Available on DVD and video

The Doctor -
Tom Baker

Sarah Jane Smith – Elisabeth Sladen

Harry Sullivan -
Ian Marter

Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart -
Nicholas Courtney

Leela -
Louise Jameson

Romana -
Mary Tamm

Romana -
Lalla Ward

Adric -
Matthew Waterhouse

Nyssa -
Sarah Sutton

Christopher Ecclestone
David Tennant

The Sarah Jane Adventures

Life on Mars
Ashes to Ashes
Goodnight Sweetheart
The Flipside of Dominick Hyde

ROBOT Originally transmitted 28 Dec 1974 - 18 Jan 1975

The Doctor has regenerated, but it's been a pretty tough time and he is not quite as stable as he once was. There is no time, however, for him to come to terms with his new body before he is catapulted headlong into his new adventure. Top secret bases are being broken into and scientific components stolen. The thief is not human, but what is it and why does it want those specific items? Sarah, meanwhile, is investigating an organisation called Think Tank and discovers that they have links to the Scientific Reform Society and a rather large robot. The robot is responsible for the thefts and the components combine to create a disintegrator gun that allows the SRS to steal the launch codes of nuclear weapons, which they threaten to use if the world does not return to a simpler way of life.

There are a good many shades of Invasion of the Dinosaurs in Robot's plotting. After all, we have a bunch of misguided scientists planning to use their scientific breakthroughs to return mankind to a simpler way of life. Instead of dinosaurs kidnapped through time, though, they have a robot and a very impressive robot it is too. The K1 is a marvellous monster, believable and, towards the end, quite endearing (when not wiping out the planet, that is). It develops a connection with Sarah that is quite touching and certainly she is the only one that is left feeling sorry for it after its inevitable destruction. That's pretty important, because some of the other special effects at the end are pretty horrendous.

The true star of Robot, though is Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. The inaugural episode of a new Doctor's reign is always fraught with excitement and fear. What possibilities there are (including the possibility of disaster). Fortunately, Tom Baker is a revelation, soon to become one of, if not the, favourite Doctor of all time. His shock of curly hair and bug eyes mark him out as believably alien, but there is a strangeness to the man that shines through and informs the character, something that the writers make the most of in later stories.

This is another good episode for Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah. She is one of the driving forces of the investigation and helps smooth the transition between doctors no end with her enthusiasm and ready smile. She invests her relationship with the threatening robot with all the emotion that the story needs and manages to make it a creature as endearing at its destruction as was King Kong at the top of the Empire State Building. The story also introduces Ian Marter as Harry, a bit of a stiff upper lip caricature of a companion, but welcome enough for all that.

ROBOT is a fine way for the fourth Doctor to kick off his tenure and also marks the start of the golden age of Doctor Who.


ARK IN SPACE Originally transmitted 25 Jan - 15 Feb June 1975

The Doctor takes Sarah and Harry into the future, just to prove to Harry that it can be done. They end up on a spacestation that appears deserted, but in fact holds the future of the human race in suspended animation. They are not alone, though. The station has been infested by the Wirrn, a space-travelling insect race that lay their eggs in other lifeforms and absorb them. This has happened to the leader of the awakening humans and there are eggs enough for it to happen to the rest.

Long before ALIEN claimed the idea of using a human host for the incubation of the nasty, Doctor Who was doing it. Admittedly, this episode ripped the idea directly off The Quatermass Experiment. There is nothing as recyclable as a sci-fi idea. Ark In Space is an excellent adventure and really kicks Tom Baker's reign into full swing. The setting of the spacestation is brilliantly realised whether it is the corridors open to space, the sleeping chambers or the stacks where the Wirrn chooses to lay its eggs.

Ah yes, the Wirrn. The insectoid race is pretty well handled by Doctor Who standards. The dead creature that the Doctor and his companions first encounter is convincing enough in its dead state, but the rampaging hordes at the end are clearly stop motion. The green slime that sets about absorbing Noah (no irony in that choice of name) is also bubble wrap painted green.

None of which matters, of course. Ark In Space is a fabulous story. It is atmospheric, tense and very scary for younger viewers. It also has wonderful flashes of humour from the central trio. Tom Baker settles into his role with indecent speed and the characterisation is set even in only the second outing. His chemistry with Elisabeth Sladen is wonderful, her enthusiasm and cheerfulness finally finding a match in him and Ian Marter makes a great third leg of the tripod. The supporting cast are excellent as well with Kenton Moore giving a fine performance as the conflicted, tortured and slowly degenerating Noah, and Wendy Williams as the icy, decisive Vira. Episode one is a complete mystery play, tense and scary. The other three ramp up the action, but never let the tension drop with a credible enemy and credible solutions leading to a credible conclusion.


