20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
The power of recursion, 12 Jan 2007
Doctor Who was always envisaged by its creators as an educational as well as entertainment show, and I've always most thoroughly enjoyed the stories which stimulate the intellect as well as the emotions. One of the strengths of the show has always been its ideas.
In my (humble) opinion Chris Bidmead therefore deserves credit for being a key architect of the greatest era of Who. There was a huge amount resting on his shoulders in delivering the season climax, tying up the exospace continuum story (one of the earliest uses of a slow building multi threaded story arc in TV Sci-Fi and later used to blistering effect in such shows as Babylon 5) and orchestrating the departure of the most iconic television character of the decade. And wow! Does he and his tremendously talented cast and crew deliver....
Bidmead's heritage as a computer scientist permeates both Logopolis and Castrovalva. Not only can he be credited with introducing a generation to the concept of "bubble memory" ("remove the power and the information is stored on tiny magnetic domains in the chips") but his fascination with mathematical models and especially the concept of recursion is the cornerstone of both stories. In Logopolis (the title itself is homage to Bidmead's mathematical education) the Tardis and Tegan are caught in a nightmarish recursion as two tardises materialise around each other forming a gravity bubble in which space is folded in on itself (a mathematically modelable event which clearly fascinated Bidmead). At the climax of the episode the Master holds the universe hanging by a thread with the aid of a single recursive pulse. And in Castrovalva the concept of recursion is further developed in a climax beautifully expressed through designs based on the works of visionary artist Maurice Esher.
As well as being a stimulating tour-de-force of ideas these two stories also contain numerous emotional highs - all assisted immensely by the evocative incidental music and sound from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's Paddy Kingsland. Who can forget Sarah Sutton's emotional farewell to her planet as it is wiped out up by a wave of entropy (thank you Chris for introducing us to the second law of thermodynamics in such an entertaining manner)? Janet Fielding's disorientation in entering the recursive Tardis, and Peter Davison's horror as his regeneration begins to fail are also dramatic highlights.
Although dialogue isn't necessarily his strongest suit Bidmead also provides some of the show's greatest one-liners. Logopolis as "a cold high place overlooking the universe", and Shardovan's response to whether he could perceive the recursion which was destroying his home ("with my eyes no but in my philosophy...") being two highlights that stick in my memory from 25 years ago. And then there is Tom's famous final words (already referenced by my fellow reviewers)...
These episodes are not without their faults. Arguably they are too brimming with ideas and some (such as Event One and the strange interlude in Logopolis where the Doctor decides to materialise the Tardis under the Thames and open the doors) are underdeveloped. Some of the scripting is occasionally clunky (although Tony Ainley's relish for such corkers as "the charged vacuum embointment...it's mine all mine..." are surprisingly enjoyable). Even Tom's famous farewell has some slightly awkward editing and flawed colour separation overlay based (no doubt) on the difficulties of location filming at the famous Jodrell Bank observatory.
These are, however, minor glitches in a tremendous piece of drama that does great credit to Bidmead, Directors Peter Grimwade and Fiona Cumming, and a talented and charismatic cast and crew. I just hope that the series will continue to fuse ideas and drama with such deftness.