Robot

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Robot
I can’t wait to start the Baker years. But we have to get through Tom and Peter first…
 

Part One

RobotSue: Ooh, scary face. Tom Baker looks very serious, doesn’t he? But this is a much better title sequence. You don’t need to see the Doctor’s legs.

And then…

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

Tom Baker’s opening gambit doesn’t go down well either.

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

Meanwhile, something mechanical… oh sod it, a robot – the clue’s in the title – is up to no good.

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

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

Sue: Like that’s going to make me feel any better. Two marks off and we’re only five minutes into the story.

Back at UNIT HQ, Sarah-Jane Smith is flirting with the Brigadier so she can get her paws on a press pass to a new government Think Tank (which is surely much more fascinating than a recently regenerated Time Lord that just happens to be sitting on her own doorstep). On her way out, she calls the Brigadier a swinger.

Me: Confirmation at last.

Sue: It’s the moustache that gives him away.

Meanwhile, the new Doctor has discharged himself from the infirmary but the medical officer, Harry Sullivan, manages to intervene before he can escape in his TARDIS. Distracted, the Doctor stares into a shaving mirror and proclaims that his nose is a definite improvement.

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

The Doctor bamboozles Harry with an exceedingly strange medical, and Sue seems to enjoy it.

RobotSue: He is certainly larger than life and very charismatic – you certainly 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.

As the scene plays out, Sue laughs. A lot.

Sue: He’s very funny, but I’m not sure that the kids would have felt the same way. I think half of them would have been frightened by the Doctor’s eyes popping out of his head. He’s definitely the most alien Doctor we’ve seen so far. How did you take to him when you first saw him?

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; you can adjust to anything when you’re that young. I certainly don’t remember pining for Pertwee, although I did love those chocolate bars with his face on the wrappers. Yeah, I missed them…

As the robot is sent to murder another hapless sod, we are given another POV shot from the robot’s perspective.

Sue: I bet the robot looks shit. I’m preparing myself for the worst.

RobotMeanwhile, back at UNIT HQ, the Doctor is trying on some new clothes…

Sue: It’s a shame the Brigadier wasn’t around when Colin Baker was picking out his costume. Has anyone ever said that before? Actually, that clown costume would have looked good on Peter Davison.

Now decked out in his iconic costume (Sue’s words), the Doctor finally investigates the scene of the crime.

Sue: My word, his teeth are scary.

And then, when the camera pulls out, Sue gasps.

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.

As the Doctor starts dishing out advice to UNIT like Sherlock Holmes on Valium, Sue isn’t impressed by his attitude.

Sue: It’s almost as if this Doctor can’t be bothered with this story. He’s treating the whole thing as a bit of a joke. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

RobotWhen we meet Kettlewell, I find myself wishing that Nicol was around to verify some of the dodgy science that is being bandied around, but Sue can’t get past the 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 babbles on about alternative energy sources, Sue decides to focus on Sarah’s choice of outfit instead. I’m surprised it took her this long.

Sue: This is not 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 pretty 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 a huge robot with a very striking design.

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 made me stick my head in one of its claws when no one was looking.

Me: Well, that was Tom Baker’s first episode. Was it a good start?

Sue: It was alright, I suppose. It’s far too early to tell.

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Part Two

RobotSarah isn’t killed by the robot. It gives her a sales pitch instead. It’s master, Jellicoe, mercifully switches it off before it can list every amazing role it can perform, but Sue has a suggestion of her own:

Sue: It can play a mean game of American Football.

I ask Sue for her opinion on the overall design of the K1 robot.

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 could pick anything up. Look at its wrists! I like its head, though. Especially the pink bits.

Jellicoe’s boss, Miss Winters, tells Sarah to keep her mouth shut or else they’ll issue a formal complaint against her.

Sue: The Press Complaints Commission are useless, pet. I bet Sarah Jane is quaking in her boots.

Later that night, Winters and Jellicoe mess with the robot’s brain…

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

Another decision that Sue can’t understand is entirely directorial…

Sue: This story is very dark. Not dark in terms of its subject matter or tone, but dark as in “What the hell am I supposed to be looking at?” Are the sparks out on strike? I can hardly make anything out in this scene.

The K1 robot is ordered to murder a cabinet minister and steal a Top Secret file. Sue can’t believe her eyes 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.

As the Brigadier grows more and more impatient for answers, Sue believes that he’s let himself go a bit.

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

Sarah tells the Brigadier and the Doctor that she is popping out to report on a meeting of the Scientific Reform Society.