THE SONTARAN EXPERIMENT Originally transmitted 22 Feb - 1 Mar 1975

In order to test that the Transmat beam from Spacestation Nerva (The Ark In Space) is working properly, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry beam down to the surface of the Earth. Now habitable, though a bit depressingly like Bodmin Moor in the middle of February, the planet is ready for the human race to return. There is, however, someone already there. Survivors from a ship from a human colony are being experimented on by an evil alien that turns out to be a Sontaran (THE TIME WARRIOR) called Styre. A whole battle fleet is poised to descend, but Sontarans never attack without full information about the enemy in order to ensure success of the campaign. As a result, they will arrive only when Styre's assessment of the danger is complete.

Two part adventures are not common in Doctor Who and it is difficult to say whether that is a blessing or a disappointment on the evidence of The Sontaran Experiment. Whilst it is true that the tense atmosphere is very nicely built up and the story is satisfyingly nasty (the experiments that the Sontaran is carrying out all are to determine what it takes to kill a human) it makes little or no sense. The fact that there is a huge battle fleet poised to descend upon an upopulated planet is one thing, but to say that they won't move in without a favourable report from one scout is nonsensical, especially when a quick scan of the energy emissions from the surface would show that it is completely deserted.

Still, all of the pricipals perform well. Tom Baker is completely at home in his new character, whilst both Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter cope well with the not very heavy demands on them.

The Sontarans are very high on the list of beloved enemies of the Doctor despite only appearing in a very few episodes and the activities of the singular sontaran are nasty enough to gloss over the serious problems of the plot and produce a very satisfying, in terms of atmosphere at least, adventure.


GENESIS OF THE DALEKS Originally transmitted 8 Mar - 12 Apr 1975

The Transmat beam taking the Doctor and his two companions back to the Nerva spacestation to report that the Earth is safe for colonisation again, is intercepted by the Time Lords and they are deposited on the planet Skaro. The Time Lords have decided that the threat of the daleks is to great to be allowed and so the Doctor is given the task of destroying them or altering their development so that they become something less inimical to all other lifeforms in the galaxy. Initially furious, the Doctor takes on the mission, if only because he will not be able to return to the Tardis without having done so. The planet is gripped in the final stages of a war that has turned the surface into a radiation-scarred wasteland roamed by mutations of the two main races, the Thals and the Kaleds. They now live in two protected domes, skirmishing with any weapon they can find, both searching for the technological advance that will finally destroy the other. In a top secret bunker, Thal scientist Davros has developed a missile that will penetrate the protective domes and a travelling battle unit that he believes will swing the tide of battle his way. To inhabit the battle unit, he has manipulated Thal genetics into a deformed and twisted creature that he believes to be the final evolutionary state of the Thal people. Once inside the battle units, they will be christened with the name "Dalek".

When anyone thinks of Doctor Who, they think of Daleks. It was their first appearance on the 23rd December 1963 that ensured the series' survival and they had provided some of the best stories since, also providing the two feature film adaptations. Whenever a new dalek story was announced (even in the case of the new series) hopes and expectations soar, often beyond all chance of being met. Genesis of the Daleks exceeds all those inflated hopes and expectations to the point of being very possibly the pinnacle of the entire show. There is no other word for Genesis of the Daleks than masterpiece. If ever you need to introduce a newcomer to the worlds of the Doctor, then this is the story to use.

High praise, but this is one story in which all the elements that make Doctor Who great come good all at the same time. The effect is devastating. The plot and scripts by Terry Nation are not just great Doctor Who writing, but great science fiction writing. This is a story packed full of meaty ideas, all showcased in a cracking, complex and pacy plot. The prime example is the moment when the Doctor is faced with the very real prospect of ending the dalek terror forever and pauses, racked with indecision as whether he has the right to destroy a whole race, a genocide that would make him their equivalent. There is enough action for those wanting that, but the plot also has intrigues and political manoeuvring aplenty with moments of betrayal that are simply shocking.

