Full Circle (TV story)

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Full Circle was the third serial of season 18 of Doctor Who. It was the first story of the E-Space trilogy and the first appearance of Adric.


The TARDIS falls through a CVE into E-Space and arrives on the planet Alzarius. There, the inhabitants of a crashed starliner and a group of young rebels called the Outlers are terrorised by a race of Marshmen who emerge from the marshes at a time known as Mistfall. Will the Fourth Doctor be able to help the starliner's inhabitants repair their ship and leave the planet?


Part one[[edit]]

Having returned the Earthling safely to present day Earth, the Fourth Doctor has K9 implement the coordinates for Gallifrey into the TARDIS console, having been summoned there at the behest of the Time Lord High Council. Romana disappears back to her room and confesses to the Doctor that she doesn't want to be returned to the Time Lords to live out her life on Gallifrey. While the TARDIS is in flight, it passes through a bizarre space/time event and into a green void. While the Doctor attempts to figure out what happened, the TARDIS lands and the scanner shows an image of Gallifrey, but they step outside to find themselves somewhere completely different.

The cells of an Alzarian, exactly the same as that of the Marshmen and Alzarian spider.

Nearby is a small but sustainable civilisation of humanoids who live between a river and a grounded but not irreparable spaceship called the Starliner. They came to the planet Alzarius from Terradon. Much of the focus of society is on repairing their craft. It is an oligarchy ruled by three self-selecting senior colonists knows as Deciders. They ensure the smooth running and order of their adopted world and lay particular store on technical ability. One of the brightest of the younger generation of colonists is Adric, who bears a Badge of Mathematical Excellence in recognition of his computational skills. Adric's brother, Varsh, has rejected the regimented society of the Starliner. He leads a band of rebels called Outlers, who steal harvested riverfruit and other foods to survive. The Outlers attempt to steal some of these riverfruits, but fail and retreat to their cave.

Not all is well in the colony. Strange eggs have started to appear in the riverfruit. This is interpreted by First Decider Draith and scientists Dexeter arrive to examine the inside of riverfruits. In the TARDIS, the Doctor tries to determine their location, but the scanner and coordinates are both stating that the planet is Gallifrey. Back in to the village, Draith, using the precious System Files of the Starliner which by law, can only be seen by the first Decider, views the appearance of these eggs as an omen of Mistfall, a strange periodic change to the planet during which the natural balance of society is threatened. In the Outlers' cave, Adric makes a plea to Varsh to allow him to join the Outlers, but none of the members are convinced of his intentions or loyalty and come up with a means of him proving himself. Soon Mistfall begins, and the colonists move into the Starliner to protect themselves, apparently in a well prepared manner. Adric chooses the moment of confusion to try and steal some riverfruit to prove himself to his brother. Draith gives chase to his young protégé, but falls in the river – only to be dragged beneath the waves by a strange force. His last words are aimed at the chief scientists of the colony: “Tell Dexeter we've come full circle!" Adric muses on this as he heads into the forest in panic, finding his way into the TARDIS. The Doctor and Romana take him in and tend to his leg wound, which recovers remarkably quickly. The Doctor and Romana conclude that the reason the scanner isn't working is down to the negative coordinates, something which their space doesn't have, meaning that they are no longer in their space. The Doctor heads off to investigate the marshes that Adric mentioned in his delirium, while Adric attracts Varsh and the other Outlers to the protection of the TARDIS.

The two other Deciders, Garif and Nefred, have meanwhile ordered the Starliner doors closed as per procedure, knowing that both Draith and Keara, an Outler and the daughter of a prominent citizen called Login, have not entered the ship safely. Despite his worries, Login soon accepts a position as Third Decider when it is determined that Draith has died. It is as well the doors have been closed. At the swamp, the Doctor and K9 are still examining the mist, when humanoid, aggressive Marshmen begin to appear from underwater, looking threatening.

Part two[[edit]]

The Marshmen continue to rise from the water as the Doctor observes. In the Outlers cave, Adric is telling the others about the TARDIS and Varsh, now convinced of the danger of Mistfall, decides to relocate there and take control, against Adric's wishes. The Doctor and K9 move out of sight as the Marshmen move away and the Doctor has K9 follow them while he returns to the TARDIS. While Romana works, the Outlers, followed by Adric, arrive at the TARDIS and declare their intention to seize it. On the Starliner, Nefred and Gariff summon Login and offer him the position of third decider, which he accepts. K9 continues to follow the Marshmen, until they cross a small river bed he is unable to cross. Romana is still at the mercy of the Outlers before Adric intervenes and Romana regains control. Suddenly, the TARDIS rocks violently, as if it were being carried.

