by Mark Greig
And so it is time to bid farewell to Tom and say hello to Peter.
Towards the end of the 1970s Tom Baker had grown completely out of control and, by his own admission, become an absolute pain to work with. While the bosses at the BBC would’ve been more than happy to see him go, they feared a terrifying future without him. He was the cash cow, the star of one of their biggest shows, beloved across the land by children and adults of all ages. As far as Britain was concerned, Tom Baker simply was the Doctor. Luckily for the BBC, Baker made the final decision for them. In 1980, after seven years in the role, he finally decided enough was enough and quit. Producer John Nathan-Turner was unquestionably doing cartwheels through the corridors of television centre. With Baker gone he was finally free to do Doctor Who the way he wanted to do it.
‘Logopolis’ should’ve been epic. A grand finale that sent the most beloved of all Doctors off in style. Instead what we get is a rather monotonous story about how mathematics is going to destroy the universe. Maths! The entirety of creation falling apart because someone got their sums wrong is not the most thrilling of plot lines, is it? Then there’s the whole concept of the Watcher, a ghostly figure who follows the Doctor throughout the story and then turns out to be his future self or something. The entire thing is never given a clear explanation and is inconsistent with all other regenerations before and since.
This story also saw the TARDIS becomingly increasingly overcrowded. The key problem wasn’t really the quantity of companions, but rather the quality of them. Adric is annoying and Nyssa is just bland. Now we have Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka, an air steward who just wants to get to Heathrow Airport. Tegan is loud, abrasive, argumentative and unapologetically Australian. And I absolutely adore her for it. She was essentially the Donna Noble of her day only lacking the quality writing and respect that Catherine Tate would later receive.
After a brief cameo at the end of ‘The Keeper of Traken’ we finally get a proper introduction to the hammy new incarnation of the Master, played with full pantomime relish by Anthony Ainley. I’ve never warmed to Ainley’s take on the Master. The problem I've always had is that he's nothing more than a diluted version of Rodger Delgado’s portrayal only with suave and subtlety substituted for ham and cheese. Still prefer him to John Simm, though.
Tom Baker was noticeably ill during the production of this season, often appearing drawn with his great curly hair starting to grey. As a result his performance was often sombre, cold and lacking the boundless energy that had fueled him over the previous six years. In many ways Baker's performance suits the sense of decay and theme of entropy that script-editor Chris Bidmead had woven throughout the season. Of course like most Bidmead related things it’s also rather dull. Not Tom’s fault of course, but it is sad to see the once great Fourth Doctor slowly fade away rather than burn out with glory. In his final moments the Doctor looks more like a man who’s laid down for a nice relaxing nap, not fallen to his death. After seven years the Fourth Doctor goes out with a sigh and shrug. I can imagine that Tom was desperate to get off the set as quickly as possible and down the pub for a knees up.
The Doctor claims to be friends with Thomas Huxley.
Notes and Quotes
--The idea of a TARDIS within a TARDIS within a TARDIS within a TARDIS is nicked wholesale from ‘The Time Monster’. It was a boring idea then and it’s just as boring here.
--The TARDIS has a lovely little garden.
--This is the first story to feature the Cloister Bell.
--The Master's habit of turning people into Action Man dolls has always been more amusing than frightening.
--When everyone is making their way to the telescope in episode 4, Paddy Kingsland's musical score goes very Starsky and Hutch.
--Police Boxes were all but obsolete by the 1980s. So why, if he wanted to measure one, didn't the Doctor go to a time when they were in wide use?
Tegan: "Well, there's certainly intelligent life at the end of this lot."
The Doctor: "I've just dipped into the future. We must be prepared for the worst."
Nyssa: "You killed my father."
The Master: "But his body remains useful."
The Doctor: "He must have known I was going to fix the chameleon circuit."
Adric: "He read your mind?"
The Doctor: "He's a Time Lord! In many ways we have the same mind."
Two out of four counting beads.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.