Logopolis

DVD NTSC
1-story disc
Region 1


for North America
DVD PAL
3-story box set
Region 2

for the U.K.
VHS Video
NTSC
PAL
(Doctor Who Story No. 116, starring Tom Baker)
  • written by Christopher H. Bidmead
  • directed by Peter Grimwade
  • produced by John Nathan-Turner
  • music by Paddy Kingsland
  • 4 episodes @ 25 minutes each
Story: Developing plot-lines from season 18 are brought to a close. An attempt to repair the TARDIS's chameleon circuit and "run a tighter ship" brings the Doctor and Adric into another deadly encounter with the Master, as the action moves between England and a clerical society on the planet Logopolis that lives and breathes computations. Janet Fielding debuts as Tegan Jovanka, and Nyssa returns to round out the emerging TARDIS crew. Tom Baker gives his unforgettable final performance as the Doctor.
New Beginnings
3 DVD boxed set NTSC Region 1

for North America

DVD Extras include:

  • Audio commentary by actors Tom Baker (The Doctor) and Janet Fielding (Tegan), and writer Christopher H. Bidmead.
  • "A New Body at Last" 50 minute documentary on the making of Logopolis and the transition from Tom Baker to Peter Davison,
    with Tom Baker, Chris Bidmead, Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Adrian Gibbs (The Watcher),
    Peter Davison (the next Doctor), and series directors Peter Moffatt and John Black.
  • "Nationwide" interviews with Tom Baker & Peter Davison (8 min.)
  • "Pebble Mill at One" Peter Davison interview (12 min.)
  • BBC News Reports on Tom Baker's wedding & departure, and Peter Davison's arrival (1 min.)
  • Isolated Music Score by Paddy Kingsland
  • Pop-up Production Note Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery music montage (5 min.)
  • DVD ROM .pdf files: 1982 Dr. Who Annual, Radio Times, & BBC Enterprises literature

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.


Season Eighteen goes out with a very satisfying bang, albeit perhaps one less accessible to casual viewers of the show. Written by this season's script editor, Christopher Hamilton Bidmead, "Logopolis" draws on the threads of earlier stories from the season and knits a compelling tapestry of the Doctor's universe.


The introductions opening this story really don't seem designed for new or casual viewers. Whether you assume the police box by the road is the infamous TARDIS or just an ordinary telephone device, the effect playing out on it is far from self explanatory, and most likely forgotten by the time some clues slip through a later dialogue scene. Once again, the sound effect is your best clue to what is happening in this sequence, if you're versed enough with the show to recognize it as not the Doctor's but the Master's TARDIS materializing.

And why does the Master bother harming the policeman? It doesn't really fit in with the rest of his plans; it just fulfills one of the needs of script structure.


The actual TARDIS itself is presented from the inside out during this opening, starting so deep inside that even regular viewers may have to make an effort to recognize where the Doctor and Adric's first scene is taking place. All in all, not a bad scene, nicely introducing the entropy theme that becomes central to the story.

The cut back to Earth to introduce Tegan and her Aunt is also nicely set up.


Bidmead's noble aim of bringing out Adric's enquiring mind doesn't really seem on the surface to be doing anything more than fulfilling one of the primary traditional roles of the Doctor's companion: to ask questions about the plot for the audience. Many times in this story, it seems a parrot could have done the job better. Adric's unfamiliarity, and subsequent endless bland questioning, of Earth culture begins to slow the story down, demonstrating that it is a mistake to allow the companion to fall far behind the audience. Without a stronger line of humour, its entertainment value is seriously questionable.

A more serious problem is at its absolute worst in the Doctor and Adric's second scene in the cloister room, where Bidmead's thought patterns with their strong mis-matching tendencies are allowed to produce a line of questioning for Adric that takes us farther from the ideas Bidmead is trying to get across instead of closer. Added clarity this is not! Bob Baker and Dave Martin often got hung up like this on previous scripts. As a mis-matcher, Bidmead will probably be expert at correcting himself once he realizes this method is not to anyone's advantage.


Tom Baker adds extra solemness and foreboding to his portrayal of the Doctor, which is a wonderful touch for this particular story. The mysterious Watcher character is also a very successful element adding to the emotional weight of the piece, which Tom is able to play off of brilliantly. It's also a very unusual element for a Doctor Who story, helping to keep the narrative fresh.

The sequence of Tom peering out of the TARDIS door in episode one is very good for establishing some clarity about the TARDIS for new viewers, as is the TARDIS landing beside the police box before surrounding it, and all the dialogue surrounding the view from the scanner screen. Indeed, it's hard to imagine anyone coming to the end of the story "Logopolis" without knowing far more about what the vehicle is and how it works than they may ever need to know.


