So I thought with the blu-ray season sets being released now I’d watch and review at least one story from each season as they come out, rather than do the whole season in one go and ruin potential marathons for down the line. For Season 19 I chose Four to Doomsday, as I had already covered Castrovalva for the “Debut Story Marathon”, and it was the one I hadn’t seen in the longest… that wasn’t called Time-Flight… Let’s take a look then, at the story that is actually Davison’s debut in the role, recording-wise.
The Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric arrive on a spaceship which is headed for Earth. On board they meet natives of Earth from various different eras, and also three Urbankans: Monarch, Persuasion and Enlightenment. What are the aliens’ intentions when they reach our home world?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
“I know this may surprise you, but I don’t think we’ve landed in Heathrow…”
The Doctor (Peter Davison) – The Doctor is getting used to his new body now, and is looking for something fun and interesting… if only Tegan would stop complaining in his ear all the time…
Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) – Adric is getting impatient, he wants to see more of the wonders of this universe, but instead all his new travelling mate Tegan wants to do is go home to 80s Earth…
Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) – Nyssa has nowhere else to go, her home planet being destroyed and all, so luckily she can continue to travel with The Doctor and see what the rest of the universe has to offer… Both good and bad…
Tegan (Janet Fielding) – Tegan never actually chose to join the TARDIS crew, and now she wants out. Can The Doctor really get her to Heathrow, or even to Earth at all?
Monarch (Stratford Johns) – Monarch is the leader of the Urbankans, and is one of only three currently awake, the rest of his kin being stored away on microchips. Still, when they arrive on Earth, his people will have all the resources they need…
Persuasion (Paul Shelley) – Persuasion is a Urbankan that specialises in … persuading other people / races to follow the will of Monarch.
Enlightenment (Annie Lambert) – Enlightenment is also a Urbankan, though she is more interested in the culture and knowledge of other species… and how they can potentially help their own race survive.
Bigon (Philip Locke) – Bigon was a Greek philosopher who was abducted by the Urbankans many centuries ago. He was converted into a robot body, but retains his free-thinking, though too much free-thinking will land him in trouble…
So many coloured buttons! What do they all do?
Peter Davison is particularly likable in this story, his excitement and curiosity over the Urbankans equipment and technology was endearing, and his lack of patience with both the Urbankans and Adric was a rare glimpse of this incarnation getting fed up and doing something about it, rather than sighing and saying a sarcastic quip (though we do always like a bit of that!) The scene where he’s left floating in space and uses a cricket ball rebounding off of the ship’s wall and catching it as a means to move him towards the TARDIS (also floating in space) is a good bit of fun.
The Urbankans, as cheap as their make up and costume made them look, were at least an interesting race. They had long-since abandoned the “ways of the flesh” and instead live in robot bodies made to look like their old selves, thinking this makes them stronger than those who still live “in the flesh time”. They have visited Earth several times, each gap in time shrinking due to Monarch’s fascination with faster travel through space (he wants to break the speed of light and go back to the beginning of the universe, where he expects to meet himself… now there’s a high-level God complex!) and each time they capture a group of humans and convert their bodies into robotic facsimiles and keep them around, either for their own amusement, or just as slave workers. At the end it’s revealed that Monarch had actually kept himself somewhat flesh-like, the only member of his race who didn’t want to give up his living form, which was an interesting twist, even if it was only so The Doctor could throw Monarch’s own poison on him…
Bigon was a fun character as well, one of the few cultural leaders who was allowed to keep his free will and thinking, if only because his logical mind can sometimes help Monarch, when he cares to listen. He eventually helps conspire with The Doctor and co. and frees his fellow kidnapped leaders, the group of them going off to start their own civilization… of robotic tribesmen and thinkers from Earth’s past… Odd thought, really.
“Check out my robo-nipples! … Oh wait, I don’t have any. Damn.”
The companions get a bad go of it here. Nyssa does very little other than talk a bit about the technology and get kidnapped a few times, Tegan does nothing but complain about wanting to go home, even trying to fly the TARDIS out of there with only herself on board, and Adric… Jesus, this has to be the key story where it’s okay to hate him. He begins to think Monarch’s way of thinking is right, and that he would make a good ruler of Earth, and that having immortal bodies is a good idea. He even argues with Tegan and The Doctor about it, both of whom get fed up and verbally brow-beat him for being an idiot. He only just comes round to The Doctor’s way of thinking in Episode 4, and even then begrudgingly.
For these older stories I tend not to mention certain lack of budget problems, but seriously, who came up with the designs for the space helmets The Doctor and co. wear? They look like they’re form a school play and they just rest on the head with loads of space around it for the vacuum to get in… There’s suspension of disbelief, and I’m a big proponent of it, but sometimes it just doesn’t work. Those helmets are one of those times.
There are quite a few scenes of the various native tribes performing some sort of ritual dance / display, and they just eat up time for very little reason… well, eating up time was probably the reason, to be fair, but I still wish they would have come up with something else…
“How’s that!!” … That’s a cricket thing, isn’t it?
A few call backs to “Logopolis” aside, there wasn’t much. Nyssa faints at the very last moment of the story, which is obviously picked up with the start of the next story: “Kinda”, and the audio drama “Psychodrome” takes place in between “Castrovalva” and this story, but that’s about it…
Four to Doomsday is a fun story, with a good lead performance and some interesting concepts, but it’s let down by the companions being so poorly handled and written for, plus some rather boring ways to fill up screen time. I guess it ends up somewhere in the “forgettable middle”, which probably explains why I could remember so little about it…