THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

The Return of the Master Trilogy
BBC
Logopolis
The Return of the Master Trilogy Part Two

Episodes 4 The beginning of the end
Story No# 116
Production Code 5V
Season 16
Dates Feb. 28, 1981 -
Mar. 21, 1981

With Tom Baker, Peter Davision,
Matthew Waterhouse, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton.
Written and script-edited by Christopher H. Bidmead.
Directed by Peter Grimwade. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.

Synopsis: In the last adventure of the fourth Doctor, the Master is close on the Doctor's trail, and so is a strange figure from the Doctor's future.


Reviews

A Review by Jim Weaver 2/12/96 First ever review!

Of all the episodes, this has to be my favorite. It has a well written story, with a very tightly-woven plot, and excellent characterizations. Tom Baker does perhaps his best acting, as the Doctor, in his final appearance. (And Tom Baker's acting was always good!) In my opinion, this is the kind of story that defines what the series is all about. Anthony Ainley, as The Master, and Tom Baker's Doctor, confront one another as never before. The last fight scene between the two, is a grand battle resulting in the Doctor's regeneration. The special effects are great, considering when the episode was made. Definitely an episode not to be missed!


A Review by Michael Hickerson 25/11/97

A couple of years ago, after years of demand, when this episode finally made a splash on video, I remember Gary Russell's DWM review of this episode igniting controversy across the fandom as he questioned the "classic" status of this episode.

Incensed that Russell would dare to criticize what had to be one of the top stories ever made, I pulled out my old taped copy, slammed it in the VCR, and sat back, prepared to take him to task for all of his criticial points.

But, about halfway through, I found myself on some levels (gasp!) agreeing with him.

That's one of the wonders of video--it allows us to re-examine stories and come at them with a fresh perspective. And to be honest, I've got to admit that while Logopolis is an interesting story and a nice coda to the Tom Baker years, it's not as great as I remember it being. I realized that once you take away the sudden rush of emotions at seeing the fourth Doctor re-generate, that there are some really basic flaws in the story.

First of all, we don't ever see how the plotline of the CVE's opening is resolved. Yes, we are left to assume that the Doctor succeeds and saves the universe, but we are never told. Instead, we get caught up in the regeneration and this point is never hit on. Also, we get into the beginning of one of the major problems of the Davison years in that you've got too many companions, not enough time. A great deal of time is spent developing Tegan, but the others take a cut in terms of screen time. I would have found it much more interesting to see more of Nyssa coming to terms with the fact that her father is now the Master than is given on screen.

Of course, the story does have a lot to recommend. It's got one of the more chilling cliffhangers at the end of episode three when the Doctor and the Master team up and it also brilliantly brings all of sesaon eighteen into a sharp focus. However, I think with a little more script editing, this could have gone beyond just a good story and been a great one. Bidmead has some fascinating concepts he offers here and it all works well on screen.

And, of course, you have Baker's final, much darker, more controlled performance as Doctor. Personally, I love it and wish now we'd seen a bit more of this. His intensity as the Doctor struggles against the odds and then his shock to discover he is not the target of the Master's attacks is wonderful. All in all, an excellent coda to his seven years of greatness on the show.


A Review by Carl West 7/1/98

"I've just dipped into the future. We must be prepared for the worst."

Logopolis has received a lot of negative criticism, and it is obvious that the story isn't perfect; but how can you be a fan of Doctor Who if you can't accept a little imperfection? I think it's time that someone said something good about Logopolis.

Tom Baker (who has been and always will be my favorite Doctor) gives one of his best performances here. Baker conveys the sense of impending doom very strongly, especially in the scene where he receives a message from Traken concerning the disappearance of Tremas, or in the scene where he first notices the Watcher standing on the hill beside the freeway. The TARDIS's Cloister Room is a magnificent touch-- it almost hearkens back to the Gothic approach that was popular during the Baker/Hinchcliffe/Holmes period. The tense interplay between Tom Baker's Doctor and Anthony Ainley's Master is wonderful, especially given that the two actors were playing comrades in the previous story. The cliffhanger at the end of Part Three is a classic: the Doctor and the Master shaking hands and agreeing to an alliance after the Doctor angrily silences his companions' protests ("I've never chosen the company I keep").

Of course, the real magic comes in the form of the final death and regeneration scene-- the most emotional regeneration scene ever featured in Doctor Who (rivaled only closely, but not quite, by the scene at the end of Caves of Androzani). The rush of flashbacks-- first a selection of the Fourth Doctor's enemies, and then the Fourth Doctor's companions, all repeating the word "Doctor"-- leaves a slight lump in the throat. The incidental music during the flashbacks and the regeneration is incomparable. And despite the dissatisfaction that Tom Baker himself has expressed about his final scene in Doctor Who, it does indeed have an air of the heroic.


A Review by Cody Salis 14/1/98

Michael Hickerson has some valid points on the last few minutes of this story with the CVE, but as I remember just prior to the regeneration The Master was the Doctor's assitant as he helped the Doctor fix the CVE. However the Master then uses blackmail to his own ends to close the CVE again.

On the whole this was a very interesting story. There was quite a bit of new characters and plots (another point that Michael brings up about which he is right). For instance why did the Master put the Doctor and Adric in that loop inside the TARDIS? Was he trying to keep them from getting to Logopolis? That point is never quite made clear.

One point aside that I liked in this was the Monitor's explanation to Tegan on the dedication of the Logipolitians, and how numbers keeps the universe in balance.

The Doctor was more serious in this adventure than he had been in any of his other adventures, but because of how serious the situation was he had no other choice. The teaming of both advisaries in the last part of the story was tense and exciting. It showed that two people who can never get along normaly can (under pressure) work together to save someone or something.

The character of the Watcher was never fully explained. Where had he come from and what was he doing in this story? Other than being there for the Doctor in the regeneration he just stands there and does nothing else. Adrian Gibbs does a good job of playing the role of the mysterious Watcher as we are given some insight to the character but not quite enough.

Also I agree with Michael on Nyssa's sadness and disgust on the end of her world of Traken. They should have extended a bigger sequence to this scene to show her emotions in a better light. She did come to terms with most of it but I was somewhat dissapointed in just one line to the destruction of her world and not much more.

A very good story to herald the departure of the fourth Doctor and the arrival of the fifth.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 1/10/98

Tom Baker`s final story as the Doctor ends on a high note, marking the continued quality of season eighteen. Taking a part of established continuity, the faulty TARDIS chameleon circuit, and incorporating it as the basis for a storyline involving The Master and a fight to save the universe was a touch of genius.

Christopher H. Bidmead`s script relies on several scientific elements which, although requiring concentration from casual viewers of the show, is actually very refreshing The downbeat atmosphere is reflected well here, notably in Tom Baker`s performance as the Doctor. Here we see a more sombre, distracted Fourth Doctor as opposed to the flippant and witty Time Lord. Reviving Nyssa and introducing Tegan, however, was inspired. While the Fourth Doctor and Adric`s relationship was exploited well, they were both too alien to identify with. On the whole the acting was of a high standard, with Sarah Sutton and Anthony Ainley getting special mention here. Janet Fielding was still finding her feet as Tegan, but she gets better as the story progresses.

However,the plot does leave some loose ends; notably, does the Doctor close the CVE? (It is never shown,so presumably so) And the idea of The Master holding the universe to ransom with a dictaphone appears a little far fetched. This aside, Logopolis is still a highly enjoyable tale and a worthy end to the Fourth Doctor`s era.


"Auntie Vanessa...?" by Adrian Loder 8/10/00

Logopolis is one of the few Tom Baker episodes I remember having seen when I was young, and to this day it remains one of my favorites. I don't like it as much as Castrovalva or The Keeper of Traken, but all the same, its a wonderful story. The beginning highlights the positive relationship between the 4th Doctor and Adric very well, and I have to agree that I think Adric worked much better with the 4th Doctor than the 5th, even though I am more praiseworthy of Adric, in general, than most people.

The early appearance of the Watcher is very nice, and I remember when I saw this for the first time in years, I was suspicious that the Watcher was in fact The Master, or his TARDIS. They do a good job making him mysterious and guessing as to his purpose until the 4th Doctor sends Adric and Nyssa with him while The Doctor goes off with The Master (and Tegan).

Which reminds me...I really don't like Tegan very much, and her introduction is not done very well. The circumstances around it work, but Tegan seems, firstly, to not show a whole lot of grief over the loss of her aunt; secondly, she becomes incredibly concerned about The Doctor only very shortly after meeting him, has little idea who or what he is, or is trying to do, yet has taken on 'companion' status, with all that follows from that, very early on, and that strikes me as being rather unrealistic.