The Doctor returns to where the TARDIS was to find it gone without trace. He proceeds further down to hill and stumbles across the Starliner in the distance; he heads over to it. While the Marshmen beat on the walls of the Starliner to gain entry but the fearsome primitive creatures are not admitted, the Doctor gains entry to the Starliner using his sonic screwdriver, followed by a young and inquisitive Marshchild. Nefred addresses the colony of the Starliner as the Doctor and the Marshchild roam free. The TARDIS stops rocking, but Romana can't establish what's outside as the scanner still shows pictures of Gallifrey. Romana looks out of the doors to find the TARDIS in the Outler's cave, surrounded by Marshmen. The Marshchild, lost and afraid, roams through the Starliner, stumbling across some of the citizens. The Doctor tries to reach out to the Marshchild, but a citizen knocks him unconscious and capture the Marshchild. Both are taken and brought before the Deciders. Gariff orders the Marshchild taken to Dexeter for examination.

In the Outlers' cave, the Marshmen beat on the TARDIS trying to gain entry. Romana decides to venture outside. K9 comes to rescue her and the others from the Marshmen, but he has his head knocked off. Romana and Adric deduce that the Marshmen are intending to use the TARDIS as a battering ram to force their way into the Starliner by throwing it down the mountain. The Deciders continue to question the Doctor, who tells them about Decider Draith and the truth about the mists, making Login hopeful that Keara, his daughter, is still alive. Dexeter then arrives and the Doctor goes with him to examine the Marshchild. Back in the cave, the Marshmen suddenly retreat, and when the group step outside to investigate, Marshspiders start emerging from the riverfruits in the cave. Varsh, Tylos, Keara and Adric retreat into the TARDIS. In a panic, Tylos shuts Romana out; when Adric tries to open the doors, he accidentally operates the wrong control and dematerialises the TARDIS without her. Romana is ambushed by the spiders, picking up a riverfruit to fight them off, but a spider bursts out of it. She is bitten by one of the Marshspiders and falls unconscious.

Part three[[edit]]

The Doctor and Dexeter examine the Marshchild and the Doctor is angered to discover Dexeter has been conducting more experiments on it. Login arrives and arranges a deal with the Doctor that if he helps him find his daughter, he will help locate the TARDIS. Suddenly, the TARDIS arrives. When the Outlers emerge, Login is reunited with his daughter, but the Doctor is unimpressed not to be reunited with Romana. The Doctor pilots the TARDIS back to the cave, and finds an alert but amnesiac Romana. On the Starliner, Varsh, Keara and Tylos are put in front on an enquiry, while Dexeter convinces the Deciders to allow him to experiment on the Marshchild. The Doctor scoops up the remains of a Marshspider and K9, and then returns to the Starliner with Adric and an unconscious Romana in tow. By the time the Doctor is back in the Starliner, however, Dexeter has tried to examine the brain of the Marshchild, provoking it to attack. Dexeter is killed, and then the Marshchild, in a state of panic, is electrocuted when it sees an image of the Doctor on a video screen in the lab and punches through it to try to reach him. The Doctor sends Adric back to the TARDIS and is so incensed that he turns on the Deciders and denounces their society – revealing secret ship controls that show the Starliner has been ready to pilot from Alzarius for centuries but, for some reason, the farce of constant repair has been continued. The problem it seems is that though the Deciders understand the technical construction of the ship, no-one knows how to pilot it.

Varsh, Keara and Tylos are put to work doing maintenance on the Starliner systems. The Doctor persuades the Deciders to give him equipment to examine the cells of the Marshspider, Marshchild and Dexeter and also deduces that they are from identical DNA sources. Adric arrives and informs the Doctor that Romana has vanished. When they go back to the TARDIS, they find her room ransacked and go in search of her. At the lower section of the Starliner, Romana, now completely under the influence of the Marshspider's venom, releases the emergency exits and allows the Marshmen to invade the Starliner.

Part four[[edit]]

The Marshmen storm the Starliner in droves and Romana opens another exit allowing more and more of them in. While Varsh, Keara and Tylos are working on the ship, they encounter the invading Marshmen, but Varsh distracts them with the contents of his bag and they flee, but Tylos is killed trying to help someone escape. Varsh and Keara meet up with the Doctor and Adric and the Doctor hustles them into the science unit. The colonists retreat before the creatures, many of whom are more inquisitive than dangerous, but anarchy reigns. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS but is cornered by Romana and the Marshmen. In the science unit, Varsh grows impatient and Adric swaps a microscopes functioning image translator with a broken one. The Doctor tries to break Romana's conditioning to no avail, but manages to keep subliminally chained to the TARDIS. In the main book room, the Deciders come up with a plan when the Marshmen begin to invade and the inhabitants evacuate. Nefred is mortally wounded while fleeing, along with many others.

