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Semi-immortal frog robots in green velvet just won’t let Bigon be Bigon!

A failed attempt to visit Heathrow airport, and get rid of drop off Tegan, leads to the TARDIS materialising aboard an alien spacecraft. Doc quickly establishes how little faith he has in his new rag-tag crew and goes to check things out all on his lonesome. And gee whiz isn’t this craft full of some lovely high tech buttons and panels! It even has funky spherical drones that would make Skagra jealous. More importantly though, it’s safe for the rest to crawl out of the TARDIS, so long as everyone wears their bike-helmet-plus-mouth-guard.

It turns out the ship belongs to a race called the Urbankans, green and slightly reptilian humanoids (some might even say frog-like) that have a minor obsession with collecting random humans throughout Earth’s history. So far they have an ancient Grecian, an ancient Aboriginal Australian, an ancient Mayan princess and Burt Kwouk (!). They must still be missing someone from their collection though, as they’re on their way back to Earth and will arrive in four days’ time. Doc and co need to quickly work out if the Urbankans are friend or foe or their arrival could spell Doomsday!

(Ok, seriously, Podcastland. Here’s my pledge to you — I promise to add ALL missing listener minis to this and the latest eps within 36h of this episode dropping. Long-distance High-5s /Leon)

Here's what we think of C118 Four to Doomsday

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

4.4

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.4

Here's what we think of C118 Four to Doomsday

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken

4.4

Jim | @jimmythewho

3.4

Here's what you think 12 Responses to “C118 Four to Doomsday”
  1. Steven from Canada

    The Doc and crew land on board an invasion ship headed for earth. The crew waste no time in trying to steal whatever they can get their grubby hands on. But a quick escape is not to be, as they are quickly captured and given a bunch of Avocados. It would seem that Tegan is not the only human on board, humans from various time periods are on board as well… or are they?

    With a premise like that it’s no wonder the story is as good as it is. The villains are incredibly entertaining to watch, the mystery is unfolded at a good pace and the conflict between companions flows naturally from their established characters.

    With a story that can be summed up as “Anti-colonialism in SPACE!” It’s great to see such diversity in the supporting cast. The group’s represented are certainly groups that receive very little representation in pop culture; further demonstration of how progressive the show could be.

    On the other end of the spectrum we have Adric’s raging misogyny and the Doctor’s repeated use of the term “China-man” which gives off Talons of Wheng Chiang vibes, though there is clearly no ill intentions this time around. Still it is a bit telling that the Greek man got the most lines.

    From an aesthetic standpoint this story is very reminiscent of Pertwee serials with cluttered ship design, androids and green alien villains with about a pound of makeup on. Absolutely love it!

    Overall an entertaining yet somewhat flawed story and earns 3 frogmen out of 5.

    Steven from Canada

  2. Ed Corbet

    This story’s job is building the TARDIS crew’s relationships (there’s aliens and robots too, but don’t worry about that) it’s early-on so we see inconsistencies with behaviour in later series, but it shows promise; if they’re not all besties, 4 in a TARDIS could work.

    We see tensions between the companions; the Doctor offers Adric the TARDIS key not because he trusts Adric, but to get Tegan to change her mind, because he knows she doesn’t trust Adric. She then steals the TARDIS and abandons everyone; very unlike how she will later be portrayed (but are the Turlough character’s seeds being sown here)?

    Adric is getting worse as it seems he is now being deliberately written annoying, rather than just letting his natural twattishness shine through, but at least he knows how time-machines work, unlike Tegan who still thinks she can be late for work.

    Nyssa genuinely impresses the Doctor when she takes out the android, but lets herself be taken away for sedation without raising the slightest objection (this is a character who will later hold the (REDACTED: SPOILER!) up at gunpoint).

    The Liz Shaw problem reappears: Sodium Chloride? (A child would know this!). What’s photosynthesis? But with 3 companions at least you can spread the stupid questions around.

    Do not show this story to people that complain about diversity in Who today; there’s enough cultural dancing in this story to make the Internet explode.

    Finding our feet with a new cast; pretty sure it pays off later.

