Season 12, Story 1 (Overall Series Story #75) | Previous - Next | Index
Move over, move over, let Tom Baker take over. Our man steps into the role and absolutely owns it. Tom Baker is the Doctor and the Doctor is Tom Baker. "Robot" on the whole is far from perfect, but Baker proves out of the blocks that he was an absolutely inspired choice to take over the role.
|Image via whatinthewho on LJ|
This story is essential as Baker's first, but it has legs beyond the landmark status despite its shortcomings. We can fault the decision to keep coming back to the CSO effects that never worked before and probably should not have been tried again. The poor bloke inside the suit was clearly doing all he could stay upright when trying to move around the costume and its arms end in floppy grabber appendages that were distracting in their inefficiency. We can also do little more than raise our eyebrows at the Robot being diagnosed with an Oedipus complex -- it's emotional development is puzzling and not ever adequately explained, so it comes off more than a little silly. These are standard issue gripes though -- the sort goofiness we put up with when we agree to go along for the ride.
Where this story does well beyond being strictly a character piece is giving a pair villains behind the Robot that fit thematically with series as a whole. Miss Winters is a straightforward psychopath with a certain steely charm. The scenes where she knocks Sarah Jane off her game -- first by nailing her for chauvinism when Sarah Jane assumes Winters' male assistant is the Director of Think Tank, and later by scaring the wits of Sarah Jane by ordering the robot to destroy her to demonstrate it follows Asimov's Rules of Robotics -- give her some grudging credibility as someone whose mean but not a dope.
Professor Kettlewell on the other hand is rooted in the tradition of the dopey scientist who's brilliant, but in over his head with villains with which he's allied himself. (Dr. Kerensky in "City of Death" is cut from the cloth. Prof. Parry in "Tomb of the Cybermen," though not a villain himself, is another similarly clueless genius who gets played). Kettlewell, while part of the conspiracy all along, remains a sympathetic character who doesn't want to go to the extremes his comrades do, but in the end gets what's coming to him.
|Kettlewell modelling "Mad Scientist Hair"|
The Doctor's role here is to be representative of advanced knowledge and scientific curiosity guided by genuine concern for the general welfare. In other words, he's science's conscience.