In the science unit, the Doctor barricades the door and uses the microscope (which Adric returns the image translator for) to examine Dexeter's DNA samples. He and the Outlers concoct a serum which should break Romana's influence when the Marshmen attack the door and begin breaking in. Login orders the citizens to seal the emergency exits, and then he and Gariff plea with Nefred for guidance, of which he has none other than to ask the Doctor's help in piloting the Starliner. His last admission is that the colonists cannot return to Terradon, because they've never been there. Gariff and Login go and search for the Doctor.

The Marshmen invade the science unit, but the Doctor manages to keep them at bay using oxygen canisters, as the oxygen contained is too high concentration for them to adapt quickly enough. The possessed Romana enters the unit and attacks the Doctor, before Adric knocks her unconscious with the oxygen in the canister. The Deciders discover the Outlers forcing the Marshmen out. The Doctor uses the protein serum to cure Romana. The Doctor and Romana determine from research that the ship has been maintained for 40,000 generations by a species that has three aspects; spiders, Marshmen, and the current humanoids. The Marshmen continue to attack, and Adric's cylinder runs out of oxygen. Varsh remains to fend them off, but as he's escaping, he's pulled through the closing door and killed, despite Adric's attempts to save him. The Doctor has Login flood the Starliner with the oxygen to force the Marshmen's retreat, while Adric and Keara mourn Varsh.

Romana awakes from the hypnosis of the spider.

The Starliner is filled with concentrated oxygen and the Marshmen leave through the emergency exits. The Doctor explains to Gariff and Login that the present-day Alzarians are actually a subspecies of the Marshmen, who wiped out the Starliner's original Terradonian crew and then gradually evolved into human form to take their place. They are all from the same DNA and thus have come "full circle". This is the real secret of the System Files. As the Doctor and the Deciders head to the TARDIS, Adric runs inside and puts the functioning image translator on the console for the Doctor to find. The Doctor shows the Deciders how to operate the ship's flight so they can manage on their own, before returning to the TARDIS. In the control room, the Doctor finds an image translator left by Adric, which he uses to ensure where they were. It emerges they have journeyed to this pocket universe through a rare space/time phenomenon known as a Charged Vacuum Emboitement. They then watch the Starliner take off and leave Alzarius. Both the Doctor and Romana forlornly concede that until they find another CVE to escape through, they're trapped in E-Space...



Uncredited crew[[edit]]


Astronomical objects[[edit]]

  • Alzarius occupies the same coordinates as Gallifrey in E-Space.
  • Terradon is the planet the Alzarians believe, erroneously, they come from.

Cultural references to real world[[edit]]

  • The Doctor jokes about his TARDIS being the Noah's Ark after the Outlers disembark.


  • The Alzarians eat a riverfruit, similar to Earth watermelon. It can host spider eggs.


  • As they're travelling to Gallifrey the Doctor comments to Romana, "Yes, well, you only came to help with the Key to Time."
  • The Doctor says that he's looking forward to seeing Leela and Andred again and that K9 Mark II can meet its twin.
  • Adric bears a star badge for his mathematical excellence and as a member of the Elite.


  • Anaesthetic is used to sedate the Marshman once known as Draith.
  • The Doctor uses an Alzarian microscope able to see chromosomical details (such as karyotypes) to analise the tissues of the Marshmen and the spider.
  • An excess of oxygen is able to affect the Marshmen.


Space-time anomalies[[edit]]


  • Alzarians were divided in three ranks: Deciders (leaders, in number of three), Citizens (common people) and Outlers (rebels). Elite was a cross rank for intellectual excellence. Romana classifies this society as a "a type D oligarchy".
  • Humanoid Alzarians share the same genetic pattern of the Alzarian spiders and the Marshmen, because they represent a different evolutionary strata, thanks to a rapid cellular adaptation.


  • Adric is given a spherical homing device to let him track down the TARDIS.
  • Romana estimates that the TARDIS weighs "5 times 10 to the 6 kilos" in the gravity of the planet.


  • The technology of Gallifrey and Alzarius/Terradon is interchangeable. The Doctor uses the image translator from the starliner in the TARDIS.