Motivating the Master

The Master's main ambitions work well in this story, and are particularly well-anchored to his character flaws. Digging deeper to look at the details of some of his more minor actions, however, enough holes appear to rank this as the least successful of Tom Baker's three excellent Master stories.

All the best Master motivations are in play: He is still regaining what he had before, getting used to the new body he has just acquired. He has a grand ambition, to discover the secret work taking place on Logopolis and develop a plan to use it to his personal advantage, although even he cannot fully anticipate how grand the scope of this will become. Thirdly, his vengeful sparring with the Doctor also continues on the side, where it belongs.

The Master's final scheme in this story really emphasizes his lack of having defined a clear lifestyle of choice for himself, as the self-centered loner trying to command the entire universe with absolutely no supporting social structure between it and himself. What would characters be without issues and flaws? Here's the Master's biggest issue, laid out more clearly here than anywhere else.


Episodes one and two are particularly strange, in that the Master's presence is entirely represented by his TARDIS and the occasional voice-over evil laugh. This is also where his motivations are most difficult to recognize. Tom's Doctor fills in many of the details, but what is the overarching logic? Why does he need to hide his TARDIS inside the Doctor's to get to Logopolis? Is the location some secret that only the Doctor knows? If so, the script would be much better off for saying so.

Obviously, the ordinary police box is inside the Master's TARDIS when the Doctor's materializes around them both, but what is going on after that? The Doctor and Adric appear to have made their way into the Master's console room, when somehow the Master should be at the controls causing the dematerialization that Tegan nearly witnesses as she makes her way into the Doctor's console room. And then, without having re-materialized anywhere, the Master is suddenly in the door of the Doctor's TARDIS causing Auntie Vanessa's end for no apparent good reason.

And what exactly is the phenomenon that the Doctor and Adric investigate, with its endless succession of darker and darker console rooms? Actually it does end, having only been three console rooms including the Doctor's own regular one. The term "gravity bubble" turns up, which may refer to nothing more than the artificial emotional gravity that the phenomenon is able to provide the story, once Tom Baker's delivery of the lines that support it have worked their magic.

And where does the ordinary police box go during all this? One assumes it is still inside the Master's TARDIS when it dematerializes from the Doctor's console room. So how is it put back in place when the Doctor dematerializes?


The excessive but enjoyable shenanigans of the Master's TARDIS finally reach a high point when its ever-changing disguise becomes that of a Greek pillar - the most definitive and widely used form his TARDIS has ever taken on the program, making its debut here in Logopolis. Right on!

The Master's weapon of choice, the Tissue Compression Eliminator, also returns in this story. Having only appeared briefly in Robert Holmes' Master stories "Terror of the Autons" (story no. 55) and "The Deadly Assassin" (story no. 88), it now becomes a much more staple device for Anthony Ainley's era as the Master. As before, it is demonstrated more through evidence of its effect on its victims than with any satisfying visual beam effects. A bit disappointing, but directed well enough in spite of this.


Logopolis itself is an interesting idea of a place, brought well enough to the screen. There is a certain lack of entertaining social complexity amongst the inhabitants, and the sets seem to have been designed for the ability to crumble on cue rather than any real aesthetic value, so it does seem advantageous that the screen time spent there is only one full episode plus two halves.

With only John Fraser's compellingly dignified performance to represent the entire Logopolitan guest roster, the focus of the story remains on the growing regular cast. Nyssa's re-entrance to the series late in episode two seems like a very arbitrary last-minute addition, but from episode three on she becomes an essential part of the story, especially helping to establish Anthony Ainley in his new role and believably bring his character out of his long drawn-out gestation in the shadows. Episodes three and four finally allow Ainley to put his stamp on the recurring role he will be most remembered for on Doctor Who, making the Master into a worthy and enjoyable adversary for the adventures of my favourite Doctors. Excellent.

Janet Fielding also debuts as Tegan Jovanka, naively over-projecting her performance in a manner more appropriate for the stage than the small screen. Having become accustomed to her character throughout her more experienced portrayals in season 19 before seeing this story for the first time, I was perfectly willing to accept her character in this tale.


It is interesting to note how the plot and the action have deviated from the traditional monster-story formulae laid out in the Troughton and Pertwee eras, embracing more of the sci-fi mystery story beats made popular by Robert Holmes, Douglas Adams, and Bob Baker and Dave Martin during Tom Baker's era, and in the case of this particular story and its fascination with TARDISes, producing an action plot that is uniquely Whovian. Even if it is less accessible to the masses, and a bit slower than would be ideal in the first half of the story, it has the power to captivate regular viewers of the show and deliver a sci-fi mystery of mythological impact to the show.