The quality of the writing allows the actors to be at the top of their game. Tom Baker reaches heights that he was rarely allowed to equal again, Elisabeth Sladen has some of the feistiness knocked out of her by the travails that Sarah is subjected to and even Harry's square-jawed heroism seems to be punctured by the futility of the situation in which they find themselves. And then there is Davros.

Davros is the blind, crippled scientific genius responsible for the creation of the daleks. He is the Doctor pushed through to the Dark Side even more than the Master ever was. When the Doctor debates the morality of universal destruction, it is a conversation of equals and opposites and all the more fascinating for it. Davros's guile and cunning are without measure, but always with the ring of truth about them. If you accept his view of the universe then you cannot deny his motivations. The daleks as an extension of his will makes perfect sense. He is beautifully realised by both the makeup teams and the actor, Michael Wisher, who plays him. Ably assisting him is the splendidly slimy Nyder (Peter Miles who had already threatened the Doctor in Invasion of the Dinosaurs). So duplicitous is the man that you never really know which side he is on. And then there are the daleks, reduced in threat to future potential and Davros's leashed dogs, they eventually slip the leash and have the last word on their creator.

Genesis of the Daleks is the near perfect Doctor Who story and the one that all science-fiction fans should watch.


REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN Originally transmitted 19 Apr - 10 May 1975

The Doctor, Sarah and Harry return to the Nerva spacestation, but centuries before the events of The Ark In Space. At this point, it is a beacon warning space shipping of a rogue asteroid that has entered the solar system. This is the remains of Voga, the planet of gold. The inhabitants of the beacon have been wiped out by a disease that turns out to be a poison injected from the fangs of a cybermat, the metal pets of the Cybermen. As gold lines the breathing equipment of the Cybermen, effectively choking them, they invade the beacon in order to destroy the asteroid. The Vogans living on the remains of the planet have pretty much the same idea and the humans get caught up in the crossfire.

Following on from the near perfection of Genesis of the Daleks, Revenge of the Cybermen was always going to have to be something special in order to avoid being a disappointment. Solid enough, something special it is not, the return of a favourite nemesis notwithstanding. The blood feud between the Cybermen and the Vogans is reasonably well handled, but it suffers in comparison with the standard of the other stories of its period.


TERROR OF THE ZYGONS Originally transmitted 30 Aug - 20 Sep 1975

At the start of a new season, the Doctor returns to Earth to find that oil rigs in the North Sea are being arbitrarily destroyed. His investigations bring him to the conclusion that it is the work of the Loch Ness Monster, an alien creature being controlled by stranded aliens called Zygons who have the power to shape shift into the visage of their prisoners and are planning a take over of the planet to replace their own destroyed one. The Doctor has to rescue the captured humans, destroy the Zygons' ship and then stop the Loch Ness monster from destroying London.

Terror of the Zygons comes very close to being a classic Doctor Who adventure. The early mystery solving tone of the first episode soon segues into more action-orientated sections as Sarah is attacked by the Zygons and the Doctor by the monster itself, all leading up to a terrific chase to London to stop the planned devastation. What pulls it up short is the Loch Ness monster itself.

The Zygon race is one of the most successfully realised of all Doctor Who monsters. Their suits are magnificent, blending into the whole organic tone of their technology. They are never less than believable. The problem is that the Loch Ness monster is never more than completely unbelievable. When it is not on screen, this is a thoroughly entertaining romp, but when it appears all is lost.

It would not be surprising if a few of the Scots were more than a little annoyed at the way that their countrymen are portrayed in the story. To say that cliche is not used as a shortcut to character would be an understatement, but there is never any animosity in the portrayals and quite a bit of fun to be had. It is a shame to lose Ian Marter as Harry, but good to see Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart and UNIT again. Elisabeth Sladen also makes the best of being able to play against human characters for a change as well.

Terror of the Zygons is a good solid start to the Doctor's 13th season and hints at the pleasures to come.


PLANET OF EVIL Originally transmitted 27 Sep - 18 Oct 1975

After a story set close to home, the Doctor takes Sarah to the very edge of the universe itself. On the jungle planet of Zeta Minor, a small group of miners has fallen prey to a mysterious monster. All but wiped out, they protect their discovery of a mineral that will make limitless power a reality with little hope of survival. Until a military ship arrives to take them to safety. Unfortunately, an unseen force drags them back towards certain death, colliding with the planet. can the Doctor discover the origin of the force and counter it in time before they become part of the second biggest bang in history?

