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Doctor Who: Logopolis (1981) Review and Blu-ray Preview (BFI Event)

Hot on the footsteps of last year’s previous Blu-Ray sets, Doctor Who: Season 18 is the next collection to sit upon fan shelves across the land from March 11th. Packing in 28 Episodes and spin-off special K9 & Company, as well as a treasure trove of new special features, each story comes complete with new HD up-scaled picture quality and excellent sound restoration. Critical Popcorn were invited to the BFI Southbank by BBC Studios this weekend to preview some of the goodies on offer, including a newly-restored version of Tom Baker’s final story as the Doctor – 1981’s Logopolis.

Marking a major sea-change for Doctor Who and bringing it firmly into the 1980’s, John Nathan-Turner‘s first season at the helm saw change in every department of the long-running show – new writers, new directors, upgraded effects, modern music scores, new look costumes, and eventually, an entirely fresh regular cast of companions. However, it was the season finale, Logopolis, that saw the biggest change to the series’ status quo, with the regeneration of long-running fan favourite Tom Baker into Peter Davison‘s youthful Fifth Doctor.

Like most of the stories from this particular season, a strong emphasis is placed on heavy-duty scientific concepts as opposed to whimsical humour. The story, which sees the Doctor and his arch-enemy the Master (Anthony Ainley), forced into a fragile truce in order to halt the heat-death of the universe, is oft-times confusing and impenetrable, with the script expecting audiences to keep up despite little explanation as to what is actually going on. There’s not much in the way of comedy to fill the void, which does result in a considerable drag across the four episodes.

However, whilst the lack of humour or lightness may mean the scientific elements take centre stage within the narrative, this does do wonders for the  melancholy tone of the story, which is appropriate considering everything is ultimately leading up to the death of the Doctor’s longest-running incarnation. Baker is on fine, albeit irritable, form here, still as determined and energetic as he was way back during his first season seven years previous, but here afflicted with a more sombre, mournful disposition as he attempts to save the universe from destruction.

The addition of a ghostly portent known as the Watcher adds to the mythos of the show and provides some decent mystery, whilst the introduction of new companion Tegan (Janet Fielding) is one of the better character introductions the show has given us over the years. And whilst it may lack the dramatic urgency a regeneration story would have nowadays, the cliffhanger to Part Three still remains one of the best the show has ever attempted. For all its shortcomings, Logopolis does have plenty of reasons to recommend it too.

The screening of the high-definition episodes also included the first look at the newly updated CGI effects that have been created and carefully inserted into the existing episodes for this release. Some of the new sequences are mere polishes, but particular scenes in the final episode paper over the shortcomings of the original, giving the scenes on Logopolis and the Doctor’s fatal fall from atop the Pharos Project Telescope a far greater and more-effective scale then the original version ever did.

Clips from the box-set’s feature-length ‘Making-Of’ Documentary for Logopolis were previewed, which packs in insightful new interviews with cast and crew (including the man himself, Tom Baker), archive clips and interviews, and even a return to the original locations. Also among the multitude of new extra features sits another welcome edition of Behind the Sofa, the Gogglebox-style feature that has become a mainstay of these new HD releases. Essentially the cast sitting down, watching the episodes and providing witty commentary on proceedings, the clips we were treated to of Tom Baker and friends laughing at and commenting upon the episodes were very entertaining, and worthy of purchase alone.

Season 18 polarises Who fans to this day – many love it, some find it lacking in fun and warmth. Regardless of where you stand on the matter, there’s no denying that this new Blu-ray set is an excellent addition to any Doctor Who collection.

Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 18 is available to pre-order on Blu-Ray now and is released 11th March. 

 

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