'Enough of this silliness!' cries incoming producer and script editor JNT and Chris Bidmead! The trouble is Doctor Who is a bit of a silly show at heart and when you try and make it a serious science fiction show it begins to feel very earnest. Still I cannot deny that some of Tom Baker's finest material turns up in this moribund final series. The Doctor loses Romana and K.9 and gains Adric, Tegan and Nyssa (unfair trade!)and faces breakaway Fomasi, intergalatic thugs & a cactus doppleganger of the Doctor, evolutionary Marshmen, vampires (eek!), slavers and the Master trying to take down the planet of Traken and the universe!
The regulars -
The Leisure Hive written by David Fisher and directed by Lovett Bickford
Teeth and Curls: What a difference a year makes! According to the special features on The Leisure Hive the idea was to make the Doctor ‘straighter’ (oooh the irony!), less silly and skip the undergraduate humour and improvisation. So everything that has made the show a pleasure to watch over the past three years then. There are some benefits to reigning Tom Baker in since he gives one of his most powerful performances here when he grows old but the Doctor and Romana make little impact on the first episode, remain peripheral to the story and more often than not spout technobabble. I wouldn’t say it was an improvement. He can’t get everything right (especially when he gets everything wrong) and he can’t spend his whole life running from the Black Guardian. Tom Baker looks magnificent in his burgundy coat and scarf, by far the best innovation of those touted on the special features. He’s experimented with time in a purely academic sense. His scarf is used as a plot function once again but just imagine those bulky Foamasi winding it around Stimpson’s neck! Look at the scene where the Doctor has to swear his innocence, he glares up at the helmet, pauses and then says ‘yes!’ The old age make up is so convincing it actually looks like a completely different actor playing the part. His performance slows right down; he plays it with delicate movements, a soft voice and is subdued and moribund. How brave to extend this transformation over two episodes giving the actor and the audience the fear that this is the fourth Doctor for the rest of his tenure! When our Tom Baker turns up he suddenly looks far less tired! All those Tom Baker’s surrounding Lalla Ward, a nightmare or a pleasant thought? Its lunacy squared!
Lovely Lalla: Come in number two your time is up! I actually rather like many of the decisions John Nathan-Turner made over his nine year stint (if not the overall feel of the show) but his feeling that it was all ‘a bit smart’ in the TARDIS with the fourth Doctor, Romana and K.9 and dumbing it down by writing two of them out and introducing Adric, Tegan and Nyssa is so wide of the mark it scarcely bears consideration. Basically the audience is too thick to understand what is going on with three intelligent protagonists so lets introduce a snivelling toad, a screaming harridan and an alien orphan because the audience will be able to identify far more with them! Even crazier is wasting Lalla in such a peripheral role in this story; she barely connects with the plot at all until the very end when she is reduced to screaming hysterically in place of drama. She looks stunning in her boys bathing costume and she spouts out more technobabble than an entire series of Star Trek The Next Generation so really she is there to appeal to spotty, geeky, sweaty nerds who don’t get out much and get terribly excited when continuity like the Randomiser is worked into the plot. What a shame.
The Good Stuff: Is the pan across Brighton beach the dawning of a bold new era or a shocking waste of time? I can see an argument for both parties but being a seaside boy myself I find it achingly melancholic. K.9 gets another trashing as he chases a beach ball into the sea but at least its quite imaginative for a change! The Leisure Hive model shots are striking, the camera glides up from behind radioactive sands in a beautifully barren landscape. The ideas powering this story are very strong; a dead world, a barren race and a failing business, a 20 minute war that left the planet sterile for three centuries and the survivors creating the Hive to explore alien environments. Those ideas all have great potential. The Argolins are a very detail race, right down to the very cute portent of death with the buds dropping off and the make up is beautiful, strikingly alien and subtle. Oddly the music is somehow more interesting and atmospheric than we have heard in years whilst also being far more tinny and intrusive than Dudley Simpson's ever was. I really like the gentle chemistry between Hardin and Mena; it is a little touch character amongst all the science. The lighting is generally exceptional but look at the scene where Mena tells the Doctor and Romana about the war, the sunlight comes in blistering waves, making them glow. Stimpson is a useless character who pops up merely to be dispatched but he features in a couple of genuinely creepy scenes so lets not moan too much, especially that double-take green lie Klaus body suit in the cupboard. The end of part two is rather good, the music as Romana discovers the cracked hourglass is gorgeous and the quiet background reaction of Mena to the Doctor's ageing shock really hits home. There is one moment which encapsulates how good the direction in this story, a pan around the exterior of the Hive (with some gorgeous electronic music) which melts through the windows into the studio to Hardin helping Mena along. I love the clicking, purring Foamasi voices, nice to find a race that doesn't speak English without help! Bickford's direction is so good he almost manages to sell that awful scene where the West Lodge members are exposed (although with so many quick reaction shots I was reminded of the 'Brad!' 'Doctor Scott!' 'Janet!' 'Brad!' 'Rocky!' scene from The Rocky Horror Picture Show!). There is a simple but very effective slow motion emergence of the Argolin sun. Baby Pangol is so cute!
The Bad Stuff: The direction often disguises the fact but there is something tacky and plastic about the Leisure Hive sets especially compared to the much criticised but theatrical and far bolder sets of Horns of Nimon. It’s a real shame some of the visual effects don't match up to the quality of the direction (the green line that is drawn is just that...a green line). I found the Doctor and Romana not actually seeing the recording an astonishing oversight! One poor fellow (I don't know his name) is seen to walk up and down the same corridor over and over throughout the story, bless him. The Foamasi are so obviously men in bulky fabric suits...with the Zygons, Sontarans and Jagaroth all coming before these bold new innovations there is an odd feeling of 'that'll do' which I thought was precisely the opposite of what they were aiming for. Hardin and Romana's agonisingly slow experiments are no substitute for actual drama. Do the Foamasi use Slitheen 'squeeze into smaller bodies' technology? Odd that the Foamasi take over the shuttle off screen, that part of the climax is very confused and rushed. The March of the Pangols is probably supposed to be dramatic but instead feels like a jolly gay pride march (the music doesn't help...disco!). Just because everybody is screaming at the climax it doesn't mean it is dramatic, a recent episode of Eastenders (where the pub burnt down) has proven that hysterics like this are more like comedy than drama. The 'dated' title sequence is ironically replaced with something that has aged far worse over the years.