    2.4

    Ed Corbet

  3. Neil James | @neilandrozani

    Sometime around the year 2000, I realised I’d seen every 5th Doctor story except this one. Because Davison is my favourite Doc, I decided to hold this one back so I had it to look forward to. So, when I finally did get around to watching it, you can imagine my disappointment to find out that… IT IS SHIT!

    Ok, so that’s not really fair – it’s actually a fairly mixed bag. Of frogs.

    This was the first story Davison filmed and while ‘his Doctor’ isn’t quite there yet, he’s clearly got bags of charm and energy. Besides a nice sequence when she is horrified to witness a bloody death, Tegan is ridiculously annoying throughout. So is Adric, but at least he is highly entertaining for all the wrong reasons! I love his scream of ‘NO!’ when the Doc tells him he has to stay with Nyssa – such a child!

    I like how a couple of the groups onboard are represented by a pair of Bond legends (Vargas from Thunderball and Mr. Ling from Goldfinger). The finale when all the different cultures get off their tits and have a massive rave is simply marvellous.

    Other remarkable moments are Tegan becoming a highly talented sketch artist, the frogs turning into fitties, the violent shrinking of Monarch, and the very impressive sets. But the greatest moment is the frankly hilarious scene of the Doc floating out to get the TARDIS:

    The fight that leaves Persuasion in a Saturday Night Fever pose!

    Adric forcing himself on Enlightenment!

    The cricket ball saviour!

    And finally, Adric’s mental celebration!

    I watched it about 7 times.

    Rating – 2.6

  4. Kieren Evans | @kjevans2

    Hi folks

    So we have the first story that Davison actually filmed. And yeah it’s probably the second weakest of the season (more on the first later). It looks nice (making up for being studio bound), but the plot isn’t very interesting and the dialogue is very weak in parts. Oh my, Adric is so sexist at the start and once again he helps the baddie. Urgh so boring. The Tardis crew seem to take a long time to realise they aren’t on Earth when I would say it’s fairly obvious straight away that it’s not 20th century Earth from the scanner screen. I’m fairly certain that when discussing the visit times and length of journeys of Monarch the numbers don’t match up.

    Tegan speaking aborigine? Yeah right. Also fun fact, in the original script it was plausible rubbish they were speaking until Janet Fielding as an Australian complained and insisted they actually speak in proper aborigine, though there are in fact many different aborigine languages, so in‑story it’s quite convenient that Tegan knows that one in particular. Also apparently Tegan is a very good drawer with interesting ideas on what people wear in their spare time. Hmm.

    As I say it looks nice but the dull plot which is very padded (I watched it twice before writing this) and the dialogue is very clunky and dumb. I wouldn’t choose to watch again for a while, so 2/5 shrinking frog people.

    Kieren

  5. Andy Parkinson | @caffreys71

    Hi Gang,

    If Castrovalva was the delicious starter and Kinda is to be a scrumptious dessert then Four to Doomsday can only be described as a cold pot noodle.

    Three cyborg lizard beings led by Monarch who has delusions of God-hood are heading to Earth to destroy the human race and strip mine it. It’s a boring story, and it bears many a resemblance to Fourth doctor story The Android Invasion (which is way better than this story).

    Likes

    • The ship has a bit of a Nostromo vibe
    • Bert Kwouk – was anyone else desperate for Inspector Clouseau to come through the door?

    Beefs

    • The stupid helmets – I mean they’re SHIT! They offer no protection at all!
    • Adric is back to being an obnoxious git yet again how much longer is it before Earthshock?
    • Tegan – the antipodean ass-hat is her usual grating self
    • The Doctor’s spacewalk/cricket ball scene – no, just NO!!
    • The endless entertainment scenes – why are androids trying to entertain other androids?
    • How come Bigon and Lin Futu both speak excellent English, but the Aborigine doesn’t?

    I have zero recollection of watching this when I was a kid, and I think it’s clear why. A poor story that seems to lack very much jeopardy. There are also too many companions and only Nyssa comes out with any credit. Utterly forgettable, and not a story I’ll be revisiting soon.

    I award this story 0.7 wishing I could have my memory chip ripped out so I wouldn’t remember this story out of 5

    Andy Parkinson

  6. Peter Zunitch

    I find “Doomsday” fascinating across the board. There’s beautiful effects, sets and props, splendid makeup and costumes, and technobabble so natural it’s believable. We’re treated to dozens of philosophical concepts and debates. Ultimately however, this is a character study. One that is at times both brilliant and yet tragically displaced in time.

