Time-Flight

Time-Flight - Doctor

The illusion is always one of normality.

The Doctor

Synopsis

When a Concorde disappears through a crack in time, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan take another Concorde to follow, unaware that a mysterious conjuror Kalid is waiting for them.

Review

After the explosive climax to Earthshock, the conclusion to Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor is difficult to describe as anything other than a letdown.  Time-Flight has a reputation that certainly precedes it – I was certainly aware that this was not a great story before watching this story – and it is frustrating to see Davison’s Doctor hampered by stories like this and Black Orchid.

This is certainly an example of the show having ambition well in advance of its meagre budget.  Aspects like the landscape of pre-historic Earth and the prop Concorde landing gear look laughable and very much like a set in front of a matt painting.  Additionally, filming onboard Concorde itself seems to, like a lot of the John Nathan-Turner era, have been done for reasons of generating publicity rather than considering the practicalities of it.  The scenes shot in the cabin and the flight deck of Concorde look very claustrophobic and not easy to work in – there is one scene with the Doctor talking to the flight crew which feels as though the camera is literally right behind Peter Davison.  The one thing that does look like money has been spent on it is the Master’s disguise as Kalid, which does look rather impressive, even though it is only used for the first two parts.  Given the scope of the story and the cast and production team’s seeming antipathy towards this serial, it is perhaps surprising that one of the script editors or John Nathan-Turner suggested holding it over to the next season in order to do this story full justice.

Time-Flight Kalid and the TARDIS

Peter Grimwade’s story is certainly ambitious, however, it is safe to say that his writing is not as good as his direction, and the narrative is full of characters that feel superfluous.  I do feel that this is not entirely his fault though, as this story is unfortunate to follow Earthshock and doesn’t entirely deal with the death of Adric satisfactorily.  This isn’t a problem exclusive to Doctor Who.  For those of you unfamiliar with your James Bond films, Blofeld kills Bond’s new bride in the closing minutes of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, yet when James Bond returned in Diamonds Are Forever, he acts as though the worst thing Blofeld has ever done is park in his space.  The story does certainly start with a sombre tone, picking up straight after the Doctor has dropped off the survivors of the encounter with the Cybermen, but this does get quite rapidly dropped as a plot element.  I’ve heard that the Master originally was not supposed to feature and was a late addition and this certainly makes quite a lot of sense.  His appearance here does seem quite derivative of his earlier appearance in Castrovalva, especially considering that he spent most of his time in disguise in that story too.  Grimwade’s story does have some interesting ideas, like the Xeraphin and the Jekyll and Hyde style relationship that seems to dog their race, however, there are too many other things going on here to go into it in further details.

There is quite a large cast here but a lot of them aren’t given an awful lot to do, with the Master mind-controlling the majority of the passengers and crew of the first Concorde, and Nyssa and Tegan largely sidelined.  However, there are four standout performances that mean that this story isn’t absolutely dreadful.  The first is Peter Davison, who really throws himself into the story despite his personal feelings towards the story.  The second is Anthony Ainley, who, though the Master doesn’t really need to be in this story, brings a suitable sense of pantomime menace to proceedings.  The third and fourth are Richard Easton and Nigel Stock as Captain Stapley and Professor Hayter.  Richard Easton portrays such a likable character who falls completely under the spell of this energetic and youthful Doctor and is eager to help as evidenced in the scenes where he attempts to thwart the Master taking parts of the Doctor’s TARDIS.  Nigel Stock brings some cynicism and some wonderful barbs into the episode which does not really give the actors very much to work with.

Verdict: Time-Flight brings Davison’s first season as the Doctor to a somewhat lacklustre conclusion.  An ambitious story which should perhaps have been refused on grounds of practicalities, however, it does feature some good performances from Davison, Ainley, Easton and Stock. 2/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Anthony Ainley (Khalid/The Master), Richard Easton (Captain Stapley), Keith Drinkel (Flight Engineer Scobie), Michael Cashman (First Officer Bilton), Peter Dahlsen (Horton), Brian McDermott (Sheard), John Flint (Captain Urquhart), Peter Cellier (Andrews), Judith Byfield (Angela Clifford), Nigel Stock (Professor Hayter), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Hugh Hayes (Anithon) & André Winterton (Zarak).

