ROBOT

Part One

RobotSue: Ooh, scary face. Tom Baker looks very serious, doesn’t he? It’s a much better title sequence than the last one, though. You don’t need to see the Doctor’s legs.

And then…

Sue: They still haven’t fixed the titles! That’s just lazy. They’ve slapped the new titles over the old ones and hoped for the best. Do they ever sort that out, Neil?

She isn’t impressed with Tom Baker, either.

Sue: Is Tom always this hammy? I hope he tones it down eventually. That was well over the top.

Elsewhere in the home counties, a robot is up to no good.

Sue: Did that thing just kick two dogs to death?
Me: Perhaps it just injured them. Pretend it stood on their tails or something.
Sue: Like that’s going to make me feel any better. That’s two marks off already, and we’re only five minutes in.

Back at UNIT HQ, Sarah Jane Smith flirts with the Brigadier so she can get her hands on a press pass to a new government Think Tank, which is clearly a lot more interesting than a recently regenerated Time Lord. On her way out, she calls the Brigadier a swinger.

Me: Confirmation at last.
Sue: It’s his moustache that gives him away.

The new Doctor discharges himself from the infirmary but the medical officer, Harry Sullivan, manages to intervene before he can escape in his TARDIS. The Doctor believes that his nose is a definite improvement on the last one.

Sue: Your entire face is a definite improvement! Cheer up! You’re not Jon Pertwee any more!

TRobothe Doctor bamboozles Harry during an exceedingly strange medical, but Sue seems to enjoy it.

Sue: He’s definitely larger than life and very charismatic – you can’t take your eyes off him. But he will tone it down eventually, won’t he? He’s a bit full on at the moment.

Doesn’t stop her laughing though.

Sue: He’s very funny, but I’m not sure the kids would have felt the same way. I think the Doctor’s eyes popping out of his head would have frightened half of them to death. He’s definitely the most alien Doctor so far. How did you take to him when you first saw him, Neil?
Me: I don’t remember ever not liking him. I’m pretty sure I took to him like a duck to water. I was only five years old at the time; you can adjust to anything when you’re that young. I certainly don’t remember pining for Jon Pertwee, although I loved those chocolate bars with his face on the wrappers. Yeah, I definitely missed those.

The robot murders another hapless sod.

Sue: I bet the robot looks shit when we finally get to see it. I’m preparing myself for the worst.

Meanwhile the Doctor is searching for a new outfit to wear.

RobotSue: It’s a shame the Brigadier wasn’t around when Colin Baker chose his costume. Has anyone ever said that before, Neil? Actually, that clown outfit would have looked pretty good on Peter Davison…

Now that’s he decked out in his iconic costume (Sue’s words, not mine), the Doctor agrees to investigate the scene of the crime.

Sue: My word, his teeth are scary.

And then Sue gasps.

Sue: You’d never catch Jon Pertwee with his feet on Bessie’s windscreen like that. His other self would knock his block off if he could see him now.

The Doctor dishes out advice to UNIT like he’s Sherlock Holmes on Valium.

Sue: It’s as if he can’t be bothered. He’s treating the whole thing as a joke. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

When we are introduced to Kettlewell, Sue points at the mad professor’s hair.

Sue: Has he been playing with a Van de Graaff generator?
Me: I think he’s more of a Hawkwind fan.

As the professor starts babbling on about alternative energy sources, Sue shifts her attention to Sarah’s outfit.

Sue: This isn’t a good look for Sarah Jane. It makes her look old and frumpy. I don’t know what she was thinking when she got out of bed this morning. I’m sure that look was never fashionable.

Sarah is politely escorted away from Think Tank’s premises, but she immediately sneaks back in again, and the episode concludes with her being menaced by the titular robot.

Sue: Oh, it’s that robot! I was attacked by that thing at the Doctor Who Experience, wasn’t I? Well, I say attacked – you told me to stick my head in its claws when no one was looking.
Me: Well, that was Tom Baker’s first episode. Was it a good start?
Sue: It was all right, I suppose. It’s too early to tell.

 

Part Two

RobotI ask Sue to comment on the robot’s unique design.

Sue: How long have you got? First of all, it’s top-heavy. Secondly, it can’t walk properly. And thirdly, I don’t see how it can possibly pick anything up. Look at its wrists! I like its head, though. Especially the pink bits.

When Sarah is discovered on Think Tank’s premises, Miss Winters tells her to keep her trap shut or they’ll issue a formal complaint.

Sue: I bet Sarah Jane is quaking in her boots.

Later that night, Miss Winters is joined by a colleague named Jellicoe, and together they mess with the robot’s brain.

Sue: I like his pink marigold gloves. Do you think he stole them from a cleaner or did he actually buy them himself?

Sue leans forward.

Sue: This story is very dark. Not in terms of its subject matter. It’s more like, “What the hell am I looking at? I can’t see a thing.”

The K1 robot is programmed to murder a cabinet minister and steal a top-secret file, and Sue can’t believe it when it manages to grasp the manila folder in its claw without dropping it.

Sue: I’d like to see it pick up a large hardback book. I bet it couldn’t do that. It’s not exactly the Terminator, is it? Living metal, my arse.

The Brigadier wants answers.

Sue: His hair is very long. That’s definitely a non-regulation haircut. They must be very lax about that sort of thing at the United Nations.