Result: In some ways this is a strikingly adult production (especially in its efforts to sell the story visually) but in others it feels more than ever that the show is for geeky loners who love scientific jargon and everybody taking everything deathly seriously. Attention grabbing direction from Lovett Bickford helps to keep the story visually arresting and awash with eye catching imagery and some strong acting helps to push along the po faced storyline with special honours going to Tom Baker, David Haig and Adrienne Corri. Intelligent details and thoughtful moments compensate for a distinct lack of humour and fun and the technobabble anchors the show in 'real science' but leaves a paucity of interesting dialogue. Style over substance? Not really because there is a lot of style and substance here but the thing it is lacking most of all is enjoyment. A sign of things to come: 7/10
Meglos written by Andrew McCulloch and John Flannigan and directed by Terrance Dudley
This story in a nutshell: Thanks be to Ti that the Doctor revisits Tigella in as time of their greatest crisis!
Teeth and Curls: There’s a lovely description of the Doctor as a man who solves the insoluble by the strangest of means, who sees the threads that join the universe together and mends them when they break. This was the beginning of the domestic period of Doctor Who so stories would start with an interminably long period spent gossiping in the TARDIS (actually this began in the Williams era but was far more witty and likable in stories like the Pirate Planet and The Horns of Nimon) and in Meglos the Doctor literally spends the whole of episode one fixing K.9! He doesn’t leave the TARDIS or touch the plot for about 40 minutes – at least in Destiny of the Daleks he went ‘screw the laryngitis, let’s explore!’ Plus I would have thought that he and Romana would have better things to do in the TARDIS then fiddle about with K.9! Its no wonder that people were abandoning the show in droves if the hero does nothing but spout technobabble whilst the guest cast are completely responsible for the plot for almost an hour into the story – they probably thought they were watching an episode of Star Trek! Then they add in a chronic hysteresis loop and we have to suffer the whole shebang over and over again well into episode two! Its almost as if Tom Baker has become so unbearable at this point the writers are instructed to keep him away from the other guest performers as long as possible (where he will inform them the script is ‘whippet shit’ and make them question why they agreed to take part in the show!). On the plus side having Tom Baker play the baddie is a small stroke of genius because it is completely destabilising for kids who have come to depend on this character over the last seven years. Plus Baker gives the villainous role his all and had great fun restraining that explosive anger and releasing it a bit at a time (‘I…swear allegiance to Ti?’). Scenes of the prickly, subdued Meglos trying to hold onto his humanoid victim and kidnapping Karis are some of the most effective of the season – strange that they should occur in the seasons weakest story. Our Doctor says that him being a fraud and a liar makes no sense because he simply doesn’t do that sort of thing.
Aristocratic Adventurer: Lalla Ward struggles gamely with the material she is given in this story to make anything of it. Gone is her acerbic wit and resourcefulness from season 17 and instead she is reduced to running repairs for K.9 and running through the forest (and trying to make it look bigger than four foot wide and failing) like a frightened little girl. I find it hard to imagine this is the same person who (‘Despicable worm!’) took on the Doctor’s role in The Horns of Nimon.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘D’you know for one awful moment I thought you’d forgotten your lines…’
‘This is the second time you’ve been in here!’ ‘I say, you’ve got a marvellous memory!’
‘Let’s hope that many hands will make the lights work!’
· The musical score for Meglos is one of my favourites in the last ten years of the classic series. If there is one thing that JNT got very right it was to move the show away from The Dudley Simpson hour (as good as his music can be to was getting a little repetitive) and introduce some new styles of music to the series. Whilst some might suggest that the tinny, radiophonic synth music lacks the conviction of the Simpson’s instrument offerings I would counter that argument with the fact that the music for season eighteen is some of the freshest, most exciting and beautiful we experienced in the entire show. The scores for The Leisure Hive, Meglos, Full Circle, Warriors’ Gate, Logopolis and Castrovalva are all superb and I regularly listen to the soundtracks whilst I am working around the flat. I love the creepy style for the Deon scenes and the insistent, electronic chorus that accompanies the Doctor’s sacrifice at the end of episode three (‘DIEDIEDIEDIEDIE!’). Since the soundtrack is a collaboration of two of the best, Paddy Kingsland and Peter Howell, it is like having the best of both worlds.
· It’s only bloody Jacqueline Hill! Just when I was about to give up on the Tigella scenes our very own Barbara and one of my favourite actresses turns up to give the planet some realism and the scenes some gravitas. She’s saddled with an overwrought character but just as she did when a poor script arrived in the Hartnell era she makes the most of it and gives a little extra to turn shit into gold (her rant at Hartnell in the vague and unsatisfying two parter The Edge of Destruction is a great example).
· The sudden cut away from the dreadful theatrics in the Tigellan court to the Zolfa Thura, boasting the new scene sync technology, some glorious music from Paddy Kingsland and introducing the deadpan comic relief thugs is a massive breath of fresh air. The effects aren’t perfect (fringing is obvious and there should have been sand pouring off of the top of Meglos’ base when it rises up before them) but I appreciate the scale and the ambition that has gone into them and as a Doctor Who fan suspension of belief are my middle names (although it is sorely tested throughout this story). Bill Frazer and Frederick Treaves are a very amusing double act, they feel as if they have stumbled onto the set from the Steptoe & Son studios and give deliciously gruff and disinterested performances that makes these characters far more likable than the earnest lot on Tigella. They are exactly the sort of irreverent nasties a story like this needs. McCulloch and Flannigan have created a memorable Robert Holmesian double act in the same mould as Irongron and Bloodaxe (Broterdac stares in uncomprehending reverence at Grugger just as Bloodaxe did and it is just as funny). Grugger kicking K.9 thus making him the most loathsome man in the galaxy is a delicious extraneous moment of enmity.
· Am I the only person who doesn’t mind the idea of a sentient cactus? They are bloody horrid things in real life (I have never owned a cactus that I haven’t scratched myself on quite badly so naturally I consider them all to be up to no good anyway!) and we only have to endure the rubbery monstrosity for a few minutes before the much more intriguing (and well realised) idea of the spikes bursting from the skin of those infected begins. Its just another sentient plant (like The Keys of Marinus, The Seeds of Doom) and another creature with the ability to take over its victims minds (pick any Hinchcliffe story). The collaboration of the snivelling, thieving Gaztaks and creepiness of Meglos (his impersonation of the Doctor with spiny skin must have frightened whoever wasn’t watching Buck Rogers to death!) gives this story a much needed kick up the ass!
· After their pretension that Doctor Who is a classy American cult show with the pan across Brighton beach that opened The Leisure Hive we begin this adventure in a boring long shot of the tatty old console room with things looking as cheap as possible. Its nice to know that JNT still intends to make Doctor Who.
