‘FOUR TO DOOMSDAY’
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The Rise of Monarch
Back in 2008, I watched Peter Davison’s first season of ‘Doctor Who’ from start to finish. Two stories were missing in my Season 19 collection including ‘Four To Doomsday’ and ‘Kinda’. I was so glad when ‘Four To Doomsday’ came out on DVD in September 2008. I was so keen to watch it back then!
At that time, it filled in the gap of the character journeys of the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric during that season. I was really enjoying the Season 19 TARDIS team. They quickly became my favourites and were an interesting bunch of TARDIS characters to feature in the ‘Doctor Who’ series.
I’ve had the DVD cover of ‘Four To Doomsday’ signed by Peter Davison at the ‘Regenerations 2016’ convention in Swansea, September 2016 and by the lovely Sarah Sutton at the ‘Valiant 2015’ convention in Sheffield, March 2015. It’s intriguing to note that this was the first story Peter Davison made as the Fifth Doctor whilst this was the third story Sarah Sutton made as Nyssa in ‘Doctor Who’.
Yes, you heard me right! Peter Davison made ‘Four To Doomsday’ first before he did ‘Castrovalva’, the official first story of Season 19 in transmission order. Due to the script problems of ‘Project Zeta-Sigma’ by John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch, it was decided to produce ‘Four To Doomsday’ first.
The producer John Nathan-Turner wanted to make ‘Project Zeta-Sigma’ first, but leaving the scripts with script-editor Anthony Root and going away on holiday to an American ‘Doctor Who’ convention didn’t help matters. In the end, Anthony Root found the scripts for ‘Project Zeta-Sigma’ unworkable.
A shame really as it would’ve been interesting to see what ‘Project Zeta-Sigma’ would be like as a first Fifth Doctor adventure. Eventually, whilst ‘Four To Doomsday’, ‘The Visitation’ and ‘Kinda’ were getting into production, Eric Saward became the script editor and called in Christopher H. Bidmead.
Chris Bidmead wrote the opening Season 19 tale, ‘Castrovalva’, in place of ‘Project Zeta-Sigma’ as an emergency. But due to the delay of ‘Castrovalva’ being written, ‘Four To Doomsday’ had to be made first in order to save time and get production of Peter Davison’s first ‘Doctor Who’ season underway.
It’s interesting how the production history of Season 19 turned out. The cast and crew must have been under a lot of pressure to get Peter Davison’s first season of ‘Doctor Who’ done in a short space of time. Peter Davison didn’t even know how to play the Doctor by that point in the TV series.
This isn’t the first time this has happened with ‘Doctor Who’ seasons produced out of order. With Season 17, ‘The Creature From The Pit’ was made first before ‘Destiny of the Daleks’. Later on with Series 5 of the new series, ‘The Time of Angels’/’Flesh and Stone’ was made first before ‘The Eleventh Hour’.
Despite this, I found ‘Four To Doomsday’ to be a good space yarn and enjoyed watching how Peter Davison fared in his beginnings as the Doctor in terms of production history. Peter Davison has criticised his performance in ‘Four To Doomsday’, but I found him to be confident and well-settled here.
‘Four To Doomsday’ is a four-part story by Terence Dudley. Beforehand, Terence Dudley had been a director and writer on ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ with Peter Davison. He previously directed ‘Meglos’ in Season 18. He would go on to write ‘Black Orchid’ (my favourite story) and ‘The King’s Demons’.
In the story, the TARDIS lands inside an alien spaceship on its way to Earth. The Doctor is trying to get Tegan back to Heathrow Airport on Earth in 1981 – the same day she walked into the TARDIS in ‘Logopolis’. But the Doctor’s missed the mark. Pretty soon, he and his friends explore the spaceship.
The Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric soon meet the Urbankans, led by Monarch as well as Enlightenment and Persuasion. The Urbankans claim to be on a peaceful mission to Earth. But will the Doctor discover what the true intentions of Monarch are and whether he is peaceful as he says?
