Doctor Who #570: Four to Doomsday Part 4

"Farewell. In space forever, going nowhere."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.26 1982.

IN THIS ONE... The famous space(cricket)walk. The heroes win too, but the spacewalk is all anyone remembers.

REVIEW: Just how dense does Adric have to be to still side with Monarch even after his guys almost decapitate the Doctor? It's a completely ridiculous attitude from a companion on his fifth story, and even the Doctor holds back information until he can be sure he can trust the little [BLEEP]. Does he want his own immortal robot body that much? At least he gets some actual scenes. Tegan is relegated to standing by the console looking distraught after rematerializing the TARDIS just outside the Urbankan ship, and Nyssa spends most of her time lying on her back (and down she goes again at the end as Sarah Sutton's contract gets sorted out). Given Adric's terrible characterization, maybe they're the lucky ones after all.

It's incredible how much good will this serial has lost since its first half. Now that its mysteries have been solved, what we're left with are nagging plot holes and deficient logic. Like, why is the ship stopped? Isn't it speeding towards Earth? Why are there chipless drones watching the recreational? Since they're basically empty shells, what could they possibly get from it? Are they just seat fillers? How is Monarch still living in the "flesh time" after thousands of years? It explains the tell-tale cough, but opens up a lot more questions and it's just quickly glossed over after he's ridiculously poison-shrunk. Never mind the fact he finds the TARDIS with the door wide open and doesn't go in even though it's his target. Nor do we know how the Doctor knew. And the spacewalk scene everyone remembers is a physics nightmare, with the Doctor magically surviving open space for minutes on end (today, the TARDIS can project atmosphere at least) and bowling his way around a dodgy understanding of Newton's Laws.

At least the National Geographic special has a plot function this time (smuggling lobotomized Bigon out in the lion dance and causing a choreographed riot Monarch has to deal with). But as far as putting the pieces together, the space cricket sequence is completely gratuitous. The production needed to justify the Doctor's cricketing outfit, so they inserted a cricketing sequence into the show. To make it work, they have Tegan somehow take off in the TARDIS and then do nothing, just so the ship is out in space. The Doctor gets his TARDIS back and then goes about the business of defeating Monarch, no TARDIS required. So it's just a diversion. The sequence also features a terribly choreographed fight scene between Adric and the Urbankans (why do the laser gun blast right through them harmlessly?), which ends with the heroes more or less murdering Persuasion and Enlightenment by throwing their chips into space without comment. Wow, what a mess.

VERSIONS: In the Target novelization, Monarch is killed by Adric, not the Doctor.

REWATCHABILITY: Low - Even the one memorable scene doesn't follow its own logic, and they're really racing towards the finish at the end, anti-climax be damned.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - A real shame. The serial opens with a number of intriguing mysteries, some nice design, and a witty Doctor. Unfortunately, the companions are badly written in the extreme, the plot holes get wide enough for Monarch to get to beyond the Big Bang like he wants, and all the serial's virtues evaporate. Plus, what the hell does the title mean?


Anonymous said...

I'm watching this on Retro TV right now, and ... god this is tedious stuff. Even back in the day, before new "Doctor Who", I could never get into the Peter Davison era, but now it's just painful. I get that they're trying to make Peter Davison clever and doing an all right job of it, but everything else is an exercise in weak.

I think I read somewhere that the point of Tegan was to take her through a "feminist" arc from pointless crankiness to being a good teammate, so, um, mission accomplished. But by today's standards, it's clearly a mission they never should have undertaken.

About Adric, couldn't they have explained his submission to the Monarch just with one quick line from the Monarch about "I have planted a hypnotic suggestion in him that I am perfectly trustworthy"? Jesus guys, it wouldn't take much.


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