- Vancouver, British Colmbia -
Doctor Who: The Fourth Regeneration
[The Watcher looks at the group from across a street]
Nyssa: That's the man who brought me from Traken.
Fourth Doctor: Yes.
Nyssa: He said he was a friend of yours.
Adric: But he's the man on the bridge.
Fourth Doctor: Yes.
Adric: You said to be prepared for the worst.
Fourth Doctor: Indeed I did, and I am prepared for the worst.
Adric: Why are you prepared for the worst, Doctor?
Fourth Doctor: Because he's here.
Story (from “Logopolis” and “Castrovalva”):
New companion Adric finds the Doctor pacing deep within a room in the TARDIS. He admits that based on the last few adventures, between leaving Romana in E-Space and seeing the Master come back to challenge him once more, he has become concerned with entropy: the nature state of decay of the universe. Even parts of the TARDIS are showing their age and breaking down. To feel like he’s doing something about it, the Doctor resolves to fix the Chameleon Circuit and restore the TARDIS’ ability to blend in with its surroundings.
To do so, the Doctor plans to materialize around a real police box, take accurate dimensions of it, and go to Logopolis, a planet inhabited by the best mathematicians in the universe. He believes they will be able to use ‘block-transfer computations’ based on the dimensions to fix the TARDIS.
Upon materializing around the police box however, the Doctor finds that he has actually materialized around the Master’s TARDIS, as the Master had anticipated this move. The Doctor tries to shake the Master out of his TARDIS through some maneuvering, but stops when he comes in contact with a being referred to as The Watcher. The Doctor goes to speak to The Watcher while Adric watches from a distance, and The Watcher convinces the Doctor to go straight to Logopolis. Meanwhile, The Watcher brings Nyssa, a friend of the Doctor’s, from Traken to help him, as she is a brilliant mathematician herself.
At Logopolis, the Doctor and the Monitor (leader of the Logopolitans) attempt to fix the TARDIS, but the Master interferes with the calculations and sabotages the TARDIS instead. By going through and murdering Logopolitans, the Master accidentally interferes with the grand scale computation they were involved in; the Monitor reveals that the universe long ago passed the point of its natural demise, and Logopolis was keeping it stable by bleeding the entropy off into CVEs, which act like vents. Now the universe is threatened, and Logopolis falls into the entropy.
The Doctor and the Master agree to a truce to solve this dilemma and go to the Pharos Project on Earth, which has a massive satellite dish and is in the prime position to finish the Logopolis computation. At the last minute, the Master decides he wants to hold the universe itself at ransom until they acknowledge his supremacy. The Doctor runs out onto the dish to manually complete the computation, but the Master has set the dish to rotate as he’s doing so. As the Doctor finally succeeds, he slips and plummets to the ground.
As the Doctor lies on the ground, Nyssa, Adric, and an Australian flight attendant named Tegan who has been along for the ride, rush to his side and discover The Watcher already there. He walks to the Doctor and merges with him, causing the regeneration. Nyssa realizes that The Watcher was a projection of the Doctor the whole time.
After the regeneration is completed, the three try to get the weakened Doctor to the TARDIS, but are arrested by the Pharos Project security. Tegan stages a jailbreak, so that she and Nyssa can bring the Doctor into the TARDIS. But the Master has used this opportunity to kidnap Adric and tap his brain to create his own block-transfer computations.
The Doctor stumbles around the TARDIS looking for something called the Zero Room. He explains that the regeneration is failing due to the trauma, and that the Zero Room has a restorative effect on Time Lords by silencing out all background noise. They find it, and while the Doctor is recuperating, Tegan and Nyssa have discovered that the Master has used Adric’s mind to sabotage the TARDIS (again) to send it to Event One: the creation of the universe (again). The TARDIS is unable to handle the immense heat and is seconds from being destroyed, but the Doctor is able to regain his senses long enough to save them.
This was truly too taxing for the Doctor though, and Nyssa takes him back to the Zero Room, only to find it was jettisoned to make good their escape. Meanwhile, Tegan has found in the databanks there is a planet called Castrovalva that has the same properties of the Zero Room. She successfully sends the TARDIS there; unaware that Castrovalva is home to yet another trap set by the Master.
