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Friday, 14 June 2013

Doctor Who - The Regeneration Box Set: Logopolis

Logopolis - First broadcast 28 February–21 March 1981.


The Cover for the VHS Release
For me, this is the one of the stories that threaded its way throughout my childhood as a Doctor Who fan. I saved the VHS cover of Loga-polis, as I used to pronounce it, onto my computer/laptop/whatever I used then, and that was back in the days I was told by my friend that the Doctor and the Master were brothers. Logopolis seemed to promise to define this, and Anthony Ainley was probably the face of the Master I knew then, although now Roger Delgado is my favourite.

So Logopolis holds a special place in my heart (that place, for those interested in the anatomy of my heart, is shaped like a Satellite and stuck somewhere in the top left corner), and it's brilliant to be able to review it. I'm a great fan of Christopher H Bidmead's work. His scripts are not only involved, grown up, intelligent and complex – but they are Doctor Who for all the family. They're serious and scientific for the adults, but that seriousness can be boiled down to mystery, spooky figures wrapped in toilet paper, and a battle between good and evil for the kids. The sense of mystery that builds up in Logopolis is the thing that attracted me when I eventually saw it. Just what is the Master doing? Just what does the Doctor know that he refuses to tell Adric? And just why is there a TARDIS in a TARDIS in a TARDIS etc?

No - I didn't make this image on Paint...
The idea of TARDISes within each other, which for the purposes of this review shall be called TARDISCeption, is incredible. It's shown simply, and is amazing. Not only is the idea ambitious, not only does it grab your attention – but it also shows that just occasionally, the BBC really did turn the studio lights down. This and the regeneration scene will be the two you remember from the episode. It's taken me a while to work out why the Doctor exits the last TARDIS via the back.. wall... and why there are so many, but I think I just about understand the latter, and have given up on the former. It doesn't matter about the logic of it – it looks amazing and it's such a clever idea. It's haunting, and Tom Baker gives a stunning performance. Even Matthew Waterhouse gives a good performance as Adric, and it's from watching episodes like The Keeper of Traken and Logopolis that have made me like Adric a lot more than other fans seem to.

The mystery of Logopolis, and the haunting nature of it, is what makes it so intriguing. The whole episode is about regeneration – it is all about the Fourth Doctor. It's so much better than a big, epic adventure that tries to flashback to the Doctor's past – instead it is contained and complex, and interesting enough to give Tom Baker a good, solid and not flamboyant send-off. This is something Russell T Davies could have remembered when writing The End of Time.

The Master also has a considerable amount to do in this episode. He's sometimes scary-father, sometimes scary-leader of the Universe and even more terrifyingly, he's sometimes scary-friend of the Doctor. He's not revealed in the most dramatic way, but the affect he has on the characters, in several ways, shows just how evil this sniggering man in a glorified Onesie really is. The episode threads the Master throughout, and he begins very much in the background. He is just a presence, he is a horror to be spoken about, and he is a very clear threat to the Doctor. Again, this goes back to how serious and powerful Tom Baker's performance is – you can feel he's scared. He knows his end is coming.

There's also the character of the Watcher. He is also kept to a mere presence, but even when you don't know who he is it's so unnerving just seeing him there, in the most ordinary places. It gives you shivers when you watch it for the first time. I'd be surprised if anyone didn't know the true identity of the Watcher – but even if you do, just seeing him there will scare you.

Logopolis is pretty much faultless. So yeah there's things to be unsure about within it, such as a print-screen/screen capped Master near the end and some quite talky scenes throughout, but the episode as a whole is wonderful. It's best appreciated after seeing The Keeper of Traken. For me, both episodes hold a place in my heart, and Logopolis is very much the centre point of the “New Beginnings” trilogy it was released in on DVD. Watching it detached as part of this box set will allow you to experience just how wonderful it is for the first time, or rediscover it all over again – but I would recommend watching The Keeper of Traken first. That foreshadows Logopolis, and adds to its effect.

Logopolis is such a cleverly developed and linked plot, with strong characterisation, that it gives the Fourth Doctor a decent send off. It, quite rightly, doesn't pick up on any themes from his era; it is an independently strong piece that every Doctor Who fan needs to see. Doctor Who works best when it's intelligent drama – and intelligent drama in Doctor Who isn't better defined than in this masterpiece by Christopher Hamilton Bidmead.

I try not to rate stories, but Logopolis for me has to be an 8 or 9 out of 10. It is amazing, and when it gets to the end, you may even be sad that the episode, and indeed Tom Baker's seven year stint as the Doctor, have finished.

It's the end - but the moment has been prepared for.

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