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State of Decay was the fourth serial in season 18 of Doctor Who. It was the second story of the E-Space trilogy. It was based on a script written by Terrance Dicks three years earlier.

The original script for State of Decay was seen by director Peter Moffatt and, as Nathan-Turner had predicted, he loved it. However, when he was handed the script in Bidmead's adapted form, he found it completely different. It no longer had the Gothic atmosphere that had drawn him to the original. Moffatt told Nathan-Turner that he no longer wanted to direct it and so, in order to have him complete the job, the original was reinstated. (DOC: The Vampire Lovers)

Unusually, there are three versions of this story which have been made available commercially: this one, an audio adaptation and the Target print novelisation.

In 2020, State of Decay became part of the Time Lord Victorious multimedia event.


Still trapped in E-Space, the Doctor's TARDIS materialises on a medieval-style planet. The townsfolk live in fear of the Three Who Rule, who govern from their mighty castle. Investigating, the Fourth Doctor discovers that the Three Who Rule are ancient astronauts who became vampires long ago, and their castle is actually their spaceship.

When Romana II and Adric are kidnapped, the Doctor must ally himself with a band of renegade peasants to stop the resurrection of one of Gallifrey's greatest enemies: the King Vampire itself.


Part one[]

A castle sits on a rocky peak. Inside, Habris, the Captain of the Guard, reports to the Three Who Rule that it is again the time of selection. They instruct him to choose well and he leaves.

Next morning, in the surrounding village, the leader, Ivo, assembles the residents for the selection. Habris picks out various villagers, including Ivo and Marta's son Karl. Ivo protests, but Habris will not change his mind. He tells Ivo he will do his best to help Karl become a guard. Ivo and Marta know that if Karl goes on to serve the Lords directly, he will end up like all those who went before him — never to be seen or heard from again...

On board the TARDIS, the Fourth Doctor and Romana sight an isolated planet. K9 scans the world, finding it has one isolated settlement, which has high technology readings even though the people are primitive.

Romana uses Telescope

Romana borrows the Fourth Doctor's telescope.

The TARDIS lands in a forest near the settlement. The Doctor and Romana set off to explore, leaving K9 behind. Adric has stowed away on the TARDIS and tries to leave. K9 confronts him, but Adric tells him that as he is a stowaway, it's best that he leaves. He follows the Doctor and Romana. The Doctor and Romana encounter a villager, but he runs away in fear.

The Doctor and Romana arrive at the settlement as Ivo and Habris are arguing. The Doctor asks to speak to a scientist. His request is met with alarm. Habris mistakes them for Lords and tries to serve them. After the travellers and Habris leave, Ivo opens a podium and takes out a rusting radio transmitter. He calls Kalmar and tells him of the two strangers and their unusual request.

In the throne room, Habris is berated for not taking action against the Doctor and Romana. Aukon summons his bats to hunt down the two.

Travelling through the forest, Romana and the Doctor are surrounded by men. They surrender and are taken to a hidden cave, where they meet the rebels led by Kalmar, who is trying to get an old computer system working. The Doctor helps him to repair it and Romana identifies the equipment as a data bank of Earth origin, from the cargo vessel Hydrax. Images flash up of three officers, Captain Sharky, Navigation Officer Lauren MacMillan and Science Officer Anthony O'Connor. Kalmar's deputy Tarak immediately recognises their pictures as the Three Who Rule. The Doctor and Romana are then allowed to leave, heading to visit the three at the castle.

In the village, Adric attempts to steal some food but Marta catches him and alerts Ivo. They pity him and offer him sanctuary because the outside world is evil at night.

The Doctor and Romana are making their way through the forest when they are attacked by bats. They look up to see a swarm descending upon them.

Part two[]

The bats retreat as Habris arrives and escorts the pair to an audience at the tower.

They are taken to the throne room, where the Doctor remarks on the absence of windows. Zargo and Camilla welcome them. Zargo orders wine and they toast. Romana's glass shatters, cutting her finger. She licks the blood. Camilla wants to look at the cut but Romana pulls away. It becomes apparent the rulers are responsible for the lack of technology.

