Timestamp Supplemental #7: Warriors’ Gate (E-Space Trilogy, Part 3)

Doctor Who: State of Decay (E-Space Trilogy, Part 3)
Earth Station Who: Episode 210

 

Taking one more trip to E-Space, I traveled to Earth Station Who to joined Mike Faber, Mike Gordon, and Mary Ogle for a discussion of Warriors’ Gate, the third part of the E-Space trilogy and a story that I previously covered in Timestamp #114.

This is an interesting discussion for me. When I first saw the serial in May of 2017, I focused a lot more on what the writers and showrunners attempted to tackle with limited resources. As such, the story got a rather high rating from me. For the ESW discussion, I was able to take a second look and the ratings show it.

Spoiler: I nearly fell asleep while watching it for this recording.

My voice is also a little ragged in this episode of ESW due to seasonal allergies. My apologies, and thank you for your patience.

As always, I recommend visiting their site and listening to their podcast. They cover everything from the Doctor Who franchise, from the classic and new televised episodes to the Big Finish audio and everything in the middle. During the regular seasons, they review the new episodes on a weekly basis, and during the off-season, they take a look back at some of their favorite (and not so favorite) adventures in time and space.

If you enjoy what you hear, leave a review in all the regular places, and also consider joining their fan community on Facebook. The ESW crew has built a fantastic community of fans, and it’s far more respectful than a lot of places on the internet. They are fans who love the series and want to share that love with fellow fans worldwide.

Earth Station Who is a podcast in the ESO Network, which includes the flagship show Earth Station One.

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

 

 

Timestamp Supplemental #6: State of Decay (E-Space Trilogy, Part 2)

Doctor Who: State of Decay (E-Space Trilogy, Part 2)
Earth Station Who: Episode 209

 

Remaining in E-Space for another episode, I traveled to Earth Station Who to joined Mike Faber, Mike Gordon, and Mary Ogle for a discussion of State of Decay, the second part of the E-Space trilogy and a story that I previously covered in Timestamp #113.

As always, I recommend visiting their site and listening to their podcast. They cover everything from the Doctor Who franchise, from the classic and new televised episodes to the Big Finish audio and everything in the middle. During the regular seasons, they review the new episodes on a weekly basis, and during the off-season, they take a look back at some of their favorite (and not so favorite) adventures in time and space.

If you enjoy what you hear, leave a review in all the regular places, and also consider joining their fan community on Facebook. The ESW crew has built a fantastic community of fans, and it’s far more respectful than a lot of places on the internet. They are fans who love the series and want to share that love with fellow fans worldwide.

Earth Station Who is a podcast in the ESO Network, which includes the flagship show Earth Station One.

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

 

 

Timestamp Supplemental #5: Full Circle (E-Space Trilogy, Part 1)

Doctor Who: Full Circle (E-Space Trilogy, Part 1)
Earth Station Who: Episode 208

 

I traveled to Earth Station Who one more time. This time, I joined Mike Faber and Mary Ogle for a discussion of Full Circle, the first part of the E-Space trilogy and a story that I previously covered in Timestamp #112.

As always, I recommend visiting their site and listening to their podcast. They cover everything from the Doctor Who franchise, from the classic and new televised episodes to the Big Finish audio and everything in the middle. During the regular seasons, they review the new episodes on a weekly basis, and during the off-season, they take a look back at some of their favorite (and not so favorite) adventures in time and space.

If you enjoy what you hear, leave a review in all the regular places, and also consider joining their fan community on Facebook. The ESW crew has built a fantastic community of fans, and it’s far more respectful than a lot of places on the internet. They are fans who love the series and want to share that love with fellow fans worldwide.

Earth Station Who is a podcast in the ESO Network, which includes the flagship show Earth Station One.

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

 

 

Timestamp Special #7: Dimensions in Time

Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time
(2 episodes, 1993)

 

Celebrating thirty years.

Starting off with a little backstory, this was shown as part of the 1993 Children in Need telethon over two nights. Both parts were bracketed by host Noel Edmonds, and the first part involved a short intro sketch with Jon Pertwee in character as the Doctor. Sadly, this was his last on-screen performance before his death.

