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Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Begins., 23 April 2012
This review is from: Doctor Who: Robot [1974] [DVD] [1963] (DVD)
Tom Baker, at this point in his illustrious life was a bad tempered, chain smoking, irreligious, binge drinking, bricklayer on a construction site somewhere in London. Then he met Doctor Who's producer, Barry Letts, the man who would quite literally change his life forever and make Baker one of the most well-remembered and iconic people of the 20th century. Now, as a huge fan of the devilish Jon Pertwee and his 3rd incarnation of the titular character, I found Tom Baker quite different to say the least. As Mark Gatiss puts it in the preceding story's DVD release "Planet of the Spiders" main documentary, it took him some time to warm to this bizarre man and his portrayal of The Doctor and I felt quite the same. That said, Tom is an instant natural, his alien-esque-ness is evident from his first word and there is no doubt in my mind that Tom was born to play The Doctor. So then, after 5 years of Pertwee mania, Tom Baker fulfills his destiny by laying on the floor {trying not to laugh} and regenerating into the most exciting and popular Doctor we have seen to date.

As stated above, My Doctor is Jon Pertwee, but its almost two close to call between the two of them. The main reason I've always marked Tom's Doctor down is the fact that he just stayed too long and the stories were just becoming utter nonsense. The show goes on but Tom wanted to carry on carrying on with it, and so after 7 exhaustive years of new producers, new companions and 178 weeks of episodes to record, Tom departed the role that made him a true household name, in March 1981, {completely shattered I wouldn't wonder}. Anyway, that's 7 years away, I'm more interested in the first few stories that made Tom so infamous. Robot is a brilliant story to open the 12th season of 1974-5, you can still detect very clearly that the show was in the hands of resident producer Barry Letts and script-editor Terrance Dicks, the whole story would not be out of place in the middle of the Pertwee years. But funnily enough, this doesn't take anything away from Tom's new performance, he's still as manically and intelligently Doctor-ish from the word go, and Baker is an absolute joy to watch. This truly is one of the better post-regeneration serials.

Regulars Sarah Jane Smith {Liz Sladen} and the Brigadier {Nic Courtney} are both on hand to help the new Doctor find his feet again, Sarah's first story with the new bombastic Doctor is a beautiful and at times quite touching affair. The two work so well together, never another one like Sarah Jane Smith, especially in Baker's eyes. Moving on, one can always rely on Brigadier Alistair Gordon Leth-Bridge Stewart to help the story along, action wise as well as comedy wise. True, the Brig was always most at home with Jon's third Doctor and as is only right, thought of as the Third Doctor's companion, rather than any other Doctor's, but still Nic and Tom share some great moments. Very similar to the moments Nic shared with Patrick Troughton back in the late 60's.

The Story is very strong with some fine performances coming from Edward Burnham as the mad professor and Father / creator of the Robot, Patricia Maynard as leader of the SRS {Scientific Reforn Society} Miss Winters and the creep of the show, Alec Linstead as Jellicoe, Winter's assistant. John Levene puts some energy into one of his final roles as Benton, the ever-reliable. I've always loved John as a person as well as an actor, such an emotionally in-tune man and very happy and nostalgic about his time in the series. Ian Marter also shares some brilliant scenes with Tom as his character "Harry Sullivan" bounces off the new Doctor wonderfully.

The BBC DVD release sees this story gloriously remastered by the Doctor Who Restoration Team and packed with enough bonus content to serve this remarkable story justice. The main disc's documentary "Are Friends Electric" is a brilliantly produced and highly emotional production with some beautiful contributions from nearly all the cast and crew. Further to this we have a fascinating feature about Bernard Lodge's creation of the distinctive Tom Baker title credits and all the other Doctor's intro's up to this point. Highly recommended stuff indeed,

And so in summary, Robot is a classic story with some great performances and the debut of the maddest and most well remembered Doctor Who of them all, Thomas Stewart Baker. The 4th Doctor has arrived. 10/10.
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