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The Fourth Doctor Begins
I’ve been looking forward to this very much!
The news came as an immense surprise to me! In early 2018, Season 12 of ‘Doctor Who’ starring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor was going to get re-released in a complete box set on Blu-ray. I’m sure it excited many Tom Baker ‘Doctor Who’ fans who were looking forward to this box set release.
The major highlight for me was that it would feature brand-new Blu-ray special features including ‘Behind the Sofa’. These were viewings featuring reactions on the Season 12 ‘Doctor Who’ stories from those like Tom Baker; Sadie Miller, Elisabeth Sladen’s daughter and producer Philip Hinchcliffe.
But not just those three! Oh no! They would feature reactions from Louise Jameson (who played Leela); Janet Fielding (who played Tegan) and Sarah Sutton (who played Nyssa) in the ‘Doctor Who’ series. And as you know, me being a huge Sarah Sutton/Nyssa fan, I had to purchase this Blu-ray set!
The Blu-ray box set of Season 12 of ‘Doctor Who’ is a 6-disc set. The first five discs contain each of the five stories of the season including ‘Robot’, ‘The Ark In Space’, ‘The Sontaran Experiment’, ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ and ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’. The sixth disc contains new bonus material.
Season 12 of ‘Doctor Who’, which is now part of ‘The Collection’ on Blu-ray, is a wonderful gift for Tom Baker fans especially at around Christmas time. Thankfully, my parents and I had a Blu-ray player around the time this ‘Doctor Who’ Blu-ray box set came out in 2018. So I was happy getting it.
As well as watching the ‘Behind the Sofa’ special features featuring my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion in Sarah Sutton who would be watching these Fourth Doctor stories with Louise Jameson and Janet Fielding, I was looking forward to re-watching these stories myself. This is a special season!
This is the season where Tom Baker would begin his seven-year stint of ‘Doctor Who’ from 1974 to 1981. It was a magical time for ‘Doctor Who’ during the mid 1970s. Of course, Tom Baker was only just starting, but he would go on to become a legend in the eyes of many people watching the series.
At around that time in 1974, Jon Pertwee had left ‘Doctor Who’, playing the title character for five years. He would be a hard act to follow. The producer of that era, Barry Letts, was also leaving the series as well as his script-editor, Terrance Dicks. The two got taken over by a new production team.
The new producer Philip Hinchcliffe was following his way around Barry Letts in order to get an idea of what the show was like before he slipped into the shoes of that particular role. Robert Holmes, an already established writer on the TV show, had become the brand-new script editor of ‘Doctor Who’.
Many actors were considered for taking the role of the Doctor from Jon Pertwee, including Graham Crowden (would you believe?!) before he played Soldeed in ‘The Horns of Nimon’ as well as Fulton MacKay of ‘Porridge’ fame. Eventually, the role of the Doctor was given to the then unknown Tom Baker.
Tom Baker was also joined by his two companions, Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith and Ian Marter as Harry Sullivan with Nicholas Courtney making an appearance as the Brigadier in his first story called ‘Robot’. But how would Tom Baker fare as the Doctor in his first innings with Season 12?
You know the answer to this already I’m sure! Anyway, let’s take a look at Season 12 itself!
We begin with of course the aforementioned four-part story, ‘Robot’, by Terrance Dicks. And it starts on a rather electrifying note with the brand-new title sequence by Bernard Hodge, accompanied by the familiar ‘Doctor Who’ theme song composed by Ron Grainger and arranged by Delia Derbyshire.
The title sequence of the Tom Baker era has become memorable in the eyes of many ‘Doctor Who’ fans. The idea of the TARDIS travelling through the time vortex in the shape of a tunnel is a recognizable image. It became popular and was used for the new series under Russell T. Davies’ era.