On to the story…

The Rani is traveling with her companion, previously having captured (busts of) the First and Second Doctors in an attempt to assemble a menagerie of sentient life-forms to control the universe. That’s kind of her thing, really. Her companion checks off a Cyberman and a Time Lord from Gallifrey, noting that they need a human from Earth to complete the collection.

Elsewhere, the Fourth Doctor (in his Eighteenth Season garb) issues a warning to all of his other incarnations. It appears that he’s too late as the Rani takes aim on the TARDIS and knocks the capsule off course. Instead of landing in China, the Seventh Doctor and Ace materialize on the docks at the Cutty Sark Gardens, circa 1973. As Ace calls for help, the Seventh Doctor transforms into the Sixth Doctor, and both of them are instantly transported to (the fictional) Albert Square. The Sixth Doctor remarks that they have “slipped a groove” in time, and somehow he knows who Ace is.

This timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbliness will drive the rest of the adventure.

As Ace spots a clothing stand and a discount on a jacket from Sanjay and Gita (of The EastEnders), the Sixth Doctor discovers that they are now in 1993. The slipped groove has also slipped them two decades into the future. Just as he begins to question things, the slip happens again, leaving behind the Third Doctor and Mel. The Third Doctor believes that someone is rooting through his timeline and extracting previous incarnations and companions. The pair stop and ask two shop owners (Pauline Fowler and Kathy Beale from The EastEnders) what year they are in, and they are shocked to discover that they are in 2013.

The slips come fast and furious now, bouncing between 1973, 1993, and 2013, all in an attempt to separate the Doctor from the TARDIS and seal all of the Doctors together. One slip occurs, revealing the Sixth Doctor and Susan Foreman, the latter of whom is eager to find her grandfather, Ian, and Barbara. Another slip brings Sarah Jane and the Third Doctor back together. The next reunites the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, and Peri, and this time they’re under attack from the Rani’s menagerie because our heroes (in all their guises) are too close to the truth.

They face off against a host of villains from the last thirty years (including an Argolin, a biomechanoid, a Cyberman, a Mentor, an Ogron, a Sandminer robot, a Sea Devil, a Tetrap, a Time Lord, a Tractator, a Vanir and a Vervoid, and even Fifi), and after they attempt to warn Pat Butcher (The EastEnders) of the danger – a futile effort, it seems – they are trapped by the Rani outside the Queen Victoria (once more, The EastEnders).

The Fifth Doctor psychically summons the Third Doctor in his place, an act that replaces Nyssa and Peri with Liz Shaw. Liz attempts to disarm the Rani, but then flees after Mandy (The EastEnders) distracts the villain. Mike Yates arrives in Bessie and shoots the gun out of the Rani’s hands, offering the Doctor a way out. Together they flee to a helicopter and the Brigadier.

Another slip occurs, exchanging the Third Doctor for the Sixth as they reach safety. As another slip occurs, the Rani and her companion set course for the Greenwich Meridian to find their missing human specimen. In a garage, the second Romana is flushed out of her hiding spot by Phil and Grant Mitchell (you guessed it, The EastEnders), who point her to their doctor, Harold Legg. As she passes the Queen Victoria, the Rani captures her.

In 1973, the Third Doctor and Victoria Waterfield discuss the nature of the Rani as they return to the TARDIS. Time slips once again, and the Seventh Doctor lands in 1993 and encounters Leela, who has escaped the Rani after being cloned in the form of the second Romana. This is the key that the Doctor needs, since the Rani now has an extra Time Lord brain imprint instead of the human one she needed. The Seventh Doctor, Ace, and K9 rig up a device to overload the time tunnel, capturing the Rani inside while breaking the other Doctors free.

Triumphant, the Seventh Doctor and Ace board the TARDIS for their next adventure, confident in the fact that the Doctor(s) are difficult to get rid of.

 

This was fun but chaotic, and a decent nod to the franchise on its thirtieth anniversary.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

Timestamp #130: The Five Doctors

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors
(Twentieth Anniversary Special, 1983)

 

“I am being diminished, whittled away piece by piece. A man is the sum of his memories you know, a Time Lord even more so…”

After a heart-touching introduction by the First Doctor, we find the Fifth Doctor – To save on confusion, I’m going to call them by number right out of the gate – putting the finishing touches on a brand new control console, and I actually kind of like it. The team is relaxing at the Eye of Orion, taking some time away from the rush of their recent adventures. The tranquil atmosphere has something to do with a bombardment of positive ions, and the Doctor agrees with Tegan that they can vacation for a little while.

