Robot: Doctor Who: Season 12
The Brigadier takes along the newly regenerated, erratic Doctor and his assigned MD Lieutenant Harry Sullivan to assist with the investigation of top secret scientific equipment thefts. Sarah Jane Smith uncovers a ten foot tall giant robot while on a tour of the Think Tank research institute. Purposely hidden there by institute Director Miss Winters and her assistant Jellicoe.
It steals the Destructor codes to control the world's nuclear missile sites both Sarah and Harry go undercover to find that behind Think Tank is a organization called the Scientific Reform Society attempting a global takeover and using the Robot as their main weapon. The Doctor's theory is proven that Professor Kettlewell, the seemingly innocent creator of the K1 Robot, is actually the mastermind behind the SRS.
Harry and Sarah are taken prisoner to the SRS's hidden bunker where Miss Winters and Jellicoe plan to destroy the world via nuclear war against Kettewell's wishes. It's up to the Doctor and UNIT to stop the SRS, free their companions, prevent the missiles being launched and deal with Kettlewell's creation that goes on a rampage to protect it's new friend, Sarah.
Return to top of page
Robot SERIAL DETAILS:
Return to top of page
Robot CAST & CREW
Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor)
Jon Pertwee (Third Doctor)Uncredited, footage from Planet Of The Spiders.
Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith)
Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan)
Nicholas Courtney — Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
John Levene — Warrant Officer Benton
Edward Burnham — Professor Kettlewell
Patricia Maynard — Miss Winters
Alec Linstead — Jellicoe
Michael Kilgarriff — The Robot
Timothy Craven — Short
Brian Fellows — Soldier
Production Staff for Serial 4A:
Writer - Terrance Dicks (uncredited)
Director - Christopher Barry
Script editor - Robert Holmes
Producer - Barry Letts
Return to top of page
Here we are with Robot....The Pertwee era finally draws to a close with this one and amazingly it stars Tom Baker. Like Pertwee before him, he puts his unique stamp on the Doctor within the first minute of being on screen. Actually Pertwee took a half an episode before we saw him speak but you know what I mean. He's dominant, unflappable and totally alien. A massive contrast to Pertwee and with energy to carry even the weakest script and make it thoroughly believable. So for all Letts & Dicks cosi-ness, Letts did his best and last thing as producer by casting Tom Baker in the role and a complete unknown too.
But the cosi-ness is yet to go. What would have been a fairly ordinary story about a robot is suddenly raised in prominence thanks to Baker being around. He makes it a watchable romp. Sarah is even more prominent than before and good 'ol Harry Sullivan makes his debut as the first regular male companion in 5 years and makes his mark as an endearing if bumbling comic foil. Have to agree with you both the plot got dull, rebel society of scientists that wants to cleanse the world and take over and they're going to do from a church hall! YAWN! They didn't seem very effective. What was effective was that robot costume, whoever was wearing it - full points! It really looked like a giant robot even before the horribly dodgy CSO and action man figures of part 4. It looked terrifying and unstoppable and yeah it's P-O-V shots in the early part of the story really work well.
The supporting cast do well, although Kettlewell fails to out eccentric Tom Baker with his crazy hair, he shouldn't have tried taking on the lead and the other actors like Miss Winters give suitably slimey performances. But you can't wait for them all to leave and get whisked away into time and space by Doctor. no. 4 and Harry joins them as well. Goodbye Brigadier, Benton & UNIT you served as well...the best is yet to come. 6/10
So you can see that the UNIT setting will not suit Baker, or his Doctor. Whereas Pertwee was happy to wrap everyone up in his cloak and paternally (and condescendingly) carry everyone along, Baker wants jack of UNIT, the Brig and Earth in general. He wants out and as far and Hinchcliffe and Holmes will soon deliver, he will bloody get it! Why stay on Earth with a secret military operation when there is a whole universe to discover? UNIT and co are pointless now although there is still one more mess to clean up.
ROBOT. Yeah, its still paint-by-numbers Letts and Dicks isn't it? Some part of England terrorised by something out of control and its up to UNIT and the Brig to come along, get in way over their heads and call the Doctor to sort it out. So its not really an engaging plot, right? In fact its a bloody great talk-fest in episodes one and two. The Doctor has regenerated so lets talk about that. There's a robot on the loose so we'll talk about that too. Too much talking, not enough....well, ANYTHING really. The Robot itself looks impressive enough but doesn't really do much other than clomp about and talk with its big-boy voice. And when it grows up it looks bloody pathetic! Worse is when it starts waving that toy Sarah Jane Smith doll around (probably nicked from the same place that sold the toy tank to the special effects boys).
Having said that, there is some nice character work here. Its nice to have a lesbian (probably) being the evil scientist and its equally nice to see Neil Barnett again playing Kettlewell. The chemistry between not only the new Doctor and Sarah, but also Baker and Sladen is very evident and you can see them becoming very close over the next lot of stories. And we get a full-time male companion - Harry - who is simply great as well. I'm giving it a 6/10 but there is much better to come.
The first half of it - very very good.
After coming off 5 years of Pertwee, I think we need to have a bit of familiarity there... and UNIT fill that role nicely. Unlike the start of series 7, this is not a new beginning. Ratings wise, things were going well, and any good producer (even an incumbent who didn't like UNIT) would know that we need to ease everyone into the idea of this bohemian scarecrow now playing our Doctor. Yep - the Brigadier and Benton are their normal selves... but I think that works. We also get that bloke from off the boat in the time scoop, who's been working at UNIT as some kind of Doctor apparently, to reassure us that while this Doctor might be a bit whack, he'll be OK. (apparently, originally the new Doctor was going to be a lot older, and Harry was going to come along to do all the rough stuff...)
The other thing that works, is the design of ROBOT. In the first two parts, it is menacing, and the P-O-V shots really make you feel like K1 is going to just crush anything in its path. I felt especially scared when Sarah first encounters it when she sneaks into the think tank... as with the Doctor out of action, you start to wonder how the hell are we going to get out of this one.
Unfortunately in the second half it turns to shit... both in plot and in realization. I can't even really remember what Miss Winters was after (although she was very well played), but it was something to do with nuclear power I think... and it finished with one of the worst realized "giant" scenes you'll ever see. Unfortunate cos it showed a lot of promise - and I guess really the whole idea of K1 going crazy after he killed his creator, is also quite a nice one. It just looks like something made out of Lego.
There is one constant in this though - and that is the new bloke who plays the Doctor. Colin's less talented brother Tom. :)
Seriously, when Baker is on screen you can't take your eyes off him. He has you caring for him and really on his side from the first moment he wakes up... OK, the costume changes are a bit wanky, but the rest of it - even when driving Bessie past a massive CSO screen, you're thinking "yep, this guy's got the shit!" ... OK, maybe you're only thinking that if you're Snoop Doggy Dog... but you know he's got it!
The other thing that makes this feel like "classic" who, is that this is the first story to be shot entirely on Video... there's something about that that just makes you feel "70s classic"!