· The early scenes of this adventure (‘its going to blow!’) showing the Savants scuttle about trying to hold their planet together scream of a writer trying to set up a civilisation convincingly but trying a little too hard to succeed. Those stupid wigs don’t help – are we really supposed to believe that that is the Savants real hair? Plus the science versus religion angle (which has been handled much better in stories in the past) is dealt with in too unsubtle a manner to portray a convincing population divide. Is this supposed to be a massive underground city because it feels as though a handful of people that live in a handful of rooms who have found a way of squabbling to keep their lives interesting. On Argoils in The Leisure Hive the setting was supposed to be one building but you really got the sense of the scale of the planet and the war between the Foamasi and the Argolins but that sense of populace and history is lacking here. The line ‘Zastor, I tell you this as a Savant, a scientist, one who works hard to understand these things that our safe and bountiful city may well be on the edge of total extinction!’ is appalling because nobody would structure a sentence like that and fill it full of so much hyperbole (except possibly in one of my reviews) and secondly it is packed full of so much exposition he seems to be telling Zastor everything the man seems to already know. It’s a lazy, unconvincing way of trying to relay information to the audience.
· Without a doubt Edward Underdown is an impressive actor with an illustrious career but he is clearly past his prime (when it comes to learning his lines and speaking them authentically) and as a result Zastor (as the man who is supposed to be holding this planet together with his bare hands) is a completely non entity rather than the compelling character the writers would have been hoping for. Mind you ‘I’m Zastor, now the Tigellan leader!’ would be struggle for any actor. Bless him he struggles gamely to react to Lexa and her followers taking over in episode three but he can’t quite get the lines out and as a result sounds like a doddery old git being taken out to pasture.
· As much as I objected earlier I don’t mind the chronic hysteresis scenes that much (it’s a different sort of cliffhanger, at least) but they don’t have any impact on the plot whatsoever. It is literally a device to keep the Doctor out of the action for as long as possible so Meglos can infiltrate Tigella. Had the conclusion involved some kind of similar time loop it would have been a clever way of introducing the concept for later use but as it stands it is just there with the story running on the spot for ten minutes. Plus the way to escape the loop is to go through the motions deliberately? How does that makes any logical sense? The loop thinks ‘oh look they’ve already done it…I may as well not bother!’ and breaks the cycle? Then to compound the situation there is a number of scenes where Romana literally walks the Gaztaks around in circles…it seems that there is very little plot between the inception of the story and its conclusion and so it has to filled up with lots of tedious reciprocating action. It wouldn’t be so bad if the conclusion was worth getting to but…well it isn’t.
· We’ve seen some great jungle sets in Doctor Who (I would say the terrifying claustrophobia of Mira in The Daleks’ Masterplan and the humid atmosphere of Chloris in Creature from the Pit) and some appalling ones (the plastic leaves of Planet of the Daleks, the sparse drabness of The Face of Evil…and the undisguised studio of Kinda still to come) but Tigella strikes me as the worst of the lot. It is built upon the worst excesses of all three of these – the lighting is so bad it feels as overlit as the TARDIS studio set, the ‘lush aggressive vegetation’ looks distinctly rubbery and the attention to detail doesn’t extend to anything more than some fronds and shiny artificial leaves. The giant roses (sorry bell plants) look especially cumbersome (we haven’t seen anything this bad since the Fungoids and that includes the man eating monstrosity in the TARDIS in The Invasion of Time!) and watching poor Lalla Ward struggle gamely against it must be the nadir of her career on the show.
· Talking of production values…how bad is that shoot out at the end of episode three? It makes the action scenes in the Pennant Roberts helmed classics later in the era look like Reservoir Dogs! The Gaztaks break through the (clearly) sugar glass door with a lightweight battering ram before an exchange of coloured rays from the two sides that are no more than two metres apart! I can suspend my belief in Doctor Who to an extent but there is a limit. In the same vein the giant hunk of rock that threatens to squish the Doctor like an insect is clearly polystyrene because it is being held up by a thin rope that burns through in about 10 seconds! Strangely when the Gaztaks and Meglos head back to Zolfa Thura it looks like somebody has forgotten to add the photographic backdrop so they stand against a fuzzy yellow curtain! The green sludge slurping across the floor when Meglos departs the earthling has to be seen to be believed!
· Lexa is killed because…? Its one of the cheapest trick in a story full of them and makes no sense. Are they suggesting she can only be redeemed by giving up her life to save another? Does that make up for trying to kill the Doctor? Not only that but the filming of the scene seems like a dreadful afterthought just before the studio lights extinguished and lacks any poignancy. What a despicable way for Jacqueline Hill to end her Doctor Who career.
· The Doctor pretending to be Meglos? Didn’t we got through this nonsense in Enemy of the World? I thought Doctor Who was supposed to subvert these clichés?
The Shallow Bit: Goodness knows why the costume designer chose to squeeze Lalla Ward into that outfit that makes her both no-nonsense and frumpy! It honestly looks as though she has net curtains for sleeves!
Result: It makes me laugh to this day that John Nathan-Turner and Christopher H Bidmead criticised the Graeme Williams/Douglas Adams collaboration and wanted to take the show away from ‘that’ll do’ and ‘too much silliness’ and then they produce Meglos as their second story which is the epitome of those two factors! What’s even funnier is that it is the camp excesses of this story that so strongly mimic the best of the Williams era are that are greatest elements of this story – Tom Baker’s arch performance as Meglos and the chucklesome Gaztaks who feel as though they have wandered into the wrong show and just bully everybody for a laugh! When we are focussing on the Tigellan politics the show abandons all ambition and realism and its one dreary artificial scene after another (despite Jacqueline Hill’s best efforts). When it comes to the universe of planets in Doctor Who Tigella is up there with Dulkis and Karfel in terms of the effort that has gone into creating it visually and creatively. It’s a story that is bogged down with sci-fi clichés - a planet on the verge of extinction, doppelgangers (which even the Doctor calls ‘old fashioned’), a megalomaniac wanting to take over the universe, sentient plants - and fails to do anything original with any of them. Add to that a generally failing in production values which really highlights the unnatural nature of the production, a waste of Lalla Ward’s talents and a final episode that lacks any interest or ingenuity and you have a disappointing sophomore effort for this supposedly fresh new season. If it wasn’t for the music and Tom Baker’s efforts I would write this one off completely: 4/10
Full Circle written by Andrew Smith and directed by Peter Grimwade
This story in a nutshell: ‘Tell Dexeter we’ve come full circle…’
Teeth and Curls: One thing that is very prevalent in this series is that Tom Baker was not allowed to overshadow the production like he had in previous years. I don’t think that is an especially bad thing either because the strength of the story can come to the fore and the Doctor can be seen to be working as a part of the overall dynamic. So even in the last story when Tom Baker played the hero and the villain he wasn’t the dominant feature of the story. As a result of his discussions (lets say arguments) with John Nathan-Turner and Christopher H. Bidmead (blimey could these names get any longer?) Tom’s performance is a lot more subdued and internalised and some would say (and I’m on the fence) that he gave his best ever performances as a result. How odd he usually gets on terribly well with children! It would be a fourth Doctor story if he was able to have a little fun however and I really chuckle as he returns to the TARDIS and starts poking at the space where it was, just in case its invisible! The Doctor trying to calm and protect the child feels very right even though he does get a right bop on the head for his troubles! He asks: ‘Why can’t people be nice to each other? Just for a change…’ I howled at his deadpan reaction to all those kids piling out of the TARDIS! His anger in the face of the Marsh Childs death is extraordinary, we haven’t seen the Doctor lose it this badly since The Pirate Planet and even I was flinching in the wake of his furious tirade!