In the village, Adric is making preparations for dinner with the others when Habris enters. He tells them there will be another selection and that Aukon himself is coming to direct it. Aukon walks down the line of youths, stopping when he comes to Adric — declaring him a chosen one. Using his powers, he takes the entranced Adric to the castle.

Light conversation

The Doctor and Romana meet with Zargo and Camilla.

The Doctor mentions the Hydrax. This disturbs Zargo and Camilla. Habris enters with news from Aukon: the Time of Arising is at hand. Left alone, the Doctor takes a look around. He pulls aside a drape to reveal a circular hatchway in a metal bulkhead. The castle is the Hydrax.

Back at the caves, some of the outlaws want to make a rescue attempt for the Doctor. Kalmar is reluctant without more technological knowledge, and the majority back him up. Tarak decides he will go alone, taking on the disguise of a guard.

The Doctor and Romana arrive at the top of the tower, where they see the Hydrax's three scout ships. They hear a thumping voice and descend. At the cargo bay they find a group of corpses drained of blood, all adolescents. The Doctor finds the blood stored in a fuel tank. The thumping is the sound of a creature feeding on the blood through tubes. The Doctor notes there are vampire legends on many planets. Dropping out of the Hydrax through an engine nacelle, they arrive in a large cave, the floor of which is moving with the sound of a heartbeat. A voice from the shadows tells them this is the Resting Place. Spinning round the Doctor and Romana are confronted by Aukon. The vampire greets them. "I am Aukon. Welcome to my domain!"

Part three[]

Aukon tries to persuade the Doctor to join them, to help at the Time of Arising. He says the Great One will reveal how to leave this universe; if the Doctor is wise, he will join them just like his companion. The Time Lords are distraught to hear that Adric is there, as they thought they had left him on Alzarius.

Aukon uses all his psychic powers to make the Doctor bend to his will, but Romana picks up a piece of the cave wall and throws it at Aukon, who quickly turns around and destroys it. The Doctor tells him they are Time Lords and his powers won't work on them. Aukon reacts strongly, calling them the ancient enemies. They try to escape but Zargo and Camilla stop them. Camilla is eager to feed on them, but Aukon listens to the Great One, who says they will be a sacrifice, and so they get put in jail.

In Jail

The Doctor and Romana in gaol.

Tarak has gained entry to the tower disguised as a guard and searches for the Doctor. The Doctor recounts to Romana how a hermit from the south of Gallifrey told him of a war between the Time Lords and the Great Vampires; their King escaped, and Time Lords are obliged to destroy him if ever they find him. They tracked him across the universe but the trail went dead. He had disappeared.

Tarak attacks the guards and rescues the Doctor and Romana, but Romana refuses to leave until she has found Adric. The Doctor asks Tarak to stay with her while he goes back to the TARDIS.

In the rebels' cave, Kalmar has discovered a scanner for viewing the territory around their base. It shows Ivo. He knows his son is dead, taken for his blood, and asks for help in an attack on the tower. Kalmar is undecided.

Tarak and Romana arrive at the inner sanctum. Zargo and Camilla are asleep and Adric is hypnotised. Romana wakes him as the sun sets and Zargo and Camilla awake and kill Tarak. They close in on the others.

Part four[]

Aukon prevents the pair killing them, proclaiming them sacrifices. After the arising, they will travel the universe and drain it of its life.

The Doctor lands the TARDIS in the rebels' cave and tells them that he needs their help in an assault on the tower. They are mostly ready to follow him, but Kalmar is still reluctant. The Doctor uses the scanners to show them the King Vampire below the tower, and Kalmar finally agrees to the plan.

What goes up...

The Doctor, Romana and Adric watch the scout ship's ascension.

In the throne room, Adric tells Aukon that he is willing to join him and is taken to be initiated. The Doctor puts K9 in control of leading the raid. K9 quickly disables the guards with his laser. Romana is hypnotised and led to an altar for sacrifice. Bats swoop and bite her.