The entropy theme also nicely mirrors the idea of this being the end of Tom's era, and both ideas are developed with appropriate emotional gravity.

Throughout the final episode, the Doctor and the Master share credit for many heroic ideas, some used and some not, while still allowing their methods and characters to clash interestingly. During the finale, however, the three companions are clearly relegated to clarifying things for the audience and providing perspective, while the Master shifts over to villainy, leaving the final heroics to the Doctor alone - nicely satisfying the traditions of the best hero myths. Although more time and money might have resulted in improved blocking and effects, not to mention extra takes, director Peter Grimwade maximizes his editing choices and gets great emotional value from his footage, not to mention the extra boost from JNT's flashback ideas, making Tom Baker's finish possibly the best any Doctor has ever had. (That said, Patrick Troughton's "The War Games" [story no. 50] still takes the cake for best final story, in my view.)


The mystery of exactly who and what the Watcher is doesn't seem to get answered satisfactorily at any point in this story, or the next one for that matter. For many years, this was the only regeneration I had witnessed on Doctor Who, and it left me falsely assuming that the process could only happen when some husk of material wandered in from Gallifrey and caught up with the Timelord who needed the regeneration, providing much of the required extra raw energy, among other things. Bidmead has his own ideas about what was happening, elaborated on in the recent commentary for the story on DVD and deliberately left vague in the story for reasons that have some merit.

But for me the definitive explanation for the Watcher comes from "Planet of the Spiders" (story no. 74), where it's made clear that Kan'Po Rinpoche's next Timelord incarnation is wandering around on its own prior to regeneration. At least Kan'Po knew what he was doing. Tom Baker's Doctor seems to have created the projection of his new self unconsciously, allowing it to pop up unexpectedly and spook himself. Typical. Of all the Doctors, Tom's is the king of being spooked and haunted. How could he not go out any other way?


Much of the mood of the story must be credited to Paddy Kingsland's very versatile and thematic score. One of his very best ever, it is surprising to note how much of it is composed of short little stings and stabs, with only a few cues of decent length. Themes for Logopolis and the Watcher are excellent, as is a three-note motif for the Master that develops into a more definitive five notes by the third episode and carries over into the next story. A variety of lively action cues and some darker ominous pieces complete a lovely emotional range for the score. And the nice bit of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony in the final episode is also an enjoyable touch. Well done.


In the end, Logopolis is one of the best Doctor Who stories, if a little unusual, ranking only slightly behind "The Keeper of Traken" (story no. 115) for season eighteen, and having a more emotionally satisfying conclusion to boot. It is certainly not to be missed by anyone seeking to go through the mythological highlights of the series.



Season Eighteen Rankings:

Best Story:

  1. The Keeper of Traken
  2. Logopolis
  3. State of Decay
  4. Full Circle
  5. The Leisure Hive
  6. Meglos
  7. Warriors' Gate

Best Writer:

  1. Johnny Byrne
  2. Christopher H. Bidmead
  3. Terrance Dicks
  4. Andrew Smith
  5. David Fisher
  6. John Flanagan & Andrew McCulloch
  7. Stephen Gallagher

Best Director:

  1. Peter Grimwade
  2. John Black
  3. Peter Moffatt
  4. Terence Dudley
  5. Lovett Bickford
  6. Paul Joyce

Best Music:

  1. Meglos (Howell/Kingsland)
  2. Warriors' Gate (Peter Howell)
  3. Logopolis (Paddy Kingsland)
  4. State of Decay (Paddy Kingsland)
  5. Full Circle (Paddy Kingsland)
  6. The Leisure Hive (Peter Howell)
  7. The Keeper of Traken (Roger Limb)

Best Lasers & Other Electronic Effects:

  1. The Keeper of Traken
  2. State of Decay
  3. Meglos
  4. Warriors' Gate
  5. Logopolis
  6. Full Circle
  7. The Leisure Hive


Logopolis has become available on DVD and VHS video.

Single Story versions:
DVD NTSC Region 1
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
for the U.K.:
See boxed set below.
VHS Video
NTSC in the U.S.
PAL for the U.K.

3-story boxed sets:
(Story Nos. 115-117: The Keeper of Traken, Logopolis & Castrovalva.)
New Beginnings
3 DVD boxed set
NTSC Region 1
in the U.S.
in Canada
New Beginnings
3 DVD boxed set
PAL Region 2
for the U.K.


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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Castrovalva"



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