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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. Indeed, he seems ready to go to bat for either of them, as the situation and his principles dictate.
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. Nonetheless, Adric's first inadvertent piloting of the Doctor's vehicle here is less than helpful.
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 as the Doctor takes K9 with him to investigate Mistfall and orders Romana and Adric to stay inside instead. K9's luck does not hold though, as he goes to pieces and remains out of action for most of the rest of the story. John Nathan-Turner really seems to have it in for the little guy, and I was most upset to see K9 being repeatedly given such a wimpy showing when I first saw this season. The lack of any laser beams (from K9 or anything else) was another source of great disappointment for me back then, but of course seems far less important these days.
The Doctor is better involved in this adventure than in any other season 18 story so far. He brings us viewers to the new planet and engages our curiosity about the place, thus prepping us nicely for all the exposition of the guest characters that then takes place without his presence, which is the right sequence of doing things in my book. Adric then gets most of the focus of the first episode, which works since he's an important character being introduced. The Doctor then shifts from his investigation of the phenomena that the TARDIS went through and embarks on a different line of exploration and investigation, beginning with Adric, Mistfall, and the marsh creatures, and continuing with the Starliner and the customs of the people living in it. He also proves as interested in Dexeter as in the scientist's experiments. His trip back to the cave keeps things moving literally, and begins to cement his working relationship with Adric. And of course, he is quite busy in the final episode resolving most of the story's challenges, amidst quite a bit of a type of action that shouldn't be as a-typical for the show as is usually the case in practice.
Production CohesionPeter 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.
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.
Deutsch: "Verschollen im E-Space"
Magyar: "A kör bezárul"
Français: (Cercle Complet)
Русский: "Полный круг"
This story is available on DVD and VHS video as the first adventure of the E-Space Trilogy.
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