Doctor Who #558: Logopolis Part 1

"I think that you and I should let a few oceans flow under a few bridges before we head back home."
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Feb.28 1981.

IN THIS ONE... First appearance of Tegan. She helps fix a flat while the Doctor and Adric measure the TARDIS. Yes, that's it.

REVIEW: ADRIC, GET YOUR THUMB OUT OF YOUR WAISTBAND! (There, I had to say it, it's 80% of why I hate Adric and his stiff, uncomfortable portrayal. Moving right along...) This is it, kids. Tom Baker's last serial, and the purest Christopher Bidmead story of them all. The people who love this story know nothing happens in the entire first chapter, right? It's been pretty usual, of late, to use Part 1 to set up the serial's world while the regulars putter around in the TARDIS, talking tech and whatnot. In this case, that world is present-day Earth and nothing much happens there either! The world we're actually discovering IS the TARDIS, and Bidmead has some clever ideas about the dimensionally transcendental nature of it all. He has the Master's TARDIS overlay itself on a real police box, then the Doctor's TARDIS land around that, leading to a recursive TARDIS joke we can compare to The Time Monster or more recently, Time and Space. I'm not sure how the scenes make sense, but then I haven't read the mathematical essays Bidmead has. The driving force of the TARDIS scenes is that the Doctor fears the ship's shell (or chameleon circuit) may be degrading, so he wants to measure a real police box and bring the data to Logopolis, a planet where they can create solid objects out of pure mathematics and, I suppose, force the TARDIS into the proper shape. One can hope more effectively than those Atari 2600 graphics the Doctor shows Adric. Again, I don't have the issue of Scientific American that talks about block transfer computation, so who the hell knows. The problem with all this is that though director Peter Grimwade does his best to keep it interesting visually, Bidmead still hasn't realized MATHS AND COMPUTING ARE BORING SUBJECTS FOR AN ADVENTURE PROGRAM.

Let's move out of the TARDIS to the introduction of Tegan Jovanka, shall we? Tegan is, on the surface, your standard female assistant. She's curious and resourceful, like Sarah Jane. She's forgetful and accident-prone, like Jo Grant. Pretty standard, except for two things, and both those things play into a major pet peeve of mind regarding the JNT era, and that's the producer forcing all sorts of ideas into the show as part of his marketing schemes. Why is Tegan Australian? To boost the show's syndication deal there. Why is she an air stewardess? Maybe we can get free flights, maybe even to Australia! Obviously, before guide books, tell-alls and DVD extras were made available, you (and I) just took these choices as presented. The behind-the-scenes action can perhaps ruin things, although good or bad, I rather think they make watching the show more interesting. Accidentally, Tegan's background makes a sort of sense. First, why should all the companions be British or British-like aliens? Second, she's someone who wants to travel and means to do so serving aboard an aircraft. The TARDIS is the ultimate expression of that idea. In practice, it means Janet Fielding (who at least is a real Aussie) has to play up all the Australian stereotypes, the colorful vernacular and references to the Outback. Her scenes are a good enough portrait, but essentially plotless. She takes her time getting out of the house, she gets a flat tire on the road, and later wanders into the maze that is the TARDIS. The only real action occurs off-screen when the Master turns her auntie (and a copper before her) into a doll.

One thing the episode does well is play on the theme of entropy, which arguably, has been the entire season's theme. The Doctor paces in an interior garden that's falling apart, and worries about his ship needing an overhaul (yet unwilling to go to Gallifrey). He and Adric wax nostalgic about Romana and K9. The walk through the various TARDISes (teasing us about the next season's theme, recursion?) makes them progressively darker (a better look for the ship, frankly). The cloister bell signaling a "wild disaster" sounds, barely a minute after being first mentioned and explained (gauche, Mr. Bidmead, gauche). An electronic dirge plays throughout. On location, Tegan drives a car that's just about as rickety as the TARDIS, her job prospects evaporating with every gaffe and accident. And leaning on a fence some ways away, a strange figure swaddled in white bandages, watches them eerily. We'll have occasion to speak more about the Watcher as the serial progresses, but let's say here that the Doctor sees him and gets a bad feeling. He doesn't mention anything about it to Adric, but he seems to know it's an omen prophesying his death. Or something. Gotta keep some material for later, eh?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Some strangeness and the first appearance of a companion only get you so far when you refuse to have any real plot. So I'm being generous, like.

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