5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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STATE OF DECAY
"One day, you'll apologise for that!"
Cheesier than a Gorgonzola sandwich.
State of Decay is a leftover from the Hinchcliffe rip-off-every-genre-in-sight era, and it shows. An affectionate tribute to Hammer Horror's all very well, but when it out-hams Hammer, it's not a good look. And to make things even worse, you've got a script pulling one way and a production team yanking the other. There you are in the midst of a bunch of overblown Gothic campery, and suddenly somebody starts yapping on all scientific-like about language drift. Bizarre. Add the forcible insertion of Adric... no, let's not think about that, shall we? Add the last-minute inclusion of Adric, and you've got quite a clunker.
The thing fair oozes with cliches, replete with evil vampires, surly churls, rubber bats, chosen ones, hypnotic gazes, sacrifices in floaty dresses, molto references to drinking your blood and lines like "I am Aukon. Welcome to my domain.". Argh. It wouldn't be so bad if it were funny cheesy, like the hysterical Brain of Morbius, but it can't even do that. It's just plain bad. Sometimes they go for all-out comedy, like the excruciating conversation the Doctor has with the villagers where they chorus their responses like a bad Gilbert and Sullivan, but it's all so listless it falls flatter than a lead pancake.
Just how boring is it? Let us count the ways. First, it's boring because the story's so cliched you know exactly what's coming next. Something strange going on in the manor? That's unusual. Vampires, you say? How very interesting. And they want to drink our blood, too. Yes, we believe that's the usual drill.
And even when State Of Decay's story veers away from the vampire legend, its sheer obviousness is mind-boggling. All the time the Doctor's artlessly speculating on what he can use for a steel bolt, we were screaming at the screen, "the rocket, you moron!". In case that's not dull enough, the story's got more padding than an Ikeaful of duvets. Three possible rockets: is there a viewer who actually thought the Doctor was going to find what he was looking for in the first one? And the dialogue's full of repetition that does nothing more than fill up time.
What else? Well, characterisation's just plain horrible. Romana spends most of her time squeaking with fear, and while the Doctor starts off okay, by the end episodes he's at his wincingly hammiest, goggling for his planet. The villagers are Stock Peasant No. 1, and the vampire king and queen are deeply, deeply tragic. Adric, needless to say, is as doughy and infuriating as ever.
And the giant vampire idea? It's probably supposed to be tres impressive - all that war with the Timelords stuff and all - but to us it sounds like a load of old arse.
Just because Robert Holmes could do this kind of pastiche doesn't mean everybody else can. This is one script that should have been left propping up the leg of the canteen table.
MORAL: Stakes are bad for you.
GREENWICH MEAN TIMELORDS
Why does K9 give Earth equivalents for the local years etc to two Gallifreyans?
Romana must have been glad to be sacrificed, since it got her out of that awful porridge-coloured outfit.
I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE PART I
If everybody knows everybody else, how come they have a word for strangers?
THIS ALWAYS GETS 'EM
Not only do they have the nerve to throw in that horrible old joke of the Doctor hitting the monitor to make it work, they double the damage by repeating it with the console.
DOES IT HAVE PONG?
A "standard Earth databank", Romana? From when, exactly? They don't look the same all the way through history, you know.
IN YOUR OWN TIME
Just after the king says the Doctor and Romana still haven't said why they came there, Lalla looks at Tom, then suddenly remembers it's her line, saying "Bad luck, mostly". Tom, meanwhile, has given up on Lalla and starts with his next line "We were..." at the same time, which he then has to repeat.
ME MYSELF I
All that stuff about language drift makes sense when names are passed down from generation to generation. But the three whose names have changed are still the originals! Surely you wouldn't forget your own name, even after a thousand years?
CRUEL TO BE KIND
When Tarak bursts into the cell to rescue the Doctor, he nearly flattens him with the door.
I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE PART II
If everybody knows everybody else, how come the guards don't all recognise Tarak as a traitor?
LEFT HAND DOWN A BIT
Wasn't it lucky that the Doctor managed to stab the giant vampire exactly in the heart, especially as he had no way of seeing it when he set the coordinates?
A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
That rocket looks pretty bloody huge when it's fired - not surprising given that it makes up a third of the tower. But when we see it poking out of the floor, it seems to have shrunk to the size of an overweight javelin.