Which One : Tribal-dancing, on a spaceship.
Cast : The Doctor : Peter Davison
Tegan : Janet Fielding
Nyssa : Sarah Sutton
Adric : Matthew Waterhouse
Monarch : Stratford Johns
Enlightenment : Annie Lambert
Persuasion : Paul Shelley
Bigon : Philip Locke
Villagra : Nadia Hammam
Lin Futu : Burt Kwouk
Kurkutji : Illarrio Bisi Pedro
Written By : Terrence Dudley
Produced By : JNT
First Broadcast : 8 – 26 January 1982.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
Plot : The Doctor, Adric, Tegan and Nyssa dematerialise the Tardis on a strange spaceship, which is full of different cultures from every historical time-period, in Earth history.
Whats good : Good concept. Expansove set-design.
Whats bad : Overlong, flawed and badly paced.
Review With Spoilers : Four To Doomsday is an interesting concept piece, about a powerfully technological alien race – called the Urbankans.
Having no culture of their own. The Urbankans make frequent trips to Earth, to pinch representatives from various time periods; to amuse them and become slaves – on their spaceship.
In execution though, Four To Doomsday is at least – 2 parts, too long. It has long drawn out sequences and exposition, for no particular reason other than to waste running time. Such as, the bizarre cultural dance numbers; which take-up much of parts – 2, 3 & 4.
If Four To Doomsday was re-edited and condensed into a much punchier 2 part format, with the additional exposition abandoned. It would be a much better episode.
I recently reviewed The Awakening and was impressed by the much sharper pacing of it, due to only being a 2-part episode. Four To Doomsday could also benefit from a such a harsh recut.
“……the Urbankans have visited Earth four times and taken at least one cultural representative, and this time they’re coming for good. Well, I say good. Three billion Earthlings plus three billion Urbankans, I really don’t think so. I really don’t think so at all!” The Doctor
Adric is also given the thin end of the wedge here, in his scenes and dialogue. They really didn’t write his character in a very likable – or relatable way. Take Adric’s dialogue with leader of the Urbankans; Monarch.
Adric is manipulated by Monarch, to betray the Doctor and the other companions. With the argument, that to “upgrade” all of Earth’s human population into cyborgs and enrich Earth culture with Urbankan tech – would be in their best interests. In practice though, the Urbankans are planning to invade Earth, enslave and kill humanity.
Although Adric is a highly logical mathematical genius, this betrayal of the Doctor makes him completely unlikable. It’s no surprise then, that he was written out at the end of season 19, the writers having failed his character.
On the plus side though, for an episode of Who; set design is expansive and detailed. The Urbankans spaceship occupies a number of large sets, which is a bit of a departure from the usual closed in Beeb sets. Money and studio floorspace on the programme, usually being at a premium.
In retrospect, Four To Doomsday is not the best Davison Who and its certainly not the worst. It sits somewhere in the middle, as an average – ‘could have been better’ adventure.