RobotSarah informs the Brigadier she’s popping out to report on a meeting of the Scientific Reform Society.

Sue: Why is Sarah Jane still working as a journalist? Isn’t she the Doctor’s full-time companion now? I didn’t realise the Doctor’s companions were expected to hold down a job between adventures.

Sarah’s attempts to interview the SRS fall on deaf ears, mainly because the bouncers on the door aren’t impressed with her attire either.

Sue: It’s that stupid thing you’ve got wrapped round your head, pet. There’s only room for one scarf in this programme.

The SRS tell Sarah to piss off.

Sue: They should hire a PR company to deal with their front of house. You can’t kick people out and still expect a decent review. Idiots.

But all is not lost, because Harry has successfully infiltrated the organisation by pretending to be a man from the ministry.

Sue: It’s Steel from The Avengers.
Me: I think you mean Steed.
Sue: Since when did the Navy work for UNIT? That’s what I don’t understand.

The Doctor takes Bessie for a spin.

Sue: This doesn’t look right to me. He needs a new car. He can’t drive around in one of Jon Pertwee’s cast-offs.
Me: So what kind of car should this Doctor drive?
Sue: I don’t know. A white Triumph Spitfire wouldn’t clash with his scarf.

RobotAnd then, apropos of nothing, Benton brandishes his recent promotion in Sarah Jane’s face.

Sue: UNIT don’t have a budget to fight aliens, but they still gave Benton a raise? That’s nice.
Me: I’m sure that scene was inserted into the episode because some pedant wrote an irate letter to the Radio Times complaining about UNIT’s chain of command.
Sue: That sounds like the sort of thing a Doctor Who specialist would do. Wow. That means they had specialists in the 1970s as well. Is this what they did before the internet was invented?

The episode ends with a murderous robot towering over the Doctor, who’s sprawled out on the floor.

Sue: Make your mind up, Tom. Where do you want to lie down? Get yourself nice and comfortable… That’s it. Happy now? And cut!

 

Part Three

Sarah arrives in the nick of time and saves the Doctor’s bacon.

Sue: They’re messing with the cliffhangers again. We never saw Sarah Jane arrive in the last episode, so it’s a cheat. I can’t say I’m impressed with the direction in this story so far. It’s very safe.

Sarah tries to reason with the K1 robot, but her pleas do not compute.

Sue: He’s like a petulant version of Siri.
Me: Is there any other kind?

The robot makes a run for it. Actually, it ambles for it, but you get the general idea.

RobotMe: This is the only bit I can remember seeing when I was five. Or maybe they showed this clip on another programme and I’m remembering that instead. My memories of this are very foggy.
Sue: Do you remember the robot’s feet? I mean, look at them! He’s going to trip over himself if he’s not careful. Whoever designed that thing was insane. Oh wait, we’ve already met him. He is insane.

Benton showers the robot with bullets.

Sue: Look at Benton. He’s loving this. He’s in his element today; he can barely hide his smile.

Sue suddenly realises that she could be watching a Barry Letts story.

Me: This is a Barry Letts story, love.
Sue: What? I thought Barry had left? In all those Jon Pertwee documentaries you made me watch, he was always going on about leaving.
Me: This is Barry’s last story. A new producer takes over next week.
Sue: That’s weird. That would be like Russell T Davies producing Matt Smith’s first episode before he swanned off. So who cast Tom Baker as the Doctor, then?
Me: It was Barry who sealed the deal.
Sue: Unbelievable. Thank God he left the new producer with a decent actor. If Barry was a bad man he could have cast Arthur Mullard for a laugh.

RobotMiss Winters addresses an SRS rally.

Sue: They look like a gathering of angry bus conductors.

Hilda reveals her secret weapon: a badly designed (and slightly unhinged) robot.

Sue: So this is what will happen if the BNP ever join forces with Metal Mickey? Scary stuff.

The robot identifies Sarah as an outsider and targets her, but thankfully the Brigadier turns up to throw a spanner in its works.

Sue: Thank heavens for the Brig! He’s turned the lights on and we can actually see what’s going on for a change.

As the robot makes its way out of the hall, it’s helped down some stairs by an SRS goon.

Sue: I’m not convinced that it could get down those steps without any help. Does the robot require a constant supply of care workers?

UNIT unleash hell.

Sue: Have UNIT ever shot and killed anything? Like, ever? They’re hopeless.

Harry calls the Brigadier with an update on Think Tank’s ambitions.

Sue: Who’s this bloke again?

And then she puts her finger on something that’s been bugging her for ages.

Sue: So this lot are going to hold the world to ransom, but they can barely fill a meeting at a local town hall?
Me: Yes, this story eerily prefigures contemporary American politics.

With the SRS holed up in their bunker, Benton assaults it the only way he knows how.

Sue: Wow! He just hit three things in a row! With one grenade! Maybe Benton deserved that promotion after all.

The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to detonate the mines surrounding the bunker’s entrance.

Sue: It’s a Dremel.
Me: I have no idea what that means.
Sue: Don’t you know anything practical, Neil? Knowing how many episodes Terry ****ing Nation wrote is never – I repeat never – going to help us. But knowing how to handle a Dremel might.

Miss Winters decides to arm the robot with a disintegrator gun, so Jellicoe hurries off to retrieve it from a cell that’s currently occupied by Sarah and Harry.