The story is marvelous, The Master's realization of his 'goof' is entertaining, and almost redeems him in some small way, although the scheme he hatches, and his tendency to want to kill the guards rather than talk his way through negates a good part of that redemption.

The concept of block transfer is nicely done, and isn't overexplained, and the peril, for once, is universal in scope and threatens all life everywhere in N-Space, which gives the last episode an urgency that sometimes isn't present in Dr. Who.

I still don't quite understand the end, and how it is that The Master is foiled and the CVE restored, but the regeneration (my favorite such one) tends to overshadow all that and by the time you get to Castrovalva, you've mostly forgotten about it, and it didn't trouble me anymore. And of course, one of my favorite Tom Baker quotes, one which I used for a time as my shutdown/restart sound, "It's the end...but the moment has been prepared for." Too bad no one was much prepared for the end of Dr. Who itself nine years later.

All in all, a lovely story, and one of my favorites.


A Review by Alan Thomas 24/5/01

Trying to find another Doctor Who story to review, I watched Logopolis and decided that it would be the best.

Logopolis is a very important, and very enjoyable Dr Who story. It's amazingly effective, and very epic. Obviously it has its faults, but it succeeds in its main task: seeing off Tom Baker (not a dry eye in my house) and producing a great regeneration. Coupled to this, it has to produce the reintroduction of The Master, the introduction of Peter Davison, and the second and most pivotal part of the Return Of The Master Trilogy. It also has to introduce new companion Tegan, and bring Nyssa back as afull-time companion.

Wow.

Yes, it has a lot to do, and the fact that we get an entertaining story out of this is amazing. In fact, I love it so much it's one of my favourites. The first/last story of each Doctor's tenure is very interesting, but Logopolis has to provide a final story for what many would consider to be the definitive Doctor. Hence the view by some that this is the last real Doctor Who story.

Maybe I'm digressing a bit, but Logopolis works. The acting is good, and no-one disappoints. Tom Baker is intense and superb in his last story; Matthew Waterhouse isn't annoyingly annoying as Adric (not until Davison arrives); Sarah Sutton is great, and shows just what potential she has as a companion; and Janet Fielding as Tegan is really the only person we can identify with. She serves her purpose well.

Anthony Ainley's performance is nowhere near as good as the superb Roger Delgado, but he tries his best, as he always does and will. Ultimately, Ainley is effective.

Logopolis is an undeniable turning point in Doctor Who, and an all-time great.


A Review by Ian Cawood 30/5/01

Once the format of Doctor Who had been established, there had never been a more eagerly anticipated story than this - the last story of the most popular Doctor of them all. If the last scene in Keeper unsettled me, I found Logopolis positively disturbing. It wasn't any major plot developments - after all, it's just another threat to the Universe, with some fairly dodgy moments, such as the infamous Thames scene - it's the way the whole thing is played. Moments like when the watcher first appears across the road, when the cloister bell chimes for the first time and especially the look on Tom Baker's face when he says 'there's something not quite right about all of this' still make my spine tingle, even when I think about them (most of the praise must go to Peter Grimwade and Paddy Kingsland for that). How many stories have lines like 'a chain of circumstances that fragments the law that holds the universe together' and have a threat to the Universe that is frighteningly believable - the 'very nature of things' itself?

Baker's playing is magnificent - that of a doomed man who gradually realises that his fate is unimportant compared to the mission that he has - his own carelessness has caused the situation - he must give his life to correct it. Only Tom could portray this and still get away with lines like his response to the Master's 'Woolly thinking, Doctor' - 'Yes, but very comforting, when worn next to the skin'. Most of all, one has to forget any Master story after Castrovalva, and praise Antony Ainley's magnificent re-interpretation of the Master, a man who is, as the Doctor finally realises 'utterly mad'. Chris Bidmead says that, to avoid the Master being a pantomime villain (which JNT turned him into after Bidmead had left), he had to do 'really bad things' - this is not the debonair charmer that Delgado portrayed - he murders two unarmed characters in the first episode, several harmless Logopolitans, nearly destroys the Universe in his lust for power, and, in the most chilling scene of all, impersonates Tremas to the distraught Nyssa. If one scene sticks in the memory, it's this, the wind howling, Ainley's pale face, and Sarah Sutton's heartrending playing of the lines - 'You look younger, but... so cold.' (How many of you reading this can hear that line in your heads? That's what I call powerful acting). Of course, such is Bidmead's desire to make 'bad things' happen as a result of the Master's interference, that Sarah Sutton is called upon to act out the celebrated scene when Nyssa witnesses the death of her world - think about that as a challenge! Many idiots have scoffed at the character's calmness, but as she said herself, in an interview, this wasn't the 'Doctor and Nyssa show', and there was a regeneration scene due in 10 minutes, so sobbing hysterics might have slowed the action down a bit. Personally, I think she pulls the scene off magnificently - the camera's on her face in tight close up as she delivers that extraordinary (for Who), almost Shakespearean soliloquy. Her voice cracks, ever so slightly, on the word 'father', the muscle in her jaw twitches, and her eyes fill up with tears - in other words she underplays the scene and makes it 1,000 times more effective, something that most Who fans don't understand after too much exposure to OTT acting (mostly from the lead actor).

To be honest, after all the oppressive atmosphere of the previous episodes, the deaths, and destruction of half the Universe, the regeneration is a bit of relief - lots of lovely flashbacks (very important in the days before wide availability of video), and then a wonderfully peaceful regeneration. I remember slumping back in my seat after the emotional rollercoaster of episode 4 and wondering - 'how on earth will they top that?' Perhaps they could electronically remove Matthew Waterhouse and give Janet Fielding a decent accent, but apart from that, I'm still wondering 20 years later.


The End of an Era by Mark Irvin 15/1/02

An interesting story this one. On some levels it seems to fail - particularly from the point of view of telling a story, yet in many other ways it's a resounding success. I used to hate it; but a couple of recent viewings has given me the chance for a reassessment. I must say that I now tend to find myself enjoying Logopolis, but regrettably it is still an undeniable fact that it's far from perfect.

The main problem is that the plot is very complicated, and half the time events aren't even being explained with any clarity at all - alienating and frustrating the viewer. To me Logopolis highlights the beginning of one of the main shortcomings of 80's Dr Who - complex stories which would be fine, if someone actually bothered to clearly explain what's going on.

Flushing the Master's TARDIS out by going under water was also one of the silliest things the show had ever seen (and there's a lot of competition!), how were they going to get back in? The Master holding the Universe to ransom with a tape recorder? And who really wants to see an air hostess walk around the TARDIS for half an episode looking stupid? Although I must confess, I was highly amused by the look on the Doctor and Adric's faces when Tegan bursts out demanding an explanation from whoever is in charge!

However in favour of Logopolis, is the atmosphere that it creates and the wonderful sense of impending doom. The mysterious Watcher figure helps in this regard, definitely being a worthwhile inclusion into the story.

Baker also rises to the occasion in his final outing and is highly effective alongside Ainely's Master, getting the terrific "You're utterly mad!" line. I also enjoyed the bit when he uses his faithful scarf to trip the Master, a delightful throwback to the fun of previous seasons, that was often lacking in his final episodes. And as for the regeneration scene itself, well.... one of the truly great moments in Dr Who history. I had forgotten how superb it actually was and praise must really be given to the selected music. Spine tinglingly sensational.

Definitely not the classic that many fans claim it to be, as I tend to agree with Michael Hickerson's comment that when a story ends on such an emotional high - it's rather easy to forget some of the flaws and silly bits that mar the story.

Overall whilst Logopolis is generally quite good, I tend to get the feeling that if didn't include Tom Baker's regeneration - it would only be a fairly average story. Hmm.....how about a 7/10?


Logopolis is the best Dr Who story by David Barnes 18/3/02

For several years I had been comforted by the thought that I knew what my top ten Dr Who adventures were. But recently, it seems to have been bumped about. I realised that The Macra Terror and The Daleks weren't as good as they used to be, and Talons of Weng Chiang and The Daleks Master Plan were brought in as replacements. But The Curse of Fenric was still my favourite story.

Then today I saw Logopolis again and finally realised: Logopolis is my favourite Dr Who story!

Let's go through it by episodes (like I usually do):

Episode 1: Tegan is introduced and is actually very good throughout the story (unlike during later years when she became one of the worst ever companions) and isn't irritable at all. Tom Baker is pretty good as the Doctor and Matthew Waterhouse turns in a good performance as Adric. The idea of the TARDIS's inside each other (an idea previously visited in The Time Monster) was realised very effectively here and the Master's presence is very creepy. But one of the best things about the story that helps raise it above others was the Watcher. His presence creates an atmosphere that is very dark and unnerving. He is the creepiest character in all of Dr Who. The cliffhanger is very good as well.

