Doctor Who - The Tom Baker Years 1974 - 1981 Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Doctor Who - The Tom Baker Years 1974 - 1981

2 Conversations

Actor Tom Baker as the fourth 'Doctor Who'. Graphic by Jimster.

The 1970s are justly regarded by many people as the heyday of the BBC's long-running science fiction series Doctor Who. Following the departure of the Third Doctor (played by Jon Pertwee), Tom Baker created the incarnation that was the longest serving and most recognisable in the show's long history. By then, the idea of the Doctor regenerating (changing his appearance) was accepted by the audience without question, but it hadn't always been like that.

It started in 1966, when the producers of Doctor Who found themselves with a problem: their leading actor William Hartnell was suffering from ill health and was forced to relinquish the role of the Doctor1. The producers wanted to continue the show with another actor, but they did not want to simply replace Hartnell with a lookalike actor. They decided on the unique concept of regeneration, explained away by the alien physiology of the Doctor. When his body became tired or suffered a life threatening injury, the Doctor could transform his appearance. It was a fantastic idea that remains unique amongst mainstream television programmes.

When Jon Pertwee's five year stint as the Doctor ended, a new actor was needed for the role - starting with the by now familiar regeneration scene, which was to take place at the end of 'Planet of the Spiders'. Far from being the failing programme that it had been Pertwee took over, Doctor Who was now at the height of its powers, with the role of The Doctor highly sought-after. Speculation was rife in the press with suggestions and predictions as to the identity of the Fourth Doctor.

Possible Fourth Doctors

Barry Letts, the producer of Doctor Who at the time, was chiefly responsible for choosing the new actor for the role. The actors he considered give rise to interesting speculation as to which direction the programme would have moved in. Early on, Letts considered comedian and Carry On star Jim Dale as the Doctor. However, at 39 he would have been the youngest actor up to that point to play the title role, and Letts believed that a rather older Doctor was the better option.

Richard Hearne was seriously considered until he revealed that he wanted to play the Doctor in the style of Mr. Pastry, a clumsy and accident-prone character he invented in the 1940s. Michael Bentine was well known to children at the time for his series Michael Bentine's Potty Time, and was reportedly keen to take the role. However, he was ruled out after he insisted on being able to contribute to the scripting. Graham Crowden, another comic actor in the Jon Pertwee mould, was initially enthusiastic until he realised what a long term commitment the role would demand. The favourite for a long time was Scottish comic actor, Fulton Mackay, but his commitment to comedy series Porridge, and Barry Letts' reluctance to hire him left the process deadlocked. Then Bill Slater, Letts head of department suggested the little-known Tom Baker, who he had seen in a television production of George Bernard Shaw's The Millionairess. After a meeting organised by Slater, Letts knew he had his fourth Doctor.

Tom Baker's Doctor

Thomas Stewart Baker was born on 20 January, 1934 into an impoverished Liverpool family. His tough early life is dealt with in great depth in his autobiography Who on Earth is Tom Baker? At the age of 15 he was offered a job at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, but his mother refused to let him go. He joined an order of monks very soon afterwards and spent six years in a monastery before deciding that this was not the path that he wanted to take. When he left, there was an almost immediate call up for National Service. It was to have a far reaching effect on his life as he was reintroduced to acting. When Baker's National Service came to an end he obtained a drama scholarship and enrolled in Rose Bruford Drama School. Baker worked fairly regularly from the end of the 1950s, mainly in repertory companies. He worked on a few well known television programmes such as Dixon of Dock Green, Softly, Softly: Task Force and Arthur of the Britons without achieving a major breakthrough. In films he appeared as Rasputin in Nicholas and Alexandra, as a doomed artist in Vault of Horror and as Prince Koura in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. It was this role that led to Letts casting him as the Fourth Doctor.

When he was chosen to play the Doctor he was working on a building site. This led to the famous shot of the new Doctor with his workmates, none of whom knew that he was soon to become one of the most famous faces on British television.

