Three years ago on this blog, I celebrated Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary by introducing my readers to each era. Then I created a blog that I recently revived called Jelly Babies and Reversed Polarities, where I review the show and audio dramas from Big Finish. But in looking back in the show, I’ve noticed that there may be a character in the show on the autism spectrum: Adric.
Adric first appeared in the episode “Full Circle”, during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. In this episode, we learn that he is exceptionally intelligent because he receives a badge to commemorate his skills in mathematics. Two episodes make use of these skills: “Logopolis” and “Earthshock”. It’s also a plot point in one of Big Finish’s Destiny of the Doctor plays Smoke and Mirrors.
Despite his intelligence, Adric is gullible. In quite a few stories, he is duped by the villain, such as “State of Decay” and “Four to Doomsday” (in “Four to Doomsday”, the Fifth Doctor gets especially cross with Adric for this reason) As someone who also has Asperger’s syndrome, I can attest that I am also pretty gullible. I have often been made a fool by people I thought were my friends, only to learn the truth to my embarrassment.
Another sign of Adric’s possible traits is his difficulty interacting with his fellow companions, Romana (during Tom Baker’s era), Nyssa, and Tegan. (during Peter Davison’s era), as well as the Doctor in both Tom Baker and Peter Davison’s interpretations of the character. (I personally feel he’s a much stronger character in Tom Baker’s era than in Peter Davison’s because Baker’s era usually has a smaller cast) He is often arrogant and unkind because he feels he is superior to them. Tegan in particular often argued with him. It is his arrogance and his gullibility that have often caused many fans to consider him one of the most hated companions in the show.
However, there is one shining moment that I feel helped redeem Adric. And that is the final part of “Earthshock.” In this part, the spaceship that the Cybermen and the soldiers are on is about to explode unless the bombs set by the Cybermen can be defused. The bombs can only be defused by solving a complex equation correctly. Adric becomes obsessed with saving everyone without the ship blowing up, so as he is doing this, the Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan attempt to get the soldiers to safety. The Doctor worries that Adric will not escape in time and tries to get Adric to join him in the elevator where he will escape to safety. But Adric realizes an error he made, and goes back to defuse the last bomb. He does, but is unable to make it to safety and dies as the ship explodes. His last words are still as sad as ever: “Now I’ll never know if I was right.”
I personally find it difficult to hate many of the companions on Doctor Who. As a fellow fan once said, the companions of the Doctor are supposed to represent us. They are supposed to stand in for the viewer. I don’t mind when they make mistakes, because who knows? Would we make the same mistakes? Yes, Adric’s negative traits may make him annoying, but his positive traits could help in some situations as well. As the fan said, there are all different kinds of us. It’s great that the writers realize this, even if we often do not like the characters they create.