Elsewhere, a black-gloved hand fiddles with controls and activates a scanner. On the screen is none other than the First Doctor (though not quite the genuine article due to an obvious need for recasting). A black Phantom Zone-like two-dimensional triangle swoops down and scoops up the Time Lord, an act that causes the Fifth Doctor considerable pain. The First Doctor is reduced to an Eaglemoss figurine and placed on a crystalline display.

Next up, we’re taken to UNIT HQ where Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is talking to his replacement, Colonel Crighton, when the Second Doctor arrives. The Time Lord has arrived to attend the Brig’s farewell speech and is unhappy with the renovations at UNIT HQ. He and the Brigadier take a walk, reminiscing over the Yeti, the Cybermen, Omega, and the Terrible Zodin (okay, not so much that one) before they too are swept into the Phantom Zone and turned into toys.

On to the Third Doctor, who is trying to outrace the spinning triangle in Bessie. He fails.

Tegan and Turlough escort the Fifth Doctor to the TARDIS, where he tells them that he must find his older selves to stop whatever is chewing at his soul. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sarah Jane and K9 puzzle over the danger that the robotic dog detects. Sarah Jane ignores his concerns and heads to the bus for her daily schedule. She’s later consumed by the mysterious triangle.

The Fourth Doctor and Romana are punting down the river at Cambridge, just like they did in Shada. It’s a clever re-use of footage, really. Anyway, they are also taken, which causes the Fifth Doctor to collapse, but not before he sets the coordinates. The Fifth Doctor fades in and out before the TARDIS lands, and the mysterious figure adds models of Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor to the display.

On Gallifrey, the Inner Council has convened, comprised of a newly-regenerated President Borusa, High Chancellor Flavia, and the Castellan. Shockingly, they admit the Master for a conference. The Inner Council offer a pardon for his long list of crimes and a whole new regeneration cycle in exchange for one act: He is to rescue the Doctor.

Surprise!

The First Doctor wanders an angular cave of mirrors, joined in a surprise appearance by Susan. (There were cheers from this Whovian. I’ve missed her.) The pair run as a Dalek (we haven’t seen them in a while!) rounds a corner and opens fire. The place is known as the Death Zone, an arena-like place on Gallifrey where beings from across the universe were sent to battle for amusement before the time of Rassilon. The Council sent two representatives who did not return. They attempted to send the Doctor, but all of his incarnations have vanished from the timeline. All of them (except the Fourth because Tom Baker had reasons) have been deposited in the Death Zone. Inside the Zone, the First Doctor and Susan trick the Dalek into a mirrored dead end. It fires and the reflected beam destroys the creature, revealing the mutant within the armored casing. Through a hole in the wall, they see the tower of the Death Zone and decide to investigate.

Elsewhere, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier tangle with Cybermen and the Third Doctor reunites with Sarah Jane as he rescues her from a terrible fall. As the First Doctor and Susan wander, they find the Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS and meet Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor. The First Doctor spearheads introductions all around and then tasks Tegan with fetching refreshments. She objects, but the Fifth Doctor asks her to humor the oldest of the Doctors. After all, he used to get a bit tetchy. Meanwhile, the Master is sent into the Zone with the Seal of the High Council (to prove his credentials) and a transmat recall device. He is soon found by the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane, but the reunion is broken up by laser fire. The Master runs one direction while the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane go another, but without the aid of Bessie who took a direct hit to the engine.

The Fifth Doctor sets the TARDIS coordinates for the Dark Tower, a place that supposedly holds the tomb of Rassilon and is the current destination for all of the Doctors and companions. The Fifth Doctor, Susan, and Tegan set out on foot to disable the force field around it so the First Doctor and Turlough can move the TARDIS to its doorstep. Meanwhile, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier go in through the cave system beneath the tower, the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter Cybermen, and the Fifth Doctor’s team encounters the Master. The last event is watched by a squad of Cybermen, who rush the Time Lords and stun the Master. The Fifth Doctor sends Susan (who twists her ankle) and Tegan back to the TARDIS before using the transmat recall to return to the capitol. The First Doctor decides to take up the Fifth Doctor’s task, and Tegan joins him. Amusingly, the First Doctor still has a great deal of resentment at being addressed as “Doc.”

