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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 28 May 2009
Peter Davison's second serial playing the eponymous Time Lord was actually the first that he recorded; you'd never know this from his assured and breezy performance, although there are a few moments of clunky humour that don't sit well with his earnest demeanour - left over from his fourth incarnation perhaps?. Davison's `wanderer in eternity' is both dashing and as fiercely intelligent as any of his predecessors; he also brings a fresh inquisitiveness and real energy to the role; something that had been lacking in Tom Baker's twilight years on the show.

The story itself is pretty routine; The Doctor and his three companions (Adric, Tegan and Nyssa) arrive on a colossal spaceship and meet its pilots; three amphibian-looking Urbankans. The aliens claim to be visiting Earth as tourists, but their uncanny abilities to replicate the human form, plus the fact that their ship is stocked with androids posing as Earthlings, leads the time travellers to uncover an altogether more sinister purpose.

Perfectly adequate as a lead-in to The Fifth Doctor and his companions; this serial does suffer from being rather static. The best performance comes from the excellent Stratford Johns as the power-crazed Monarch, whilst his fellow Urbankans `Persuasion' and `Enlightenment' are also well played. The music is atmospheric without being intrusive, and the set designs and costumes are effective; reflecting a time in the early 80s when the show still had a pretty healthy budget.

DVD extras here include Davison's first recording session; intriguing as a reminder of how slow it all was in 1981, but rather odd and stilted without the incidental music. It also contains the amusing scenario of Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) demonstrating that he was unable to act his way out of a paper bag.
Rather more entertaining is the short feature `Saturday Night at the Mill'; where interviewee Peter Davison talks extensively about `All Creatures Great and Small' and makes a chocolate milkshake live on air!
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on 21 August 2008
THE FIRST STORY Peter Davison recorded shows the awkwardness of the new regulars as they try to settle in. The younger cast (presumably brought together to invest a fresh, innocent quality back into the series after the more mature Doctor/Romana relationship of the year before), are a mixed bunch. Davison is instantly appealing, even if he lacks some of the otherworldly edge needed for the role and Janet Fielding has real potential. Sadly, Sarah Sutton's Nyssa is too dull and mannerly to set the screen alight, while pudding-bowl-haired boy genius Adric got on everyone's three-penny bits!
Nevertheless, following a stilted first episode, this emerges as an intriguing tale. The mood and narrative style are reminiscent of the show's earliest days but the concepts are very contemporary (for 1982). Stratford Johns is a wonderfully charming villain and his schemes are both engaging and barking mad. There is wit rather than all-out clowning and the design is gorgeous to boot. Not a story to illicit the panning it has received by others here, or great acclaim either - it's a diverting, middling episode with some interesting ideas and perhaps best if - like me - you watched it go out as a kid where the rush of nostalgia is as powerful as for anyone old enough to remember earlier years and equally influential on one's opinion.
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on 29 October 2016
It's customary to claim this story is a turkey; certainly it seems to have a habit of coming out in the bottom 10% in episode polls. I sometimes think that people think it's bad becasue they have been told it's bad, ratehr than for any other reason. Of course, like all TV of the era, it seems very slow and static by modern standards of direction, but then the same applies to more or less all Classic Who; I don't think it's significantly worse on this front than a lot of other stories. It has often been criticised for unconvincing scientific premise and poor character motivation, but compared to ANY New Who, it's a model of good writing on these grounds! (And people don't vote Daleks in Manhatten to the bottom of polls on these grounds!)

The story moves on steadily throughout, with the audience learning new things through all 4 episodes, without any of the 'it's episode 3 (or equivalent in longer stories) so let's just run round in circles to use up the time' that occurs in many stories that are considered much better (what proportion of Genesis or Web of Fear consists of nothing actually being learned and people just running round in circles?) My main criticism would be that Adric and Nyssa are rather underused (in Nyssa's case this is all too frequent), but then I suppose the production team wanted to give Dacison a chance to get to grips with the character, and also Fielding for that matter, since it was only her second story). And there are worse culprits on this score!

