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12 April 2018 @ 08:17 pm
The Randomiser: Four to Doomsday  
Four to Doomsday is an often over-looked story. It's a studio bound tale, which is mostly fairly straightforward, with limited action in the middle of a season which contains the flights of fantasy of Castrovalva and Kinda, the pyrotechnics of Earthshock, and the trainwreck that is Time Flight. On a rewatch it seems a little sad that it isn't discussed more often since it contains a lot of interesting ideas bubbling away under the surface.

I suspect a part of the problem is that, while it is possible to see that there are a load of interesting ideas here, the story doesn't seem very clear on how to dramatise them and so (probably wisely) opts mostly only to hint at them rather than risk turning into a philosophical debate instead of a Doctor Who story. It seems obvious to me, however, that by placing Bigon (ancient Greek philosopher turned android) centre stage, not to mention all the dialogue about abandoning the "flesh time", the story wants to explore ideas of the distinction between mind and body. Moreover Bigon's clear and principled ambivalence to Monarch and Monarch's plan, was probably supposed to explore ideas of duty to rule or state versus personal conscience. However, in story terms, none of these ideas really go anywhere. It's as if the story sets up this interesting scenario and set of tensions and then opts instead to drive the action by Adric being a bit of an idiot.

It is also a shame that Bigon's fellow android leaders do not get to present any particular point of view about the situation, particularly since each is supposed to represent a different culture*. They appear to be the only truly sentient androids. It's not clear whether their followers are silent merely because speaking extras cost more, but the impression given is certainly that only the four leaders have any real consciousness. Interesting use is almost made of Tegan's Australian background which potentially could have made Kurkutji (the australian aboriginal leader) a more central and rounded character, but again the story doesn't seem to really know where to go with this (and, of course, has failed to think through the liklihood that any aboriginal language Tegan happened to know would be comprehensible to an Australian who lived tens of thousands of years before she was born).

Even with its inability to quite capitalise on its themes, however, Four to Doomsday is interesting enough to watch, and the ideas give it a depth that many of Doctor Who's more space opera-like stories fail to deliver.

* Though possibly I should be grateful we are spared some 1980s Doctor Who concept of what might represent the cultural viewpoints of the Mayans, ancient Chinese, and incredibly ancient Australian aborigines.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/495183.html.