There are some nice concepts featured throughout this story regarding Monarch; the Urbankans and a group of humans from four ethnicities of Earth’s history. It’s quite mind-boggling when you have to take in all these ideas into context, but it’s enjoyable and watchable when you see it more and more.
Mind you, I didn’t find the story fast paced enough. It feels theatrical and requires some more action scenes. ‘Four To Doomsday’ is underrated and does have some merit. It shouldn’t be disregarded entirely. Janet Fielding even considers ‘Four To Doomsday’ as the strongest of Season 19 apparently.
I like how Terence Dudley portrayed the four TARDIS regulars. He depicts the different personalities in terms of conflict and drama. Dudley must have found it a challenge to write for the crowded TARDIS of the Fifth Doctor Nyssa, Tegan and Adric, especially when he didn’t know them really well.
I don’t think the TARDIS characters get equal measures of character development, but Terence Dudley does do a grand job anyway. He would make up for any lack of character development for the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric in his next story, ‘Black Orchid’, which I enjoyed very much.
Here, Peter Davison finds his feet as the Doctor. He does an extraordinary job as he’s very enthusiastic, energetic and fresh from playing Tristan in ‘All Creatures’. Peter’s Doctor shows his concern for his companions and he’s really brave to stand up to Monarch and his minions in the tale.
I like how Peter’s Doctor works things out and puts his trust in Bigon, even though it gets him into trouble. The cliff-hanger to ‘Part Three’ where the Doctor was about to be beheaded by a gladiator was tense-driven. I enjoyed it when the Doctor used a cricket ball in space to get back to his TARDIS.
I enjoyed Janet Fielding as Tegan in this. Tegan wants to return to Heathrow Airport to do her job. She gets frustrated and bad-tempered here, not liking what goes on with Monarch. She does get panicky when she and the Doctor discover the Urbankans’ plans for Earth and won’t listen to reason.
I found it tense and amusing to watch Tegan argue with Adric as she tells him to get out of her way. She has a go at flying the TARDIS, which is impressive even for her! I found it funny when Tegan gets frustrated and worked up in the TARDIS before she manages to get it to work and is sobbing joyfully.
Sarah Sutton is lovely as Nyssa in this. She gets side-lined sadly, with being hypnotised and having a ‘hairdryer’ on her head when being processed. I liked it when Nyssa challenged the Urbankans’ principles, calling their good things as ‘fine tyranny’. I liked it when Nyssa asked, “What about love?”
(sing-song) “What is love?, Baby don’t hurt me, Don’t hurt me, No more.”
It was also good to see Nyssa be a part of the conversation with the Doctor, Tegan and Adric in ‘Part Two’ of the story, demonstrating her expertise in cybernetics. I liked it when Nyssa thanked the Doctor for saving her life and when she in return saved his life when he was about to be beheaded.
I found Matthew Waterhouse as Adric to be poorly developed and pretty annoying in this. When I originally wrote this review, I found him out of character when allying himself with the Urbankans, believing Monarch to be wonderful. Mind you, I’ve had arguments to the contrary in regards to this.
I suppose it’s not impossible for Adric to behave in this manner with him being young and naive. But it strains his relationship with the Doctor by this point. The Doctor scolds Adric in his beliefs for Monarch being a benefactor and offers him a choice about whether to help to stop Monarch or not.
Stratford Johns guest stars as Monarch, the supreme ruler of Urbanka. Stratford is a green, alien frog in this and does a wonderful, majestic performance as a ‘Doctor Who’ villain. It must have been hard work for Stratford to be in that make-up, but he does it amazingly well in terms of playing Monarch.
The two Urbankans working for Monarch included Annie Lambert as Enlightenment and Paul Shelley as Persuasion. These two Urbankans are originally frogs like Monarch at first before they transform into human beings, based on sketches drawn by Tegan. They look human, but are cold and ruthless.
Annie Lambert would later go on to be in one episode of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. I found Enlightenment to be quite cold in her approach and fiercely loyal to Monarch, despite appearing pretty and glamorous in human form. He unties the rope to throw the Doctor out into space forever.
