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Report: Logopolis BFI London Southbank Special Event Sunday 17th February 2019

Updated 22nd February to show a revised release date.

The Doctor Who Season 18 Blu-ray is released on Monday 25th February and to celebrate the BFI (British Film Institute) on the London Southbank recently ran a special event showing the final 4th Doctor story Logopolis, this version having updated special effects. These events are always fun to attend because you know everyone in the room is a fan and there’s such a positive vibe in the auditorium. I think this is partly due to the BFI hosts who do everything with such humour and love during these events.

So off I went on a beautifully sunny spring day to Southbank to view this landmark story. I call it a landmark as Logopolis does have a special place in my heart because in it one of the most famous Doctors ever the magnificent Tom Baker left the role that brought him to prominence and made him a household name.

As a young girl, I was aware of the ‘bigness’ of Tom Baker and it strikes a chord with me every time because it is his last story. Is it the best story he could have gone out on? Personally, for me yes. I love Keeper of Traken and the continuation of that story with the Master continuing to wreak chaos makes sense.

The start of Logopolis
The start of Logopolis at the BFI

Regarding the story itself, the script is actually quite skilled in that it emphasises the light and shade in Tom Baker’s performance in Logopolis. He is a timelord who does look tired from the energetic character who bounded into his first series but he still has his trademark eccentricity, snapping at Adric at times, directing his dry humour mainly at his new bolshie companion Tegan. I notice the 4th Doctor likes to conjecture to himself a lot and Tom Baker doesn’t always look at other people but it does add to his general intensity.

There is also a strange thing that happens when you see a story on the big screen with other people. There are bits in scripts you never imagined are comedic when you are on your own but suddenly you see them through other peoples eyes and they become funny. When Tegan bursts into the console room and demands to see whoever’s in charge of the Tardis the look between the Doctor and Adric is priceless. Another moment which may be a Tom Baker idiocrasy is when the Doctor is telling Tegan about her aunt in the central registry and she turns away to cry. He pats her back awkwardly and then just shoves her away which gained hearty guffaws from the audience.

But then there is the contrast of a kind of brooding sorrow in his face at knowing the future but ‘the end has been prepared for’ My opinion is Tom Baker may have had mixed feelings during his last story. Christopher Bidmead revealed a tradition that every year Tom Baker would meet with the then producer and there would be a discussion where he would say he should leave and a dance would occur where the producers would cajole him to stay. When he met with John Nathan Turner and Chris Bidmead the same yearly conversation was had but when they actually agreed Tom should go, Bidmead intonated, it left Tom crestfallen.

Production Manager Margot Hayhoe and actor Adrian Gibbs (the Watcher)
Production Manager Margot Hayhoe (centre) and actor Adrian Gibbs (the Watcher on the right)

I do enjoy Christopher H Bidmead’s writing. I don’t know how scientific the concepts were to create the story but I prefer it to love saving the day. It works much better I think and the idea of recursion used within mathematics is fascinating as we see a Tardis within a Tardis repeated many times. Block Transfer Computation may be a made-up concept but the making of reality with numbers is much like the Carrionites did with words. There’s a really good cliff-hanger due to the Master’s meddling as the TARDIS is reduced in size.

DOCTOR: Who is she? Where did she come from? What are we going to do with her?
TEGAN: You can take me right back where you found me, Doctor whoever you are. My aunt’s waiting in the car to take me to the airport.
DOCTOR: Your aunt? Woman in the white hat, red sports car?
TEGAN: You’ve seen her?
DOCTOR: Well, a little of her. That settles it. She’s got to come with us.

Other elements which work are The Watcher. I’m glad as an audience we never hear the conversation between the Doctor and the Watcher. For once we are in the dark as much as the companions.  It’s the right thing that the mystery of the Watcher is kept hidden until the conclusion of the story. He is clearly an ally, a ghost of things to come, who brings Nyssa to Logopolis and who will protect the companions whilst the 4th Doctor does what he has to do.

The incidental music for the Watcher is superb.  I also like that we don’t see the Master for a couple of episodes but we know he is there by the masterly chuckle and that nicely builds the tension because we know he has killed a policeman and Aunt Vanessa before he even gets to Logopolis. Its one of Anthony Ainley’s stronger performances and I do wonder if it is because of Tom Baker’s big presence where his mania is purposely held back. There’s an evil but calm edge as he seeks to control Logopolis and puts the Universe at risk with his plans. Against Peter Davison, the Master does become a bit more ‘panto’ in later stories but here the Timelords have to join forces. I noticed the Doctor’s revulsion at considering even having to shake hands with him!

This is the story that re-introduces the three-companion set-up and whilst it didn’t last it brings back nostalgic memories of this large team. Adric being alone in the pupil role with the 4th Doctor worked and it’s a shame that Nyssa’s arrival derailed that position somewhat and Adric then would dislike Tegan. Tegan’s introduction with her Aunt is a strong one with a lot of time spent getting to know her in the first and second episode stuck on the Barnet Bypass. before she even meets the Doctor. Janet Fielding is occasionally unsubtle but I can’t fault her impact. Logopolis is I’ve realised in part a tragedy in that you do end up caring about the supporting characters that die such as Aunt Vanessa and the mathematicians of Logopolis. I thought The Monitor was a sympathetic kindly character well conveyed by John Fraser and seeing Logopolis fall and literally crumble is added pathos. Nyssa’s arrival is a surprise but allows for references to the previous story (a strong performance for Anthony Ainley as Tremas) with the bracelet and Nyssa’s believing the Master is her father. Nyssa’s reaction to how The Master has destroyed her family, her home which is dwelt on very briefly, a normality of classic Who, is a heart-breaking moment.

