Four To Doomsday (1982)

Four to Doomsday was the second story to be transmitted for Peter Davison but was actually the first that went into production. This story was written by one of the weakest writers in Doctor Who, Terrance Dudley. Dudley had previously directed the Tom Baker story ‘Meglos’ and would go on to write two further Doctor Who stories. This story is set on a spaceship which is heading to earth where its revealed that the leaders of this ship (The Urbankans) are pretending to want to co-exist with the humans but will in reality wipe them out.

The story is severly lacking in action. The problem with studio bound stories is that very soon the sets get boring and the story has to be good enough to keep you going. It worked with ‘The Keeper of Traken’ but sadly not in this case. The story starts off perfectly well but then by the second episode it quickly decends into everyone running into big rooms where there are some dances going on and the Doctor and co are trying to avoid the detection of those sphere cameras. The main problem is that there is a nice little plot strand in this but it gets bogged down by a load of nothing.

Peter Davison does well in his ‘first’ outing as the Doctor. It must have been really intimidating to have just taken over from one of the most popular actors to play the Doctor in the shows history. When you take the fact that its his first story into consideration what we are left with is a nice performance that does ok with the material given. Janet Fielding is slightly annoying in this as all she seems to do for most of this story is shriek and run around. I think that Fielding is a very good actress and she has some great stories coming up (Kinda for example) but on this occasion she is given a duff card and like Davison does the best she can. I am baffled by Matthew Waterhouse’s performance. I think his willingness to back the baddies is something that I find to be tiresome. It was the same in ‘State of Decay’ and I just found myself wishing he would be different. It’s not surprising that Adric isnt a well liked character if he pulls stunts like he did in this story. Sarah Sutton is served best in this story out of the three companions but that’s not saying a great deal. I think that Nyssa is the one of the best companions in Doctor Who and Nyssa does have some good scenes.

The Urbankans are well realised. Stratford Johns is the best as Monarch. He is the only one of the Urbankans that has to stay in that make up and it must have been horrible. Johns does get all the best scenes and lines, he extracts the best from the character and makes it a very strong character despite not actually being very menacing. Annie Lambert and Paul Shelley were the other Urbankans (Enlightenment and Persuasion respectively). I was more impressed with Lambert’s role and I thought that Enligtenment was stronger than Persuasion. It seemed like Persuasion had been written as an after thought and just seems to spend his time in the story spying on the Doctor in the main dancing room and being involved in the cliffhanger for part two.

The story does have one of the most memorable moments in Doctor Who. The scene where the Doctor throws a cricket ball at the ship and when it bounces back it carries the Doctor far enough to reach the TARDIS. Now, even a primary school child would know that this is impossible as when the Doctor catches the ball, it wouldn’t propel him to somewhere but smash his hands to pieces. As the production text points out when this scene, who cares its fun.

The way that Monarch is defeated is a disappointment as all that happens is that the Doctor throws the acid over him. It’s doesn’t kill him but merely shrinks him. They then go away in the TARDIS. This seems like they couldn’t think of a good enough exit for the character that had pretty much carried the story for large chunks of the story.

It’s to be expected that Four To Doomsday wasn’t going to be Davison’s best story as it was the first that he had recorded and didn’t seem to know how to play the role. To be fair to him its not his performance that is the problem, neither is it of the other regulars. Four To Doomsday is neither a terrible story or a good story, its inbetween and in a way that’s the worst kind of story. It should be viewed once but not perhaps more than that.

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