Story notes[[edit]]

  • The working title for this story was The Planet That Slept.
  • Adric's name was suggested by script editor Christopher H. Bidmead as an anagram of the last name of eminent physicist Paul Dirac (who in 1930 was the first to predict the existence of antimatter).
  • John Franklyn-Robbins was considered for Garif. (TCH 32)
  • Bernard Padden auditioned for Adric, but lost out because of his strong Northern accent. (At the time, it was felt that an extraterrestrial character should not have a distinctive accent.) Instead, he appeared as Tylos.
  • Andrew Smith was a seventeen-year-old who achieved his lifelong ambition to write for the show. He submitted several further scripts to the production office, none of which were made, and eventually became a police officer.
  • Andrew Smith visited the location shoot on the first day, but was unwell at the time and vomited on the Marshmen costumes.
  • Joss Ackland, Brian Blessed, John Carson, James Ellis, Frank Finlay, Bernard Hepton, Donald Houston, Jeremy Kemp, William Lucas, Alfred Lynch, T. P. McKenna and Edward Woodward were considered for Login.
  • Michael Sheard was considered for Dexeter.
  • Andrew Forbes wanted to play Varsh.
  • John Abineri was considered for Garif.
  • Bernard Padden replaced Billy McColl as Tylos at short notice.
  • A power struggle amongst the Outlers between Varsh and Tylos was eliminated from the script, while a Marshchild character was reintroduced, replacing a mature Marshwoman.
  • Dexeter was originally named Lexeter. This was changed to avoid confusion with Lexa in Meglos.
  • Varsh was originally named Arfrus.
  • In Andrew Smith's original outline, the adventure involved the TARDIS landing on the planet Alzarius, where monstrous Marshmen rise from the swamps during the time of Mistfall. As the Doctor and Romana explore, a space freighter crashlands on Alzarius, and the time travellers must help its crew repair the ship while fending off the Marshmen and gigantic cave-dwelling spiders. They are aided by a young Marshchild, who has been rejected by the rest of her kind due to her pacifist nature. In the end, the Marshchild sacrifices herself to keep the Doctor and Romana safe until the mists vanish and the Marshmen retreat to the swamps.
  • It was only during rehearsals for this block that the Alzarians' ability to rapidly heal injuries was introduced; previously, Adric's knee had been mended by a spray that the Doctor provided.
  • Tom Baker attempted a few ad-libs, such as making dog noises when he had K9's head in his hands. Andrew Smith was furious and Peter Grimwade had a word with Baker.
  • Terradon was initially spelt Teradon.
  • The notion of Alzarius' coordinates being the negative of Gallifrey's, and the Gallifreyan wilds appearing on the TARDIS scanner, came from John Nathan-Turner. Indeed, for a time, the planet was referred to as Yerfillag: “Gallifrey” spelled backwards.
  • To help him understand Adric, Andrew Smith developed a detailed backstory which did not make it into the narrative. To explain Adric's distrust of the Deciders, Smith posited that he had discovered that his parents' seemingly accidental death aboard the Starliner had actually been contrived by Draith, in order to encourage a more conservative attitude amongst the Terradonians towards the possibility of embarkation.
  • Richard Willis and June Page fell in love during production and were later married for a time.
  • Both costume designer Amy Roberts and visual effects designer John Brace pitched ways of depicting the Marshmen. Peter Grimwade opted for Roberts' approach, which was much more monstrous than Smith had envisaged.
  • The baby Terradonian was played by Alys Dyer, the daughter of production unit manager Angela Smith, who had also appeared as the baby Pangol in The Leisure Hive.
  • Darchir is an anagram of "Richard". Andrew Smith named him after his friend Richard Walter, the editor of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society fanzine TARDIS.
  • John Nathan-Turner picked Peter Grimwade to direct, having worked with him on All Creatures Great and Small.
  • Matthew Waterhouse struggled with the portrayal of Adric, since he felt that it was not entirely consistent with the way the character had previously been presented in State of Decay, which was filmed first.


  • Part one - 5.9 million viewers
  • Part two - 3.7 million viewers
  • Part three - 5.9 million viewers
  • Part four - 5.5 million viewers

Filming locations[[edit]]

Production errors[[edit]]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • When the TARDIS is drifting through E-Space, the background stars appear in front of the TARDIS.
  • In part one, when two of the Alzarians are pulled out of the river, it is obvious that water has been splashed onto the camera lens, as a series of smudges appears across the screen.
  • The Marshmen have cuffs.
  • As is often the case in the show, CSO backdrops are used to add depth to some of the corridors in the Starliner. Sometimes, however, the background is not superimposed, and only a blank screen is visible.
  • In part four, a camera is clearly visible to the right of the shot, just behind Tom Baker. Matthew Waterhouse nearly walks into it.
  • During a scene in the Starliner in part three, a boom mic is clearly visible.


DVD and Video releases[[edit]]

DVD releases[[edit]]

Full Circle has been released on DVD in a box set with State of Decay and Warriors Gate. The box set is titled The E-Space Trilogy.

Special features include:

Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.

Video releases[[edit]]

CD release[[edit]]

External links[[edit]]