiting to feed our hunger!’
‘Then die…that is the purpose of guards…’
The Bad: What a shame that there wasn’t the technology to make the bat attack look more convincing because the location and score are both fab but add a number of rubber bats on strings and it all falls to pot. All of the model shots in and around the Tower are so unconvincing I would have scrapped the lot. Some directors know how to shoot models and others don't, it is as simple as that (having just watched Terror of the Zygons on DVD its model work shows up the pitiful attempts in State of Decay to the nth degree). A shame that after two episodes of underplaying Aukon, Emrys James loses it in episode three and surrenders to the melodrama of the character (‘You shall drink the blood of…Time Looords!’). Some severely dodgy fight scenes add some unintentional comedy to the story. One guy gets stunned by K.9 and realises that he is in the way of the robot dog and so rolls across set after he has fallen unconscious. Predictably the bodies of the Vampires were counted and one had vanished (mightiest and most malevolent of all, naturally) and one of the Bow Ships (it's Achilles’ heel) just happens to be lying around to finish this one off. That's so ridiculously neat this story could have been sown up in about five minutes. Probably the worst example of effects letting down the show comes after the Doctor has built up the Great Vampire to be this awesome mythological beast that threatened to bring down the Time Lords and he is revealed to be…a doll being waved about underneath the Tower. Ouch. Even Tom Baker looks appalled. This really is the most hollow group of rebels the show has ever presented. Hundreds of bats are seen flying into the caves and yet oddly only one seems to want to nibble on Romana’s neck. I'm not sure if it is a model or dreadful animation but the sky ray rocket ascending and falling back to the planet to deal with the Great Vampire fails to convince on any level.
Result: I still assert that State of Decay is the ultimate Tom Baker story with the styles of all three of his producers combining to create a rough overview of the era. There is the gothic horror and scare elements favoured by Philip Hinchcliffe, the witty undergraduate humour highlighted by Graeme Williams and also the scientific approach as loved by (‘Stop this silliness!’) the JNT/Bidmead collaboration. It even highlights the best and the worst of Doctor Who visually with the general design of the piece being very rich and attention grabbing whilst being let down at practically every turn by all of the special effects, especially the most important one at the climax. Terrance Dicks is not a script writer to let you down and he packs in some interesting mythology about the Time Lords, lovely moments between the Doctor and Romana and a wealth of colourful lines to quote. There’s a great Paddy Kingsland score which highlights the atmosphere of terror and the sensuality between the Three Who Rule suggests the eroticism of Vampire tales without ever upsetting the delicate family audience of the BBC. Some dodgy performances aside this is a pretty fun if utterly predictable story to watch with one whopping great problem at the heart of the story in Matthew Waterhouse’s Adric who harms every scene in which he appears: 7/10