Anyway, ‘Robot’ is essentially a ‘King Kong’ story with a giant robot in it! And it’s a story that’s of course fondly remembered for ‘Doctor Who’ fans as being the first Tom Baker story. This is where it all started for Tom Baker and ‘Doctor Who’ fans, and things have never been the same since then. 😀
Although the story was by Terrance Dicks, who was the out-going script-editor, and it was script-edited by Robert Holmes as the new script-editor, it was the only story of Season 12 to be produced by Barry Letts. This was before Philip Hinchclife took over as the producer for the rest of the season.
‘Robot’ was also directed by Christopher Barry. This was his first Tom Baker tale. Beforehand, Chris Barry directed a number of ‘Doctor Who’ stories for previous eras, which included ‘The Daleks’; ‘The Rescue’; ‘The Romans’; ‘The Savages’; ‘The Power of the Daleks’; ‘The Dæmons’ and ‘The Mutants’.
Essentially ‘Robot’ is a story with all of the trademarks of the Jon Pertwee era carried over into the Tom Baker era. This is because Barry Letts produced it but also because it is a U.N.I.T. story. The Doctor is recovering from his regeneration in ‘Planet of the Spiders’ and he seems to cope very well.
I like how Tom Baker’s era of ‘Doctor Who’ begins. At first, he wants to leave in the TARDIS, in his nightdress and dressing grown of all things. He’s soon stopped by Harry Sullivan as well as Sarah Jane and the Brigadier before he helps U.N.I.T. with sorting out some big crisis at the beginning of his era.
I love how Tom Baker plays the Doctor at the beginning of his era in his first 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 instead of being on planet Earth.
I loved the Doctor’s first scene where he tries to get into the TARDIS and Harry Sullivan tries to stop him. He shows his eccentricity by proving how fit he is and also checks his physiognomy. Some of those moments and lines said by the Doctor made me laugh and they did felt very Doctorish indeed.
I found the rope-skipping scene between the Doctor and Harry very funny. I don’t know how many takes were done on the scene in the making, but it looks flawless and almost like it was done in one take. Tom Baker and Ian Marter clearly seemed to enjoy doing that skipping scene during this story.
I also loved it when Tom’s Doctor tries out various clothes to wear before joining the Brigadier and Harry. Some of the costumes that the Doctor wears are completely absurd. They include the king and a clown outfit. Eventually the Doctor settles on that hat and long scarf costume we love so well.
Like I said, ‘Robot’ is…well…about a robot obviously. It happens to be a very good old-fashioned story as the robot is being used by this evil Scientific Reform Society to steal plans and components for a powerful top-secret disintegrator gun. The Doctor and U.N.I.T. are called to help once it occurs.
The giant robot featured is called the K1 robot. It’s a highly sophisticated robot designed by Professor Kettlewell. The robot is impressive in terms of design for its time. I do feel sorry for actor Michael Kilgarriff as he had to walk about in that suit. It must have been so hot to wear whilst on set.
As well as ‘King Kong’, there are also influences of ‘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 do seem very 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 where the robot gets grown to mega size in ‘Part Four’ by the Brigadier before it picks up 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. Both Tom Baker and Lis Sladen work well together in the series. I did like it when Sarah Jane had an emotional connection to the giant robot, showing kindness to it.
It was very sweet and touching indeed. I also like how Sarah Jane shows her bravery in this story, especially when she defies the likes of Miss Winters and Jellicoe who treat her unkindly and cruelly. I did like the final scene between Sarah Jane and the Doctor when they talk about the robot’s demise.
Ian Marter makes his first appearance as Harry Sullivan in ‘Doctor Who’. In the story, Harry is a medical lieutenant from the Royal Navy attached to U.N.I.T. He looks after the Doctor following his regeneration. He is slightly thick and old-fashioned, but is so worthy to be part of the Doctor’s team.
I feel sorry for Ian Marter as he’s clearly a good actor and gets underrated as a companion in Harry Sullivan. Despite his flaws, Harry does get to be useful and play the part of James Bond (or Patrick MacNee as Tom Baker describes it 😀 ). Unfortunately it does not go too well when he gets captured.