RobotSue: Why is Sarah Jane still working as a journalist? Isn’t she the Doctor’s full-time companion anymore? I didn’t realise that the Doctor’s companions were expected to hold down a day job between adventures. That’s a bit disappointing.

Sarah attempts to gain an audience with the SRS but the bouncers on the door aren’t very impressed with her attire either.

Sue: 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.

Sarah is told to piss off, but as she leaves, the SRS tell her they hope she will give them a good write-up.

Sue: They need to hire a PR company to deal with front of house. You can’t kick people out on their arse before a gig starts and then expect a decent review. Idiots!

Meanwhile, the Doctor and the Brigadier are being escorted away from the Think Tank…

RobotSue: Oh look, there’s Paul McGann. Has a later version of the Doctor turned up to keep an eye on his younger self and offer advice?

Me: Yes, that’s exactly what just happened.

But as the Doctor leaves, Harry Sullivan arrives, dressed in an immaculate pinstripe suit and bowler hat and claiming to be from the ministry.

Me: Does this remind you of anything?

Sue: Yes, it’s Steel from The Avengers.

Me: That’s very close but I think you mean Steed.

Sue: Since when did the Navy work for UNIT? That’s what I don’t understand.

The Doctor races off in Bessie to visit Kettlewell…

Sue: That doesn’t look right. This Doctor needs to get himself a new car. He can’t drive around in Jon Pertwee’s cast-offs.

Me: What kind of car should the 4th Doctor drive?

Sue: I don’t know. A white Triumph Spitfire wouldn’t clash with his scarf.

RobotIt’s around this point that Benton brings the plot to a screeching halt when he decides to brandish his pointless promotion in Sarah’s face.

Sue: So UNIT doesn’t have a budget but they still gave Benton a raise? That’s nice.

Me: You know, I’m pretty sure that scene was inserted because some pedant wrote an irate letter to the Radio Times complaining about UNIT’s chain of command. But I could be wrong.

Sue: It sounds exactly like the sort of thing a specialist would do. Wow. That means they had specialists in the 1970s as well. What did they do with themselves before the Internet was invented?

The episode concludes with the Doctor sprawled out on the floor, about to be assassinated by the K1 robot.

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

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Part Three

RobotPart Three kicks off with one of the longest episodes recaps we have ever seen.

Sue: They obviously don’t have enough material to stretch to four episodes. Does this mean that episode three is the new episode five? Is that how it works with four-parters?

Before the Doctor can be fatally felled by the K1 robot, Sarah arrives to save his bacon.

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

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

Sue: He’s like a petulant version of Siri.

Me: Is there any other kind?

The robot decides to make a run for it. Well, an amble for it.

RobotMe: This is the only scene that I can definitely remember watching when I was five. Or maybe they used this sequence as a clip on another show and I’m remembering that instead. For some reason, my memories of this story are very foggy.

Sue: Was it the robot’s feet that you remember the most? Look at them! He’s going to trip over himself if he’s not careful. Whoever designed this thing was insane. Oh wait, we’ve met him; he is insane.

Benton tries to hold the robot back with a hail of bullets.

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

Sue realises that this sequence is very familiar fodder and we could be watching yet another Barry Letts story.

Me: This is a Barry Letts story.

Sue: What? I thought Barry had gone? In all those Jon Pertwee documentaries you made me watch recently, he was always going on and on about leaving the show.

RobotMe: This is Barry’s last story. A new producer takes over the reins next week.

Sue: That’s a bit weird. That would be like Russell T. Davies producing Matt Smith’s first episode before swanning off into the sunset. So who cast Tom Baker as the Doctor?

Me: Well, it was Barry’s decision as the producer that sealed it.

Sue: Unbelievable. Thank God he left the new producer with somebody decent in the part! If Barry was a bad man he could have cast someone like Arthur Mullard for a laugh.

Me: That doesn’t bear thinking about.

At the SRS rally, Miss Winters is ranting about a new scientific order.

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

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

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

The robot identifies Sarah as a threat but just as things are looking bad for our badly dressed, but exceptionally plucky heroine, the Brigadier turns up to throw a spanner in the works.

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

As the robot makes its way out of the meeting, it is clearly helped down the stairs by an SRS goon.

Sue: I realise that he might be using the robot as a shield, but I’m not convinced that the robot could get down those steps without his help. Does this robot require a constant supply of care workers?

UNIT decide to unleash hell…

Sue: Have UNIT ever shot and killed anything? Ever? They are hopeless.

RobotIn the aftermath of this fiasco, Harry calls the Brigadier with an update on the Think Tank’s ambitions.