Sue: They actually left the gun in the same room as their prisoners? That’s a bit stupid. It’s a good job Steed and Sarah didn’t work out what it was. And how is the robot going to pick up that gun, exactly? It’ll throw its balance right off.

WRobothen the robot aims the gun, Sue can’t stop giggling.

Sue: Bless him. He can only point it at the ground. Look at his limp wrist! And his gun doesn’t even flash when it fires. It’s pathetic!

UNIT reinforcements arrive (care of Palitoy).

Sue: Oh dear…
Me: It’s an Action Man tank. I had one of those when I was a boy.
Sue: And now you have a toy version of that robot instead. Nothing much has changed, has it?
Me: It isn’t a toy, dear. It’s a collectible figurine.
Sue: It fell off your bookshelf when I was tidying up, once. Getting it to stand up straight again was a ****ing nightmare.

 

Part Four

RobotMe: You remember how Tommy from Planet of the Spiders wrote several episodes of Terry and June?
Sue: Only because Steve O’Brien told me.
Me: Yes, well, we can go one better with this story. How’s this for some trivia: Miss Winters wrote the theme tune to Minder.
Sue: Now you’re just taking the piss.
Me: I’m serious. Patricia Maynard married Dennis Waterman and she wrote the theme to Minder. People assume that the Waterman identified in the song’s credits is Dennis, but it isn’t him, it’s her.
Sue: I could be so good to you?
Me: Yes.
Sue: Love me like you want me to?
Me: Yes, but we should probably finish Robot first.
Sue: So Dennis Waterman didn’t write the theme tune and sing the theme tune? He just sang the theme tune?
Me: That’s right, which means Little Britain got it wrong, which brings us seamlessly back to Tom Baker.

As Winters, Jellicoe and Kettlewell wait for the world to end, Sue spots a fatal flaw in their plan.

Sue: How are these three idiots going to repopulate the world after a nuclear war? No one will be happy in that triangle.

RobotThe Doctor saves the day with two seconds to spare (or about 15 minutes, given how long this episode still has left to run). And then, just as Benton is about to stick the kettle on, they notice that Sarah and the robot are missing.

Sue: How can you lose a bloody robot? How did it get back on its feet without the aid of a crane?

But it’s not all bad news.

Sue: Benton is acting his face off this week. Say what you like about Levene (whichever one it is, I don’t really care), but he always gives it his all. Look at him concentrating like mad in the background…

The robot wants to create more machines like itself.

Sue: But with better wrists! And opposable thumbs!

The Doctor believes the robot is probably suffering from a suppressed Oedipus complex.

Sue: That’s a bit heavy for a children’s programme. I wonder how many children turned to their mothers and asked them what an Oedipus complex was. Did you, Neil?
Me: No.
Sue: You’re probably suppressing it. You said your memories of this story were foggy.

The Brigadier is too busy shooting at the robot to care about its mental state. And then, in a plot twist nobody – and I mean nobody – saw coming, when the robot is shot with the disintegrator gun, it begins to grow in size…

Sue: What the hell? Since when did that gun make things bigger? Okay, now I’m really confused!

The robot reaches for Sarah with its massive claws.

RobotSue: It’s turned into Godzilla, now.
Me: Don’t you mean King Kong?
Sue: That’s the one. Look, it’s carrying a Sarah Jane doll around with him. Have you got a Sarah Jane doll?
Me: Not yet.
Sue: Actually, it looks like the doll from Play School. (Laughing) What was her name again, Neil?
Me: Hamble.
Sue: It’s a bit silly. Barry really is addicted to CSO, isn’t he? He’s got Sarah Jane pretending to hold on to a photograph of a drainpipe. How much would it have cost them to have provided her with a real drainpipe? In fact, they could have just doubled-up the big bazooka that UNIT are using. Just stand it up and Sarah Jane could cling to that instead. Who directed this rubbish?

The Doctor fills a plastic bucket with a metal-eating virus.

Sue: Why doesn’t it eat through the bucket’s handle?

Harry drives Bessie towards the giant robot so the Doctor can throw the contents of the bucket over its clodhopping feet.

Sue: I bet this is the closest the Doctor ever gets to a drive-by shooting.

RobotThe robot dies, which makes Sarah feel sad. Thankfully, the Doctor is on hand to offer her a quick spin in the TARDIS. But as they are about to leave, they’re interrupted by some berk in a cravat.

Sue: I didn’t know he was a companion. Who the hell is he?
Me: That’s Harry.
Sue: Never heard of him. Is he always this wet?

 

The Score

Sue: The story was pants. It didn’t make any sense! The villains disappeared five minutes into the final episode, and their plan was insane. Tom Baker was okay, but he’s still finding his feet, so I don’t want to judge him yet. He’s very funny, I’ll give him that. But it was just the same old, same old, only with a nicer Doctor. I was expecting a bigger change than that. It was distinctly average.

5/10

 

86

Comments

  1. Thomas Bush  March 20, 2012

    Right on the money, Sue! K1 walks like John Cleese as the Minister of Silly Walks.

  2. Neowhovian  March 20, 2012

    “Actually, that clown costume would have looked good on Peter Davison.” Hmmm… Too bad he never got to wear one…

    • Wholahoop  March 20, 2012

      Another prescient pearl from Sue. You could not make these things up could you!

      • Frankymole  March 20, 2012

        You’re right. Sue’s switched on, big time.

