Doctor Who: Logopolis
(4 episodes, s18e25-e28, 1981)
It is the end of the Fourth Doctor, but the moment has been prepared for.
A restless Doctor paces in thought inside the Cloister Room, a new and expansive set, pondering decay and entropy. He decides that instead of returning to Gallifrey and facing inquiries on why Romana decided to break Time Lord law and get involved in affairs of the universe, he should let “a few oceans pass under a few bridges” and head to Earth. He also plans to repair the chameleon circuit by materializing around a police box and measuring it in thirty-seven dimensions. His musings on the procedure are interrupted by the Cloister Bell, a signal of impending universal catastrophe.
On Earth, that real police box that the Doctor wants to use is replaced with a TARDIS. The police officer who was actually using it is killed. Nearby, we meet Tegan, a forgetful flight attendant. She is being driven to the airport by her Aunt Vanessa when her car gets a flat right next to the killer police box. She decides to fix it herself and avoid asking for help, and the women don’t notice when the Doctor’s TARDIS arrives, barely missing the target. The Doctor adjusts and the bad box appears in the console room. Meanwhile, Tegan notes that the spare tire is also flat, but does not notice the pure white figure studying them from across the road.
The TARDIS’s instrumentation fails due to a gravity bubble, forcing the Doctor to leave and investigate. He sees the ladies fixing the car and the white figure before returning to his console room. Once inside, he enters the police box and discovers that it is another TARDIS with a dark console room and the original police box inside. So we have a TARDIS within a TARDIS once again.
As Tegan decides to call for help, she enters the Doctor’s TARDIS just as the dark TARDIS dematerializes. As a result, she is trapped alone inside the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Cloister Bell sounds once again and Tegan investigates. Meanwhile, Vanessa follows her into the police box and finds the Master.
The Doctor and Adric investigate the police boxes, finding themselves in a near-infinite loop. The Doctor breaks out to find the police investigating Vanessa’s car, and inside it they find miniaturized versions of the original police officer and Vanessa herself.
The officers believe that the Doctor is responsible for the strange situation, and the Time Lord offers to accompany them to the station until Adric stages a diversion and they both run for the TARDIS. Upon hearing the Cloister Bell, they attempt to dematerialize but cannot leave Earth. The Doctor reconfigures the TARDIS interior by jettisoning Romana’s old room, and he sends Adric to answer the Cloister Bell while pilots the ship.
Where does Romana’s room go? Into the vortex of time and space? Recycled into the multi-spatial geometry of the TARDIS?
The bell stops as Tegan enters the Cloister Room, so Adric turns back, but Tegan encounters the other TARDIS. The Cloister Room becomes downright creepy as the Master laughs maniacally. She attempts to find her way out as the Master’s TARDIS dematerializes and rematerializes as a tree.
The Doctor reveals that he has a message from Traken, through which he deduces that the Master has killed Tremas. He knows that they cannot continue to Logopolis if the Master’s TARDIS is still within his own, so he decides to materialize under the Thames River and flush the TARDIS out. Unfortunately, he misses and lands on a nearby jetty instead. The white figure appears and beckons, telling the Time Lord that he must continue on to Logopolis. When they arrive, Tegan bursts into the console room and the Doctor declares that, based on what he has learned from the mysterious figure, he and his companions must part company. Meanwhile, the Master’s TARDIS vanishes from the Cloister Room and reappears outside, taking the form of a column.
The Doctor and his companions meet with the lead Logopolitan, the Monitor, and ask for his help with the chameleon circuit. As the Monitor works and passes the calculation on to the rest of the Logopolitans, the Master begins to kill them one by one. The Doctor recognizes the Central Register (the hub of Logopolis) as a replica of the Pharos Project from Earth, an attempt to contact alien life, before taking the calculation to the TARDIS. He locks Tegan and Adric out, then inputs the figures, but since they were disrupted by the murders, the TARDIS shrinks by half. While the assembled crowd (and the mysterious white figure) watches, Nyssa arrives thanks to “a friend of the Doctor’s.”
I kind of want the half-scale model of the TARDIS.
