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31 July 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 577: Logopolis, Episode One

Dear diary,

Picture the scene: It’s early 1981. After seven years in the role, Tom Baker is about to begin his final adventure. Just four episodes until he departs the TARDIS, and that bloke from All Creatures Great and Small is about to take over. For a generation of kids, this is inconceivable. Tom Baker has been the Doctor (I know, I’ve already said it, but it bears repeating) for seven years. To many of the children watching, he’s the only Doctor. Even if they were old enough to remember a time when Jon Pertwee used to save the universe, all of that was a lifetime ago in the world before repeats. It’s a momentous occasion, and you can only wonder what will be enough to finish off this incarnation of the Time Lord. You sit down, ready to begin the march to the end...

And then, they show this. Bloody hell. I’m sorry, but this episode is just dull! Don’t get me wrong - there’s plenty of nice things about it, and I’ll come to those in a moment, but as the start of such a momentous story, it’s really, really boring. All that happens, really, is the Doctor paces around the TARDIS a bit, and some Australian you’ve never seen before tries to replace a flat tire on the side of a bypass. I’m bored watching it now, so I can’t imagine how kids must have found it thirty years ago.

Now, I need to be fair, I suppose. when I say ‘the Doctor paces around the TARDIS a bit’, I’m being facetious. Boiled down simply, that is all he does, but he breaks it up with some measuring in the middle. No, sorry, I’m still not being fair. It’s given some character by the whole ‘recursive TARDIS’ stuff (and, I have to admit, that the image of the Doctor and Adric walking from TARDIS to TARDIS as they each get progressively darker is one that’s stuck in my mind for years. This, at least, would have captivated me as a kid... although the Doctor suddenly emerging from the back of the police box always felt rubbish, and it still does here).

In the case of the ‘Australian you’ve never seen before’, it has to be said that Janet Fielding makes a striking impression. That voice! It’s quite nice to see her arriving now, as I’ve always thought of Tegan as one of my favourite companions. I’m perhaps forgiving because I know of her significance to the programme over the next few years, because she really isn’t given a whole lot to do in this episode. I’m not sure I’d care at all about her scenes if I didn’t know that she was about to join us as a companion. The one highlight to come from these sequences today is that I’ve only just realised that the Watcher seems to show up and... um... watch her. It sort of adds something to the idea of him rippling back through time time stream, but it’s again something you only really connect with if you know who she is.

It’s in times like this that I always seem to turn to my friend Nick for feedback. Today was put simply, when I told him that I was thoroughly bored throughout this episode. Nick and I often have very similar views on Doctor Who stories, so it’s always interesting when we differ. This may be one of those times, because he suggested that he may end up championing the story if I don’t care for it. He pointed out how much he liked ‘sombre direction and atmosphere’, which I have to admit are rather nice here, and I’ll be looking out for it more in the coming episodes, but he also vocalised my problem with the episode far better than I could: ‘the script is not aimed at children or even a family audience’. I think that’s possibly my issue - I just can’t connect with the episode because it’s not aimed at the same level as Doctor Who usually is.

There’s one other interesting possibility at play. I’ve seen Logopolis before, and my vague memory is that I didn’t much care for it. Maybe, having been through all the other Tom Baker episodes in the last six months, it’s just not going to feel like a fitting end for such a powerful and important figure in the programme’s history?

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