Well, here we go. This is the start of the 4th Doctor era, considered one of the best eras of Doctor Who with the best Doctor.
I have to say that Baker’s Doctor comes out more fully formed than the 3rd and 5th Doctors. In their respective regeneration stories both Doctors spend quite a bit of time comatose and acting odd. The 4th Doctor goes through a few minutes of that and then he is ready to go.
This Doctor is more energetic, hyper and Bohemian than the 3rd Doctor. There’s more of a sense of alien-ness to him than what we normally get from the Doctor. He has manic moments where he is going a hundred miles an hour.
I got a whiff of Sherlock Holmes from this Doctor. He definitely felt more like a detective than the 3rd or 5th Doctors.
Watching these four episodes almost felt like I had been watching this Doctor for a long time. There really wasn’t a getting to know you type transition period.
It helps that his introduction story is fairly good and entertaining and keeps the familiar elements of the 3rd Doctor era to help ease viewers in to a new era. While Baker has become known as the definitive Doctor Pertwee at that point had been in the role longer than any of the other actors and it was his era that helped save the show and made it a success again. There had to be some trepidation amongst the higher-ups about introducing a new Doctor.
As such, this is definitely a UNIT story starring the Brig, Benson, and Sarah Jane (even though she isn’t actually a member of UNIT). It has all the hallmarks of UNIT stories from the 3rd Doctor era. In some ways it feels like a swan song to that era. I believe that this story was done by the old DW team and that the next story sees a new executive producer and script editor take the reins.
The outfit montage was a hoot, with the Doctor wearing some outlandish clothes before finally donning his signature look. It is a good look for the Doctor though I will miss the 3rd Doctor’s style.
Good on Benson for finally getting a promotion. He deserved it.
I thought it rather funny that after the SRS starts the nuclear Armageddon countdown and after they have locked themselves in to their underground bunker they decide to see if they actually have enough provisions to last through the nuclear winter. These people are supposed to be the best humanity has to offer?
I did think that the SRS were effective villains despite being cut rate Nazis. It helped that their leader, Ms. Winters, was an effective villain in her own right. She knew when to be truly menacing and when to chew the scenery. They also almost succeeded in their scheme. They stole the nuclear missile launch codes and were literally two seconds away from ending the world. That makes them good villains in my book. Aside from not knowing if they have enough provisions, anyways.
The twist that Kettlewell was working for the SRS and was the one who changed the robot’s prime directive was a nice twist that I should have seen coming but didn’t. It did irk me when he expressed cold feet at the end. He knew what the SRS was about and knew their ultimate goal.
Sarah Jane was in top form here. Her reporter skills were out in force as she investigated the mysterious break-ins, the Think Tank, and the SRS. Only Sarah Jane would see a “No Admittance” sign and just boldly go right in.
Her relationship with the robot, K1, was the heart of the story and a nice homage to King Kong. It really was Sarah Jane’s feelings towards the robot, and Elisabeth Sladen’s superb acting, that made K1 a likeable and tragic figure.
My only complaint about Sarah Jane’s role in this story is that she never experienced any adjustment with the new Doctor. He regenerated and she just kind of shrugged her shoulders as if it was no big deal. I could maybe understand if the two Doctors were similar in personalities but 3 and 4 are as different as night and day.
It was somewhat more understandable for the Brig and Benson to take it in stride since they have been through this before.
I’m not quite sure what to make of Harry yet. The focus isn’t really on him that much. He’s a dapper looking gentleman and a bit old fashioned but that is all we really get to know about him, aside from he imagines himself as James Bond and he’s definitely not a super spy.
I had thought he might be the audience surrogate character. He has never met the Doctor before and knows nothing of Time Lords and TARDISes. I assumed that he would be the character demanding explanations so that the writers could fill in some facts for any new or lapsed viewers who decided to give this new Doctor a try. That doesn’t happen.
The effects when K1 grows to a large size don’t hold up well. Like, at all. Still, I give them points for trying and the director at least manages to squeeze some tension and action into the scenes.
I do not give them any points for that laughable toy tank. That was just atrocious.
The design of the robot itself was rather good, I thought. My only complaint would be with the pincers. K1 looked ridiculous holding anything, including the disintegrator gun.
I liked K1. He was a tragic figure in that he was created as a tool to help mankind and given strict rules about never harming people only to be turned into a weapon by the SRS and his “father” Kettlewell.
The end of the story sets up a new status quo, with this Doctor making it plain he won’t be Earth bound. He has wanderlust and wants to roam the stars.
All in all, Robot was a good introduction to the 4th Doctor. It quickly established that this was a very different Doctor while setting him inside the familiar framework of the 3rd Doctor era. The supporting cast was there to help ease the transition.
While I do miss the 3rd Doctor and I’m going to miss the UNIT family I’m excited to see the series go in a new direction and to see if the 4th Doctor lives up to all the hype.