Writer: Peter Grimwade

Director: Ron Jones

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The first part of this story was the most successful in terms of viewing figures of John Nathan-Turner’s entire era as producer.
  • Adric’s appearance served not only to fulfill Matthew Waterhouse’s contract but also to mean that his name would have to appear in the Radio Times, thus not spoiling the character’s death at the end of Earthshock.
  • This story was the first television program permitted to film at Heathrow Airport and the first to film on Concorde.
  • Although Janet Fielding leaves at the end of this story, there was never any intention to make this a permanent departure, and she reappears in Arc of Infinity.
  • Peter Davison labels this story as his most disappointing experience.
  • Anthony Ainley is credited as Leon Ny Taiy for the first episode.

Cast Notes

  • Keith Drinkel would go on to appear in the audio drama Catch-1782.

Best Moment

The scenes in Part One with the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan at Heathrow Airport are good – I especially like how quick the Doctor is to be accepted by the authorities after namedropping UNIT and the Brigadier.

Best Quote

I thought you were going with the Doctor.

So did I…

Captain Stapley and Tegan Jovanka

Earthshock

earthshock cybermen.jpg

A Time Lord.  But they’re forbidden to interfere.

This one calls himself the Doctor – and does nothing else but interfere.

Cyber Lieutenant and Cyber Leader

Synopsis

The Eart is hosting a conference to discuss battling the Cybermen, so naturally, the Cybermen are plotting to destroy the Earth and the Doctor is in the midst of it…

Review

It is perhaps a testament to the strength of Earthshock that, even now the twists are well known and settled into Doctor Who lore, the story works consistently well.  One of the main twists is revealed on purchasing the DVD, with the Cybermen appearing on the front cover, which does slightly undermine the end of the first part, whilst the death of Adric is now a well-known event.  The story benefits from a strong cast as well as some great direction from Peter Grimwade.

Earthshock Androids

The first of the two shocks is the reveal of the Cybermen.  With the surprise saved for the last minutes of the first part of the story, the main antagonists are the sinister androids who skulk around the caves beneath the Earth’s surface.  They are utterly terrifying and ruthless, however, they don’t have enough about them to be a long-lasting antagonist in a story of this kind.  This story needs a major villain for the ultimate impact and the reintroduction of the Cybermen is really well handled.  This version of the Cybermen might be my favourites from the Classic series – I love the see-through jaw piece and the vocal performance as the Cyber Leader by David Banks.  These Cybermen seem a lot more effective than they have done in previous appearances in a story, which compliments with their streamlined appearance.  Grimwade’s direction does some really iconic things with them, like the Cybermen bursting through plastic as they wake up on the freighter or the Cyberman trapped in the door.  He also uses low angle shots well which makes them feel all the more imposing. The way that Ringway, a member of Brigg’s crew who has been helping the Cybermen, is so easily and callously killed shows that the director and writer really understand the Cybermen.

Earthshock Cyberman.jpg

The second shock is the death of Adric.  Adric’s death is the first companion death since Sara Kingdom in The Dalek’s Masterplan and the first and, to date, the only longstanding companion to die in the course of travelling with the Doctor.  There are hints dropped early on in the episode of Adric’s dissatisfaction travelling with the Doctor since his regeneration which makes the viewer suspect a departure may be imminent, especially as Adric starts looking into how to get back to E-Space.  Something that does make me chuckle is the fact that Adric states that the Doctor has become more immature since his regeneration – a bit of a strange statement as Davison’s Doctor is much soberer and mature than his predecessor.  When the moment does come, sadly Waterhouse’s timid typing on the computer does give away that something is going to happen.  Those who have read my other reviews of Davison’s first series as the Doctor will know that, by and large, I have found him incredibly irritating, which I’m not entirely sure is entirely Matthew Waterhouse’s fault.  Sadly, the character is one of those boy genius characters that some writers seem to think will appeal to the younger audience, like Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Having come to Classic Who in my late teens to early 20s, he’s sadly only ever really grown on me.

Now I’ll never know if I was right.

