Classic Doctor Who: Four to Doomsday

I rewatched the episode “Four to Doomsday” this weekend. This episode from early in Peter Davison’s stint as the Doctor has a special significance for me.

It is the first episode of Doctor Who that I ever saw.

I was quite young at the time – I’m not sure exactly what age, but single digits – and staying at a hotel with my family, and it just happened to be on.

I only caught the first part at that time, but it was enough to persuade me that this was a show that I wanted to watch again.

You can apparently watch the episode in small chunks on YouTube.

YouTube Preview Image

Even if I had managed to see all four parts back then, I doubt I would have picked up on the religious elements in the episode. The character of the monarch is a figure who wants to travel faster than light so as to be able to go back in time, before the Big Bang, when he believes he will meet himself, because he believes himself to be God.

Also on the subject of Doctor Who and religion, I had it drawn to my attention recently that David Tennant’s father is a Presbyterian minister!

What was the first episode of Doctor Who you ever saw?

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  • Annie Webb

    I came late to the Dr. Who phenom. As a result of satellite and BBC America I watched my first Dr. Who episode “Rose” introducing the 9th doctor. I had seen that Dr. Who was on in rerun on PBS, but never watched any of the previous versions. Frankly, it looked a little cheesy, kind of like the first Star Trek show does to young’uns today. So everything about Dr. Who was new to me. I do know that I did not care for Christopher Ecclestone as the Dr. and only watched a couple episodes after that. I did start watching Torchwood about the same time and since there were crossovers between the two shows, I picked up Dr. Who again under David Tennant’s run. I loved his portrayal of the Dr. and watched most of his episodes. I must say though that anything having to do with Daleks (the cheesiest and stupidest thing to fear on scifi television) is a complete turn off for me. 

    • William

      As a young’un I can tell you I love the original Star Trek and the oldish Doctor Who (I have only seen a couple from the 16 foot scarf doctor).

  • BWSixteen

    Dr McGrath, I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the current “debate” that is flooding Facebook and a few blogs (such as my own), namely, the gatekeeping of New Testament studies. Even if you disagree with me, I would love to hear your view of things.

    • James F. McGrath

      Once again, I find myself puzzled why this comment was left on a post about Doctor Who. I will post something on the subject, but it seems as though at the very least this comment could have been posted on an older post on New Testament, or sent by e-mail.

  • Evan Hershman

    The first episode I ever saw was the beginning of the “new” Doctor Who with Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor… the episode was “Rose,” I think. I watched at the recommendation of my college roommate at the time, who loved the show (he dressed up as as the Tenth Doctor for Halloween once). I didn’t really think much of the show at first, but I stuck with it and by about the fourth or fifth episode I was hooked, and I rapidly watched all of the “new” Who on DVD, right in time to be there for Matt Smith’s taking over the role. I liked both Eccleston and Tennant, but I LOVE Smith’s Eleventh Doctor. Since he took the role it’s gone from being one of my favorite shows to pretty much the only show at all that I watch!

    I still haven’t seen very many of the older, “classic” episodes, but I have seen a couple with Tom Baker. I liked “City of Death,” and I’ve slowly begun watching the “Key to Time” arc where he travels with Romana for the first time.

  • Just Sayin’

    I go all the way back to Bill Hartnell, though only became a real fan when Patrick Throughton succeeded him.  I loved the Tom Baker Doctor and Jon Pertwee to a lesser extent.  Katy Manning was one of the best companions, the Billie Piper of her day.

    I lost interest during the bland Peter Davison era, and his even worse successor Colin Baker.

    Chris Eccleston was great, his Dalek episode one of the best ever.  Tennant was a step back down the rung, good but not great, and the new kid is a tedious disaster, in my opinion.

  • James F. McGrath

    Interesting – Matt Smith has taken Patrick Troughton as his inspiration more than any other of his predecessors, supposedly. 

    Did you catch Jo Grant’s cameo on an episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures (also featuring the Doctor)? If not, you definitely should, seeing as she has a special place in your fandom.

    • Joz1950

      Jo and Dr Jon Pertwee were my first episodes.  I was hooked.  (Yes, I’m an oldie)  Stopped watching when Colin Baker took over-really hated him (sorry, Colin!)

