OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 550
STORY NUMBER: 114
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 17 January 1981
WRITER: Stephen Gallagher
DIRECTOR: Paul Joyce
SCRIPT EDITOR: Christopher H. Bidmead
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 8.3 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The E-Space Trilogy (Full Circle / State of Decay / Warrior's Gate)
Romana's bonds are loosened by the Tharil, Lazlo, that has been hideously disfigured, but he hides from the searching Aldo & Royce. Beyond the mirror Biroc explains to the Doctor he has passed through the Gateway, healing the Doctor's hand and restoring the Gundam's memory wafer that the Doctor is carrying. K-9 too would be restored but because he is not living matter would need to remain there. Returning to the ship to fetch the MZ cannon, Lane & Packard discover that the distance between it and the gateway appears to be shortening. The Doctor walks through the Tharils' palace and is guided by a female Tharil to an earlier version of the banqueting room. Romana escapes, and finds Adric. Examining the damage to the Hull she discovers that it's made from super dense dwarf star alloy. She is recaptured but the crewman guarding her is slain by Lazlo who takes her to the gateway passing through the mirror and healing Lazlo's horrific injuries. The Doctor sits at the Tharil feast, discussing with Biroc how the Tharils have enslaved the humans. The feast is interrupted by the Gundam robots, come to slay the Tharils and suddenly the Doctor and Romana find themselves at the later version of the banqueting room and in the hands of Rovrik & his crew.
Plotwise that's slightly confusing as time and locations jump around (what happens the female Tharil guiding the Doctor? She just vanishes!) But visually it's absolutely stunning again. Just when you're getting used to the existing setup director Paul Joyce pulls a new trick by showing the exteriors of the Tharil domain as black & white, using still photographs shot at Powis Castle with the Doctor, Romana & Tharils as the only colour walking through them with (for the time) near seamless CSO. The Doctor genuinely looks like he's walking down the path receding into the distance. And then the final trick as the banqueting room transforms from it's earlier version with the Tharils' feasting to the later one with Rovrik's crew having lunch with even the two different meals providing a neat contrast. Stunning stuff. And all along there's a hint that something's really not right as K-9 reports a Mass Conversion Anomaly and the crew feel the walk to the ship is getting shorter which is emphasised by a panning shot placing the freighter, the Tardis and the Gateway all close together when previously they'd been separate.
Writer Stephen Gallagher was a newcomer to the series and produced a storyline that (according to Script Editor Christopher H. Bidmead) needed some manipulation into a television script. To direct it Paul Joyce, another first timer to the series was appointed who took a greater than average interest in some areas of work that other directors didn't get involved in commissioning artwork for model designs and overseeing effects shots undertaken by visual effects designer Matt Irvine. Unfortunately when the story reached the studio stage his filming speed & techniques, involving shooting off set and using a set condemned as unsafe by the BBC, caused a dispute that led to him being sacked and production assistant Graeme Harper being promoted. Quite how much Harper directed is unclear but at some point Joyce was rehired and finished the serial including it's lengthy post production work. He was not invited back again which is a great shame as what he does here is truly stunning. Interviewed on the DVD he comes across as truly ahead of his time adopting methods now commonplace but just didn't fit in the BBC way of doing things at the time.