Adric

Then there’s the decision to not have the closing theme music.  It feels especially jarring after a noisy finale and it does feel like a strange decision to end on.  However, in the Putting the Shock into Earthshock documentary on the DVD, Steven Moffat says that there are three options, and all seem naff:

  1. Run the usual closing credits;
  2. Play a sad version of the Doctor Who theme; or
  3. Play no closing music.

Behind the camera, Peter Grimwade produces superb direction, making the caves under the Earth’s surface feel dark and atmospheric, perfect for the black-clad androids to sneak around undetected by the soldiers in the caves.  Grimwade was, according to actors like Peter Davison and Matthew Waterhouse, a difficult man to work with and unusually for the time, directed from the studio floor rather than the gantry.  It can’t be denied, however, that it got results in this story and a similar style of directing would be used by Graeme Harper in the later 1980s stories.  In terms of the story, it is quite nicely done, but definitely has Saward’s fingerprints, evident by the number of guns and deaths on show here, which would become more prevalent when he went on to become script editor for Davison’s later seasons.  The scene where we see Snyder’s remains sizzling on the rocks stands out as one that wouldn’t feel out of place in Colin Baker’s first season.  In front of the camera, the main cast give good performances and the soldiers that tag along with them are also compelling enough characters to keep you going.  The obvious piece of casting that feels jarring is that of Beryl Reid as the captain of the freighter, who does her best, but feels really out of place.  This is a prime example of John Nathan-Turner’s stunt casting, which would persist through his era of Doctor Who, however, in a story like Earthshock, it almost falls by the wayside.

Verdict: Earthshock is one of the highs of Peter Davison’s first season on the TARDIS, even when the two big shocks are public knowledge.  There are flaws, but I believe that they are so minor they don’t inflict too much damage on the story.  10/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), James Warwick (Lieutenant Scott), Clare Clifford (Professor Kyle), Beryl Reid (Captain Briggs), June Bland (Berger), Steve Morley (Walters), Suzi Arden (Snyder), Ann Holloway (Mitchell), Anne Clements (Trooper Baines), Mark Straker (Second Trooper), David Banks (Cyber-Leader), Alec Sabin (Ringway), Mark Hardy (Cyber-Lieutenant), Mark Fletcher (First Crew Member) & Christopher Whittingham (Second Crew Member)

Writer: Eric Saward

Director: Peter Grimwade

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • Producer John Nathan-Turner took a gamble with this story by keeping the reveal of the Cybermen a surprise.  The public gallery at Television Centre, which overlooked the studio floor, was closed and a Radio Times cover photoshoot was cancelled in order to maintain the secret of the Cybermen’s return.
  • Adric’s death was yet another gamble, as no long-standing companion had died previously to this.  Part Four is the only episode of Doctor Who to be broadcast without the closing title music.
  • Adric’s death was intended to unambiguous, however, it has been materially changed by a Big Finish audio story, The Boy That Time Forgot, revealing that Adric lived on in a bubble universe.
  • This story marks the first appearance of David Banks as the Cyber Leader, a role he would reprise in the other Cybermen stories of the 1980s.
  • June Bland would go on to appear in Survival.

Best Moment

The cliffhanger at the end of part one is probably one of the best examples of cliffhangers in Doctor Who history.

Destroy them! Destroy them at once!

Cyber Leader

Best Quote

Emotions have their uses.

They restrict and curtail the intellect, and logic of the mind.

They also enhance life.  When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well prepared meal?

These things are irrelevant.

For some people, small, beautiful events is what life is all about!

The Fifth Doctor and Cyber Leader

Earthshock Doctor TARDIS

Black Orchid

Black Orchid 1

A superb innings, worthy of the master.

The Master?

Well, the other doctor.  W G Grace.

Sir Robert Muir and The Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS arrives in 1925 England, where due to a case of mistaken identity, the Doctor ends up playing in a local cricket match. The travellers accept an invitation to a costume party but events take a more sinister turn when the Doctor finds a dead body.

Review

Black Orchid, sadly, feels paper-thin.  Observing some of the best detective dramas, thinking of programmes like Inspector Morse, manage to build up dramatic tension and uncertainty about the eventual reveal of the murderer.  I don’t think that it is entirely the story’s fault, as there are only fifty minutes to work with, but there is nothing similar here.  There is no uncertainty as to who the murderer is, and the story does wear its literary allusions on its sleeves, pastiching stories like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Agatha Christie novels.

The writing and runtime certainly contribute to my issues with this story, as it ultimately feels like filler.  I strongly believe that Doctor Who is a flexible enough programme to be able to adapt to any type of story, however, the reduced time really means that none of the aspects of this story really work very well. None of the guest characters feel very fleshed out or believable, and the whole issue of Ann and Nyssa being identical feels extremely contrived.  It’s almost as if the long cricket playing sequence is also completely unnecessary, but I do quite enjoy Adric and Nyssa’s complete bemusement and Tegan trying to explain cricket to them, so I guess it’s actually quite a nice moment for this TARDIS team.  I completely agree with the main cast that this story lacks any dramatic tension – as soon as the first murder takes place, you know exactly where the story is going.

