This story begins in a castle overlooking a village.
Sue: Is this one going to be a period drama? We haven’t had one of those for ages.
Sue is immediately drawn to Aukon.
Sue: It’s Fish from Marillion.
Me: Are you insane?
Sue: If Fish had a beard and a wig, he would be the spitting double of this guy. It’s uncanny. It’s the eyeliner that does it.
A man named Ivo is preparing his villagers for an imminent inspection. He tries (and fails) to shield his own son from the selection process.
Sue: Is this Schindler’s List meets Thor?
Me: A bit.
The Doctor decides to investigate a nearby planet so he can ask for directions. K9 informs him the atmosphere and gravity are close to Earth-normal.
Sue: How handy is that? I’m not complaining, though. It means we can go outside and won’t be stuck in a studio for four episodes.
As the TARDIS travels through space, Sue has a question.
Sue: Why is E-Space green?
Sue: Did Doctor Who fans buy Espace people movers in the 1980s? I bet they bloody did.
At least Romana’s latest outfit gets two thumbs-up.
Sue: I like it. She looks like she’s on her way to a nice country lunch. Very smart. Why doesn’t the Doctor change his coat any more? He’s been wearing the burgundy one a lot lately. He must stink a bit.
When the TARDIS materialises on the planet, the Doctor tells K9 that it’s awfully nice outside.
Sue: (As K9) I wouldn’t know, master, you never let me out. You are a very bad master, Master, and I ****ing hate you.
When the Doctor and Romana arrive at a tavern, the captain of the guards falls over himself to help.
Sue: This makes a nice change from being arrested for something they haven’t done. I bet the Doctor won’t know how to react to this.
When the Doctor and Romana leave the tavern, Ivo reaches for a walkie-talkie.
Sue: That’s a nice twist. The plot thickens. Is this a medieval theme park where all the robots are out of control?
Adric is back.
Sue: Adric reminds me of Nicol’s ex-boyfriend.
I spit hot tea everywhere.
Me: Nicol’s going to love that!
Nicol’s ex-boyfriend looks like Adric in much the same way Aukon looks like Fish. In other words, not at all.
Sue: Do you know what this story reminds me of?
Me: No. Go on.
I brace myself.
Me: What? Again??
Sue: It isn’t just the music this time, it’s the whole thing. We just had a little cut-scene where an old man gave them some information about their quest, and now they’re walking down the lane towards their next mission. They should be picking up gold coins and little hearts as they go.
Me: Let me get this straight: of all the things this story could be referring to, you think it’s Zelda, the video game series from Nintendo? Sir Christopher Frayling will have a fit!
Sue gives The Three Who Rule the once-over. First up, there’s Camilla…
Sue: Siouxsie Sioux.
Sue: Russell Brand.
And finally Aukon…
Sue: Fish! From Marillion!
Me: He doesn’t look like Fish.
The Doctor and Romana encounter a group of rebels led by an old man named Kalmar.
Sue: He’s the first bald man I’ve seen with dreadlocks. That’s a great look. Bobby Charlton should have tried that. I like his Fernando Torres headband, too.
The Three Who Rule are protecting the villagers from something called the Wasting.
Sue: This reminds me of The Neverending Story.
Me: Does it? I’ve never seen it.
Sue: You’ve never seen The Neverending Story?
Sue: You have to watch it, Neil. In fact, I insist on it. (Singing) The Neverending Story! Trust me, you’ll love it. It’s got something called the Nothing in it and it reminds me of this.
Me: I’ll take your word for it. You think Aukon looks like Fish.
Adric arrives at the tavern looking for the Doctor and Romana.
Sue: Look at that huge grin on his little face. He can’t believe his luck. This is his dream job.
Me: What? Working in a tavern?
Sue: No, working on Doctor Who. Look at him. He ****ing loves it.
Adric helps himself to some food.
Sue: He’s a growing lad. I just want to mother him.
Me: Oh dear God.
The rebels are surrounded by antiquated computer equipment, which Romana eventually gets working again.
Sue: Is that Ceefax?
The computer tells them a spaceship called Hydrax left Earth and presumably fell into a CVE before crashing onto the planet.