Episode 2: I agree that the Doctor's plan to flush out the Master is dreadful but it does lead to another superb scene with the Watcher. When we get to Logopolis, the society that is shown to us is very well done. The man who played the Monitor is very good and the death of a Logopolitan towards the end of the story is brilliant. Sarah Sutton is re-introduced as Nyssa and is very good, as is the cliffhanger.

Episode 3: This is where Tom Baker really excels in this story, especially his "I can't choose the companions I keep" speech. That shot of the Master in the Logopolitan booth is excellent. This is Anthony Ainley's finest performance as the Master and it is also the best Master story. He is one the very brink of madness and when he causes all the Logopolitans to die he blames it on the Monitor and the Doctor, claiming that they did it to stop his success! The Watcher is still around and the death of Logopolis is very well done.

Episode 4: The Monitor's death is very disturbing and is, to the contrary of Tegan, a more horrific death than shrinking. I think Nyssa's scene where she realises that her home has been destroyed is one of the best scenes in Dr Who. The Master is still trying to get a good outcome for himself and the bit where it looks like he's going to kill the bloke in the Pharos Project building but he doesn't is brilliant (he is just pointing a radio doohickey at him, much to the Doctor's surprise; only when the Doctor walks away does the Master try to kill the man with his tissue compression eliminator).

And then there's the ending. The final confrontation between the Master and the Doctor is superbly scripted and acted and the death of the Doctor was shown marvellously (especially so when you consider that you never see the Doctor fall). The clips were good and the Black Guardian's line "Doctor, you shall die for this!" is very fitting for what would happen a minute later. The regeneration scene is the best one of all the regeneration's and the music is very nice (even though nice is a very dodgy word). My only gripe is that I think the ending should have been when the Doctor regnerated, instead we get that silly shot of the Doctor sitting up.

Anyway, this story is now my favourite and earns a 10/10. For the moment...


City of Words by Andrew Wixon 28/4/02

Logopolis is, of course, a milestone in the history of the series, the transition point between one era and another. Right from the moment Tom decided to leave it must have been obvious that his swan-song would have to be a very special story.

And anyone expecting a restatement of his era's greatest virtues - literary pastiche, throat-grabbingly powerful performances, self-mocking humour - must have been sorely disappointed. Indeed, I defy anybody watching Logopolis for the first time to stop after episode two's cliffhanger and predict the direction the story is about to go in. The concept of entropy has been introduced, true, but in such a subtle and thematic way that it's mostly drowned out by peculiar ideas like the nested TARDISes, by the activities of the Master, by Tegan's introduction (one of the most intrusive of the series' later years, only Mel's is more contrived), and by the mystery of the Watcher. But episode three pulls it all together and culminates in one of the greatest ever DW moments.

A combination of great direction, music, script and acting create the overwhelming impression of impending apocalypse - something only added to by our knowledge of the Doctor's imminent death. (A plausible, scientific apocalypse, it's possibly unique in SF drama - certainly so in DW.) Even the indomitable spirit of the Master seems overcome by the futility of the situation. But the Doctor refuses to give up hope - 'Not yet!' To save the universe, he's willing to sacrifice his life - to collaborate with his greatest foe (and for once, here, the Master lives up to his billing, and Ainley's portrayal of the Master's glee at the idea is excellent). To save the universe, he's willing to shake his enemy's hand...

From here on the story is an exhausting epic, packed with memorable scenes - some are moving, like Nyssa's realisation that the entropy field has destroyed Traken (another great performance, by Sarah Sutton), or the flashbacks (for once justified rather than self-indulgent), others are amusingly quirky (the Master blackmailing the universe via walkman).

Logopolis proves that Bidmead-style DW really can touch greatness: it's esoteric, cerebral, occasionally abstract - but also gripping, powerful, funny and scary (often at once). There is some great imagery and wonderful dialogue, with fabulous direction by Peter Grimwade (damn, I've run out of superlatives).

This needed to be be a very special story - and it is.


A Review by Terrence Keenan 11/5/02

I have a very hard time with this story. Mainly because it has very few of the touches that made Tom Baker's run the best of the seven Doctors by a long way. Instead it serves not only as a regeneration story, but as the final transition to the new JNT regime.

What I mean is that there's not great villain who can balance Tom's great personality. The Master is little more than a time-travelling Snidely Whiplash in a puffy coat. Nor is there a great tale with solid plotting. Instead we get two episodes of strange set pieces and insane giggling, building up to where we meet the Logopolitans. The last two episodes feature running around, angsting, more giggling and the most unbelievable take over of the universe concept on the show.

Performances vary. Tom is, as usual, brilliant. His interaction with Adric is great and he even makes Tegan only mildly annoying. Thankfully, he gets to play the Doc as he always did for seven season, with wit and flair. Matthew Waterhouse is very good; shame it wouldn't last in the next season. Sarah Sutton is bland and Janet Fielding is hard to take at times. Of less said of Anthony Ainley, the better.

I wish Tom had gotten a much better sendoff than he did, because he deserved something more than Logopolis. Only his performance saves it from being worse than it is.


End of the road? by Tim Roll-Pickering 29/11/02

After a season in which all the other regular faces have changed, the tone and style of the stories have dramatically altered and in which the Doctor's characterisation has noticeably aged, Logopolis finishes off both the season and Tom Baker's Doctor. With script-editor Christopher H Bidmead also writing the story we get the clearest realisation of his vision for the series as being strongly rooted in science and kept away from fantasy. We also have one of the greatest threats of all as the universe itself becomes imperilled due to the Master meddling without realising it. The whole story is fast paced and makes for a high speed ending to seven years of Tom Baker.

The story starts off with the Doctor pondering how everything eventually decays and then he sets off to try to repair the TARDIS' Chameleon Circuit. Although this has been jammed for years, a logical reason is given for his deciding to devote attention to the problem. What is less clear is just why any police box needs to be measured for calculations relating to the TARDIS when the police box could easily have differences due to variations in construction or damage. This minor point is overlooked as we get a small scale beginning to the tale on a Barnet roadside, introducing new companion Tegan. Her debut in many ways harks back to the series' roots as she wanders into the TARDIS by mistake and then it takes off. Janet Fielding's debut performance is strong and shows much promise given her strong independent streak. The story goes through a strange point when the Doctor decides to flood the TARDIS but doesn't explain his reasoning properly - is he somehow hoping to drive the Master out of his ship - before he meets with the Watcher and promptly abandons the plan without a word to Adric before heading onto Logopolis. Here we get another well constructed society and a strong concept of the universe being held in place by the Logopolitan's computations and how it all falls apart once the Master tries to take control. Finally we return to Earth and a radio telescope, a setting also seen in the Master's debut story Terror of the Autons, where the Doctor and the Master manage to stop the entropy but the latter has his own schemes. This fast pace does work, with virtually every single location fitting in with the plot. Most of the science sounds reasonable to the non-scientific viewer, though how the radio telescope can instantaneously transmit both the signals to the CVE and the Master's recorded message in time for the Universe to be saved and blackmailed is beyond me.

As well as introducing Tegan, this story also sees Nyssa firmly entrenched as a companion whilst Anthony Ainley makes his full debut as the Master. Nyssa is competently played by Sarah Sutton despite the limited role she has in the story, and the scene where she watches as the entropy blots out Traken forever is very moving. Ainley's debut as the Master is competent, with the character remaining unseen for the first half and always moving in the shadows to achieve his goals. His overconfidence and delight in his schemes is all too clear at times and shows a weakness that can lead to his downfall.

The rest of the cast are limited given that none of them appear in more than one location of the tale. Dolore Whiteman gives a good performance as Aunt Vanessa that makes the character's fate completely undeserved whilst John Fraser brings a strong sense of dignity to the Monitor. Otherwise the parts are too small to be noticed one way or the other.

The production of the story is reasonable though there are signs of the budget running low, most obviously in the use of studio sets for some exterior scenes at the Pharos Project which sit uncomfortably with the location film. However the Logopolis set is done well and manages to crumble easily without looking at all fake. This story has yet another brilliant musical score by Paddy Kingsland that works wonders in setting the tone for many scenes.

