Doctor Who #568: Four to Doomsday Part 2

"He is too jocular, irresponsible. Such a being prefers mental anarchy. They call it freedom."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.19 1982.

IN THIS ONE... Doctor Who as variety show, and Bigon comes out of the microchip closet.

REVIEW: As far as padding goes, choreographed martial demonstrations and Mayan, Aborigene and Chinese lion dances are much better than the old capture'n'escape trope. Only the gladiatorial combat really advances the plot - by revealing the "Earthlings" as androids - though the whole "recreational" is a good opportunity for high-brow scheming. Monarch lets Bigon be Bigon (I'm REALLY sorry), and the resident doubter betrays him. But Monarch's got a pretty big blind spot, unable to believe someone WOULD betray him, or could even be his match intellectually. I like how he guesses the Doctor's next move exactly - he IS a perceptive threat - but he doesn't realize the Doctor is a match for him and that will surely be his undoing.

Terence Dudley's script thrives on mystery and trying to guess what exactly is going on is what keeps the audience interested. We have a single ship that looks pretty empty, but meant to be carrying some 3 billion people. The Urbankans we see can change their ship and handsome/beautiful forms, while the Earthlings are from four ancient cultures and apparently immortal. Monarch talks about the "flesh time" and are searching for "the ultimate". It all amounts to the revelation that they have android bodies with a consciousness housed in a small circuit board. I've heard some people say Bigon's "THIS is me" is over-the-top melodrama, but I'd rather call it memorable. The effects are pretty cool too, especially how Bigon reveals his robot body, though the thing with his face is more symbolic than realistic.

While I appreciate the unfolding SF mystery and the game the Doctor's playing to keep the Urbankans underestimating him (and yet, intrigued enough to humor him), Four to Doomsday does have flaws. The aforementioned padding isn't limited to the National Geographic Variety Hour; Adric and Nyssa do a lot of exploring, looking at the various ethnicities going about the business of running the ship. This version of Tegan just wants to leave at every moment, not my favorite type of companion by a long shot. Nyssa and Adric are supposed to be real brain boxes, but it takes them forever to put on their breathing helmets after the oxygen gets thin. COME ON! Sometimes, it's the little things that bug me.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - A mostly pleasant experience thanks to Davison and Dudley's world, but the companions are ill-served and there's quite a bit of padding.


Mitchell Craig said...

The only things I really remember about "Four to Doomsday" are the Doctor's spacewalk (minus spacesuit - Time Lord physiognomical gobbledegook) and Nyssa fainting dead away at the end of Part 4 (to cover up the small quibble that Sarah Sutton hadn't been signed for the entire season, which is why she's absent for the bulk of "Kinda", but that's for later).


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