Why the 18th Season of Doctor Who is Nifty-Keen

"The Leisure Hive" went to the trouble of creating an entire culture, and a complex one at that, with some nice, eerie, atypical directing that added to the atmosphere (though I could live without the latex-laden Tom Baker in episode 3). "Meglos" is probably the weak link of the season, but at least it gave Tom Baker a chance to stretch his acting legs. It also had one of my favorite Who tropes, to wit, the rationalism behind the religion (like when he revived the sacred fire in "The Brain of Morbius" by getting rid of the soot). "Full Circle" didn't do a whole lot for me -- gave no impression that E-space was any different than N-space -- but it was a good, solid, ordinary Who episode with some nice characterization for Romana in episode 1. "State of Decay" can't be taken at all seriously, but it was a gleefully sick vampire story, and if you think of it as an EC comic, it's great fun. Again, there was no need for this to be in E-space.

"Warriors' Gate" is one of the best Who episodes ever. Refusing to accept that TV is limited and simplistic, this episode takes advantage of the possibilities of a visual, moving medium. Here we find out what it means to have a gateway to a new universe, and we also have a plot with layers upon layers upon layers. The only sop to dopey sci-fi-ism are the "time winds," but we can forgive that for the intricacies of the onion-skin plot. On top of that, we get the crew of the transport ship, a wonderful set of real characters who actually sound like people. (And are stupid like real people, too, sadly.) It's marvelously directed, and, while it's not easy to follow, it's not hard to follow if you pay attention. And it gets better each time you watch it, as you catch things you might've missed the first time. (In addition, there's some great Doctor/Romana/Adric interplay.)

"Keeper of Traken" is another one that gives us a wonderfully complex society, and also has a nice plot rife with semidramatic irony as the viewer knows what's up, and the Doctor even knows what's up, but is prevented from doing nearly enough about it. And we get a new Master, finally.

Christopher H. Bidmead should've been allowed to write every Who episode. Okay, maybe not really, but I wish he'd done more. "Logopolis" was, up to that point, the best Who ever done (later to be surpassed by "The Caves of Androzani," and then only by a hair). Amazing enough that Bidmead managed to make a suspenseful, exciting episode of Who based on mathematics, the episode also brought together several disparate elements -- designed to keep suspense in the first couple of parts -- together into a convincing whole. Few Who stories are novelistic in scope; this one is. It also does probably the best job of any Master tale of exploring their relationship, their similarities and differences, the duality of their respective natures. We see the Master is capable of good, the Doctor capable of evil -- though, like the yin-yang symbol, they only go a little bit into the other's territory. They are both brilliant, yet both are short-sighted and careless in the episode.

Perhaps the best thing about "Logopolis" is that it's short on padding. Except for the two-parters, every Who story suffers from some kind of padding, usually in episode 3. In "Logopolis," there's very little, and it's all early on, so you don't notice it so much. (Padding stands out a lot less when it's in the first third or so of the story.)

[First posted on the "Keith R.A. DeCandido [KEITH.D]" topic on Genie on 17 June 1995.]


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