Ivo confronts Habris and takes his revenge for the death of his son, killing him. The Doctor makes his way to the tower top and launches a scout ship.

K9 hears the sound and tells his force to evacuate. The noise distracts the Three Who Rule, and Adric helps Romana escape. The Doctor arrives as a giant hand bursts through the ground. The scout ship plummets, its steel frontage impaling the king. The three advance on the Doctor, but without the link to the Great One they die, crumbling to dust.

The Doctor installs Kalmar's computer with technological data and leaves in the TARDIS. He must return Adric home.



Uncredited crew[]



  • Bats are serving the Great Vampire and bite humans. The Doctor thought they would have been not dangerous.
  • When the Hydrax seems non-functional, the Doctor labels it as "dead as a dinosaur".

Cultural references to real world[]

  • The Doctor thinks that the interior design of the Tower resembles the Rococo style.
  • The Doctor talks about Brothers Grimm (familiar to Romana), who not only wrote stories, but discovered the law of consonantal shift, that explains how names change over time ("hard sounds turning soft, 'b's becoming 'v's..."). Thus explaining how "Sharkey" became "Zargo", "MacMillan became "Camilla", and "O'Connor became "Aukon".
  • The Doctor quotes Henry V to inspire the rebels: "Lack of weapons. No experience. Odds almost insurmountable. But! He who outlives this day and comes safe home shall stand a-tiptoe when this day is named and rouse him at the name of E-space!"

Food and beverages[]

  • Wine is drunk on the planet.
  • Cheese is unknown to the people of the planet. (Though cheese can clearly be seen amongst the food offered to the Doctor and Romana at the castle.)

The Doctor[]




  • The Great Vampire used the science officer Anthony O'Connor as a conduit to draw the Hydrax through to E-Space.





  • K9's memory contains vampire legends from 17 inhabited planets.
  • A directive (of Rassilon) states that the vampires are "the enemy of our people, and of all living things".
  • Vampire cardiovascular systems are very complex. They can only be killed by a direct blow to the heart.
  • During Rassilon's war against the vampires, all but one were destroyed (the King Vampire).
  • The King Vampire hypnotised the Three Who Rule and gave them the power of mind control, in particular to Aukon.


Story notes[]