Paul Shelley was also in the 1980 BBC TV adaptation of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens. He would later guest star in the Big Finish audio, ‘The Whispering Forest’ with Peter Davison. I found Persuasion to be quite sneaky and slimy serving Monarch. He’s pretty suspicious of Bigon’s motives.
On board Monarch’s spaceship, there seem to be four ethnic groups of humans. There are the Ancient Greeks, led by Philip Locke as Bigon; the Chinese, led by Burk Kwouk as Lin Futu; the Mayans led by Nadia Hamman as Villagra and the Aborigines led by Illarrio Bisi Pedro as Kurkutji. Interesting bunch!
I’ve seen Philip Locke before in Series 4, Episode 3 of ‘Jeeves and Wooster’. I was delighted to see him as Bigon in this ‘Doctor Who’ story. Bigon is a Greek philosopher who knows Monarch’s plans for Earth are dastardly evil. Bigon shares this with the Doctor, believing that he can stop Monarch in his plans.
Burt Kwouk is very good as Lin Futu. I’ve seen Burt in TV shows like ‘The Saint’ and ‘The Avengers’. The character he plays in Lin Futu seems to be a corrupt man who’s agreed to serve the great Monarch. But there is still a chance that the Doctor might get through and persuade him otherwise.
I didn’t feel Nadia Hamman as Villagra and Illarrio Bisi Pedro as Kurkutji played a huge part in the story overall. Villagra didn’t say anything at all as she was vowed not to speak until the journey’s end. There was an intriguing scene where Tegan spoke to Kurkutji in a different Australian language.
I found the story well-directed by John Black, who previously directed ‘The Keeper of Traken’. I found the spaceship set designs impressive as well as the outer space scenes; the various entertainments performed by various ethnic groups and those big camera eyes called monopticons aboard the ship.
The opening shot of the Urbankans’ spaceship in space is very impressive even for its time back in the 1980s. It would’ve been nice if there were some actual space battles with that Urbankan spaceship to make the story feel epic and action-packed. Sadly that didn’t out to be the case here. 😀
The original DVD special features were as follows. There was some behind-the-scenes studio recording footage on the story; the ‘Saturday Night at the Mill’ interview with Peter Davison (now on the ‘Castrovalva’ disc for the Season 19 Blu-ray) and two versions of the 1980s theme music video (also now on the ‘Castrovalva’ disc for the Season 19 Blu-ray) including the stereo sound audio mix version and the 5.1 surround sound audio mix version. There was a photo gallery of the story; a stereo sound audio mix option for the story and a DVD audio commentary with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, Matthew Waterhouse and director John Black. There was also an info-text commentary option; a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story and a ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for ‘The War Machines’ with William Hartnell, Jackie Lane, Anneke Wills and Michael Craze.
On Disc 2 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 19’ Blu-ray, the behind-the-scenes studio recording footage (now called the highlights); the stereo sound audio mix option for the story; the DVD audio commentary and the ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF can be found on there. The photo gallery and the info-text commentary option for ‘Four To Doomsday’ have been updated for 2018 on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the making-of documentary called ‘Days of Wrath’ with cast and crew interviews. There’s also the ‘Behind The Sofa’ feature on ‘Four To Doomsday’ with Peter Davison (the Fifth Doctor); Sarah Sutton (Nyssa); Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) as well as Mark Strickson (Turlough) and Sophie Aldred (Ace). There’s also the unedited version of the behind-the-scenes studio footage. There are also BBC continuity announcements of the story and an audio archive interview with Stratford Johns.
On the PDF front, as well as the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story, there are also production documents and scripts for the story. You need a special Blu-ray computer drive for that.
I like ‘Four To Doomsday’ as a ‘Doctor Who’ story! It’s not the best story by any means and I don’t consider it as the strongest of Season 19 like Janet Fielding suggests. But it’s certainly worth the entertainment and I greatly enjoyed how Peter Davison establishes himself as the Doctor in this tale.
It’s also great to watch with Nyssa, Tegan and Adric as the Doctor’s companions and how the four work together as a team despite their dysfunctional tendencies. Sarah Sutton makes interesting comments about how the four fare in this story. Stratford Johns is also really good as Monarch here.
