The Doctor Who episode “Full Circle” is the first story in the E-Space trilogy, and it introduces Adric who would become an ongoing companion and (spoiler alert) the first longtime companion to be killed on the show, which would happen in the episode Earthshock, which I blogged about previously. All of that is still in the future, of course, but blogging about the episode that introduces him now, after having blogged about the one featuring his departure almost a decade ago, makes this seem worth mentioning, even if in a timey wimey sort of way.
The episode begins with the Doctor setting course for Gallifrey because the time lords have summoned them back, the intention being for Romana to return now that the key to time has been dealt with. The Doctor’s submission to the time lords, saying they cannot be fought or fled, seems rather odd given his history of doing precisely that, and his explanation that he fought them and lost doesn’t seem especially compelling.
A major twist occurs when the TARDIS tells the Doctor that they have arrived on Gallifrey, when outside it clearly is not Gallifrey. Eventually we learn that they are in exospace or E-space, having gotten there due to a CVE (Charged Vacuum Emboitment), one of the rarest events in the universe. On this planet there is a crashed starliner spaceship, humanoids, spiders, and marshmen. The episode focuses on figuring out what is really going on and what secrets are hidden in the system files of the ship that some are trying to prevent from being revealed. The humanoids manage to study one of the marshmen that they live in fear of, and find that it does not have the aggression that their official ship system files say it must. Another major twist comes as it is revealed that the spiders, the marsh creatures, and the humanoids have the same cells. They are different stages of evolution of the same organism, the marshmen having adapted to the environment of a crashed starliner. That is why none of them knows how to pilot the ship, which in fact was fully repaired and could have left at any time if someone had known how to fly it. The Doctor helps the humanoids to be able to depart and find a new home for themselves. Adric stows away aboard the TARDIS and becomes a regular companion, continuing into the Peter Davidson era. The first episode I ever saw, “Four to Doomsday,” featured him.
As always in episodes from the Tom Baker era, there is entertaining dialogue, such as “A little patience goes a long way” – “Too much patience goes nowhere.” The Doctor also says at one point, when the humanoids react with horror at their shared genome with the other living things on the planet that they fear so much, “We’re all basically primeval slime with thoughts above our station.”
Both in its (highly implausible, scientifically speaking) exploration of fast-paced evolution, and in the theme of an authoritative text (the system files) and deliberate deception of people to prevent panic, the episode provides some opportunity for consideration of religious themes, even if only indirectly. Adric’s belief that the starliner will one day be able to take off is a sort of eschatological hope for a future life among the stars. If that is a secularized eschatology, that makes it all the more interesting in some ways.
The author of the episode, Andrew Smith, wrote it when he was remarkably young, being just 17 at the time. I have no idea whether that makes him the youngest writer of an episode. Do you know?