  • James F. McGrath

    City of Death is probably my favorite episode from the Tom Baker era.

  • James F. McGrath

    @twitter-22264566:disqus , I realize that the Daleks can seem fairly unimpressive to modern viewers, but I think it is important to note how innovative the Daleks were at a time when most aliens looked just like people dressed in some sort of costume. It may not make them look any less cheesy to today’s eyes, but it might still allow you to appreciate why they have fans. :)

    • Annie Webb

      I agree that context and time is everything. I don’t think early Star Trek is cheesy, even with cardboard command centers and screen savers. LOL Maybe it’s because pure robotic like villains like the Daleks aren’t scary to me, not like the Borg who have a modicum of humanity but are purely clinical in their “thinking” about the collective. Machines are easy to deal with ethically, just blow them up and be done with it… but don’t get me started on Data and the argument for sentience! :-)

  • Robert

    I can’t remember what the first episode I saw was. It probably was a fourth Doctor episode with Leela.

    At that time, it seemed like PBS only ever showed Tom Baker episodes and never mentioned that the others even existed.

  • James F. McGrath

    You just need a good look at what is inside a Dalek, I think…  :)

    • Just Sayin’

      Precisely.  Daleks, of course, aren’t purely robotic at all.  That’s the point of Daleks!

      The sexiest companion was definitely Louise Jameson (got my teenage hormones firing on all cylinders!).  Dawkins’ third wife, Sarah (“Lalla”) Ward was dull stuff by comparison.

      I mentioned the great character and comedic actor Bernard Cribbins in a previous post but forgot to add that he had auditioned for the Doctor role at one stage, after Pertwee and before Tom Baker.  He would have made an interesting Doctor but I’m glad Tom Baker got it.

      REAL Doctorish eccentricity is Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker, not Matt Smith!  Give him twenty years and he might be ready for the role.

  • David Coulter

    My first was Planet of the Spiders, Jon Pertwee’s last serial. Scared the crap out of me. Logopolis, Tom Baker’s swan song, was the one that really stuck with me, though.

  • Just Sayin’

    The Cybermen scared me when they first appeared, just like a lot of other British kids!  They were, of course, ripped off many years later when they reappeared on another longrunning series as “the Borg.”

  • Bill

    Back I-don’t-know-when, my local PBS affilliate showed the Tom Baker series with the half-hour episodes spliced into complete, usually four-episode, stories.

    I missed “Robot” the first time around, so the first story I saw was “The Ark in Space”.

    They looped back through the Baker stories, then all the way back to “An Unearthly Child” through Davison, then Hartnell through Colin Baker.  Then they quit.

    I don’t have cable, and don’t want to be sitting in front of a TV for enough hours to make cable a good buy; so I haven’t seen any Dr. Who shows since.

    The good news is that I recorded all the shows that the PBS station broadcast; the bad news is that they’re on VHS tapes and I have no way to play them.

    Isn’t technology wonderful? 😎

  • James F. McGrath

    @4426206214ac5f9967bc9e05a0ff8848:disqus , depending on when this was, I suspect that the “lost episodes” were already gone by that stage. But there is always a chance that they were not. I would strongly encourage you to look into whether any of the episodes that you recorded are among those for which no usable copies exist. If so, you could be on the verge of attaining legendary status among Doctor Who fans! :)

  • Bill

    James, yes, I seem to remember that the lost episodes were long gone by then.

    But, wonder of wonders, I rooted around and found an old S-VHS VCR.  I’ll get the tapes over the weekend (they’re now in a climate-controlled public storage place) and make a list of the stories I have that still play.

    This’ll be fun…I haven’t watched a Dr. Who in years. 😎

  • James F. McGrath

    @4426206214ac5f9967bc9e05a0ff8848:disqus , if the old videotapes turn out to be unwatchable, pretty much every episode that still exists can be downloaded from somewhere – usually made from some person’s videotape. So don’t give up on the plan to watch if your own copies are worn out!

  • Michael Hickerson

    My first Dr Who story was also a Davison serial. It was Time Flight.