Doctor Who #567: Four to Doomsday Part 1

"Hello, again. You must be having a ball."
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Jan.18 1982.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands on a ship inhabited by great big toads and people from across Earth history.

REVIEW: I'm ready to give this serial some slack, because it was filmed before Castrovalva (as evidenced by the shorter or more awkward haircuts), but the main characters really are at their worst. Not the Doctor, Davison is all smiles, witty puns and youthful energy, but Tegan is whining about Heathrow (it was London Airport in Logopolis guys, but beyond the booboo, I'm wondering where the "team coordinator" went), Nyssa is acting the teacher's pet and somehow terrified of a kindly old man walking up to her, and Adric is openly chauvinistic and always going on about maths. I can see how he would be jealous now that he isn't the Doctor's sole focus, but it's really not helping me like him. As a showcase for the new cast, Four to Doomsday is terrible.

There is some attempt at making each of them useful, but I'm not sure those attempts are convincing. Tegan, for example, missed her calling if her fashion drawings are THAT good, and her ability to speak a particular Aborigine dialect might be more impressive if the TARDIS wasn't supposed to be translating. Come ON writers, you must know this! Adric impresses the Urbankans with his understanding of maths and physics, but I know what E equals too, and I wouldn't exactly call myself a scientist. It's not like I've ever asked for sodium chloride at the table (twit). And while Nyssa may be able to work alien machinery, shouldn't the Doctor ask permission BEFORE he lets her toggle switches, not after?
The ideas are much better. The TARDIS lands on a spaceship introduced with lonely music evocative of Alien's. The sets look tall and detailed. The floating eye-ball is both creepy and amusing (I like when it tries to peer into the TARDIS). And there's plenty of mystery surrounding the variety of humans from different eras aboard, and the strangely named toad people (Monarch, Persuasion and Enlightenment) who can turn into Tegan's drawings and are returning to Earth on a long round trip. What's going on here? I'm interested to find out.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - There seems to be a strong SF idea behind it all, and Davison, even in his first effort, is quite watchable, but the writer clearly doesn't understand how to make the companions believable and likeable.


Toby'c said...

"her ability to speak a particular Aborigine dialect might be more impressive if the TARDIS wasn't supposed to be translating"

To say nothing of the fact that she picks the right one out of several hundred, and one that is still recognisable after thousands of years.

This story is, by a wide margin, my least favourite of the Peter Davison era, and that scene is something like 30% the reason why.


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