Number : Season 19, serial 2 of 7.
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 episodes.
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. Expansive and well-designed sets.
Whats bad : Overlong, flawed and badly paced.
Review With Spoilers : Four To Doomsday, is an interesting concept piece. About a powerful and 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 episodes, too long. It has long drawn out sequences and exposition, for no particular reason. Other than to waste the long running time. Such as, the bizarre cultural dance numbers; which take-up much of episodes – 2, 3 & 4.
If Four To Doomsday was re-edited and condensed into a much punchier 2 episode format, with the additional exposition abandoned. It would be a much better shaped episode, indeed.
I recently reviewed Davison era story: The Awakening and was impressed by the much sharper (and punchier), pacing of it, due to only being a 2-part story. 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, yet again; in his scenes and dialogue. They really didn’t write his character in a very likable – or relatable way; which seems intentional.
For instance, take Adric’s dialogue with leader of the Urbankans; Monarch. Adric is manipulated by Monarch, to betray the Doctor and the other companions; really easily. 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 amd manipulate Adric to help achieve this. Adric agrees without any hint of the manipulation being purportrated.
Although Adric is a highly logical mathematical genius, this betrayal of the Fifth Doctor doesn’t do his already unlikeable character any favours. It’s no surprise then, that he was written out at the end of season 19, the writers having miserably 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 BBC Who sets. Money and studio floorspace on the programme, usually being at a premium – at other times.
In retrospect, Four To Doomsday is not the best Davison Doctor Who – and it’s certainly not the worst. It sits somewhere in the middle, as an average – ‘could have been better’ adventure.
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