Television Revision: Doctor Who – Season 4

Dr Who S4

By Andrew Williams
July 30, 2013

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation).

Now, this is a story all about how… Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) seeks meaning in her life after an encounter with The Doctor (David Tennant). So, she does what anyone would do: she goes looking for trouble, hoping to find him in the process.

Dr Who S4

Happy days? This was Russell T. Davies’ fourth and final season in charge of Doctor Who, the series he almost single-handedly brought back to life. It’s very much in keeping with what’s come before: a slow start, a mid-season creative surge, and an epic finale that will leave diehard fans singing its praises and casual viewers scratching their heads. Happily, despite these all-too-common imperfections, this season of Doctor Who manages to be the strongest so far.

The most common complaint I’ve had about Doctor Who under Davies is his inability to marry the serialised plot threads with standalone episodes in a satisfying manner. That storytelling chemistry is still absent, but it matters less when the individual eps are so consistently entertaining and the man playing The Doctor so remarkable. Tennant is just brilliant in this role and his platonic chemistry with Tate gives the show a natural vibrancy it sometimes doesn’t deserve (especially early on).

Davies goes all out with a grand, chaotic ending that draws on several plot threads and characters of seasons past, and it’s a very effective swansong with real emotional heft. Davies and Tennant aren’t afraid to go downbeat and dark when the story calls for it, and that kind of storytelling bravery is always appreciated.

The final frontier: Season Four of Doctor Who is the most consistent iteration of the show yet and a fine example of fun, sci-fi television for the whole family.

Dr Who S4

Top three episodes: 7) The Unicorn and the Wasp. A lighthearted standalone episode unites Agatha Christie and a giant killer bee in the way only Doctor Who can. 8) Silence in the Library. Writer Steven Moffat proves once again why he was the right choice to take over from Davies with a superb, mind-bender that gains significant mileage from the simplest of villains. 10) Midnight. The Doctor Who version of a psychological thriller is superbly scripted, showing our hero in a rare moment of weakness. Unnerving.

Worst episode: 5) The Poison Sky. The first two-parter of the season suffers from a nondescript set-up, unoriginal villains, and a disappointing script. Two-parters can hold substantial rewards if done well, but a bad two-parter seems to take forever. This is the latter, unfortunately.

Season MVP: It’s easy to see why fans thought no one could possibly replace David Tennant (he almost always finishes first or second in any given ‘Top Ten Doctors’ list) while watching his stellar work in here. His phenomenal emotional range, natural charm, and fierce intelligence make him the quintessential Doctor.

4/5

Check out Andrew Williams’ previous instalments:

Television Revision: Doctor Who – Season 1

Television Revision: Doctor Who – Season 2

Television Revision: Doctor Who – Season 3

Doctor Who is available on Quickflix.

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