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Doctor Who: Robot

“You may be a doctor but I am THE Doctor, the genuine article you might say.”

And then there was Tom.

Imagine, for a second, that Russell T. Davies didn’t leave right away after ‘The End of Time’. Imagine that he decided to stick around for a little bit longer. That he, not Steven Moffat, cast the new Doctor, wrote his introduction story and then scarpered for good, leaving his successor to pick up where he left off.

Chances are you’ve imagined something a lot like ‘Robot’. Although this story marked the beginning of a new era for the show it was written and produced by the blokes responsible for the previous one, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. As such, it’s an uncomfortable mixture of the old and the new. If the bouffant one had still been around this would’ve been an okay UNIT adventure. But he’s gone, replaced by an unknown, Golden Globe-nominated builder by the name of Tom Baker. The new guy’s being squeezed into his predecessor's shoes only to find, unsurprisingly, that they don’t fit. Seeing Baker racing around in Pertwee’s ionic roadster just seems... wrong.

The plot of ‘Robot’ is a shamelessly obvious reworking of King Kong. Instead of a giant gorilla we get a giant robot (and not a very convincing one) with poor Elisabeth Sladen forced to be his Fay Wray. The savages of Skull Island have become the brain box elitists of the Scientific Reform Society (one of the show’s more blunt Nazi parables). And in the end it was not beauty that killed the beast but a small bucket of red foamy stuff (the BBC must’ve been unwilling to fork out for some biplanes). Throughout it all the brave men of UNIT, never the most effective bunch even at the best of times, are made to look like a right load of plonkers. It’s no wonder they relied on the Doctor so much, this lot are useless.

But 'Robot' has one saving grace, the man in the scarf. Much like a certain bowtie wearing 27-year-old, Tom Baker had the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of an exceptionally popular Doctor. He might not have been David Tennant, but as far as the entire country was concerned, Jon Pertwee was the Doctor. But from the moment he appears on screen, delirious from his regeneration, Tom Baker just is the Doctor. It’s difficult to find the right words to describe precisely what is so brilliant about him, so I won’t even bother. He’s Tom Baker, he is the Doctor and that’s all you really need to know.

Notes and Quotes

--Along with the new Doctor, ‘Robot’ also introduces a new companion, UNIT medial officer Harry Sullivan. He’s something of a chauvinistic middle class berk, although a rather loveable chauvinistic middle class berk.

--‘Robot’ was shot at the same time as ‘Planet of the Spiders’ forcing much of the cast to pull double duty.

--Judging by their garish green uniforms, the Scientific Reform Society's intellectual superiority doesn't extend to fashion. Say what you will about the Third Reich, they at least knew the value of stylish uniforms.

--Far as I know K-1 is of no relation to the tin dog.

--Yes, that really is an Action Man toy tank that the Brigadier sends against K-1. Makes one wonder if UNIT used to get all its military hardware from Woolworths?

--I’ve always love the way that Tom Baker says ‘Brigadier’. Than again, I love the way Tom Baker says absolutely anything.

The Brigadier: “I’m old fashioned myself.”
Sarah Jane: “Nonsense, Brigadier. You’re a swinger.”

The Brigadier: “You know, just once I’d like to meet an alien menace that wasn’t immune to bullets.”

The Brigadier: “Naturally only Great Britain could be trusted with such a responsibility.”
The Doctor: “Naturally, the rest were all foreigners.”
The Brigadier: “Exactly.”

The Brigadier: “Believe me, Doctor, the place is impregnable!”
The Doctor: “Never cared much for the word 'impregnable.' Sounds a bit too much like 'unsinkable.'”
Harry Sullivan: “What's wrong with unsinkable?”
The Doctor: “'Nothing,' as the iceberg said to the Titanic!”

The Doctor: “There’s no point being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes.”

Two out of four buckets of red foamy stuff.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


  1. Ah, Robot - the start of the Baker era, and of leaving UNIT and Earth behind - mostly. Tom Baker was my Doctor growing up. My mom, who was a prolific knitter, made me a scarf, that was a good 15' long. I wore it every winter until it fell apart. It was a great conversation starter, and not to mention, very warm. I'm just now starting to build up my classic Dr. Who DVD collection - I had a lot of these on VHS tapes for years, but they're long gone.

  2. My favourite Doctor..but not in the best intro episode..Nice review.

  3. One of the things that got Baker hired as the next Doctor was his stage performance as Rasputin. In particular, the Who producers were blown away by his voice. (Think of the scenes where the Doctor gets angry and gets that rasp as he is shouting.) It turns out that during one of the early performances, Baker had been eating peanuts and got a bit stuck in his throat, which forced him to talk that way (until he could clear his throat). People were so impressed, Baker decided to keep doing that voice. (Without the peanuts, I imagine.)

  4. I like this story for many reasons, mostly my favorite Doctor's debut of course, but it's very much a transition from the UNIT and Earth bound days to more traveling and going to more alien quarries, er places!

    Harry Sullivan arrives too and with the 4th Doctor and Sarah Jane, they make my all time favorite TARDIS team. And of course the last regular appearance of the Brigadier and Benton which is sad as I loved them both, so a mixed story for me all around.

    When the robot becomes giant, it really does go downhill, I feel that without that bit, it would have been a better story; the whole living metal thing just didn't work. I did like the robot though, and how their messing about was confusing its programming.

    So lots to love, some to not love so much, some that is indeed sad, but good stuff, and wow does Tom Baker hit the ground running! So much good stuff when he's getting an outfit and dealing with the humans! Stuff like this is why he's my number one Doctor!


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