So all good things must come to an end, and at long last, the Tom Baker of Doctor Who draws to a close with Logopolis.
Having been in the role for seven years, Baker by this point was the only Doctor a good chunk of the audience had ever seen. He was The Doctor.
So him bowing out was a big deal, and although it was probably the right time to move on – you could even argue he could have gone the year before – it’s still a sad time.
Surely though, the Fourth Doctor must go out in a blaze of glory?
Doctor Who – Logopolis Review: What’s This One About?
That’s bound to be awesome.
A Grand Idea Played Out On Such A Small Time Scale
The be serious, the plot is that the Doctor needs to go to Logopolis to get a problem with the TARDIS sorted out, but the Master has followed him there and messed things up to such a degree that the population all die, and worse, those people
have been acting as a keystone to the universe, holding back entropy. So the universe starts to wither and die around them.
That’s not a bad concept, and it’s also pretty grand in its potential scale. On paper, it’s good enough to see off such a heavyweight Doctor as Tom Baker.
Sadly though, the execution is what lets it down.
For a start, it takes far too long to get going. The first two episodes are spent messing around the TARDIS with the Master inexplicably turning up on the same stretch of motorway at the exact same time as the Doctor (and it’s just palmed off with a line like “Of course we think alike”), introducing Tegan and filling time with the unnecessary ‘TARDIS within a TARDIS within a TARDIS’ concept.
Then is just ends up feeling so small time. The universe is falling apart, but it can all be sorted out by going to England in the 1980s and – I think but I’m not sure – punching some numbers into a computer at a Radio Telescope facility?
The fault of all of this lies squarely at the feet of Script Editor Christopher H. Bidmead
So This is Doctor Who Going Back To Its Roots?
Bidmead is very proud of himself.
Whenever you see or read an interview with him, he goes on about how his plan as Script Editor was to bring Doctor Who back to its ‘Science Fiction Roots’.
Throughout Season 18 we’ve seen his influence in action. Most of the stories had some form of scientific backbone to them – sometimes real, sometimes fictional – and thus a story written by the man himself was always going to be very heavy on that sciencey element.
Unfortunately science isn’t always interesting or easy to follow, and what’s more, what Bidmead sees as Doctor Who going back to its roots bears absolutely no resemblance to what the show actually used to be.
The early stories combined history lessons with some basic scientific principals like ‘Water doesn’t boil well at high altitudes’ and ‘This is how you make fire’.
What Bidmead adds offers nothing for children to be informed about, and only exists to confuse the average viewer.
Essentially, Logopolis is a story written for science geeks by a science geek.
If I was his boss back then I’d have said to him that although the concept of maths being the building blocks of the universe had scientific merit to it, it wasn’t interesting enough to form the basis of a Doctor Who story, and certainly not Tom Baker’s farewell. Maybe a better writer could have made something of it, but Bidmead certainly couldn’t. I mean, who is really interested in seeing the Doctor measure the TARDIS exterior?
It’s not just that though; the way the plot develops and eventually resolves is so laden with gobbledygook that it’s very difficult to follow.
Can anyone give me a straight forward explanation for how the Doctor and the Master actually save the universe? And how the Master thinks he can successfully hold the universe to ransom? And how he plans on getting that message out to the entire universe? Because I don’t have a clue.
And you know the real kicker? Neither does Bidmead! He was as confused as me on the commentary.
A true sign of a great writer.
Ultimately, Tom Baker’s demise comes as a big disappointment.
The stuff with the Watcher just does nothing for me, and it looks as though that him being there – from a storyline point of view – is what urges the Doctor to put his life on the line and then seemingly willingly drop to his death.
Now I say that with a hint of tongue and cheek because that part seemed to be down to bad direction.
The Doctor is hanging onto that cable, dangling perilously at a great height. He should have fallen there, but instead he manages to climb back onto the frame of the tower and then fall. So it looked like he saved himself and then thought “Nah,
fuck it, I’m going to drop anyway”
And in his final scene he should have had a slightly more stirring farewell speech.
Maybe we’re just spoilt by how good the regenerations have been since the show came back, but this doesn’t feel like a fitting end to the longest running actor to ever appear in the show. It’s just not heroic, dramatic or grand enough.