Sue: This is heating up quite nicely now. I’m becoming more intrigued by the second.
The Doctor and Romana set off for the Tower as night falls. Unfortunately, a bat bites the Doctor on the neck.
Sue: Does he turn into a vampire? But how will he get the fangs in? His teeth are massive!
The episode concludes with the Doctor and Romana attacked by a colony of bats.
Sue: That wasn’t the greatest cliffhanger in the world. We get bats up here all the time. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It doesn’t help that they’re throwing plastic bats at them either. They should have stuck with the stock footage and fudged it. Oh well, the rest of the episode was pretty good. I won’t let this spoil it for me.
When the bats return in the recap, Sue thinks she has the answer.
Sue: Use your catapult on them. You know, like in Zelda.
The bats bugger off.
Sue: I don’t like it when the cliffhangers resolve themselves in that way. You know, without anyone doing anything clever. It feels a bit of a cheat.
Meanwhile, it appears Adric has settled into his new job at the tavern.
Sue: Why is he working at a medieval Wagamamas? Why doesn’t he just **** off back to the TARDIS? He could chill out with K9, watch a bit of telly, have a snooze. Why is he subjecting himself to this? The free bread can’t be that good.
Aukon enters the tavern in search of fresh blood.
Sue: (Singing) Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly…
Me: He doesn’t look like Fish!
When Aukon inspects Adric, you can cut the sexual tension with a bread knife.
Sue: I bet this is what Matthew’s audition was like.
The Doctor and Romana arrive at the Tower.
Sue: I must say, the sets are beautiful. The BBC are great at this sort of thing. Hey, I’ve just noticed Romana is wearing leg warmers this week. How 1980s can you get?
Me: Did you own a pair?
Sue: Of course I did. Didn’t you?
Me: I still wear them from time to time, but they tend to sag at the knees these days.
Sue: Story of your life, Neil.
Fish brings Adric to the Tower so he can be admired by Siouxsie and Russell.
Sue: This is a bit… You know… Isn’t it?
The rebels are too frightened to overthrow their oppressors.
Sue: There’s a theme running through this season.
I will bet you any money she’s not thinking about entropy.
Sue: It’s all about people sitting on their arses all day doing nothing to help themselves. Same as last week.
Zargo is still a source of fascination for Sue.
Sue: He looks like he should be the king in a pack of playing cards. Has anyone ever made a pack of cards based on this story?
Me: State of Decay playing cards? That’s a bit niche.
Sue: A bit niche?! I’ve been to Forbidden Planet, remember. The Doctor could be the joker.
The Doctor and Romana explore the Tower/spaceship.
Sue: This is very clever. Only in Doctor Who would you find a castle disguised as a rocket.
The Time Lords discover a room full of dead bodies.
Sue: That’s a bit grim.
They follow the pipes that connect the corpses to a huge vat of blood.
Sue: This is horrific. We haven’t had a story like this for a while.
Me: They were supposed to make this story a few years back, but they had to put it on hold when the BBC made a prestigious version of Dracula and they didn’t want Doctor Who to send it up.
Sue: I don’t think they’re sending it up at all.
The Doctor suddenly smacks himself in the head.
Sue: Did a blood-sucking mosquito just land on his face?
The episode concludes with Aukon introducing the Doctor and Romana to his domain.
Sue: That wasn’t even a proper cliffhanger. That was just a close-up of Fish’s eyes.
Me: I give up.
Sue is really enjoying State of Decay.
Sue: The script is engaging, and the cast are giving their all.
Romana breaks off a stalagmite and throws at Aukon.
Sue: I thought she was going to stake him in the heart with it. How disappointing.
The Doctor and Romana have been chosen.
Sue: I bet the fans couldn’t wait to see Camilla turn Romana. If you know what I mean.
The Doctor tells Romana about a time when vampires swarmed the universe, and how a single one could suck the life out of an entire planet.
Sue: That’s just greedy.
In Gallifrey’s distant past, the Time Lords hunted down and killed these vampires.
Sue: So the Time Lords were vampire slayers? Where the hell did that come from?
And then something delightful happens.
Sue: It’s Stuart Fell! Wait for it… Wait for it… There he goes! And yes, he fell very well.
