The story begins with a castle overlooking a village.
Sue: Is this one going to be a period drama? We haven’t had one of those for ages.
Inside the castle’s Tower, 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 him. It’s uncanny – it’s the eyeliner that does it.
In a tavern, Ivo is preparing his villagers for an imminent inspection. At the very last moment, he tries (and fails) to shield his own son from the selection process.
Sue: Is this Schnidler’s List meets Thor?
Me: A bit.
On the TARDIS, the Doctor and Romana have decided to investigate a nearby planet so they can ask for directions.
K9: Atmosphere and gravity approximate closely to Earth normal.
Sue: How handy is that? I’m not complaining though, it means we can go outside and we won’t be stuck in a studio for four episodes.
As the TARDIS travels through space.
Sue: Why is E-space green?
Sue: Did Doctor Who fans buy Espace people movers in the 1980s? I bet they bloody did.
Romana’s latest outfit gets the thumb’s up.
Sue: I like it. She looks like she’s heading out for a nice country lunch. Very smart. Why doesn’t the Doctor change his coat any more? He’s been wearing that burgundy number a lot. He must stink a bit.
The TARDIS materialises on the planet.
The Doctor: It’s awfully nice out there, K9.
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.
The Doctor and Romana walk to the tavern. The captain of the Tower guards, a man named Habris, falls over himself to help them.
Habris: My lord, how may I serve you?
Sue: This makes a lovely change to being arrested for something they haven’t done. I bet the Doctor won’t know how to react to this. Ooh, that’s a nice willow fence they have over there.
As you know, Sue is easily distracted by wood.
When the Doctor and Romana leave the tavern, Ivo reaches for a walkie-talkie.
Sue: Nice twist. The plot thickens. Is this a medieval theme park where all the robots are out of control?
If you didn’t already know, Sue is obsessed with Westworld.
Huzzah! The adorable Adric is back.
Sue: Adric reminds me of Nicol’s ex-boyfriend.
I spill hot tea into my lap.
Me: Nicol’s going to love that!
Nicol’s ex-boyfriend looks like Adric in much the same way that Aukon looks like Fish. In other words, not at all.
Sue: Do you know what this story reminds me of?
Me: Go on.
I brace myself.
Me: What? Again?
Sue: It’s not 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 or 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.
In the Tower, Sue gives the three who rule the once-over:
Sue: Siouxsie Sioux.
Sue: Russell Brand.
Me: He doesn’t look like Fish.
The Doctor and Romana encounter a group of rebels hiding in a cave. They are 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 look. I like his Fernando Torres headband, too.
The three who rule protect 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. 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 have to 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 him – look at that huge grin on his little face. He can’t believe his luck. This is his dream job.
Me: What? Working at 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.
Oh dear God.
The cave rebels are surrounded by antiquated computer equipment, which Romana eventually gets working again.
Sue: It’s Ceefax.
The computer tells them that a spaceship called Hydrax left planet Earth and presumably fell into a CVE before crashing onto the planet.
Sue: This is heating up quite nicely now. I’m getting more intrigued by the second.
The Doctor and Romana set off for the Tower as night falls. A bat bites the Doctor on the neck.
Sue: Will he turn into a vampire in this story? How will he get the fangs in? His teeth are massive as it is.
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 at the time. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It doesn’t help that they are throwing plastic bats onto the floor, 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 it spoil things for me.
When the bats return in the recap, Sue has just the answer:
Sue: Use your catapult on them. You know, like in Zelda.
The bats bugger off.
Sue: I don’t like it when cliffhangers just resolve themselves like that without anybody doing anything clever. It feels like a cheat.
Meanwhile, Adric has settled into his new job at the tavern.
Sue: What is he doing? 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 kind of thing. Hey, I’ve just noticed that Romana is wearing leg warmers. How 1980s can you get?
Me: Did you have a pair?
Sue: Of course I did. Didn’t you?
Me: I still wear them from time to time, but they tend to sag a lot nowadays.
Sue: Story of your life.