Initially, Baker had no fixed ideas on how to play the Doctor, so he was happy to be guided by Letts and Robert Holmes, the series script editor. The only firm idea that he had was that his Doctor must not be a dandy, thereby avoiding direct comparisons with Pertwee's Doctor. Baker was taken to a costume house and told to come up with a costume, aided by costume designer Jim Acheson. The look was influenced by a poster by French Impressionist Toulouse-Lautrec of a man with a big red scarf and wide brimmed fedora. Instead of a red scarf Baker and Acheson settled on a multicoloured design. Acheson gave a pile of wool to a lady named Begonia Pope and told her to start knitting. When he went back to collect it the scarf was over 20 feet long2 and the iconic image of the Doctor was in place. In 'The Ark in Space', the Doctor explains its fictional origins.

Madame Nostradamus made it for me... witty little knitter!

In many ways, Baker was the deliberate antithesis of Pertwee in the role of the Doctor. The stylish dandy had been replaced by the down at heel eccentric. The dashing man of action had been replaced by a contemplative Doctor using his guile and wit to defeat opponents. The upright Doctor had been replaced by a Doctor who revelled in his shambolic style and nature. His whimsicality and often clownish behaviour were similar to Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor, apt to put enemies off guard and allowing him time to plan strategies to defeat whichever dastardly villain he was facing that particular week. The Fourth Doctor's penchant for Jelly Babies became a character trait3, but they were often used to get him out of tight spots. His humour was somewhat sardonic and it became more cutting as his incarnation progressed. In 'The Robots of Death' he taunts one of his captors by telling him

You are a perfect example of the inverse proportion between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain!

What the Third and Fourth Doctors did have in common was a great regard for the human race, although the Fourth Doctor was much less inclined to remain Earthbound than his previous incarnation.

The scene was set for this little known Liverpudlian actor to take the programme to new heights of popularity and, occasionally, controversy.

The Fourth Doctor's Producers

After the Pertwee-style handover tale, 'Robot', Barry Letts handed over to producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes. They had met the new Doctor to decide upon a direction for the show, and the one thing they were all decided upon was that it should represent a complete break from the Third Doctor's era. Accordingly, they decided to introduce elements of Gothic horror and fantasy into the programme to replace the Bond-style action of the Pertwee years. Their very first story together, 'The Ark in Space' reflected this with its story of mental and physical possession of humans by the insect-like Wirrn. As the programme became more popular, the producers took more and more risks with the level of horror and violence. Whilst the three season tenure of Hinchcliffe and Holmes is often regarded as the highest quality run in the series' history, the controversy that it attracted confirmed a deliberate attempt to change the show's fan base. Indeed Holmes said4

Of course it's no longer a children's programme. Parents would be terribly irresponsible to leave a six-year-old to watch it alone. It's geared to the intelligent fourteen-year-old, and I wouldn't let any child under ten see it.

The programme soon fell foul of Mary Whitehouse, a famous moral campaigner of the time, who accused him of giving children nightmares through its increasingly horrific content. Even the BBC were forced to agree when the cliffhanger of the third episode of 'The Deadly Assassin' ended on a freeze-frame of the villain holding Doctor's head underwater. The Director General, Charles Curran, apologised to Mrs Whitehouse and gave the producers of the show a very public slapped wrist. Many Doctor Who fans believe that the subsequent toning-down of this 'gothic' style saw the beginning of a long-term decline for Doctor Who, despite the fact that the programme was still doing well enough in the ratings to survive for another twelve years.

When the time came for Hinchcliffe to move on, his successor Graham Williams was given explicit instructions by BBC executives to tone down the level of violence shown on screen. He was to oversee a turbulent three years.

The first problem that he had to face was Tom Baker's increasingly erratic behaviour. This led to constant clashes and frequent problems with his companions. It is a matter of record that he refused to make eye contact with either Louise Jameson or Mary Tamm. He also no longer saw himself as just the Fourth Doctor, but now the definitive Doctor. At rehearsals he started to inject off the wall humour into the scripts that led to his reputation for zany comedy. Williams happily played up the humour at the expense of the horror, but executives at the BBC soon sent further instructions telling all concerned to treat the character more seriously.

