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Doctor Who: Robot (Story 75)

4.6 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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(Aug 14, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

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 (83 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000QGE8II
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,976 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Scott Promish on November 15, 2008
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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Naturally, for the collector, ROBOT (Story 75) is a must-have. And for those new to the older Dr. Who series, I would certainly recommend this particular story as a starting place over earlier or later Doctors (there are very solid reasons why Tom Baker is by far the most popular Doctor). However, if you are looking for overall good adventures without being concerned about chronological order, I would say pick up The Ark In Space (Story 76) or Genesis of the Daleks (Story 78) first, both also a part of the 4th Doctor's first season.

ROBOT has excellent performances all around, yet the story itself is still of the older regime and compared to subsequent adventures, doesn't really capture the gestalt feel that characterizes Tom Baker's full influence. I have watched this story at least a half dozen times over the years, and even though Baker brings very sparkling wit for his first appearance, the 2nd half of the story just fizzles out plot-wise (compared to the subsequent stories in the first season - even the two episode The Sontaran Experiment (Story 77) keeps the plot pacing tight).
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It had been awhile since I had seen this story, tom Baker's first outing as Doctor Who. Right out of the gate he takes control of the doctor character: he connects back to the doctor's past by driving John Pertwee's Bessie and claiming Patrick Troughton's spoon as his own; but he also looks to the future in his repartee with the Brigadeer and Sarah Jane. One flash of that brilliant smile and we know that Professor Kettlewell and his Robot will be defeated.
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