Lovely Lalla: I really like Lalla Ward; she really speaks her mind on those DVD commentaries and marks barbed comments about her opinion of Adric’s character, Tom’s behaviour and how JNT and Bidmead sucked the fun out of the show. And yet she clearly has a great love for the show and appreciates her time on it. Often her opinions are right on the ball…and oh yes, she’s a damn fine actress too. I really enjoy the domestic scenes between the Doctor and Romana and there is some real attempt to develop her character – Romana doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life on Gallifrey after everything she has been through with the Doctor. Romana can barely conceal her disdain for Adric and his pals – I have always said she is an excellent judge of character! After being attacked Romana takes the moral high ground and smugly gives Tylos his knife back. She’s attacked by those horrible fake spiders and left for dead by the brats! What a great vixen she makes with the virus spreading on her face and clawing at the Doctor and Adric (I bet Lalla Ward loved doing that!). Although it’s a really tacky moment her smile looks radiant when she wakes up.
Snotty Maths Geek: For the record Varsh would have made a much better companion and if JNT was keeping an eye on the production it would have been very clear that Richard Willis is a far superior actor, he’s a much more interesting character (imagine having to deal with the death of your younger brother that you were sworn to protect?) and far better looking (shallow, but true). How annoying can one kid be? A maths geek (oh please) who wants to be a rebel (oh geez) who wears yellow pyjamas (tragic), has a pudding bowl haircut (copy your brother Adric) and pouts petulantly when he cannot get his own way! He tries to convince the Outlers to let him join by telling them that he is better than them (yeah, that’ll work!). Oddly Adric goes back to the Outlers with the incredible story of the TARDIS and then doesn’t expect them to want to use it as an escape from the approaching mists. Matthew Waterhouse always seems to try his best when acting against Tom Baker and so his quirky description of the TARDIS almost works – for a second you can see an alternative universe where this could work. How much of a dweeb does he look when he says ‘I think I pulled the wrong lever!’ I liked the finger-crossing scene because it reminded you that this guy is an alien and doesn’t understand our customs. Matthew Waterhouse has the oddest habit of holding out his hand as he performs which I think is a nervous habit but it looks like a theatrical Hamlet-esque tic! Mate, you aint no Shakespearean actor! Varsh is all Adric has left now and in the exciting climax he doesn’t manage to save his brother form being tackled and savaged by the Marshmen. Obviously they are going to explore this life changing event in some great depth in subsequent stories…not! Bless Mr Waterhouse; he doesn’t quite know how to emote so he just glares somewhat gormlessly at his brother’s corpse. It’s nice that they linked Full Circle and Earthshock – when Adric’s death approaches he holds up his brother’s belt, which he takes from his dead body in this story.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Nobody knows how to pilot this ship.’
‘We’re all basically primeval slime with ideas above its station.’
We cannot return to Terradon…because we have never been there.’
‘But you must agree it does require some thought.’
The Good Stuff: The direction is very strong throughout and I really liked the simple effects that show the TARDIS moving through the CVE – anybody else could have overplayed it but it just works. Is that location really somewhere in England? When the TARDIS arrives and they walk out it is lush, spacious, sunny and gorgeous! The riverside sequences really look like a community at work and there has been some real effort put into making this planet look exotic (the mist that weaves through the forest, the webbing hanging from the trees and the striking lighting that hits the actors faces). The location work in the first episode is remarkably assured, Decider Draith chasing Adric through the misty ferns and being dragged into the dirty water looks really expensive and filmic (I especially loved his hand being smothered with the mist). Whilst it isn’t as celebrated as some of the other better-known cliffhangers the end of episode one is a classic, the Marshmen rising from the water shot through the reeds. Guest stars usually work best in villainous roles in Doctor Who but its rather wonderful that actors of the calibre of George Baker, James Bree and Alan Rowe get to play such a likable triumvirate of bumbling leaders. There is a very impressive pan through the crowds as Nefred makes his speech – the studio looks absolutely massive! The designers have done a great job on the Starliner; it feels solid, futuristic and shot carefully by Peter Grimwade it feels like a labyrinth of corridors. How awful are they to the Marsh Child? They shove it in a net and drag it through the corridors! As ever this season great stuff is done with the TARDIS (I think Bidmead preferred the ship to the regulars) and the Marshmen beating on the door and planning to use the ship as a battering ram are both great ideas. Grimwade doesn’t shy away from the sequence where the Marsh Child smashes its way through Dexeter laboratory, murders him and kills itself. The Doctor’s anger is brilliant – accusing the Deciders of the wilful procrastination of endless procedure because he thinks they want to hold onto the new order when they truth they simply don’t know how to fly the ship! Every 50 years or so another planet takes Alzarius away from its sun – it’s a quick explanation but a very nice one, the sort of plot thread that is usually left out. I really like that there are no good or bad guys in this story, just two races of people misunderstanding each other – it’s rarer than you might think for there not to be a villain or evil monster. It’s hilarious that the Deciders cannot make a decision to react to the threat of the Marshmen (‘that’s your conclusion from all this knowledge…do nothing!’) and so the creatures enter the great hall of knowledge and kill them all – there’s some very funny black humour in that scene! Spray the Marshmen would work in a theme park methinks! The final twist that the Marshmen are the colonies ancestors really works because they have explored the idea enough and yet it still comes completely from left field.