This story is Tom Baker's last and he plays the part as one looking towards imminent doom but still trying to cling on to life and hope. Throughout the entirety of Season 18 it has been clear that the Doctor is mellowing and ageing beyond the earlier carefree years and is instead a much older wanderer. There are still traces of those days but this does indeed feel like a natural end of the road for this incarnation. The role of the Watcher is unfortunately never properly explained but the presence of this ghost like figure almost beckoning the Doctor forwards is a reminder of how close the end is. The final scenes as the Doctor sees his life of past foes and friends flash before his eyes are natural and really add to the idea that death is near. Thus once the Doctor regenerates it feels like we've known that this has been coming for quite a while. All in all this is a good story which in one sense is an ending for the series but through the introduction of Tegan, the return of Nyssa and the use of the Master there are also several encouraging signs for the future. 8/10


A Review by Will Berridge 2/6/03

Well, it was obvious that after 7 years of Bakerdom the 4th Doctor was going to have to bow out with something cataclysmic. And you can't get much more so than the end of the universe. One snag, however, was that the Doctor is well used to facing impending universal armageddon, so to make this story special he would have to do something a little more convincing than to warn us of the possibility "if (insert megalomaniac here) isn't stopped, the whole universe could be destroyed."

Fortunately, there is some effort put into ensuring this is the case- Tom Baker adopts a grim and fatalistic demeanour throughout the whole story, fitting in well with his gradually more "toned down: performances as Season 18 had gone along. We've never seen him more grave as in saying "I've dipped into the future... we must be prepared for the worst." The Cloister Bell is rather a cheap device for building up suspense, but, combined with the downbeat incidental score, and the Doctor's prophesying of doom, works rather well. Oh, and then there's the fact we actually do see a fair bit of the universe disintegrate, if only on a scanner screen. (Actually, it's odd the Time Lords never raised the subject of the Doctor clumsily letting half of everything get destroyed, especially at his trial. I wonder if there's a special charge for that? Universicide? Galacticide? Universe-slaughter?). The epic scale seems to shrink a little, however, when we realise that despite this being a story concerning universal catastrophe, the final episode yet again returns us to good old earth. I mean couldn't the Logopolitans have "borrowed" the technology of a slightly more advanced culture. Earth science obviously isn't especially highly thought of on Logopolis, as the Monitor indicates most notably with his amusingly derisive remark "I believe they're trying to get intelligent life to respond."

That said, the 4th Episode is easily the most exciting of the lot, what with the Doctor dying and everything. I think I probably like this regeneration sequence over that in Caves of Androzani (and all the others, obviously), for a fair few reasons. Firstly, we see him die in action, saving the universe, which is really what he's all about. Secondly, there's some spine-tingling music as the camera zooms in on his prostrate form. Thirdly, the Fourth Doctor reassured everybody "It's the end... but the moment has been prepared for", whilst the Fifth Doctor just said a foul word. (Though the 4th Doctor also addressed ***** last, which probably gives the monkey boy a unique and rather undeserved honour.)

Apart from this, though, the "uneasy alliance" worked a treat as the two Time Lords' methods came were directly contrasted, most memorably in the scene where the Master lies to the Doctor then tries to kill the technician. His nonchalant reaction to the subsequent events, and justification "Well at least it saved us a troublesome explanation", is marvellous. Some of the technical aspects of the Doctor's universe-preserving plan did confuse my poor simplistic human brain, though. Anything involving "Light-speed overdrives" and "Time-cone inverters." But that's to be expected.

So that's all jolly good then. Unfortunately there's quite a bit of Logopolis that isn't. It's appallingly badly written in places, for instance. Take the ludicrously arbitrary introduction of Nyssa, for instance. She turns up, and is asked by Adric "Nyssa! How did you get here?", responds "Oh, a friend of the Doctor's brought me", as if it weren't really altogether that surprising she'd just materialised out of nowhere, and takes part into the adventure without another word said. There's also the hilarious sight of the Master trying to blackmail the universe with a portable radio - I don't think he'd even set the oven going on that scheme. If anyone did hear, how were they going to respond to the ultimatum? The Doctor tries to match him, however, with his preposterous plan to "flush out" the Master's TARDIS in the Thames river. Would that be before or after he drowned himself and Adric? How is something as heavy as a TARDIS going to be "flushed out" of the doors anyway? What on Gallifrey was he thinking of? If the writers wanted to send the plot nowhere for 5 minutes, couldn't they have contrived a slightly more credible excuse? At least those two were mildly amusing, as for Tegan experiencing a transcendental spacecraft, visiting an alien world, encountering extraterrestrial life-forms, but... thinking it's not really important as she's late for her flight...??????? In fact, Tegan's truly awful throughout the entire thin, whinging, screaming, moaning, gawping... the "Earth... EARTH?" gawp is particularly excruciating. Never is it better illustrated than in this story that four was too many for a TARDIS crew, something clearly indicated in the scene where, despite the presence of all four of them and the Monitor, everybody but Adric stands by and watches as Logopolis stops functioning and lets entropy free everywhere. I wouldn't mind so much if they weren't all such badly conceived, and in the case of Adric and Tegan, atrociously acted (take the way the latter says... well, anything, but "I might be able to help you" in the 2nd episode is noticeably awful. Really?)

The set and costume design also leave more than a little to be desired. Logopolis is a disgusting pinky-grey colour, and the model of it was based on an idea that worked better in theory than execution. I didn't even realise it was supposed to look like a giant brain at first. Just what do the Logopolitans have on the backs of their heads? Why is it the only one that can ever see or do anything is the Monitor? At least he was a decent character, played with a pleasing sense of dignity.

Logopolis does aspire towards greatness but is unfortunately let down heavily by poor character interaction (unfortunately it takes one of the worst set of companions in the show and focuses HEAVILY on them. Were we really supposed to care about Tegan and her Aunt discussing car mechanics?) and slapdash plotting. Whoopsy-daisy.

6.5/10 (Well it's got Tom Baker in it!)


Singing the Language of Numbers by Jason A. Miller 31/12/03

Most regeneration stories are specifically meant to wrap up their era. It had to be in The Caves of Androzani, for example, that we learn why Peter Davison wears celery on the lapel of his blazer. It's why we could only learn of the Doctor's origins in The War Games. However, for my all-time favorite Doctor Who story, I make the argument that Logopolis worked just as well as the pilot for a new series of Tom Baker adventures.

If you had to isolate one image to explain Doctor Who's fall from grace in the 1980s, it's Anthony Ainley. The final actor to play the Master on the BBC also held on to the role the longest, dragging his hammy character kicking and screaming alongside four different Doctors, until he was fat and possessed by the spirit of the Cheetah People. Although this may have been a fitting end for the character, some of us preferred Roger Delgado, all dignity and cigars.

In 1981, though, Anthony Ainley was magically new. In The Keeper of Traken, he played the Doctor's friend, good guy Tremas, whose body was stolen by the decaying Geoffrey Beevers. A rejuvenated Master sneaks away into his TARDIS, chuckling, whispering, "A new body, at last. A new body. At last". That disembodied chuckle is all that remains, fading into the electronic scream of the end credits. More, please!

Director Peter Grimwade, who showed up with a zillion directorial flourishes, wisely kept the Master off-screen for more than half of Tom Baker's swan song. Menace is restored to the character for the first time, since, oh, The Mind of Evil, because we can't see him, just hear him off-camera, as another character dies, shrunken to a corpse. Music composer Paddy Kingsland, the best there was in 26 years, punctuates the revelation of each doll-sized body with another mini-electronic scream.

When the Master finally does appear, in Part Three, we learn he's been working to a plan even since before Part One: follow the Doctor to Earth, leave deadly calling-cards, and then stow away on board to Logopolis to steal the Monitor's secrets for himself. But it's there the Master is beaten: for Logopolis is the keystone of the Universe, holding the moment of heat death at bay through sheer force of chanted numbers. And the Master's technological interference has caused the city to crumble to dust, unleashing an entropy field that will reduce the Universe to ash within hours. It's the Doctor's utterance that the Master is "mad... utterly mad" that finally convinces us this is the most dangerous Master we've seen in years.

But Ainley's not the only revelation in this story. There's Tom Baker. Just listen to his dialogue, especially in the early TARDIS scenes alone with Adric It's so dense, and delivered so rapid-fire, so naturally. We are now a million light years away from the Tom Baker who worked with Louise Jameson and Mary Tamm, trampling all over the script, clearly bored with proceedings. This Baker loves the script, giving the dialogue all sorts of inflections, loaning the Doctor a whole new scared dimension. "Nothing like this has ever happened before." It's something to say that a man could so compellingly reinvent the character in his final hour, when he could well have gone through the motions as if this were The Power of Kroll.

