13 December 2021: not really a review of Flux added.
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' "Could we lock them up?" "And have them escape?" '
Buy this Dr Who DVD: US
A mysterious scientific organisation bent on taking over Earth. UNIT. Bessie. An entity impervious to bullets. Can we spell Pertwee? Well, yeah, as long as that's B-a-k-e-r.
The Fourth Doctor's first adventure is very much in the style of the Third, and while that has its disadvantages, such as the story being boring and crap, it's also fascinating to see how the new incarnation behaves in the same setting as his predecessor. In some ways it's almost sacreligious - we're betting Jon Pertwee was sitting at home wincing at the sight of the upstart driving his precious Bessie - but it underlines in a way a different-styled adventure could never have done how very different the two Doctors are.
Tom Baker makes an immediate impact and has no trouble at all establishing the new Doctor's character. We hadn't seen Robot since its original airing, and we were amazed at how perfectly fleshed out the Doctor's character is right from the get-go. Baker's Doctor is by far the most complex of any of them, but a case can be made that everything he achieved in seven years with the character is present in essence in the first episode, right down to the jellybabies.
Apart from the interest value of the Doctor himself, the rest of Robot doesn't have a great deal to recommend it. The story itself only barely qualifies as science fiction, utilising a typical Who plot in which the Big Science Fiction Idea is really only window dressing on a standard spy story. There's far too much talking, particularly in the earlier episodes. And we've seen enough evil scientists to last us a lifetime, thanks.
The jukeboxesque robot itself is cute rather than terrifying, which kind of reduces the tension a bit. And while they might call the King Kong stuff at the end a homage, we call it a cringe-inducing ripoff. We were shrieking "No! No" when the robot picked up Sarah and waved her about, and it wasn't because we were concerned for her safety.
Sarah does an excellent job, of course. We particularly loved the scene where she barges through the door marked Absolutely No Admittance, and we cheered when although having been threatened by the robot, she's game to see it again. Her chemistry with the new Doctor, too, is immediately obvious.
The UNIT people do their usual job, including the by-now-traditional hotheads who get blown away (no wonder the Brigadier doesn't have the right number of staff when they insist on dying like flies). Harry Sullivan makes his first appearance, for which two cheers. Harry's engaging enough, although his sexism gets right up our noses - we had enough of that in the Pertwee era - and his jolly-hockey-sticks silly-ass persona eventually grinds our nerves down. But the worst aspect of Harry is the way he tends to take over the brave, heroic bits that Sarah used to do, leaving her to scream and look wimpy. That's not the case in Robot, of course, but look out.
Overall, interesting for its curiosity value, but lacking in the grippingness department. Could do better (and will).
MORAL: If less is more, think how much more more would be.
While it doesn't look very practical to us, we love the special effect of the robot's visual field.
It looks as if it takes Tom Baker a while to figure out how to deal with the scarf, as it seems to be tangling him up a bit here.
LOCK AND LOAD
Inside the Professor's rooms, the Doctor opens a door to look for the Professor, but when the robot chases him around the room, all the doors are locked.
THAT WOULD BE RUDE
The cast do their best not to make this obvious, but considering the speed the robot moves you'd have to be exceptionally dim not to just nip round it and leg it.
IT'S BECAUSE HE'S SO LOVED. NOT
Why do the evil scientists take Harry as a hostage? Surely the whole world's population is their hostage?
Did we really need to have Harry explaining it to us to realise that the scientists must have a bunker?
ICE ICE BABY
We love the way the Brig responds "That will not deter me" when the scientists threaten to kill Sarah and Harry. It's a lovely bit of realism.
SO THAT'S WHY THEY CALL THEM PROPS
When Benton comes back from blowing up the machine gun nests, as he reaches the car he nearly falls over and has to grab it to steady himself.
YOU MUST BE THE TEMP
How does the robot manage to use the computer keyboard?
Buy this Dr Who DVD: US