The silly humour of the past couple of seasons seems to have virtually disappeared now, as this next story goes full circle (as it were!) back to its darker sci-fi roots. Tom Baker is still a delight and still makes the odd witty quip, but it almost seems like he’s a beacon of light in a story that features horrible marshmen killing people, spiders jumping onto people’s faces and even K-9 being beheaded!
Indeed, there is some imagery in Full Circle that would have scared the wits out of kids watching this back in the eighties, such as the sequence where those marshmen rise from the misty swamp waters at the end of part one, eerily reminiscent of a scene from The Sea Devils. The marshmen are a somewhat more frightening prospect, however, with their pig-like grunts and stretched skin. Up close, however, they do just appear to be men in crude rubber suits.
Some more things I liked about Full Circle. Firstly, the concept of descendents of a civilisation carrying out ongoing repairs of their ship, unaware of what they’re really doing – that has definite hints of The Face of Evil to it, only these people aren’t savages, just epic procrastinators. Secondly, the holy books being called the System Files, it has a modern computing feel to it. Is it a coincidence that one of the characters is called “Login” (log in)? Was that even a known term back in 1980 or am I reading too much into it? Thirdly, there is some actual character development for Romana! Well, I say “development” – at best, she’s sad for a little while as she expresses her desire to not return to Gallifrey, which gives us the first hints of her motivations. Fourthly, some of the music in this story is really nice; there’s a flute like motif that plays every so often, with hints of the theme tune to it. It’s sort of synthy but tranquil. Lastly, I suppose the twist about what the marshmen really are is kind of clever. It’s always more interesting when monsters aren’t just monsters.
But there are a few things I felt were a bit disappointing. At the start of the story, the Doctor and Romana are en route to Gallifrey. When the accident happens, I almost expected them to have arrived in the past, with the natives being pre-civilisation Gallifreyans, in some sort of Genesis of the Time Lords type story, and then I was let down when it wasn’t. I also feel that the cycle of the spiders, marshmen and the natives could have been explored better. Why, for instance, would spider bites brainwash the natives (and Romana) into obeying them? The spiders were hidden inside the river fruit, which could have been a cool twist where they are routinely let inside the starliner and start turning all the people into marshmen, starting a new cycle that way or something. It didn’t quite happen like that.
Finally, I really didn’t take to any of the youngsters. Adric in particular is a bit of an annoying character who serves no real purpose, and it would appear that he’s sticking around, while the Tardis is still trapped in the exo-space dimension. Still, anything that freshens up the dynamic of the show is fine with me.