‘Four To Doomsday’ rating – 8/10
‘DOCTOR WHO – FOUR TO DOOMSDAY’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Monarch’s Mission To Earth Explored
Back in March 2015, I read ‘Doctor Who – Four To Doomsday’ in ‘four’ days! Honest, I did!
In the first weekend of March 2015, I attended the ‘Doctor Who’ convention called ‘Valiant 2015’ in Sheffield. During that weekend, I read the Target novelization of ‘Four To Doomsday’ by Terrance Dicks. I read it whilst I stayed at a Premier Inn hotel; I read it on a train and soon finished it at home.
I enjoyed reading the ‘Four To Doomsday’ book a lot. It’s a nice read and I was able to hear the voices of the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, Adric and Monarch from watching the TV story on DVD. It was such a unique experience reading the Target novelizations of the ‘Doctor Who’ TV stories that I love.
In March 2017, the audiobook of ‘Doctor Who – Four To Doomsday’ was released. I was pleased to find it released and read by Matthew Waterhouse who played Adric in the ‘Doctor Who’ TV series. I was looking forward to reading and hearing the adventure with Matthew’s narration in the background.
I’ve had the CD cover of the ‘Doctor Who – Four To Doomsday’ audiobook signed by Matthew Waterhouse at the ‘London Film & Comic Con’ in July 2017. I had some nice chats with Matthew about this ‘Doctor Who’ audiobook he read for BBC Worldwide as well as the TV series in general.
Before it was released, I did wonder whether the ‘Four To Doomsday’ novelization would get its own audiobook by the BBC someday. I wondered who would read the story, since I hoped it would be either Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding, Matthew Waterhouse or all four of them reading.
I am glad it’s Matthew Waterhouse who’s reading this audiobook of ‘Four To Doomsday’, since he clearly enjoys reading these novelizations of the ‘Doctor Who’ stories he was in and gives good readings of them anyway. He also previously read the audiobooks of ‘Full Circle’ and ‘The Visitation’.
I enjoyed Matthew’s interpretation of the voices he gave to the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric in the audiobook of ‘Four To Doomsday’. Having worked with his co-stars lately for Big Finish as well as in the TV series, he can get the pitches and tones of Peter, Janet and Sarah’s voices of the characters.
I found Matthew’s voice for Monarch in this story very interesting to listen to. It’s not an exact match to Stratford John’s voice in the TV story, but it’s clearly meant to be a throaty voice as described in the book. It was at times chilling when Matthew had Monarch getting angry in the tale.
As I said before, the ‘Doctor Who – Four To Doomsday’ novelization is by Terrance Dicks. It was based on the TV scripts by another ‘Terence’ – Terence Dudley. Terrance Dicks has a knack for novelizing ‘Doctor Who’ stories not by himself, as he’s worked for the Target novelization range in the 1970s and 1980s.
I found it surprising that Terence Dudley didn’t novelize his TV scripts of ‘Four To Doomsday’ into a book like he did for ‘Black Orchid’ and ‘The King’s Demons’. Dudley put in a lot of detail when he novelized those two stories and I felt that this was missing for the ‘Four To Doomsday’ novelization.
However, Terrance Dicks novelizes the TV scripts of ‘Four To Doomsday’ into a compelling read and he decently sticks to the plot of what was shown in the TV story with few subtle changes. Terrance is good at novelizing ‘Doctor Who’ stories which he did not write as he gets the atmosphere for them.
The ‘Four To Doomsday’ book was published in 1983 – a year after the story was transmitted in 1982. The story was divided into 12 chapters with 3 chapters each making up for one episode out of the four-part story. So 3 chapters; times 4; equals the 12 chapters that are found in the novelization.
The audiobook itself is a 3-disc CD set. I expected this to be a 4-disc set with the four episodes of the story allocated a disc each. Instead, the first four chapters (‘Part One into Two’) are on Disc 1; the second four (‘Part Two to Three’) are on Disc 2 and the last four (‘Part Three into Four’) are on Disc 3.