The Logopolitans take the TARDIS to be analyzed as the Master jeers from a secluded location. They use sonic projectors to stabilize the TARDIS as the Monitor tracks down the errors in the calculation, which they isolate to the murdered analysts. Tegan shows the corrected calculation to the Doctor through the scanner while Adric and Nyssa track down the Master; Adric believes that the white figure is the Master, while Nyssa wants to find her father. The Master uses the latter to his advantage by attracting the young woman and using a bracelet to control her.
The TARDIS is restored through the revised calculations, and the Doctor emerges shaken but unharmed. He reveals Vanessa’s death to Tegan and vows to stop the Master no matter what it takes. The Doctor retrieves his companions and encounters the mysterious white figure, whom Nyssa reveals is the “friend of the Doctor’s” who brought her to Logopolis.
The writing worked for me here. I honestly thought that the Master was the “friend” who brought Nyssa as a distraction. This twist was intriguing.
The Master wheels the sonic projectors into the calculation centers and activates them, silencing all of the calculating Logopolitans. The Master holds them for ransom until the Monitor explains why they replicated the Pharos Project on the planet. The Doctor arrives, revealing that the Master is not Nyssa’s father, and revealing that Logopolis is the cornerstone over the causal nexus. As Adric tries to reposition the projectors, the Master forces Nyssa to choke Adric until Tegan restores the devices. The Master attempts to demonstrate that his control is temporary, but the damage is done: Logopolis is dead.
Wow. I’m actually impressed with the evil here. It wasn’t direct action that destroyed a planet, but it’s still evil nonetheless.
The Master tries to use Nyssa to kill the Monitor, but the entropy has spread to his controls. Nyssa is freed from her bracelet, and the Monitor explains that since the universe has long since passed the point of heat death and is on its way to collapse, the Logopolitans have been opening temporary voids to channel the entropy into other universes. One such void is like the one that sent the TARDIS to E-Space. The Master’s interference has collapsed the voids and put the universe back on course to death. To save it, the Doctor allies with the Master – much to his companions’ chagrin – and sends his companions into the TARDIS. Tegan, however, disobeys and leaves as the TARDIS dematerializes, piloted by the mysterious white figure outside of all spacetime.
The Doctor and the Master seek out the Monitor, who reveals a plan to make the voids permanent. Before he can transmit the information to another universe through a void, he is consumed by the entropy. The Master attempts to run, but is covered in collapsing rubble. The Doctor and Tegan take the research and escape using the Master’s TARDIS, rescuing the cad along the way. They arrive at the real Pharos Project on Earth to send the information through one remaining void.
On the Doctor’s TARDIS, the mysterious white figure tasks Adric to pilot the TARDIS to the Pharos Project. As he works, Nyssa watches the entropy wave destroy part of the universe, including her home of Traken. The TARDIS arrives on Earth moments later.
The Doctor and the Master feed the program into the computers, but the transmission antenna needs to be properly aligned. The companions distract the guards as the two Time Lords make their way to the antenna, but the Master double-crosses the Doctor and uses the antenna to transmit a message of domination instead of one of salvation. If they do not acknowledge his rule over the universe, he will send the signal to close the void and destroy everything. The Doctor runs to disconnect the cable that could transmit the signal to close the void, and as he hangs on for dear life, he sees visions of his enemies: The decaying Master, a Dalek, the Captain, the Cyber-Leader, Davros, a Sontaran, a Zygon, and the Black Guardian.
The Master escapes, and the Doctor falls.
It is the end for him, and he is accompanied to his death by visions of Sarah Jane, Harry Sullivan, the Brigadier, Leela, K9, and Romana. The Doctor is not troubled by this however, and he smiles, for the moment has been prepared for as the mysterious white figure arrives. He is the Watcher, and has been some form of the Doctor all along. The Watcher melds with the Doctor, and the Time Lord regenerates.
The ending was a bit rushed. I would have liked more explanation about the Watcher and his meaning. As it stands now, it’s a plot convenience on the order of the Third Doctor.
But, those complaints are small potatoes in comparison to the positives. I loved how the companions truly carried this story. I also loved how the Doctor gave his life to save the universe. It can’t happen with every story, but they are much more powerful when he is willing to make that sacrifice.
So, yeah, this is a top story even without the handicap I give to regeneration stories.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
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