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The Fourth Doctor Begins
This is a ‘King Kong’ story with a giant robot!
‘Robot’ is a fondly remembered story for ‘Doctor Who’ fans as it is the first to star Tom Baker as the Doctor. Tom Baker played the Doctor for seven years and is loved by fans. This is where it started.
This is a four-part story by Terrance Dicks. It was the last story produced by Barry Letts before Phillip Hinchcliffe took over; it was script-edited by Robert Holmes and was directed by Christopher Barry.
‘Robot’ is a U.N.I.T. story as the Doctor recovers from his regeneration in ‘Planet of the Spiders’. I like how Tom Baker’s era begins as he helps U.N.I.T. sort out a crisis at the beginning of his era.
I love how Tom Bakers plays the Doctor at the beginning of his era in this story. Tom’s Doctor is very wide-eyed; scattered-brained and completely aloof compared to the elegant dandy of the Jon Pertwee Doctor. Tom’s Doctor wants adventures in time and space than stay on Earth with U.N.I.T.
I loved his first scene when he tries to get into the TARDIS and Harry Sullivan stops him. He shows his eccentricity by proving how fit he is and checks his physiognomy. Some of those moments and lines said by the Doctor made me laugh. I found the skipping-rope scene between him and Harry funny.
I also loved it when Tom’s Doctor tries out various clothes to wear before joining the Brigadier and Harry. Some of the costumes the Doctor wears are completely absurd including the king and clown outfits. Eventually the Doctor settles on the hat and long scarf costume that we all know and love.
‘Robot’ is essentially a story about…well…a robot obviously. It’s a very good old-fashioned story as the robot is used by the terrible Scientific Reform Society to steal plans and components for a powerful top-secret disintegrator gun. The Doctor and U.N.I.T. are called for help when this occurs.
The robot is a giant robot called the K1 robot. It’s a highly sophisticated robot designed by Professor Kettlewell. The robot is very impressive in terms of design for its time, although I felt sorry for actor Michael Kilgarriff who had to walk around in that suit as it must have been hot to wear whilst on set.
There are influences of ‘King Kong’ and ‘I, Robot’ featured in this story. The robot is made to carry out orders against its Prime Directive to not harm humanity. This causes the robot to go out of control and have moments of emotional despair and rage which seemed rather silly and ludicrous.
Some of the battle scenes with the robot and U.N.I.T. soldiers firing upon it are very impressive, even though the robot is impervious to bullets. There’s a major ‘King Kong’ moment when the robot gets grown to a mega-giant size in ‘Part Four’ by the Brigadier and picks Sarah Jane Smith off the ground.
Elisabeth Sladen is lovely as Sarah Jane Smith. Sarah Jane seems to be taking it well with the Doctor’s recent regeneration into Tom Baker, and both Tom and Lis Sladen work well together. Sarah Jane has an emotional connection to the robot as she shows kindness to it which was very sweet indeed.
Ian Marter makes his first appearance as Harry Sullivan in ‘Doctor Who’. Harry is a medical lieutenant from the Royal Navy attached to U.N.I.T. He looks after the Doctor following his regeneration. He’s slightly thick and old-fashioned, but he’s worthy ally and gets to be ‘James Bond’.
Nicholas Courtney is great as the Brigadier. The Brigadier too takes it calmly that the Doctor’s regenerated, although he gets slightly impatient by the Doctor’s eccentricity at times. He’s a great action man in this story, though he foolishly fires the disintegrator gun on the robot to make it grow.
John Levene is also good as Sergeant Benton (now promoted to Warrant Officer or Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM)). Benton has a defining moment in ‘Part Four’ when he gives the idea to the Doctor on how to stop the robot. I liked the moment when Benton stops smiling before the Brigadier.
The guest cast are very good in this. There’s Edward Burnham (who played Professor Watkins in ‘The Invasion’) as Professor Kettlewell, the inventor of the K1 robot. Kettlewell is a mad and eccentric scientist as the Doctor is, though his motives aren’t pure as they seem when he’s involved with the bad bunch.
Patricia Maynard guest stars as Miss Hilda Winters, director of ‘Think Tank’. Miss Winters seems pleasantly-looking, but she has a cold heart since she’s a feminist; a fascist and is a very cruel person. She takes charge when using the K1 robot to do ‘Think Tank’s dirty deeds and destroying the world.
Alec Linstead guest stars as Jellicoe, Miss Winters’ assistant at ‘Think Tank’. Jellicoe is subservient and an underling for Miss Winters. He too can be cruel at times, especially when he and Miss Winters mistreat Professor Kettlewell or when they both program the robot to do their dirty work.
