CLASSIC DOCTOR WHO ON BRITBOX – Logopolis

Master and Doctor

On 26th December 2019, 627 pieces of Classic Doctor Who content were made available to Britbox subscribers. Every Sunday in 2020, our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, looks back at some of the classic stories. Here is the Fourth Doctor adventure Logopolis 
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It is the end. After seven seasons and forty-two episodes (if you include Shada) Tom Baker's era of Doctor Who comes to an end with a wonderfully atmospheric final story: Logopolis.

The Doctor is determined to do something about the TARDIS chameleon circuit, influenced perhaps by the way the Master had used his properly working TARDIS to hide on Traken. This means going to Earth to measure up a real police box so he can trot the statistics off to Logopolis where they will use so super-duper mathematics to...actually none of this really matters.

This story is all about regeneration and all the Bidmeadish 'real' science and plot is spectacularly unimportant. Christopher H Bidmead would probably disagree but the only important thing is to get Tom to the end in style.

This Logopolis does.

The Doctor starts the story with just Adric aboard but by the end, he's encumbered with Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding), a loud unhappy Australian Air Stewardess. That means that by the end it all feels too crowded, especially with the Master (Anthony Ainley) added to the equation. There is a rush to it that the slow atmospheric first episode didn't have. Whether you could have four episodes with that same atmosphere without it all getting mawkish is a moot point but in the end the final moments are wonderfully handled from that shot (and music) down to the Doctor.

So as Tom leaves we meet a new Master. He's taken over Tremas's body, which Nyssa doesn't realise until it is almost too late. He's also played by Anthony Ainley. Now I've already expressed my preference for Roger Delgado and this story illustrates why. I don't think it is Ainley's fault. I think he's doing what he's asked to do but this version of the Master - whilst inheriting the Master's total stupidity - is much less subtle. That Ainley laugh, which features in some scenes like the audio equivalent of the Cheshire Cat's smile, is a bit too gimmicky. The new Master feels more pantomime villain that the old one. He's less charming certainly.

That scene where he responds to Nyssa with the line 'But his body still proves useful' is so coldly and casually delivered as to be possibly one of the series most horrific moments. Poor Nyssa. She loses her step-mum, her Dad and her entire home planet in this story as a result of the Master. It's a wonder she doesn't go mad with rage. Sarah Sutton still hasn't had much to do except ask questions so far but does get one or two nice little scenes. Her and Adric work well together.

Alas poor Adric (Matthew Waterhouse). It's from this point that the character's limitations become more obvious. He works quite well with Tom Baker's Doctor, but once you start throwing in all these extra characters he just seems to look a bit...wet.

Tegan (Janet Fielding) is also something of a shock. She's Australian, loud and just wants to go home. This is the first time we're presented with a companion that seems totally uninterested in anything but getting home (perhaps since Ian and Barbara), which makes you wonder what the point is. However, Janet Fielding does a great job, especially with her fears and frustrations as she gets lost in the TARDIS.

But in the end, this is the last of Tom Baker's Doctor and he is excellent from start to finish. The way he plays the scene when he tells Tegan her Aunt Vanessa is dead conveys both the Doctor's concern, his alienness and his preoccupation with the bigger picture. The air of sadness that he manages to carry throughout this story, aware of his impending mortality is wonderful. The regeneration is nicely underplayed too. It is genuinely quite emotional.

It was even more so at the time. This was the first regeneration I ever saw 'live' and my first change of Doctor. I can remember being quite excited to see what this new bloke was like but Tom Baker was THE Doctor to me. Even now, after all this time and all the other Doctor Who stories I've watched, he is still THE Doctor.

If nothing else this exercise in regular orderly Doctor Who watching has reminded me how wonderful Tom Baker was. Even in bad stories, he lifts things up with his energy and commitment. He might not always be the subtlest of actors but he was perfect for the Doctor.

So...it is the end. But the moment has been prepared for.

Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
 

Image – BBC.