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24 September 2014

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Four to Doomsday

Production Code: 5W

First Transmitted

1 - 18/01/1982 18:55

2 - 19/01/1982 19:05

3 - 25/01/1982 18:55

4 - 26/01/1982 19:05


The TARDIS arrives on board a huge spaceship where the Doctor and his companions encounter the frog-like Urbankans and a population of human androids. The androids are drawn from four different ethnic groups - Greek (led by Bigon), Chinese (led by Lin Futu), Mayan (led by Villagra) and Aboriginal Australian (led by Kurkutji) - and perform regular displays of dance and other rituals termed 'recreationals'.

The Urbankans' leader, Monarch, aided by his ministers Persuasion and Enlightenment, is engaged in a complex scheme to plunder from Earth the raw materials needed to enable him to travel back in time and thereby confirm his belief in his own status as the universe's divine creator.

Monarch has a poison that he intends to use to conquer humanity so that Earth can be repopulated with his androids. The Doctor, however, throws a canister of the poison at Monarch, causing him to shrink away to virtually nothing.

Episode Endings

The time travellers are astonished as a man and a woman appear wearing elegant green clothes identical to those earlier sketched by Tegan. The man introduces himself and his companion: they are the previously frog-like Persuasion and Enlightenment.

Bigon demonstrates to an astonished Doctor that within his chest and beneath his face there is just a mass of electronics. Holding up a printed circuit connected to his chest, he states: 'This is me.'

Adric is restrained as, on Persuasion's orders, the Doctor is forced to his knees and one of the Greek androids raises a sword to decapitate him.

The Doctor and his companions depart in the TARDIS. Once they are on their way, however, Nyssa suddenly collapses.


There is an allusion to Matthew 26:11 and parallels ('The poor you wil always have with you').

Enlightenment's description of love as 'the exchange of two fantasies' is a quote from Renoir's La Règle du Jeu.

Von Daniken.


Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : [On being introduced to Persuasion] "Friendly, I hope?"

Monarch : "Conformity is the only freedom."

"If a frog with a funny hairdo can turn itself into a semblance of a human being..."

Persuasion : [Confiscates the Sonic Screwdriver but says] "You may keep the pencil."

Double Entendre

The Doctor : [The Doctor asks Bigon,] "If you feel this way,why have you not acted before?"

Bigon : "Nyssa, relieve him"

Monarch : "Is this one of your dropping times, Doctor?"

Adric : "He knows I'm no good with my hands"

"How can Earthlings have penetrated us?"


The Doctor is short-sighted in his right eye, and thus carries a magnifying glass, as well as a notebook and some string. He states that only his Professor at the Academy [Borusa or Azmael (The Twin Dilemma)] really understood artron energy, which powers the TARDIS (see The Deadly Assassin). Magnetic fields fluctuate artron energy. The Doctor can go into a trance that limits the need for oxygen (see Terror of the Zygons), and can withstand the absolute cold of space for six minutes or so.

The TARDIS' spacepacks [derived from the equipment seen in The Web Planet and The Moonbase], even without their visors [used against solar glare], protect their wearers from radiation, decompression, and the other perils of space walking [and must therefore erect a force field around the individual].

The TARDIS has a power room and bathrooms, and must have an airlock. Aboard are copies of works by Alfred North Whitehead (Principia Mathematica) and Bertrand Russell, as well as a handbook for the Type 40. Tegan hits some buttons [and the TARDIS relocates as an emergency measure to get her to stop].

The molecular structure of the TARDIS is Earth like, and neither laser keys nor directional cobalt flux can open the lock.

Tegan's flight was AA778, due to leave at 17:30. She's an accomplished artist. Nyssa is skilled in bioengineering and cybernetics. Traken had the technology to detect gravitational waves. Adric's gullible, spiteful and sexist [but he's not having a good day]. He uses the Greek name for the Milky Way: Galaxia Kyklos.

The three billion Urbankans, ruled by Monarch, who appoints ministers and keeps slaves, are now all stored on chip, inserted into androids when required. He destroyed their world, which orbits the star Inokshi in Galaxy RE 1489. They can shape-change technologically, and, in biological form, used to secrete a deadly poison. They can hypnotise.

Around 33000 BC the Urbankans first visited Earth. Around 6000 BC they returned to visit a civilisation that the Doctor wrongly identifies as Mayan, recognising certain pre-Mayan aspects of clothing. Around 2200 BC, during the Futu Dynasty [not a recognised dynasty, but unrecorded during the legendary prehistory era of the Five Sovereigns, pre-2205 BC], they came again. They were last on Earth in the Athenian era, around 500 BC.

Bigon's rough estimate of the speed 'doubling' each time is either wrong, or Monarch spent varying long stretches of time back at home.



The Origins of the Time Lords


Four days out from Earth, at 4:15pm on 28 February 1981.



The Doctor was a friend of Francis Drake, was at Heathrow when they were rebuilding Terminal 3, and once took five wickets for New South Wales (He used to bowl a good Chinaman.) [This almost certainly refers to the fourth incarnation, as he carried a ball in The Ark in Space and practised his bowling in The Hand of Fear. As a Chinaman is a left handed googly, ambidexterity is implied: see The Curse of Fenric.


Stratford Johns, best known for his starring role as Barlow in the BBC police series Z Cars and its Softly, Softly spin-offs, plays Monarch.

Look out for the monopticons - floating, ball-like security cameras aboard Monarch's ship.


