Written by:
Christopher H. Bidmead
Directed by: Peter Grimwade
Starring: Tom Baker
Year: 1981
Video Availability (NTSC Version): Try Amazon

Logopolis was where I rejoined the series, shamefully turning my back on the show as a nine-year-old. Consequently I didn't really understand much of what was going on, though I do remember sticking my two fingers up at Peter Davison when he appeared at the end.

Over two decades have past since then, and I've come to realise what Logopolis is about, and that giving a v-sign to Peter isn't a kind or necessary thing. When I did first see the story as a fanboy, some ten years or so later, I loved it to bits. Seeing it again I can see it is strewn with faults.

For one thing, there's Tegan. There, I've said it, and I know it'll get heated replies. But while Janet Fielding did give decent performances later in the series, she is absolutely horrendous here. Okay, she might just be nervous, but her acting is so over the top (sort of like a Playschool presenter) that it jars hugely with what Baker and the incidental music is trying to achieve. Logopolis is a sombre, doom-laden story… and in the middle of it is a squawking Australian. Is she supposed to be an air stewardess by the way? It's not made clear, there are so few references to it. And is her surname rhyming slang?

There are contrivances, too, such as the Doctor just happening to mention the Cloister Bell before we hear it, but I can forgive that for seeing more of the Tardis and the likeable location footage. (I always like a bit of location footage). Interestingly, the Doctor talks of the Tardis being "in for repair" when he "borrowed" her, and talks about "pressing reasons" for leaving. Presumably that's why the Tardis computer screen wasn't fitted with anything more sophisticated than a BBC Micro. You might also get a snigger out of Tom failing to close the panel on the real policebox.

The Watcher is likeably eerie, and the merged Tardises is fannishly wonderful, even if it does rip off the much-maligned Time Monster. And, as a presage of season 19, Waterhouse finally starts to get really crap, and not just tolerably crap. Again, apologies because I've no idea where this episode ends, with a joined-up copy. So I presume it's episode two where the police car doesn't have central locking…
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Episode two and probably the stupidest plot development EVER: "Materialise the Tardis underwater and open the door." Was the Doctor undergoing regenerative senility? What other ideas could he have had to "flush out" the Master that were just as ludicrous? "Adric, I'm going to flush out the Master by getting a kick up the arse"? "Adric, let's take some laxatives and get diarrhoea - that'll reveal the Master to us." It's just ridiculous, and shockingly so from one of Who's most respected writers.

"There's something not quite right about all of this" says Tom, and maybe he's right. His Doctor seems a little bit lonely here without an elder actor to play against, and he's practically carrying Waterhouse. Maybe what the episode really needed was a few more shots of Janet Fielding running up and down corridors. Baker's sobriety seemed very foreboding the first few times, but watched again it's just a very saddened man giving up a job he'd held for the best part of a decade, and also a way to paper over the lack of narrative.

Anyway, after all the Tardis scenes, we finally land on Logopolis. Did the BBC film in outer space for this story? Because if I didn't know better I'd swear it was shot on an actual planet - surely the most convincing alien environment the series ever did.

There are some touches of wit here and there, with the Doctor's reaction to Tegan asking if he'd seen her Aunt - "Well a little of her…" - particularly amusing, if sick. Shares in Palitoy went up after all the Action Men used on this one, while Antony Ainley gives a suitably subtle interpretation of the Master. Subtle as in Colin Baker subtle, obviously. All of a sudden the spot-seeking staginess of Nyssa arrives on the scene, and, before you know it, Tom is being marginalised in his own show, and a triumvirate of crap has entered the scene. The Shouter! The Plank! The Am Dram! Oh, Mr. JN-T, how you tricked us all…
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Logopolis (Subtitle: The one where the money ran out) continues with more po-faced cheese. It's still vastly enjoyable, but fundamentally quite weak. "The honour of Logopolis is at stake!" claims the Monitor, though as Logopolis's honour seems to be built on a collection of eggboxes that even the Hartnell era would have rejected then this seems a curious thing to say. You'd think they'd at least overdub Nyssa and the Master's polystyrene footsteps.

This is very much an episode three, with extraordinarily little plot advancement. Genuine plot advancement, anyway, not just sludge getting in the way. "I'm going to stop him if it's the last thing I do", says Tom of the Master in a very pre-emptive dialogue sequence.

The idea of the Doctor and the Master trying to put right one of the Master's short-sighted f***-ups aboard a satellite station is a nice throwback to the Master's first story, though "I wouldn't take orders from you if you were the last man in the universe!" is another Pip and Jane dialogue sound-alike.
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Is the Master shaking the Doctor's hand the cliffhanger? That's another joined-together episode I had. Naturally this is the best of the four episodes, if not the perfection I remembered and desired it to be. Anyway, here's the Master's plan "We create a stable safe zone by applying temporal inversion isometry to as much of space-time as we can isolate." I bet viewers who weren't subscribers to New Scientist loved that. Look out too for Sutton emoting over the death of her stepmother, father and home planet. Apparently DeNiro watched this and suddenly feared for his livelihood.

To be honest, when you've watched this once or twice, it really doesn't hold up on repeated viewings. It's a load of underwritten, misjudged bobbins that merely gets in the way until the regeneration. So, the regeneration? Well, it's the first real mark of JN-T's curious love of melodrama, the sort of thing that would eventually make a mockery of the show. But here it's wonderful, doom-laden music and a close-up of Tom's forlorn expression as images of his enemies flash before him. It's lovely stuff, though being juxtaposed with a toy model on a string and the three companions looking on (in completely different directions!!!!) undermines the mood. When things were starting to get this bad, you can't really blame the poor sod for letting go, can you?

Questions abound: How can you trip over a flaccid scarf? How can a cardboard cut-out look on menacingly? And is pulling out a cable really a fitting end to the fourth Doctor's reign? Sadly, this fails to capitalise on the rest of the season's build-up, and, even though clearly a better story than most of what came before it, in context it feels curiously flat and anti-climatic.
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For swan songs, then there's a very real case to be had that this is the weakest for the first five Doctors. Personally I think it's better than Planet of the Spiders, though someway behind the rest. Not to worry, for Tom also had arguably the weakest of the first five debuts, too. What came in between was what was so wonderful. So is this a fitting send-off? Not really. It's cheap, tatty, fannish and overrun with bad actors at the expense of the star. Yet it gets by and the regeneration - while again blighted by the two previous factors - is wonderful. Sadly, though, this should have been a classic climax to both a classic season and a classic Doctor. It isn't.
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