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?
Back at the cave, the rebels are too frightened to overthrown their oppressors; Kalmar urges them to wait a little longer.
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 who sit on their arses all day doing nothing. Same as last week.
Zargo’s beard remains a source of fascination to Sue.
Sue: He looks like he should be a king on 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 find a service hatch and they explore the Tower/spaceship.
Sue: This is very clever. Only in Doctor Who could 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 some pipes that connect the corpses to a huge of 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 sending it up.
Sue: I’ve missed stories like this. I don’t think they are sending things 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. It was just a close-up of Fish’s eyes.
Me: I give up.
Sue is really enjoying State of Decay.
Sue: The script is very engaging and everyone is giving it their all. It’s very good.
Aukon hypnotises the Doctor and Romana runs away. She breaks off a sharp stalagmite, which she then throws at Aukon.
Sue: I thought she was going to stake him in the heart with it. How disappointing.
The Doctor and Romana have both been chosen.
Sue: I bet the fans couldn’t wait to see Camilla turn Romana.
The Doctor tells Romana about a time when vampires swarmed through the universe and where a single vampire 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?
Romana: So they were all destroyed?
Sue: Apart from the ones who went on to appear in Buffy and Twilight. They managed to get away it seems.
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.
Romana tells the Doctor that his TARDIS comes pre-installed with a copy of the Record of Rassillon.
The Doctor: (to Romana) You are 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 problem of Adric.
Sue: They both look genuinely annoyed that they have to deal with him. I’m not sure if that’s acting or not.
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor has a task for K9.
Sue: I’m surprised that K9 hasn’t zapped the Doctor’s slippers while he was out. That’s what dogs do when they’re bored, you know.
K9 accesses the TARDIS’ memory banks.
Sue: Has he found an old episode of The Clangers in there? It sounds like he has.
Meanwhile, in the Tower, Romana finds Adric, who is out for the count.
Sue: I really hope that isn’t Adric’s new costume. He looks like a page boy.
The Doctor finds a command from Rassillon himself, buried deep inside the TARDIS data banks: Kill All Vampires.
Sue: Right, pause it, please. I don’t get this at all. If that is the prime directive for all Time Lords, why hide it away like that? It took the Doctor 15 minutes to get at this instruction, and that’s only because he was searching for it in the first place. It doesn’t make any sense.
Romana and a rebel named Tarak try to wake Adric from his slumber.
Tarak: Maybe he’s still under hypnosis?
Sue: No, that’s just him acting.
The episode concludes with Camilla trying 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 from him 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 in the head really, really hard? 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. They pass the time bickering.
Sue: That’s not acting. Lalla Ward is really pissed off with him. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of Lalla Ward.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and the rebels plan their attack on the Tower.
Sue: Just send K9 in there. He could sort it out.
The Doctor takes Sue’s advice and K9 leaves the TARDIS.
K9 leads the battle for the Tower but Sue isn’t 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 care and attention lavished on them.
Adric pretends to switch sides.
Sue: I know Adric isn’t great. I know that. But I can’t help but like him. It’s like 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 he would hurry up and get out of bed. There can’t be very long left and I still haven’t seen anything yet.
The rebels have taken the Tower and K9 sits on the throne.
Sue: How the hell did he get up there? 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 so great. What a pity.
The Doctor launches the rocket. It comes straight back down again and it stakes the Great Vampire in the heart. We think.
Sue: Nice idea. Bad execution. That was an anticlimax.
The three who rule crumble to dust.
Sue: Now that was excellent.
Ivo is forced to apologise to K9 for an outburst he made earlier.
Sue: John Nathan-Turner should apologise as well. K9 is brilliant. K9 kicks arse.
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 that they are completely ****ed. Still, there’s not much he can do about it, is there? Unless he wants to rent them some rooms on the TARDIS. What a downer.
The Doctor ushers Adric into the TARDIS.
The Doctor: You’re going straight back to the Starliner.
Sue: Yeah, right.
The Final Score
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: