Tom Baker is my Doctor. I've dipped in and out of the series throughout its broadcast history, often coming back and binge watching entire seasons at a time, but when Tom was on I watched the show religiously, each and every Saturday. He's still the Doctor I judge all others by, and for my money no-one has beaten him so far.
With so many great stories to pick from compiling a list of just 10 resulted in a lot of back and forth decision making. Robot, both my first ever episode viewed and the Fourth Doctor's debut story, was amongst my initial choices - at a time when my rough draft contained 16 stories - but ultimately I left it out of the final 10 because, for me, The Ark In Space is really when the style of the Fourth Doctor's era begins. And it is with that story my countdown begins...
10. The Ark In Space
Tom was brilliant from day one, but Robot feels more like a Third Doctor story, grounded and UNIT heavy, but with The Ark In Space we have the beginnings of the horror theme that would be present throughout the first half of Tom Baker's run. Robert Holmes is finally allowed to let his imagination run wild and delivers a script where the primary villain is already dead when the Doctor first arrives on Space Station Nerva. The Queen Wirrn infiltrated the station and laid her eggs, then cut through some circuitry (causing the oversleep) and infected the leader of the humans on board. She then died centuries before the Doctor, Sarah-Jane and Harry arrived. It's a great concept, sets up a memorable story-arc that runs across season 12 and is played out by my personal favourite Doctor/Companions line-up.
9. The Keeper Of Traken
I'm not a huge fan of season 18 of Doctor Who. The awkwardness between the Fourth Doctor and the show's transition to almost-pantomime plays out on-screen, just as the awkwardness between Tom Baker and John Nathan-Turner was playing out off-screen. There's certainly plenty of great ideas across the season, it's just none of them quite come together for me. Except for The Keeper Of Traken, it's the one story I have a lot of time for. Stylish in both script and presentation, The Keeper Of Traken is the beginning of the end for the Fourth. It's the final time we are treated to Tom Baker's madcap Doctor (Tom's performance in Logopolis being much more restrained), and a solid reminder why he is still considered the very best of the bunch. It's also a new beginning of sorts, as we have the return of the Master (with Geoffrey Beevers being utterly chilling in the role), and a new companion in the form of a very young looking Sarah Sutton. Adric is also given what I think is his best material, he's not annoying here, there's a lot for him to do without pushing the whole boy-genius angle.
8. The Robots Of Death
Season 14 might just be my favourite. Three stories from that year appear in this top 10 (and it was very nearly four), The Robots Of Death makes the cut as it is essentially a simple murder-mystery whodunnit tale, but with killer robots. How very Doctor Who! It's typical that the blame is placed on the Doctor as he arrives on the scene, but what makes this one stand out for me (in addition to those killer robots that is) is Louise Jameson. She's only one story into her character of Leela but gets some great material here. A lot of the stories that were filmed after a new companion arrived were actually written with the previous assistant in mind, and the lines just adapted - often not very convincingly. But The Robots of Death really plays to Leela's violent nature, which doesn’t help in diverting the suspicion from the two travellers, and actually makes them seem more like the culprits. The relationship between the Doctor and Leela is a fascinating one. The Doctor is a man who detests violence but is travelling with an alien savage whose first instinct is to attack. The nurturing and educating of Leela is a really unique in Doctor Who, and something that could be a welcome addition to the series today.
7. Pyramids Of Mars
One of Tom’s finest performances. It's a dark tale that opens with the Doctor lamenting his role at UNIT, as well as the fact that he is over 750 years old. He seems to be having a mid-life crisis as his mood does not improve throughout Pyramids Of Mars. The 'dark' theme was one heavily played up for Peter Capaldi's debut season, but here we have the Doctor in one of the darkest, serious and most alien lights he has ever been shown in (one particular moment that sticks out for me is when Lawrence dies at his possessed brother’s hands and the Doctor remarks that he’d tried to tell him that his brother was dead. Sarah became upset at how the Doctor can really be quite cold and detached). It's Robert Holmes again, and it vibes on many classic horror themes. A template episode for the Gothic horror era of Doctor Who, and a must inclusion in anyone's top 10.
6. City Of Death
I expect many people would put this at the top of their lists, or at least much higher than sixth. Whereas I do absolutely adore City Of Death - it's a story that is quite rightly thought of as a must-see classic, and contains one of the best cliffhangers and WTF moments in Doctor Who history (but then you'd almost take that as a given from Douglas Adams) - personally I think that at times it goes a little too far with the humour, and Tom is allowed a little too much freedom with the slapstick side of the character. Minor complaints really, and I'm just trying to show why I have it placed here and not at number one or two. Regardless of position, Tom is brilliant in City Of Death, especially with the Countess (and opposite Lalla Ward's Romana). The story as a whole is a very clever one, with the Count splintering himself across time and space to save his race. I think Steven Moffat must have taken inspiration from this when splintering Clara Oswald across the Doctor's time stream in The Name Of The Doctor.
5. The Deadly Assassin
Gallifrey. The Master. A murder mystery. The Fourth Doctor. What's not to love? With The Deadly Assassin Robert Holmes established an awful lot of what we now think of as the norm in Doctor Who folklore, including the whole 12 regeneration limit and pretty much everything we know about the Time Lords. Story wise, it's essentially Doctor Who's take on The Manchurian Candidate. The Doctor flies solo for this adventure, having dropped off Sarah-Jane at the end of The Hand of Fear, and Tom Baker makes full use of the extra time given to his character. I know he was keen to stay alone, and it would've been interesting to have seen one or two more solo stories, but I think the Doctor (any Doctor) needs his companion. It just wouldn't feel like "Doctor Who" without them.
4. The Talons Of Weng-Chiang
All those NuVians who keep calling for a WhoLock mash-up really need to sit down and watch The Talons Of Weng-Chiang. It's as close as you're ever likely to see Doctor Who meets Sherlock Holmes, and another brilliant whodunnit style adventure from the pen of Robert Holmes. Holmes also pays tribute to The Phantom Of The Opera and gives us the two best non-companions the series ever saw in the form of Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot. I wouldn't be surprised if the pair where referenced by the Paternoster Gang in the modern show.
3. The Brain Of Morbius
This story sits so high up on my list not only on its own worthy merits but also thanks to the fact that it was the first ever VHS video I owned. Purchased for a few pounds in the mid 1980s from a local video store that was closing down, it was an edited version that ran for around an hour, which at one time I was watching weekly, and loving every single viewing. Story wise, The Brain of Morbius is essentially Doctor Who's take on Frankenstein, and came about as a joint collaboration between Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes. Legend has it that the script Dicks presented bears little resemblance to the finished product. His original story was a lighter affair based around a human/robot relationship. Holmes undertook substantial re-writes, adding the character of Solon and all the horror themes present throughout, all much to Dicks displeasure who demanded his name removed as there was next to nothing of his original work left. His suggestion that it be credited to a "bland pseudonym" was taken literally, and so The Brain of Morbius ended up credited to Robin Bland! It's another story that has influenced the show today, with the Sisterhood of Karn re-appearing in The Night Of The Doctor mini-sode.
2. Horror Of Fang Rock
This is a simple one to sum up. Yes it's another murder-mystery, yes it's another dark Gothic tinged adventure, but it's possibly the ultimate one of that kind that Doctor Who ever did. It's a genre I'm particularly fond of and this is one story I'll happily return to again and again. Horror of Fang Rock is a brutal season opener that sees everyone, apart from the Doctor and Leela, end up dead. Picked off one at a time in a taut and claustrophobic adventure which surprisingly comes 100% from the pen of Terrance Dicks. Tom is pure class throughout, he's slap-bang in the middle of his time as the Time Lord and perfectly portrays his own blend of firm, funny, caring and eccentric Doctor.
1. Genesis Of The Daleks
How could it be any other story? For my money this is not only the Fourth Doctor's best story but the finest the show has presented in its 51 years period. Just as the story itself is the perfect example of how Doctor Who should be done, Tom's performance as the Doctor in this six part adventure encompasses all aspects of the character better than anyone has ever done before or since. Genesis of the Daleks is the one classic adventure that really has had the biggest impact on the series since its 2005 revival. After all the Time Lords did send the Doctor to Skara to prevent the development of the Daleks - first shot fired in the Time War (so says Russell T Davies). Then there's Michael Wisher's sublime portrayal of Davros. Hitler-esque in his quest to create the ultimate master race, to see his kind conquer all. There's never been a better antagonist for the Doctor than Davros, and there's never been a better Davros than Wisher. The moral dilemma presented, the "have I the right" speech... ah, perfection. Yet, would it have worked so well in the hands of any other Doctor? Maybe a touch of the Eccleston angst might have helped the Ninth to portray it, possibly the Fifth could've shown the inner struggle quite well, but no other Doctor could've delivered it like Tom, he is just absolutely exceptional here. The choice the Doctor faces should be simple, as Sarah-Jane keeps imploring him it is, but the Doctor finds it impossible. The Time Lord inside him, which is governed by rules of strictly no interference, begins to creep in. Of course, the irony is that it was the Time Lords who sent him there to do it in the first place! It's arguably the greatest single scene in Doctor Who history, in the greatest Doctor Who adventure of all time. I'm pretty sure it'll never be beaten. Simply put, Genesis of the Daleks is Doctor Who 101, and should be compulsory viewing for everyone.
So, what are your favourite Tom Baker Doctor Who stories? Let us know in the comments below.
By day, an ordinary bloke in a dull 9 to 5. By night, a tired ordinary bloke. Martin still hasn't worked out what he wants to do when he grows up. He is currently 46.