‘The Doctor has journeyed dangerously to honour us here in Castrovalva, and look at the outcome.’ Though the Doctor is still in a weakened state, Davison’s cleverly inching his performance closer to “normal” every episode. The scene where he asks Mergrave to draw him a square to prove the impossibility of Castrovalva is great: he plays it with the slightly fusty authority of a professor, but with a streak of youthful impatience, recalling Hartnell’s young/old take on the part.
‘Sorry. No time. Must dash.’ We’re starting to get more of a sense of the new Doctor: the disarming candour; polite, almost comically so, even in the midst of a crisis, but the sense that this is all battling with impatience and frustration which occasionally bursts out in sarcastic snippiness or brusqueness (for example when he realises Nyssa and Tegan have been hiding the kidnap of Adric). I quite like that. The boyishness – the Doctor looks younger than his companions when he tells a local girl, ‘We’ll have to give you a badge for mathematical excellence’ – is very disconcerting, slightly Troughtonish, and gets dropped as Davison develops his performance.
‘So, this air hostess person’s flying it, eh? Well I wish her the best of luck.’ In it’s new, twice-a-week broadcast slot, perhaps the audience was willing to overlook slower episodes because it never felt long until the next one came round. This has some nice bits, but is largely killing time, again, until the TARDIS arrives in Castrovalva – already seeded as the Master’s back-up plan in case the hydrogen inrush failed to destroy the TARDIS. In practice this involves lots of scenes wandering around the TARDIS – which given Logopolis offered much the same, in practice means the audience has spent a large chunk of the last six episodes watching people wander round the Ship. It’s worse than The Invasion of Time. Then, to shake things up, there are lots of scenes of Tegan and Nyssa wandering through some bucolic countryside as Nyssa does the daintiest striptease ever committed to film.
‘If escape were that easy Adric we could all be free of this nasty world.’ While previous regenerations have picked up from the end of the previous story, this is a straight continuation of Logopolis 4, with the amazing vanishing security guards reappearing to menace the new Doctor and friends, the Master having come up with yet another plan on the fly, and references to block transfer and the Logopolitans. This makes sense as a follow up to The Five Faces of Doctor Who, which concluded with Logopolis in December 1981. The plus is that it provides immediate jeopardy directly connected to the Doctor’s regeneration.
‘How far, Doctor? How long have you lived?’ It’s hard to appreciate the Peter Davison years without understanding the sudden accessibility of past Doctors. This BBC2 repeat season, organised by JNT, preceded the release of any Doctor Who videos, and was the first time many fans had been able to see Hartnell, Troughton and even Pertwee in action (previous BBC repeats had religiously stuck to featuring only the current Doctor). Viewing figures were good – averaging five million (Pertwee was most popular).
‘Oh, Doctor, you didn’t forget.’ Filling the gap between Seasons 18 and 19, this curio broadcast over the 1981 festive season is easy to mock, with its hilariously bad title sequence and theme music, a performance of incredible camp from Linda Polan, and the notion of a series of adventures for Sarah and K9 investigating the covens of England. There are, it’s true, numerous laughable elements, but the biggest surprise is that this works.
‘While there’s life…’ I find it impossible to watch this dispassionately: there’s so much sadness wrapped around Tom’s departure – much more than in Pertwee’s, which felt more like the celebration of an era than a funeral – that the context of this episode overshadows the content.
‘I am prepared for the worst.’ From Logopolis ‘the unravelling will spread out until the whole universe is reduced to nothing’. It’s a grand idea, and Bidmead makes it accessible by showing the localised effects – the great city falling silent, its people turned to dust and its streets collapsing on themselves. The eerie silence and accelerating decay contain hints of the Daleks’ time destructor on Kembel. The scale of the fourth Doctor’s last hurrah is epic.
‘What lies ahead is for me, not for them.’ This is slightly frustrating, because there are moments as brilliant and moving as anything in the series: like the Doctor taking a moment to make sure Adric and Tegan are safe before he heads towards what, presumably, his future self has told him is his doom. Some of the dialogue is wonderful: ‘I’ve just dipped into the future. We must be prepared for the worst’; ‘A change of circumstances that fragments the law that holds the universe together’. And, far from treating this like he’s half bothered and just working out his notice, Baker’s performance is excellent: filled with a sort of distracted melancholy punctuated with flashes of the old smile.
‘The future lies this way.’ One remembered for its atmosphere and tone rather than some of the shonky details (it seems unlikely the chameleon circuit works by having to land somewhere and measure something in detail before imitating it). There’s a curious resignation to all of this: even before he sees himself, the Doctor seems haunted, disturbed by the possibility that the Master is hunting him, morose about the reception that awaits him on Gallifrey. He misses Romana (who, brilliantly, had a photo of K9 next to her bed), and is unusually chatty about his past (‘there were rather pressing reasons’ for taking the TARDIS from the repair shop on Gallifrey, apparently). With the ululating, eerie Paddy Kingsland score and the TARDIS a dark and sinister space for the first time since Death to the Daleks, it’s very effective.