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?

  • Kev

    I generally agree. I think the opening episodes were pretty strong (not reaching the highs of Tooth and Claw, School Reunion and Girl in the Fireplace of Series Two though). Also, I maintain that The Doctor’s Daughter wasn’t as bad as everyone else made out, and I would certainly give Midnight a maximum score. Overall, I think Donna’s presence lifted this series above its predecessor
    The “pattern” of the four series, seems to be following a tried and tested route, which is why I think some new blood at the helm (Stephen Moffatt, Piers Wenger and Suzie Liggat) might give it a positive shake up. As for the “specials”, I assume that RTD will want to resolve the mystery of the female hand plucking the Master’s ring from his ashes, which should be fun.
    Given that we seem to be getting 5 Who specials, 6 SJA stories and 5 Torchwood stories (in a week) over the course of the next 21 months before Series Five arrives, there should be enough to keep us going.

  • Delilah

    i think River Song will be companion over the 3 specials – if David Tennant’s 2010 return is as yet undefined, they can wrap up their relationship-to-be over the specials year. RTD said the ring was a throwaway, ‘get out of jail’ card for future Who overlords to pick up as they saw fit.
    But then, he is a Liar…

  • TemplarJ

    Pretty much agree with you. The early part of the series seemed to consist of a ‘do it again but BIGGER’ approach, which left me largely entertained in the case of Pompei and the Sontarans, but unlikely to ever revisit. But from ‘Unicorn and the Wasp’ onward I think it was as good a run as the show has ever had, and ‘Midnight’ will be added to my ‘Wall of Lovely’. Much as I enjoyed Donna, I still think the character would have been better realised with a less ‘obvious’ actress.

  • “A less ‘obvious’ actress”?
    As in “That Catherine Tate is obviously an actress.”?
    Or “That Catherine Tate is obviously acting.”?
    Or “Catherine Tate is an actress. It’s so-o-o obvious…”?
    Or did you mean someone less well-known? (Or obvious?)

  • I’ve been more won over by Planet of the Ood since watching it 1st time, and I’d possibly now hesitate at making it a minor Caruso. I loved your review of TDD but I really didn’t hate it anywhere near as much as you did: maybe another minor Caruso? And that was a tad harsh on The Unicorn and the Wasp as well for me. Hmm. I’d definitely up Midnight to a full wack whilst probably knocking down the final episode to a minor Caruso.
    Blander than last year? Not sure. I certainly think that (ending aside) Donna was a WAY more successful character than anyone probably could have hoped for – including those who weren’t already braying for her head when her casting was announced. She was generally far better realised as a character than Martha was (which is a shame because could and should have been great) and I think my personal take onthe series as a whole would reflect that greater success.
    But fair, and as you have said elsewhere, it’s not the Sandbaggers so what are we expecting of it exactly?