Monday, February 15, 2016

Four to Doomsday by: Terrance Dudley directed by: John Black: Space Frogs, Androids and Bad Fashion

Four to Doomsday stars Peter Davison as the Doctor, Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka, Sarah Sutton as Nyssa and Matthew Waterhouse as Adric with Stratford Jones as Monarch, Annie Lambert as Enlightenment and Paul Shelley as Persuasion.  It was written by Terrance Dudley and directed by John Black with Antony Root as Script Editor and John-Nathan Turner as Producer.  It was originally broadcast on Mondays and Tuesdays from 18 to 26 January 1982 on BBC One.


You really don’t have to look hard to see why Four to Doomsday was voted into the bottom twenty-five Doctor Who stories.  It’s a story home to a myriad of problems.  These problems range from small to story crushingly large and it isn’t at all a surprise as there wasn’t a script editor for this story.  Oh the credits credit Antony Root as script editor for this story but he script edited two other stories, The Visitation and Earthshock, which he did nothing on as they were written by series regular script editor Eric Saward and his name was used.  There is evidence to point to the fact that he didn’t work on the scripts for this story either.


The first problem with the story is its most serious.  It is (to quote Tom Baker) Paralyzingly dull boring and tedious!  If there ever was a story that was in desperate need of going down to a one part story it’s this one.  Each episode is padded out with ethnic dancing which is alright the first time but it keeps happening so that there is really no point to keep the story going except they need an episode count.  Part Three and Part Four are the worst contenders as they consist of dancing, an info dump of unnecessary information, and a sequence where the Doctor is thrown out into space and he gets out of it using a cricket ball and Tegan magically being able to pilot the TARDIS even though this is her third television story.  I had to watch Part Four twice because I fell asleep during the thing yet I really didn’t miss much when I took my little snooze.  The same thing happened with Part Two so half the story can easily be cut out with Parts One and Three cut down to a story about 30-minutes long at a maximum.


Before I get to the other bad portions of the story, there are a few positives I can give it.  First off the set design in this story was done really well with some futuristic sets.  Yes some of them wobble and they take you out of the story easily most of them look pretty good.  John Black excels in showing the sets in a good light to make it feel like a real alien spaceship in the story.  Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton are the only two actors in this thing that are giving it their all and they both excel.  It would be even better if they could share the screen more in the story, but no they are paired off with the other companions during the story.  That is all the positivity I can give this story so on to the negatives.


The acting in this story is atrocious.  Matthew Waterhouse really shows how bad of an actor he was during his time on the show here as in Season 18 he had Tom Baker and Lalla Ward to guide him through the acting and in Castrovalva he barely appeared and when he did it was Anthony Ainley who got him through the acting bits.  He is tasked here to act almost like he is betraying the Doctor but actually has the plan to get the problem solved on his own.  The script doesn’t help this as it genuinely looks like Adric has gone traitor in this story and unlike when it happened in State of Decay the people he follows aren’t as charismatic as The Three Who Rule or are written by Terrance Dicks.  Terrance Dudley really doesn’t know what he is doing in the script and the way he characterizes Adric and Tegan really show how bad this happens in the story.  Yes Tegan gets another short stick in this story.  Janet Fielding is a good actress in most of her Doctor Who work even if on television Tegan was a mouth on legs, but here the nickname is earned.  She spends the story complains that she wants to go home and has freak outs at every little thing even if she is making sense for most of them.


This is down to John Black not knowing how to direct his actors as the freak outs seem so forced and he has her staring right into the camera for most of them as if this was done on a stage.  With the supporting cast he isn’t much better as they all overact to the nth degree creating an extremely odd group to watch try to interact to create quote on quote drama.  The script also doesn’t make any sense story wise as the villain’s plan is to kill everyone on Earth and travel to the center of the universe because he is God, but also because everyone needs to become androids (or as I know them Cybermen with emotions).  See it doesn’t really make sense and doesn’t fit together and as the first Peter Davison story ever shot I’m surprised it didn’t cause Davison to quit the show immediately.


To summarize, Four to Doomsday is a long, slow and boring mess that doesn’t ever get going.  It is plagued by bad direction, a really bad script and some really bad acting that hides any semblance of a good idea under a lot of bad elements.  It could have easily been cut down into one episode and deserves to be shoved down near the bottom of the list as the only good things are the acting from Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton and most of the sets look nice.  25/100

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