Black Orchid 2

On the positive side, however, it is nice to see the TARDIS crew out of their normal uniforms.  The costume designs at the ball are pretty fantastic – I’m particularly in awe of the Henry VIII costume seen in the background.  I also like the fact that, despite the fact that he is no longer wearing his pyjamas, Adric retains his Badge of Mathematical Excellence.  The party is a nice chance to see the team let their hair down, and it is particularly nice to see Tegan getting along so well with Sir Robert Muir, especially as the majority of the previous stories have seen her getting more and more irritated about the Doctor’s failings to take her to Heathrow.  It’s nice to see her and Nyssa having a good time at the party and dancing the Charleston.

I do feel like the climax is ultimately rushed though.  The Doctor’s arrest is rapidly undone by just showing the police officers the interior of the TARDIS, and even the fact that the police box is missing from the station is rapidly resolved, where elsewhere this would have been a cliffhanger.  I know ultimately the Doctor isn’t cleared of the murder of James until the police see the deformed George Cranleigh threatening Nyssa.  The second episode feels very rushed and thus denies a really satisfying conclusion.  The whole ‘Black Orchid’ element feels like a bit of an undeveloped and problematic plot point too, focusing on the British colonialism aspect that any foreigners would obviously wreak horrible revenge on George.  The fact that his two victims are servants and barely mentioned is also extremely problematic.  In a story with a relatively short running time, the Doctor’s companions don’t have very much to do other than spend time at the party, and in Adric’s case, eat.

Verdict: Black Orchid sadly never really feels like anything other than a two-part filler.  There are some nice moments, but they don’t redeem a paper thin plot and a rushed conclusion.  3/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa/Ann Turner), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Barbara Murray (Lady Cranleigh), Moray Watson (Sir Robert Muir), Michael Cochrane (Charles Cranleigh), Brian Hawksley (Brewster), Timothy Block (Tanner), Ahmed Khalil (Lakoni), Gareth Milne (The Unknown/George Cranleigh), Ivor Salter (Sergeant Markham) & Andrew Tourell (Constable Cummings)

Writer: Terence Dudley

Director: Ron Jones

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • Peter Davison, Matthew Waterhouse and Janet Fielding hated this story, citing a lack of mystery and any dramatic tension.  Sarah Sutton was more positive, but still rather dismissive of this story.
  • The first story since The Highlanders not to feature any science fiction elements other than the TARDIS and its occupants.  There is some dispute as to whether it is a ‘pure historical’ as the story does not focus on real people or real events.
  • The first two part story of the 1980s.
  • Peter Davison is a keen cricketer, and performed all of his cricketing scenes.
  • Ahmed Khalil had to have his voice dubbed in due to his lip disk.

Best Moment

Probably no surprise, but the cricket match is probably the best part of the story.  Despite it being overly long, it’s quite nice to see Davison’s talent at bowling!

Best Quote

So what is a railway station?

Well, a place where one embarks and disembarks from compartments on wheels drawn along these tracks by a steam engine – rarely on time.

What a very silly activity.

You think so?  As a boy, I always wanted to drive one.

Adric, The Doctor and Nyssa

 

The Visitation

android visitation

I have appeared before some of the most hostile audiences in the world.  Today I met Death in a cellar.  But I have never been so afraid until I met the man with the scythe.

Richard Mace

Synopsis

Failing to take Tegan to Heathrow Airport, the TARDIS lands in the 17th Century.  After exploring, the Doctor and his companions find a space capsule has crash-landed, and three Terileptil prison escapees intended to wipe out the population of the Earth by releasing rats infected with an enhanced form of the great plague.

Review

The Visitation is a notable episode in Doctor Who history for being the debut of Eric Saward, who would play a major role in shaping the tone of the show as the script editor.  This doesn’t feel as dark, violent and grungy as some later Saward stories would become, however, and it largely comes across as an enjoyable if rather a straight-forward romp for the Fifth Doctor and his companions.

Visitation Adric and Tegan

The story feels really atmospheric, largely because of the large amount of location filming and the amount of research that Saward did into making it feel authentic to the period.  The story is notable for being the first since Horror of Fang Rock to solely be set on Earth, and while it’s a pseudo-historical tale, it feels true to the period.  There are hints of the violence that would come to be synonymous with Saward’s time as script editor, with the Doctor being involved in hand to hand combat and the killing of the family at the beginning of part one.  It is far from a perfect story, and feels quite straight forward in places, and only features one really developed guest character in the shape of Richard Mace.  Peter Moffatt’s direction is, as usual, pretty standard and fairly non-descript, but he is well known for having happy casts and crew and this may have helped some of the performances here.  One of the biggest problems with the story are the scenes with Nyssa making the sonic booster on the TARDIS, which seem to just be there to fill space without really adequate explanation of why Nyssa is doing this.

