Logopolis sets out to achieve a great deal. It has to reintroduce the Master, finish establishing Nyssa as a new companion, introduce another new companion, and write out Tom Baker after a mammoth seven-year stint as the Doctor. With these criteria and some fascinating science fiction concepts it has all the makings of a classic, but despite all that it is a massive disappointment.
Logopolis benefits from two interesting concepts, which are the Watcher and Block Transfer Computation. The Watcher, despite being conceptually similar to Cho-je from Planet of the Spiders, adds a new spin to regeneration for the Doctor and serves as an ominous omen throughout of the Doctors fate at the climax. The reason I feel that the Watcher works so well is that, unlike Cho-je, he is an unformed, amorphous figure, which provides more of an air of mystery than cameos from Peter Davison throughout the story would have done. To emphasize the mystery surrounding him, he has no lines, his conversations with the Doctor, Adric and Nyssa taking place out of shot, and no explanation is offered for how he comes to be in the first place. His eventual role in the Doctors regeneration tells us all we really need to know about him, and for the less intelligent audience members, the production team kindly deign to bolt on a line from Nyssa (He was the Doctor all along!) to state the bleeding obvious.
The idea of Block Transfer Computation, and the role of Logopolis in the scheme of the universe, is also fascinating. Despite strangely persistent fan rumours that Christopher H. Bidmead brought hard scientific concepts to Doctor Who, its pure pseudo science, but rather like dimensional transcendentalism it is handled in such a way that it works very well. The revelation that the Logopolitans are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the universe by forestalling entropy with their mathematics makes for a novel plot device, and the subsequent disruption of their work and the ensuing entropy field means that for his final story Bakers Doctor gets to face a suitably awesome threat to the entire cosmos, giving a certain extra weight to the proceedings and lending a considerable sense of desperation to the final episode. Sadly, despite these two intriguing plot elements, Logopolis is also saddled with a considerably amount of rubbish.
It is almost inconceivable that a story with as much to achieve as Logopolis could feel padded, and yet the first two episodes are woefully dull. Very little actually happens; the Doctor and Adric spend two episodes wandering about whilst the Master lurks unseen in the background, before realizing that hes hiding in the TARDIS and conceiving one of the stupidest plot developments in the entire series to try and get rid of him, before the Watcher eventual has a word with the Doctor and tells him to stop prevaricating and bugger off to Logopolis. The Doctors plan to flush out the Master is so ludicrous that it beggars belief; all it could possibly do is ruin all of the Doctors stuff, since the Master could just close the doors of his own TARDIS and therefore not have to worry about the fact that the supposedly colossal TARDIS interior has just drained the Thames On top of this we have the tedious and ultimately pointless gravity bubble sub-plot in Episode One which goes nowhere and interests nobody, all of which adds up to padding. There is some dialogue in Episodes One and Two that introduces the concepts of Block Transfer Computation and Logopolis, but two episodes of twaddle are not justified by such a small amount of plot exposition.
Of course, what the first two episodes of Logopolis do achieve is to introduce Tegan. The way in which Tegan joins the TARDIS crew recalls the introduction of Ian and Barbara way back in the series beginning, as she stumbles on board and becomes a reluctant traveler desperate to return home. As such, her characterisation and Janet Fieldings performance are both realistic, as Tegan, already stressed by the problems she has faced in getting to her new job on time, eventually gives in to panic when she gets lost in the TARDIS corridors, eventually bursting into tears in the Cloisters in Episode Two. In a nod to another early companion, in this case Vicki, she later discovers that the villain of the piece has murdered one of her loved ones, and as a result she gets a more convincing characterisation as she bursts into tears when the Doctor reveals Aunt Vanessas fate. The trouble with this is, Im not wild about sitting through four episodes of grief stricken hysteria, and Tegan, despite being convincingly realized and well acted, rapidly becomes annoying rather than sympathetic. This only serves to heighten my negative attitude towards Logopolis, although at least by the latter half of the story Tegans potential as a companion starts to be realized as she demonstrates strength of character by challenging the Monitor and standing up to the Master, and proving brave and resourceful when necessary.
The other companions are already established, and Adric is used well here again, although his impressive loyalty to and concern for the Doctor are increasingly undermined by Matthew Waterhouses limited supply of facial expressions. Nyssa on the other hand is largely superfluous; whilst I like the way that her quiet, gentle character contrasts with Tegans stroppier, boisterous nature, she does little here except remind us that the Master is a complete bastard. Unfortunately, the death of Aunt Vanessa serves this purpose more than adequately, and the fact that Nyssas reaction to the death of her father and the subsequent eradication of her entire world is far less well scripted than Tegans reaction to her Aunts murder, doesnt help to make Nyssa seem especially useful to the plot. I will however defend Sarah Suttons oft-criticized performance; as Douglas Adams considered in The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, the destruction of ones entire planet is almost certainly too big a thing for anyone to grasp. Nevertheless, when Nyssa flatly states that the Master has killed her step-mother, her father, and wiped out her entire world, Suttons supposedly wooden performance actually conveys a great deal of suppressed emotion and is worth a mention.
