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"Four to Doomsday" is a perfect example of why I love Tom Baker's last
season and Davison's entire era. No, the stories themselves weren't
always good, but perhaps for the first time since the third season of
the show in the sixties (with a few exceptions to the ensuing
adventure/horror/fantasy with elements of science fiction, admittedly),
there were genuinely interesting science fiction concepts being
explored, and beyond just that, it's generally done far better and with
far more intelligence than the Hartnell era, mostly because John
Nathan-Turner and the writers he was working with were now writing for
the show's fanbase, which they knew included many adults.
No, Peter Davison's seasons are not nearly as consistently enjoyable and wonderful as Tom Baker's, Graham Williams' rather silly era excepted, but they cover a larger range of topics, and in terms of the quality of the writing and the concepts used, they were pushing "Doctor Who" in a new and fresh direction, some would say 'bloody boring', I would politely disagree. Still, "Four to Doomsday" is a real oddity. A forgotten and neglected gem, perhaps, and hopefully the recent DVD release will change that, but a real oddity nonetheless. There's never been anything quite like this in "Doctor Who". There's big concepts and intellectualism here, but absolutely no overblown dialogue (in fact, some of it is so subtly performed that you could miss the best lines and allusions on first viewing. I didn't even realize that Enlightenment's description of love was taken from Renoir's "La regle du jeu" until I looked in the DisContinuity Guide this morning.
It's rather pointless to try to explain what "Four to Doomsday" is about. It's pretty concept-driven, and the plot is pretty thin. Still, it's worth talking about the quality of the script here by Terence Dudley (who also wrote "Black Orchid" and "King's Demons" and directed "Meglos"). It's really very good. The general lack of a strong plot is the story's biggest weakness, and what keeps it from reaching the potential it had (the story honestly could have been one of the top 10 or so "Doctor Who" stories), but there's enough wit in the dialogue and intelligence in the writing to keep the viewer interested.
"Four to Doomsday" is an odd viewing experience which benefits from good acting, set design, and model work, as well as fine performances. It's a very unusual story, but also a very worthwhile one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
FOUR TO DOOMSDAY has 3 green aliens on a gigantic spaceship headed for
Earth with the intention of arriving in friendship and the aims of
helping mankind. Of course, their goal is far more sinister, and it
will mean the death of all mankind and the destruction of Earth if
they're not stopped. No, it's not "V", but I suppose it's an old story
no matter how you look at it...
My question is, HOW did the writing and acting on DW get so bad so fast? When story editor Christopher Bidmead jumped ship, Anthony Root stepped in, though apparently from the first he only intended to be a short-term fill-in. It's bad enough to have at least 1 companion too many in the TARDIS crew, when when 2 of them are badly written and badly acted in the same story, something is terribly wrong. Once more, Tegan is just completely out-of-place (had her slot been filled by Leela or Sarah Jane as originally hoped, I'm sure it would have been a different matter). Here, not only does she whine throughout the entire story, but someone really screwed up both her hair and make-up this time around.
Then there's Adric. We've already seen him trying to be cunning by playing up to an dangerous alien, but this time he genuinely falls for the "line" he's fed and winds up fighting with all 3 of his friends. He wasn't this stupid in THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN!
Peter Davison's "passive and polite" Doctor really isn't cutting it. I kept picturing how much better this would have been with Patrick Troughton, especially in 2 scenes where Davison did shine-- saying to Adric "Now listen to ME you young IDIOT...!" and when he CUTS Tegan off in mid-sentence by saying, "You're spoiling my concentration!" It's clear the 5th Doctor had a LOT more potential than we ever got to see realized. I spent the most of the Christopher Eccleston & David Tennant eras thinking, "IF ONLY Sylvestery McCoy and Colin Baker had had writing THIS good!" I think that probably goes for Davison as well.
Had this been a Troughton story, the roles of Adric & Nyssa would no doubt have been taken by Jamie & Zoe. Jamie wasn't that intelligent-- but he had his wits about him, and was absolutely loyal to The Doctor, something Adric doesn't seem to be capable of comprehending. Nyssa is the one who really shines in this story. Like Zoe, she's VERY intelligent, but in a more low-key way. I loved the scene where she calmly asks to borrow the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, and doesn't explain what she's doing until she's succeeded in disabling one of the ship's robots. Peter Davison has said in an interview he would have preferred if he'd only had ONE companion-- Nyssa. I have to agree with that!
Stratford Johns as Monarch is interesting at times, but for all his claims of superiority and having put "the fleshtime" behind him, his arrogance and mood-swings show he's not as "advanced" as he'd like to think. It occurs to me this is somewhat of a variation on Dr. Corby from the STAR TREK episode "What Are Little Girls Made Of?", the idea of replacing "inferior" humans with "superior" androids, but in both cases it's not really a goal one would wish. One could also compare Monarch's androids with the series' own Cybermen-- it's surprising The Doctor didn't draw a comparison between the two, with the Cybermen being a much cruder version of the same horrible thing. I enjoyed Johns much more as the Monsignor in the Chris Lee film Dracula HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE.