Where Terror of the Zygons was all but ruined by one poor special effect, there is nothing to spoil Planet of Evil. The setting of the jungle on Zeta Minor is a wonderfully realised place; hot, steamy, damp and thoroughly alien. There are few alien worlds in DOCTOR WHO that look as great as this one. That goes for the monster that is ravaging the miners. Though ripped directly off from the monster of the Id from the film FORBIDDEN PLANET, it is a shimmering red outline of hate and undeniably something very alien indeed. The setting and monster combine to create an atmosphere of dread in which the story can play itself out.

Though the plot is cobbled together from a number of sources (the transformation of the lead scientist is straight out of The Ark In Space for example), but it does play very well, at least until the military take over, that is.

Tom Baker is fully in command of his character now, and it is a measure of the makers' trust in their character that they allow him to identify more with the monster than with the humans that it is threatening. Elisabeth Sladen, on the other hand, doesn't get a lot to do in this story, one of the few times that she is underutilised by the writers.

Thanks to its marvellous setting and memorable monster Planet of Evil plays in the mind long after the end of the last episode.


PYRAMIDS OF MARS Originally transmitted 25 Oct - 15 Nov 1975

The Doctor takes Sarah back to UNIT HQ, but 60 odd years before the military establishment are occupying it. It is owned by Marcus Scarman, an Egyptologist, recently returned from that country having discovered a lost pyramid. That pyramid, however, housed Sutekh, the last of the race of god-like Osirans, imprisoned by the rest of his kin when his dark designs threatened to enslave them all. The prison is kept in place by a signal originating from a pyramid on the surface of Mars. Scarman has been possessed by the mind of Sutekh and builds robots in the form of mummies to aid in the construction of a rocket to destroy the pyramid on Mars. When the Doctor and Sarah thwart that plan, Sutekh possesses the Doctor and forces him to take Scarman to Mars to cut off the signal.

Following on from the general creepiness of Planet of Evil, here is a very specific form of creepiness. Raiding the Hammer House of Horror's Mummy legacy, this is a very gothic story in a very gothic setting with a very gothic style. There is also a fatalism about it that matches Sutekh's fate. Humans are killed with little compunction, the Doctor matches his mind against Sutekh's and is swatted aside as if a fly, the mummies march implacably onwards in pursuit of their tasks. Anyone who saw this as a child could not have failed to be impressed by its imagery and fatalism.

Despite having its origins clearly on view, the plot of Pyramids of Mars is a singularly original one, although the series of tests that have to be passed in order to enter the pyramid are a time worn device that could have been usefully left out. The scripts are equally as well constructed as the plot.

The mummies are excellent. The simplicity of their form does not detract, but rather adds to, their threat. They cannot be reasoned with, pleaded with, bribed or escaped. Scenes of them waded through the undergrowth in search of Sarah are an abiding memory of mine. Sutekh is another fine creation, hidden under an outfit based on Egyptian art, he is a convincing figure that casts a long shadow over the whole story, until he takes his mask off in the final moments. Something of a mistake that and you would have hoped that they makers would have realised it.

It is quite shocking to see the Doctor so easily subjugated by Sutekh and Tom Baker plays that as well as he does every other facet of the character. Elisabeth Sladen gets to play a more active role in the plot as well.

Pyramids of Mars is one of the most deliberately horrifying and scary adventures that the series has ever produced and is all the more memorable for it.


THE ANDROID INVASION Originally transmitted 22 Nov - 13 Dec 1975

The Doctor and Sarah arrive in a small country village, but find that all is not quite as it seems. It all seems to be a bit fake. That is because it is fake, a mock up created by the race of Kraals to use to rehearse an invasion plan. The village is home to a huge Space Defence Centre and it is that which the Kraals need to destroy in order to allow their invasion fleet to land. They plan to use the incredibly lifelike androids they have created to fool the real humans for long enough to destroy the centre.

What on earth is this story doing in the peak period of Doctor Who's golden age? The plot is dull and makes no sense at all. What's worse, it's written by the great Terry Nation! The few effective moments (Sarah's face falling off) are not enough to make up for the story's failings. Perhaps it was done just to remind us to enjoy the excellence on show in the other stories because it could always revert to this.