It's standard 'Doctor foils an alien invasion of Earth 'story. Not madly original, not one of the greats, but it certainly doesn't deserve its reputation.
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on 3 September 2001
....Not at all!! This isn't the most gripping or well produced of the Fifth Doctor's adventures, however it makes up for this with the deployment of a solid villain and sterling support from all current companions. After the intriguing post-regeneration trauma of Castrovalva, Davison seems to have come to terms with the role, whilst Nyssa, Tegan and Adric have gelled as his bickering but emotive fellow time-travellers. Production values seem to have slipped - particularly evidenced by an unconvincing spaceship and a baddie reminiscent of the Vogon warlord in Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Nevertheless, believable characterisations and a robust storyline ensure that Four to Doomsday can sit quite comfortably alongside Enlightenment and The Caves of Androzani, and certainly does the new era justice.
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on 29 August 2009
It all looks great. We're planted on this space ship with the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric, and they explore a ship very slowly. Then they meet some people and, uh, then some more people. Series 18 made it very clear that we would have to sit through 25 minutes of storyline before any action happened, and I was fine with that. I'd got used to 25 minute of character introduction and scene setting, and grown to like it. The problem is that, well, about half way through the third part of this story I realised if there WAS going to be any action, it wasn't going to last very long. I remember saying to my friend "This is like the Doctor Who equivalent to Deep Space Nine: Very little happening in the far future."

Christopher H Bidmead's influence is still visible; problems are solved inventively and scientific ideas are thrown about unnecessarily (but certainly not as interestingly as during Bidmead's own scripts). I wouldn't have minded sitting through parts 1-3 if part 4 was somehow climatic, exciting and a great payoff, but you never get the sense of urgency and excitement you got from the classic stories.

It's a shame, as the central idea is an intriguing one but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
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on 14 September 2008
2Entertain are releasing all the Doctor Who stories currently available.The key word there is "all".As in "all".Everyone of.That includes the good,the bad and the occasional ugly.Four To Doomsday may indeed fall into that category but it has to be released at some point.There are a limited number of Hartnell/Troughton episodes available and they need more restoration,so they are obviously going to be released less frequently than the later stories.Buy or don't buy.That is the question....

Four To Doomsday is a decent story,let down by the inadequacy both of FX available,and of the people in charge at the time of production.But the story is better than the criticism usually aimed at it would have you believe.Peter Davison's Doctor is clearly still finding his feet in his predecessor's somewhat sizeable shoes.Which is entirely understandable.The tale seems burdened by the presence of the three companions,which is two too many,at times events seemingly occuring just to provide them with something to do(Tegan attempting to steal the Tardis most obviously)which,as much as anything,distract from the plot.

Speaking of the plot,it's not hugely original,and reminds me in places of The Ark,a early William Hartnell story,which has yet to reach the shelves on DVD(hint hint).Alien invasion of Earth is nothing new,yet Four to Doomsday puts it's own spin on the premise,which while never ingenius,gives enough original moments to stand out on it's own,for better or for worse!.Monarch may not have become an icon such as Daleks or Cybermen,but i'm not going to forget Stratford Johns as a life-size frog!

They tried,and did at times fail.But they tried.And at the end of the day,thats why i love the show.And it's also why i like Four To Doomsday.It's one of those stories that reminds me why i love the show.Because even when it's not great,it's good.What more can you ask for?
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on 8 February 2010
The Doctor (Peter Davison) and his sidekicks arrive on a spacecraft run by a trio of frog-people on course for the Earth. On board are a lot of people from various Earth cultures. But all is not what it seems.

In 1980 a new production team decided they wanted rid of Romana and K9 because they were geniuses and therefore nobody could identify with them. So they were replaced by an irritatingly smug boy maths genius and a girl science genius with no personality. When the viewer's only 'identification' is with the obnoxious 'mouth on legs' Tegan, you can't help feeling the show was better off with Romana and Robo-Rover. It was also decided in 1980 that the Doctor and his companions should always be wearing the same outfits, hence the main characters in this story wear specially-designed 'uniforms' rather than ordinary clothes. Like I'm sure most viewers do. This being post-Star Wars Dr Who, most of the budget has been blown on a 'big spaceship shot' for the beginning of episode 1.