It was fun seeing Philip Locke (THUNDERBALL) as Bigon and Burt Kwouk (A SHOT IN THE DARK) as Lin Futu, though after thousands of years of being on the ship, the 3 Earthlings who were planning to collaborate with Monarch sure changed their minds in a hurry. In this post-STAR WARS era, Monarch's spaceship is detail on top of detail on top of detail-- but wouldn't the money have been much better-spent on BETTER WRITING?
After so many stories explaining how only a Time Lord could operate the TARDIS (or was that lie all along?), I'd sure like to know how Tegan managed to move it at all. Finally, having Nyssa collapse with no warning at the end, just for the sake of tacking on a "cliffhanger" between stories, was completely uncalled for. This era of the show has a LOT to answer for...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Refers To All Four Episodes . Suggestive Spoilers
Arriving on a spaceship The Doctor and his companions find they're the guests of a trio of Urbankans . Their own planet destroyed the head Urbankan Monarch informs The Doctor that the Planet Earth is four days travel away . It isn't long before Monarch tries to break in to the Tardis which indicates his motives in reaching Earth aren't borne out of benign necessity
I remember being very intrigued by this story simply down to its title . Four to Doomsday conjures up bleak nihilistic images involving the end of the world which while remaining recognisably DOCTOR WHO would have hopefully pushed the boat out and brought something new and appetising to the table . The irony is that this story is very much the public perception of the ethos of DOCTOR WHO . People walk up and down corridors , talk , walk about some more corridors , talk some more and walk down more corridors . You might also find the climatic space scenes in episode four laughable compared to the recent blockbuster GRAVITY . The idea is never to compare the show with Hollywood
This shouldn't be taken as a massive criticism and after a trio of stories featuring The Master it's nice to see a one of villain even if he does resemble a giant frog and at least the make crew do earn their money in this story . If there's a problem it's to do with the padding and that's to do with lots of ethnic dancing . The programme does deserve some congratulations for introducing so many non white faces almost as an apology as in " Sorry guys we're living in a multi-cultural society so lets chuck some in Mayan dancers " that it ends up being very mere tokenism at best . It also becomes overused very quickly
We also get to see Peter Davison in full throttle as The Doctor and to an extent does live up to the constant criticism as being " Bland " . That said after the institution that was Tom Baker anyone would be bland in comparison and Davison is better than the two clowns who came after him and is probably better than Tennant and Smith in NuWho . The rest of the cast are okay but not much more but that's probably down to them playing stock villains and good guys
In summary this is a very average story which is little better or worse than the rest of the Davison era . It's interesting the production team filmed this story before Castrovalva because they deemed it " Undemanding " which tells you all you need to know
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Doctor Who: Four to Doomsday: Part 1 starts as the Doctor (Peter
Davison) attempts to get one of his companions Tegan (Janet Fielding)
back to Heathrow airport to catch her plane but the TARDIS ends up on a
spaceship about four days from Earth, the Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa (Sarah
Sutton) & Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) begin to explore the ship &
encounter three Urbankans frog like aliens called Persuasion (Paul
Shelly), Enlightenment (Annie Lambert) & their leader Monarch
(Stratford Johns) who all appear to be friendly enough. Monarch says
that they are on an annual visit to Earth but there's something not
quite right going on...
This Doctor Who adventure was episode 5 from season 19 that aired here in the UK during early 1982 & was the first Peter Davison story to be filmed although it was the second broadcast after the average Castrovalva, directed by John Black this has started better than Castrovalva although that ain't saying much to be fair. The script by Terence Dudley hasn't really gripped me & is still a complete mystery, nothing has been revealed & as usual this is all about the build up. Unfortunately it hasn't given enough away to particularly excite me but it's OK & there's another three episodes to go so hopefully this sustained build up will eventually be worth it & I am not convinced an 80's girl like Tegan would be able to speak & understand perfect Aboriginal & one that is 35,000 years old too. A decent enough episode I suppose but nothing special & there's a dull cliffhanger ending that's frankly not worth the name.
This one had a cheeky little Star Wars (1977) homage at the start with a huge spaceship passing 'over' the camera & off into the distance just like the way Star Wars begins although the spaceship here is a somewhat more modest special effect. I have to say this is a really good looking episode considering the tight BBC budget, the busy & detailed sets are actually very good & wouldn't look too bad even now. The green Urbankans are also pretty impressive with a decent make-up job on them.
Four to Doomsday has a decent start although to be honest I still can't really tell you what it's about, hopefully there will be a little bit more story in Part 2.
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