  • The peasants in this story give a complex salute to their lords, covering their eyes, ears and mouths. This is a reference to the Three Wise Monkeys, "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."
  • When director Peter Moffatt received Bidmead's altered script, he demanded the original back, claiming it had lost its Gothic atmosphere. Nathan-Turner gave him the original, which he made.
  • For the only time during his tenure as the Doctor, Tom Baker had to have his hair permed before filming commenced. It had lost its natural curl due to the actor being in ill-health.
  • This was the first serial which Matthew Waterhouse filmed.
  • Both Terrance Dicks and director Peter Moffatt were at odds with Christopher H. Bidmead. They were keen to emphasise the Hammer Horror aspects, while he thought it was against the hard science fiction approach he had in mind.
  • Peter Moffatt found that Tom Baker was argumentative and wanted to direct the production himself. Eventually he took Baker for a drink and told him that while he was open to suggestions from the actors, he was the director and Baker was the actor and he should bear that in mind. After that frank discussion, he found Baker was far more cooperative.
  • Peter Arne, Colin Baker, Steven Berkoff, John Carson, David Collings, Peter Gilmore, Michael Gothard, John Hallam, Donald Houston, Martin Jarvis, Michael Jayston, Ronald Lacey, William Lucas, Ian McKellen, John Normington, Patrick Stewart, Anthony Valentine, Peter Vaughan, David Warner and Peter Wyngarde were considered for Aukon.
  • The Time Lord hermit who told the Doctor about the Great Vampire was described as an old woman in many drafts.
  • Subplots involving townsfolk nocturnally wandering the forest like zombies and rebellious citizens being found with bat-like bite marks on their necks were removed from the script.
  • Lalla Ward and Matthew Waterhouse named this as their favourite story.
  • Terrance Dicks struggled to find a raison d'être for Adric, and ultimately decided to play upon the character's duplicitous tendencies by making the viewers think that he had actually sided with the villains. John Nathan-Turner and Christopher H. Bidmead subsequently decided to deemphasise the more overtly negative and mendacious aspects of Adric's personality, however, and so this element of the scripts was watered down.
  • Aukon and Habris were originally known as Mikos and Harkan, respectively.
  • Tom Baker and Lalla Ward were not on speaking terms, after Ward rebuffed his attempts to rekindle their romance some weeks earlier. They were both united in their dislike of Matthew Waterhouse. He found them intimidating, while they found him impertinent and disrespectful at times, refusing to follow the instructions of cast and crew with vastly more experience than himself. Following filming, they rekindled their romance and announced their engagement.
  • According to John Nathan-Turner, Tom Baker's illness was at its worst during the shoot and he refused to see a doctor. He claimed that it's clear which scenes were shot in the first recording session and which in the second by Baker's appearance. His hair lost its curl and he suffered dramatic weight loss. Curlers were applied to Baker's hair, but it straightened after ten minutes. Eventually, Baker sought medical advice and was found to have a metabolic disorder that, once diagnosed, seemed to put him back on the road to recovery.
  • According to Lalla Ward, Matthew Waterhouse was rude to costume designer Amy Roberts because she wouldn't let him got to the canteen in his costume, prompting her to intervene.
  • Matthew Waterhouse went to introduce himself to Tom Baker in the pub and waited for him to come over. Two hours had passed and Waterhouse finally went over to him and was told to p*** off. According to Peter Moffatt, Waterhouse had no knowledge of camera technique at all and made the fatal mistake of advising Baker on how to say a line. Baker "nearly hit him" and Moffatt had to tell Waterhouse off.
  • Peter Moffatt recalled asking Tom Baker if he could help Lalla Ward down in the engine room pipe scene and he retorted, "Why, is she a bloody cripple?"
  • One scene showed the Doctor's blood to be blue. However, in other stories, it is shown to be red.
  • The image of the Great Vampire was originally intended to be created with an actor in a bat-like costume but, when this proved ineffective, a rod puppet was used instead.
  • Designer Christine Ruscoe's attempts to portray the sets as being made of ancient metals were found to appear more like wood on camera, undermining Christopher H. Bidmead's attempts to play up the science-fiction elements of the narrative.
  • John Nathan-Turner picked Peter Moffatt to direct, having worked with him on All Creatures Great and Small.
  • The Hydrax was originally named the Hyperion, but this was changed when Ian Levine pointed out that a ship called the Hyperion had already appeared in The Mutants.


  • Part one - 5.8 million viewers
  • Part two - 5.3 million viewers
  • Part three - 4.4 million viewers
  • Part four - 5.4 million viewers


  • This story's location scenes were shot at Black Park near Iver Heath in Buckinghamshire. (They were shot at Burnham Beeches near Amersham, also in Buckinghamshire - it was Full Circle's location scenes that were shot at Black Park.)

Filming locations[]

  • Burnham Beeches, Burnham, Buckinghamshire
  • Lucas CAV, Acton, London
  • KJP Trading, 250 Western Avenue, Acton, London
  • BBC Television Centre (TC3 & TC6), Shepherd's Bush, London

Production errors[]

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 travelling through E-Space in part one, the background stars appear in front of the TARDIS. This same error also occurs in part one of Full Circle.
  • In part three, Tarak bursts into the Doctor's cell, catching him across the nose with the door. Tom Baker appears slightly stunned, and misses his next cue because he was really struck by the door.


DVD, VHS and audio releases[]

DVD releases[]

Special Features[]


Blu-ray releases[]

  • State of Decay was one of seven stories to be included as part of the Time Lord Victorious: Road to the Dark Times Blu-ray.

Video releases[]

  • State of Decay was released by BBC Worldwide on video as part of a boxed set featuring Full Circle, State of Decay and Warriors' Gate.

External links[]