Another decision in 1980 was that Dr Who should be about 'real science'. What this meant was that for the next two or three years a number of stories felt like they were aimed at swotty nerd types rather than the public at large. It also led to some very long-drawn-out episodes which just seemed to revolve around one 'big idea'.

As demonstrated by the laughable "Doctor plays cricket in space", the supposedly clever scientific stuff made no actual sense whatsoever. This scene is sadly not all that's wrong with this story. It sets out with keen intentions, there are genuinely good points made about human society's failings, and Stratford Johns is excellent as the chief alien Monarch. What lets this story down is its slow pace and its rambling dialogue.
Worth watching, but doesn't really stand up to repeated viewing.
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A four part doctor who story from 1982, featuring peter davison as the fifth doctor, and as his three companions: janet fielding as tegan, sarah sutton as nyssa, and matthew waterhouse as adric.

the story involves the tardis landing on a large spaceship heading towards earth, just four days away. it's run by a biepedial frog like humanoid alien called monarch, and crewed by some others of his race and lots of humans they've taken prisoner over the centuries. Earth will be in big trouble if he gets there again. can the doctor and friends stop him?

as you can see from the variety of reviews here, this is a story that divides opinion and doesnt have a great reputation. It's entirely studio bound. Having three companions does rather restrict the amount of material each gets, and the story is not terrible, but is rather average. the human prisoners put on regular dancing displays, and this can slow the plot down. acting wise peter davison, in his first recorded story in the part, has yet to fully find the character of the fifth doctor, and the script does rather waste a potentially very good villain in the form of monarch.

so it's not terrible, but it's no better than average and ultimately a bit forgettable.

this is a bit lacking extras wise, as well, and it's a surprise it's not one of the cheaper dvd's in the range. most of the decent material about peter davison's start in the role was used for the new beginnings box set, so there's not much left to put on here.

you get the usual:

photo gallery of the story and it's production.

english language subtitles.

production information subtitles, which will display information about the story and the production whilst you watch it.

digitally remastered picture and sound.

the listings for the episodes from the radio times as a PDF file [you use a computer to open them to view]

and also:

a theme music video. a long version, roughly four minutes in total, of the mix of the theme tune that was used around this time on the show, complete with a long version of the title sequence with no text

a fifteen minute long interview with peter davison on a bbc interview show from december 1980. this was recorded prior to him starting work on doctor who. it's a bit slow to start but ultimately quite a decent little chat, although the date of recording means that the majority of it is about his work on all creatures great and small rather than who. but he does have good stories about that

studio recording: twenty seven minutes worth of film of the recording of the story on the first day of production. offering no great insights into the acting process, but an interesting look at how tv production worked back then. although we have seen the like on other doctor who dvds before, and it's a bit long at twenty seven minutes.

there's also a commentary from peter davison and the three actors who played the companions, plus john black, the director of the story. the davison commentaries are always very good and lively and this is no exception, and john black is a good addition to the group. this may help you appreciate the story a little better, because, as they say, watching it with no sound does make you study the sets and design and costumes and some of them are really rather good indeed.

and some people may be pleased to learn that, according to the commentary, they've already recorded one for the highly regarded story kinda, so hopefully that will be along sooner rather than later.

there is also a coming soon trailer for the story the war machines. this actually came out last month, but the production order originally had it coming out after four to doomsday. be careful watching this trailer because it begins with some very fast cuts and then some flashing lights and it nearly gave me a fit as a result.

and that's the whole package for you. average story, and not much with it. but the commentary may help you like it a little better
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on 20 May 2009
Although Peter Davison is 'my' doctor from childhood, I never saw all the episodes. Dutch television eventually dropped the show arguing it was too scary for kids. Oh, you patronizing dolts! <chuckle>

I saw Four to Doomsday on DVD the first time around, and felt a bit apprehensive. It's not that well reviewed around here. But I was pleasantly surprised. It actually might be my favorite of Davison's first season!

Sure, there are flaws. In Doctor Who, there's always flaws. There's some repetition and the soirees with the different cultures showing their song and dance shouldn't have been used twice (perhaps they shouldn't even have been used once!). And the oxygen helmets, what were they thinking!

