Most of us remember Tom Baker, despite the inevitable toll that seven years in the lead for Doctor Who could understandably take on a person, as the veritable picture of health. But there was a sliver of time during Season 18 where Baker wasn’t all there. During the production on the lamentable Meglos Bakers health started to suffer, but this carried over and peaked in State of Decay, where during the first studio session he looked positively gaunt and unwell. This even caused his hair to ‘flatten’ and had to be permed just to be presentable.
That State of Decay worked at all is a bit of minor miracle as the production was fraught with numerous problems. Given that on-camera talent not exactly getting along and a script which had been held from years before and been adapted nearly to death, causing bad feelings in the process, the wavering health of the star was a feature, not a bug in the system.
Of course Baker would recover. The same perhaps could not be said for his performance however. The Tour got the distinct impression that ol’Tom wasn’t taking things quite as seriously as he might have done otherwise, barely suppressing a grin when the script called for grim. But that might be down to the choice of Peter Moffatt as director. This was the first of many times he would direct Doctor Who, and all of the testimonials universally praise him as an actors’ director, giving them space to perform within the confines of the script, but this trust could occasionally be abused. This came perilously close to happening here.
In addition, Moffatt was a very static director. Like many of you we suspect, most direction in Doctpr Who doesn’t stand out one way or another. That’s why Graeme Harper’s first outing in The Caves of Androzani was so exceptional, it stood out for the very energy he would come to known for. Peter Moffatt was clearly at the other end of the scale, and this would continue all the way until The Two Doctors.
We don’t want to rag on State of Decay too much though. The design is exceptional, and the return of a more gothic style is very much appreciated, and unlike Tom’s hair the new HD caps are anything but flat.