The Fifth Doctor confers with the Inner Council about who has control of the time scoop and the Cybermen. He uncovers a homing beacon inside the recall device, surmising that someone led the Cybermen to the Master to attack the Doctors. Borusa has the Castellan, who originally gave the device to the Master, arrested and his office and quarters searched. Meanwhile, the Master makes an arrangement with the Cybermen, who then converge on the TARDIS.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter a Raston Warrior Robot, a perfect killing machine, halting their progress until it passes. Luckily, the Cybermen approach and engage the Raston, providing a diversion for our heroes to escape (with the Raston’s supplies). In the caves, the Second Doctor and the Brig find a Yeti, which they evade before finding a door to the Dark Tower. It is unlocked, so a trap must lie beyond.

In the Citadel, a chest containing Black Scrolls of Rassilon, forbidden knowledge from the Dark Times, is found in the Castellan’s quarters. The Castellan is taken away for interrogation but is shot dead (without regeneration) en route. The Fifth Doctor is forbidden by Borusa from returning to the Death Zone. Flavia is tasked with taking care of the Fifth Doctor, and they discuss the possibility that the Castellan was not the traitor.

At this point, all three entrances to the Dark Tower are in use. The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane zipline across to the upper entrance, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier are in the basement, and the First Doctor and Tegan use a biometric entry coder to open the front door. The Master follows through the main entrance with the Cybermen. Interestingly, the First Doctor does not recognize his former classmate. The Master tricks the Cybermen into a death trap, but the CyberLeader survives until the Master tricks and kills him with a Cyberman blaster. The Master passes the trap, followed by the First Doctor and Tegan who survive by using π. Stay in school, kids… math can save your life.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane descend toward the Tomb of Rassilon, but the closer they get, the more psychic energy pushes back on Sarah Jane. The Third Doctor scouts ahead and finds former companions Mike Yates and Liz Shaw. Similarly, the Second Doctor encounters Zoe Heriot and Jaimie McCrimmon, but in both cases, the former companions are only specters designed to impede progress toward the heart of the tower. Once the Doctors understand that the companions are mere illusions, they disappear with chilling screams. The First Doctor is unaffected since, at his age, he has nothing left to fear.

The First, Second, and Third Doctors, along with their current traveling companions, finally arrive at the tomb. After a series of reunions, the Doctors decipher the Old High Gallifreyan language of mathematical symbols to discover that whoever wears Rassilon’s ring shall achieve immortality. The First Doctor is troubled by the last line in the text: “To lose is to win and he who wins shall lose.” The Master arrives shortly afterward and threatens the Doctors, but he is sucker-punched by the Brigadier and tied up by Tegan and Sarah Jane.

The Fifth Doctor goes to confer with Borusa, but the president is nowhere to be found. The Doctor discovers that the Harp of Rassilon is a musical key. The key unlocks a chamber where the figurines (including one of the Master) are being overseen by Borusa, the true mastermind of this scheme. The president is not satisfied with leading Gallifrey for all of his lifetimes, but instead want to be immortal and President Eternal. He plans to use the Doctors to clear the path and traps, leaving the way open for him to claim the prize. When the Fifth Doctor refuses to help, Borusa uses the power of the Coronet of Rassilon to compel his cooperation.

Politicians, right?

The Third Doctor reverses the polarity of the neutron flow on the control console, and with the forcefields down around the Tomb of Rassilon, the TARDIS engages autopilot and moves to the tomb with Susan and Turlough. The movement is just in time as the Cybermen detonate a bomb to destroy the TARDIS, but they miss. Soon, the Fifth Doctor and Borusa arrive via transmat to claim the prize. The first three Doctors combine their psionic powers to break the telepathic hold, and as the Fifth Doctor is freed, the voice of Rassilon issues a challenge to Borusa. The First Doctor convinces Rassilon to surrender the ring to Borusa, and the president’s desire is granted: The faces that line the plinth come to life, for they are those who have previously sought immortality, and Borusa becomes one of them.

