After the briefest of Pertwee hangovers, Tom Baker hits the ground running
Tom’s debut story, ‘Robot’, which aired between 1974 and 1975, is a product of the Pertwee era. It brings together the whole UNIT gang, a simple fable by former Third Doctor script editor Terrance Dicks and a whole cluster of dodgy CSO. Arguably the worst visual effect to ever appear in the show – the toy tank masquerading as the real thing – is a toe-curler belonging to a less refined period of its history. Consider the shift in tone between Tom’s opening story and ‘The Ark in Space’, his second. Already Baker has scaled down his overly-clownish performance from ‘Robot’ and mixes the serious and the considered with the flippant and humorous – an actor’s trick that few could pull off with such verve. Roger Murray-Leach’s spacious and multi-levelled studio sets are unlike anything we have seen in the series up to this point. It’s impossible to imagine any of Baker’s predecessors playing the lead in that story as the show suddenly finds a whole new level of gravitas and maturity. By its conclusion, in February 1975, it’s easy to imagine that contemporary viewers had completely accepted the new Doctor, and perhaps even found the show more compelling than ever before, especially coming after a few tired seasons of the late Pertwee era.