Day 286 — October 13th 2021

Four to Doomsday Parts Three and Four

Four to Doomsday — Part Three

I let the credits play out on this one so I could check who the director was. As soon as John Black’s name appeared it was a bit of an ‘of course’ moment. This is Black’s second — and last — time as a director on Doctor Who (he did K9 and Company, too), and while he’s not been around long enough for his style to be so distinct that I can spot it on sight, now I know it’s him the similarities to The Keeper of Traken are far more obvious.

Crucially, Black is very good at working with colour on screen. I made a note of this, though didn’t mention it, during Traken but it’s even more obvious here when lots of the set is flat and grey. Every so often you’ll get a shot which really stands out, colour wise, and you can tell that some genuine thought has gone into it. There’s some great examples in this episode where the background lights have been coordinated with Tegan’s costume to give a fabulous burst of purple in an otherwise drab scene. It works well in Monarch’s Throne Room, too, where the frog is bathed in green light which compliments costume and make up. I think all this attention to lighting is another reason different areas of the ship feel so distinct.

I can’t say the story here is particularly gripping me, but it’s not especially bad either — it’s just sort of going on in the background. I will say that it’s giving Peter Davison lots of nice little Doctor-y moments. I love him confounding the various Manopticons (he sticks his hat over the lens of one and sets another spinning with the Sonic Screwdriver), and he’s got an energy to him which feels refreshing after the moping around of Tom Baker during his final series. Something which has upset me, though, is realising that this is the first time I’ve watched an episode where Doctor Who is younger than I am now. That’s a scary thought — I still watch thinking that he’s a grown up…!

Adric continues to fare less well in this one. Early on, when he listens to Monarch’s speech about humanity, I assumed he was playing along to save himself and Nyssa. He did a similar thing in State of Decay, and it seemed the most likely option. But then it becomes clear that he’s actually decided to switch sides and join up with Monarch’s cause. By the time he tries to steal the TARDIS key from Tegan he’s become quite unlikeable. I remembered from my last marathon that Acric wasn’t as strong in the Davison era as he was in Tom’s, but I’m surprised to see that downfall happening so swiftly and suddenly.

5/10

Four to Doomsday — Part Four

When Peter Davison came back to do Time Crash opposite Tennant’s Doctor, I thought he was brilliant, but very obviously playing a different version of Doctor Who to the one he played in the 1980s. He was so grumpy and sarcastic and didn’t fit my recollection of the Davison episodes I’d seen up to that point. Indeed, I think I remember saying to a friend that they’d accidentally written him as Colin Baker! But actually, I was totally wrong. Watching this episode I can completely see the same character who appears in the Coral Control Room to spar with Tennant.

And it’s brilliant! I sometimes think of Davison’s Doctor Who as being a bit bland and characterless, but that’s absolutely not the case here, and it wasn’t particularly true of Castrovalva, either. I’m hoping that’s not going to become the case as his tenure goes on. I’m especially fond of the way he takes Adric to task for deciding to join up with Monarch’s invasion of Earth;

Doctor Who: ‘Now listen to me, you young idiot. You’re not so much gullible as idealistic. I suppose it comes from your deprived delinquent background. Monarch is the greatest being in the known universe for evil. He will destroy
Earth and much more if he’s not stopped.’

At times, Tom Baker’s Doctor Who was quite dangerous and scary but I don’t think I can imagine him ever speaking to any of his companions like this. There’s something quite exciting about that, and Davison’s incarnation is definitely going to need this kind of attitude to keep control of three companions running around in the TARDIS. While I’m on that subject, there’s one bit of characterisation for Doctor Who in this story which feels oddly out of place to me — he repeatedly refers to his companions as ‘children’ in the manner of a teacher. The first time he does it in Part One it’s played sarcastically, but it’s cropped up a few times since and always feels weird, like it grates on my ears.

The big thing that this episode often gets called out for is the sequence in which Doctor Who uses a cricket ball to propel himself through space to reach the TARDIS, which is floating some way outside the ship. I’ve seen it described as terrible science — as if Doctor Who is usually so accurate! — but I think in the context of the story it makes total sense, and it seems believable enough that I could go along with it. I think it also helps that the whole sequence looks better than I’d expected, especially when you look right out from the ship into space, so you get a number of effects nested together.

There’s something I want to track during Davison’s era, and this episode is the first time we come close it it, so I’m starting here. I’ve got it in my head that in Davison’s era, pretty much everyone gets to go in the TARDIS. He’s inviting people in left, right and centre. I’ve always been so convinced of this fact, but when I’ve mentioned it to friends they’ve looked at me like I’m crazy. Only the TARDIS crew get to go inside the ship in this story, but Doctor Who invites all the robots to come along at the end, so that sort of half-counts, I reckon, even though they turn down the invitation…

Four to Doomsday is never going to be an out and out classic, but it’s certainly better than reputation would have it. 6/10.

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