More from the poll feature in DWM #474, and count yourself lucky I deleted a good deal more hopeless riffing around Lennie Bennett’s Punchlines than appears here.
The Doctor has stumbled. It’s teatime, Saturday 21 March, 1981, and having been beaten in the ratings war by Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the Time Lord has retreated to a safer, earlier spot in the evening. In most ITV regions he now faces something less malevolent; the tooth and curls of Lennie Bennett, the host of LWT game show Punchlines. “Remember what you heard and where you heard it!” is Lennie’s catchphrase.
It’s the Fourth Doctor’s portentous final line we remember. But also Paddy Kingsland’s incidental music, which brought us there. The descending melody, then the cautious flutelike synth that quickly finds itself paddling in warmer, more reassuring bass tones, before it resolves into an echo of the Doctor Who theme. The fall, the fear, the future. This takes – what? – a minute. The series’ longest-serving and greatest leading man is gone. It’s the end.
Logopolis discharges this huge responsibility effectively and efficiently. Although Christopher H Bidmead’s script is weighted with impending doom – it’s here the Cloister Bell first tolls – it never seems intimidated by the importance of what it’s got to do. Arguably, it’s more concerned with elucidating the writer’s concept of a computer programming language as a series of chanting space-mathematicians. That and death – “heat death” (Bidmead has a talent for truffling out brilliant-sounding real-world science) – on an unprecedented scale.
For a while, Tom Baker’s final year in Doctor Who was considered a bit of an old fusspot. But in the current climate, where D:REAM’s former keyboardist gets more ‘likes’ for his work at CERN, solemn teens with asymmetrical hair tot up millions of YouTube hits and Doctor Who itself is at the vanguard of popular culture, it’s acceptable to be a bit more serious and science-y. To furrow the brow.
The moment has been prepared for Logopolis. It’s a story we can love once more without feeling defensive.
Thanks to Buck Rogers, Doctor Who maybe wasn’t racking up the big numbers back then, but it was putting them in the show and equating them with grand drama. Block transfer computation, the causal nexus, charged vacuum emboitment, heat death. Kingsland’s worried, earnest music. Remember what you heard and where you heard it.