Many actors taking on a new role in a popular series find themselves easing into the part gradually. Their first appearance is subtle, almost undefined, and as they assume the mantle they establish their take on the character.
But such trivial and time established rules do not apply to Tom Baker.
After the inconvenience of regenerating from the sword waving, cloak covered, ruffle shirted dandy of Jon Pertwee, Baker wastes no time at all showing us what to expect from his Doctor during his debut story Robot, written by Terrance Dicks. Right away we get the teeth (a lot of teeth), a ridiculous amount of hair, the eyes (very boggled) and the quirky performance. All that's missing is the sca... oh, hang on, there's the scarf. And we're off...
Yes, there's no time to mess about as an alien creature/robot has broken into to a secure facility that requires a pass to be shown to a guard who would be, quite frankly, incapable of looking after your pet gerbil!
There are some sublime moments, coupled with some very outdated attempts to visually excite, such as the claw waving and distorted vision - the type you get from a bathroom window, installed to protect your modesty.
The robot itself seems to have a penchant for breaking and entering, pilfering top secret documents and killing off hapless personnel in the process. It seems to nip in and out with alarming ease, even though it beeps like the instruments of a submarine and looks about as mobile as a washing machine full of concrete. Mind you, the pilfering was made a little easier for the automated criminal because it was the only file in an otherwise empty safe, or whatever it was (couldn't quite see it through the bathroom window), and it had a nice big "top secret" sticker on it! But this is all part of the charm of classic 1970s Doctor Who, watching them now gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, it makes you smile and go all gooey with nostalgia.
Baker plays the role to full comic effect, with a script that Moffat must have wholeheartedly embraced and reworked for Matt Smith's debut adventure (I'm sure he wouldn't mind me saying that - or perhaps he would come to think of it). The dialogue is fantastic, for instance at the scene of the break in (a fence) the Doctor notices a squashed dandelion,
"According to my calculations to the resistance of pressure to vegetable fibre it was stepped on by something that weighed a quarter of a ton."Absolutely glorious dialogue and delivered superbly by arguably the greatest Doctor ever.
Joining the Fourth Doctor for his debut adventure we have the Brigadier, Sarah Jane in a peculiar hat (worthy of a trip to Royal Ascot, or at the very least merits an outing to the beach for an ice cream) and Harry Sullivan at his blithering best. What a line-up. It's a veritable treat for Whovians, make no mistake, and for me there's a huge bonus - the final sighting (for a while at least) of that car. Thank God !!
Bessie was no longer to be a feature of Baker's era, and was no doubt sold on to an octogenarian with a liking for puzzles and knitting, or maybe a collector who longed for a banana coloured vehicle with a top speed of 8MPH.
The Doctor patiently waits for a response to his 'For Sale' ad in Auto Trader.
Sarah Jane plays her part in this Agatha Christie type whodunit by nosing around a development centre in the company of its prickly director of operations. She uncovers more mystery in a room that was once allocated to J.P Kettlewell , head of the robotics section. Mmmm, I've seen this many times before but if you haven't can you guess what's coming?
I won't spoil your fun. Mind you, the fact that you're here on Warped Factor probably means that, just like me, you've watched and rewatched Robot countless times. Still now, if I have the luxury of some free time to myself, I'll spend it wisely watching this story. It's a classic through and through, and the type of adventure that just increases our love for Doctor Who.
I once submitted a list of my top 5 favourite Tom Baker stories, and I struggled for ages to narrow it down to just 5. My choices seem to change regularly, and right now, after revisiting it again, Robot is back on the short list.
Do yourself a favour and relive the debut of the magnetic Tom Baker. You won't regret it.
What an entrance!
Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter