State of Decay

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112[1]State of Decay
Doctor Who serial
The Three Who Rule, Zargo, Aukon and Camilla, prepare to sacrifice Romana.
Writer Terrance Dicks
Director Peter Moffatt
Script editor Christopher H. Bidmead
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Executive producer(s) Barry Letts
Incidental music composer Paddy Kingsland
Production code 5P
Series Season 18
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 22 November – 13 December 1980
← Preceded by Followed by →
Full Circle Warriors' Gate

State of Decay is the fourth serial of the 18th season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 22 November to 13 December 1980. The serial was the second of three loosely connected serials known as the E-Space trilogy. Adric becomes a companion to the Fourth Doctor in this story having stowed away in the TARDIS at the end of the previous serial, Full Circle.[2]


After the events of Full Circle, the Doctor, Romana, K-9, and their newest companion/stowaway, Adric, arrive on a planet experiencing what appears to be a feudal period. The villagers live under the thrall of three lords—Zargo, Camilla, and Aukon—who dwell in a shadowy Tower, and experience a yearly ritual called "the Selection," in which a sample of young villagers are taken to the tower, never to be seen again. This selection process is enforced by a thuggish band of guards led by Habris.

The Doctor and Romana discover evidence of technology considerably more advanced than the medieval level of development of the planet, and wonder what happened to cause the planet to devolve to its current rustic condition—to be in a "state of decay." Romana's only suggestion is that there is a powerful force holding the inhabitants back. As the two head out of the village they are seized by cloaked figures. Meanwhile, Adric comes to the village and is caught by the owners of the feeding house. Adric is discovered and captured by Lord Aukon, who sees him as an alien and worthy of becoming one of the 'chosen ones'.

The cloaked figures, members of a resistance movement, convey the Doctor and Romana to a secret base filled with forbidden technology. Kalmar is a scientist - a heretical role in their society - and is very grateful for the Doctor's help in repairing a computer which proceeds to reveal the names and faces of the original chief officers of the spaceship Hydrax - who look exactly like the Lords of the Tower.

The Lords too have learnt of Romana and the Doctor, and Aukon sends a flock of his winged servants, bats, to menace them. The bats spare them and the Doctor and Romana are seized by Habris and his guards and taken to an audience in the Tower. Zargo and Camilla entertain them for a while, then are called away to deal with a situation called the Arising. The Doctor and Romana discover that in fact, the great Tower in which the Lords dwell is itself the spaceship Hydrax, originally from Earth, which also was pulled into E-Space long ago.

The Doctor and Romana discover rows of drained corpses, while the craft's fuel stores are full of blood. Talk turns to vampires and the fact that nearly every inhabited planet has at least one legend about them. They find an amphitheatre, its floor pulsing to a loud heartbeat. It is there that the Lord Aukon greets them, inviting them to become the first of the new servants of the Chosen Ones. When they refuse, Aukon tries to ensnare the Doctor. Romana saves him, but before they can escape, Zargo and Camilla find them and they are taken as future meals for the 'Great One'.

Meanwhile, the Doctor has deduced (by applying principles of consonant shifting) that the current lords' names are a corruption of the original crew names (e.g. "Sharky" becomes "Zargo", "MacMillan" becomes "Camilla", and "O'Connor" becomes "Aukon"). Thus the Doctor realizes that the three lords are not descendants, but members of the original crew themselves, mutated into vampires and the subjects below are the descendants of the other colonists, made dull and primitive by over twenty generations of breeding and oppression. He is reminded of ancient Time Lord stories of the Great Vampires - ancient enemies of the Time Lords. He deduces that the Great Vampire escaped destruction at the hands of the Time Lords by somehow retreating into E-Space, and it managed eventually to gather enough power to pull the old Earth ship into this universe, corrupt the main crew and use the colonists for its own ends.

Meanwhile, a rebel called Tarak infiltrates the Tower, freeing the Doctor and Romana. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS, while Romana stays with Tarak to search for Adric. As they try to snap Adric out of his trance, they unknowingly awaken Zargo and Camilla. Tarak is killed by Zargo, but the blood of the dead will not satisfy either of the lords. Adric throws a knife at Zargo, who pulls it out and heads for Romana while Camilla advances on Adric.

Aukon intervenes and compels them to stop, for he was the first to have contact with the mind of the Great Vampire and he alone possesses the mental power the other two crave. He wants Adric as a Chosen One and Romana, a Time Lord, for sacrifice at the Arising, the first taste of revenge for their master.

In the throne room, the Hydrax's former control deck, Romana and Adric argue about their fate. Adric announces that he wants to be one of the 'chosen ones' (i.e. a vampire). They are taken to the bottom of the Tower (as shown in the picture above).