Williams' second season saw the use of a story arc that connected all 26 episodes: the 'Key To Time' which the Doctor was sent on a quest to recover. Anthony Read was the script editor for this particular season and he had problems of his own to deal with. He had been handed a script by Douglas Adams for the second story called 'The Pirate Planet'. He subsequently described the problems that arose:

The plot was so complicated, even right from the beginning. I remember reading a synopsis of it to Graham, after which he sank into his chair mumbling that now he knew how Stanley Kubrick felt! The big problem was that Douglas seemed to have absolutely no idea of shape and form for narrative drama. No matter how brilliant the imaginative ideas, the basic rules of drama still apply. When this is forgotten, the series fails.

The script was rewritten with Adams' approval, but the head of serials Graeme McDonald attempted to pull the story from the schedule believing it to be unfilmable. It was only when Williams told McDonald that there was no option but to proceed that the final go-ahead was given. Later in the season, the model work for 'The Power of Kroll' was hopelessly misjudged and the resultant on-screen effect gave ammunition to detractors who wanted to criticise Doctor Who's poor production values. The season finished on an even lower note when Tom Baker resigned citing creative differences and Graham Williams challenged his bosses that it was him that they had to support. Baker won, because of his ability to bring in audiences and Williams carried on for one more season in almost untenable circumstances.

The following season contained the most popular story ever transmitted in terms of viewing figures. It was called 'City of Death' and featured the Doctor Who's first overseas location filming in Paris. On screen it looked like a tightly written story, but it was anything but a smooth passage from idea to screen. The writer, David Fisher, had submitted a script that was set in Monte Carlo. He was then asked to include a few scenes set in Paris, which he did. However, John Nathan-Turner, then the production unit manager, suggested that the whole story could be set there if crew was kept to an absolute minimum. Williams and his new script editor, Douglas Adams, then submitted a further request to Fisher for a rewrite to change the entire setting to Paris. With a tight schedule, and reported family problems, Fisher was unable to do this. Clearly the script could not be pulled from the schedule, so Adams and Williams had to perform miracles to get it ready in time. They sat down at their typewriters one Thursday night and finished the following Monday morning without even breaking for sleep. The finished story was credited to David Agnew, an in house pseudonym, and indicated how much progress Adams had made since the previous season's problematic 'Pirate Planet'. 'City of Death', which even included a cameo appearance by John Cleese (as an art lover), was a huge success and remains a fan favourite to this day. Viewing figures for this particular story were the highest in the entire history of Doctor Who, 16.1 million - although they were boosted significantly by a strike which took rival network ITV off air.

Unfortunately, one more disaster lay around the corner for Williams. His final story, 'Shada', which was also written by Douglas Adams, was affected by a technician's strike. With all of the location filming (in Cambridge) and one block of studio recording completed, the strike closed down all of the studios at Television Centre. Despite losing the second recording block, there was still a possiblity that the story could be completed. However, with Christmas coming up, the BBC decided to give priority to the big light entertainment shows and 'Shada' was officially cancelled on 10 December, 1979. The partly finished story was released on video with linking narration by Tom Baker and the original script in an accompanying book. Footage of the Doctor punting on the Cam5 was used when Baker refused to take part in the 20th anniversary story, 'The Five Doctors'. The story was finally brought to the fans by way of a webcast starring Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor. Williams and Adams officially left the programme on 14 December, 1979 and handed over to John Nathan-Turner, the new producer, and Christopher H. Bidmead, the new script editor.

The first decision that Nathan-Turner and Bidmead came to was that the humour had to be toned down. Both of them wanted a return to the original idea of Doctor Who as a programme that introduced science to children. Nathan-Turner particularly disliked Baker's latter portrayal of the Doctor and the two men came to a mutual agreement that Baker should leave at the end of the season. This was communicated to the public at a press conference on 24 October, 1980 just before the transmission of 'Full Circle'. Nathan-Turner was to remain in charge of the programme until its final axing in 1989.

