During the Logopolis serial we occasionally see this mysterious humanoid dressed in white called The Watcher. We never hear him say anything, and the only explanation we get is at the very end of the story, after the Doctor is mortally injured by falling off the Pharos Project antenna (after saving the universe, of course).

DOCTOR: It's the end. But the moment has been prepared for.

(The Doctor points to a ghostly white figure, that walks forward.)

ADRIC: The Watcher.

(The Watcher merges with the Doctor.)

NYSSA: He was the Doctor all the time.

(Tom Baker turns into the Watcher, then gains youthful features and short straight hair. Peter Davison sits up.)

(Credits roll)

So...what the heck happened here?

It doesn't make a lot of sense for the Watcher to be a past or future incarnation of the Doctor since he (presumably) ceases to exist after this scene, and he never shows up on the various lists of Doctor incarnations. And how does merging the fatally-damaged Fourth Doctor with some other unspecified "Doctor" thing produce the Fifth Doctor anyway? None of the other regenerations required merging with another entity (I think).

The only explanation I can come up with is that after the Fourth Doctor talked to the Watcher in the first episode of the serial, at some point off-screen he did spacey-wacey things to split himself into two doctors so only half of him would be damaged by the fall, and recombining with the other half would give him enough strength to regenerate. But that's an awfully huge leap. And even that doesn't explain how the Watcher was following them for the whole story.

  • tardis.wikia.com/wiki/The_Watcher
    – Valorum
    Dec 24, 2015 at 17:19
  • 2
    “It doesn't make a lot of sense for the Watcher to be a past or future incarnation of the Doctor since he (presumably) ceases to exist after this scene, and he never shows up on the various lists of Doctor incarnations.” Well... there is, of course, The Curator. Dec 24, 2015 at 17:47

3 Answers 3


Beyond what we see in that episode, The Watcher is never really explained in any canonical sense, and the plot device is never used again to offer further opportunities to explain it. Furthermore, the makeup and effects used to present The Watcher to us muddle the issue, because they make The Watcher seem more like a corporeal mummy than what it seems he was really intended to be.

From the actual dialogue references to him in the episode, however, we can surmise that the Watcher was basically a projection of a potential future Doctor. His presence is the first hint the Doctor has that something is affecting the Causal Nexus--that something being the events that happen later at Logopolis. The intended point seems to have been, "Things are about to get so messed up that your potential future self is now sort of hovering around at the edges of your vision, because cause and effect are a bit scrambled and you might be about to die."

That potential becomes actuality after the Doctor falls from the radio-telescope gantry.

  • That does sound a lot more plausible than anything I could come up with, and it does seem to be the case that there is no further canonical evidence, so I've accepted.
    – Ixrec
    Dec 29, 2015 at 0:20

Whatever the Watcher is, he seems to essentially be the same, conceptually, as the character Cho-je, in the regeneration story immediately preceding Logopolis, "Planet of the Spiders". That story featured, in addition to the Doctor's regeneration, the regeneration of the Doctor's mentor, K'Ampo, which involved Cho-je merging with him in the same way the Watcher does with the Doctor in Logopolis. As a boy, Logopolis was the first ever regeneration story I saw, followed by Planet of the Spiders, and the similarity to me was so striking, I'm pretty sure Christopher Bidmead, who wrote Logopolis, drew the inspiration from there. It still isn't a theoretical explanation, of course.


If I recall correctly (it's ages since I watched Logopolis all the way through), the first time we saw the Watcher was at the end of the first episode. The Fourth Doctor looks across the dual carriageway and spots this white, faceless figure standing on the opposite side. Meanwhile Adric and/or Nyssa, having found the tissue-compressed bodies of a policeman and Tegan's aunt Vanessa, ask the Doctor what or who could have caused their deaths. The Doctor, still looking at the white figure across the road, replies absent-mindedly, "The Master..." I think it was a deliberate ploy to make us think this white figure was the Master at first. It reminded me of "Terror Of The Autons" from 1971, in which Roger Delgado's Master had created an Auton duplicate of himself to fool the Doctor and UNIT and allow him to escape. When the (Third) Doctor found this duplicate, he peeled a mask of the Master's face off the figure to reveal a blank white face, very similar to that of the Watcher. It was only by the end of the third episode of Logopolis, when we saw the Doctor, the Master and the Watcher in the same shot, that it became apparent that the Watcher was not the Master. Adric spoke to him and reported afterwards, "He seemed to know everything that's going to happen."

Maybe the Watcher represents something akin to the Doctor's "spirit" which, at the moment of death, "escapes" from his body; but as he's a Time Lord, he regenerates, so the escape is only instantaneous. However, given the temporal instability in the universe created by the collapse of the Logopolitan program, that instant got stretched over hours or even days of real time. When the Watcher merged with the Fourth Doctor, that effectively sealed the temporal instability (so that even if the Master had then trashed the Pharos Project computers again, it wouldn't have done any more harm).


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