In the TARDIS the Doctor and K-9 discover that the Great Vampires could only be defeated by metal bowships designed by Rassilon, fast ships firing steel bolts that speared the monsters through the heart, (the source of the tradition of the wooden stake for lesser vampires). He takes the TARDIS to Kalmar's base and there uses scanning equipment to scan the Tower. Under the stores of blood he finds a restless, demonic presence, like an immensely ugly human with bat wings, whom he determines to be the last Great Vampire. He warns it is about to be revived. After seeing it, Kalmar, Ivo and many other villagers agree to help.

The villagers and K9 make an assault on the Tower itself. The Doctor heads off to the peak of the Tower. Inside, Adric reveals he was faking his joining to the Lords to arrange an escape, but is unable to attack Aukon and free Romana. The Doctor rigs one of the spaceship/tower's old scoutships to launch and fall back toward the ground, driving itself into the heart of the subterranean Great Vampire. The sounds of the ship launching snap Romana from her trance.

With the Great Vampire dispatched, the three vampire Lords crumble to dust. The Doctor finds Romana and Adric and they leave the planet, hoping that, now freed from the corruptive effect of the vampires, it will develop once again toward its former advanced state and even, perhaps, surpass it.


This serial comprises the second leg of an extended adventure generally known as "The E-Space Trilogy"; the trilogy began in the previous serial, Full Circle, and concludes in Warriors' Gate. The Doctor mentions his childhood on Gallifrey and "an old hermit who lived up in the mountains of south Gallifrey [and] used to tell me ghost stories" – tales of the Time Lords' war with the Vampires. This is the first mention of the Doctor's mentor from his youth since his last regeneration. This figure, K'anpo (or Cho-Je) is first mentioned in The Time Monster and seen in Planet of the Spiders.

The Virgin New Adventures spin-off novel Blood Harvest by Terrance Dicks and the Missing Adventure Goth Opera by Paul Cornell are sequels to this serial. Other Doctor Who novels featuring vampires include Vampire Science and Warmonger. The Doctor's companion Bernice Summerfield encounters three sets of vampires, including a servant of the ancient Vampires from State of Decay, in the novella collection The Vampire Curse.

Many of the novels feature references to the war between the Time Lords and the Vampires. Another anti-Vampire weapon, the N-Forms, were introduced by Russell T Davies in his New Adventures novel Damaged Goods. Bowships are mentioned in the Doctor Who Annual 2006 as one of the weapons used in the Time War against the Daleks, along with N-Forms and Black Hole Carriers. The Fourth Doctor segment of The Eight Doctors, in which the Fourth Doctor is captured by the last few surviving vampires and is rescued by Romana and the Eighth Doctor, takes place between the destruction of the Great Vampire and the end of this story (Adric and K9 miss the Eighth Doctor's arrival due to them remaining in the TARDIS to recuperate from the events of this story). The Big Finish Productions audio dramas Project: Twilight, Project Lazarus, and Zagreus refer to the vampires and to their history with the Time Lords. The BBC audio webcast Death Comes to Time features a vampire named Nessican. All these stories except Zagreus depict vampires different from the ones seen in State of Decay.


Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Part One" 22 November 1980 (1980-11-22) 22:24 5.8
"Part Two" 29 November 1980 (1980-11-29) 23:16 5.3
"Part Three" 6 December 1980 (1980-12-06) 24:13 4.4
"Part Four" 13 December 1980 (1980-12-13) 24:54 5.4

Working titles for this story included The Wasting and The Witch Lords.[citation needed] The serial was a re-written version of a story originally entitled The Witch Lords, later retitled The Vampire Mutations, which Dicks had submitted to the series in 1977, but which had been pulled just before production because of fears of a possible conflict with the BBC's Count Dracula a high-profile adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula. It was replaced by Horror of Fang Rock.

This serial and the following Warriors' Gate featured an improved K-9 prop.

Commercial releases

In print

Doctor Who and the State of Decay
File:Doctor Who and the State of Decay.jpg
Author Terrance Dicks
Cover artist Andrew Skilleter
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
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Publisher Target Books
Publication date
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ISBN 0-426-20133-7
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A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by W. H. Allen Ltd (hardback) in September 1981, with the paperback from Target Books following in January 1982. A novelisation with different text written by Dicks for an audiobook read by Tom Baker and released on cassette by Pickwick in June 1981.[6]

Home media

State of Decay was released on VHS in October 1997. It was released on DVD on 26 January 2009 in a box set entitled The E-Space Trilogy, along with Warriors' Gate and Full Circle. This serial was also released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 86 on 18 April 2012.


  1. From the Doctor Who Magazine series overview, in issue 407 (pp26-29). The Discontinuity Guide, which counts the unbroadcast serial Shada, lists this as story number 113. Region 1 DVD releases follow The Discontinuity Guide numbering system.
  2. Andrew Smith (writer), Peter Grimwade (director), John Nathan-Turner (producer) (15 November 1980). "Part Four". Full Circle. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Shaun Lyon; et al. (2007-03-31). "State of Decay". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2008-08-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "State of Decay". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "State of Decay". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "State Of Decay". Retrieved 2013-10-09. External link in |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links


Target novelisation