Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Four to Doomsday - " Love?" "The exchange of two fantasies, your Majesty."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Four to Doomsday - Details

Season 19, Story 2 (Overall Series Story #118) | Previous - Next | Index

This is one I feel like I could do from memory. Not because it's particularly memorable, just from having it on DVD so long it's built up more instances of being watched than were warranted. If you watched this one, but not recently, I'll wager the things you remember are the cricket ball in space trick, the aboriginal dancing, and Burt Kwouk.

With any luck, you forgot how painful Adric and Tegan are together, and separately. To be clear: Janet Fielding is wonderful and I don't blame her for Tegan. In fact, Ms. Fielding may have single-handedly saved this story from embarrassing itself irredeemably by insisting the scene where Tegan and Kurkutji speak be written in an actual language -- not just some oogy-boogy jabbering made up on the spot. Now, how Tegan would know a 35,000+ year-old native Australian language is never explained, nor why she needs to translate at all. Like anything you think for more than a minute about in this story; so problematic.

Wish I could say that re-watching inspired me to write a spirited defense, or that I noticed something fascinating I'd missed all the other times. But, no. If anything, I was less comfortable than ever with the portrayal of the ethnically diverse androids -- and not just during the "recreationals," or while the term Chinaman was being bandied about. This time, it struck me how Bigon, the rational (white) Greek philosopher loves democracy so much, he alone couldn't be swayed by the Urbankans' offer of power over his ethnic group upon their return to Earth. Not like those savage Chinese, Mayans, and native Australians. (In this story's defense, they others at least came around at the end.)

Without Adric and Tegan, this might've had a puncher's chance at developing into decent story. Some of it holds up surprisingly well. But, it's got Adric and Tegan, and the aforementioned awkward tossing around of the word Chinaman working against it. Though I guess it's not the Doctor's fault "Chinaman" is a term for a left-handed googly, which he uses to talk about  his bowling skills. And, Tegan does knock Adric out cold, so she's got that going for her.

After losing Adric (brat, sexist, naive fascist) and Tegan, the script would've needed a thorough rewrite to fix the dialogue. Concept-wise, I will grant that Monarch's (oh, the subtly) delusion of godhood and daft plan were just the dose of bizarre this story of poisonous frogs & dancing androids on a giant space cruiser needed. That could stay in our rewrite. Sort out the timeline, give Persuasion (oh boy) more opportunities to be persuasive, give Burt Kwouk a sub-plot of his own, and you'd be on to something with the bones of this story.

As it is, hard to make much much of a case for this one beyond observing it could have been a lot worse and, while utterly mediocre, it's at least watchable.

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