5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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"I hate farewells."
Buy this Dr Who DVD: US
We'll do anything to avoid watching Logopolis.
Not because it's bad. No, no, no, no, no. As far as we're concerned, it's one of the top stories ever. It's got everything: Big Ideas, gutwrenching issues and a faultless Doctor. It's one of those rare stories that's far more than the sum of its parts.
Take the whole Logopolis thing itself, for example. The ice-cream-alike Logopolitans are holding together through mathematics alone a universe that should already have collapsed? Audacious and mind-bending stuff, which is only increased in its impact by the shocking sight of Logopolis falling apart. It's light years away from the run-of-the-mill villain in a silly hat stories with which Doctor Who is often plagued.
And if the sight of crumbling mathematicians isn't sad enough, there are plenty of other powerful and effective tragedies to choose from. Nyssa's story doesn't really have the room here that it deserves, but it's still pretty amazing. She barely has time to register that her father's been killed and an evil bastard's now making free with his body before she has to watch her entire planet wink out of existence. It's the Doctor's story, so Nyssa doesn't get to tear her hair out and roll around on the floor of the TARDIS sobbing; full credit, though, to Sarah Sutton for instead conveying so effectively what Nyssa's feeling through understatement.
Then there's poor Aunt Vanessa: in her scenes she really comes alive, and it's pretty shocking to see her so summarily executed. Janet Fielding's ten seconds of noisy sobbing followed by complete unconcern don't exactly make the most of this, but it's wrenching stuff all the same.
So all in all, there's some pretty heavy stuff going down. And it says a hell of a lot about Logopolis that all of it is totally overshadowed by the main event: the regeneration of the Doctor. It's not one of those regeneration stories where there's a whole lot of derring-do followed by a tacked on oh-dear-this-seems-alarmingly-fatal ending. Instead, the Doctor's death is heavily foreshadowed right through all four episodes, and it's this more than anything else that gives Logopolis such a special texture. From the cloister bell to the Watcher to the funereal incidental music to the Doctor's sombreness, we're left in no doubt that something out of the ordinary's going on and that it's very, very bad.
It could have been a disaster, but it works absolutely brilliantly. Most of the credit for this lies at Tom Baker's door. This is without doubt amongst his very best performances: he invests the Doctor with an incredible gravitas. The cares of the universe are weighted onto his shoulders, and after his encounter with the Watcher on the bridge, he seems to be detaching himself from what he has known, even abandoning his TARDIS for his final trip. It's a performance that contains the best of the Fourth Doctor, from the sudden flares ("I've never chosen my own company!") to the alien detachment ("You've seen her?" "Well, a little of her") to his compassion, in the middle of the universe falling apart, for Tegan once she realises her aunt is dead.
And as for his death, could it be any sadder? No matter how often we see Logopolis, we can't get through the final scenes without sniffling our way through a jumbo-sized box of tissues. It isn't helped, either, by seeing Peter Davison, our least favourite Doctor, sitting up in the Doctor's clothes. We just want to rip the scarf off him and boot him off the set.
There are some plot holes, of course. We never see how the Doctor does actually save the universe, for a start. And as for the Doctor's plan to flush out the Master's TARDIS underwater, what was he on? This is balanced, though, by an excellent script, with gems such as the Master's "I think we've been spared a very difficult conversation" and the Doctor's riposte to the Master's "Woolly thinking": "Yes, but very comforting when worn next to the skin." And really, who cares about the plot details? The plot's an interesting hook, but it's character and atmosphere that matter here.
Acting ranges from stellar (Tom) to appalling (guess who). Anthony Ainley, if a little too fond of the Evil Maniac Giggle, does a reasonable job as the Master, and the Monitor's a very effective character. Nyssa is dignified and sincere, Adric is slightly less annoying than usual even if he does frequently look as if he's just been stunned with a large haddock, and Tegan is dreadful. It's a mark of just how superb an achievement Logopolis is that it manages to survive a twin Adric/Tegan onslaught and still come out on top.
It's just brilliant. Gravitas, atmosphere by the bucketload and a Doctor with as much depth as we've ever seen - it takes quite a story to be a fitting exit for our favourite Doctor, but Logopolis measures up to the challenge. Don't make us watch it again, though. We don't think the world's tissue supplies can stand the strain.
MORAL: If you've gotta go out, go out on a high note.
Now, Tegan is without doubt a horrible character, but we've got to admit she's got the odds stacked against her here. Surely nobody could possibly be as stupid as she and Aunt Vanessa are over that spare tyre. First of all, they seemed completely baffled by the whole concept of changing the thing. Then Tegan tries to take the tyre off without using a jack. Can we spell duh? She then finds the spare's flat, but amazingly still continues to try and change it. They start pumping air into the spare - what did they think that was going to do when it had a hole in it? Gah.
There are so many fantastic Doctor moments in here that it seems wrong to pick out just a few, but we can't help mentioning Tom's brilliant delivery of the line "Standing on their heads is an expression", the glance he flicks at the TARDIS when the policeman asks him "Is this your vehicle?", his expression when he first sees the Watcher, and the touching moment when as he speaks to the Watcher on the bridge he bows his head in acceptance of the inevitable.
EET'S EEN THE SCREEPT
"My neem- my name's Tegan Jovanka..."
Why do the police get so upset about a couple of dolls?
WANT TO BET?
After the Monitor says "There's very little that can go wrong", Matthew Waterhouse treads on his next line, starting to say "but he..."
MAKE UP YOUR MIND
The Monitor says: "We must not use it for to for to run our program..."
You'd think Adric could get right reading out a few letters and numbers, couldn't you? And besides, if the Monitor knows the sequence by heart, why doesn't he just look at the printout himself?
I'BE THE DOGTOR
In the scenes where the Doctor's inside the shrunken TARDIS, poor old Tom's got a nasty cold.
Nyssa says the bracelet's too small for her, yet the Master put it on her wrist and it's now halfway up her forearm.
Isn't it a satisfying sight watching Nyssa strangling Adric? Clearly the Doctor thinks so, too, since he makes no move to intervene either then or later when she has another go.
NOW YOUR TURN
In the middle of his speech suggesting what he and the Doctor can do to stop the universe disintegrating, the Master jerks his head in the direction of the Monitor to indicate to Tegan she should look over at him.
Buy this Dr Who DVD: US