Rassilon offers immortality to the Doctors, but they decline in exchange for the chance to go back to their respective timestreams. The Fourth Doctor is restored to Shada, and the Master is restored with the promise that his sins will find their punishment in due time. As the Doctors says their farewells, the First Doctor (smugly) explains that he convinced Rassilon to give Borusa the ring because he finally understood the riddle: It was a trap set by Rassilon to weed out the more selfish of their people because they were a danger to civilization. Each set of Doctors and companions boards the TARDIS in order and the TARDIS splits through a form of temporal fission to return them their proper homes.

Chancellor Flavia arrives and tells the Doctor that he is due back to the Citadel. Since Borusa has been disqualified, the High Council has decided that the Doctor shall resume his duties as Lord President. He orders Flavia back to the Citadel, telling her that she has full authority until he arrives in his TARDIS. After ushering Tegan and Turlough aboard, he sets a course and dematerializes, stunning his companions by announcing his intention to not take office.

“You mean you’re deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people, in a rackety old TARDIS?”

“Why not? After all, that’s how it all started.”

 

All in all, this was a wonderful story to celebrate a significant milestone. I was curious, so I looked at scripted entertainment television across the United States and United Kingdom and came up with a short list of shows to reach twenty years by 1983: Coronation Street, Guiding Light, As the World Turns, General Hospital, The Wonderful World of Disney, Romper Room, Search for Tomorrow, Captain Kangaroo, and The Edge of Night. There were also a couple of semi-scripted children’s shows like Blue Peter and The Sooty Show, but the fact remains that, in a world dominated by soap opera longevity, Doctor Who was the only science-fiction drama reach that mark.

Yeah, they deserved this party.

I was very pleased to see so many of the companions back in action, even if their cameos were short. While I would have loved to see Liz, Zoe, and Jamie get into the mix, the saying holds true that too many cooks spoil the broth. It was clever, however, to subvert nostalgia with the canonical circumstances of The War Games. I appreciate that level of attention to detail.

I did miss having Tom Baker in the mix, which would have drawn The Five Doctors down to four if it hadn’t been for Richard Hurndall. From what I gather in fan circles, his involvement as the First Doctor is sometimes disparaged, but I thought he did a fantastic job. Mixing his performance with the archival footage at the beginning (effectively bringing us two First Doctors) was a nice touch and a beautiful tribute to the beginnings of this franchise.

Finally, that wonderful musical mix over the end credits to tie the eras together: C’est fantastique.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Twentieth Series Summary

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp: Eighteenth Series and Fourth Doctor Summary

Doctor Who: Eighteenth Series and Fourth Doctor Summary

timestamp-logo-fourth-fifth

Doctor Who pulled out all the stops to say goodbye to a legendary lead.

The Eighteenth Series bounced back from the doldrums of the Fourth Doctor’s last three years, and it bounced high. It started well with The Leisure Hive, carried well through the E-Space Trilogy (Full Circle, State of Decay, and Warriors’ Gate), and then hit the gas with The Keeper of Traken and Logopolis.

In fact, the only low point was Meglos, and that was still an average performance.

This series was a combination of tying off threads while setting up the weavers of the future with Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan. I already discussed my feelings on Romana in the Timestamp for Warriors’ Gate, and I’m okay with the three new companions. I love Tegan’s brashness so far, but I’m apprehensive about Adric and Nyssa. My biggest fear is that they are included on a “children’s show” in order to engage children, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, Adric seems to be out Wesley Crushering Wesley Crusher. In the first and second seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, child prodigy Wesley Crusher often saved the day by figuring out a problem that a ship full of trained professionals couldn’t reason out, many times by subverting the command structure in a blantant statement that adults are too locked in their ways.

It certainly wasn’t the first time Gene Roddenberry played with that trope, but I digress.

Adric is being painted as an incredibly lucky or intuitive boy. He has come to the right answers before the Doctor (and Romana) multiple times, and often because of taking a random action instead of reasoning out the solution. He pilots the TARDIS (a baffling act to begin with) by the flip of a coin.