  3. Neil Perryman  March 20, 2012

    Incidentally, I am aware that the site is currently experiencing connection difficulties. I am looking into the problem and I hope it will be solved soon.

  4. Steve O'Brien  March 20, 2012

    Did you have the old “Have you noticed these outdoor scenes look different? They’re on VIDEO!!” conversation at all? Once again, **I** would have done.

    • Neil Perryman  March 20, 2012

      Yes we did but I forget to include it. Here’s the missing bit:

      Sue: This looks funny.

      Me: The location scenes are shot on video.

      Sue: Oh. That explains it then.

  5. Robert Dick  March 20, 2012

    I’ll beat any other specialist to the Play School punch by pointing out the doll was called Hamble.

    Did you point out Sue had seen Harry before, in minature?

    • Neil Perryman  March 20, 2012

      This is a personal blind spot for me. True story: I once went to a job interview at the BBC (interviewed by James Goss no less) and I had to fill in a cult tv Q&A. One of the questions asked for the name of that very doll. I wrote Hannibal. They thought it was so stupid they even printed my answer on the bloody website!

      And no, Sue didn’t seem to remember Ian at all.

      • Robert Dick  March 20, 2012

        Big Ted Bundy and Little Ted Bundy.

        • PolarityReversed  April 23, 2012

          Perhaps Jemima used to drag Hamble round to parties as “the other one”…

  6. matt bartley  March 20, 2012

    “Who is he?”

    Poor Harry.

    Robot is far from great, but it does have one of my all-time favourite lines in it. “Naturally. The rest were all foreigners.”

  7. Luke Harrison  March 20, 2012

    Neil, have you tried explaining the laborious slit-scan process to Sue? I think she might complain about the glitch in the titles a lot less if she knew how it was done.

    • Neil Perryman  March 20, 2012

      We watched the extra on the DVD yesterday. Well, I did. Sue mainly played with her phone and grunted.

  8. Harry  March 20, 2012

    I was eagerly looking forward to seeing Sue’s take on my favourite Doctor begin, and I was initially a little disappointed by her very average score of 5/10, but then I reminded myself that this is “Robot” that we are talking about, a story that IS distinctly average, only notable for it being Tom’s first story…if this was a Pertwee UNIT runaround, it would be remembered much less fondly. I can’t wait to see what she makes of the massive shift in tone next week…

    • BestBrian  March 20, 2012

      Well, it’s also noted for getting referenced by David Tenant, and, and, um, and being referenced by David Tenant.

  9. Warren Andrews  March 20, 2012

    I’m not surprised by the indifference to Harry. He only really has significance if you know he’ll be a companion. Some part 1 scenes aside, he virtually disappears in part 2-4.

  10. DPC  March 20, 2012

    “Sue: You’d never see Jon Pertwee with his legs up on Bessie’s windscreen like that; his other self would knock his block off if he could see him now.”

    I love how each successor says or does something that his predecessor would loathe… 🙂

  11. Simon Topliss  March 20, 2012

    I don’t think this experiment’s going to last much longer. You can imagine what’s coming: The A** in S**** – 2/10, (‘It’s ****ing green bubble wrap!’); The S******** E********, 1/10 (‘I can’t understand a word those scruffy ****ers are saying, and they’ve changed the poo-heads’); The G****** of the D***** , 3/10 (‘Terry ****ing N-); The P******* of M***, 1/10 (‘If I want to watch someone playing with his organ then I can -‘).
    I give it a month, max.

  12. Patrick Sanders  March 20, 2012

    Yes Robot is a false start – kind of weird watching Baker do Pertwee, though it’s only from watching the DVDs I realised how present UNIT still are over the following season. In 3 stories and still referenced in Pyramids too – a deliberate phasing out rather than the sudden chop I had remembered (not Venusian). And following the revelations about Waterman’s wife being a dictator who controls robots and writes theme tunes, there’s some kerfuffle on twitter about an interview he’s done in the paper. Wifeinspace stays topical…

    • Dave Sanders  March 21, 2012

      I’d call it ‘Reboot’, but that doesn’t happen until the next story. So in honour of the new script editor, it gets named ‘Bob’ instead.

      The Parking Space next…

  13. Lewis  March 20, 2012

    To be fair, this wasn’t really a Tom story – it was the last of Pertwee’s era and really shows. The next story is where Tom kicks into gear and the era really begins 😀

  14. Jazza1971  March 20, 2012

    Great review! Most entertaining. T-shirt/mug/favourite bits quotes:-

    1) “Sue: Did that thing just kick two dogs to death?

    Me: Perhaps it just injured them a little bit. Pretend that it just stood on their tails or something.”

    2) “Cheer up! You’re not Jon Pertwee anymore!”

    3) ” Oh, it’s that robot. I was attacked by that thing at the Doctor Who Experience, wasn’t I? Well, I say “attacked” – you made me stick my head in one of its claws when no one was looking.” – In this quote you can almost feel Sue’s pain!

    4) ” It can play a mean game of American Football.”

    and quote of the episode –

    5) “Knowing how many episodes Terry ****ing Nation wrote is never – I repeat, never – going to help us. Knowing how to handle a Dremel might. Just so you know.”

    Incidentally, when Sue stated that the dark scenes made her think that the sparkies were on strike during this story, did you point out that the making of the story was troubled by industrial action? Did she comment at all on the ladder?

  15. Christopher Pittard  March 20, 2012

    Ha – inadvertently topical Dennis Waterman insert! Apparently he wasn’t only provoked by Rula Lenska’s intelligence, but also by trying to make any sense of Resurrection of the Daleks.

    Didn’t Alexei Sayle do the voiceover for those Dremel adverts in the 90s (“Did I mention it cuts?”)? Second only to Dairylea Lunchables in the Sayle voiceover greatest hits. And there’s another 80s Dalek story for you.

  16. Simon Harries  March 20, 2012

    I love how the elderly minister Chambers, who is murdered by the Robot, turns up again in The Android Invasion as one of the villagers in the pub. He was clearly one of Barry’s favourites 🙂

  17. charles yoakum  March 20, 2012

    Sue correctly picked up on the fact that Tom’s Doctor can’t really be bothered to care all that much about the story, which doubly makes Ark so much better when he NAILS the second story with much higher stakes. She’s quite right, the story is naff, but you can’t take your eyes off of Tom from the beginning. One of his main attractions as the star of the show is that he literally became the star from the first half of Robot.

    Already calling Sue’s comments on Sarah in the white jumpsuit half way through Ark: “well, that’s very contemporary of her! very 1974 and 51st century at the same time.” or some such.

  18. Graeme C-G  March 20, 2012

    Good review, I share similar thought.

    I should ask, what’s the fault on the titles/credits?

    • Neil Perryman  March 20, 2012

      Keep your eye on the bottom left hand corner just before the diamond logo appears.

      • Graeme C-G  March 20, 2012

        Oh! The space mouse hole. I knew it was there on the Pertwee sequence, never noticed it on the Baker one.

        Let’s see if Sue notices the fault on the C Baker titles. 😉

        • Lewis  March 20, 2012

          …and the fault in the McCoy titles (take your pick :p)

          • Simon Harries  March 20, 2012

            I never noticed it on the Baker titles either…. I actually thought Sue may have been talking about some kind of one-frame cue marker. For instance, in the Baker titles, have you ever noticed the small white ring which flashes up for one frame, every couple of seconds, on the circular vortex that appears after the TARDIS zooms past? That’s the looping point mark – if you were to take the footage of that circular vortex, from the two small white ring marks, and join them end to end in succession, you would have a smooth continuous sequence. I know this because I’ve tried it me’self…

          • Wholahoop  March 20, 2012

            You mean the faults between the beginning and the end titles, surely?

          • encyclops  March 20, 2012

            I really don’t like the titles for the new series. To me, the visuals are bland and the theme tune…is by Murray Gold. But then recently I saw the McCoy titles again, and decided the new titles were all right by me. Shudder.

            As for Robot, the main thing I remember from watching it as a kid was just how nonchalant the new Doctor was, how clearly he seemed like he no longer belonged, how much events on Earth mattered to everyone else and how little they seemed to matter to him, how small a challenge they represented. There was something sad and a little frightening about this, and yet also thrilling and liberating.

            It was like being a fine upstanding punctual obedient student, and then having a new transfer student arrive from another school who didn’t give a rat’s about the rules and skipped class whenever he felt like it.

            “You can DO that?” the figurative analogue of me in this scenario thought.

            “Yes, of course you can! Have a jelly baby.”

  19. PolarityReversed  March 20, 2012

    There’s a lot to this one. A staple Pertwee-type UNIT runaround to give Baker an intial stab at differentiating the character, with a bit of post-regeneration befuddlement as leeway.

    I loved the flippancy, a trait generally mithing in Pertwee. Sort of feel that Baker would have seen off the Ogrons by confusing them with toenail clippers. It is a progression of the same character still, though, and he plays with it terrifically as he gets into the part. The balance of sombre and silly (“no point being grownup if you can’t be childish sometimes”) is why Baker is my favourite.

    Historical context is interesting. Nuclear holocaust was right up there at the time, and Tom comes along on a kids’ TV show and laughs his way through the threat with speed-typing and a bucket of pink suds.

    The robot itself surely was one of the daftest looking things though. Even with disbelief left at the NCP half a mile away, the whole idea of “I’m going to reprogramme its moral sense now – pass me the Philips will you” also makes me giggle. A more innocent time.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the bloke inside the costume go on to become the Cyberlardarse some years later?

    • Frankymole  March 20, 2012

      …and indeed some years earlier (in “Tomb”, but he lost weight drastically in the “picked up by Toberman diet”).

      • PolarityReversed  March 21, 2012

        Blimey, the go-to tall guy goes back that far does he? So he was the prima cyberina that was lifted so elegantly by Prince Toblerone at the climax of Act Four…

        There was that great little prologue in the early Target books about the, um, evolution of the Cybermen, wasn’t there. Something about not needing spleens or earwax anymore – “metal and plastic were better!” They obviously never found a hi-tech substitute for Guinness and pies.

        And the wrong cyberman on the cover of Tomb… Mutters darkly to self…

        • Frankymole  March 22, 2012

          Teehee. Yeah. Re: the Target cover, maybe when Jeff Cummins came in to paint them, they were halfway through the upgrade to their “Attack” versions 😉

          • PolarityReversed  April 24, 2012

            Hiya Frankie. Dull round here without the Cyberneil and his Cyberlass, innit? All the hiatus pitch-ins will present a challenge when they do a book of all this. Which I hope they do. Or a musical. Which I hope they don’t. If they do, someone’ll only get bloody Damon Allbran or Useless Wainwright to “write” the score…

            I’m well and truly outmonged and I bow in supplication – wouldn’t know who Jeff Cummins was if he came to read the gas, but I suspect the dead hand of marketing. Much as with the Weetabixy thing (passim) which pitted Tom Baker against at least four antagonists he never met. I mean honestly, what early-70s cereal-munching kid had even seen a bloody Quark?

            Heigh-ho. Hope you’re okay re redundo and all that.

  20. Raymond  March 20, 2012

    Me: Yes, it eerily prefigures contemporary American politics, don’t you think?

    … and is the photo of Miss Winters alluding to Sarah Palin?

  21. Frankymole  March 20, 2012

    The Navy arm of UNIT would’ve been quite useful to sort out the Master’s string-vested aquatic chums a few seasons back. Oh well, Captain Hart did pretty well and I’d prefer 3rd Officer Jane Blythe over Harry if I have to be operated on by sailors.

  22. Steve T  March 20, 2012

    I actually read this edition with baited breath, worried that Sue would hate the venerable Baker. I’m a fan of “Robot”, but can see it’s short comings. As a young fan, I went from enthusiastic straight to obessed with the appearance of Tom and can vividly remember how amazed I was by the new doctor. I reaaaally want Sue to like Mr. Baker; more than I realised until I started reading this posting!

  23. James Gent  March 20, 2012

    Ouch. This one got a bit of a rough ride! I quite like, it for all it’s silliness. I think I almost saw the penny drop once Sue found out who directed it – as it is basically Tom Baker in a Jon Pertwee story, misfiring UNIT goons and all! The tonal shift between this and Ark is going to blow her mind!

    • Simon Harries  March 20, 2012

      Agreed about the tonal shift and I do hope Sue takes to it, though I’m not sure how she will react. I love Ark to bits, but I don’t necessarily reach for it off the shelf with as much glee as I do Seeds, Genesis or Pyramids. In fact I probably haven’t watched Ark for about six or seven years. While it has moments of beauty, it can be quite spartan and slow-paced. Mind you, given a choice between Ark and some old shit with McCoy in it, I’d take Ark any time 😉

      • Frankymole  March 20, 2012

        I found its sterile atmosphere daunting too. Don’t think I ever replayed the VHS of this. But TomDoc, Harry “only qualified on sailors” sans shoes, the proletarian rogueish Rogin, and some very sly Holmesian humour break through. And that first episode, the three-hander, is still breathtaking (literally) all these years later. Inspiration for Alien? Beats that morose FX-fest into a cocked hat.

        You’ve surely got to play the first episode’s “four jaunty buttocks” commentary, though, Neil.

        “Indomitable”.

  24. Doug  March 21, 2012

    “Sue: So this lot are going to hold the whole world to ransom? And yet they can barely fill a meeting at a local town hall?

    Me: Yes, it eerily prefigures contemporary American politics, don’t you think?”

    So, so true.

  25. Marty  March 21, 2012

    Is that really why Benton makes such a show of having a new rank? A specialist complained?

    I don’t think the UNIT tank is *that* bad, not compared other bad stuff that UNIT’s been involved in, in series past.

    Robot is really the last vestiges of the Pertwee era hanging in there, but with a new Doctor. The feet on Bessie, the Doctor’s disinterest with UNIT it’s all very anti-Pertwee. Even the ending is anti-Pertwee, were this a Pertwee story it probably would have ended with them storming the base, the robot would have been hypnotised by the Doctor and every one would have gone off for a pint. Instead it’s a false end and King Kong gets rudely inserted with CSO into the story.

    It is nice to see Sarah driving around in a car, that’s different, was this the first time that a companion has had their own car to drive? During a story I mean, and Ian and Babs at the start of An Unearthly Child doesn’t really count as they’ve not met the Doctor and started adventuring.

    I always imagined the robot just standing and squashing the dogs, especially given what the Doctor says about powdered dandelions further into the episode.

    • Frankymole  March 21, 2012

      We do hear the dogs running away though (diminuendo the “whipped dogs” whimpering sound…) No doubt freaked by the unbitable metal… maybe they broke their fangs,

  26. Chris Too-old-to-watch  March 21, 2012

    This was written for Pertwee and they shoe-horned in a scarf.

    On a more serious note: Baker shows the Doctor inherent alienness and being tired of Earth and UNIT, which Pertwee never did. Supposedly the Time Lords gave the Doctor back his freedom after The Three Doctors, but he still hung around Earth an awful lot. Is it possible that when they exiled the Doctor to Earth, it was actually a psychological exile (part of the Troughton-Pertwee forced regeneration), and until he regenerated into Baker, he wasn’t actually free from the sentence?

    On the other hand, I may not have woken up yet……

    • John G  March 21, 2012

      I always like to think that the third Doctor had a latent gratitude towards UNIT for taking him in and giving him a “home” while he was stuck on Earth, so he is still happy to pay them regular visits once his exile ends. Come the regeneration though, that sense of connection and gratitude is lost.

      • Chris Too-old-to-watch  March 21, 2012

        Mmmm: Third Doctor and gratitude never seemed to go together for me. I personally think that trying to get away from the 2nd Doctor’s character, they went too far – also trying to get away from Pertwee’s previous comedy persona. As Sue has (brilliantly) pointed out, his attitude to Jo and Liz Shaw (who had the brains to run back to Cambridge) is hideous, not to mention his attitude generally to human beings. Can you imagine the 3rd Doctor doing the “indefatigable humans” speech that we’ve got coming up?

        • John G  March 21, 2012

          “Mmmm: Third Doctor and gratitude never seemed to go together for me.”

          Well, certainly not on the surface, at any rate, but I like to think that it was there at a deep level in his psyche, driving him to maintain that attachment to UNIT. I agree with you that the acerbic side of Doctor 3 was taken too far sometimes, but I always felt that deep down his hearts were in the right place.

    • Frankymole  March 21, 2012

      “This was written for Pertwee and they shoe-horned in a scarf.” – rather reminiscent (premeniscent?) of those latter (Mighty) TV Comic strips where they just drew Tom’s curls and scarf over old Pertwee strips!

  27. BWT  March 21, 2012

    Sue: Has he been playing with a Van de Graaff generator?
    Me: I think he’s more of a Hawkwind fan.

    Quote of the frikkin’ blog! Put it on a t-shirt or a mug now!

    • BWT  March 21, 2012

      …but nothing tops this one!

      Sue: So this is what it would happen if the BNP ever joined forces with Metal Mickey?

  28. Paul Mudie  March 21, 2012

    Sue is right, Robot is a distinctly average introduction for Tom Baker. But things are about to get a LOT better. It’ll be fascinating to see what Sue makes of my all-time favourites, and kind of devastating if she thinks they’re crap.

  29. John G  March 21, 2012

    “Is Tom Baker always this hammy? I hope he tones it down soon. That was well over the top.”

    Well Sue, there is good news on that front in the short term, but not so good in the longer term! However, I think Tom’s performance is by far the best aspect of Robot. His alien anarchism really is a breath of fresh air after Pertwee’s patrician take on the character, and he is right at home from the word go – I always feel that Tom just IS the Doctor in a way that none of the others have ever quite managed. The story itself is pedestrian, standard Pertwee era fare and certainly no threat to Power or Spearhead in the best post-regeneration story stakes, but you can understand why the production team were keen not to frighten the horses straightaway. The script is serviceable enough, although crazily overambitious with the use of CSO. I don’t like the way Sarah Jane is rude and patronising to poor old Benton either, and Harry is sorely underused, but at least he does get a chance to shine in the next story.

    Don’t worry Sue, some dramatic change is now coming, and it would seem not a moment too soon for you!

  30. Alex Wilcock  March 21, 2012

    I was three and a bit when I saw this story – my first Doctor Who. I still think it’s terrific, and at least Sue would have given it a 7 without the dogs… Unlike Sue, too, I like that Sarah Jane has a job, not for the first time, but a bit sadly for the last; one of the few disadvantages of leaving Earth properly.

    Most laugh-out-loud moment: “It’s not your trousers that are the problem, it’s that stupid thing you’ve got wrapped round your head. There’s room for only one scarf in this programme, love, and that’s not it.”

    Though, Neil… I’ve got one too. And it’s a great toy (and fantastic design, no matter what Sue says). Besides, I’m sure you can’t put a figurine together from bits.

    “I wonder how many children turned to their mothers at that point to ask them what an Oedipus complex was.” I remember looking it up once I’d learned to read a couple of years later and had the book. I found the Greek mythology easier to get into than the Freud.

    Anyway, I don’t think it’s a Pertwee story at all – despite having mostly the same story as Dinosaurs (including the same bloke who’s clearly moved onto the next cult) but much more pithily, much more coherently and without those *****y dinosaurs. As several commenters have already said, the sheer energy from Tom gives the whole format a kick in the pants, but it’s there in the script too, with his newly firecracker brain working out the plot, bewildering old friends and sweeping the villains before him. And as I said in my own Doctor Who Season Twelve review, Bob Holmes is already seeding the themes of the whole season into this first, apparently lighter story: new birth and cold science; rule by elites who believe science is the way forward; pitting alien / machine logic and intelligence against human instinct; asking, does humanity deserve to survive? And, of course, as encyclops says, the Doctor’s alien attitude is new and strange, and about to blossom in the next story…

    • Frankymole  March 21, 2012

      Wasn’t it by Terrance Dicks, not Bob Holmes? Did Bob Holmes do some work on it, or was his name merely a “cover” for newly-freelance Tewwy getting round BBC rules on self-commissioning?

      • Alex Wilcock  March 21, 2012

        It was indeed written by Terrance, but this was also the story where Bob Holmes takes over (officially, after some time shadowing) as script editor – and it’s plain throughout his time in the job that he’s a very hands-on script editor, which is why I credited him with the themes of the whole season.

    • Leo  March 21, 2012

      It’s not quite the last time Sarah is shown to have a job in the original series. She also types up a report for her paper or magazine in Terror of the Zygons.

      • Alex Wilcock  March 21, 2012

        Ooh, does she? Thanks – I’d forgotten that.

  31. eagle eyes action man  March 21, 2012

    When aliens land in your garden and demand to know how many episodes Terry ****ing Nation wrote you will be able to stand up, puff out your chest and save the world. However Sue will try offering them a Dremel, which they would see as some sort of weapon and create and intergalactic war 😮 Hah who has the last laugh then when the world is a smoldering ember, never underestimate the power of Terry ****ing Nation.

  32. Chris Too-old-to-watch  March 21, 2012

    In addition to my previous comments: when I first saw this on transmission, I loathed Tom Baker, because he wasn’t the “real” Doctor. By Ark in Space he’d become (and remains) my favorite. Robot was a bad start for him as the introduction of the regeneration crisis storyline was just plain silly: it’s a shame that this is a concept that was carried on through the classic and into the new series. If Sue thinks Tom’s bad when he first regenerates, God help her when we come to the other Baker.

    • PolarityReversed  March 21, 2012

      I thought Spearhead was the introduction of the regeneration crisis? Although maybe, on reflection, it was more about Pertwee’s penchant for spending great chunks of stories unconscious. Hartnell may have taken his holidays, but boy did Pertwee love a good nap…

      Hmm. In the manner of Henry VIII’s wives I suppose we have:
      Knackered, Punished, Poisoned, Fell, Poisoned again, Errr not sure, Not telegenic enough for US, Not known, Poisoned again, Poisoned again.

      • encyclops  March 21, 2012

        According to the novelization your “Err not sure” is actually “Head trauma,” but in the spirit of the next entry in the list it should probably just be “Sacked.”

        The regeneration crisis is usually sort of fun, I think, but it’s a little odd that the Doctor is the only Time Lord or Time-Head Baby who ever seems to have one. The aftereffects of violent death? Or is it just that he’s crap at it?

        • Dave Sanders  March 21, 2012

          Go read Spiral Scratch. Luckily, we have folks like Gary Russell who actually care enough to do something positive about it.

          • encyclops  March 21, 2012

            I wish these books were still in print. I’m much more interested in reading them now than I was when they were being published and still available at the cover price.

            I’ve now read a review of Spiral Scratch, though, which gives me the idea. It seems like an awfully elaborate approach to the question, doesn’t it?

          • Dave Sanders  March 22, 2012

            Yes, but Gary also pulls off the seemingly-impossible and gives her some proper character development. By doing THAT to her.

          • Dave Sanders  March 22, 2012

            Her being Mel, sorry.

      • Chris Too-old-to-watch  March 22, 2012

        Thought the regeneration crisis (ie Pertwee’s coma) had more to do with being shot in the head by a UNIT soldier.

        • PolarityReversed  March 22, 2012

          Good God, a UNIT soldier actually HIT something???

      • Simon Harries  March 22, 2012

        Tumultuous Buffeting?

        • Frankymole  March 22, 2012

          Bouffanting, if it’s Pertwee…

      • Noodles  March 22, 2012

        Troughton was pretty wibbly when he’d just regenerated.

  33. Dave Sanders  March 21, 2012

    Is it just me, or does the New Style Blog seem more JN-T than Phillip Hinchcliffe?

    • PolarityReversed  March 21, 2012

      Better taste in fonts though. What is that, Neil?

      • Dave Sanders  March 21, 2012

        Looks like Bimini, but isn’t quite.

  34. Dave Sanders  March 21, 2012

    “Does this mean that episode three is the new episode five? Is that how it works with four-parters?”

    Yes Sue, that’s EXACTLY how it works.

  35. Noodles  March 22, 2012

    She thinks Tom Baker is OTT so far? This might not end well.

    And I’ve said it before on this blog, and I’ll no doubt say it again – she’s going to *hate* Colin Baker.

    • Lewis  March 22, 2012

      I’d love it if she surprises us all and likes Colin!

      Also, I’m rather hoping Neil will fill Sue in on a few behind-the-scenes details because once you know what was going on it does allow you to view the stories a little less critically.

      • encyclops  March 22, 2012

        Given the qualities that seem to be determining her attitude toward Doctors I think we’re unlikely to be surprised there, but I agree, it would be interesting!

  36. Cracked Polystyrene Man  March 22, 2012

    We were going to go on holidays last year but I spent all our money on trying to make my full scale mock up of the Giant Robot just stand up. Sue is right – it is just too top heavy. So then I tried to make it look all damaged as if Benton had hit it with a grenade launcher and knocked it off it’s stupid feet. I got home from work one day with some extra beer cans to attach to it and my wife had rung up the local council and had it taken away as scrap metal. No Spain holiday. No Giant Robot. You should hear her curse Barry Letts. And me.

  37. farsighted99  April 23, 2012

    The robot was a bit trashy… looked like it could barely stand up by itself. The best robot scene was when he grew huge after getting zapped with the disintegrator gun. I couldn’t believe it! And that King-Kong material with the Robot & Sarah was a hoot; protecting her & placing her somewhere safe.

    Tom Baker as the new Doctor made up for the goofy story. He was quite hilarious and wonderful and it’s such a nice change. He seems like he is going to be so much more fun. The Doctor said a couple of great things that I’ve heard many times before but didn’t know they came from this episode.

    The Doctor: You may be *a* Doctor, but I’m *the* Doctor. The definite article, you might say.

    Sarah Jane Smith: Doctor, you- you’re being childish!
    Doctor Who: Well of course I am! There’s no point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes.

    • Frankymole  April 23, 2012

      Indeed the robot looked trashy – like it had been bult by British Leyland. Fitted right in to that whole 70s vibe with UNIT travelling about in a blue Austin Maxi.

  38. charles daniels  May 5, 2012

    You missed out the word “see” in this sentence –

    Sue: Thank heavens for the Brigadier! He’s turned the lights on and I can actually what’s going on for a change.