But there's a nice trio of villains: Monarch, Enlightenment and Perusasion (oh come on, that _is_ good!), with a great motivation for invading the earth. I thought the effects were laughable, but listening to the commentary track Davison and his crew were quite pleased with it. And yes, for Doctor Who standards at the time it's not bad at all.

There's an easy pace throughout, not much running up and down corridors. The menace is also never really there, Monarch really doesn't live up to the Doctor's size. But their interchange is a joy to watch. All in all, vintage Who: unpretentious and fun to watch. A couple of pounds well spent.
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VINE VOICEon 27 September 2008
Barcode: 5014503243128

I have always liked Peter Davison's Doctor so to go back and see where it all began for him was certainly an interesting experience. Four To Doomsday is most definitely a mixed bag, but I found much to enjoy in this story, even if it did come in inconsistent bursts.

In terms of the look and feel of the episode, with a new Doctor and a new season, the BBC was obviously keen to impress and as a result we are treated to some very nicely designed sets. Four To Doomsday sees the show at its most Sci-Fi, ideas of technology and intelligence forming a crucial part of the story. But as nice as these elements are, certainly from the first part of this serial you get an overriding feeling that there's just something slightly lacking when compared to other stories of the era.

For starters - and this isn't necessarily a bad thing - but this is a very wordy serial. There is a lot of dialogue, some of it getting pretty deep and at times the story can feel more like a lesson in morality, philosophy and science than an episode of Doctor Who. There are moments when this is done well and it is here that this episode really succeeds, but equally there is a lot of filler too.

The whole thing flows along nicely but nothing much really happens in episode 1 and for much of episode 2. Then we get episode 3 which shows real potential, the tension and drama of the story suddenly being turned right up as all the plot elements slide into place. We get treated to some wonderful bits of dialogue here and for a while it looks like everything is building to an epic finale but then sadly things drop off again in episode 4. So, episode 3 is without a doubt the best of the four, if anything, worth it alone for when Tegan gets angry at Adric and knocks him out.

The companions are interesting in this story, growing into their roles - I've always loved Davison's classic `TARDIS team' as I think it gave a real element of youthful energy to the show. As is standard with the three companions, because of the complexities of giving them all parts to play in the story, all three get sidelined at various moments - Nyssa getting hypnotised, Adric being knocked out and Tegan trying to figure out how to fly the TARDIS. Equally though, all get their chance to shine too, oh, and who knew Tegan could draw so well?

In terms of the villains, the costumes of the Urbankans isn't the best, coming across like a mix between a cabbage and a frog, but Stratford Johns is fantastic with his charming yet egotistical Monarch and his self indulgent banter is a delight to listen to, and along with his creepy assistants Enlightenment and Persuasion, this trio inject much needed gravitas into this story.

Their bizarre fascination with the failings of `flesh' beings is quite unnerving and adds to an overall sinister feel to this story - a sense of sterile conditions populated by `androids' who have settled into a mindless monotony lasting thousands of years. It sent a chill down my spine as the Greek philosopher reveals his true form, holding up the computer chip and declaring `This is me' - great cliffhanger.

Without a doubt the worst element of this story is the ridiculous 'entertainment' room/variety show thing. It's used to pad out a fair bit of the story and ultimately just looks and sounds a bit of a mess and doesn't really mesh fully with the feel of the rest of the serial. In regards to the whole space-walk sequence, again, a nice idea but sadly the effects just don't cut it. Another disappointment was the way the ending comes around far too suddenly, before you know it Monarch is defeated in a flash and everything is resolved.

In terms of extras, as well as the standard commentary you also get some raw studio footage and an interview with Peter Davison but is quite lacking compared to what's on offer on other Doctor Who DVD releases. I'd really like to give this story five stars as there are some really nice elements to it, moments that just remind you why you love Doctor Who so much, but these are scattered in with a lot of filler and ultimately this story's inconsistency lets it down a lot it, and as a whole it just isn't strong enough to warrant a top rating. That said, it's still worth a watch, just maybe see some of Davison's other stories first.
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