How do you feel now?

Groggy, sore and bad tempered.

Almost your old self.

Fifth Doctor and Tegan Jovanka

I do quite like the Terileptils, especially their design and the use of animatronics to give them more expressive faces.  This is all the more impressive considering the limited budget that they would likely have had to work on in this story, which is essentially a period drama, thereby requiring lots of costumes and hair work.  The remaining Terileptils plan to commit genocide by modifying the plague to make it all the more potent is quite a good idea, and the fact that Terileptils are fond of beautiful items is an interesting element to add to villains that could be quite one dimensional.  The android still to this day looks pretty decent, except for the cricket gloves, but these can be overlooked in the grand scheme of things.

visitation death

With regards to the central cast, Peter Davison is pretty solid here as the Doctor, and I particularly enjoy his frustration and resignation when he is told that he is going to be executed is superb.  He also gets to spend some time away from his bickering companions, which seems to be just in time for the character, as I think he is ready to just leave Tegan at the next destination he comes to.  This being said, there are signs of a promising relationship between this incarnation of the Doctor and Nyssa, with them exploring the house, showing the same kind of inquisitiveness.  Sadly, Tegan is pretty insufferable, being written as being determined to get back to Heathrow rather than actually appreciating the situation that she is in, whilst Adric yet again gives up the fact that the Doctor is a time traveller yet again!  Fortunately, the saving grace of the story is the performance of Michael Robbins as a failed actor turned highwayman Richard Mace.  Robbins has fantastic chemistry with Davison and steals every scene that he is in, which is perhaps fortunate.  Every other guest character in the story has no development, and is under the control of the Terileptils for the majority of the story, which feels like a bit of a waste, all things considered.

Verdict:  A good story which does suffer sometimes with pacing and being a bit too straight forward.  6/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Michael Robbins (Richard Mace), Peter Van Dissel (Android), John Savident (The Squire), Anthony Calf (Charles), John Baker (Ralph), Valerie Fyfer (Elizabeth), Richard Hampton (Villager), James Charlton (Miller), Michael Melia (Terileptil), Neil West (Poacher), Eric Dodson (Headman)

Writer: Eric Saward

Director: Peter Moffatt

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • This story marks the last appearance of the sonic screwdriver until the TV Movie.  John Nathan-Turner wished to get rid of it as it allowed the Doctor to escape difficult situations too easily.  Eric Saward originally intended for the Doctor to replace it at the end of the story.
  • First contribution to Doctor Who by Eric Saward, coming prior to his promotion to script editor.
  • This serial had very high ratings – it is one of the few serial stories to improve ratings episode on episode.  The final episode is one of only five episodes produced in the JNT era to achieve viewing figures of more than 10 million.  It was also one of only four times in this era that an episode broke into the top forty most-viewed programmes of the week.

Best Moment

I quite like the ending of Part Four, showing the Doctor’s actions in stopping the Terileptil plot causing the Fire of London.

Best Quote

Where is this Doctor from?

He’s never told us.  He likes to be mysterious, although he talks a lot about…er, Guildford.  I think that’s where he comes from.

You’re being a very stupid woman.

That isn’t a very original observation.

Terileptil and Tegan Jovanka

Four To Doomsday

monarch persuasion

And if a frog with funny hair can turn itself into a semblance of a human being in a matter of minutes, there isn’t much of a limit to what it can’t do.  To say nothing of the dress making.

Fifth Doctor

Synopsis

The Fifth Doctor and his companions find themselves on a spaceship heading for Earth, populated by humans from different eras and three Urbankans: Monarch, Persuasion and Enlightenment.  However, the aliens have sketchy motives for heading to Earth – will the Doctor be able to stop them in time?

Review

I’m still no clearer on what the title actually means.  My best idea is that it refers to the fact that the Urbankan ship being four light-days away from Earth, but there’s no saying that this is the real reason behind this title.  Peter Davison’s second story is a rather unusual one for Doctor Who, but one that is sufficiently engaging and has an intriguing premise.  To draw a parallel with the most recent series of Doctor Who, Four to Doomsday feels more like a 1960s story than anything else but also shows the flexibility of Doctor Who.