I like that moment when Sarah Jane mistakes Jellicoe to be in charge of ‘Think Tank’ and Miss Winters accuses her for chauvinism. It reflects the atmosphere of feminism at the time in the 1970s. It makes Sarah Jane feel uncomfortable when she makes this mistake and by Miss Winter’s attitude.
Bessie makes an appearance and the last in possibly a long time since it is the only time Tom Baker drives her to get around places in this story. I loved seeing Tom’s Doctor driving Bessie’s car and he drives her so well, especially when he and Harry save the day by shrinking the robot down to size.
The last scene between the Doctor and Sarah Jane was lovely. The Doctor offers Sarah Jane a jelly baby, which he uses in his bag of jelly babies for the first time. Sarah Jane is upset by the robot’s demise, but she soon agrees to join the Doctor in the TARDIS for more adventures in time and space.
Harry Sullivan also joins the Doctor and Sarah Jane in the TARDIS at the end of the story. He’s sceptical at first about going around in a police box for adventures, but he’s amazed when he goes inside. The Brigadier soon comes in to call for the Doctor, but he and his friends have already gone.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s a making-of documentary called ‘Are Friends Electric?’ with cast and crew interviews. There’s also ‘The Tunnel Effect’, an interview graphic designer Bernard Lodge on the making of the ‘Doctor Who’ title sequences including the 1974 one.
There is also a ‘Blue Peter’ item with the Blue Peter team including Peter Purves on the ‘Robot’ set; a photo gallery; a Radio Times Listings PDF of ‘Robot’ and an info text commentary option to enjoy.
There is also a commentary on the story with Tom Baker; Elisabeth Sladen and writer Terrance Dicks; moderated by producer Barry Letts to enjoy. There’s also an ‘Easter Egg’ to look out for on this disc.
‘Robot’ has been an enjoyable ‘Doctor Who’ story to see with Tom Baker’s first appearance as the Doctor. It’s a great ‘King Kong’-styled story with a giant robot and it was lovely to see Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane with Ian Marter as Harry. If you’re a Tom Baker ‘Doctor Who’ fan, get this DVD!
‘Robot’ rating – 8/10
‘DOCTOR WHO AND THE GIANT ROBOT’
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The Robot Strikes Again With Tom Baker
‘Doctor Who and the Giant Robot’ is a great audiobook to have in your CD collection!
I’ve had a good weekend to read/listen to this audiobook with the original Target novelization of the TV story in my hands. I first purchased the 4-disc audiobook of ‘Doctor Who and the Giant Robot’ when I visited Cirencester on a summer drama camp in 2008. I greatly enjoyed the audio experience!
Having enjoyed ‘Robot’ on DVD and the audiobook of the ‘Black Orchid’ novelization, I saw no reason why I should purchase the audiobook of the ‘Robot’ novelization whilst on my trip to Cirencester. I began listening to the first disc in the car when I came home from the summer drama camp in 2008.
The highlight of this audiobook for me is that the story is read by the Doctor himself! Tom Baker! This was before Tom returned to play the Doctor in the Big Finish audios. Tom’s reading of the ‘Robot’ story on audio is spellbinding and enjoyable to listen and is a pleasure for a ‘Doctor Who’ fan.
The audiobook is of the novelization based on the original TV story of ‘Robot’ in 1974/75. The novel is by Terrance Dicks, who wrote the original TV story of ‘Robot’. Terrance writes the novel based on his TV scripts for the Target range of ‘Doctor Who’ books. This is one of Terrance’s finest novelizations.
The original book of ‘Doctor Who and the Giant Robot’ was published in 1975, shortly after the transmission of the TV story. This is a fresh novelization of the story, as Terrance adds more depth and detail to the events of his TV story as well as embellishing the characters throughout this novel.
The story is divided into 12 chapters in the book, whilst the audiobook has 4 discs with three chapters on each disc. But it’s not a standard cliff-hanger ending for each of the four discs of the audiobook. Sometimes the chapters overlap the cliff-hanger endings for each of the four CD discs.
The cliff-hangers are removed in the book from the TV story. Disc 1 ends with the Robot burrowing underground for the final component for the deadly weapon, which wasn’t how ‘Part One’ ended on TV. Disc 2 ends with the Robot about to kill the Doctor before the actual cliff-hanger for ‘Part Two’.
But I was very engaged into the story with Tom Baker’s reading helping me throughout. I was able to follow the story easily in the novel/audiobook following from watching the TV story. Tom inputs such energy and enthusiasm, as this was his debut as the Doctor and he so fondly remembers it well.
