By Roy Mathur, on 2023-01-23 at 23:02:13--00:06:56 GMT, for Captain Roy's Rusty Rocket Radio Show, Listen
These notes feel as disjointed as me and I'll probably sound like that in the show. Too too meta.
No, I've changed my mind. This is going to be a long show and I need a rest to tackle it. It's Sunday now, I'm getting a good night's sleep and doing it tomorrow. Another delay, I know.
Hello, a day later! I said in 471 and in 473 I would try to finish this years and years long chronological revisit of classic Doctor Who this year, but I'm not off to a good start. Schedules? I'm late taping the wrong show on the wrong day. I think that succinctly answers the question.
I've got a cold and my audio equipment is sick too, so this episode is taped, again not ideally, not on the SM7B like last time, but with Rudolph, my old Shure SM58, plugged into a Sony PCM-M10 recorder. I'm also boosting it with a Triton Audio FetHead, phantom powered with a TC Helicon Ditto Mic Looper. Why? Because I am insane. Okay, because I'm a baritone and I sound a little muddy on the SM7B. But with my pathetic croaky, lispy, messy vocals, it's hardly a deal breaker which of the two mics I use. Call it a whim.
Not really relevant to Who, but relevant to the time frame, and my frame of mind, in this journal entry, while listening to a podcast I discovered that Terry Hall of the Specials died in December, and was shortly thereafter reminded from a tweet that Rene Auberjonois (Brewster McCloud, Benson, Deep Space 9) died all the way back in 2019. RIP to both.
Yesterday turned weird, probably because I was so tired. The nutter in the attic with the long fingernails has quietened down. Instead, for weeks I've been stalked by the smell of heavy incense, like the effluvia I presume Christopher Lee's evil priest would emit in Hammer's To the Devil a Daughter.
As I finished typing the bulk of these notes yesterday, I was exhausted. To wind down before the show, I watched some New Who. Bit on the nose, but what the hell. I was rewatching School Reunion. That's the one in which Sarah Jane Smith and K-9 Mark III returns, and Mickey realises he's the 10th Doctor's equivalent of the clanky tin dog. It was the perfect soporific, but not in a derogatory way. Only a few minutes in I was relaxed enough to go to bed. I watched the rest in this morning and now we are here.
Happy lunar new year (yesterday) and welcome to the year of the rabbit (actually water hare).
"The sign of Rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace, and prosperity in Chinese culture. 2023 is predicted to be a year of hope."--chinahighlights.com
Waffle complete. Let's do the show.
Fifth Doctor: Peter Davison
Companion(s): Adric: Matthew Waterhouse, Nyssa: Sarah Sutton, Tegan: Janet Fielding
Notable Cast: Monarch is Stratford Johns, who played DI Charlie Barlow in Z-Cars, though I have no memory of that character. The excellent Burt Kwouk (Cato the Pink Panther films and a heroic convict in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness) is Lin Futu. Bigon is the prolific Philip Locke, famous as a henchman in Thunderball.
Director: John Black, also The Keeper of Traken
Writer: Terence Dudley, also Black Orchid and The King's Demons plus the Target books, scriptwriter for K-9 and Company.
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Locations: BBC Television Centre, Shepherd's Bush in 1981.
Broadcast: Season 19, serial 2, story 117, following Castrovalva covered in 473, 4 x c. 25 minute episodes, and first broadcast 18--26 January 1982.
Media: Target novelisation by Terrance Dicks in 1983, VHS in 2001, DVD in 2008, Doctor Who DVD Files Issue 105 in 2013, and The Collection Season 19 Blu-ray in 2018.
Number one in the UK was The Land Of Make Believe by Bucks Fizz. That isn't the song in which Cheryl and Jay rip off their skirts.
The TARDIS arrives on a massive spaceship instead on Heathrow Terminal 3. Tegan is not happy.
They meet three green, warty, toad-like, but otherwise humanoid aliens; Monarch and his advisors: Enlightenment and Persuasion; Urbankans on their way to Earth. Enlightenment and Persuasion later appear as human after having taken on the forms of Tegan's sketches of Earth fashion.
Four human cultures are introduced, represented by their leaders. Bigon, a philosopher from Ancient Greece, Princess Villagra of the Maya, Lin Futu of China, and Australian Aborigine Kurkutji. They are the slaves of the Urbankans.
The Urbankans make periodic visits to Earth, each time they arrive faster as their slaves' research into FTL becomes more advanced. This journey is their last. They carry three billion of their surviving population after their home world was destroyed and are intent on conquest.
Bigon reveals himself to be an android, his brain stored on a circuit board in his chest. In fact, all aboard the ship are androids, having left the "flesh time" behind under the insane dictatorship of Monarch. He believes himself to be God and is expecting to meet himself at the point of creation when he prefects FTL.
Nyssa is almost converted into an android, Adric temporarily sides with Monarch until the Doctor persuades him otherwise, and it is revealed that Monarch wrecked his own world by mining it for silicon and carbon, for the conversion of his people to electronic form, and wishes to do the same to Earth.