The main strength of this story is Stratford Johns as Monarch, as he takes a part that could have been hammed up by other actors and is actually quite a compelling villain.  He perfectly captures the charm that is able to hoodwink Adric, who for the second time in two stories is seen to betray the Doctor, however, here he is gullible, whilst in Castrovalva, he is being manipulated by the Master.  Johns’ performance means that we almost buy Monarch as the benevolent being that he believes himself to be, which does make his hoodwinking of Adric slightly more believable.   The scene where the Doctor tricks Adric into believing that he is going along with Monarch’s plan is potentially one of the best in the episode during the entertainment is one of the best in the episode, even if it does feel a bit out of character for the Fifth Doctor.  Peter Davison does give a good performance despite this.

Now listen to me you, young idiot.  You’re not so much gullible as idealistic.  I suppose it comes from your deprived delinquent background.

Fifth Doctor

That being said, there are some elements where this story does raise some issues.  There are some issues with the story which make it seem as though the writer Terence Dudley hasn’t seen Doctor Who before.  Whilst the story does feel quite tonally different to other stories in this era, this isn’t a problem in a format so versatile as Doctor Who.  There are moments like when the Native Australian isn’t translated by the TARDIS whilst the other tribe chiefs are and the most troubling element in the story is the science behind the spacewalk.  Whilst visually stunning and impressive considering the limited resources that the series had at this time,  the conservation of momentum doesn’t seem to exist in space although the physics of throwing the cricket ball to get him back to the TARDIS is okay.  It is evident that Christopher H Bidmead, the former script editor who was keen on ensuring that his science fiction was based on science fact, is no longer involved in the production.

tardis team four to doomsday

There are also issues with the characterisation of the four leads, with characters like Tegan and Adric just coming across as unpleasant and just plain irritating.  The Doctor’s characterisation can be the most excused as this is only his second story and some of his snark and short-temper can perhaps be put down to this.  Of the companions, however, Adric comes off by far the worst, although none of them come out unscathed.  Matthew Waterhouse is well recorded as stating that the writing for Adric varied greatly during his time on the show, making him unable to get a grip on the character.  Adric here is an unprecedented misogynist and extremely gullible despite his ‘boy genius’, meanwhile Tegan even more emotional than usual, even blubbing when she can’t get the TARDIS to escape the ship’s force field.  Nyssa comes across as quite smug, but she does come off as a much more suitable companion than the other two.  According to producer John Nathan Turner, this characterisation of the group was the closest to that originally envisaged, however, this TARDIS team could have come across much more unlikeable if this had been followed for the entire series.

Despite this, the direction deserves to be commended, as the corridor scenes help make the spaceship feel interconnected and aspects like the space walk look visually stunning, and the ending of the episode, where the Doctor shrinks Monarch also looks great.  The story has some interesting elements and the initial mystery of the ship keeps the viewer intrigued.

Verdict: Four to Doomsday is a mixed bag that contains some interesting ideas, but the characterisation of the TARDIS team feels off.  It is well directed and Stratford Johns gives a great performance. 5/10

space walk

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Stratford Johns (Monarch), Paul Shelley (Persuasion), Annie Lambert (Enlightenment), Philip Locke (Bigon), Burt Kwouk (Lin Futu), Illarrio Bisi-Pedro (Kurkutiji), Nadia Hammam (Villagra)

Writer: Terence Dudley (1st story)

Director: John Black (2nd story)

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • This was the first Fifth Doctor story to be filmed, due to production issues with Castrovalva (then known as Project Zeta-Sigma).  Peter Davison attributes filming this episode with giving him a more confident performance in his actual debut episode.
  • This episode was supposed to be the last to feature Nyssa, and the Doctor would have continued with Adric and Tegan.  However, Davison protested this as he believed that Nyssa was the companion “most suited to his vision of the Doctor.”  The production team did relent and Sarah Sutton was retained.  This is why Nyssa collapses at the end of the episode, as the following story had been written before this decision had been made.
  • The title could be seen to refer to the fact that the ship is four light-days away from Earth, the fact that there are four members of the TARDIS team or there are four ethnic tribes.  It could also possibly be due to the fact that in 1981, the Doomsday Clock was at four minutes to midnight.

Best Moment:

When the Doctor shrinks Monarch at the conclusion of the episode.

Best Quote

(After confiscating the sonic screwdriver) You can keep the pencil.

Persuasion