Sue: Who’s this bloke again?

And there’s something else nagging at Sue:

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?

With the SRS holed up in a bunker, Benton decides to assault it the only way he knows how.

Sue: Wow! He just hit three things in a row! With one grenade! Benton really did deserve that promotion.

RobotThe Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to detonate some mines surrounding the entrance to the bunker.

Sue: Alternatively, why not just walk directly up to the door – no one thought to put any mines in the path to the entrance itself. Idiots!

When they reach the door, the Doctor turns his screwdriver into a sonic lance.

Sue: It’s a Dremel.

Me: I have no idea what that means.

Sue: Don’t you know anything practical? 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.

With the world’s governments playing hardball, Winters tells Jellicoe to arm the K1 robot with the disintegrator gun. Jellicoe hurries off to retrieve the gun, which is sitting a few inches away from a captive Sarah and Harry.

Sue: So they 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 that out. And how is the robot going to pick up that gun? It’s going to throw its balance right off.

The robot leaves the bunker to confront UNIT, but when it takes aim with its gun, Sue is overcome by a fit of the giggles.

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

And then UNIT’s reinforcements arrive (care of Palitoy)…

Sue: Oh dear. That is not good at all.

Me: I had a tank like that when I was a boy. It’s an Action Man tank.

Sue: And today you have a toy version of the robot instead. Nothing much has changed, has it?

Me: It’s not a toy. It’s a collectible figurine.

Sue: It fell off your bookshelf when I was tidying up, once. I’m telling you, trying to get that thing to stand up straight again was a ****ing nightmare. The design of this robot is appalling!

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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 a bit of trivia: Miss Winters wrote the theme tune to Minder.

Sue: Now you are 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 credits to the song is Dennis, but it isn’t – 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. So 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? Can you imagine it? No one is going to be truly happy in that triangle.

RobotThankfully, the Doctor manages to save the day with only two seconds left to spare. Or about fifteen minutes left to spare, given how long this episode still has left to run.

Just as Benton is thinking about sticking the kettle on, everyone suddenly notices that Sarah and the Robot have gone 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. Just look at him. Say what you like about Levene (whichever one it is, I really don’t care), he always gives it his all. Just look at him concentrating like mad in the background.

The K1 robot proclaims that it will make more machines like itself.

Sue: But with better wrists! And opposable thumbs!

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

Sue: That’s a bit heavy for a children’s television programme. I wonder how many children turned to their mothers at that point to ask them what an Oedipus complex was. Did you?

Me: No.

Sue: I thought you said your memories of this story were foggy? You are probably suppressing it.

RobotHowever, while the Doctor ruminates on the robot’s neuroses, the Brigadier is far too busy shooting at it to give two hoots for its mental state.

And then, in a plot twist no one could see coming, the Brigadier shoots the K1 robot with the disintegrator gun and it begins to grow in size…

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

The robot reaches for Sarah with its massive claw.

Sue: It’s turned into Godzilla, now.

Me: Don’t you mean King Kong?

Sue: That’s him. Look, it’s carrying a doll of Sarah Jane around with him. Have you got a Sarah Jane doll yet?

Me: Not yet.

RobotSue: Actually, it looks like the black-haired doll from Play School. What was her name?

Me: Hanbal.

Sue: It’s a bit silly. Barry really is addicted to CSO. He’s got Sarah Jane pretending to hold onto a photograph of a drain pipe, now. How much would it have cost them to have provided her with a real drain pipe to hold on to? In fact, they could have doubled-up with the big bazooka that UNIT are using. Just stand it up and Sarah Jane could pretend to hang off that instead. Who directed this rubbish?

And the Doctor turns up, armed with a bucket brimming with a metal-eating virus.

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

Harry drives Bessie towards the giant robot at full pelt, and the Doctor throws the substance all over the robot’s clodhopping feet.

RobotSue: This is the closest the Doctor will ever get to a drive-by shooting.

The robot dies. But at least it has the decency to clean up after itself.

Back at UNIT HQ, and Sarah is feeling a bit sad. But never mind that, the Doctor is on hand to offer her a quick spin in the TARDIS. But just as they are about to leave, they are interrupted by some berk in cravat.

Sue: I didn’t know he was a companion. Who is he?

Me: That’s Harry.

Sue: Never heard of him. Is he always this wet?

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The Final Score

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

5/10

The experiment continues…
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Doctor Who: Robot [1974] [DVD] [1963]

Price: £6.99

4.3 out of 5 stars (57 customer reviews)

 

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Discussion

  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 :D

  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 :o 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.