This was the first time that Terrance Dicks wrote for the complete TARDIS team from Season 19 in action. I really enjoyed how Terrance writes for the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric; how he depicts them in the actual action of the story and their reactions to events during ‘Four To Doomsday’ itself.
Terrance has written for Adric before since he wrote him in the TV story, ‘State of Decay’. He’s also written for Nyssa before when he did the novelization of ‘Doctor Who and the Keeper of Traken’. I assume this was the first time that he wrote for the Fifth Doctor and Tegan and he writes for them very well.
As I said before, Terrance more or less sticks to the plot of the TV story without changing much. Terrance does well in enhancing the descriptions of scene settings in the story though. He may not have changed the dialogue much, but he enhances the world of Monarch’s ship with superb descriptions.
Terrance does well in describing Monarch’s mission more clearly and what he intends to do with Earth when his ship arrives. From reading the book, ‘Four To Doomsday’ has the makings of a good story. It’s such a shame it isn’t clear in the TV version of the tale compared to Terrance novelizing it.
I discovered there were subtle changes made in the book which deviated from the TV story. One moment is when one Greek slave worker shoved Nyssa aside and Adric shouted, “Don’t you do that to her!” I was so surprised Terrance didn’t include that moment. It was a great character moment for Adric here.
The ‘Part Three’ cliff-hanger in Chapter 9 differs slightly from the TV version. The Doctor tells Monarch no-one can pilot the TARDIS except him. But he’s proven wrong when Tegan pilots the TARDIS herself. This is a good tense moment, since the Doctor’s death gets accidentally signed here.
I also found it interesting with how Terrance describes Monarch’s influence on Adric in persuading him to think that he’s wonderful. It implies that Adric is being manipulated by Monarch in a hypnotic fashion rather than by free will compared to what was shown in the TV story with Adric being annoying.
The story’s climax differs as Adric kills Monarch with the poison instead of the Doctor. I found this interesting. It was uncharacteristic and violent of the Doctor to throw the poison at Monarch in the TV story. Thus Terrance had this changed to have Adric throw the poison instead which makes sense.
I asked Matthew Waterhouse what he made of that moment when he read the audiobook, since I told him it was different in the TV story. He didn’t register the difference between the TV story and the novelization with Adric throwing the poison instead of the Doctor, which was rather interesting.
Matthew did say to me that Terrance Dicks would have worked on the original TV scripts when he novelized the story. Therefore, Adric could have been meant to have thrown the poison at Monarch first before it was changed to the Doctor instead. This was so intriguing to hear from Matthew’s lips.
Regarding Nyssa, Terrance hasn’t changed much to what she does in the actual TV story. But I found it gripping to read as I was anxious about Nyssa when she was taken away to be hypnotized and processed by the androids. Terrance describes Nyssa so interestingly as being ‘haughty’ in the book.
A big change is that Nyssa doesn’t faint at the end of the book. The end has the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric carrying on traveling in the TARDIS. I was surprised and wondered why Terrance didn’t end the ‘Four To Doomsday’ book with Nyssa fainting. Not that I’m complaining. I’m just intrigued by this.
Of course, from my conversation with Matthew Waterhouse at the ‘London Film & Comic Con’ in July 2017, perhaps the ending with Nyssa fainting in the TARDIS wasn’t included in the original TV scripts. It would make sense as it was rather abrupt and sudden when it happened in the TV version.
I enjoyed the ‘Doctor Who – Four To Doomsday’ novelization when I first read it in ‘four’ days back in March 2015. It was great to read it during the ‘Valiant 2015’ convention weekend in Sheffield. I’m so glad I enjoyed the novelization when I read it again with the audiobook in the background for 2017.
Matthew Waterhouse’s narration is so superb and he’s engaging throughout when I read the novelization with the audiobook in the background. I enjoyed immersing into the world of Monarch’s ship and following the journeys of the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric when they were saving Earth.
‘Doctor Who – Four To Doomsday’ – 8/10
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