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Doctor Who: Robot (Story 75)

4.6 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Product Description

Doctor Who: Robot (Episode 75) (DVD)

Mortally wounded by the Spider Queen on Metebilis 3, the Doctor is forced to regenerate. His recuperation is cut short as UNIT investigates a spate of robberies involving components for a top-secret disintegrator gun. The culprit is quickly identified as a highly sophisticated robot built by Professor Kettlewell, which is being ordered to act against its Prime Directive. (Episodes 1-4, 98 mins)

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Tom Baker's reign as the venerable British science fiction hero Doctor Who began with this four-part serial from 1974-75; it also marked the dawn of what was arguably the most popular period in the program's history. Written by Terrance Dicks, Robot also introduces the late Ian Marter as the Doctor's companion-to-be Harry Sullivan, a UNIT medic who is pulled into the adventure after treating the Doctor, who is recovering from his fourth regeneration (third Doctor Jon Pertwee appears briefly at the beginning of the first episode). Meanwhile, Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) and the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) investigate a series of robberies involving a top secret weapons project that seem to have been carried out not by humans, but a colossal object. Could the mysterious "Think Tank" and its robotics division be involved? Robot is a terrific launching point for "The Baker Years"--the star himself is charming and amusing, and the story itself is brisk, involving, and quite suspenseful at times. In short, it's an excellent point for Who newcomers to introduce themselves to this most well-loved of Doctors.

The single-disc DVD includes commentary by Baker, Sladen, Dicks, and producer Barry Letts, as well as a 40-minute documentary titled "Are Friends Electric?" which recalls the production of Baker's first serial via interviews with the cast and production team, including producer Phillip Hinchcliffe and director Christopher Barry. "The Tunnel Effect" is a 13-minute interview with graphic designer Bernard Lodge on how he created the memorable "infinite tunnel" titles for the Baker stories, and there's a clip from the U.K. children's program Blue Peter, which was broadcast from the set of Robot. The by-now standard photo gallery, production notes, and a PDF of the Radio Times listings round out the extras. --Paul Gaita


Special Features

Audio Commentary: Audio Commentary by actors Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen and writer Terrance Dicks DVD ROM Features: Radio Times listing Documentary: "Are Friends Electric?" - A new documentary looks at Tom Baker's introduction as the Doctor and the making of his first story, featuring actors Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Alec Linstead, Patricia Maynard, Michael Kilgarriff and Edward Burnham, producers Barry Letts and Philip Hinchcliffe, script editor Terrance Dicks, director Christopher Barry, production unit manager George Gallacio (38 mins) Featurette: "The Tunnel Effect" - Graphic designer Bernard Lodge explains how he created the complex 'never-ending tunnel' opening titles for Tom Baker's stories. Narrated by George Kelly. (13 mins) Audio Commentary: Audio Commentary by actors Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen and writer Terrance Dicks DVD ROM Features: Radio Times listing Documentary: "Are Friends Electric?" - A new documentary looks at Tom Baker's introduction as the Doctor and the making of his first story, featuring actors Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Alec Linstead, Patricia Maynard, Michael Kilgarriff and Edward Burnham, producers Barry Letts and Philip Hinchcliffe, script editor Terrance Dicks, director Christopher Barry, production unit manager George Gallacio (38 mins) Featurette: "The Tunnel Effect" - Graphic designer Bernard Lodge explains how he created the complex 'never-ending tunnel' opening titles for Tom Baker's stories. Narrated by George Kelly. (13 mins) Audio Commentary: Audio Commentary by actors Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen and writer Terrance Dicks DVD ROM Features: Radio Times listing Documentary: "Are Friends Electric?" - A new documentary looks at Tom Baker's introduction as the Doctor and the making of his first story, featuring actors Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Alec Linstead, Patricia Maynard, Michael Kilgarriff and Edward Burnham, producers Barry Letts and Philip Hinchcliffe, script editor Terrance Dicks, director Christopher Barry, production unit manager George Gallacio (38 mins) Featurette: "The Tunnel Effect" - Graphic designer Bernard Lodge explains how he created the complex 'never-ending tunnel' opening titles for Tom Baker's stories. Narrated by George Kelly. (13 mins) Audio Commentary: Audio Commentary by actors Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen and writer Terrance Dicks DVD ROM Features: Radio Times listing Documentary: "Are Friends Electric?" - A new documentary looks at Tom Baker's introduction as the Doctor and the making of his first story, featuring actors Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Alec Linstead, Patricia Maynard, Michael Kilgarriff and Edward Burnham, producers Barry Letts and Philip Hinchcliffe, script editor Terrance Dicks, director Christopher Barry, production unit manager George Gallacio (38 mins) Featurette: "The Tunnel Effect" - Graphic designer Bernard Lodge explains how he created the complex 'never-ending tunnel' opening titles for Tom Baker's stories. Narrated by George Kelly. (13 mins) Audio Commentary: Audio Commentary by actors Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen and writer Terrance Dicks DVD ROM Features: Radio Times listing Documentary: "Are Friends Electric?" - A new documentary looks at Tom Baker's introduction as the Doctor and the making of his first story, featuring actors Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Alec Linstead, Patricia Maynard, Michael Kilgarriff and Edward Burnham, producers Barry Letts and Philip Hinchcliffe, script editor Terrance Dicks, director Christopher Barry, production unit manager George Gallacio (38 mins) Featurette: "The Tunnel Effect" - Graphic designer Bernard Lodge explains how he created the complex 'never-ending tunnel' opening titles for Tom Baker's stories. Narrated by George Kelly. (13 mins) Audio Commentary: Audio Commentary by actors Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen and writer Terrance Dicks DVD ROM Features: Radio Times listing Documentary: "Are Friends Electric?" - A new documentary looks at Tom Baker's introduction as

Product Details

  • Actors: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter, Nicholas Courtney, John Levene
  • Directors: Christopher Barry
  • Writers: Terrance Dicks
  • Producers: Barry Letts
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: August 14, 2007
  • Run Time: 153 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000QGE8II
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,402 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
ROBOT is significant for being the first full appearance of Tom Baker in the title role. The story is pretty typical of old-school science fiction: a slightly mad but benevolent scientist has created a robot which has been appropriated by a fringe organization. This group of intellectual supremacists (sort of a fascist MENSA) is using the robot to steal plans and materials for a disintegrator gun and essentially take over the world.

So it's fairly hokey, and of course it has all the elements longtime fans of the show have come to look upon with affectionate humor, like really bad special effects and dodgy acting. Particularly egregious is the bit where what is clearly a toy tank tries to sneak up on the robot (and fails.) Then there's Sarah Jane's curiously subdued reaction to a man being disintegrated right in front of her; she registers a look of mild disgust, as if she had just found some moldy cheese in her refrigerator.

The story has some twists, not all of which make sense. This was also typical of the old show, I think due to its serial nature. (It was probably less important for the story to work as a whole than it was to get people back for next week's installment.) It also has some contrived aspects (the mad scientist has by chance developed two other scientific breakthroughs, one of which exacerbates the problem and one which solves it) which pretty much telegraph the major plot turns as well. If this story had appeared somewhere else in the series, it would probably be considered average at best.

What saves this particular show, and what probably made it such a breakthrough when it was first aired, is how much Baker absolutely owns the role right from the start. Tom Baker *is* the Doctor.
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Until the launch of the new series three years ago, the biggest name associated with "Doctor Who" was Tom Baker. The fourth Doctor was, to many fans, the definitive Doctor, encompassing everything that was great about the character.

"Robot" is his debut story and serves as the beginnning of a new era and the end of another.

Picking up right where "Planet of the Spiders" left off, "Robot" is a positive delight after the dreary send off to the third Doctor's era. For three and a third episodes, the story clips along, being little more than reworking on the Frankenstein story only instead of a monster created by humanity, it's a robot. The robot is being used to steal various components of a disintegrator gun, which is one part of an overall plan to send humanity back to a golden age--one ruled by a cult of scientist who think they know best.

UNIT is called in to investigate and the Brigadier brings along the newly re-generated Doctor to look into things and hopefully solve the mystery.

Like I said, the story works for about three and a third episodes until the robot involved suddenly grows for no apparently good reason and it becomes a bad version of King Kong. This being "Doctor Who" the special effects are kind of a letdown (coupled with the funniest bad effect in history with an obviously plastic tank at the end of episode three). This could be overlooked if the story simply hadn't run out of things to do and padded things out with a giant robot stomping all over the countryside.

But I'm probably not telling "Who" fans anything they didn't already know here.

That said, "Robot" is still a lot of fun, despite the short comings of its final episode. It's fun to watch Tom Baker inherit and instantly inhabit his role as the Doctor.
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Having watched Doctor Who since the 70's, Tom Baker is my all-time favorite Doctor (though Christopher Eccleston runs a close second)! That said, I found this episode a bit clumsy in that Tom had not the chance to build into it his own persona. We do begin to see a tiny bit of his style come into play toward the end of the third and in the fourth parts; however, he still uses the little yellow car for "earthly transportation," and this is ill-fitting of Tom Baker (it vanishes later in his tenure).

Overall, the episode itself is not terribly dynamic. Furthermore, while some of the Doctor Who episodes carry well through the years, this one does not. The clumsy robot shows it's technological age (this episode is from the 70's), and the tank scene is so cheesy because the tank is so very obviously a toy replica filmed "large" in the foreground. Granted, these are some of the features we love about Doctor Who, but it is not well done in this episode. It is for these reasons I gave this episode three stars. Never fear though, things improve with time and future episodes!
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I met Doctor Who, so to speak, in 1978 when I began reading the issue of books being published in America. More precisely when I read an advertising booklet with Harlan Ellison's introduction and several excerpts from the first 2 books. Harlan sounded pompous, I scoffed, but I read, and I loved. From the books you don't get the idea that there are different actors playing the role, and that it was taken from a TV series. Well, I was 12 at the time, too.

Then I accidentally overheard a friend's mother say she saw 'Doctor Who' on WHYY the other night in late May 1979. I flipped out. She probably thought I was insane as I came alive and grilled her about the details of when it was on. And what I saw the next Friday night as episode 2 of 'Robot'. It was hard to see the Doctor as a 40 year old kook speaking obtusely and stalking about like an eccentric maniac, but it took very little time to enjoy it. In 1979 this TV series trounced everything America was doing on television with sci-fi, and by gar it still does (aside from the visual effects).

'Robot' is a little rough, but give it some slack - everything was changing: main actor, script editor, producer, supporting characters, writing direction, technical staff, etc. As Dicks and Holmes shook hands on script, Letts and Hinchcliffe were handing baton in producing, while Baker stormed in and used both hands to grip the wheel of character. And the show has all the efforts and intentions of the two best Doctor Who crews as they transferred creative power over 4 episodes. You get the Letts-Dicks UNIT-Invasion type story with the Holmes-Hinchcliffe motives of greed, idealism and ruthless disregard for life.
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Songs on the documentary....
The songs you are referring to are
Magic = Pilot
Gonna make you a star = David Essex
Come up a see me(Make me smile) = Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel.
Aug 26, 2007 by Armchair Pundit |  See all 4 posts
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