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4. State of Decay
Writer: Terrance Dicks
Director: Peter Moffatt
Script Editor: Christopher Bidmead
Producer: John Nathan-Turner

Synopsis: Still trapped in E-Space, the Doctor and Romana discover a planet where the inhabitants are living in medieval conditions despite the apparent presence of advanced technology. Adric, who has stowed away in the TARDIS, becomes part of the mix when he's caught by servants of the Three Who Rule - former space explorers from Earth who have attained eternal life by doing the bidding of the Great Vampire, an ancient enemy of the Time Lords who may soon return.

Review: "State of Decay" actually has something in common with its predecessor "Full Circle," despite being about as stylistically different as two serials could be. Both serials are structured around a society that is being held back by its rulers, with a critical juncture of its history being shaped by the arrival of a now-inoperative spacecraft, and both give the Doctor a chance to display his usual irreverence towards the regressive establishment. (My favorite bit might be when Aukon asks the Doctor if he can "feel the power" surrounding them, and the Doctor responds by sticking his finger up in the air and matter-of-factly telling him no.) The difference is that while "Full Circle" was clearly very much in the mold of the new style of Season
18, "State of Decay" is more of a holdover from the "Gothic horror" approach that was typical of the earlier era of Tom Baker's run as the Doctor. Where the Deciders of "Full Circle" were well-meaning but flawed, the Three Who Rule are pretty much irredeemable fiends, more than willing to murder and to become vampires themselves in pursuit of eternal life. They're effective villains in context, but neither they nor the rebels who eventually take up arms against them are especially memorable. The one element of unpredictability, actually, is Adric in his relatively limited role - though his apparent betrayal of Romana is a ruse, we're left wondering at first if maybe it's for real. Still, "State of Decay" has enough going for it in pacing, atmosphere, and solid writing of the leads to make for a successful installment.

Rating: ***
(out of four)

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