Doctor Who: Fourth Doctor Tom Baker Debut "Robot" Gets Supercut Video

You never know what compilation video the BBC will put out next for Doctor Who. This time, we're getting a half-hour compilation of "Robot", Tom Baker's debut story as the 4th Doctor. To see it now in light of the show's return in 2005 and how far it's come throws up some surprises.

Doctor Who: Tom Baker's Debut
"Doctor Who" still from "Robot", BBC

The biggest surprise is how similar Tom Baker's 4th Doctor actually feels to Christopher Eccleston's 9th Doctor in their debut stories. Both Doctors have a slapstick goofball quality about them, indulged by their script and the actors just running with it. Russell T. Davies repeats many of the character beats from "Robot" as both the 4th  and 9th Doctors look in the mirror to make fun of their new faces. "Robot" also leans way into the slapstick humour of the 4th Doctor, introducing his offer of jelly babies to everyone and his use of the sonic screwdriver, the latter Davies pushed during his run and which subsequent showrunners like Steven Moffat and Chris Chibnall leaned on too.

Baker's slapstick, googly-eyed humour was a way to declare the show was now different from the more straightlaced James Bond-style adventures of the 3rd Doctor (Jon Pertwee) era. Yet "Robot" is an oddly mundane adventure compared to the epic storylines of the era that came before in the previous seasons. The 3rd Doctor era was full of new monsters from other worlds like the Sea Devils, the monster of Peladon, the planet of the spider, but the monster in "Robot" is just that, a giant robot built by humans. The villains are a bunch of fascists who think they can take over the country with their killer robot. The plot is a take-off of King Kong with Sarah Jane (Elizabeth Sladen) in the Fay Wray role.

Doctor Who: Tom Baker's Debut
Image: BBC

To watch this half-hour supercut of "Robot" is to see the highlights with the slow and dull parts shaved off. It's also a trip back to the 1970s and the slower pace and cruder production values of the time. Unsurprisingly, the plot is a vehicle for Tom Baker goofing his way through the story as the new Doctor. It's no wonder he would become the face of Doctor Who even now, for good or ill. He played the Doctor longer than any other actor. But most of all, "Robot" shows how much the show hasn't really changed at all. Doctor Who is on BBC iPlayer in the UK. The classic stories are streaming in the US on Britbox.

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About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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