Nicholas Courtney is great as the Brigadier. The Brigadier also takes it calmly with the Doctor’s regeneration, 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.
The Brigadier is a reassuring presence and it’s nice that he’s there in the transition period from Jon Pertwee into Tom Baker’s era for new viewers of the show. This approach of using old characters in a new era also gets used from Tom Baker into Peter Davison and from Matt Smith into Peter Capaldi.
John Levene is also good as Sergeant Benton, who soon gets promoted to a Warrant Officer in the story. Benton takes up the second-in-command role of U.N.I.T. under the Brigadier, especially since Mike Yates is no longer there in U.N.I.T. following his downfall during the ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs’.
Benton has a defining moment in ‘Part Four’ where he gives the inspirational idea to the Doctor on how to stop the robot. I liked that moment when Benton becomes of some use in the story. It was funny when he was smiling at first before stopping once the Brig, clearly not amused, looked at him.
The guest cast is very good in this story. There’s Edward Burnham as Professor Kettlewell, the inventor of the K1 robot. Edward Burnham played Professor Watkins in ‘The Invasion’ with Patrick Troughton. Kettlewell is a mad and eccentric scientist just like the Doctor is that invented the robot.
However, Professor Kettlewell’s motives aren’t as pure as they seem when he’s involved with the bad bunch. I was shocked by the revelation made by the Doctor when Kettlewell turned out to be luring Sarah Jane and U.N.I.T. into a trap. Beforehand, I assumed Kettlewell was the innocent victim.
Patricia Maynard guest stars as Miss Hilda Winters, director of Think Tank. Miss Winters seems pleasantly-looking, but she has a cold heart. She’s a feminist; a fascist and a very cruel person. She takes charge when using the K1 robot to do Think Tank’s dirty deeds, intending to destroy 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 and when they both program the giant K1 robot to do their dirty work.
I liked that moment when Sarah Jane mistakes Jellicoe to be in charge of Think Tank and Miss Winters accuses her for male chauvinism. It reflects the atmosphere of feminism at the time in the 1970s. Sarah Jane feels uncomfortable by Miss Winter’s attitude as well as making a simple mistake.
Bessie makes an appearance in the story. It’s possibly the last in a long time as it is the only time Tom Baker’s Doctor drives her to get around places. I loved seeing Tom’s Doctor driving Bessie and he drives her so well, especially when he and Harry save the day by shrinking the robot down to size.
As I said, the last scene between the Doctor and Sarah Jane is lovely. The Doctor offers Sarah Jane a jelly baby. This is the first time he uses his bag of jelly babies here. 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 enters to call in on the Doctor but the new TARDIS trio have already gone!
The original DVD special features were as follows. There was a making-of documentary called ‘Are Friends Electric?’ with cast and crew interviews. There was also ‘The Tunnel Effect’, an interview graphic designer Bernard Lodge on making the ‘Doctor Who’ title sequences including the 1974 one. There was a ‘Blue Peter’ item with the ‘Blue Peter’ team including John Noakes; Peter Purves and Lesley Judd on the ‘Robot’ set. There was also a photo gallery of the story; a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story and an info-text commentary option to enjoy. There was a stereo sound audio mix option for the story; a DVD audio commentary with Tom Baker; Elisabeth Sladen and writer Terrance Dicks; moderated by producer Barry Letts to enjoy. There was an ‘Easter Egg’ to look out for on the DVD disc, which was actually an original BBC continuity for ‘Robot’.
On Disc 1 of the ‘Doctor Who – The Collection – Season 12’ Blu-ray, the ‘Are Friends Electric?’ making-of documentary; ‘The Tunnel Effect’ interview; the ‘Blue Peter’ item; the ‘Radio Times Listing’ PDF; the stereo sound audio mix option for the story; the DVD audio commentary and the original BBC continuity can also be found on there. The photo gallery and the info-text commentary option for ‘Robot’ has been updated for 2018 on the Blu-ray.
