THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE AFTER THE TV
STORY "THE KEEPER OF
IMMEDIATELY PRIOR TO
THE TV STORY
'NEW BEGINNINGS' DVD
BOX SET (BBCDVD1331)
RELEASED IN JANUARY
THE DOCTOR AND ADRIC
THE TARDIS' CHAMELEON
CIRCUIT - HOPING TO
RESTORE THE TIME
MACHINE'S ABILITY TO
BLEND INTO ITS
ONCE THERE THEY FACE
MASTER AND A FEISTY
YOUNG AIR HOSTESS
CALLED TEGAN JOVANKA.
HOW CAN THE PEOPLE
OF THE DISTANT AND
LOGOPOLIS HELP? AND
JUST WHO IS THE
FIGURE WATCHING THE
28TH FEBRUARY 1981 - 21ST MARCH 1981
In the head of every fan lurks a list of serials that he longs to own on DVD. The fifteen year-old, chewed-up videos of these stories on the shelf irk him more than any of the other fifteen year-old, chewed-up videos that sit there. For me, until today, “Logopolis” was top of that list in my head. And apart from the rather bland artwork in which it comes packaged, the “Logopolis” DVD delivers on all fronts.
“It’s audible print!”
To take a look at the DVD special features first of all, the 50-minute documentary “A New Body At Last” is amongst the best that the Restoration Team has ever produced. The excusive behind-the-scenes footage of the regeneration scene is worth the purchase price in itself, but I found the no-holds-barred examination of the rear end of the Tom Baker Years all the more fascinating. From the accounts of many people who have worked with (until recently) the most popular of all the Doctors, it certainly sounds like Baker was arrogant, territorial, petulant and near impossible to work with. Now it is one thing to hear people to talk about him like that, but this documentary actually features clips of some of his quite appalling behaviour on set. It is scandalous! You just do not expect to hear the actor playing the Doctor being bleeped. Somehow though, that roguish charm of his still shines through – he knows that he was a walking nightmare on set and freely admits it. It is easy to understand where his ex-wife Lalla Ward was coming from when she said that Baker was “the biggest monster in Doctor Who”, but even so it is impossible not to like the man!
The rest of the extras pale in comparison, but completists will still be glad of the various clips from contemporaneous BBC news and television shows, just as they will be that the relevant Doctor Who Annual PDF and all the other regular special features are present and correct.
As for the commentary, well again I have but two words – Tom Baker. He is not always on board for these commentaries (he would certainly have his work cut out if he were expected to do them all!), but when he is it really makes all the difference. He may have mellowed slightly with age, but he is still a very clever and extremely funny man. Alongside him is writer Christopher ‘Hamilton’ Bidmead, providing some wonderful insights into the nuts and bolts
of the story – including a mini-lecture on the differences between binary and hex – and Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), putting on her anorak to nitpick a glut of continuity blunders.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before.”
Turning to the serial itself, some criticise “Logopolis” for being heavily padded in the first two episodes and then paced far too quickly in the last two. It is hard to disagree with that, but I have to say that I do enjoy the way that the tension slowly builds up in the first half of the story before being explosively released in the second half. Little touches like the Cloister Bell and the Watcher really help engender the funerary feel of the story, as does Baker’s unusually controlled, precise and sombre performance.
“I’ve just dipped into the future. We must be prepared for the worst.”
In the documentary, Bidmead claims that his inspiration for “Logopolis” came from the Master’s ‘TARDIS within a TARDIS’ in “The Keeper of Traken”. Here he does that to death (brilliantly) before introducing the more fascinating idea of ‘Block Transfer Computation’ – a method of creating solid objects through pure mathematics. It may sound like techno-babble, but the way in which he builds his story around this concept almost makes it seem plausible; it almost takes science into the realms of philosophy. In a bizarre way, it also feels like the writer is taking Doctor Who back to basics.
Much of the story is spent exploring what the TARDIS is, what the universe is, and what these mind-blowing things mean to ordinary people.
Enter Tegan Jovanka.
“And innocent Earth people…”
As the fourth Doctor ultimately meets his end in the fourth episode, this tends to overshadow much of the rest of the drama. It is easy to forget that ordinary old human Tegan has been suddenly thrust into an adventure that – much like Ian and Barbara way back in “An Unearthly Child” – she wants no part of. She has to face her Aunt Vanessa being murdered dreadfully. She has to face the prospect of walking on the soil of an alien world. And all she wanted to do was change her chuffing tyre.
“The Master killed my step-mother, my father…
and now the whole world that I grew up in – blotted out forever.”
Similarly, Nyssa – conveniently brought to “Logopolis” by the Watcher – loses her father. But he does not just die. His body is taken over by the parasitic Master. She has to witness him commit heinous crimes in that body; she has to put up with his repeated attempts to use the love that she has for her father against her. For me, the look on Nyssa’s face as she realises that the Master has literally destroyed her whole world is one of the most memorable
aspects of the story.
“Adric. I can’t see Traken…”
It is mindboggling, really. Half the entire universe gone.
Part Three ends with the Doctor / Master handshake, and from thereon in the volume is
really turned up. As regenerations go, in my opinion the fourth Doctor’s death is ‘better’ (if that is the right word) than that of any of his other selves that we have seen to date, with the possible exception of the fifth Doctor’s touching demise. I think that one of the reasons that I like “Logopolis” so much is because very quickly the stakes become very high. Exceptionally high. Incomparably high…
“Interfering with the working of Logopolis… the most dangerous crime in the universe.”
If in contrast, one looks to “The Tenth Planet”, “Planet of the Spiders”, “The Caves of Androzani”, the TV movie, or even “The Parting of the Ways”, in all of these stories only a single planet’s fate (at most) is at stake. Here, however, the stakes that the Doctor and the Master are gambling are frighteningly high. When they are up on top of the Pharos Project at the story’s finale absolutely everything is at stake. The whole universe! And the fourth Doctor does exactly as he promises – “I will stop him if it’s the last thing I do!”
Of course the way Gary Russell tells it in his novel “Spiral Scratch”, the sixth Doctor tops this by saving all the universes, and the ultimate demises of the second, eighth and tenth Doctors are all still stories yet to be told, so the Doctor’s fourth self cannot take all the plaudits just yet...
So do I have any criticisms? If I force myself to be objective, then yes. I feel that the scenes featuring the shrinking TARDIS on Logopolis are largely unnecessary; though even there, I suppose that they do at least help to hammer home the concept of Block Transfer Computation to those in the audience that have not quite ‘got’ the concept by that point. More fundamentally though, the script is emotionally immature at times. There are so many heartbreaking events in this story, yet they are all got over relatively quickly by the new TARDIS crew. I can understand why this is bearing in mind the serial’s running time, but nonetheless it would have been nice to spend more time dwelling on Nyssa and Tegan’s grief as opposed to the Doctor miniaturised.
“It’s the end… but the moment has been prepared for.”
Nevertheless, in my view at least, “Logopolis” is one of the all-time greats; an absolute phenom of a story, leaving the viewer literally salivating for “Castrovalva”. And so, I hear you ask, what is top of my list of stories that I would like to see released on DVD now that I have “Logopolis” sitting pretty on the shelf?
Well, at the risk of no-one ever reading any of my reviews ever again, and bearing in mind that “Survival” has already been pencilled in to make an appearance this coming April, I
would have to say “The Happiness Patrol”, followed closely by “Silver Nemesis” and / or “Attack of the Cybermen”. I know, I know; pity me - a child of the 1980s!
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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