"Logopolis" definitely takes repeat viewings to grasp the presented ideas, but it's worth the trouble. Bidmead is obviously mesmerized by the very idea of the TARDIS, and treats it in his story as almost a sort of software shaped and defined by binary code (as provided by the Logopolitans in the form of 'block transfer computation'). On a more basic 'entertainment' level, the Doctor has to face his most dogged enemy - the Master - and for once, has to make a deal with him to save the entire universe as we know it.
The acting is quite solid - Tom Baker is at his most world-weary and depressed, quite at odds with his usual portrayal of the Doctor, and Anthony Ainley puts in his first and most subdued performance as the Master. Although there are too many companions, Adric comes off pretty well, as does Tegan in her less whiny moments. Nyssa, although present, is largely treated as one more character to push around...which she is, seeing as how she was added to the script late in the day. (She won't really come into her own until "The Visitation", at least.)
What really makes the story memorable, though, is the fourth episode, and the Doctor's very sad and touching regeneration scene. Having spent seven years in the role, Tom Baker was the only Doctor many, many child viewers knew, so I'm sure they felt a definite sense of loss. Even now, fans are affected by the regeneration sequence...and the only one to really hold a candle to it is Sylvester McCoy's prolonged and (story-wise) accidental regeneration in the TV movie.
It should be noted that "Logopolis" is the second in a linked trilogy of stories, preceded by "The Keeper of Traken" and succeeded by "Castrovalva", so you should seek all three videos out together. Enjoy!
If you had to isolate one image to explain "Doctor Who"'s fall from grace in the 1980s, it's Anthony Ainley. The final actor to play the Master on the BBC also held on to the role the longest, dragging his hammy character kicking and screaming alongside four different Doctors, until he was fat and possessed by the spirit of the Cheetah People. Although this may have been a fitting end for the character, some of us preferred Roger Delgado, all dignity and cigars.
In 1981, though, Anthony Ainley was magically new. In "The Keeper of Traken", he played the Doctor's friend, good guy Tremas, whose body was stolen by the decaying Geoffrey Beevers. A rejuvenated Master sneaks away into his TARDIS, chuckling, whispering, "A new body, at last. A new body. At last". That disembodied chuckle is all that remains, fading into the electronic scream of the end credits. More, please!
Director Peter Grimwade, who showed up with a zillion directorial flourishes, wisely kept the Master off-screen for more than half of Tom Baker's swan song. Menace is restored to the character for the first time, since, oh, "The Mind of Evil", because we can't see him, just hear him off-camera, as another character dies, shrunken to a corpse. Music composer Paddy Kingsland, the best there was in 26 years, punctuates the revelation of each doll-sized body with another mini-electronic scream.
When the Master finally does appear, in Part Three, we learn he's been working to a plan even since before Part One: follow the Doctor to Earth, leave deadly calling-cards, and then stow away on board to Logopolis to steal the Monitor's secrets for himself. But it's there the Master is beaten: for Logopolis is the keystone of the Universe, holding the moment of heat death at bay through sheer force of chanted numbers. And the Master's technological interference has caused the city to crumble to dust, unleashing an entropy field that will reduce the Universe to ash within hours. It's the Doctor's utterance that the Master is "mad... utterly mad" that finally convinces us this is the most dangerous Master we've seen in years.
But Ainley's not the only revelation in this story. There's Tom Baker. Just listen to his dialogue, especially in the early TARDIS scenes alone with Adric It's so dense, and delivered so rapid-fire, so naturally. We are now a million light years away from the Tom Baker who worked with Louise Jameson and Mary Tamm, trampling all over the script, clearly bored with proceedings. This Baker loves the script, giving the dialogue all sorts of inflections, loaning the Doctor a whole new scared dimension. "Nothing like this has ever happened before." It's something to say that a man could so compellingly reinvent the character in his final hour, when he could well have gone through the motions as if this were "The Power of Kroll".
The sense of newness is also borrowed from the supporting cast. Matthew Waterhouse, surprise of surprises, is compelling; witness his constant questioning of the Doctor in Parts One and Two. He even pulls an audience, getting thoroughly confused by the script: "We're going to measure Logopolis too?. When Tegan and then Nyssa arrive in Part Two, Adric starts to exhibit the bossy I'm-in-charge nature that made him so unbearable for most of Season 19, but one senses that Baker would have kept him in line. Even working with Janet Fielding, an actress he really didn't need to know at all, Baker planted the convincing seeds of a Doctor who really wanted to time-travel with this young flight attendant. It's a shame he never worked with either of them again.
And then there's the script. Chris Bidmead, with his emphasis on hard-sounding science, helped mold the "Doctor Who" of not just the 1980s, but the '90s as well. But his script in "Logopolis" far exceeds in quality any book out of the technobabble-drenched Simon Bucher-Jones oeuvre. Not only is "Logopolis" full of phrases like "unraveling the causal nexus" and "my biomechanisms are unaffected", but it's also got poetry: "And now the world I grew up in, blotted out forever"; "We are beyond recriminations... beyond everything", and my understated favorite: "Time has changed little for either of us, Doctor. You continue to roam the Universe, while we persist in our humble existence on this planet."
Special praise must be reserved for John Fraser, who, as the Monitor, played quite possibly the smartest, least hammy character in 26 years of "Doctor Who" guest turns. He has no rants, no over-the-top bursts of comedy. He's just a smart guy who knows more about what's going on than the Doctor, and actually saves the day with his computer code: he just has the good graces to die early in Part Four. That's done so Tom Baker can save the Universe and then fall to his death. Just when we were looking forward to at least another season of this exciting new Doctor.
But on the whole, the rest of the story leaves something to be desired. Read more