The Fourth Doctor's Companions

Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen)

After being chosen to replace Katy Manning in Jon Pertwee's final year, Elisabeth Sladen came into her own opposite the new Doctor. With audiences still getting used to Tom Baker's radically different portrayal of the Doctor, Sarah was a familiar face that viewers could relate to. The initially cool reception afforded to her by a number of fans, and to a certain extent Pertwee himself, was forgotten as she became one of the most popular assistants the Doctor had ever had. Her strong-willed and independent assistant was the perfect foil for Baker's edgier Doctor, as a more traditional assistant would have been overwhelmed. She was more likely to battle the monsters than run away screaming, and often the Doctor would be required to rescue her from her impetuosity. Her final story was 'The Hand of Fear'. Sladen herself decided that her swansong should be low-key so the Doctor received a communication from his home planet of Gallifrey. He informed Sarah that outsiders were not allowed to set foot on Gallifrey and he deposited her in her home town of Croydon. It was not to be her last appearance in Doctor Who. In 1981, Sarah came back with K-9 in the spin-off show 'K-9 and Company', followed two years later for the 20th anniversary programme 'The Five Doctors'. Then in 2005, producers of the new series confirmed that Sarah Jane Smith would return in David Tennant's first season as the Tenth Doctor, a testament to both the character's enduring popularity and her importance in the history of the programme.

Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter)

The decision to cast Ian Marter was made when Barry Letts expressed his preference for an older Fourth Doctor. Harry Sullivan, initially named Harry Sweetman, was to carry the burden of the physical aspects of the show. His character was introduced as UNIT's Surgeon-Lieutenant, summoned to treat the Doctor after his regeneration. However the casting of Tom Baker left the character with little to do. He was turned into a bumbling, old fashioned naval man who contributed moments of light relief. Marter became frustrated by his lack of action and was not surprised when he was written out the following year in 'Terror of the Zygons', returning to the show for a cameo appearance in 'The Android Invasion' later the same year. Marter remained closely involved with the world of Doctor Who by writing several novelisations for the Target range of books, and he was a popular guest on the convention circuit on both sides of the Atlantic. Sadly, however, he died on 30 October, 1986 following a diabetes-related heart attack at the age of 42.

Leela (Louise Jameson)

The original plan for the Doctor's next companion was to introduce an Eliza Doolittle-like Cockney character to be played by 1960s model Twiggy. However when Twiggy (and second choice Emily Richard) proved to be unavailable, extensive auditions followed and 25-year-old Louise Jameson was chosen over such actresses as Sally Geeson and Carol Drinkwater. Leela was now envisaged as an Avengers style assistant who could handle the fight scenes as well as, or better than, the Doctor. Even her name was chosen to reflect this. She was named after Leila Khaled, a Palestinian hijacker who gained a great deal of notoriety at the time. Chris Boucher, the writer who created Leela, wanted to update Doctor Who by reflecting the women's movement that had started to gain worldwide notice. Although Leela's costume - a skimpy leather swimsuit-and-skirt affair - was regarded as a retrograde step by some, it was actually in keeping with her origin as a member of a primitive tribe. In later stories, Leela would sometimes wear outfits that were more appropriate for the time period and location, but her first costume remains the one with which her character is associated. Despite Leela's continuing fame and popularity (particularly amongst the general public), the character in fact only appeared in nine stories. She was written out by marrying a member of the Gallifreyan Guard6. Despite this relatively short run as a companion it proved to be the springboard for a very successful career. In 1981, Jameson was cast in the mould-breaking drama, Tenko, which ran for three series, and straight after that she went to Jersey to star opposite John Nettles in the hugely successful Bergerac. In the 1990s Louise Jameson returned to British screens in EastEnders as Rosa De Marco.