Tom Baker – A Stranger In His Own Show
But one thing about Tom Baker himself rather than the character of the Doctor is that he strikes me as being a stranger in his own show at this stage.
The cast has changed massively since the Leisure Hive, with three new companions and a new lead villain in the Master. Tom Baker seems incongruous standing alongside characters who are so well known as Peter Davison’s companions that it just feels a bit sad.
It’s like people moving into your house and making themselves at home before you’ve had a chance to leave.
- On the whole, the incidental music in Logopolis is awful. It manages to be both intrusive and irritatingly bad. But then, at the very last moment, Paddy Kingsland finishes on a high with a superb final score for the regeneration scene. Indeed, the music – combined with very nice direction from the high angle camera – for that final scene is one of the most iconic and recognisable pieces of music ever heard in Doctor Who.
- In my Keeper of Traken review, I commended Matthew Waterhouse for putting in a decent performance. Unfortunately that couldn’t last. He’s back to his terrible self in Logopolis.
- Whenever he sees Nyssa and squeals “NYSSA!!!!!!!!”, it makes my stomach turn with embarrassment. Just a rotten performance from a rotten performer.
- I mentioned this to my brother and he said it hadn’t ever occurred to him, but I have to ask: Did the final confrontation between the Doctor & The Master take place in a radio telescope because that’s where the Doctor first came across him (or his handywork to be more precise) back in Terror of the Autons? If it wasn’t it was a nice coincidence, but if it was then it was unnecessary continuity that will no doubt have flown over most people’s heads.
- Speaking of Terror of the Autons, despite me rightly criticising the over-reliance on green screen at the time, it still manages to have better special effects for miniaturised humans than Logopolis does. The shot of Gooch in his own
lunchbox was infinitely better than ending an episode with the dramatic close up of two Barbie dolls. That was pathetic.
- How does Nyssa get to Logopolis? Actually, how does she even manage to contact the Doctor? Did he leave his business card on Traken?
- And why do they bother to pay for her to appear in the last few moments of Episode 2 even though it had no dramatic impact, rather than simply introducing her in Episode 3?
- Adric’s explanation to Tegan of who Nyssa is is baffling. “She’s the friend who helped me on Traken” he says, as if she’s supposed to know what that means. And what’s worse is that she nods knowingly.
- Tegan doesn’t massively impress me either. There are too many rubbish aviation themed lines of dialogue from her, no doubt entered because of her job as an air stewardess. Plus she’s a hammy and overly loud actress.
- Why is it that The Monitor (who looks like he fancies himself quite the ladies man) gets second billing in the credits?
- You’ll notice Sarah Sutton’s hair style and length varies dramatically between the location filming and studio work.
- How does Adric know where all the planets in the N-Space Universe should be situated relative to others? Sloppy writing.
- I’m sure you’ve all noticed this, but it’s worth pointing out that while the Doctor is standing on the platform of the radio telescope, in the background there is a static picture of Anthony Ainley apparently looking at him through the door. That just looked awful.
- When they were cutting together the various talking heads saying Doctor, they really made a mess of the Ian Marter one. He barely even says “Do…” before getting cut off.
- But at least the Christopher Robbie Cyberleader is there.
- Anthony Ainley is nowhere near as good as the Master as he was as Tremas. His entire act seems to be ‘Laugh Like Mutley and Hope For The Best’.
- The Doctor is actually in decent condition considering he fell from such a height. You’d expect him to be a mere splat.
- DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #53. Yer arse!
Doctor Who – Logopolis Review: Final Thoughts
Logopolis tries too hard to be sciency. Though it has a decent concept, Bidmead is simply not a good enough writer to make anything of it, and so what should have been a dramatic end to the Fourth Doctor is a confusing story heavily weighed down by science that only a minuscule amount of the viewers would have followed or cared about.
So basically it’s a story that should have been good but was crap.
And that’s a terrible waste.
There’s no chance that deserves to be the 53rd highest rated Doctor Who story of all time. I’d have it in the bottom 10 Tom Baker stories.
I urge you to watch it and then report back to me with your interpretation of how the last episode makes any sort of sense.
If the writer can’t, I don’t hold out much hope for you.