Doctor Who #561: Logopolis Part 4

"It's the end. But the moment has been prepared for."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Mar.21 1981.

IN THIS ONE... Entropy destroys a huge chunk of the universe and the Master kills the Doctor.

REVIEW: Logopolis is SO frustrating, you know? Here we have the iconic fourth Doctor's last story and regeneration scene as the world falls apart - the entire universe physically AND the Doctor's relationships (he rejects his companions to get them to safety) - and he's forced to into an alliance he finds distasteful, an alliance that proves his undoing. Played against that epic backdrop, it should be the most awesome of awesome episodes. But it's not. It's Bidmead indulging in his boring old math and computing interests. Bubble memory? Everyone pointing at examples of entropy? Technobabble solutions? BORING! It's a plot that borders on divel, with anyone and everyone able to work the TARDIS console, the Pharos project duplicated on Logopolis only because the characters later need that exact computer to run the CVE program, the Master threatens the entire universe on a P.A. system without no clear way to check if it accedes to his demands, and a looped-in "It was the Doctor all the time!" from Nyssa is scant explanation for the ghostly Watcher that triggers the regeneration. And it's also a clichéed, mundane climax with pointless running through a field and a fight up on rickety ladders and walkways. It's not even clear at the end if the universe has been saved or not.

Despite their antagonism, the Doctor and the Master's banter made me miss Romana (Time Lord wit and all that), which makes it all the more unfortunate the Master is weakened by a quick descent into "utter" madness. Delgado's plans were often over-complicated and foolish, but he was never insane. From this point on, the Master, in all his incarnations, will be a complete loon, and just a little less interesting because of it. Anthony Ainley plays his completely over the top, but I'm not sure how else you can play a line like "(laughs maniacally) The CVE is mine! All mine!". The Doctor's other partner in this is Tegan who refuses to leave with the Watcher, surprisingly enthusiastic to help (at least, compared to most of my memories of her), even if she only really wants him to take her to the airport. At least they're spotlighting the new girl a little more. Not to say Adric and Nyssa don't get their moments, the latter especially, facing the destruction of everything she ever knew.

But though I've got a lot of complaints, Tom Baker himself is impeccable. He's actually haunted by his imminent death, yet also at peace with it. The Master at first disgusts him, but soon enough, he falls into old rhythms from their time as school friends. By the end, he's horrified by what has become of the man. (Is his instability the result of spending too much time as a decaying zombie, or of merging with a non-Time Lord?) The Doctor holds on for dear life, a tense moment where in the past, Baker might have broken character and looked at the camera, but not here. He safeguards the integrity of the moment. I wish the rest of the production did too, but the flashbacks to past enemies and companions which would become a tradition are a bit hokey, each ending in an ugly freeze-frame and there's that damn Watcher to scratch your head at. Then, the Doctor pupates into that guy from All Creatures Great and Small. Welcome to the show, Peter Davison!

THEORIES: So what the heck IS the Watcher? As far as regenerations go, he's not unprecedented. K'anpo Rimpoche (Planet of the Spiders) merged into the character of Cho Je when he died, and it could be Romana's alternate forms in Destiny of the Daleks are similar "projections". Even the Valeyard, described as "an amalgamation of the darker side of the Doctor's nature", could be a cousin to this idea. I would explain the Watcher (and these others) as psychic projections that can move along a Time Lord's time line, back through time to potentially help a difficult regeneration process. We know the Watcher can move through time without benefit of a TARDIS, certainly, but it's not clear what would have happened if the Watcher HADN'T been there. Maybe the whole crazy entropy wave compromised the Doctor's regeneration. The fifth Doctor still has a rough time of it, so who knows. Looking at the other examples, K'anpo is such a wise and powerful Time Lord, he uses Cho Je as a completely independent servant (and much more human-looking too). Romana seems able to initiate hers, and make it change forms and attire almost instantaneously. And the Valeyard could be some future purging of the Doctor's bad mojo, dangerously independent and acting on the Doctor's self-loathing. Obviously, every regeneration doesn't spawn a Watcher. Some Time Lords can create one on demand, but the for the Doctor, it only seems to happen in the most extreme of cases.

VERSIONS: The Target novelization contains various differences. To cause a diversion, Adric gets on top of the TARDIS and throws the bicycle at the police car. The Cloisters have an open sky. Adric reads some Milton. When aiming for the Thames, the TARDIS lands on an old wooden pontoon instead of a ship. The Master's TARDIS looks like a tree while hiding in the Cloisters. And the fifth Doctor gets to say a few words at the end - "Well, that's the end of that, but it's probably the beginning of something completely different."

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The plot is complete claptrap and very disappointing, which leaves Tom Baker and the Doctor's death struggling to rescue it from a lower rating.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium - I feel like being controversial here. By all rights, Logopolis should be rated much higher, if only because of its historical importance. Two new companions join the crew and the longest-serving Doctor regenerates as the Master finally wins. But I'm afraid I've never liked Bidmead's approach to the series, and it chokes all the life out of the serial. Nothing happens for the longest time, and when it does, it scarcely makes any sense. Logopolis has its fans, but I think the fourth Doctor deserved better.


snell said...

It could have been worse...

"He's actually haunted by his imminent death, yet also at peace with it."

...or he could sit around moping about it for two & a half hours...

"...but the flashbacks to past enemies and companions which would become a tradition are a bit hokey..."

...or he can actually self-indulgently go and visit each and every past companion as "death" gets drawn out over a period of what must me days, if not months...

I'm just saying...

snell said...

" (Is his instability the result of spending too much time as a decaying zombie, or of merging with a non-Time Lord?)"

Perhaps one or both made him more vulnerable to "the sound of drums" that Rassilon planted in his brain...

Siskoid said...

First, we have a saying around my office that "It could have been worse is not excuse for something being bad." So that. I think Tennant's departure is very much an extension of the ideas propagated by this story.

Second, Ainley can DEFINITELY hear the drum beats.


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