And so after seven long years it all came to an end on a set cobbled together from leftover pieces from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Top of the Pops.
Tom Baker still casts a long shadow over Doctor Who – he was voted No 1 in the DWM 2014 poll which is a fair indication that his support amongst older fans remains secure whilst many younger ones have also succumbed to his charms. If there’s one certainly, it’s that in five or ten years time Matt Smith will have slipped from the No 2 position but Tom Baker seems indomitable at No 1, ready to outsit eternity you might say.
Is Logopolis a good story to bow out on? Yes, pretty much. It’s by no means perfect, but it does give Tom some good moments whilst also moving into place the line-up that would accompany Peter Davison through S19.
Introduced in this story is Tegan (Janet Fielding). An unwilling traveler at first, to put it mildly, Tegan would take several stories (probably until Kinda) before she really settled in. In Logopolis, this may be partly be because she’s much more broadly Australian than later on, when her accent is notably toned down, or it could be that from Kinda onwards she was simply a better written character.
Like Adric and Nyssa, Tegan joins the Doctor after a close relative is murdered – coincidence or a definite story plan, I wonder?
Both Nyssa and Tegan have lost loved ones at the hands of the Master who makes a full appearance here, in the guise of Anthony Ainley, following his brief appearance at the end of The Keeper of Traken.
Christopher H. Bidmead seemed to hold the opinion that the Delgado Master simply wasn’t evil enough, so the Ainley Master has notably less charm than the Delgado incarnation. But this does seem to fundamentally misunderstand the role of the Master during the Pertwee era.
Whether by accident or design, Pertwee’s Doctor largely ended up as a moral, rather humourless figure, so Delgado’s Master was allowed to have all the charm and wit that the Third Doctor rarely showed. Remove this aspect from the Master and there’s little left. But the Doctor and the Master do enjoy a little byplay in Logopolis, such as this scene –
MASTER: The Pharos computer room.
DOCTOR: Yes. I envy you your TARDIS, Master.
MASTER: Excellent, Doctor. Envy is the beginning of all true greatness.
(A technician returns to the room. The Master points a device at him. The Doctor snatches it away.)
MASTER: It’s the lightspeed overdrive, Doctor. You’ll need that to accelerate the signal from the transmitter.
DOCTOR: I’m so sorry. I thought you meant to shoot him.
MASTER: Oh, Doctor. You can explain.
DOCTOR: Ahem. Good morning. Good evening.
(The Doctor notices the Master now has a weapon in his hand and drags the technician’s chair aside before the Master can fire)
DOCTOR: He’s unconscious.
MASTER: Never mind. I feel we’ve been spared a very difficult conversation.
The return of the Master wasn’t the only link to the Pertwee era. Possibly it was the influence of Barry Letts as executive producer that saw several lifts from Third Doctor stories (the radio telescope as seen in Terror of the Autons and the Master’s TARDIS inside the Doctor’s TARDIS from The Time Monster).
Barry Letts was also on hand to read the scripts and offer his advice, although often it wasn’t taken. He wasn’t happy, for example, with the Master’s line that although Tremas was dead his body remained useful, feeling that the concept of an animated corpse was rather disturbing. He also queried the rather large plot hole concerning the lash-up job that the Doctor and the Master made at the Pharos Project to save the Universe.
What would happen to the Universe, asked Letts, if the Pharos Project switched it off? This is quietly forgotten at the end of the story and the impact of the imminent death of the Universe is rather swept under the carpet.
Letts also disliked the concept of the Master broadcasting his threats to the entire Universe. How, he reasoned, could they respond? Still, he wasn’t alone in pointing out how idiotic that was!
But whilst the script does feel somewhat bitty in places, there is a definite sense of impending doom as the Doctor finds himself shadowed at every turn by the Watcher. And despite the end taking place in a hastily cobbled together set made from bits and pieces from other programmes, it’s a sequence that still (particularly for those of a certain age) resonates today.
Doctor Who would go on, but Tom Baker would be a very hard act to follow.
5 thoughts on “I’ve just dipped into the future. We must be prepared for the worst. Doctor Who – Logopolis”
I enjoyed learning about Barry Letts’ view of this story. Personally I have always found it a little tedious and the weakest farewell episode the series recorded though it does have some very good moments. The end is very good though.
It is a story that does divide opinion, but overall despite its structural problems I do like it. This may partly be because I grew up watching Tom Baker and so this story, for those of us watching in 1981, was such a big deal.
For those who came to the story later on, it maybe doesn’t have the same impact.
LikeLiked by 1 person
That’s a fair point and I cannot begin to imagine how strange it must have felt to see another Doctor after so many years of Tom. 🙂
It certainly was a different world then – repeats of the previous Doctor’s stories didn’t happen until the Five Faces season in late 1981 and the first story didn’t appear on VHS until 1983.
So it’s maybe not surprising that Tom’s departure was such a wrench and so different from today when every story is available at the touch of a button 🙂
I was very pleased that the BBC did repeat Logopolis nine months later, as part of The Five Faces of Doctor Who, because I missed Tom Baker’s last episode first time round because I was on a field trip that was part of one of my A-level courses.
And I failed the A-level exam, so it was all for nothing. The svhool had a lot to answer for.