The Bad Stuff: Isn’t it odd how you can only become a companion this season if you lose a family member? Frankly if I were the Doctor I would be discouraging people from thinking of joining him given this freak occurrence. The wilderness of outer Gallifrey looks a little blurry and unconvincing. The sudden cut from the location work to the clearly studio bound caves is jarring. Aren’t those Outlers spotlessly clean when they enter the TARDIS considering they have just crossed the marsh? Knives being waved around in the TARDIS – surely this should feel like a bunch of violent hoodies invading and attacking rather than posh kids play ineffectually with cutlery. At times the Marshmen look extremely rubbery – they should have glistened (and they do in places). I could not work if being touched by the Marshmen is enough to kill you because that seems to be the case in the later episodes but they capture the Mash Child without harm in episode two. On the whole Full Circle is the most expensive looking story since The Talons of Weng-Chiang and yet when the Mash Spiders appear (I can’t believe they were designed with buck teeth and glowy eyes) in the duff cave sets it looks cheaper than anything from the Williams era. Imagine if the series had continued with those four brats flying the TARDIS? There’s far too much K.9 torture porn in this season and I always feel sorry for the old fella when his head is lopped off! Unfortunately the Marshmen look ultra rubbery in the harsh lights of the studio! Do the Marshmen have OCD? Why do they all throw themselves on the floor to pick up the image translators?
The Shallow Bit: The producer and the director are both gay and suddenly there are scenes of bare chested men, boys splashing about naked in the river and very exposed bums as they dragged them from the water!
Result: Full Circle is the first story of season eighteen that proves that Bidmead’s approach to Doctor Who could work. The script is very good indeed, intelligent and exploring some pretty weighty scientific and biological themes but (and this is the important part) there is an emotional core to the story too (Romana’s dilemma, the Doctor furious over the Mash child’s death, Adric losing his brother). It’s also the lushest and most attractive looking Doctor Who story in an age with some beautiful location work, detailed sets and imaginative directional touches. Unfortunately this is the story that gave us Adric so it isn’t entirely perfect, there are a few moments where you wonder if he might work out but they are outweighed by some dreadful acting that proves Waterhouse was far too inexperienced for the part. A beautifully structured story with some great surprises and an optimistic ending that promises more exciting things in E-Space: 8/10
State of Decay written by Terrance Dicks and directed by Peter Moffatt
What’s it about: The Doctor comes face to face with an old enemy of the Time Lords…
Teeth and Curls: He supposes that he is incredible but he’s never given it much thought. Tom Baker is clearly so terrifying in the part this point (his boisterous behaviour in the studio is legendary) that hilariously some random extra grabs a spade and runs away as soon as he sees him grunting! Its easy to forget how charming Tom Baker was in the role and gone is the weary traveller of The Leisure Hive and Full Circle in this tale and in steps the friendly face again – he’s sublime when asking about scientists and making Ivo realise that things haven’t changed in these parts for a long time. The ‘What is it?’ ‘You jumped on my toe!’ exchange always makes me giggle. When they realise that Adric has stowed away both Tom Baker and Lalla Ward can’t keep the eye rolling disdain out of their voices (I especially love the moment when the Doctor literally spits out the name ‘ADRIC!’ as though it is a swear word when Romana suggests they have to rescue him). The Doctor tells Romana about his old mentor the hermit up the mountain and delights in his own brand of overstatement: one single Vampire can suck the life out of an entire planet. You’ve got to love the Doctor’s style in happily sending Romana into danger whilst he heads off to do some research in the TARDIS! Nobody seems particularly impressed with the Doctor’s secret weapon…K.9!
Lovely Lalla: More confident than ever and decked out in a gorgeous long beige overcoat, Romana practically owns the show at this point. There is the vaguest of lesbian undertones as Romana cuts herself and Camilla salivates over her bleeding thumb (and the line ‘there are compensations’ whilst eyeing her up is the most blatant single entendre in the whole series). When the Doctor and Romana start going on about yawning chasms and a socio-pathetic abscess its almost as if JNT is determined to convince the viewer that his opinion on this TARDIS team being too smart is correct because I have never heard such clunky, unnaturalistic dialogue. Funny but neither of them spoke such shocking lines until JNT took over. How cute is the scene where the Doctor is trying to look for the inspection hatch (already discovered by Romana) and she lets him think he has found it? When the Doctor is trying to creep Romana out about Vampires she strokes her neck nervously. The scenes between the Doctor and Romana when they are locked up are the last great hurrah for these two (they don’t spend enough time together in Warriors’ Gate to really make an impact as a couple) and are imbued with warmth and affection. Clearly Tom Baker was having a ‘fancy the ass off of Lalla Ward’ day that day because the Doctor tells Romana she is wonderful in a way that he only usually reserves for the TARDIS.
Boy Genius: Let me ask you…how can you look unconvincing walking across a room? Now I’m no actor but I think even I could pull that one off! If this was the best JNT could find when he auditioned for Adric then perhaps he should have scrapped the whole idea. Waterhouse is unbelievably stiff in the part and I really mean that as it sounds – some people are unbelievable in roles because they have been miscast (say Howard Cooke as Pex in Paradise Towers) but they have a fair stab at in anyway and others are stiff because of inexperience (say the little girl Squeak in Survival) but give it a go and earn points for trying. Matthew Waterhouse is so wooden in his portrayal of Adric I find it unbelievable that anyone could be that blank and mechanical. Nobody behaves in such a robotic fashion in real life so why would they feel the need to portray a character like that, as a deliberate choice. As written by Terrance Dicks’ Adric is a cheeky opportunist and with the right person in the part (imagine The Awakening’s Keith Jayne or the Sarah Jane Adventures’ Daniel Anthony) he would be extremely likable and a lot of fun but when Waterhouse says lines like ‘gotcha’ to K.9 I simply want to hang him from the rafters with barbed wire and castrate him with a pair of rusty forceps. Squeaky voiced, petulant and by all accounts a little horror on set, I would have fired him on the spot after watching his performance in this story. Spare me the thought of Aukon and Camilla lusting after Adric! To be fair Waterhouse makes a great zombie but all he has to do is stand stock still and expressionless. Which is pretty much how he usually plays the character. His unjustified middle class smugness in the last episode is potentially the most irritating the character ever was (hmm…maybe not – Four to Doomsday?). Pretending or not he sounds like a stroppy, petulant, ungrateful twat who needs his blood sucked out as soon as possible.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The peasants are simple folk. Rich affair would only distress them’ ‘Quite right! It would probably give them indigestion!’
You’re wrong. The Doctor is not weaponless. He has the greatest weapon of all. Knowledge.’
‘Why am I still afraid?’