Interviewer: “How did you find out that Tom was leaving?”
Matthew Waterhouse: “On the news. On the BBC news!”

But it is also a tragedy for the Doctor. The regeneration scene for the 4th Doctor comes in at number 3 in my all time favourite regenerations I think what I really enjoy is there is a kind of quietness about the whole sequence. The Doctor falls from the scaffolding and then there is this epic scene where the 4th Doctor lies on the ground. The music swells and whilst having Nyssa, Tegan and Adric call out “Doctor” is a somewhat artificial moment, seeing the older companions in flashback and the 4th Doctor utter those immortal lines: ‘It’s the end. But the moment has been prepared for’ is classic. As the Watcher merges with the Doctor the music at this point is fantastic. I adore the whole scene and watching it again gave me goosebumps and made me miss his Doctor all over again.

The structure of the screening was after the initial giveaways(there were a few boos for the series 11 DVD giveaway!), there were 2 episodes shown, two guests came on Production Manager Margot Hayhoe and actor Adrian Gibbs (the Watcher) and then the last two episodes and then two more guests Script Editor/ Writer Christopher H Bidmead and actor Matthew Waterhouse.  Of the first panel of invited guest’s production manager Margot Hayhoe and actor Adrian Gibbs (the Watcher) it’s amazing to find out Margot Hayhoe has worked with four doctors. She was assistant floor manager for “The War Machines” (with Lovett Bickford), “Fury from the Deep”, and “The Ambassadors of Death” Margo was also a production manager for Logopolis, Castrovalva and Snakedance. When quizzed who was her favourite Doctor she said Patrick Troughton but thought Peter Davison was very good. She found Jon Pertwee ‘a delight,’ he gave her a jumper when she said she commented she liked it on him. William Hartnell, she met as a very young assistant floor assistant and remembered she had to be very polite to him.

Adrian Gibb wasn’t credited as the Watcher but recalled the scene on the bridge with Tom Baker. They were directed to make gestures but weren’t told what they were meant to be saying to each other. The face mask he remembered was constricting and as he was wrapped in bandages he felt very warm whilst everyone else was freezing. Adrian Gibbs also played Rysik in “Full Circle”. He also had uncredited roles as a dancer in “Black Orchid”.

After the conclusion of the actual story Script Editor/Writer Chris Bidmead and actor Matthew Waterhouse came to the stage and their interviewer Mathew quizzed them both about Logopolis and Season 18. Chris revealed that the name Adric came as an anagram from the mathematician and theorist Dirac but he couldn’t actually remember Matthew Waterhouse’s audition. The interviewer pressed him whether there was a plan but he revealed how stressful it was, he was just too busy, writing just as it came.  He explained that there was such a time pressure to have the scripts that there was no time to plan a shape as nowadays with an arc where stories interweave with each other. There was also discussion of the difficulties of working with Tom Baker who had definite ideas about how the Doctor should be played. Chris said “Tom’s views of the character was of no interest to me at all… I mean in the arrogant way of a quite young man of 35, once I got the job as script editor I understood the show” The production team fought against if Tom Baker went off script where sometimes they would have to have quite strong words with him. Chris was he said was passionate about story development whereas Tom Baker wasn’t.

“Tom lived in the moment. He had no interest in story development”
Christopher Bidmead

Matthew Waterhouse talked about the order of filming and how excited he was to be a part of the show. As a Doctor Who fan himself, he had read the Target novels and was really excited for his first recorded show “State of Decay” to be by Terrance Dicks describing a feeling of ‘nothing purer’ to be in one of his scripts. He also described how working with Lalla Ward and Tom Baker wasn’t always ‘a bundle of laughs’. Tom Baker has recognised in his later years that he may have behaved poorly back then.

Matthew acknowledged as Chris did that how a recording went was very dependent on Tom’s mood as that Tom lived in the moment. His performance would change depending on whether he had a row with his leading lady and eventual wife Lalla.  Overall though Matthew felt he was treated well by Tom Baker. The interviewer commented on how Matthew was fabulous in this story which he took with very good humour. I really like Matthew Waterhouse. He gets a lot of criticism for his performances at the time but is now able to articulate his experiences really well.

Script Editor/Writer Chris Bidmead (left) and actor Matthew Waterhouse (Adric centre)
Script Editor/Writer Chris Bidmead (left) and actor Matthew Waterhouse (Adric centre)

Chris Bidmead comes across as someone who wanted the best for the show but was working under difficult conditions. Both he and Barry Letts agreed that the series had become a bit silly and needed to have stories based on more scientific principles as well as needing a fresh look to be brought into the 1980s. Its a real shame he only did around a year on Doctor Who because I think he brings a thoughtfulness to this script a real emotional melancholy that I like.

He recounted that he asked for a thirty per cent pay rise because of the amount of work he was doing from the BBC. They talked about the various pay scales for roles in the BBC and they said no. With again he said the arrogance of youth he said he would leave and did but he says he wanted to stay.

So the BFI event ended after a question and answer. It was a shame there wasn’t a signing by the guests at the end but the BFI did put on another brilliant event as they always do. Roll on the next event. I’m ready.

Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 18 Limited Edition Box Set is released on 11th March 2019 priced around £40.

Maria Kalotichou

Maria is a 4th and 5th Doctor fan who grew up through the JNT classic era years. Her favourite classic stories are Robots of Death and Earthshock, well probably, but don’t make her have to choose only one. In her grown-up life, she currently works in HR.