Full Circle

E-Space Trilogy
Region 1

for North America
E-Space Trilogy
Region 2

for the U.K.
VHS Video
E-Space Trilogy
(Doctor Who Story No. 112, starring Tom Baker)
  • written by Andrew Smith
  • directed by Peter Grimwade
  • produced by John Nathan-Turner
  • music by Paddy Kingsland
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: After dropping through a freak hole in space, the Doctor, Romana, and K9 find themselves on the planet Alzarius in a pocket universe known as E-space. The planet's bizarre orbit has taken it into a transformational period known as Mistfall, when Marsh creatures rise from the swamp, and atmospheric changes force the local humanoid population back into their colony ship from the planet Terradon. Aided by Adric and his rebellious teenage gang who sense lies in the old legends, the Doctor soon uncovers a trail of secrets about the Alzarians, but can he piece the puzzle together and save the Alzarians before the Marshmen overrun the ship?

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by writer Andrew Smith, script editor Christopher H. Bidmead, and actor Matthew Waterhouse (Adric).
  • "All Aboard the Starliner" making-of featurette (24 min.), with Smith, Bidmead, Lalla Ward (Romana), John Leeson (Voice of K9),
    George Baker (Login), Bernard Padden (Tylos), film cameraman Max Sammett,
    and vintage interviews of the late director Peter Grimwade.
  • Music Only option
  • "E-Space - Fact or Fiction" featurette (14 min.) on the science behind "Exo-Space" and alternate universes - highly recommended!
    This is as good as "What the Bleep Do We Know?" or "The Universe".
  • Photo Gallery music montage (6 min.)
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles for main feature AND THE PHOTO GALLERY.
  • "K9 in E-Space" featurette (4 min.) with Ward, Leeson, Smith, Bidmead, and writer Terrance Dicks.
  • Matthew Waterhouse on "Swap Shop" (8 min.)

Buyers' Guide Review

by Martin Izsak

(A more in-depth analysis, containing "SPOILERS" and intended for those who have already seen the program, can be accessed here.)

At last the quality of Doctor Who content picks up with this fascinating and generally well-written story. Add to the mix a great director, the interest of introducing a new regular character, plenty of excellent location work establishing the setting, and a very thematic and enjoyable score, and we have the best story that the season has offered so far.

This is the season's first true sci-fi mystery, which when resolved presents concepts unique within the series. The tale deserves honourable mention for that alone, and still has plenty more going for it. The cast of characters are all real, likeable, understandable people as well, which makes the ensuing conflicts quite organic and natural.

In many ways, the Marshmen fill the typical role of a race of Doctor Who "monsters", but they are nicely reminiscent of many of the adversaries that Malcolm Hulke created in the Jon Pertwee days. They become worthy of our sympathies, and the Doctor treats them with as much respect and first-contact etiquette as he does the more human-looking characters.

Employing Adric, K9, and the Doctor...

I've always been surprised at the amount of flak that the character Adric receives from many vocal fans of the series, since I rather liked the character myself, and often found myself empathizing with him. Perhaps a key clue to this phenomenon can be found in Matthew Waterhouse's statement that he decided to play the character rather "shut-down" emotionally, a fair interpretation which can have the side effect of not offering the audience as much charisma and charm as they want from a regular character. Perhaps it is also significant that I formed my first impressions of Adric from Season 19 before I saw anything of him in Season 18. Some of Adric's moments are not too pleasant to watch, particularly in these first stories of his, but that is the case in real life sometimes as well.

I think Adric is also woefully mislabeled as the idiot of the emerging new TARDIS crew. He actually has an unmatched capacity for technical science, mathematics, and more of a knack for piloting the TARDIS than any other companion before or since, and it's not too much of a stretch to believe that that came at a cost to his social development. Indeed, such a character seems more appropriate in science fiction than in any other genre, as a means of connecting with your core audience if nothing else, although I suspect this works better in print than in film or television, where charisma speaks volumes to everyone.

K9 often gets left in the TARDIS when the Doctor and the rest of the crew go out exploring in the first episode, but there is a nice reversal here. K9's luck does not hold though, and I was most upset to see K9 being repeatedly given such a wimpy showing when I first saw this season.

The Doctor is better involved in this adventure than in any other season 18 story so far, even though Adric gets most of the focus of the first episode, which works since he's an important character being introduced. The Doctor still gets his proper share of screen time throughout the story, using this to explore a healthy palette of interesting characters and ideas, and engage the audience's curiosity. He also stays on top of his principles, articulating them when necessary, and excels when in problem-solving mode later on in the story. In short, he gets all the good stuff that was in too short supply in the previous two stories.

Production Cohesion

Peter Grimwade's directing is also the best the season has seen so far. He seems just as capable of being creative like Lovett Bickford, yet has a far greater ability to use that creativity to serve the story and pace it appropriately.

Paddy Kingsland's musical score is quite good, and very enjoyably melodic. Although it seems that both Romana's and K9's theme aren't substantially different enough from the theme for Adric & the Alzarians, perhaps these are simply meant to be variations on a general theme for the entire story. And perhaps it is only strange in retrospect, as the theme became so strongly established as Adric's in later stories like "Earthshock" (story no. 122) and "Terminus" (story no. 127). I love most of Kingsland's trademark instrument sounds, particularly the synthetic "flute", although I often imagine he had a secret desire to be a rock-star in bringing the electric guitar so boldly into the mix all through this particular story. I love Adric's theme and many of the mysterious & transitional cues in this story, but the electric guitar bits are some of my least favourite cues of the season, which probably says more about my personal tastes than the quality of Kingsland's work.
The complete Musical Score by Paddy Kingsland
is available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Volume 4 - Meglos and Full Circle

More info & buying options

Special Sound by Dick Mills
from this story is available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Volume 3 - The Leisure Hive

More info & buying options

The story is blessed with some very moving performances as well, particularly in the Alzarian elite. James Bree is at his Doctor Who best in this story, making the burdened, partially antagonistic character of Nefred very sympathetic. George Baker is also outstanding as Login, a very balanced touch-stone character amongst the Alzarian population. Decider Draith and Dexeter are delivered with great performances as well, while the rest of the cast do an excellent job of supporting them.

The Marshmen costumes seem a bit dated by today's standards, and the spiders are a bit too cheap in many shots. But the director still manages to get some good stuff across with Marshmen performances and the odd surprising spider effect, keeping the whole thing engaging nonetheless.

"Full Circle" has given this season its first glimpse of excellence. Thankfully, the excellence is far from over....

This story is available on DVD and VHS video as the first adventure of the E-Space Trilogy.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
The E-Space Trilogy
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
The E-Space Trilogy
for the U.K.
VHS Video
The E-Space Trilogy
NTSC in North America
PAL for the U.K.

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Read the Buyers' Guide Review for the next story in the E-Space Trilogy: "State of Decay"

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