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When a TV program has been running for as long as Doctor Who, some of the decisions made, whether they be costume, script or casting, can look a little odd, with the benefit of hindsight: the decision to put celery on the Fifth Doctor’s lapel being a prime example.
In the case of Adric, as played by Matthew Waterhouse, one fundamental question does arise, and we can’t really address his contribution to the show without asking it, and then attempting to reply: how in the name of thundering hooligans did anyone think that getting a companion who a) is more infuriating and smug than the Doctor and b) more logical than the Doctor and c) dresses more weirdly than the Doctor, all at the same time, would really work in developing a sense of teamwork aboard the TARDIS?
Adric was picked up in E-Space by the Fourth Doctor, during Romana’s final adventures. Actually, that’s wrong, he wasn’t picked up, he stowed away. This is significant. It’s also significant that he’s won an award for mathematics, a star-shaped badge which he wears all the time, and that he’s very young, and emotionally veers between the twin poles of arrogance and self-pity which bedevil a lot of young people.
In short, he’s a swot with a sense of entitlement, and has learned few social graces, preferring to concentrate on fancy book learning instead. It’s safe to say the Fourth Doctor isn’t going to help in this regard whatsoever:
You’d forgive the Doctor if he just turned around and yelled “STOP REPEATING EVERYTHING I SAY, AND GET SOME PROPER CLOTHES ON, THIS ISN’T A SLUMBER PARTY!”
Once the Fourth Doctor has regenerated into someone who appears to have a bit more patience, he does seem to develop a geniune fatherly affection for his priggish companion:
Naturally Adric and Tegan get on like fire and dynamite:
Thankfully he tends to mind his ps and qs when around his hero, the Doctor, although he does throw the odd barb here and there, at moments of high stress:
So his role appears to be the character who answers the Doctor’s explanation of the plot with apposite questions, but in quite an annoying and smug fashion, as if he’s using his own intellect to be the BEST COMPANION EVER.
Sadly the tale of Adric ends with tragedy, which does rather undercut all the griping about how annoying a companion he could be. In the middle of another ruck with Cybermen, Adric finds himself stranded on a space-ship headed directly to Earth, the controls of which are locked by a logic puzzle. Cometh the hour, cometh the geek, and Adric sets to work, finishing in good time to save the day. But does he? No.
Here’s that final scene. Weird to think you used to be able to grapple with Cybermen, eh?
In the end, all of Adric’s academic know-how couldn’t save him from the larger forces of chaos, embodied by that one wounded Cyberman, and even though his gold badge for math is the thing that saves the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa, his crashed space-ship becomes the meteor that kills off the dinosaurs. Not so cocky now, eh sonny?
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic