What’s It About
The Doctor, Teagan, Nyssa, and Adric materialize on a spaceship run by an autocrat. It is populated by humans taken from various points in Earth’s history (ancient Greece, Aborigines, Imperial Chinese, and so on). The ship is on its way to Earth, but the Doctor is unsure what the autocrat’s motivations are.
Now listen to me, you young idiot!
“Four to Doomsday” is a particularly odd story. Following a run of brilliant episodes, and one that gets brilliant in parts 3 and 4, it certainly stands out a lesser effort. But we are in a new sub-era, that of script editor Antony Root. His ambitions on this first story are hard to identify, but so were Christopher H. Bidmead’s back when watching “The Leisure Hive.” Bidmead’s first script-edited story was a holdover from the previous season, and so, it seems, is “Four to Doomsday.” In some ways, this story would have worked somewhat well with season 18’s deconstructionist themes, as this story feels like it came out of an earlier era—specifically, the Hartnell era. However, it still would have clashed in this respect as season 18 primarily deconstructed the Baker era. Regardless, “Four to Doomsday” has a distinctly Harnell ear feel, complete with location exploration, philosophical debate, and companion antagonism.
It is with respect to the latter that this story is hindered. Teagan is immensely unlikeable here. Where her previous desire to get home was understandable, here it becomes panicked and unnervingly dangerous. While the case could be made that she lacks the motivation from “Castrovalva” to heal the man who could get her home, and Teagan is at her wits end. This clashes with the self-determined initiative she exhibited in the two previous stories. Adric is also off in this story. He sides too quickly with the fascist Monarch, undoing the development we saw across season 18. While it seems the companions in this story are trying to be used to comment on the philosophies at play, the arguments never quite come together because Teagan and Adric are so unlikeable in this story. Nyssa, being the balance character, fades into the background—even being taken out of the story for moments at a time. It is left to the Doctor to carry this story, which Davison does extremely well. Despite being a somewhat bland story, it sells me on Davison as the Doctor.
Davison’s performance is a strong point for this story. I also thing the sets look great. They have depth and take advantage of height as well. We are not in a spaceship with one level to every room. There are catwalks, stairs, and staging areas. In many places, looking at the sets is the most interesting part of a scene.
This isn’t a particularly bad story. It is just a story that seems out of place. It have very little nuance and doesn’t play with the ideas in any way as to make them interesting. It’s not bad, but it’s not compelling either.