12 August 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 589: Four to Doomsday, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Four to Doomsday has never had a particularly strong reputation amongDoctor Who stories, and often people’s criticism of it seems to stem from this episode. In particular, it’s the whole sequence of the Doctor having to perform a spacewalk to reach the TARDIS, and using his cricket ball to propel himself further. I’m not sure what the problem is, though, because I really enjoyed this bit of the story! It was certainly staged a lot better than I was expecting it to be (for a start, the Doctor’s coat actually hangs better here - there’s none of that Castrovalva style, Zero Room nonsense here), and I just know that watching this as a kid I would have absolutely loved this whole segment.

In fact, I think that’s fair to say of this story as a whole - it’s damn near perfect for the intended audience. As a ten-, eleven-, or twelve- year old, I think that this would have appealed to me perfectly. It’s got everything I could want: impressive, large-scale space ship sets, frog creatures, killer cliffhangers, androids, the space-walk scene, Tegan managing to move the TARDIS outside the ship (just)… it’s a story that’s very sure about the audience it’s pitching to, and it pulls it all off with a real flair.

Something else that’s really been appealing to me through this story is the way that Adric gets so easily swayed by Monarch’s argument, and tries to convince everyone else to see things from that point of view. It was a similar situation that got him in to trouble during State of Decay, and it’s nice to see such a thing being continued in his character here and now. People often describe the Fifth Doctor as travelling with a group of children, and while that’s certainly true to some extent (I believe Tegan must be the oldest of the companions, and even she’s fairly young), it’s in story lines like this that we can really see Adric’s youth being used to its full advantage.

It also means that we get to see the Doctor round on him somewhat, and even call him a ‘young idiot’. Davison still isn’t completely sure on the way he wants to play this part, yet, but we’re certainly seeing him figure it out more and more as these episodes go by. If anything, this is probably closer to the performance that he’s giving at the start of Time Crash, when asked to be annoyed at the presence of another Doctor in his TARDIS. It’s fun to watch, and it might actually be my favourite part of his performance so far.

Sadly, though, there’s a number of things in this final episode which really just don’t work for me. Chief among them is the fact that Monarch has spent the last few episodes determined to get his hand on the TARDIS, and yet when he’s stood just a few feet from its open (!) doors, he just continues to mill around, waiting for someone to stop him. Things have slightly fallen apart for me at the end here, but certainly I think Four to Doomsday is better than its reputation would suggest. And with the collapse of Nyssa in the closing moments, we’re about to head on to a story which has a reputation all of its own, and one quite different to this story…

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