‘Countless inhabited planets all waiting to feed our hunger!’
‘Then die…that is the purpose of guards…’
The Good: The opening shot of the throne room revealed via a spacious glass shot looks very expensive – once again season eighteen looks as if it has more money in one story than the last season put together. Theatrical performances and subdued make up from the Three Who Rule leaves you with no illusions that this is supposed to be a gothic delight. The Doctor and Romana land in a shady wooded glen that screams of autumn better than other moment of Doctor Who, the location work is rich and very evocative. The overlay of the bat on Aukon’s face is a justly famous touch of direction by Peter Moffatt who is so often undervalued. Nice to know that a good whack can still knock some life into Earth technology in the future. Moffatt stresses the sensuality of the villains in the first meeting between our heroes and Zargo and Camilla both in the giving of food and drink and in their casual touching. These scenes are beautifully choreographed to suggest and almost dancing motif between the four characters. The second episode was lacking in truly memorable incident until the Doctor switches on the lights in the bowels of the ship and we discover the blood drained husks piled up and the engine tanks full of blood feeding something living beneath the Tower. Pretty much everything about the build up to the end of episode three works a treat from the cobweb strewn darkness of the inner sanctum containing the sleeping Vampires to Romana’s visible terror as they wake up (and the music is excellent). Aww…the Doctor has ticker tape in the TARDIS! Rachel Davies seems to really get off on the viciousness of the character and I find her by far the scariest of the three villains (‘The blood of the dead is stale and flat! I must feed on the living!’). Go and listen to the sequence with the rocket bursting into the sky and the Great Vampire having his heart well and truly pierced because aurally the whole sequence is extraordinary – its only when you actually look at the visuals that it falls to pieces. On the other hand the deaths of the Three Who Rule is excellent with Camilla’s eye rolling skeleton being especially nasty and the waves of smoke that wipes them into dust proving extremely effective.
The Bad: What a shame that there wasn’t the technology to make the bat attack look more convincing because the location music are both fab but add a number of rubber bats on strings and it all falls to pot. All of the model shots in and around the Tower are so unconvincing I would have scrapped the lot. A shame that after two episodes of underplaying Aukon, Emrys James loses it in episode three and surrenders to the melodrama of the character (‘You shall drink the blood of…Time Looords!’). Some severely dodgy fight scenes add some unintentional comedy to the story (one guy gets stunned by K.9 and realises that he is in the way of the robot dog and so rolls across set after he has fallen unconscious!). Predictably the bodies of the Vampires were counted and one had vanished (mightiest and most malevolent of all, naturally) and one of the Bow Ships (its Achilles’ heel) just happens to be lying around. Probably the worst example of effects letting down the show comes after the Doctor has built up the Great Vampire to be this awesome mythological beast that threatened to bring down the Time Lords and he is revealed to be…a doll being waved about underneath the Tower. Ouch. Even Tom Baker looks appalled. This really is the most hollow group of rebels the show has ever presented. Hundreds of bats are seen flying into the caves and yet oddly only one seems to want to nibble on Romana’s neck. The sky ray rocket shots whether they are model work or the wonderfully awful animation fail to convince on any level.
Result: I still assert that State of Decay is the ultimate Tom Baker story with the styles of all three of his producers combining to create a rough overview of the era. There is the gothic horror and scare elements favoured by Philip Hinchcliffe, the witty undergraduate humour highlighted by Graeme Williams and also the scientific approach as loved by (‘Stop this silliness!’) the JNT/Bidmead collaboration. It even highlights the best and the worst of Doctor Who visually with the general design of the piece being very rich and attention grabbing whilst being let down at practically every turn by all of the special effects, especially the most important one at the climax. Terrance Dicks is not a script writer to let you down and he packs in some interesting mythology about the Time Lords, lovely moments between the Doctor and Romana and a wealth of colourful lines to quote. There’s a great Paddy Kingsland score which highlights the atmosphere of terror and the sensuality between the Three Who Rule suggests the eroticism of Vampire tales without ever upsetting the delicate family audience of the BBC. Some dodgy performances aside this is a pretty fun if utterly predictable story to watch with one whopping great problem at the heart of the story in Matthew Waterhouse’s Adric who harms every scene in which he appears: 7/10
Warriors’ Gate written by Stephen Gallagher and directed by Paul Joyce (with some help by Graeme Harper)
This story in a nutshell: A featureless void, a gateway and two spaceships…
Teeth and Curls: Its great to see Tom Baker, the most memorable of Doctors going out with such great material. Whilst I have some problems with quietening the most boisterous of Doctors so much it is true that rather than sleepwalking through the scripts he was forced to act in the last season. And his performances in stories such as Full Circle and Warrior’s Gate are some of his finest from his season year run. The Doctor is firm but friendly with the TARDIS and he presses any button and hopes for the best! You’ve got to admire his audacity pretending to be a Gundan and when his cover is blown he suggests he always gets on really well with machines (Daleks? Cybermen? K1? The Robots of Death?). He is so cheeky, prompting the Gundan’s to continue their story (‘All the gateways are one! All the gateways are one!’). You can see what they were going for by sticking the Doctor, Romana and Adric together in the TARDIS, they are a family unit. Had Matthew Waterhouse been at all likable it could have worked really well (they even have a pet dog). The Doctor fights tyranny and oppressors and knocks over his overfilled cup of wine. He gives up on trying to convince bureaucratic bully Rorvik of the dangers they are facing and munches on a pickle instead. The insane Tom Baker returns for a moment when he is in the driving seat of the MZ, he looks positively dangerous! To show how much his efforts have been appreciated for the last seven years the Doctor is booted right in the face and nearly strangled to death with his own scarf. His instant acceptance of Romana’s decision to leave feels very right, after all she has been doing all the Doctory bits for the last two seasons!
Luscious Lalla: Come in number two your chips are finally up. JNT is convinced his audience would much rather hang about with Tegan than Romana (what the hell?) and so out goes all the style, charm and intelligence and in comes in fighting, soap operatics and lots of shouting. Fucking marvellous. Romana’s concern for taking Adric from his home universe is scuppered by the fact that Lalla Ward clearly can’t stand Matthew Waterhouse. She practically spits her lines at him. ‘What if the Doctor and I went separate ways?’ Romana is the Doctor now, watch as she manages to put down Rorvik, Lane and Packard just by being smugly intelligent. Within her departure story she also gets to be a whimpering, screaming companion one last time. ‘ANSWER IT!’ – and fabulously bossy as well! Romana shows compassion for the Tharils and they help her to escape imprisonment. It is long past time she has learnt to obey orders and a matte of complete indifference to her that the Doctor thinks she is improving. Romana’s blink and you’ll miss it departure is perfect for the sort of character she was, no nonsense and to the point. A protracted emotional leaving scene would have betrayed everything we love about her. Can you imagine a better ending for Romana than giving her a whole universe to be the Doctor in to fight tyranny and free slaves?