The sense of newness is also borrowed from the supporting cast. Matthew Waterhouse, surprise of surprises, is compelling; witness his constant questioning of the Doctor in Parts One and Two. He even pulls an audience, getting thoroughly confused by the script: "We're going to measure Logopolis too?. When Tegan and then Nyssa arrive in Part Two, Adric starts to exhibit the bossy I'm-in-charge nature that made him so unbearable for most of Season 19, but one senses that Baker would have kept him in line. Even working with Janet Fielding, an actress he really didn't need to know at all, Baker planted the convincing seeds of a Doctor who really wanted to time-travel with this young flight attendant. It's a shame he never worked with either of them again.

And then there's the script. Chris Bidmead, with his emphasis on hard-sounding science, helped mold the Doctor Who of not just the 1980s, but the '90s as well. But his script in Logopolis far exceeds in quality any book out of the technobabble-drenched Simon Bucher-Jones oeuvre. Not only is Logopolis full of phrases like "unraveling the causal nexus" and "my biomechanisms are unaffected", but it's also got poetry: "And now the world I grew up in, blotted out forever"; "We are beyond recriminations... beyond everything", and my understated favorite: "Time has changed little for either of us, Doctor. You continue to roam the Universe, while we persist in our humble existence on this planet."

Special praise must be reserved for John Fraser, who, as the Monitor, played quite possibly the smartest, least hammy character in 26 years of Doctor Who guest turns. He has no rants, no over-the-top bursts of comedy. He's just a smart guy who knows more about what's going on than the Doctor, and actually saves the day with his computer code: he just has the good graces to die early in Part Four. That's done so Tom Baker can save the Universe and then fall to his death. Just when we were looking forward to at least another season of this exciting new Doctor.


Depressing... by Joe Ford 8/9/04

There seems to be a theory in Doctor Who fandom that Logopolis is one of the best stories to have ever been transmitted and that it is a fitting and climatic end to the ultimate Doctor's reign. Well I say dog doo-doos to that and more besides. Logopolis is nowhere near the best Doctor Who story, it certainly isn't the best Tom Baker story and it's not even the best of season eighteen. It's a story that aspires to greatness but never reaches it, that teases with a coherent storyline but instead delights in frustrating the random viewer. It is the weakest Christopher H Bidmead story by a square mile and reveals that the poor guy is running out of steam after practically re-writing every single story for the season (or so he claims).

Often praised is the feeling of doom throughout, that teeth chattering sense of unease as we approach the end of the fourth Doctor. I have to agree whole-heartedly that Tom Baker, director Peter Grimwade and musician Paddy Kingsland all work hard as hell to make sure that any feeling of entertainment is sucked out of the end result. The story is just too depressing, never ending doom, brotherly rivalry, universal destruction, portents of death... oh yes perfect for those of us who want to dissect the thing and explore all the emotional nuances but not a whole lot of fun to watch. For me the Tom Baker years epitomise what was great about Doctor Who, no matter which producers term you dip into there is a touch of magic to be found (hard as nails Hinchcliffe, fluffy Williams or polished JNT) but they truly missed the point with his swansong, a depressing hour and a half devoted to mathematics.

Ladies and gentlemen will you all give a warm round of applause to that sparkling personality from the land of Oz... Teeeegaaaan Jovankaaaa! The feeling that all hope for the series has finally arrived in the form of a hysterical, wrist-flapping ball of anger. Janet Fielding's entrance is actually not as bad as I feared; there is some attempt to create a likable person here. At least in episode one.... her scenes with her jolly Aunty Vanessa are a joy and (for me) the highpoint of the tale because it injects a little humour. Tegan's reaction to stumbling into the TARDIS is probably the most natural since Ian and Barbara way back in 1963... sheer horror. Unfortunately this leads to endless tiresome scenes of the woman wandering the corridors and blubbing, which quickly dispel any idea that she might be an empowered female companion. To be frank it's a pretty poor performance by Janet Fielding whatever way you look at it... she can't do angry ("I DEMAND TO SEE WHOEVER'S IN CHARGE OF THIS SHIP!") or happiness ("EARTH!" she screams at the camera in a scene I'm sure is supposed to be funny) or revulsion ("You revolting man!" she spits with a rather pathetic slap) and alas even regular informative dialogue seems to be a challenge (just listen to how amateurishly she says "Nyssa and Adric have gone after the Master!"). Like a whirlwind of emotion I can see how some Mikes enjoy her "drama" (because hey it provided a bit of spice in an otherwise bland era!) but if I were on board the TARDIS I would risk the vacuum of space over an adventure with her.

After his spectacular return in The Keeper of Traken this is the story that tips the Master back into melodramatic territory. Taking over universe? What again? Doesn't he ever get tired of that same old plan that is inevitably thwarted by you know Who. I understand the purpose of the Master in this story... to bring the universe to the brink of collapse as a backdrop for the even more powerful drama between the Doctor and his archenemy (there is a delicious touch of Holmes/Moriarty as the Doctor and the Master stand at a great height and tussle). I realise Bidmead wants the Doctor to go out in a blaze of glory, defeating pure evil but I cannot invest an ounce of credibility in the Master when he is played with such cartoonish conviction by Anthony Ainley. The man who gave us the sensitive and thoughtful Tremas just one story ago seems to have lost all sense of subtlety and poured into a mock-evil costume he never, ever seems capable of the catastrophic events he causes here. How someone as goonish as the Master could wipe out half the bloody universe is beyond me... hey maybe there's hope for Scrappy Doo yet! Without a strong, believable villain this story (and particularly the climax) is sabotaged beyond repair. He is given little motive (and after recovering from his emaciated state you might think he would want to hide out for a while instead of leaping back into the universal domination game) besides being evil and that just exposes how flimsy a villain he was all along. Basically he destroys stuff because he's the Master... that's just what he does. Boring lazy writing. Frankly after a year of excellent baddies I expected more.

Miaow! Get the claws away Joe! Unfortunately I cannot because the entire story is just one (padded) long-winded excuse to get the Doctor to the top of that tower and fall off. It seems to abandon all sense of structure by diverting itself wherever it pleases to fit the JNT series changes. The first episode is just an excuse to introduce Tegan... there is little other reason to spend half an hour on a bypass (except to measure a police box... hmm), the second wastes plenty of time on the Doctor's foolish and inexplicably stupid scheme to "flush" out the Master. The story doesn't actually begin until the end of the second episode until we reach Logopolis but that's where the tedium really settles in...

Whilst the idea of a planet being held together by pure mathematics is an intriguing one (albeit a little dull... why can't we have a planet made out of treacle?) the execution of Logopolis is dire. We are talking original Star Trek style "outside" sets here, bushy wigged nerds hiding in polystyrene rock alcoves and (most brilliantly of all) cardboard cut out rows of actors to give the impression that there are far more people involved in this project than there actually are! The model shot of Logopolis doesn't seem to tie in with the sets either and unfortunately before we can get to the actual content of the story the visuals are embarrassing and distracting.

These sequences are boring. There I said it. With the Doctor stuck in a shrinking TARDIS, Nyssa shoehorned into the action from nowhere and being controlled by the Master in her father's body, Tegan shrieking and Adric reading out a bunch of sums I cannot say this exactly thrill a minute. Suddenly from no-where it appears that Logopolis is responsible for holding the entire universe together (say what???) and the Master has set about its (and Logopolis's) destruction. There is also some guff about CVEs that non-regular viewer Joe Bloggs does not have clue about and does not care that it was set up way back when in Full Circle. Cue lots of cardboard stone bouncing around the set and a desperate rush to Earth to make sure that entropy is filtered through the CVEs and not into the universe. This sudden revelation would carry more weight had it been set up with a few hints but it just feels like whack bam... there's the danger now we've got Tegan, Nyssa and the Master involved... deal with it. Besides does that mean all these other universe is getting all our crap flushed into them? In the end of the day it's a bunch of non-characters (does anybody honestly see any depth to Adric, Tegan, Nyssa, the Monitor or the Master?) chatting about universal devastation the likes of which could never be portrayed on screen convincingly.

It's only when things return to Earth that events get a little bit exciting. I hate to admit this but my favourite scene in Logopolis is when the Doctor and co are being chased by the guards around the Pharos Project to some reject seventies chase music. It's exhilarating and fun and silly... everything Doctor Who should be. Plus the location work here is lovely, a gorgeous sunny morning, perfect for running about in.

