Monday, 19 November 2012

Review: Doctor Who Classic: State of Decay

The Three Who Rule, looking appropriately hammy.
Ooh, doesn't the one on the right look like
Matthew Baynton from this angle? No? Just me? Ok.
Doctor Who - Season 18, Story Four - State of Decay
Written 19/8/12

Vampires, vampires, vampires. Who doesn't just love a bit of bite and suck, eh? Ever since the Victorian Era, those suckers have been on our screens in a million different forms, and they took cinema by storm due to the simple fact that hey, they're cool. Unsuprisingly, Doctor Who took on Vampires many times, both deconstructing them (Smith and Jones, Vampires in Venice) and taking them entirely too seriously (The Stones of Blood, and today's story.) State of Decay doesn't so much reference Vampire myth as much as it bathes in it, all the while wondering exactly whether it's trying a little too hard.
     Still stuck in E-Space, the Doctor and Romana head off from Alzarius and decide to stop and ask for directions on the nearest inhabited planet. When they get there, they find a degenerating society of subservient peasants, living under the control and reverence of the Three Who Rule, vampires themselves in servive of The King Vampire. The Doctor, taking a second to look up his history, discovers that these Vampires are powerful creatures from the Dark Times who were hunted to near-extinction by the Time Lords - apart from their even-more-ultra-powerful leader, who managed to escape through a CVE onto the planet he's currently sleeping on. While the Vampires try to convert Adric and sacrifice Romana, The Doctor uses his research knowledge to organise the resistance movement and storm the castle, using one of the Vampires' spaceships to stab the King Vampire through the heart and end their power. Everything sorted, The Doctor, Romana and Adric pop off in the TARDIS, The Doctor fully intending to send him home.
     The Vampires in this story skirt the lines between myth and cliche. A lot like The Daemons and later The Satan Pit, the creatures in this story purport to be those that inspired the myths in Human lore, which goes to explain some of their more cliched aspects - pale skin, fear of certain herbs, reliance on the blood from the living to survive. Of course, these are just human scouts who have fallen under the influence of the Great Vampire, but that doesn't explain their eyeshadow. This "big secret fascade" thing keeps reoccuring in Season 18 - Pangol is a child of the machine, what appears to be The Doctor is in fact Meglos, the Alzarians are decended from the Marshmen - it says a lot about what the season is having to do with its ideas. Sure, the concepts are there and the ideas are strong, but does that a good story make? No, and so the season has to rely on revelations, has to rely upon twists and turns in order to inject some suspense into things.
Romana just tried to get through a montage of the
story's slow bits.
     And that was my biggest problem with State of Decay. It was so... so run-of-the-mill that it didn't invoke any response in me, apart from a chuckle at the few jokes and a slow awe at Tom's monologuing (which I could listen to all day.) I mean, there were some fun bits here or there that dealt more openly with the sci-fi bits in the premise, but that Draculean stuff with peasants, Lords and chosen ones was bland as all hell. Even something like The Androids of Tara, which was based entirely upon a story of Lord and Ladies, managed to make said story really, really fun. This? Well, I liked bits of it, and the overall premise, but it felt much like trying to make my way through a shallow bog; there were high points, but the low points were boggy enough to dampen the whole enterprise. I can't laugh with it. I can't even find anything to laugh at. And I certainly wasn't on the edge of my seat.
      This is a Terrence Dicks script, so I don't want to be so down on it, but there were long stretches where it was simply far too dull. The end result certainly isn't bad, by any stretch of the word, but it is burdoned by an overemphasis on some of the traditional elements of Vampire folklore, which tend to whitewash the interesting, creative new ideas. This story won't be remembered as "the one with all the Gallifreyan lore." It'll be called, "That one with the vampires." And while that may not be a bad thing, the story just doesn't execute its key concepts with enough dexterity to keep me sufficiently interested.

Thanks.

NEXT TIME: I finish all of JNT, and the E-Space Trilogy, as we try to pass the Warrior's Gate.

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