Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Doctor Who and the State of Decay – review

Author: Terrance Dicks

First Published: 1982

Contains spoilers

If there is one Doctor Who adventure that should be on DVD it is “The State of Decay” and yet, for some unknown reason it isn’t. This is despite featuring the best Doctor, in my opinion, Tom Baker up against vampires.

When I was thinking of this some time ago I seemed to recall that I owned the novelisation but a quick look proved futile. Then, as luck should have it, during a tidy through the other day I discovered that I hadn’t dreamt it. I did own the novel, bought some twenty five years ago. I was travelling the next day to Manchester and took the book along to read on the train, where at only 125 pages it barely lasted part of the outward journey.

In this the Doctor, Romana and K9 (plus, unbeknown to them at the head of the book/episode, the stowaway Adric) are stuck in E-Space. They find a planet and land but it seems uninhabited bar a single castle and village. As things move along we discover that the Lords and Ladies of the tower are vampires.

Actually, what we discover in this is that the great enemies of the Time Lords were not Daleks or cybermen but giant space vampires. These creatures sucked the life from entire planets and the Time Lords killed them with bow ships, space ships that fired a giant bolt of metal through the heart. However the King Vampire escaped, into E Space, and is now beneath the castle – lending the Lords his power so that they might aid his healing by providing a steady stream of victims – something they have done for 1000 years.

The presence of these space vampires has left a racial memory, leading to vampire legends on almost every inhabited planet.

The episode was great, but what about the book? Well it is a direct novelisation, so the story is intact, but it was definitely aimed at kids so the language is simplistic. Booker Prize material it isn’t but it is a fair old romp for those of us who remember and for those who want the episodes released for sale – well it is the closest you can get to it at the moment unless you find the Tom Baker read audio book.

Balancing the trip down memory lane and great premise with the very simplistic writing and language, I’ve ended up at 5 out of 10.

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