Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Logopolis - "I sometimes think I should be running a tighter ship."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Logopolis - Details

Season 18, Story 7 (Overall Series Story #116) | Previous - Next | Index

What force or power in this mad universe allows for there to be a space where we can live? Why is there still something instead of nothing? What allows the will to live to triumph over chaos and the cold, cold dark? Is it the power of love? An omniscient being, the God of Creation? No, silly, it's a bunch of white guys with no girlfriends writing code. Of course.

And that, that is the universal order the Doctor dies fighting to preserve. Logopolis is destroyed, and a significant swath of the universe is gobbled up by entropy when it does. But the Doctor's heroic, dying act, is to ensure the work of those sainted, wizardly Logopolitans goes on.

Fucking "Logopolis," I want to like it, I really do. Not that I haven't been indulging in Tom Baker hagiography here and there all along, but it's the man's last story as the fourth Doctor and it's ... it's ... just this. Fuck.

I mean, I actually do like Tegan, and I don't mind Who getting all sci-fi soap-y as she comes aboard, it's just another genre's clothes to put on and walk around in for a while until you're horror sci-fi, or space epic sci-fi, or pseudo-historical sci-fi, or while you're also those things. It's fine. Sure, Tegan complains a lot and gets on our nerves, but we've all got that one friend.

She's Five's companion though, Nyssa, too. Five's cast is here, but he's not in yet, so Four's trying to deal with the Master without Romana, Leela, or Sarah Jane. He's got maths boy in his pajamas, doe-eyed Nyssa, and the one who couldn't make it to the airport to start as a stewardess. (Not to slag them off. They'll come along, at least Nyssa and Tegan will, but Adric just gets dopier and more annoying as we go along.) Nothing about this feels right. Four shouldn't be the odd-man out in his own swan song.

It's not a total wash out though. Tom kept threatening to storm off, but this is the year they didn't fight him on it. (Instead of kowtowing, they politely suggested he might not want the door to hit him on the way out.) An egomaniac whose bluff has been called makes a particular face. He's brought down-to-earth and you can see the humanity that was always there in all those manic alien grins, non-sequiturs, and (Groucho) Marxisms. Tom's ending -- and it's his, the Doctor, of course regenerates -- may not be much to watch in terms of being a story, but we can watch him deal with even this, as disappointing as it must have been for him.

Baker's first sighting of the Watcher is truly poignant. We love Tom's Doctor. We love the Doctor. We love Tom. Tom is the Doctor and the Doctor is Tom. Sure, we've been through some rough patches, but we're family, and this is farewell. You can see it in the Doctor/Tom's eyes, in the set of his shoulders. It's time. As I write this in October 2015, it's still heartbreaking to watch him then, seeing the future coming.

But it's hard watching now, too, because it's a reminder Tom is that much older now. He's a couple years older, 81 as I write, than when we saw him as the Curator in the "Day of the Doctor;" we are reminded that he walks with a cane; and how his voice has changed with age, that it's got a bit of unmodulated boom in it now, and it croaks around the edges. Age builds us up and tears us down, all of us. Even our heroes. Even Time Lords. The Cloister Bell rings. Entropy wins.

Sluicing out the TARDIS?! The idea is they'll open the doors while at the bottom of the Thames and let the water rush through and flush the Master out. Dumb on so many levels, not the least of which is that the Doctor and Adric prepare not by donning scuba gear and running around a corner where they might not immediately be dashed against a bulkhead or something, no, they prepare by standing at the doors and bracing themselves. I mention this bit of stupidity out of all the possible bits because it's the one that most easily lends itself to a analogy about how JN-T & Co. are flushing the bits they don't like out of the series so they can make a fresh start with one washed clean. They've parked the series at the base of a mighty dam, set the charges, unspooled the wire for ten paces and are looking up and ahead to their future without that pain-in-the-arse drunk barking at the blokes trying to do their jobs as per the script ... they're looking up and ahead and leaning on the plunger ...

  • Lots of lines here, to the point of being heavy-handed, to tell us change is gonna come. "The future lies this way." "The moment has been prepared for."
  • Everything new is old again. That shrinking TARDIS we'll see again in "Flatline,"
  • Lots of TARDIS-y TARDIS-ing.Actual police box surrounded by the Master's TARDIS. Surrounded by the Doctor's TARDIS. A regression of TARDISes. No complaints from me if we spend some focusing on how amazing the blue box is.
  • I got a little misty-eyed thinking about Tom Baker being 81, but I fully hope and expect he's got several years of hale health and sharp-mindedness ahead of him. Last I heard he was getting ready to do some voice work for Disney's Star Wars: Rebels, but there's a part of me hoping against hope that the Star Wars work he's doing is actually for one of the new movies ...
  • It's not something I've looked hard for, but I've heard from those who have, and there are snippets of Tom's temper peppered in the extras on the DVD to give an inclination of how difficult he must have been to work with. As a working man, I appreciate genius, but I'm also sympathetic to, and allied with, anyone who punches a clock and works for a living. There's a craft and an art to making stories for television. It's easy to go on about what jerks the unions are for insisting the lights go out at 10pm, or to hold them accountable for being bureaucratic, petty dictators and costing us the chance to a proper "Shada," but those petty dictators are folks with families to feed and kids who might want to see their mums or their dads before the fall asleep. Script writers and directors are laborers, too, and even when they struggle they deserve some respect. Tom, famously, was working construction, hauling bricks or something, when he got the call to play the role, and I don't mean to say I've heard he was utterly disrespectful all or even much of the time, but some of his antics sound more like the entitled posturing of someone who didn't understand what it meant to work as part of a crew. 
via Circular Time

Additional Resources

TARDIS Wikia entry

Wikipedia entry transcript

Sandifer post: "Recursive Occlusion (Logopolis)" (This is one of the more heavily stylized ones.) [see also]

Shabogan Graffiti
Back with 'Logopolis', we also have Tom's final turn as a man who has lost his old friends but must soon change to fit his new ones, a man warned by his own future (by his own immortal soul?) that he will soon have to watch the universe shudder and totter, and then that he himself will die. He's quiet, heavy, sad... and wonderful.
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