    The Vogons, urm, Urbankans have great rapport. Bygone and others so perfectly blend the personality of humans with the banal ordered chaos of an android that I bet many of you thought it was bad acting. Look again. He’s very fluid, except when he’s unsettled. Then his motions are repetitive and stuttered. Can circuitry truly capture emotion?

    Unfortunately some major temporal retro rewrites are needed. Adric’s chauvinist attitude is irrelevant to the story, and seems ham-fisted into the scene. His turncoat ploy turns out to be serious, which is dumb. His arc here should have taken place during State of Decay, with his deceptive accomplicing there taking place here. Likewise Tegan’s panic here should have happened during Logopolis. Her displacement in Logopolis should have been for Castrovalva. Her Castrovalva leadership should have been here. Do that and you’ve got an amazing character progression from desperate to responsible. Other Characters suffer similar fates. Why does Enlightenment do hypnosis. Shouldn’t that be Persuasion’s area? Why is the female earthling the only one with no lines?

    Honestly I love this story, but I understand why people don’t. Doomsday is on the ultimate mission, but everyone’s personalities got lost in the timestream. 4.4

  7. David E

    Right, I’ve never seen this one before.

    Tegan does nothing but whine, Nyssa feels even more sidelined than usual and Adric goes full arsehole in this. He really, really wants to become a robot? I kept thinking the whole time he was playing a game, but he isn’t! (The novelisation doesn’t elaborate on this at all) The bit where Tegan punches him to the floor, I actually cheered!

    Apparently the guy dressed as Monarch couldn’t go for a piss the whole time he was wearing the costume. There’s a fact for you.

    The idea that the urbankans are coming to earth for the silicon alone is interesting. Monarch being completely deluded and full of shit is unique in a villain.

    Some of the effects in this are absolutely dire though. When Bigon lifts his face up…that doesn’t work at all. What the hell were they thinking with the space walk? How does the Doctor survive? He would just be an undecompressed head in a helmet!

    Me no like much

    2.7

    P. S. Make Drew watch Kinda (also it’s pronounced ‘kinder’ as in ‘kinder surprise’)

  8. Ben aka Tanz Sixfingers | @Tanz6fingers

    Hello Who Back When team and Podcastland!
    Here is my review of the Doctor Who serial “Four to Doomsday”. (I will try to keep it to a mini length by just doing bullet points.)

    • This was apparently the first serial filmed for Peter Davison, and they weren’t sure what his personality would be, so it feels a lot like it was written for Tom Baker. If you close your eyes and use your imagination, it is easy to picture Tom saying those lines; it has a very Baker-ish feel.
    • When Adric and Nyssa stay in the lab where they landed, their conversation implies a lot of time has passed since Castrovalva, since both are now familiar with where instruments are within the TARDIS.
    • Tegan still hasn’t changed outfits yet (none of them has), but this is then worked into the plot when Enlightenment asks about current Earth fashion.
    • Tegan is wasting her superb drawing talents by becoming an air hostess.
    • Kudos to the production team for attempting to have the correct ethnic actors for the characters, however their Australian aborigonie is from Nigeria. At least they weren’t just white people in bad makeup.
    • Why does the TARDIS translate Mandarin, ancient Greek, and Urbankan, but not the aborigonie dialect that Tegan can understand?
    • If Monarch’s goal is to achieve Faster Than Light travel, then why has it only taken 2500 years to travel to Earth from another galaxy? (By the way, Galaxy NGC1489 is 531 million light years away.) And weren’t there any other worlds closer for them to settle?

    While technically great,I found it slow and boring; it should have only been two episodes.
    Rating: 2.0 spinning monopticons!

    cheers!

    Ben aka Tanz Sixfingers

  9. Michael Ridgway | @bad_movie_club

    Likes:

    • Tegan, for giving the Doctor an earful, knocking Adric out cold, and nicking the Tardis. Mainly for knocking Adric out cold.
    • Monarch – he wants to poison the Earth with a frog to steal minerals in order to visit god who he reckons is himself? Surely a contender for the most loony bonkers scheme in ‘Who?
    • Ah, the old hide-in-the-Chinese-dragon trick. Touché Doctor.
    • The Wonderfully rubbish space walk , inexplicably without a spacesuit. So many questions.