When Romana reminds the Doctor that his TARDIS comes pre-installed with a copy of the Record of Rassillon, he tells her she’s wonderful.
Sue: Get a room.
Me: Funnily enough, they weren’t getting on terribly well when they were making this story. In fact, there are whole scenes where they won’t even look at each other.
Sue: Please don’t spoil the illusion for me. I don’t want to know.
The Doctor returns to his TARDIS, leaving Romana to deal with the problem called Adric.
Sue: They both look genuinely annoyed that they have to put up with him. I’m not sure if that’s acting or not.
The Doctor has a task for K9.
Sue: I’m surprised K9 hasn’t zapped the Doctor’s slippers while he was out. That’s what dogs do when they’re bored, you know.
Meanwhile, back at the Tower, Romana finds Adric, who is still out for the count.
Sue: I hope that isn’t Adric’s new costume. He looks like a pageboy.
The Doctor discovers a decree from Rassillon, buried deep inside the TARDIS data banks: Kill All Vampires.
Sue: Right, pause this, please. I don’t get this at all. If that is supposed to be the prime directive for all the Time Lords, why hide it like that? It took the Doctor 15 minutes to access this instruction, and that’s only because he was looking for it in the first place. It doesn’t make any sense!
The episode concludes with Camilla attempting to get her claws into Romana.
Sue: Finally, a decent cliffhanger. I’m enjoying this.
Sue can’t get over Zargo’s resemblance to Russell Brand, and when Aukon stops him from having his wicked way with Romana, Sue can’t help herself.
Sue: (As Russell Brand) It’s made Mr Winky go right small it has. Oh yes!
Meanwhile, the Doctor is self-harming again.
Sue: Why does the Doctor keep hitting himself like that? He’ll do himself a serious injury if he’s not careful. Is this how he regenerates? Does he smack himself too hard on the side of the head?
Me: Don’t be silly. What kind of stupid regeneration would that be?
Adric and Romana are held captive by the Three Who Rule, so they pass the time bickering.
Sue: She isn’t acting here. Lalla Ward is genuinely pissed off with him. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her.
The Doctor and the rebels plan their attack on the Tower.
Sue: Just send K9 in there. He’ll sort it out.
The Doctor takes Sue’s advice and K9 is permitted to leave the TARDIS.
K9 leads the charge, but Sue isn’t really feeling it.
Sue: I still miss Dudley. I don’t like the incidental music very much, and the fights aren’t as good as they were in the 1970s, either. They don’t have the same amount of care and attention lavished on them.
Adric pretends to switch sides.
Sue: I know Adric isn’t great. I do know that. But I can’t help but like him. It’s as if we’re watching a boy who has been thrown into the deep end and he’s drowning.
The Time of Arising draws near.
Sue: I wish the bad guy would hurry up and get out of bed. There can’t be long left.
The rebels have taken the Tower and K9 sits on the throne.
Sue: I thought he wasn’t allowed on the furniture?
The Great One’s hand bursts through the floor.
Sue: The Great One doesn’t look that great to me. What a pity.
The Doctor launches the rocket. It comes straight back down again and it stakes the vampire through its heart. We think.
Sue: Nice idea. Bad execution. That was an anticlimax.
The three who rule crumble to dust.
Sue: Now that was excellent.
The story concludes with the Doctor wishing Kalmar luck when it comes to finding a way out of E-Space.
Sue: The Doctor knows damn well they are completely ****ed. Still, there’s not much he can do about it, is there? Unless he wants to rent them some rooms in the TARDIS. What a downer.
Sue: The ending let it down. It was heading for an easy 8 at the end of Part Three but the last part didn’t deliver. I know I shouldn’t complain about crappy special effects but it was an anticlimax for me at the end. However, I loved the set design, the acting was pretty good and the story was very engaging. Yeah, it wasn’t bad at all; Fish was really good.
We appeared on Bob Fischer’s BBC Tees radio show on Monday and we talked at length about the blog, the new series and, of course, Ian Levine. The full two-hour show is available on iPlayer for the next seven days – and includes music by Jon Pertwee, Fraser Hines, Mae West and Don Harper’s Homo Electronicus – and highlights from the show are also available via the following Soundcloud edit: