Doctor Doctor Who Guide

One of the really irritating things about 'Robot', the first Doctor Who story to feature Tom Baker, is the voice of the robot - you can't help but hear it as a slighly less frightening, non-branded copy of the better known Dalek. The writers would like the robot's voice to be written in the jagged diagonal typeface found in the pages of the Dalek comic, but it would be lucky to even get italics. In all ways, Kettering's robot is a bit sad. Clearly, to look at this robot, you would never mistake it as a Dalek, and you kind of sympathise with it when Sarah Jane Smith tells it that it has been programmed to behave "all wrongly". Yes, robot, it isn't your fault that you've been programmed to behave the way you do, walking a bit like the Mitchelin man, talking a bit like a violent pepperpot. But, alas, this is the robot we are stuck with, in this remarkably below average Doctor Who story. 

What is there to say about 'Robot' that is positive? Well, there is Tom Baker. The skipping scene, with Harry, is remarkably funny, and must have been unbelievably odd, coming straight after the bravado of Jon Pertwee. Equally, Baker makes the riff on "unbreakable sounds ominously like unsinkable" the best dialogue in the episode (and there is some awful dialogue to be found here). A quick negative, while on the subject of writing: the bizarre unveiling of the 'robot' couldn't possibly try any harder to sound like a speech from a 1930s Nazi rally, and this blunt symbolism really doesn't do an already weak story any favors. 

However, following after this comes the Doctor's disarming and completely Doctor-like stand-up comedy routine. This is not only the Doctor we would come to love for 10-or-so years on television, but it is also the Doctor that we have always loved: Baker catches, in his performance, the special something that makes the Doctor who he is, and builds on it. His performance is a shot in the series' arm, and we are still seeing the benefits of it today, in, for example, the Eighth Doctor of the novels. 

So pretty frothy, in terms of plot, dialogue, and characterisation, by all accounts... but it is saved by a charming performance from Baker, teeth, scarf, and all.

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