Bigon and the other leaders rebel, the Doctor and Adric kill Enlightenment and Persuasion respectively, and the Doctor also poisons Monarch's remaining flesh, shrinking him to the size of a toy. Victorious, the androids decide to look for a new home rather than take the Doctor up on his offer to return them to Earth. Nyssa collapses in the TARDIS.
The establishing shot with the camera lingering over the length of the large dark spaceship, before showing us the glowing lights of equipment in its interior---the whole sequence orchestrated to ethereal music---reminded me of the opening scene of Alien.
Adric continues to be an obnoxious, anti-social dickhead, needling first Tegan with his sexist bullshit, then Nyssa with his ageist bullshit. I'm growing to despise him. Again, as I said a few times before, this is an attitude I have on revisit, rather than when I was a younger. I honestly can't remember him annoying me that much the first time around.
Adric's traitorous turn, that I thought wrongly a bluff, annoyed me enough that I was delighted when the smart arse had to have Nyssa explain photosynthesis.
Seeing the Doctor waft into the void with almost nothing to protect him from the vacuum of space, except a breathing helmet and his Time Lord constitution is a chilling, iconic, and memorable moment. Using science---the physics of reaction mass to propel himself---is pure Time Lord cleverness (or something any sci-fi nerd would know to do).
When Enlightenment exclaims safety pin punk earrings are barbaric, the Doctor agrees. So the Doctor disapproves of punks? Or perhaps that's writer Terence Dudley? But wait, this is 1982, not 1977; that's old fogey writers for you.
The Doctor and Adric murder two of the aliens in cold blood. The Doctor kills Persuasion and Adric kills Enlightenment. When they disconnect the brain boards, the aliens are paralysed, but they throw them circuit boards out into space where they freeze. At the end, the Doctor shrinks Monarch in a ruthless Master-like move. While he errs on the side of non-violence, history repeatedly shows us he is not a pacifist.
I don't like this Doctor. He's smug and his humour obvious. I miss Tom Baker's wit, and I'm actually looking forward to the psychopathic craziness of Colin Baker. At one point Enlightenment calls a weak joke he attempts "fatuous". I'd have to agree with that assessment.
Tegan has skills! Continuing to prove her worth, even though she is a normal person surrounded by geniuses, she shows off her artistic ability when she draws sketches of Earth fashions. Although the forms taken on by Enlightenment and Persuasion using those sketches makes them look like they work at a holiday camp. She is also able to speak an Australian Aboriginal dialect, which impresses the Doctor.
I loved watching Tegan beat Adric up.
Tegan's a great character. Even some of her flaws are endearing. With all of space and time at her disposal, her continuing single-mindedness to return to her mundane life is hilarious.
I enjoyed the warty, blobby, toady creature design of the aliens, right down to the scaly feet! It was an unnecessary extravagance that I appreciated.
Enlightenment in human form was the beautiful Annie Lambert, but this is a cast that includes Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding, so the looks were shared pretty much equally.
I was expecting some Phantasm-style menace from the floating monopticon surveillance devices. That didn't happen. Pah!
Bigon! I liked Philip Locke's ancient Greek philosopher Bigon. I also loved his robotic reveal moment, especially when the mask came off; so Westworld.
The other big reveal, that of the master plan, was good too. There's nothing quite like a maniac flinging the curtain's wide. Robotisation of populations, destruction of your own planet, invasion, conquest, and the belief that you are god. No, not Elon Musk or, probably many world leaders, but this Vogon look-a-like called Monarch. You'd have to be mad to give yourself a name like that.
Continuing the chills, the aliens call their past as corporeal beings, the "flesh time". How Clive Barker is that?
Except for Burt Kuok, none of actors playing the lead human captives are playing their actual ethnicities. Oh dear... though I can understand sourcing those actors might have been difficult. At least the portrayals are dignified and not played for laughs. Well, except by the Doctor...
It's not quite as embarrassing as the Doctor's jokingly mistaking Lin Futu's name as a medical condition. The script's humour has aged badly.
Before I finish completely filleting this new Doctor, let me also draw attention, perhaps somewhat pettily, to his appallingly boringly beige brown striped trousers.
Four to Doomsday isn't a title that engenders urgency when we find out it is the days Earth has left before the insane Monarch arrives. Although it has it's moments, such as the shocking reveal of flesh replaced by robotics, I was left as cold as space. Adrics's betrayal and a lacklustre and unwitty Doctor irritated me.
In fact, I've commented on how my view of the different Doctors has changed since childhood. This episode brought those feelings to the fore. Although the revisit has not finished, let's do a straw poll now and rank best to worst classic Doctors. Young tousle-haired Roy: Peter Davison, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker. (We didn't have a television until Jon Pertwee, hence the missing Doctors). Adult wizardly Roy:Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker (joint first), Sylvester McCoy, Patrick Troughton, William Hartnell, Colin Baker, Peter Davison. Sorry Peter! It just shows you how that hoary old adage about people not changing is fundamentally flawed.
"Matthew Waterhouse got off to a bad start with Peter Davison after he took it upon himself to point out mistakes he felt the new star was making."---IMDB (unattributed). So... a youthful Matthew Waterhouse may have had a bit of Adric in him.
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