It had been seven years under Tom Baker’s reign as the Doctor, and 1981 was to see some big changes in the program. John-Nathan Turner had become producer, and would remain so until the end of the series. He wanted to bring Doctor Who back to its roots and introduce more cerebral science fiction. He instituted the changes, including a remixed theme song, and question marks adorning the Doctor’s costumes, in the hopes of bringing new life and viewers to the show.
One problem was Tom Baker. As the years had rolled on, he had become quite difficult to work with, frequently arguing with directors, ad-libbing lines to the writers’ frustration, and generally being belligerent (sometimes even remaining in Time Lord character and inserting weird alien customs into scenes that didn’t call for it). Luckily, the production team had an out for this. Right before the start of the last few seasons, Tom would approach the team and say “I think I’ve been doing this too long” and the team would always say, “Oh, no, no, Tom don’t go, we need you!” But at the beginning of this season, Tom made his usual spiel about getting long in the tooth, and the team agreed it was time for a change.
The change was to be with the casting of 29 year old Peter Davison, the youngest actor to play the role so far. He had already been known as a great actor to deal with, and had found success starring as a veterinarian in the series, “All Creatures Great And Small.” It came as some surprise to him to be cast, as he had been watching the series since he was a child (Patrick Troughton being his favourite). He was hesitant, but decided to take the role lest he regret never trying.
It was decided though that Tom Baker’s last story “Logopolis” was to be a story of huge proportions. Not only would he face off against the Master again, who had recently stolen the body of Nyssa’s father to prolong his life (as the Master has used up all his regenerations…more on this soon), but he would wind up saving the universe, albeit only mostly as the entropy unleashed by the Master did already engulf and destroy some systems.
Taking a cue from the last regeneration, the team introduced The Watcher, a wraith-like figure completely embalmed in white, who the viewers would regard with suspicion. He is never heard speak, and there was no way to know who he really was until the end: a projection of the Doctor’s regeneration. Story editor and script-writer Christopher Bidmead thought that there were two notions he really wanted to exploit in “Logopolis”, and those were the idea of a TARDIS within a TARDIS, and the dimension recursion it might cause, and the idea that although a regeneration might seem to be a straight-forward process to an observer, to a Time Lord, the process might extend through time like a ripple.
Bidmead continued this exploration in the story “Castrovalva”, which involves a planet’s society that only exists because the Master has used computations to create recreations of living people (a holodeck?). This notion of the Master being able to deftly anticipate the Doctor’s every move would be carried on through the Fifth Doctor’s entire run.
As for the regeneration itself, it was again a straight video mix, but handled far better. It starts with an overlay of The Watcher walking into the Doctor with a light up effect, and then the Doctor dissolves into The Watcher. The next dissolve is that of the Fifth Doctor covered in the white embalming of The Watcher, and then a dissolve into the Fifth Doctor completely normal. Simple, but far more effective than the last regeneration.
During the Fourth Doctor story “The Deadly Assassin”; we finally learn that Time Lords have a maximum of twelve regenerations, giving them thirteen lives. We also learn in that story that the Master, having used up all his regenerations, tried to force another one but burnt himself to a crisp. This served not only to have someone new play the Master (although layered in makeup), but to establish that regeneration can be a dangerous process. In “The Keeper Of Traken”, the charred Master steals the body of Tremas (catch that? Yeah, you did) to prolong his life. This also introduces the notion of a Time Lord being able to steal bodies…but more on that with the seventh regeneration.
Later, in the story “The Brain Of Morbius”, the Fourth Doctor and the renegade Time Lord Morbius have a psychic battle with a view screen that shows the incarnations of whomever is losing…and the Doctor has faces from before Hartnell, indicating past regenerations. We can say with certainty that this cannot be correct now. Several theories have floated around like they’re actually faces of Morbius, and he just doesn’t realize he’s losing at that point, or that the Doctor is pretending to have previous regenerations to seem more threatening (like a blowfish). In fact, many stories from the Fifth Doctor onwards explicitly state that Hartnell was the first.