K-9 (Voiced by John Leeson and David Brierley)

The robotic dog K-9 was one of a string of robotic companions that appeared in the late seventies. C3P0 and R2D2 appeared in Star Wars a few months after K-9's arrival, and a year later, Twikki appeared in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Despite Doctor Who's notoriously low budget, K-9 proved to be a classic robotic companion that bears comparison with any other in the annals of science fiction. However, the remote-controlled K-9 prop did suffer from the problem of being unable to cope with rough terrain. Often the Doctor, or one of his companions, would end up carrying K-9 through jungles or up mountain paths. Despite this, the appeal of the character ensured its status as a regular companion. John Leeson started off by using an electronic voice modulator, similar to those that gave the Daleks their distinctive tones. However he soon found it too restrictive and ended up voicing the character without any electronic aids. When Leeson took a break, David Brierley stepped in to voice K-9 for four stories, but John Leeson returned and K-9 left along with 'Mistress Romana' towards the end of the Fourth Doctor's era. The character of K-9 was so popular that he was awarded a pilot episode for his own spin-off series, K-9 and Company (alongside former companion Sarah Jane Smith) - unfortunately, the ratings for the pilot weren't high enough to warrant the commissioning of an entire series. In 2005 it was announced that both K-9 and Sarah Jane Smith would be returning to the new series of Doctor Who in the episode 'School Reunion' alongside David Tennant's Tenth Doctor.

Romana (Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward)

Series 16 of Doctor Who was a set of linked stories that followed the Doctor's quest to reassemble the Key to Time. A young Time Lord graduate named Romanadvoratrelundar was chosen by the White Guardian to assist the Doctor. She was amazingly intelligent, extremely cool and somewhat aloof. Mary Tamm portrayed Romana as someone who thought herself the Doctor's intellectual superior. It was an unusual departure for the show, but it changed the dynamic between Doctor and assistant and led to some interesting scenes as the two characters occasionally fought for supremacy whilst working together on the quest.

At the end of the season, Mary Tamm expressed a desire to leave the show, so the decision was taken to utilise Romana's Time Lord ability and regenerate the character. Tamm's replacement was Lalla Ward, who played a radically different Romana. She and the Doctor shared adventures as co-conspirators with a huge sense of fun and irreverence. The chemistry between the Doctor and the second Romana reflected the growing closeness of Tom Baker and Lalla Ward off-screen - a closeness that eventually led to a short-lived marriage. The character ended up leaving the TARDIS with K-9 as the show prepared for the regeneration of the Fourth Doctor.

Other Companions

With the arrival of the bohemian anti-authoritarian Fourth Doctor, the time seemed appropriate to phase out the whole concept of an earth-based military outfit and its officers. UNIT - the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce - had been somewhat of a fixture during the Third Doctor's era, but this was soon to change. Following the Fourth Doctor's debut story 'Robot', both the organisation and the regular characters that had popped up regularly in past seasons were slowly phased out. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) made his last regular appearance in 'Terror of the Zygons' (making three guest return appearances much later in the programme's run) and Sergeant Benton made his final bow as a regular in 'The Android Invasion'.

During the final season of Tom Baker's Doctor, three new companions were introduced. Adric, played by Matthew Waterhouse, joined the Doctor as an intergalactic Artful Dodger-type character, albeit one with a badge for mathematical excellence and a habit of wandering into trouble. The relationship between Adric and the Fourth Doctor was very much one of mentor and student, with Adric learning a great deal from his travels with the Doctor. However, with Tom Baker's departure from the role and the arrival of a new, younger Fifth Doctor (played by Peter Davison), the relationship between Adric and the Doctor became much more fractious and led indirectly to his tragic death during an encounter with the evil Cybermen.

Nyssa (played by Sarah Sutton) and Tegan (played by Janet Fielding) were put in place to prepare for the new young Doctor played by Peter Davison, and were never really designed to complement the Fourth Doctor's character - in fact, it's very difficult to imagine seeing either of these two characters voluntarily travelling around the Universe with the brash Fourth Doctor.

Classic Fourth Doctor adventures

The Tom Baker era lasted for seven years (1974-1981), longer than any other incarnation of the Doctor. The image of Tom Baker's Doctor is the one that the viewing public associates most strongly with the character - perhaps most clearly demonstrated when legendary American cartoon series The Simpsons featured a cartoon image of the Fourth Doctor in two episodes. Every fan will have a different list of Fourth Doctor stories that capture the essence of the era. However, the five stories featured in this section should provide a good introduction to the well-regarded 'gothic' era of the Fourth Doctor.

