The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy will always increase within isolated systems. Doctor Who states that the Universe reached the point of total breakdown some time ago, and it’s only thanks to the race of Logopolitans opening up the Universe to outside pockets of spacetime using the computational power of their minds, that we’re all still here to talk about it. Now, I’ve been a fan of sci-fi since my teens, but I must confess, I’ve never known a TV show to tackle such big ideas on such a regular basis. Granted, it makes mistakes and it’s often a bit silly, but I applaud the effort.
It’s also remarkable how it portrays these Universe-shattering events through a lens of the ordinary. This serial does look a bit cheaply made, in part due to half of it being set on Earth, on the side of a road, inside the Tardis, or in an alien facility that just happens to have been modelled on an exact duplicate of a radio telescope control room on Earth. But, for what it’s worth, I enjoyed the down-to-Earth nature of it and felt it was a fitting conclusion to the season. In particular, visiting the site of one of the last blue police boxes in the country in 1981 feels appropriate.
It’s also amusing how such a big event type story has such innocent beginnings, as the Doctor only intends to take his Tardis for a spruce-up, having spent much of the first episode talking to Adric about entropy, the chameleon circuit and police boxes. The Master preempts his plans by disguising his Tardis as another police box, leading to another brilliant Tardis-inside-Tardis sequence, and in the process picking up another stowaway in Tegan, the aussie air-stewardess.
With Nyssa returning from Traken, we have an excess of companions now. They don’t play much of a part in this story and feel superfluous, but I guess the foundations are being laid for the new Doctor’s stories.
Speaking of the new Doctor, this is of course Tom Baker’s final serial. While I will shortly lay down some thoughts on his epic run of seven seasons, for now I will say that his exit was dignified and without theatrics. Interestingly, he knew it was coming. So did I, of course, but the presence of the ‘Watcher’ was an unexpected twist on the regeneration process. Admittedly, I did twig early on that he was probably a future incarnation of the Doctor, but I expected a scooby-doo “mask reveal” scene, not what actually turned out to be a sort of ghostly extra life that absorbed into him. Thinking about it, that doesn’t really make much sense.
And won’t somebody please think of the entropy? Did the giant satellite dish fix the Universe? Will Logopolis rebuild itself? Is it necessary any more? Don’t get me wrong, if there is a place for Universe-ending storylines, a season finale is probably it – but please don’t set up something that you can’t resolve before the time’s up. Then again, maybe the new fresh-faced fifth Doctor will clean up the Master’s mess. Here’s hoping!