Follow TV Tropes


Recap / Doctor Who S18 E3 "Full Circle"

Go To
Welcome to E-Space! We hope you enjoy your stay...

Login: A little patience goes a long way.
The Doctor: Yes. Too much patience goes absolutely nowhere.

Production code: 5R

The One With… Fish People. And the other one where the Doctor flips his lid in anger.

Written by Andrew Smith. This four-episode serial first aired from October 25 to November 15, 1980.

The TARDIS is on its way to Gallifrey to return Romana home, a task the Doctor has been putting off (and Romana has been letting him) for over a season, when it falls into a Negative Space Wedgie. The result is apparently only a momentary disturbance, but when they arrive at their destination, it isn't Gallifrey. They're in the right place, and the right time, but — they eventually discover — the wrong universe. (For ease of discussion, they subsequently dub the two universes "Normal Space" and "Exo-Space", or "N-Space" and "E-Space" for short.)

Meanwhile, the inhabitants of the planet that isn't Gallifrey have problems of their own. Years ago, a starliner from the planet Terradon made a crash landing on the planet, where they were attacked by the local lifeforms. The survivors of the attack set about trying to repair the starliner and return to Terradon, a task at which their descendents are still working. And now the season of Mistfall is approaching, when all take shelter within the hull of the starliner to avoid the mysterious dangers lurking in the fog. But there are dangerous mysteries inside the starliner as well.

At the end of the story, Adric, a young boy from the starliner, stows away in the TARDIS.


  • Artistic Licence – Physics: When Adric asks Romana how heavy the TARDIS is, she replies "5 * 10⁶ kilos in your gravity". Kilos are used to measure the mass of an object, which always stays the same regardless of gravity, while the weight of an object, which changes depending on gravity, is measured in Newtons, not kilos.
  • Berserk Button: Dexeter and the Deciders make the extremely huge mistake of pushing the Fourth Doctor's, by first allowing the death of the Marshchild during a botched vivisection (which was also done without the Doctor's permission) and then mumbling excuses about it — it leads, naturally, to the Doctor losing all of his shit at them:
    • Also, don't steal Adric's badge. His first scene has him putting Keara in a stranglehold for trying to do so.
      Keara: So the boy can count. Give it to me! (She makes a grab for Adric's badge.)
      Adric: Keep your hands off it! (He grabs Keara's arm and twists it behind her back.)
  • Big Bad: The Marshmen, although they're mostly just acting on instinct.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: Romana is summoned back to Gallifrey. The Doctor's casual invocation of this trope, with the elves in this case being the Time Lords, almost reduces her to tears.
  • Continuity Nod: The Doctor briefly mentions Leela, K9 Mark I and the Key to Time. He even hopes that both K9s meet each other.
  • Death by Origin Story: Varsh, whose death at the hands of the Marshmen means Adric no longer has any ties among his people.
  • Death of a Child: The Marshchild dies (and is, in fact, the only Marshman to perish in the story). Tylos and Varsh also arguably count, as both are teenagers who die during the Marshmen's rampage aboard the Starliner in the final episode.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Romana is clearly fighting not to cry at the thought of being forced back to Gallifrey with no say in the matter.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Adric's first scene has him trying to join the gang which his brother, Varsh, has formed. This scene includes a close-up of Adric's badge for mathematical excellence, as well as establishing that he has a rather high opinion of himself. "Of course I'm better than you. I'm an Elite."
  • Everyone Is a Tomato: The people on the Starliner are indigenous Alzarian lifeforms and not descendants of the original crew and passengers.
  • Fog of Doom: Subverted; K9 reveals that it's non-toxic.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Adric only mentions his brother Varsh's death once after this story and seems to suffer no emotional repercussions from it, much to the chagrin of Matthew Waterhouse, who had lost his own older brother in real life.
  • Friend to All Children: The Doctor frightens off the marsh-man child and observes it's odd, he's usually good with children. Later, he would have managed to calm it if he hadn't been knocked out.
  • Generation Ship: One that isn't actually going anywhere.
  • Healing Factor: It's a bit of a plot point in this story that all of Adric's people can heal faster than human normal. You'd think this would be handy for a companion, but it turns up once in Adric's stories and then never again.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: The Doctor to Romana while she's under the thrall of a Marsh Spider's bite.
  • In Harm's Way: Romana really doesn't want to stay on Gallifrey again.
  • Karma Houdini: Once the Outlers are on board, the Deciders rule that if they accept their place in the community and take on their share of the Mistfall maintenance duties, they will be judged to have learned their lesson about misbehavior and will face no actual punishment.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: Here, a "Charged Vacuum Emboitment."
  • Non-Indicative Name: The Deciders can rarely decide on anything. At one point, they end up doing a Delegation Relay that forms a complete circle around their membership without actually accomplishing anything.
  • Noodle Incident: At one point, Varsh says he and Adric have "broken all family ties", implying that the two brothers had a falling out somewhere down the line. However, no further details are given, though it is hinted that Adric's status as an Elite had something to do with it.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The leaders of the Alzarian community are called the Deciders. In a Running Gag, they can't come to an actual decision without being shoved into it.
  • People in Rubber Suits: The Marshmen
  • Plug 'n' Play Technology: The image translator.
  • Propaganda Machine: Varsh and his friends are convinced that Mistfall is a story made up by the Deciders to scare everyone into falling into line and following "procedure". They soon learn that it is all too real. However, their attitude is somewhat justified as none of them have experienced Mistfall before, so they only know about it from what older Alzarians have told them.
  • Read the Freaking Manual: The Alzarians do everything with their ship according to the manuals, to the point where they could have taken off centuries ago, if it wasn't for the fact that one manual out of the set was damaged, namely the one telling them how to actually fly the ship. It eventually turns out that the only pages that were damaged were the ones about the takeoff procedure, so the Doctor sets up the controls and leaves the Deciders to argue over whether to push the launch button. They eventually do.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: When the TARDIS scanner continues to show Alzarius as Gallifrey, Romana tries to think of a technical way to determine if they are still on the planet when the TARDIS seems to take off. Adric suggests they just open the doors and see.
  • Synchronization: After Romana gets bitten by a Marsh Spider, she starts feeling the pain and agony the Marshchild experiences as it gets vivisected, resulting in her mirroring its dying rampage before storming out to lead a Marshman invasion of the starliner. This ends up foreshadowing The Reveal that the Marsh Spiders, Marshmen, and Alzarians are all different phases of the same species' life cycle.
  • Tap on the Head: The Doctor himself gets this treatment — keeping him from calming the alien child.
  • The Team Wannabe: Adric is first seen in the Outlers' cave, trying to persuade them to let him join them. Since he's an Elite, they're somewhat reluctant to accept him.
  • Title Drop: Decider Draith's dying words. "Tell Dexeter we've come full circle!"
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The revelation that the Alzarians are really just metamorphosed Marshmen (which in turn are metamorphosed Marsh Spiders), who replaced the original Terradon crash survivors after the survivors all died off or were killed. Thus, what they thought was a 40-generation period of confinement on Alzarius was actually 4000 generations.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Varsh, Tylos and Keara.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: When the young Tylos goes back against Varsh's warnings and saves one of the crew from a Marshman. The man pauses as he sees Tylos is being attacked, and promptly leaves him to die in his place.
  • Up the Real Rabbit Hole: Of course our universe is the Normal one.
  • Wham Line: Nefred's last words.
    Nefred: We cannot return to Terradon.
    Login: Why?
    Nefred: Because we have never been there.
  • "You!" Exclamation: "DEXETER!!!!"