Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Now that he's established, this Master gets to
being truly, seriously scary....
“Logopolis is not the universe."
“But it is. Logopolis is the keystone. If you destroy Logopolis, you unravel the whole causal nexus.”

1) There is no doubt, right from the first part of this serial, that Janet Fielding’s Tegan Jovanka is going dominate the companion screen time....and given the abrasiveness and bossiness of the character (it’s not for nothing that at one point during her tenure she’s referred to as ‘a mouth on legs’), this does not bode well for the tenure of incoming Doctor Peter Davision.

2) And the fact that Nathan Turner has fallen in love with Tegan results in his impulse add of Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa becoming inconsequential.  Nyssa just appears out of nowhere in the second part of the story, and seems to be there solely so The Master can have someone to use that weird arm-controlling device in part three.  Admittedly, there is an attempt to bind her together thematically with the other companions when her planet is destroyed (a moment where Sutton shines), but the fact that she’s there Just Because is glaring.

3) Christopher H. Bidmead’s script is typical in its hard science concepts, especially when it comes to Logopolis itself.  The moment the TARDIS lands on this planet and we start to unravel the mystery and purpose behind it, the serial never lets up.  And Bidmead trusts us enough as an audience to grasp these principles without talking down or stopping everything to explain what’s going on.  That allows for the story to flow evenly and allow us to concentrate on the characters and what’s happening to them.
"Free at last, free at last!"

4) This is the first full serial that reveals Anthony Ainley’s Master to the world, and man is he pretty damn scary!  Even though he’s saddled with that odd outfit with the black frock coat and ornate silver collar that made me refer to it as ‘the gay pirate’ uniform, Ainley creates a very malevolent and--more importantly--opportunistic figure who thinks nothing of taking advantage of a serious situation he caused by accident to blackmail the entire universe.

5) I have to wonder why Bidmead allows the whole sequence concerning the nesting Tardisi, as it really doesn’t pay off much save for watching Tegan wander around and around the Tardis looking for an exit.  This is something we’ll see a number of times throughout the Peter Davison series, where there seems to be two separate and unconnected acts that run through the serial.

6) The Watcher...I am of two minds about this aspect of the story.  It’s certainly a fairly shaky justification for a regeneration, and the Watcher is an even shakier device for it to happen.  That being said, I give both Bidmead and Nathan-Turner credit for trying to make the whole regeneration epic.  It doesn’t work (the Davison-to-Colin-Baker regeneration works a whole lot better, primarily because the moment is treated as more intimate), but at least it’s there.

7) Maybe it’s because he’s finally getting his pass out of the series, but Tom Baker is surprisingly subdued and effective in the serial.  There’s a sense of him being aware of his own impending doom (the way he keeps trying to pass off Adric and, later, the girls, off on others seems to emphasize this) and trying hard to keep it together.  Plus he shows absolute contempt for the Master.  There’s that moment at the end of episode where the Master offers his hand to cement an alliance; Baker looks away before shaking his enemy’s hand that speaks volumes about his distaste for the deal.
"Mark my of you is going to have to go..."

8) John Fraser’s performance as The Monitor is rather intriguing.  There’s a certain sense of, well, modest immodesty to his actions, and the way he rarely speaks in anything other than  conversational tones makes the few moments when he does lose his self-control all the more effective...especially the moment where we learn the true secret of Logopolis.

9) Maybe it’s because the series had been under the influence of Baker for several years, or maybe it’s because of the inexperience of two of the main actors involved in the serial--namely Matthew Waterhouse and Janet Fielding--there’s a level of pantomiminess that serves to make the flow of the serial out of kilter.  The broadness of the reactions in Fielding’s case are particularly jarring.

10) I appreciate the use of the Pharos Project; it dovetails nicely with Bidmead’s mathematics theme, I assume it allowed the budget to stretch so that this serial looks a little cooler than it could have...but I think that the final part is a little too full of everybody running around the grounds, all hunched over in the hopes of not being seen.  This, coupled with the whole ‘nesting Tardisii’ things give the serial a sense of being overinflated.

Overall...Yes, it’s flawed.  Yes, it could be more tightly plotted.  Yes, it suffers from companion-itis.  But it’s got a wonderful nugget of a premise that is very hard science fiction with some excellent performances by Baker and Ainley.  This is absolutely essential viewing.


  1. No mention of the fall from the tower that kills him, yet years later he falls from the sky, gets up, dusts himself off, and proceeds to defeat the Master?

    John Drew

    1. I wanted to address the classic serials in the context of the classic series. I don't want to bring in the New WHO, especially not...grumblemutter...until I get up to those episodes. Or, you know, I won't stop screaming.