What's the deal with the Watcher? Is there ever an explanation as to why this wraith like creature should disturb the fourth Doctor in his last days? It's another mystery is a script that is full of wrong decisions and unanswered questions. Yes Tom Baker's haunted reaction to the creature is spine tingling but it serves no real purpose but to remind us that Tom is leaving. Oh boo hoo, get over it. It pads out the story a bit more too. Those fans who said they cried when he fell off the tower and melts into the Watcher need to get out more, this isn't emotional drama, it's audience manipulation and Doctor Who rarely stoops to such levels. The fifth Doctor's heroic sacrifice for Peri... now that was tear jerking but some ghost who pops up to say "Oi you, you're gonna die!"... that's just silly.

Tom Baker did deserve a big finish and certainly saving the entire universe seems the way to go. However saving the entire universe by pulling out a wire, that's an anti-climax. And again he is let down by an unspectacular array of poor special FX which undermine the gravity of the event. Season eighteen looks GORGEOUS for fuck's sakes, why the hell couldn't you have saved a bit of money for THE most important event of the last seven years? It's bloody Planet of the Spiders all over again. Gaah... it just makes me so mad that money mad producer JNT could not lavish more time and money on this seminal moment. Simon watched this with me and laughed himself silly when he saw the dolly Tom hanging on the wire and cardboard cut out Master giggling behind the Doctor as dish rotates. The flashbacks are cute and almost make you forget how amateurish this all is.

And if things weren't bad enough already, the story closes on Peter Davison grinning. Ladies and gentlemen we have our new Doctor. Oh vomit.

Logopolis is given far too much credit for being different but what people fail to mention is that it has no heart. Season seventeen may have sucked when it came to production values but it always had plenty of heart, lots of fantastic characterisation and a rock solid plot. Logopolis meanders all over the place and is populated by unconvincing ciphers who fail to light up the screen; it has some big ideas but never explores them properly or engagingly through the characters. And the Master is a big prat. Besides some witty dialogue and the genuinely marvellous scene where Nyssa watches her planet get destroyed there is nothing here worth seeing.

A must-see because of its climax but not because of its content, this could be the most depressing Doctor Who story ever.


A Review by Rodey Johnston 28/7/05

Now I will probably get shot for saying this but between the ages of 7 to 13 Tom Baker was not my favourite Doctor. Not that he was a bad Doctor but that all I ever saw of Doctor Who was repeats of old repeats (hey, living in Australia repeats was all we got). Getting Tom Baker episode after Tom Baker episode is tiring so for many years I had a very bias of poor old Tom (hell I didn't even know about regeneration until I was 13). Logopolis changed this. When I first saw this I only saw the first two episodes and that was that. When I saw it a second time (or first time in its entirety) I was taken back. By everything in the story.

Without a doubt, this is Tom Baker's finest - and saddest hour. It's the end of an era and it's hard not to watch this story without it bringing a lump to your throat. The story has a depressing atmosphere, a sort of doomsday feel to it. Gone are the days of Baker's crazy but brilliant Doctor, replaced by a Doctor who releases two things 1) he screwed up in the previous story and 2) he (and the universe) is running out of time. The Doctor rarely has to deal with the consequences of a previous story and it's nice to see how dire the results are. Basically everybody is effected (Tegan's aunt is murdered by the Master, Nyssa's planet being wiped out) and the Doctor feels those effects each and every time. Adric actually goes quite well in this story (maybe a fluke) and shows that maybe he is more suit as a companion of the 4th rather than the 5th. The Master in this story is presented as an evil bastard (not forgetting mad). The scene where he plans to hold the whole universe hostage is brilliant and makes me wish he had stayed that way. The whole Universe being past its "normal death" is an interesting idea and shows how vital Logopolis is to the universe.

The death and regeneration of the Doctor is quite sad. The flashbacks of Baker's enemies and companions is a nice touch showing how long Tom has been with us. Apart from a couple of problems (doesn't the Doctor condemn the Universe by removing the cable that was saving the universe?) Logopolis remains one of my favourite stories of the series and made love Tom again.

Long live Tom Baker.


Insert An Obligatory "Logopolis" Quote Here by Lance Bayliss 6/12/07

Logopolis.

All time classic, or over rated mess? We report. You decide.

In my view, the hysterical love surrounding Logopolis over the years has always been based on two things.

First: It's the final story of John Nathan-Turner's first (and, arguably, most successful) season as producer of Doctor Who.

Second: More obviously, it's the end of Tom Baker's unprecedented and still unbeaten seven year run as the Doctor. It's very hard not to give it extra brownie points just for being the last story of the most popular actor to ever play the Doctor.

Very hard indeed. But I'll try anyway.

Worthy comments though those may be, they rather forget the fact that as a story Logopolis is BAD.

People (including those on the DVD commentary itself) rip the piss out of the "drown the Master under water" subplot. But that is only scratching the surface of the problems that Logopolis has. In my contention, the story is the harbinger of the increasingly naval-gazing nature of the series under Nathan-Turner's stewardship. Good for the fans, but the more casual viewer would be lost if they happened to have the telly on of a Saturday night.

Observe.

Logopolis works.... in context of Season 18. If you watch it with the context of the rest of the season before it, it is a fitting farewell to a beloved actor, and a step towards a bright future. This is where the DVD set works. Coupled with Keeper of Traken and Castrovalva, it gives the story that much-needed sense of context.

Because, on its own, outside of that context, it's a bit of a mess.

This is what keeps it from reaching the same "classic" status as something like The Caves of Androzani. Where that story can be picked up by anyone regardless of whether they know Doctor Who or know what regeneration is, Logopolis relies far too much on events both before and after this story to give it some sort of anchor. It's simply not the sort of story you could proudly show a non-fan and expect them to "get" what you feel is so great about it. Caves presents us with a whole world (indeed, a whole galaxy) of characters to give it a proper BBC drama feel and thus a wider appeal, where Logopolis is squarely reliant on its place within the Season 18 arc.

Add to this my own personal feelings that it over eggs the pudding. It's like JNT and script writer Chris Bidmead got to the final four episodes of the season and said "Oh bugger, we've only got four episodes left to fully reintroduce the Master, introduce Tegan, kill the fourth Doctor and introduce the fifth, reintroduce Nyssa..."

It's too much to cram into four episodes. Other aspects of the plot therefore suffer, including the threat to the universe which seems to be almost treated as an arbitary thought rather than really being the all-encompassing end of everything that it should be. But I don't really blame it so much. The rest of the season really spent too long writing out Romana - leaving them with no time to stamp out their new broom in the concluding episodes. It's no wonder so much is crammed into so little time.

Tom Baker really is great in this though, as befits his final play at the role. Marvelous acting, from his angst when he sees the Watcher for the first time (a great sense of dread and doom... the end is coming!) to the way he still manages to milk a few lines for laughs: "Have you seen my Aunt?" "Old lady, red sports car?" "That's her. Have you seen her?" "Well, a little of her" and "Standing on their heads is an expression" are both great.

All in all, I used to take a very opposing view to this, but more objectively I say this: It's a nice story as part of Season 18. But on its own, it's a mess of incident and counter-incident, very little of which actually makes any kind of sense. Hardly worthy of "classic" status in my opinion.

My ratings:

As part of the whole season: 4/5.
As a story on its own: 3/5.


A Review by Finn Clark 11/7/11

Logopolis is a difficult one. It's supposedly a mood piece in which the Master destroys a big chunk of the universe and the Doctor isn't the protagonist of his own story. This is true.

Personally though, I think such criticisms miss the point slightly. Logopolis has lots of plot. Admittedly, if you're looking for a protagonist then you'd be better going to the Master than the Doctor, who spends most of his time brooding and being sombre while terrible things happen. His first positive action on meeting the villain, the most evil man in creation, is to team up with him. That's in the cliffhanger before episode four, by the way. Judged by ordinary Doctor Who standards, it's messy plotting. However, this isn't an ordinary story and personally I don't see why Warriors' Gate and Keeper of Traken should traditionally get a free pass while Logopolis gets bashed, just because the design work isn't as good and fandom is shallow.

It could fairly be said that Christopher Bidmead doesn't give the impression of being particularly interested in plotting. It's even possible that his grip on it wasn't the strongest, although he certainly managed to write strong plots in Castrovalva and Frontios. However, with Season 18, he was clearly aiming for something richer and deeper, especially in this final run of stories, and I don't think you can deny the power of their scale and themes.

What makes me rate Logopolis higher than Keeper of Traken is the fact that it's a formulaic runaround. Underneath its iconic themes and ideas, Traken is a rather poor base-under-siege story. Logopolis, on the other hand, resembles nothing else at all. Personally, I think it does work as a story, but only if you're thinking bigger than the usual level of action-adventure. Thematically, it's about entropy and the slow-motion end of the universe. Everything comes crashing down, including the Doctor himself (literally), but furthermore we spend four episodes watching the catastrophe closing in. For two episodes, we only hear the Master's laughter and see his victims' corpses, for instance. It's part three before we see him, whereas it's part one when the Doctor sees his Watcher.