“Logopolis” can be a hard story to follow at first. It’s a little hindered by the effects of the time, and as such the world of Logopolis looks a little silly. Plus I wonder why Logopolis and Earth would have identical satellite dishes. That strains credibility a bit. Also silly is the Doctor’s plan to flush the Master out of the TARDIS by submerging it in the Thames and opening the doors. He never actually gets around to doing it but…really?
The Watcher idea is a pretty good one. I already mentioned in the last article that it seems that in times of great flux, a Time Lord can have a projection of themselves post (or mid I guess) regeneration come help them out, to smooth out the flux. And given the stakes of this story, that seems very reasonable.
Now, on to the Zero Room. This seems to be the reason why the Doctor regenerates in or near the TARDIS so frequently. In the case of it failing, which seems to be defined as the synapses not fully reformed, the Zero Room exists to block out all the background noise that Time Lords pick up (see “Planet Of The Ood” with the Tenth Doctor as an example). So one wonders if that’s the only reason, or if the TARDIS also aids the process itself. To this day, that’s still mostly unanswered. The Doctor also mentions that the best Zero Room is under the Junior Senate on Gallifrey in the Capitol. So one can also infer that they are fairly common on Gallifrey, or at least, not uncommon.
With “Castrovalva”, I had a hard time with the notion that the Master could use Adric’s brain to not only sabotage the TARDIS, but also install a fake console, with a fake database, AND create a fake city. I get what they were going for with block-transfer computations, seeing as how Doctor Who has before and since used the power of abstract mathematics as a tangible commodity. In fact, the Tenth Doctor story “School Reunion” revolves around Skasis Paradigm, which essentially grants one control of the universe. I guess, the Logopolitans have cracked the equation; something the Time Lords weren’t able to do (or maybe never tried). But why Adric? Okay, he’s smart (too smart – most fans hate(d) him). Nyssa seems to make a more logical choice, as she’s both a mathematical genius and seemed to have a greater understanding of the computations. I guess torturing women on television is too risqué, so torturing teenage boys makes more sense then?
That being said, I really like the first half of the story. Seeing the Fifth Doctor “channel” his previous selves was surprisingly well done, and without Adric cluttering up the screen, we see genuine tension with Nyssa and Tegan trying to save the TARDIS from Event One.
Speaking of which…didn’t they already do that? The First Doctor story “Edge Of Destruction” has a switch breakdown in the TARDIS, causing the ship to shoot towards Event One. The TARDIS itself actually tried to warn everyone on board of what was happening (a clock face melting, the scanner malfunction, etc.) Couldn’t they have used a supernova or something instead?
Anthony Ainley is properly introduced as the Master in “Logopolis”, and he’s quite sinister. The biggest objection people have had to him is that he emulated Roger Delgado a little too much, and didn’t bring too anything new to the character. This is open to debate of course, and since he was the first incarnation of the Master I saw, I like him. When on screen, he’s amazingly diabolical, and you can tell just by looking at him that he’s dangerous. He’s also an excellent juxtaposition against the Fifth Doctor; better suited to be opponents than the Fourth Doctor with Ainley’s Master. I think that Doctor’s Master, the one all charred up and mutilated, better served against Tom Baker’s irascible Doctor.
The Doctor’s costume is kind of a weird choice. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but a cricketer’s uniform with a stalk of celery pinned to it is pretty odd. We get the explanation very early on that the Fifth Doctor is an aficionado of the game, but we don’t find out about the celery until his last story.
And Another Thing…
The mysterious fabric regeneration strikes again! The Doctor’s boots regenerated into shoes.
Adric: Are you sure you're alright?
Fifth Doctor: There's strong dimensioning forces this deep in the TARDIS, tend to make one a bit giddy.
Adric: And the regeneration?
Fifth Doctor: I don't know. I can feel it isn't going to be as smooth as on other occasions. Sooner we get to this Zero Room place the better, eh?