Pudding Bowl Haircut: When the Doctor suggest that geeky Adric would love it on Gallifrey you just know he is right. Adric hangs around the console room like a bad smell, pretty much ignored by the Doctor and Romana making mooneyes at each other. Astonishingly Adric doesn’t connect with the plot or do anything until episode four, proving his usefulness. Rorvik describes him as a poisonous child. Smart man.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The outer shells torn. A rip you can climb right through. In fact, I just did!’
‘Soon we wont be much better than that chap over there. When the pickles run out.’
‘Its on automatic!’ ‘It doesn’t have an automatic…’
‘I’m finally getting something done!’
‘You were the noblest Romana of them all!’
The Good Stuff: The atmospheric opening gliding through the ship exposing all the detail and realism in the sets looks like it belongs in a movie. The direction immediately jumps out at you as something special, crossing the time winds captured in the slow motion tossing of a coin. The leonine Tharil make up is very effective because it is so subtle (take note Cheetah People). Biroc’s escape and intrusion in the TARDIS is fantastically shot and full of inventive touches (the sudden close up on his eyes, Lane’s speechless reaction, the slow motion running through the void, make mincemeat out of the console). Every body must have met a personality like Rorvik in their life, an inwardly conflicted bully who ruthlessly self-destructs when people don’t take him seriously. I love the fairytale idea of the gateway in the void. The cobweb strewn banquet hall is a glorious piece of set design. The TARDIS is suggested to be a ship for midgets or a coffin for a very large man! The skull faced horned Gundans are the best-looking robots that Doctor Who ever gave us, they look both ancient and powerful. Despite the fact that it is clearly a model the freighter is another lovely piece of design work. Rorvik’s crew are such a realistic bunch, a lazy, mouthy, greedy, bored, hungry bunch of which even the lesser characters are fleshed out well in this environment. Aldo and Royce are famously memorable character, commenting on the action with such bored disdain and not having the stomach to commit the brutal acts Rorvik asks of them. The answers are built into the script slowly so you have to work to get a complete picture of what is going on, the jigsaw is made up of the Gundan’s exposition, conversations with Biroc and the banqueting scenes. Piecing this story together really is a treat because the answers are worth digging for. Electrocuting the Tharil looks really nasty, he writhes with smoking agony! The direction continues to be inventive with the rasping POV of the burnt Tharil skulking through the ship and menacing Romana. Its one of the most effective and tense cliffhangers in the shows history – the music is phenomenal throughout but it is especially effective at these suspense building moments. Tom Baker looks resplendent in his burgundy costume roaming around the black and white stills, we’re really through the looking glass now. The banqueting music is one of the most evocative pieces in Doctor Who, rich, warm, textured and suggesting a real history for these characters. How fantastic is that tear in the hull of the ship? A candle lit banqueting hall with the Tharils enjoying a gargantuan repast melting forwards in time into cobwebs and skeletons…striking pictures telling this narrative. When the Gundan’s burst into the hall attack the Tharils we have reached a peak of Doctor Who visually. Its great fun that K.9 has been explaining the plot for four episodes and everybody from the characters to the audience have been ignoring him! Rorvik’s crew are slave trading in time sensitives and dwarf star alloy is the only substance that can hold them. The weak enslave themselves; the story shows how easily the masters can become the slaves. Bullies like Rorvik always lack subtlety in their methods, he wants to use the ships back blast to smash the mirror (‘everything breaks eventually!’). Sagan’s death is brutally graphic. The Tharils reviving is a simple but stunning effect. The story ends on one of the most epic explosions, the gateway tearing apart and Rorvik’s ship in flames.
The Bad Stuff: The freighter scene are shot like liquid flowing so why is it as soon as we return to the TARDIS console room the camera is frustratingly static? All this talk about the I Ching is fascinating to an intellectual but the target audience must have felt as though they were talking another language. JNT seems determined to prove that smart means boring with this penchant of unnatural dialogue for the regulars. Poor K.9, in his last story he is kicked, thrown and turned half demented! The MZ explosion is the only effect in this story that disappoints.
The Shallow Bit: Romana gets to look radiant one last time in her blood red Chinese silk shirt.
Result: Doctor Who as a scientific fairytale, Warriors’ Gate is the show at its most rewarding and visually stunning. There are so many moments to treasure throughout it is impossible to recount them all (although I have had a good try above) and everything from the set design, lighting, effects, music, performances, direction and scripting is at its peak. Packed full of clever ideas, witty moments, dramatic twists and fantastic characters it is hard to fault a story that takes such an unusual approach to telling a story and gets it so right. One of the highlights of the JNT era and proof if it was needed that eighties Who could be just as bold, innovative and imaginative as anything that came before and since. Masterful: 10/10
The Keeper of Traken written by Johnny Byrne and directed by John Black
TO BE REVIEWED...
Logopolis written by Christopher H Bidmead and directed by Peter Grimwade
This story in a nutshell: The universe nearly ends and Tom Baker leaves Doctor Who, I’m not sure which is more important.
Teeth and Curls: Tom Baker is the only person giving the (admittedly not fantastic) material any sense of gravity. The Doctor wanders about the Cloister Room deep in thought pondering the entropy of the universe. There is bound to be a lot of fuss about Romana if they go back to Gallifrey and he would rather visit his home from home, Earth. The TARDIS and he are getting better at these short hops. The Doctor is overlooking the obvious again (remembering his failure to spot the Master in The Keeper of Traken). When the Doctor first spots the Watcher he looks positively haunted, a great moment. ‘DO YOU WANT A DECISION OR A DEBATE?’ he screams, I love it when he lays into Adric! The Watcher beckoning the Doctor to the bridge is a seminal scene. Look at Tom Baker’s face as Janet Fielding shrieks at him in a parody of acting, he looks genuinely pained! He hates farewells. The Doctor admits he is prepared for the worst because the Watcher is around. I love his ‘Earth, please’ – only Tom Baker could get away with saying such a line so casually! He envies the Master and is appalled that he is willing to shoot an innocent bystander. He has a vague faith in the nature of things. It is nice that the Doctor goes out saving the universe but really, what a boring way to do it!