Similarly, previous stories had been setting up Logopolis's themes and ideas, with the whole season argably having entropy as its overall theme. The Doctor quoting of the second law of thermodynamics is merely following up on its namecheck in Keeper of Traken. Foreshadowing is everywhere you look, from the CVEs and the duplicated Pharos Projects to the mathematics that can save or doom the universe. Even the Master's regeneration in itself foreshadows the same thing happening to the Doctor, as indeed does the jettisoning of Romana's room.

We may not know exactly what's coming, but we can see the signs. That's doubly true for the two Time Lords. Both show almost supernatural powers of precognition, although both also have terrifying blind spots.

That's all very well, but what about the audience? My suggestion is that if you're looking for a narrative thread to follow, go for the Master. One might argue that the scale's so huge that one's basically watching the entire universe as it falls apart, but I should think that's a bit esoteric for most people. Personally, I had a bit of that going on, but broadly speaking I was following Anthony Ainley. For me, this is the most important pre-RTD Master story, sparing a nod to Deadly Assassin as well for its iconic status. For once, it's the Doctor who's the Master's stooge. The villain's toying with the hero. He kills for laughs (again literally). I adore Bidmead's view of the character, which doesn't seem to owe anything at all to the Pertwee era, but it's terrifying. "There's no telling what a creature like that would do on Logopolis." The Master in those first two episodes is a monster, not a man, bringing death wherever he treads. Look at that opening with the policeman. What's the hell was he doing with the man's arm?

Later, we actually see his face and he stops being the third horseman of the apocalypse, but in return Ainley gets some of his best material. He has actual relationships, one with Nyssa and one with the Doctor. Episode 3 sees him becoming Nyssa's father, in a skin-crawling scene that sees Ainley doing things he'd never do again in the role. After that, episode 4 gives us the famous Doctor-Master collaboration, in which Ainley's both evil and hilarious. "Envy is the beginning of all true greatness." I also laughed at his reaction to Tom Baker's "I thought you meant to shoot him." It has to be admitted that Delgado would probably have done better with a lot of this, but there's one area in which Ainley outdoes anything I ever got from Delgado and that's to give me the shivers. The man's a screaming nightmare. He's got the eyes of a killer. The scene where he stands up, gently laughing, to walk behind two Logopolitans he's about to murder... it's a Martin Scorsese moment.

Then there's the finale. Yes, Herculean fan theories are required to contort it into anything even semi-credible, but Ainley is awesome in it. "It would be so easy. Even a humble assistant could do it."

The story's full of holes, of course. That finale is of course the biggest of them and so problematic that it probably torpedoes the story for some viewers. The best theory I know is that the Master's broadcasting to the time-active powers rather than somehow being heard by all beings in the universe. ("If you agree to live under my dominion, grunt and wave your spear twice.") It's ridiculous, yes, but the entire story's been building up to this impossible level and so it somehow also feels right. Anything less from the Master at this point would have been a cop-out. In a similar vein, I can forgive the attempted underwater materialisation because although it doesn't make sense, it's memorable and doesn't actually take up much time in the episode. It's a shame the production budget couldn't have stretched to letting it work, by the way. Maybe they'll do it one day in New Who?

No, more of a problem are the little things, such as Adric having suddenly become an expert on the TARDIS and indeed the N-Space universe. "But the TARDIS isn't supposed to do that!" How does he suddenly know all about disconnecting the co-ordinate sub-system? Personally, I think he's just making arrogant assumptions. I also think I must have missed the scene where the Doctor learns where the Master's TARDIS is in part four. However, on the upside, you'd got to admire the brilliant handwave of "in many ways, we have the same mind". Talk about justifying the unjustifiable. It also makes sense for Nyssa to know the Watcher's true identity, since he's the one who brought her from Traken. I see depths in that, by the way. The Watcher would have known that he was rescuing one (1) person from a world that was about to be destroyed.

I also like the planet of Logopolis. It's a unique kind of alien world, feeling like the kind of thing Douglas Adams might have come up with, except that it's not being played for comedy. I also like the notion that block transfer computation will warp any computer that tries to perform it, which gives an eerie power to what might otherwise have been dry technobabble.

The story's obvious problem would be the companions, who are themselves entropic. From Romana reminders to Adric, Nyssa and Tegan. Horrors. Nevertheless, that said, Matthew Waterhouse has improved enough to be probably the best of the three companions on display. He's quite effective. As an aside, Bidmead has him saying "I'm rather good with locks," as another futile nod in the direction of JNT's laughable notion of Adric as the Artful Dodger. (Key flaw = the Artful Dodger was cool.) Meanwhile, Nyssa is walking scenery, even when her planet gets destroyed. Tegan admittedly has spirit, but is also obnoxious, loud and stupid. I can't believe her "I'm more useless than you" competition with Aunt Vanessa (aka the one bit where Logopolis really is shit) and I don't understand why she's so determined not to let anyone help them with their car, even if it means being late for the first day of her new job. In her first scene, she mentions first flight nerves, although you'll look in vain for any hint of that in Janet Fielding's performance.

It's the two Time Lords' show, though. I've already discussed Ainley, but Tom's also hitting notes we'd never seen before. He's as ancient as the universe and as alien as he's ever been. He's seen the future and it's worse than we can imagine. See the horror on his face when Adric unlocks that police box, or when he shakes the Master's hand. He'll be surprisingly polite to his old enemy, saving his life and even at one point apologising to him, but watch the way he snatches his hand away from Ainley during episode four. Ouch. Now that's venomous. Furthermore, on top of all that, Tom's embodying the story's theme of entropy in himself. Watch his reaction to jettisoning Romana's room. Also note that in any other story he'd have simply climbed back up that radio telescope, but by now he's just too old and tired. This is a man who really is 750 years old. Undoubtedly much of this, as always, came from Tom Baker's mental state at the time, but the results are still magnificent.

Turning to more frivolous observations, this story even justifies the existence of the Season 18 costume. There's something oddly symbolic about seeing the Doctor and the Master running side-by-side in episode four, one all in red and the other all in black. I'd also never noticed before that the clips of monsters and companions at the end are all from Tom Baker stories. Even the monsters who'd been introduced in previous eras are their recent versions, e.g. a Sontaran from Invasion of Time and a Cyberman from Revenge. Oh, and when the Doctor and Master are struggling on the catwalk near the very end, there's a moment where it looks as though they share a kiss.

I can't believe I haven't mentioned the Watcher yet. He's special too, both an angel of death and the catalyst for the Doctor's rebirth. As with all the other portents of doom in this story, he's glimpsed in the extreme distance at first and only allowed to move slowly towards us as the story progresses.

This has been a mammoth review to write, but that's because the original story is quite a thing to live up to. It wouldn't be right to dismiss it in a couple of paragraphs. The ending in particular is guaranteed to get more than a few backs up, since it's not even trying to make intuitive sense. The Master's broadcasting what? How? What response is he expecting? A lot of intelligent, analytical people are going to watch this story and decide that it's a bit of a disjointed mess that's driven by its themes rather than its protagonist. I wouldn't even disagree. However I also think that if you can get into its headspace, you're in for a hell of a ride. As with Keeper of Traken, these are the kind of Who-defining ideas that can shape an entire mythology. It's also unique in what it does for the Master, turning him into Satan himself and yet also giving Ainley a proper acting role. No analogy is too extreme for what he does in this story.

By the way, how come it's Tom Baker who has the two keystone 20th century Master stories, despite only meeting him three times?


Crisis Point by Thomas Cookson 28/3/13

I've been pondering lately whether Logopolis actually works or not. Part of this is down to my ingrained opinion of 80's Doctor Who. With all my bitter disappointment with Tom Baker's replacement, I've not really stopped to consider whether Tom Baker's departure even worked.

Years ago, my fixation with amputating the 80's would've included cutting out Logopolis, and indeed cutting out the last minute of Keeper of Traken so that the show ends happily. But someone pointed out this was a strange choice for an end point, being an unremarkable story where the long absent Master returns only to not do much. Surely it's better to carry the Master forward into Logopolis to kill the Fourth Doctor and end the show there. So I tried to overcome my aversion to Logopolis, and treat it as a keeper after all. I love most of Season 18, particularly State of Decay and Warriors' Gate. But with Season 18 you must accept the whole package. That's how the season was made.