The new special features on Blu-ray include the ‘Behind the Sofa’ feature on ‘Robot’ with Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor); Sadie Miller, Elisabeth Sladen’s daughter and producer Philip Hinchcliffe as well as Louise Jameson (Leela); Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Sarah Sutton (Nyssa). There’s also ‘Television Drama’ which includes over 35 minutes of raw footage recorded during the read-through of ‘Robot’ for a cancelled documentary. There’s some location footage on ‘Robot’ transferred from ‘The Ark In Space’ 2-disc Special Edition DVD. There’s also some Blackpool footage; clean opening and closing titles (the opening titles were taken from ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ Special Edition DVD); an unused title sequence (also from ‘The Ark In Space’ 2-disc Special Edition DVD) and the ‘On Target: Terrance Dicks’ documentary that’s taken from ‘The Monster of Peladon’ DVD. There’s also the ‘coming soon’ DVD trailer for ‘The Ark In Space’ with Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter (taken from ‘The Reign of Terror’ (DVD).
On the PDF front, as well as the ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story, there are also production documents and scripts for the story. You need a special Blu-ray computer drive for that.
‘Robot’ has been an enjoyable ‘Doctor Who’ story to watch with Tom Baker’s first appearance as the Doctor. It’s a great ‘King Kong’-style of 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, you’ll love it!
As a season opener, ‘Robot’ works very well and sets up the dynamic of the Fourth Doctor very well under Terrance Dicks’ writing. Of course, the U.N.I.T. setting wouldn’t suit the Fourth Doctor in his era and it’s just as well as the TARDIS took him, Sarah Jane and Harry on an adventure in deep space.
‘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 collection!
I had a good weekend to read and listen to the ‘Robot’ audiobook with the original Target novelization of the TV story in my hands. I first purchased the 4-disc audiobook CD 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 shouldn’t 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.
For me, the highlight of this audiobook 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. It’s a great pleasure for a ‘Doctor Who’ fan.
The audiobook is of the novelization based on the original TV story of ‘Robot’ in 1974 to 1975. The novelization is by Terrance Dicks, who wrote the original TV story of ‘Robot’. Terrance writes the novelization 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 the TV story as well as embellishing the characters throughout the book.
The story is divided into 12 chapters in the book, whilst the audiobook has 4 CD 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 K1 robot burrowing underground for the final component of the deadly weapon, which wasn’t how ‘Part One’ ended on TV. Disc 2 ends with the K1 robot about to kill the Doctor before the actual cliff-hanger to ‘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 novelization/audiobook following on from watching the TV story. Tom inputs such energy and enthusiasm since this was his debut as the Fourth Doctor and he remembers it so fondly 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 K1 robot stealing the plans at the Ministry of Defence research centre. The TV story didn’t start like that but it works well in the novelization/audiobook when reading/listening to it. I did like it when the robot’s thoughts were described when 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 on 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 like how Terrance emphasis the Doctor’s first instinct on getting back to the TARDIS and say he should be having adventures. 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 from the story, which is a shame as I liked that scene in the TV story. I liked 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 novelization/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 his 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 distressed 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 robofied when he reads the dialogue of the K1 robot in the story. Again, Tom doesn’t try to do an exact impersonation of Michael Kilgarriff’s 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 K1 robot. The scene is played out differently in the book as well as the 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 throw the anti-growth solution against the K1 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 are very different in book compared to the TV version.
‘Doctor Who and the Giant Robot’ has been a great novelization/audiobook to read/listen to! It’s well-read by Tom Baker and I liked the additional details Terrance Dicks adds in describing scenes and making the characters featured in the story more interesting. I highly recommend this ‘Doctor Who’ novelization/audiobook to read/hear.
‘Doctor Who and the Giant Robot’ rating – 8/10
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For the Third Doctor was
For Sarah Jane was
For the Brigadier was
For Benton was
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For the Fourth Doctor is
For Sarah Jane is
For Harry is
For the Brigadier is
For Benton is
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