Season: 12, ep 1 (1-4)
Writer: Terrance Dicks
Director: Christopher Barry
Producer: Barry Letts
Companions: Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen), Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter)
Summary: After the events of “Planet of the Spiders”, the Doctor has regenerated. He’s eager to go out into space again, but the Brigadier has a new mystery that needs his help. A robot has stolen parts for a disintegrator gun. Not only that, but the robot has been manipulated by a rogue group of scientists who are plotting world domination.
Review: Terrance Dicks (or “Uncle Terry”) is considered one of the show’s best writers. While this story lacks the grand scope of his most famous serial, “The War Games”, it has something else going for it: fun. There’s some very funny moments throughout, and the story kept me entertained.
Tom Baker is a great actor, and he quickly shows us his Doctor: a childish but clever man who defies predictability. His carefree attitude seems to contradict the seriousness of the situation.
Sarah Jane is good also. I’ve always felt her earliest stories, when the writers truly knew how to write her feisty persona, were her best. She is a great help to the Doctor. In fact, it is her kindness to the robot that prevents it from harming her.
The Brig and Harry don’t really lend much to the story. Lethbridge-Stewart seems perplexed by the new Doctor, while Sullivan has very little to do. (Then again, I never much cared for Harry)
The overall story isn’t the best way for a new direction to start, particularly in the final part, where the robot grows. (Yes, his creator explains it, but it’s still a sloppy idea)The special effects suffer when it grows. Other than that, I did enjoy it.
Overall Rating: 6/10
Continuity: The Doctor quotes “Invasion of the Dinosaurs” upon finishing regeneration and mentions Sontarans, referencing “The Time Warrior.” We see that his TARDIS key is in his shoe, as it was in “Spearhead From Space.” This is the last story to regularly feature Sgt. John Benton (now Warrant Officer) and Lethbridge-Stewart (although the latter did make special appearances in a few fourth Doctor stories until “The Deadly Assassin”, in the Fifth Doctor story “Mawdryn Undead”, the Seventh Doctor story “Battlefield” and the Sarah Jane Adventures episode “Enemy of the Bane”). It’s also the only Fourth Doctor story to feature the Third Doctor’s canary roadster Bessie. (Bessie would make two more appearances: “The Five Doctors” and “Battlefield”)
Trivia: The new opening was the first opening to feature the TARDIS. This would not happen again until the Seventh Doctor’s era.