I could imagine the show ending on Season 17, and then being followed by novelizations of the unmade State of Decay and Warriors' Gate (and Christopher Priest's Sealed Orders), but there's no real substitute for seeing those stories on screen.

But now I've come full circle in realising there were good reasons why I initially discounted Logopolis.

MrTardisReviews said of Series 6's finale that "It gets everything right, except the one thing it absolutely has to get right." I think Logopolis can be summed up likewise.

Logopolis has so much going for it. It has an unusual, imaginative concept at heart, the real-time presentation and sense of Earthly banality gives it an immediate believability that's all too rare for the show (the scenes on Earth feel real, so the threat to Earth feels real), it has some sharp, unforgettable imagery, and performances that are so strong, it hurts. It should be great.

The problem is it's the real beginning of the 80's I know and hate so well. Warriors' Gate was nearly where it started, but that only really got Romana's departure wrong.

By this I mean the story is clearly rushed, bearing all the signs of crisis conditions. A story that would leave many fans feeling not quite satisfied, not quite 'getting' it and forced to watch it over and over again until they either feel they do finally 'get' it, or put the story's failings down to production faults.

After all, we remember the first time watching Doctor Who it probably did baffle us as much as intrigue us, so we're inclined to think it's incoherence must be business as usual. Maybe we crave that feeling, even when the story doesn't ultimately satisfy. Hence why I'm not entirely convinced Season 26 was the great return to form it's often lauded as. I probably did try kidding myself that Logopolis works. I didn't enjoy it, but as a downbeat story, maybe I wasn't meant to. It's also a cold story so maybe I wasn't meant to warm to it either.

Season 18 was a stark transition from Season 17, but after the trainwreck mess of The Leisure Hive, the stories mostly ran extroadinarily smoothly. From Full Circle to Keeper of Traken, the show has never felt more solid or healthy (hence why many fans kept holding out hope that JNT might still have the magic touch in him somewhere). Perhaps giving weight to suggestions that maybe before JNT got too absorbed in the job (or had Gary Downie goading him to be more of a tyrant behind the scenes), he was initially more easygoing with his staff and allowed creative freedom to flourish. But subsequently he enfostered workplace anxiety and arbitrary dictates that prevented staff from doing their job properly or well, thus forcing things to go disastrously wrong, often out of defeatism. This seems borne out on screen by the absence here of the unpleasant, forced fraughtness we'd later get in Season 19 onwards. Some fans would say that's why Season 18 was 'boring'. But Logopolis is where it starts. It's far removed from the Davison era, which went to great pains to ignore the story's implications and ramifications. But it is where the show is made under crisis conditions of a kind that JNT learns to thrive on, and that never stops being the case until the very end.

Logopolis was a rush replacement for Project Zeta Sigma, and it shows. Already, there's a sense of Tom's departure not being done with the care it should be.

This is the paradox. Tom Baker had to leave, but his departure shouldn't have been handled by a production team that just wanted rid of him. When Troughton and Pertwee departed, it happened under the same production team that had nurtured them, and their final story paid respect to the kind of Doctors they were. Troughton made a defining speech to the Time Lords about all the evils he's fought. Pertwee honours his ideals about facing fear. But what would be appropriate for Tom Baker's final story? State of Decay, perhaps?

Would his jokey Doctor benefit from a more frivolous last adventure? Probably not. Making this a serious, sombre affair was wise and appropriate. But at some level, if this is the end of Tom Baker's era, it should feel like Tom Baker's era. And it doesn't at all. There's no familiarity. The Fourth Doctor is no longer in his own show, he's simply the last part of it to go. So this lends to a feeling that he hasn't met his death so much as been shifted off stage like he shouldn't be there.

In many ways, it should feel appropriate. He dies saving the universe. A massive scale victory for a larger than life hero. And as someone who vanquished all manner of demigods like Sutekh and Morbius, it should feel fitting that the one who got him in the end was the one he'd overlooked. The one he thought he'd beaten in The Deadly Assassin but who'd gotten away and now had come back to kill him.

But, unfortunately, there are various reasons this doesn't work. Chiefly, there's the simple fact that Ainley's Master doesn't seem like a match for Tom Baker at all (at least once Ainley comes out of the shadows and loses his mystique and predatory menace). Physically, Pertwee and Delgado looked evenly matched. And whilst the emaciated Master in The Deadly Assassin seemed physically disadvantaged, he overcame that by being such a vicious mad dog that you'd be scared of going near him. But Tom Baker looks like he could easily snap Ainley's Master in two like a twig. So much of the story is spent wondering 'why doesn't he?' The reason given is that the Doctor needs the Master's intelligence to help stop the entropy, but this feels pulled out of the air, as does the Doctor's surety that the Master will recognise his responsibility as a Time Lord. It feels like this is supposed to plaster over the issues of an unrevised first draft. The kind of thing you spot and fix with something better later, if you have the time.

Frankly it feels completely wrong to see the Fourth Doctor standing by and doing nothing whilst Nyssa is manipulated into choking Adric, while the Master's machine slowly kills Logopolis. The rash, angry Fourth Doctor of The Seeds of Doom or The Deadly Assassin would have desperately rushed the Master and done everything to stop him. Instead we get the beginnings of the next three depressing years of enforced paralysis of a once-formidable hero, for no reason that makes sense in the show's fiction. Based solely on the makers' televisually illiterate belief that our hero must be a compulsive failure occasionally, because no-one really watched the show to see the Doctor succeed.

This comes to a head in the final showdown. The Doctor realises the Master plans to blackmail the universe, but obviously he can't tackle him whilst he's armed, so he instead heads for the outside cable to wrench it out. Except that's going to take time, during which the Master could press the switch at any point before the Doctor reaches there. Then he manages to disarm the Master after all, but the Master sets the platform turning. The Doctor crawls the long, perilous platform to unplug the cable, and falls, when it would be far quicker, easier and safer to head back to the control room and tackle the unarmed Master.

The decision he makes that got him killed doesn't make sense. But it's almost a majestic enough set-piece to compensate for that. Until he actually falls, because the fall is done in such a sanitised way that it has none of the visceral impact it should. For a season that was about making the show more visceral, especially the unflinching horrific content of Full Circle or Warriors' Gate, the squeamish decision to cut away here feels odd indeed.

Now you could've just shown the Doctor lose his grip and leave the rest to the imagination, but they had to ruin it by cutting to Nyssa, Tegan and Adric trying to look horrified and clearly being stage instructed to occularly follow his fall down, to condescendingly tell the audience that he fell, without showing it. And it's just awful.

The Master's sudden departure makes no sense either. What actually was his goal all along?

The aftermath of the 'fall' is rubbish. It doesn't look like the Doctor has suffered any impact trauma. It looks like he's just lying down, daydreaming during a garden picnic. Even his coat seems comfortably laid out. It's clearly staged mock up grass and not the real Jodrel Bank grounds. It looks like a fairytale dream garden. It's too unreal.

It feels so fake and unconvincing a death, no wonder many fans wouldn't accept it.

But the real question is why the Doctor knowingly took the Master to Logopolis? It half feels like Bidmead wrote two versions of the Master's infiltration of the Tardis. One where the Doctor found out right away and worked to get rid of him, and another where the Doctor was oblivious all along until he reached Logopolis, and then spliced the two underrunning versions together. Or like Bidmead forgot halfway through writing, and resultantly so did the Doctor.

This is where the writing ceases to flow as it should, where misjudged author's fiat forces the unfathomable to happen and so we get the Doctor doing things that make no sense, because it's decided he must make himself lose this time.

For those looking for an explanation, we're spuriously told that the Doctor thought he was being hunted and thus went to Logopolis to get his Tardis camouflaged, only to find the Master was really after Logopolis.

But, crucially, much of it hinges on whatever was discussed between the Doctor and the Watcher before he abandoned his scheme to flush out the Master (I'm not even going there) and went to Logopolis anyway. Seemingly he was told what was going to happen, and perhaps he chose to go to Logopolis and let it happen because he was told future causality demanded it. This is after all the same Doctor who let the Daleks survive because future causality demanded it.

Except we're told nothing of the sort. We're told nothing at all. Troughton's fatal decision that led to his regeneration was to call for the help of the Time Lords. Pertwee's fatal decision was to face the Spider queen again because he had to face his fear. And that works because it defines each Doctor and makes emotional sense. Tom's decision to go to Logopolis isn't defining because it makes no sense why. It feels like a huge insult to the character that he'd knowingly do something so catastrophically stupid. The first of many insults to come.

Tom Baker's departure should surely have been done with coherent lucidity, if nothing else. Unfortunately, this production team believed otherwise.