Doctor Who #569: Four to Doomsday Part 3

"So he believes that to travel faster than light would mean going backwards in time, back to the Big Bang?" "And beyond. Monarch believes he will meet himself there. He believes he is God."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.25 1982.

IN THIS ONE... Monarch easily turns Adric, Nyssa is almost turned into a robot, and Tegan cries a lot and takes off alone in the TARDIS.

REVIEW: The companions have been badly written since Part 1, but we're at a point where I'm deathly afraid this will become the template for their characterization. After all, this is how I remembered them before getting to this point! Tegan is particularly bad, especially after some auspicious beginnings in Logopolis and Castrovalva. She gets into a shouting match with the Doctor (the first of many). She absurdly tries to take off in the TARDIS by pushing random buttons and overacting. The fact it works must mean the ship's telepathic circuits got tired of the tears and grimaces and just dematerialized already. But what does she hope to accomplish now? The only good bit for Tegan is that she pushes Adric to the ground and knocks him out. Now Adric... Adric brings a whole other level of stupidity. This is an episode where he sides with the villains, and there's no way he's faking it like he did with the vampires and Master. If it were an act, Nyssa wouldn't need to tell him to shut up as he gives up the Doctor's secrets, and he wouldn't get into a fight with Tegan over it either. He's beyond the point of naivety. Only Nyssa might be salvaged (ironically, the character that's on probation with the production team), though she spends most of the episode under hypnosis, under threat of becoming a robot (insert acting joke here). When she isn't, she's trying to contribute and she has the guts to call Monarch on his bull about necessary class structure.

Monarch's ultimate plan is entirely bonkers (see today's featured quote), and while not entirely justified by the performance, is a fairly normal Doctor Who villain motivation. It doesn't excuse the PLOT being bonkers though. And by this I mean the plot point about frog venom that shrinks people down to the size of a grain of salt, something Monarch plans to threaten Earth's population with. This is a completely ridiculous idea in the middle of a script that seems to pride itself on its hard science. (Annoyingly so. Or did someone think an explanation of what a nanometer is would be entertaining? Never mind that the dialog makes it sound like Tegan can't believe a circuit is so small, but accepts humans turned into androids.) A mistake that isn't a mistake is Monarch coughing in the middle of a sequence explaining how the Urbankans had given up the weaknesses of the flesh, but it sure looks like a mistake. Part 4 will reveal why it isn't.

Should I also mention how preachy the script is? The Urbankans go one about how we screwed up the Earth, and then we learn Monarch destroyed his home planet much the same way as we are now... We get it already! Where's the Doctor to save us from this thing? Well, Davison is as good as ever, but he doesn't get a whole lot to say or do in this one. He listens to Bigon talk a lot. He follows the tour Adric and Nyssa got in the previous episode. He disables floating balls like he's been doing since the beginning. None of those witty turns of phrase or anything, not even as he faces execution at episode's end (a classic fifth Doctor bit, as we'll discover).

REWATCHABILITY: Low - Once experienced, it cannot be unexperienced, and in my case, I think it's tainted the fifth Doctor's companions forever.


CiB said...

I think Monarchs cough is deliberate...

Eric TF Bat said...

What's particularly tragic is that I don't think there are any good companions afterward, either. Romana was quite all right, but the very next DW companion I don't actively loathe, either for their personality or the plots they get into, would have to be Captain Jack Harkness.

Siskoid said...

CiB: How could it be? Just looks like the actor had something in his throat while another person was talking.

Eric: Wow, that's harsh! But I can see where you're coming from. I'm still a fan of Ace's though, despite the sanitized slang and 80s fashions.

CiB said...

@Siskoid- you've seen Four to Doomsday before? Spoilers follow.

Monarch is still flesh. He's to vain to have given up his body, and so he alone among the Urbankans hasn't given up on the weaknesses of the flesh. The cough is just about the only clue to this important plot point you get before part 4.

Siskoid said...

Seen it, been a while, but you're right. I guess it is a clue.


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