Although Tom’s reading was engaging to listen to, I did find that the voices for the characters weren’t convincingly done. Tom doesn’t try to do voices for the supporting characters, at least not for the female characters. I felt Tom’s voices for Sarah Jane and Miss Winters weren’t so convincing.
But I enjoyed Tom’s impersonation of the Brigadier for this audiobook. Tom makes the Brigadier sound very military and clipped whenever he speaks during the story. I could easily identity the voice of the Brigadier by Tom Baker. I enjoyed it whenever he got frustrated and annoyed during scenes.
I liked the opening sequence of the Robot stealing plans at the Ministry of Defence research centre. The TV story didn’t start like that, but it works well in the novel/audiobook when reading/listening to it. I did like it when the Robot’s thoughts were heard as it was about to infiltrate the research centre.
I liked it when reading/hearing the Brigadier’s thoughts of the Doctor’s recent regeneration in Chapter 1 of the story. Terrance recaps what happened in the previous story, ‘Planet of the Spiders’, for the Robot book. I liked how the Brigadier reflects on the Doctor’s regenerations and how to cope.
I liked the additional scene in the story where the Doctor wakes up and escapes from sick bay to get to his TARDIS. I liked how Terrance emphasis the Doctor’s first instinct on getting back to the TARDIS and stay he should be having adventures and not sitting around or be working for U.N.I.T. on Earth.
I enjoyed that first scene between the Doctor and Harry in the novelization/audiobook. The skipping scene is cut out in the story, which is a shame as I liked that scene in the TV story. I like how Terrance explores Harry’s confusion and thoughts on what he makes of the Doctor for the first time.
I liked it when the Doctor tries to escape in the TARDIS and Sarah Jane calls out to him. In the book, Terrance has the Doctor hearing Sarah Jane whilst in the TARDIS and sensing the distress in her voice. I liked it when the Doctor makes the decision to go back after he hears Sarah Jane calling him.
I liked the confrontation between Sarah Jane and Miss Winters in the book/audiobook. Terrance explores how much Sarah Jane dislikes Miss Winters and Jellicoe. This does happen when Sarah Jane is revealed to be so furious for mistaking Jellicoe as the director of Think Tank and not Miss Winters.
Miss Winters is an interesting to read as a character in the book. I like how Terrance balances the cool iciness of her character as well as the cold fury she has when things don’t go her way. I wished that Tom Baker did a better voice for Miss Winters and to sound like her as she was in the TV story.
I liked how Professor Kettlewell gets developed in the book and how it gets revealed that he’s behind everything that goes on with the Robot and his programming. Terrance points out why Kettlewell does these things in the book and why he betrayed the Doctor and friends to Think Tank.
I liked how the Robot gets explored as a character in the book. Terrance explores the Robot’s anxiety when his programming is being tampered with and when he gets distress after he kills someone against his Prime Directive. The logic of it isn’t straight-forward in the book, but it was so interesting.
I liked how Tom’s voice gets robo-fied when he reads the dialogue of the robot in the story. Again, Tom doesn’t try to do an exact impersonation of Michael Kilgarriff voice as the Robot in the audiobook. But the sound effect of Tom’s voice as the Robot helps to believe it is the robot speaking.
One scene I liked which was different in the book compared to the TV story was when Sarah Jane and Harry escaped from the Robot. The scene is played out different in book and audio when Kettlewell self-sacrifices himself in the Robot’s fire-beam and when the Robot is distressed about it.
I was disappointed when the Doctor and Harry use the Brigadier’s Land Rover to use the anti-growth solution against the Robot in the book. It should have been the Doctor and Harry driving in Bessie as it was in the TV story. Driving in the Brigadier’s Land Rover in the book seemed so wrong somehow.
I liked how Terrance ends the book with the Doctor inviting Sarah Jane to join him in his travels in the TARDIS and then eventually having Harry joining them. In the book, there’s a scene where we have Harry experiencing what it’s like for him in the TARDIS, which was never shown in the TV story.
The Brigadier entering the room with the TARDIS inside and seeing it take off before his eyes was very different in the book compared to the TV story. The Brigadier seems more frustrated and annoyed by the Doctor’s going like that and his lines were very different compared to the TV version.
‘Doctor Who and the Giant Robot’ has been a great novelization/audiobook to enjoy! It’s well-read by Tom Baker and I like the additional detail Terrance Dicks adds describing scenes and adding more to the characters featured in this story. I highly recommend this ‘Doctor Who’ audiobook to listen to.
‘Doctor Who and the Giant Robot’ audiobook rating – 8/10
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