Friday, 1 April 2011
"It's the end... but the moment has been prepared for."
I believe Logopolis is Lawrence Miles' favorite Doctor Who story. Given that Miles is one of the most brilliant minds to have contributed to Doctor Who, it must have something going for it. What Miles particularly likes about this story is it's attention to style. Logopolis gives attention to the overall aesthetic impression that is created. Tom Baker was leaving the show and so Logopolis was created as a kind of televisual funeral to the character of the Fourth Doctor. It's sombre mood entirely reflects the sadness of the lead's departure. On the other hand, no matter how polished and well produced this serial looks, it's very difficult to ignore the many faults in it's narrative and the incoherent elements in the plot.
The first episode drags a little. We spend far too long watching Vanessa and Tegan messing about with their car. Why the police should want to question the Doctor is also a little puzzling (why should the officer think the bodies of Vanessa and the policeman are anything other than dolls?). It is also strange that the Doctor should all of a sudden be wanting to fix the Chameleon circuit (first named as such here) and his procedure for getting it working again seems even stranger. This leads to the materialization inside the Master's TARDIS, which is very confusing when watched the first time. The sequence inside the TARDIS that follows this goes on for a long time, but is very nicely done. Likewise, the cloister room is quite beautiful. The idea of flooding the TARDIS and flushing out the Master is embarrassingly stupid.
Things start to move a lot faster once we go to Logopolis. Both the planet and it's monk-like inhabitants are marvellously well designed. The crumbling and collapsing effect is remarkably believable. The Monitor is very well played and there is something amusing about the way the Master overreaches himself and plunders his own existence into jeopardy. When we return to earth the location filming is also quite nicely done.
It's hard to believe the idea that the universe is really under threat of complete destruction (and even more absurd that the Master should try to hold it to ransom). The stupid finale of the Matt Smith season ought to have learnt from this that these kind of cosmic threats don't really work. The idea of the universe being destroyed and then re-created in The Big Bang actually makes Logopolis rather more credible. What I do like is the way this story, as do other Season 18 stories, blends mysticism and hard science. The notion of the universe being held together by numbers being chanted echoes the Jewish mysticism of the Kabbalah, Platonic philosophy and the medieval Christian idea of the music of the spheres. It would be nice to see more intellectual notions like this in the BBC Wales series, which seems far more keen to ground itself in the shallowest of pop culture.
The Watcher is a decent enough idea, though the fact his presence is not really explained and that he never turns up again for any future resurrections makes him seem a somewhat superfluous element. Tom Baker's performance as the Doctor is incredibly grim and sombre. I prefer his serious, but more relaxed performance in the previous story, The Keeper of Traken. Nevertheless, his demeanour does fit the funereal atmosphere of the serial.
Adric works well in this story, as he does in other Tom Baker stories. It is such a shame that he worked so badly in the next season. It's nice to see Tegan's first appearance. I really like her and her normality comes across as refreshing, given that the TARDIS has for the last three seasons been filled with overly clever people. I found it odd that having arrived at Logopolis, she concludes after being there for less than an hour that the place is run like a sweatshop. The Monitor might well have replied to her complaint "Ah, well they're are about to go for a tea and fag break in ten minutes time." I have no idea why they brought in Nyssa as a regular, however. She is such a boring character. She shows so little reaction to her father's body being possessed by the Master and to the destruction of her home planet. At least in this story, she is still wearing her skirt. In the next story they put her in some awful, unflattering trousers. Women generally don't look good in trousers and with a puffy sleeved velvet tunic, even less so.
I am generally not keen on stories featuring the Master. They always seem so contrived. Roger Delgado at least managed to be entertaining, but aside from a few exceptions, Anthony Ainley always came across as too silly. In Logopolis, he gives an horribly cartoonish performance, which is especially disappointing in that it follows his much more subtle portrayal of Tremas in The Keeper of Traken.
Logopolis is not the classic that some fans consider it to be, but you can't ignore it's beauty and elegance as a production.