    Beefs:

    • Adric, your stock has plummeted. A misogynist and gullible fuckfit. What happened? You’d just become tolerable.
    • If all but four of the robots have zero sentience, who are the recreation zone acts for? For Monarch and co? Don’t they get suicidally bored with the same acts? Are there supposed to be more acts offscreen? Are these four sentient androids the ‘four to doomsday’ in the title? If so – and there are only four – who would rule over Earth’s other peoples?

    Summary: entertaining, if somewhat confusing. Why did Monarch go back and forth to Earth over 1000s of years? Why didn’t he just extract the minerals the first time round? Was he a genuinely benevolent alien at first and just went bonkers between visits?
    Rating: 3.1/5 loops of the five acts of the cultural show in the recreation zone I could take before hurling myself into space without a spacesuit – though even that doesn’t appear to guarantee death.

  10. Paul Waring | @pwaring

    By Four to Doomsday the crowded TARDIS is clearly causing nerves to fray, with Adric demanding that Nyssa ‘get the Doctor’ and declaring that women are ‘mindless and bossy’ (what a charmer). Tegan is starting to realise that she might never get home, and Nyssa looks like she’d rather be somewhere else. I do however like how the Doctor persuades Tegan to explore by pretending to offer the TARDIS key to Adric instead.

    Adric once again insists that the villain is just misunderstood, similar to how he did in State of Decay. At first I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was leading Monarch on, but later in the story it’s clear that he has fallen for the lies. Having said that, Monarch doesn’t feel like a particularly menacing villain, and in the end is killed quite easily.

    The main question on my mind throughout this story was: how do the weird helmets work? They’re clearly not airtight yet they seem to protect you in a vacuum. I’m also not *entirely* convinced by the physics of the cricket ball pushing the Doctor to the TARDIS, although a later novel (St Anthony’s Fire) does conveniently retcon the ball as being vacuum-resistant and propulsion-powered.

    Overall, there’s nothing particularly wrong with this story, it’s just not terribly exciting. If I had to pick one word to describe it, that would be ‘underwhelming’. 3/5

  11. James Ashley | @JamesAshIey

    Overall, Four to Doomsday is one of the most chaotic serials in all of Classic Who. The plot is generally quite nonsensical and usually developments come out of nowhere, for example Monarch wanting to go faster than the speed of light is exceedingly random – even for Classic Who. Character wise, I find the Eubankans terribly bland, while Adric’s character is the worst it will ever be – the sexism is just uncomfortable. Unfortunately, Teegan and Nyssa get side-lined in the second half of this serial – this happens a lot more in Season 19.

    One positive is that the Fifth Doctor gets many opportunities to shine – and generally does (although I’m not keen on the bossiness that was featured during this serial). I’m not even going to comment on the questionable portrayals of aborigines and Chinese cultures. Also, it can’t only be me that forgot there was a Mayan leader – she did nothing! The cliff-hangers were no better ; it felt like I’d seen each one many times before… because I have! All this nonsense culminated in the embarrassing and abrupt ending. Though this serial has some charm, it is far from enough to save it.

    Overall: 1.4/5

  12. Tracey from America | @yecartniatnouf

    We start off with Nyssa offending Tegan by calling earth primitive. Do not take this shit lying down Tegan.

    Look at Doc 5 geeking out over the equipment, barging in; very Tenant-ey.

    What the f Adric I just stuck up for you in the last serial!! Why are you being such an ass to Tegan, and about women in general? Do not take this shit lying down Tegan! (I guess we know whose fault it was that the women of Castrovalva were so boring.)

    Storywise this is quality scifi. Who are they, we wonder, this odd collection of people? Are they being controlled? How? The vibe is a bit like the spaceship UK with Amy Pond. Something is clearly off and the danger feels very real. The resolution is interesting, if not too terribly exciting.

    Ok. What. Is. Up with dictators who are clearly into Adric?

    And Adric’s personality at this point is hard to decipher. Is he meant to be young and learning? Opportunistic? Or just egotistical?

    Rating: Eight sided rhinoceros

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