Genesis of the Daleks

Tom Baker's first season got off to a good start, but it really hit its stride with probably the best remembered of all the Dalek stories7. The Time Lords send the Doctor, Sarah and Harry to Skaro, the Daleks' home planet, just before their creation by the scientist Davros. Their mission: to prevent the Daleks from being created. It was in this story that the Doctor showed the more cerebral side of his character. In a famous scene, the Doctor is holding two wires which will, if touched together, prevent the Daleks from ever being created. He agonises as to whether he has the right to do that, to Sarah's incredulity. She reminds him that the Daleks are the most evil race that ever lived. He answers by pointing out that the evil of the Daleks could create a greater good. That moral argument and the Doctor's discussions with Davros was Doctor Who at its most challenging, refusing to give the viewers easy answers and instead posing more questions.

Pyramids of Mars

When fans were asked to vote for their favourite unreleased Doctor Who story for the 40th anniversary DVD release they chose 'Pyramids of Mars'. It is the archetypal Gothic story, paying homage to one of the most famous movie monsters, the Mummy. Marcus Scarman, an archaeologist opens a tomb in an Egyptian pyramid and awakens Sutekh, the last of the Osirans. Sutekh kills him, but animates Scarman's body to do his bidding. Aided by powerful robot Mummies Scarman sets out to build a weapon that will lay waste to the whole universe and make Sutekh supreme. The Doctor, aided by Sarah, attempts to find a way to defeat an enemy immeasurably more powerful than himself. At the beginning of the story a pensive Doctor says to Sarah:

The Earth isn't my home, Sarah. I'm a Time Lord. You don't understand the implications. I'm not a human being. I walk in eternity.

It is the clearest statement the Doctor has given since his first incarnation of the burden of being so different to a race that he is so interested in.

The Seeds of Doom

In a plot borrowed extensively from The Thing From Another World and owing more than a little to The Avengers episode 'The Maneater of Surrey Green', two scientists discover seed pods underneath the Antarctic permafrost. The Doctor identifies them as Krynoid pods, an alien plant hostile to all other living things. One pod opens and infects a scientist, whilst the other is stolen on behalf of Harrison Chase, a rich eccentric botanist. The Doctor follows the pod back to Chase's mansion where it has already infected another person and has become a serious threat by turning all plant life against humanity. This is just what Chase wants, as he has long dreamt of an Eden-like paradise free of the polluting influence of mankind. By the time the Doctor arrives it already seems too late to stop the events that have been set in motion. It was a plot that wouldn't have seemed out of place in the Third Doctor's era with its ecological subtext, and the Doctor solving problems with force rather than wit. The writer, Robert Banks Stewart, was accused by some fans of being unfamiliar with the Fourth Doctor, but whatever the case, this story was classic Doctor Who.

The Deadly Assassin

In many ways this story was atypical Doctor Who. It is the first, and to date the only story where the Doctor works on his own, having an adventure with no companion to help him. It is also the first time we really get to see the Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey as a culture in its own right, following a fleeting introduction in the last story of the Second Doctor, 'The War Games'. For that reason it is a pivotal story and therefore requires further analysis.

Based very strongly on The Manchurian Candidate, Robert Holmes' script was politically literate and ambitious. Half of episode two and all of episode three is set in a virtual reality realm called the Matrix. It was, stylistically, one of the most radical departures the programme had ever undergone. The two cliffhangers were horrific and controversial. Episode two ended with the Doctor's foot trapped in a railway track with a train bearing down on him, and episode three ended with the infamous drowning scene that so infuriated Mary Whitehouse.

