Doctor Who – 4×1-4×13 – Full series review

The Carusometer for series four of Doctor Who

Why, what’s this stumbling out of its retirement home for the terminally enfeebled? It’s the full season/series Carusometer, ready to cast its unblinking, incorruptible gaze over the fourth series of Doctor Who. Let’s see what it thought.

As we can see, comparing with last year’s Carusometer, while the average quality of the show was pretty much the same (2.2 this year, compared with 2.0 last year), there were fewer highs and fewer lows – while the show was consistently good, it never excelled as much as series three did. On the happier side, nor did it suck as frequently.

When the sucking arrived, it arrived further along in the series, despite the presence of Helen Raynor for a double-parter (The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky), with The Doctor’s Daughter being the first awe-inspiringly bad piece of work we had to endure. As per usual though, we had to wait until two-thirds the way through for a classic episode.

So what does this all mean, other than that Rusty has a fixed plan for how a series should shape up?

Well, in general, average is bad. Okay, sucking is obviously bad and we might not want to remember the shows that were bad. But sometimes they’re the price you have to pay for being experimental.

Who really remembers the show that never takes risks, that’s merely average? With relatively few episodes that really hit the rafters or were truly memorable (except in a “that’s the one where Captain Jack and Sarah Jane and Billie and… turned up” sort of a way), series four has indeed been the most consistent show, but it’s probably been the least memorable, in many ways. We’ve had the Sontarans and Davros back to relatively little effect; Catherine Tate may have been good, but now she’s gone; no one died.

It’s all been a touch blander than perhaps we would have liked.

All the same, 13 episodes of some pretty good Saturday night TV for families: that can’t be knocked too much. Some quite bleak stuff, like Turn Left and Midnight, that should hopefully have traumatised a few younger members of the audience, assuming they understood it. And some interesting unifications of the Doctor Who universe, now that Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures have all crossed over with each other. It’s all one big Who-ey happy family.

Next year, of course, no series five – that’s not until 2010. Instead, lots of specials, all by Russell T Davies. Are we enthused yet?


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.