So far then, Logopolis is not scoring particularly highly. Before I discuss the two most significant characters in the story however, Ill just comment on the overall production and also the guest cast. Unlike The Keeper of Traken, it benefits from location work, which always benefits the series, but like its immediate predecessor, the actual studio sets look horribly cheap. Having said that, it is to the storys credit that the sets used for Logopolis do match closely the model shot of the city, even if both look like theyre made of polystyrene (which they probably are). However, its churlish to criticize Doctor Whos budgetary limitations, and the sets are adequate enough, without resorting too much to the use of CSO. The incidental score is generally rather good too, adding to the ominous atmosphere of impending doom, and the direction whilst unremarkable is solid. Logopolis also benefits from a fine performance from John Fraser as the Monitor, who is likeable enough to make the characters friendship with and concern for the Doctor entirely believable, and who is also capable of looking convincingly worried and angst-ridden when the story calls for it. Dolore Whiteman is rather likeable as Aunt Vanessa, and the characters obvious closeness with Tegan adds weight to the tragedy of her murder, which is basically the characters sole function. There arent really many other supporting characters of note; the policemen in Episodes One and Two are pure clichés, and the Logopolitans and Security Guards in later episodes are of course extras.
The most memorable guest star in Logopolis is of course Anthony Ainley as the Master. After his restrained performance as the anagrammatically unfortunate Tremas in The Keeper of Traken, here he gets to play for the first time one of the series most enduring villains. Hes really quite good for the most part; in Episodes Three and Four he recalls some of Roger Delgados charm as he manipulates Nyssa by cruelly pretending to be her father, but the callous edge he displays on occasion is a constant reminder that he is thoroughly villainous. In fact, the Masters ruthlessness and disregard for life is emphasized here in a way that it never was during the Pertwee era, thanks largely to his murdering of Tegans aunt and Nyssas father. And yet, it isnt just his beard and propensity to reducing people to shrunken corpses (something he only previously did in the Robert Holmes scripted Terror of the Autons and The Deadly Assassin) that provides a link to the past; in Episode Four, when he and the Doctor are forced to collaborate, their ability to work together, often seen during the Pertwee era, is brought to light once again, as is the Masters seeming need to impress the Doctor. As with the Pertwee era, the Masters seemingly genuine grudging admiration for the Doctor is barely reciprocated; whilst the Doctor is impressed by the Masters idea to use their TARDIS to try and halt the entropy field, his attitude to the Master is one of quiet loathing. This is significant, because it marks a turning point in their old rivalry; whereas in the past the remnants of their old friendship motivated the Doctor to visit his rival in prison (admittedly partly to get his hands on his TARDIS) and beg Kronos to spare him, by this point he seems to have had more than enough of the trail of misery and carnage that the Master has left in his wake since The Deadly Assassin. This is essential given the Masters impact on the lives of Tegan and Nyssa, and even more so in light of the danger to the entire universe that he unleashes here. In summary, the Doctors slight tolerance towards the Master has long since evaporated, as will be demonstrated further during the Davison era.
Unfortunately, for all that Ainleys performance here is quite good, the actual story starts to erode the Masters credibility as a villain. Renowned for going over the top, Ainley starts down that path due to the cringe worthy chuckles that denote the Masters presence throughout the first two episodes, reducing him to the status of some malevolent auditory Cheshire Cat. The characters credibility takes a far greater blow however at the end of the story; the Masters plan to hold the universe to ransom is almost absurd as the Doctors plan to flush him out of the TARDIS. Justify the Masters spur of the moment gambit all you want, but he still sends a message to the universe on a small hand-held tape recorder, in English. How long would it take to reach a significant number of the peoples of the universe? How many would actually receive it, and how many of those would pay it any heed? Its absolute gibberish. To compound this character assassination even further, the Master becomes, during this moment, a generic nutter; he doesnt demonstrate charm or cunning, he just grins maniacally at the camera and delivers lines that would make Joseph Furst wince whilst the Doctor looks on appalled and points out that hes mad. The Completely Useless Encyclopedia described the Master as nuttier than squirrel shit and it is here that this really starts to become true. His old motivations (power, survival, and his eternal game of one-upmanship with the Doctor) will remain throughout the remainder of the series television run, but from Logopolis onwards his actual plans become increasingly ludicrous.
And finally, in many senses, there is Tom Baker. Throughout Season Eighteen Ive praised his performance as the Doctor and Logopolis is no exception, whatever its other faults. The funereal atmosphere often ascribed to the story is largely down to Baker, and he bows out in style. It is clear from his first meeting with the Watcher that the Doctor knows what is to come, and it is reflected in his downbeat mood throughout. The Doctors reaction to the Master is superbly realized; appalled by his enemys crimes, he exudes contempt for the Master throughout. Baker shows this superbly, the expression on his face as the Doctor and the Master shake hands being a perfect example. His solemnity when the Doctor tells Tegan of her aunts death is also memorable, but what really stands out about Logopolis is the way in which the Doctor is clearly prepared to stop at nothing to save the universe, ultimately sacrificing his fourth life in the process. His final line, Its the end, but the moment has been prepared for marks the end of an era, as my favourite Doctor departs after a lengthy tenure that includes some of my favourite Doctor Who stories. Logopolis is not a story worthy of being Bakers swansong, but it has some redeeming features, and for all its faults it gives him a memorable exit as one of the most distinctive regeneration scenes transforms him into Peter Davison