12 Days of Doctors – The 4th Doctor – Season 12, Episode 1 – “The Robot” – An Attempt to Explore the Formation of Morality Through a Robot

Robot_(Doctor_Who)

We continue the 12 Days of Doctors, the count up to 12th’s first adventure with “Robot.” “Robot,” is the first adventure of and our introduction to the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker. The writer for this story was Terrance Dicks and director was Christopher Barry. How did Tom Baker do taking Jon Pertwee’s place in his first adventure? We’ll explore that in the assessment.

The story begins with the Doctor  regenerating into his Fourth Incarnation in front of The Brig and Sarah Jane Smith. They immediately get him to the doctors and Brig puts Harry Sullivan on the Doctor to watch him. Before this we see a robot infiltrate a military base and steal something. We find out from The Brigadier that Nuclear Plans for all the major powers were stolen. From here a plan is devised with Harry going undercover in “The Think Tank,” as Sarah does the same as a reporter. From here they learn of the “Think Tank’s” plan to use the Robot to destroy the Earth so that they may survive and create the race of those worthy of leading…what they didn’t count on besides the Doctor and his companions were the Robot and the Robot’s inventor Kettlewell. From here the story unfolds between the different factions and the Robot’s inner turmoil.

Robot 4

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Fourth Doctor / The 4th Doctor – Tom Baker is fantastic as the Doctor. He adapts to every situation, plays the fool, but also has a lot of fun along the way. He also has a pretty big ego since he only stays because Sarah and the Brig say they need him. He has great chemistry with all of them, and definitely some hangups over being trapped with UNIT for so long. This is contrasted with Sarah who is trusting and is a rule breaker like him versus Harry and the Brig who are military men of UNIT who are well intentioned but more traditional in their approaches. One of the best lines at the end is the Doctor’s recognition of the Robot’s humanity and all life’s capacity for good and evil and offering Sarah Jane Smith a jelly baby before their next adventure with Harry. He of course has one of the best get-ups too with his distinctive multi-colored scarf, long coat and hat.

The Companions – Harry and Sarah are both active in this story, in Harry’s case trying to figure out what “The Think Tank” wants, and in Sarah’s case, trying to convince the Robot not to destroy and that humanity is worth being saved. They both do their roles well and both need to be rescued by the Doctor and UNIT, establishing the threat of antagonists in the process. Also, Sarah Jane Smith is one of my all time favorite companions.

The Brigadier – The Brig is once again fantastic, though his cons are much more apparent as his distrust of people who are different than him (which the Doctor brilliantly mocks…I’m guessing he does learn based off past episodes) and manages to use UNIT to hold off the Robot.

k1 the Robot – K1 is the robot created by Kettlewell and is for all intents and purposes the child learning how to be good. It has built into it’s program to protect humanity and not to kill humans, but “The Think Tank” keeps having it go against it. This could have been handled much better, but that has more to do with “The Think Tank,” than the Robot, who actually has a pretty cool design and an interesting character arc where the hypocrisy and lying eventually makes it go mad. I wish we could have got more time of it exploring itself since I don’t remember it having any deep conversations with the Doctor, all those conversations happened with Sarah Jane Smith.

Cons: “The Think Tank” – This organization was so contrived, did they want to make them scientists, businessmen or Nazis? Did they want money or just to destroy the world? Why did they think the way they did about their own superiority? Gah, I hated these guys. Every time they were in they were an evil organization cliche and it wasn’t hammed up enough to be interesting. I didn’t care about any of them, even Kettlewell’s coming out as their leader and later changing his mind felt unbelievable. It felt driven by the plot and not the characters…which really brought down the episode in a major way. One of the more forgettable villains in Doctor Who for sure.

So how does the episode hold up? The companions are great, Tom Baker is great as the 4th Doctor, Harry is good and Sarah is fantastic…and the Robot is even good too. But the writing and “The Think Tank,” are just bad. I mean really really bad. The premise had so much promise but than the things that should be explored more (The Robot’s formation of morality) are left to the side for boring mustache twirling villainy from an uninteresting organization of baddies. This really brings the episode down. Because of this, I would hesitantly recommend this episode…there is a lot of good, but the bad is really bad.

My final score for this episode is 7.4 / 10

The Fourth Doctor

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12 Days of Doctors – The 3rd Doctor – Season 7, Episode 1 – “The Spearhead From Space” – The Beginning of an Exile

Spearhead_from_Space

We continue 12 Days of Doctors with the count up to 12th’s first Adventure with the 3rd Doctor. This was the first time Doctor Who appeared in color and also the first episode that had UNIT helping the Doctor against the current threat, as well as the introduction as well as the introduction of Jon Pertwee at the Third Doctor.

“The Spearhead From Space,” was written by Robert Holmes and directed by Derek Martinus. Producer Derrick Sherman oversaw the change between Troughton to Pertwee and the new direction the show would take.

The story begins with strange meteors crashing into the Earth, one of which is the Doctor in the TARDIS. He is taken in by UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Task Force) as UNIT tries to figure out what happened as only a piece of one of the strange alien cylinders that fell is found by them and it is broken. Liz is brought onto the scene by the Brigadier to help solve things and after the Doctor is attacked by assassins from the life-form that landed he begins working with The Brig and Liz  to find out what it is…at least until Liz gets him his key to the TARDIS and he finds that the Time Lords have permanently exiled him on Earth in the time period it takes place in forcing him to help solve the crisis and accept his exile. From here the story unfolds.

Dr Who: Spearhead From Space

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Brig – Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is the most famous leaders of UNIT and the only person who had met the Doctor prior in this episode since he met him during the 2nd Doctor’s run. He is the prime factor helping and hindering the Doctor, as he knows he needs the Doctor but also respects the Doctor. He is the one who listens when the Doctor gives advice and acts on it. He is definitely a companion, though not in the fly around in the TARDIS way companion. In this episode we see him help focus the Doctor on the threat at hand and protect him from the threat. He makes a deal with the Doctor at an end to give him a lab and supplies to help fix the TARDIS as well as clothes and a car.

Liz – Liz is one of the famous companions during the 3rd Doctor’s run. We see her as indepdent and a skeptic when we first meet her, not wanting to be used by UNIT until her curiousity is made strong enough and we see her complex relationship with the Doctor too. She is the one who helps him fight the Nestene Consciousness (that later appears to face the 9th Doctor in his first adventure with a companion) and save the people who have been paralyzed so their Auton (plastic people) forms can reek havok. She is one of the companions I have a lot of respect for as she holds her own and her identity isn’t dependent on the Doctor.

UNIT – It is great seeing UNIT mostly competent and in action. The Brig is the leader we see be the most effective, as his superior gets captured by the Nestene’s human speaker Channing and turned into one of the first Autons to infiltrate society. They have a big battle at the end which helps limit the damage the Nestene Cons. causes.

The Nestene Consciousness – Is a great threat and an interesting looking alien. It is an alien made of pure energy that separates itself into different parts and once combined together is able to form a tentacle monster that nearly kills the Doctor. My one issue with it is we don’t know why it wants to conquer Earth. It is a great threat in the episode though.

The Use of Color – The use of color is used really well, from the Doctor’s black gentelmenlike outfit he steals from a doctor…too the dark coats with the pale faces of the Autons. You can see everything happen and it makes the story beautiful to watch.

The Third Doctor / The 3rd Doctor – Jon Pertwee is fantastic. While the First Doctor was the Professor, and the Second Doctor was the buffoon manipulator…the Third Doctor is the gentlemen. We see this in the clothes he chooses and how apologetic he is about every time he messes up. We see him try to run we when he gets the key, and that is when he discovers his punishment for getting involved with humanity and time was more than a forced regeneration…it was exile on the world he was so active in. You can see the sadness in his eyes when he realizes this and this informs his performance too. He is here on Earth because he has to be and also he is still the Doctor a protector. We see his scientific mind at work in helping defeat the Nestene Cons. and that Liz and he have great chemistry when they team up.

Okay: The Supporting Cast – The Factory owner and former factory owner who eventually turn against the Nestene Cons. are pretty one note. They aren’t bad but their roles are predictable and their performances aren’t elevated in anyway. Same goes for the poacher who finds and keeps part of the Nestene’s Cons.

Okay/Con: Channing – He isn’t all that unique as a villain. He takes control of a doll making faculty and the Nestene Cons. promises him power, but other than that he has no motivation. He has power over the Autons I guess, but what was he promised beyond survival. He does alright in the role and he’s not a bad villain, there just isn’t much there.

The 3rd Doctor’s run had a fair amount of episodes saved thankfully, and Jon Pertwee is a pleasure to watch. This episode is a good episode and a good introduction to him as the Third Doctor. It definitely gets a recommendation from me, even though the story and baddies aren’t as good as those from “The Power of the Daleks.” Jon Pertwee is one of the best, you can never go wrong with the Brigadier and Liz is a great companion.

Final score for this episode is 8.5 / 10

Spearhead from Space (3)