I hope that aspect of his character mellows in the Fifth Doctor’s run, or is at least mitigated by Nyssa and Tegan.

Out of the Fourth Doctor’s legendary run, this series was the highest rated, barely beating out the first of his seven-year set. In terms of the franchise so far, this one ties the Fifth Series at third, coming in behind the Eleventh and Ninth Series.

The Leisure Hive – 4
Meglos – 3
Full Circle – 4
State of Decay –  4
Warriors’ Gate – 4
The Keeper of Traken – 5
Logopolis – 5

Series Eighteen Average Rating: 4.2/5

timestamp-fourth-doctor

We have had the Wise Grandfather, the Sly Jester, the Secret Agent Scientist, and now we have the Whimsical Warrior. In fact, the Fourth Doctor is summarized in something he told Sarah Jane in his first adventure:

There’s no point being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes.

The Fourth Doctor was, in part, an evolution of the Second and Third Doctors. He was playful and capricious, but also fueled by righteous anger at injustice in the universe. The last seven years (mostly) ditched the James Bond tropes and focused on making each story an adventure, adding fun back into the mix by dialing back the Jon Pertwee seriousness. The character kept the arrogance (and some of the rudeness) from the past two incarnations, which brought us closer to the trope of the Doctor being the smartest man in the room.

For better or for worse, of course. It gets annoying when each story is solved by the Doctor pulling out a fact that only he knew – preventing the audience from being able to solve the mystery on their own – but it makes the stories like Logopolis where the companions actively drive the adventure so much more sweet.

But there are caveats in my joy with this incarnation. Frankly, I think he overstayed his welcome.

Back in the Third Doctor’s Summary, I discussed the balance between longevity and consistency in television series. Doctor Who has obviously been evolving in its eighteen years to this point, often at the sake of consistency with canon and tone. What’s interesting with that in mind is taking the Fourth Doctor’s run as a subset and watching how it mirrors long-running television series. It started strong in the first three years, changed things up, languished as it struggled to get back to the golden days, hit refresh, and then ended on a strong note.

Just like how Doctor Who had to evolve (regenerate) leading into the Third Doctor’s run in order to survive as audiences grew, it had to do so again. The results weren’t so good as the years went on. From some of the classic Whovians I’ve spoken too, the road to recovery from here was long and arduous.

Some even claim that the show never really recovered before classic Who ended.

In terms of pop culture, Tom Baker’s run left a significant mark. These seven years were a starting point for many people, and the combination of the TARDIS, jelly babies, companions, and that iconic scarf are touchstones that link with the barest thought of Doctor Who to this day.

I even have a handmade scarf in the process of being knitted for Dragon Con.

Even despite the drop in quality over the years, the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who was fun and exciting. I see a lot of myself in the Fourth Doctor, and even though he’s not my favorite, he made a distinct impression on me. It’s easy to see why he has a spot in so many hearts within fandom.

That said, I’m ready for a change of pace.

By the numbers, the Fourth Doctor ties with the Second Doctor in second place. By overall gut feeling, he’s at third. Patrick Troughton is just that hard to beat in my heart.

Series 12 – 4.0
Series 13 – 3.8
Series 14 – 3.8
Series 15 – 3.3
Series 16 – 3.2
Series 17 – 3.3
Series 18 – 4.1

Fourth Doctor’s Weighted Average Rating: 3.67

Ranking (by score)
1 – Third (4.00)
2 – Second (3.67)
2 – Fourth (3.67)
4 – First (3.41)

Ranking (by character)
1 – Second Doctor
2 – Third Doctor
3 – Fourth Doctor
4 – First Doctor

Okay, I know, I know, we’re in the middle of a loose trilogy. I’m interrupting the flow by doing this, but now is a great time to close off this era of Doctor Who by visiting Fourth Doctor companions Sarah Jane Smith and K9 one more time.

After that, it’s back to the mission to defeat the Master with a new Doctor.

UP NEXT – Special #3: A Girl’s Best Friend

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #116: Logopolis

Doctor Who: Logopolis
(4 episodes, s18e25-e28, 1981)

timestamp-116-logopolis

 

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.

Poor Nyssa.

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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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.