The first up of the DOCTOR WHO offerings for the month of May (and subsequently there are no new WHO adventures in June sadly) is actually a boxed set featuring Tom Baker as The Doctor in ‘The E-Space Trilogy’. This storyline consists of ‘Full Circle’, ‘State of Decay’, and ‘Warrior’s Gate’. The three disc box set features all of the episodes of each serial restored well beyond any previous release (which was only on VHS), and each disc has commentaries and behind the scenes features for WHO fans to devour.
These three stories take place towards the end of Tom Baker’s run as The Doctor and there are some major companion changes that take place during The Doctor’s time in another alternate universe. Over the course of these three discs viewers must bid farewell to beloved robot dog K-9 and Romana (Lalla Ward). Replacing those two is the somewhat less than endearing (at least to me) Adric (Matthew Waterhouse). Lalla Ward who actually was married to Tom Baker for a time, probably had reached a point where it was a good move to leave the series and the constant company of her ex-husband, and with John Nathan-Turner at the helm of the show, K-9 also got the old heave-ho.
These stories are interesting enough, and though they all suffer from the same dated effects, that most have come to expect from classic WHO, they are an engaging trilogy of serials. The swamp denizens in ‘Full Circle’ leave a bit to be desired, but the vampires in ‘State of Decay’ more than make up for the bad costumes. Then ‘Warrior’s Gate’ brings everything to a nice close, or should that be a new beginning?
My biggest gripe with this time period in WHO, is the fact that Tom Baker (who I adore and he was The Doctor I most remember from childhood) is a little too intense. You can tell that he wasn’t happy with the new leadership of Nathan-Turner and his ‘habits’ were starting to really be apparent in front of the camera. Scenes that weren’t meant to be terribly tense read like everyone in the room might be standing on a land mine; which of course would be Baker’s famous temper tantrums.
The other draw back from this time period is the replacement of Romana with Adric. As I mentioned earlier Romana and K-9 take off and Adric becomes the new companion in this trilogy. Romana (as Lalla Ward) was a strong and engaging companion to watch, and Adric just comes across as a whiny kid who thinks far too much of himself and his abilities.
The picture transfer and sound quality on these DVDs are exceptional as usual, and the commentary from the actors and some of the behind the scenes crew is definitely worth listening to. All of the features are worth watching, if for the sole reason of everyone being so candid about the experience of making the series.
Two of the better features on this particular set are on the third disc. One covers the many costume designs worn by Lalla Ward during her time with DOCTOR WHO, and this is just a fun romp through all of the different styles Romana had. I don’t think there has been a companion until Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) on the current series, which got to change looks as much. The other feature on the third disc is a look at Adric, which features footage from the show intercut with Matthew Waterhouse as he is now. I have to say I am somewhat surprised with how smug he seems in his great contributions to the world of WHO. Definitely one to toot his own horn, this feature only makes me loathe the character more and want to re-watch his death in ‘Earthshock’.
This DVD set is a special period in WHO history with the switching of companions and the picture and sound quality don’t get any better. The special features are a lot of fun and each commentary track on each serial is, at least, entertaining to listen to. This marks almost the end of the Tom baker era, and no WHO fan can really be without this set for their collection.