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"Logopolis" was the final story featuring the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) in the BBC TV science fiction series, "Doctor Who". This is a newly produced audio book of the original 1981 novelization of this four-part story. The script and the novelization were both written by Christopher H. Bidmead. Bidmead returns to his story, this time as its reader. The story is a direct sequel to the previous story, "The Keeper of Traken" and can be seen as the second part of a trilogy involving the Master that will end with the next story, "Castrovalva". I also argue that it is part of a larger story arc that began with "The Deadly Assassin" back in 1976, which re-introduced the Master for the fourth Doctor's generation of viewers.
The Cloister bell, a device used to warn the Doctor of impending disaster, tolls. Deciding to do his best to avoid whatever doom lurks, the Doctor, along with his companion Adric, busies himself with sorting out the TARDIS's long-running problem with its chameleon circuit. This will allow the TARDIS to change shape again, as it has been stuck in the form of a police telephone box since he was the first Doctor. In order to do this, however, the Doctor will have to get the exact measurements of an identical telephone box on Earth and then give these to race of mathematical geniuses on the planet Logopolis. However, matters aren't that simple. The Master has survived since his previous confrontation with Doctor and possessed a new body. He follows the Doctor to Earth and then to Logopolis, murdering as he goes, and keen to find a way to harness the power behind the mathematics of Logopolis. However, there will be more surprises in store for the Doctor including the acquisition of a new companion, this time from Earth, Tegan Jovanca and the return of Traken's Nyssa. But the biggest change the Doctor's life comes in the form of the ominous glowing image of the Watcher...
I guess one of my earliest memories of Doctor Who was seeing Tom Baker. His run finished before I was five years old, but I still have distinct memories of him being the Doctor and I have a vague image of watching the climax to this story when it was first broadcast. Of course, since then I have watched it again on re-runs and I have grown to appreciating Tom Baker's fourth Doctor (still the longest serving onscreen incarnation) and his successor, played by Peter Davidson, as my personal favourites.
Within a year of watching the fourth Doctor's last hurrah my mother bought me Tom Baker's reading of the abridged novel of "State of Decay". This was a story I would only really appreciate a few years later when I was well into the sixth Doctor's run on TV. I have remained a fan of Tom Baker's booming and commanding narrative style throughout my life. I was given an audio book on "Gremlins" in 1984, which he read and then many years later he carved a new iconic status for himself as the surreal narrator of the comedy show, "Little Britain". So, it was with some degree of trepidation that I would listen to another reader narrate the story of the fourth Doctor's final adventure...
As far as stories go, "Logopolis" is a near perfect climax and cliffhanger in the world of fantasy fiction. Consider some of the greatest supposed final showdowns in fiction. Both the "deaths" of Sherlock Holmes and Superman are at the hands of enemies invented by their writers for their specific climatic story. They devices created by writers for this specific purpose. The Master, on the other hand, was an enemy introduced to viewers many years previously. He had a very long run with the third Doctor and established himself as arguably the Doctor's greatest opponent. The Daleks often take this position due to their longevity in the franchise, but the Master is a perfect flipside to the Doctor. He is a time lord himself and even a fellow classmate at Gallifrey. This is why he was also the perfect antagonist for the tenth Doctor's hugely cataclysmic final story.
One cannot help but find parallels between David Tennant's final showdown with the Master and Logopolis. Whereas the more recent "The End of Time" did provide a longer and perhaps even better plotted out story arc, "Logopolis" is portentous enough to give a rewarding and worthwhile cliffhanger ending. However, in many ways the simplicity of "Logopolis" makes "The End of Time" seem very protracted and overblown. There is some reminiscing about the Doctor's previous companions, Romana and K9, but not a lengthy amount of sentimentality or a parade of disparate guest appearances of previous characters.
Simplicity did I say? It seems like an odd word when one considers the nature of the "Logopolis" storyline. It's a story that deals with mathematics at a cosmic level. An entire planet's population acts like a giant calculator and has a language based on mathematics. In addition to this we have the confusion of the Master's Tardis causing a recursive loop with the Doctor's. This is before we get the problems caused by the Master's disruptions to Logopolis, which could result in the destruction of the universe. Maths is certainly not my strong point, so a story with these plot devices needs a lot to keep my attention!
Enter Christopher H. Bidmead the heir apparent to Douglas "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" Adams. Bidmead took over as script editor for the series with "Leisure Hive" a year previously. However, "Logopolis" was his first time as the actual writer. Like Adams, Bidmead has a love for science. Bidmead had even written for "New Scientist". In fact, he is noted for giving the stories an even stronger basis in science than Douglas Adams. This is what makes "Doctor Who" pure and distilled science fiction. Many other well-known franchise pass under the definition, but they only really superficially resemble it. "Star Wars", for example, is not real science fiction despite all its cross-section books. It is high fantasy set in space and other planets. Doctor Who's core is very much in science with much of the truly epic stories being concerned with scientific anomalies and mathematical disruptions, most commonly connected to paradoxes, the fabric of time and space or alternate realities. His background in the dramatic arts and experience in scriptwriting ensured that Bidmead was no dry academic and this comes out as he returns to read his own book in 2010.
Bidmead may not have Tom Baker's distinctive voice, but then who else does? However, this matters little almost three decades later. This is a story that now stands on its own and proves a star. There is no trademark theme tune, although the TARDIS's distinctive noise is in there, or original actors providing the voices. The sound effects and the music are effective without being overwhelming as they often can be with tie-in audio books. This is proof that the novelization is not just a piece of throwaway merchandise. Bidmead worked hard to further develop the characters we see on screen and to provide a story that is as much a pleasure to read or listen to as it was to watch.