Mad Aussie: That Bidmead has a lot to answer for since this is where the shrieking harridan joins us. She’s halfway bearable in the first episode because she is forced into a naturalistic role but as soon as she is crow barred into a fantastical setting that the character falls to pieces and Janet Fielding overplays everything. I loved Auntie Vanessa’s calling of her bluff – ‘Your father’s farm was hardly the outback!’ As soon as she hits the studio Tegan stiffens up – ‘My neem – my name’s Te-gan Jo-vank-a!’ To be fair to Bidmead her horrified reaction is probably the most realistic since Ian and Barbara’s but Fielding’s performance lacks the subtlety and intelligence of Russell and Hill’s. I get that Tegan is supposed to be our eyes and ears, a fish out of water but the fact that she doesn’t contribute anything to the plot and we keep cutting away from more interesting material to her wandering around the TARDIS ‘like a rabbit in a cage’ leaves the exercise redundant. Her ‘I demand to see whoever’s in charge of this ship!’ is gonad clenchingly painful. I was howling with laughter when Tegan was left holding the calculations like a lemon! She says ‘Nyssa and Adric have gone to look for the Master!’ as though she is retarded. ‘You revolting man!’ she cries at the Master, flinging herself at him wildly and doing the waltz as he pushes her away. ‘Earth!’ she cries like a cartoon character! There is nothing remotely convincing about this character.
Pudding Bowl Haircut: Shoot me down flames for saying it but I think this might just be Adric’s best appearance in Doctor Who! Not that I’m saying he’s any good by any means but Matthew Waterhouse is really trying to keep up with tom Baker here and actually manages to make the odd bit of dialogue both underplayed and naturalistic. Shocking! His fake bike accident might just be the best moment for his character; it is the closest he came to being the artful dodger as intended. He’s still alarmingly sexist to both Tegan and Nyssa and a bit of a know-all but he is bearable. That is what we call in the series, a miracle.
Alien Orphan: She’s only in the story for two episodes (of which she introduced in the most casually heinous fashion imaginable) but she manages to outshine the two characters above to the nth degree. Nyssa came to Logopolis to find the Master because she wants to know what happened to her father. Imagine seeing your father – returned young and evil? Sarah Sutton is so good she manages to ace the two moments of genuine drama that occur in this story. Her ‘you killed my father?’ to the Master is beautifully underplayed and poignant. The best moment in Logopolis comes when sees the whole universe spread out on the scanner and she realise it is being eaten away; Sarah Sutton really sells the majesty and tragedy of the notion, especially the loss of her home.
The Good Stuff: The Master really wants to invite that policeman in for tea in the gripping first scene. Why couldn’t have Aunty Vanessa have been the companion? He’s far more likable! Imagine the fourth Doctor and Aunty Vanessa roaming around the universe…what a riot! I love the first ring of the cloister bell greeted by Howell’s organ music; it’s like a portent of doom for the Doctor. The image of the police box within the console room feels wrong but it’s cracking. Creating solid objects through pure mathematics, I bet Bidmead got a real hard on writing this geekiest of premises. The Watcher in the field is another distinctive image. TARDISes within TARDISes is an intriguing idea but not original, it was dealt with just as well in The Time Monster. How much better does the console room look with the lights turned down? Peter Grimwade genuinely manages to make the TARDIS feel infinite with some very clever camerawork. The shrinking TARDIS is an unusual but effective cliffhanger. I love the Logopolitans carrying the mini TARDIS! The simplicity of the ‘outside time and space’ effects really works. The Monitor vanishing is the first time the end of universe actually means something to the audience. Odd that larking about in fields eluding the guards is the most entertaining thing on offer in this story. The music is phenomenal throughout but the chase scenes are scored brilliantly. The flashbacks are sweet and it must have come as a terrible shock to have seen a montage of fabulous companions such as Sarah Jane, Leela and Romana and wake up to find Adric and Tegan staring at him! Frankly it is no surprise that he regenerated on the spot!
The Bad Stuff: I thought JNT thought the combo of the Doctor, Romana and K.9 didn’t work because it was a bit ‘too smart’ and yet all he and Adric do in the first two episodes is talk technobabble. Aunty Vanessa’s death is oddly comical…a huge close up up her nose! The Master’s dolls are still as absurd as ever and nothing has yet topped the awesome image of the guy CSOed in the lunchbox from Terror of the Autons. How does Nyssa know that the Master has taken over Tremas? Did he make a public announcement on Traken? Flushing out the Master? Surely the most butt clenchingly illogical plan the Doctor has attempted until deciding to throw himself off a cliff in Dragonfire (but then maybe he was just sick of being Sylvester McCoy?). Why is the Master giggling so much? The idea of Logopolis is lovely, a town in the shape of a brain with old monks whispering calculations to each other but the execution turns out to be cardboard sets, dodgy CSO and gammy wigs, cheap and unconvincing. The master’s column sticks out like a sore thumb! Nyssa is shoehorned into the story at the end of episode two with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop. There are horrendous painted backdrops of the Logopolitans at work and nobody seems to notice these poor guys shrinking everywhere – not even their fellow workers! The end of the universe is…cardboard rubble bouncing about the place! Oddly far more emphasis is given to the Doctor’s collaboration with the Master rather than where the real drama lies – the deaths of Aunty Vanessa and Tremas and Tegan and Nyssa’s reaction to it. Bidmead never wants to engage with the characters when there is a wealth of dull science to lecture us with. The Doctor and the Master working together to save the universe is a fantastically climactic ideas but it seems to involve them reading computer printouts and squabbling over a device – fucking well dramaticise something Bidmead! Only the Master is such a twat that he would record a message for the entire universe relaying his demands. The final climactic set piece is completely fudged; you’ve got the unconvincing model satellite, the pantomime tripping over of the Master, the wobbly cardboard dish turning, the cardboard cut out Master looking on, the Doctor dolly hanging on a string and to be honest I’m not entirely sure why the Doctor fell because he is quite clearly sitting on a poll in the scaffolding! Such a shame.
The Gross Bit: For some the idea of Adric draped over the TARDIS as he is here in episode one is all their dreams come true. Fortunately they have all been institutionalised.
Result: Christopher H Bidmead is far more comfortable doing clever things with the TARDIS than writing for his characters or creating any kind of drama the audience can relate to. His script for Logopolis is all ideas and no sparkle; it would be so embarrassing if the universe were to end in a wave of technobabble as it threatens to here. It is directed imaginatively but the budget really lets the director down, given how striking many of the stories of season 18 look you would imagine they would have secreted away a kitty for Tom Baker’s last story. Tegan joins the series and the universe decides to give up and rot away – I do not believe the two events are unrelated: 5/10