'These will eliminate the need for telemicrographics.' (All the stuff with the cricket ball in space is accurate.)


Tegan not only speaks the correct one of over 3000 Aboriginal languages, but one over 35,000 years old!

In episode one, as Monarch tries to open the TARDIS, you can spot the head of a production person, crouching behind the equipment.

Monarch seems unconcerned by the fact that Tegan is leaving in the TARDIS, given that he wants to steal it.

In episode four the Doctor and Tegan take the space pack helmets before they realize that Monarch has turned off the life support.

What thing 'increases density' in the lab, and why is such emphasis given to it?

And why did Monarch keep on going back and forth to his homeworld? [He's raiding both worlds, and only succeeded completely last time.]

If he's got the travel time to his extra galactic home down to 1250 years, then he's already achieved his ambition of faster than light travel. [This has been achieved with a hyperspace drive, whereas he wants to go FTL in real space.]

Fashion Victim

'Are you fashionable, Tegan?' asks Enlightenment. Well, judging by her quiff (which has flopped by the end of the story) and her (very accomplished) drawings of the Human League... Sadly, yes, for 1981.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Peter Davison

Adric - Matthew Waterhouse

Nyssa - Sarah Sutton

Tegan - Janet Fielding

Bigon - Philip Locke

Enlightenment - Annie Lambert

Kurkutji - Illarrio Bisi Pedro

Lin Futu - Burt Kwouk

Monarch - Stratford Johns

Persuasion - Paul Shelley

Villagra - Nadia Hammam


Director - John Black

Assistant Floor Manager - Val McCrimmon

Choreographer - Sue Lefton

Costumes - Colin Lavers

Designer - Tony Burrough

Fight Arranger - B H Barry

Incidental Music - Roger Limb

Make-Up - Dorka Nieradzik

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Jean Davis

Production Associate - Angela Smith

Script Editor - Antony Root

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - Don Babbage

Studio Sound - Alan Machin

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - Mickey Edwards

Writer - Terence Dudley

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

This is unique, a script that uses big concepts and intellectual interest to move the (slight) plot along without alienating the audience with technobabble or pompously overblown dialogue. Many one liners to sweeten the pot, and, though the whole thing's rather unimportant and oddly styled (it almost feels like Dudley's never seen the show before), it gets you on its side through sheer charm and clarity of ideas. All the regulars are well characterised, and Peter Davison and Stratford Johns (who has a knack for making villainous dialogue sound natural) shine through. A neglected gem, but a real oddity.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Four to Doomsday is a visual treat, and in this respect at least can certainly be counted a success. 'I really enjoyed Four to Doomsday from start to finish,' wrote Ian K McLachlan in TARDIS Volume 7 Number 1, dated March/April 1982. 'I was really carried along by the story, being transported to that strange Urbankan vessel from the first shot. I thought the dance sequences were particularly good and showed just how adaptable a formula the programme [has]. The special effects too were among the best I can remember, from those black balls which really looked as though they had minds of their own, through to the shock revelation scene... and the shrinking of Monarch. When you consider that the [spacewalk] sequence must have been done on a miniscule budget it is... well... even more amazing than the TARDIS. I was quite moved by it.' John C Harding, writing in Shada 8 in 1981, was equally admiring of the story's production values: 'The Urbankan ship was superb... it was believable, yet a good deal of "alienness" was acheived... The impressively detailed corridors were superbly used by [John] Black to give a truly effective image of them being very long and intricate - actually leading from room to room, not just unconnected sets as it sometimes appears.'

The characterisation and on-screen realisation of Monarch and his fellow Urbankans is similarly impressive, as Harding pointed out: 'Monarch [was] a most intriguing character. It was not selfishness which motivated him in his evil task, but benevolence: he was [in his own mind] a god seeking to free his people from "the great tyranny in the universe - internal and external organs".'

Thomas Noonan, also writing in TARDIS Volume 7 Number 1, expressed disappointment with other aspects of the characterisation, and in particular with that of the Doctor himself: 'Davison's Doctor has grace, courtesy (with occasional firmness), thoughtfulness in managing his wards, quiet competence and technological efficiency. The hints of quick enthusiasm and energy are no more than result from the irresponsibility of privilege, not (as yet) the eccentricity of earlier Doctors. Altogether... he seems to be [the] patrician ideal, basically a Tristan character. The emphasis on his "powers" is different, but doesn't help. The incidents involving his spacewalking without a spacesuit, and his taking a quick trance to avoid breathing, were ludicrous but so gratuitous that it seemed inappropriate to laugh, difficult to know how to respond at all.'

Where the story falls down, unfortunately, is in its scripting. There are a number of major plot holes, and the recent departure of Christopher H Bidmead from the script editor's post is readily apparent from the inclusion of some very dodgy science - especially in the aforementioned spacewalk sequence, where the Doctor somehow manages to survive for several minutes in the freezing vacuum of space without the benefits of a pressure suit. The central concepts are interesting, certainly, but - as becomes increasingly the case during this period of the series' history - style ultimately wins out over content. Nevertheless, Four to Doomsday remains an enjoyable adventure overall, as Noonan noted: 'It is quite common for Doctor Who stories to start suggestively and then become banal. What was unusual about Four to Doomsday was the extent of the gap between early promise and later decay in the plot and the fact that a continuing charm, especially of some characters and performances, diverted attention from the decay and from a more ominous weakness of character and uncertainty of tone, so that the whole offered a good deal of enjoyment in a roistering sort of way.'

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This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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