What we find out about the Time Lords in this story is now the basis for our understanding of the Doctor and his race. At the time, however, it was bitterly criticised by a number of fans who took exception to the portrayal of the Time Lords as squabbling and all too fallible. They had expected a beatific, omniscient race who were in a constant state of peace. The risk taken by Holmes was only fully appreciated as time passed and the story was re-evaluated. What we see or hear about for the first time are the Sash, Rod and Seal of Rassilon which are keys to the power of the Time Lords. The Panopticon is introduced, which is the ceremonial meeting hall on Gallifrey. Also, the limit of regenerations is set at twelve, which may not have been much of a consideration at the time, but which assumes increasing importance as the Doctor moves nearer to his own twelfth regeneration. However, the reappearance in 'The Deadly Assassin' of arch-villain the Master and his subsequent thirteenth regeneration suggests that there are ways round the problem. It is a story that sets out the mythology of the Time Lords and as such has a pivotal role in the programme's history.

The Robots of Death

In one of the best remembered of the Fourth Doctor's stories, the studio-bound production was used to superb effect as writer Chris Boucher created an Agatha Christie style whodunnit. The claustrophobic setting of a mining ship calls to mind Murder on the Orient Express, but Boucher actually based it upon the inescapable island setting for Ten Little Indians. He then layered the story to include concepts of machine intelligence and the effect of claustrophobic surroundings on the miners themselves. What made it particularly memorable for many fans was the use of Art Deco styling to reflect a decadent future society. It was a master stroke that instantly distanced the programme from its cliched metallic sets. The Art Deco styling of the robots themselves, together with their well spoken nature, made them seem more unnerving than Cybermen-like behemoths.

The story itself is a traditional whodunnit, with a murder being committed as the Doctor and Leela arrive. They are naturally the main suspects. They find out that a robot and worker are in fact investigators from the company that chartered the sandminer, and work with them to find out who the real killer is. However, one of the crew harbours a secret and is determined to keep it at all costs.

After the Baker Years

The Tom Baker years ended with the story 'Logopolis'. It is worth mentioning because it had the most unusual regeneration scene. Throughout the story viewers were intrigued by a mysterious character called The Watcher who warned the Doctor that great trials lay ahead. The Doctor fell from a tower8, after a fight with the Master, damaging his body beyond repair. The Watcher then entered his body and the regeneration took place as Tom Baker was replaced by Peter Davison. The Fourth Doctor's famous final line was:

It's the end... but the moment has been prepared for.

Unlike most of the other actors to have taken the role, Tom Baker has mostly distanced himself from Doctor Who after quitting the part9. Initially that reluctance to remain associated with the part of the Doctor was largely because of a concern over the inevitable typecasting associated with the role. Latterly, however, he has said that he has nothing new to add to the character and will never return to it for that reason. He has remained in demand on radio especially because of the rich stentorian voice that made the Fourth Doctor such a compelling character. He appeared in the remake of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Monarch of the Glen and became familiar to a whole new generation of viewers as the voice of Little Britain. However, it is as the Doctor that he will always be remembered by viewers young and old.

1Hartnell was initially very reluctantly to quit the series, despite the onset of arteriosclerosis. A subsequent breakdown effectively ended his acting career at the age of only 582This is actually something of an embellishment. The original scarf was 13 feet long. Due to various pieces of damage suffered throughout filming another scarf was knitted which was 20 feet long.3Although Baker himself loathed Jelly Babies he always made sure that he was seen to eat them at personal appearances as the Doctor.4In an interview with Jean Rook of the Daily Express5The river in Cambridge6It was quite possibly the most ill-conceived departure of any companion for two reasons. Firstly, she would have been very unlikely to settle into such a stuffy society and secondly the Doctor had already told Sarah Jane Smith that outsiders were not allowed to set foot on Gallifrey.7Possibly because it tends to be repeated more frequently than any other Doctor Who story!8the design of which was based on the radio telescope at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire9Although he did return briefly, in costume, to take part in a special Doctor Who adventure raising money for the BBC's annual Children In Need telethon. 'Dimensions in Time' features appearances from five Doctors, numerous companions and several members of the cast of BBC soap opera EastEnders. It's also one of the tackiest and most embarrassing things ever broadcast under the banner 'Doctor Who', and consequently is enormous fun to watch when slightly inebriated.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Edited Entry


Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Categorised In:

Written by


h2g2 Entries

External Links

Not Panicking Ltd is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more