THE BRAIN OF MORBIUS Originally transmitted 3 Jan - 24 Jan 1976

Morbius was one of the greatest criminals that the race of Time Lords ever produced. Fortunately, he was executed for his crimes, but a fanatical follower managed to procure his brain and has been fashioning a body from the parts of crew members from the ships that he manages to lure onto the barren, lightning streaked planet he is exiled on. Sharing the planet with him is the mysterious Sisterhood, a sect of women as powerful as the Time Lords and guardians of the Elixir of Life. When the Doctor and Sarah appear, Morbius wants his head as a new home and the Sisterhood assume he has come for the Elixir and so just want his head. Sarah, meanwhile has had an accident and has been rendered blind.

The Brain of Morbius is a Hammer Horror film in space. It is the Frankenstein story retold. The body is stitched together from the body of unfortunates as the home for a sick brain. On top of that there is a deformed servant who might as well be called Igor. Despite all that, or possibly because of it, this is one of the very best Doctor Who adventures ever.

The atmosphere that is generated by the makers of this episode is amazing. There is genuine horror in the living body of stitched together spare parts and the lightning streaked planet is the perfect Grand Guignol background.

There is also a superb performance from Philip Madoc as the driven, some would say insane, genius that has kept Morbius alive and covets the Doctor's head to finish his work. Morbius himself is seen as an opponent to challenge the Doctor and the final mind duel between them is not seen as a foregone conclusion. Both Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen rise to the occasion, both giving fine performances, the latter making Sarah both tough and vulnerable when coping with her blindness.

There had been horror overtones in Doctor Who for some time, but this is the story in which it reaches its height, but it is also one of the very best that the series produced.


THE SEEDS OF DOOM Originally transmitted 31 Jan - 6 Mar 1976

Alien pods are discovered in the Antarctic ice and the Doctor is called in to take a look. He recognises them as Krynoids, the most dangerous plant life in the universe. A millionaire plant enthusiast (for which read raving ecological maniac) steals one of the pods whilst the other is destroyed and sets about hatching it. It needs a host and Sarah is selected, but the Doctor rescues her and the millionaire's luckless servant is infected. He swiftly transforms into a plant creature capable of influencing other plant life and which, if allowed to grow and release its own pods, will eventually wipe out all animal life on the planet.

There is no need to ask where the inspiration for this story comes from as it's all in the first two episodes. The plant running riot in the frozen wastes is a direct take from the film THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, but it does then at least go on to evolve into something more original. Unfortunately, the story is somewhat stretched out into a six parter and does feel padded in places. It also finishes rather bizarrely when the threat is removed by the planes of UNIT merely bombing it out of existence. This is one of the few times when bullets and bombs are sufficient to remove the alien menace.


THE MASQUE OF MANDRAGORA Originally transmitted 4 Sep - 25 Sep 1976

The Tardis gets caught up in a spiral of Mandragora Helix and takes on board an unnoticed hitch-hiker. Arriving in renaissance Italy, the Doctor and Sarah find themselves caught up in a struggle between the newly born forces of science and the still surviving forces of superstition. If the latter, now boasting the power of the Mandragora Helix energy, prevails then humanity will be plunged into an eternity of terror and darkness.

What's this, a historical story? There hasn't been one of these since Sarah's arrival in The Time Warrior and it's all the more welcome for it. The period setting lifts what would otherwise be a rathe lacklustre effort up a few notches to make it quite interesting. There are a few power struggles and the slow incursion of the Mandragora energy into the political power of the age is quite well handled, but not exactly the stuff of nightmares. It is quite and interesting episode, but far from the best.


THE HAND OF FEAR Originally transmitted 2 Oct - 23 Oct 1976

The Doctor and Sarah arrive back on Earth and Sarah finds a fossilised hand. She is immediately possessed and takes the hand to a nearby nuclear power generator where she places the hand near to the reactor and it regenerates into a Kastrian criminal known as Eldrad who wants to return home to rule over the race that imprisoned him. The Doctor obliges, but the world is dead, the race long since crumbled to dust. Eldrad decides to return to Earth to rule that instead, but the plan is foiled. The Doctor is summoned back to his home planet of Gallifrey and knows that he cannot take Sarah with him, so he drops her off back in London.

It's the end of an era and the beginning of the imperceptible slide that was to take Doctor Who from the height of its powers to the ignominy of its cancellation. With the departure of Sarah Jane Smith, things were never quite as good again. The plots remained good for a while and there were some interesting companions, but the hill turned downslope at this point. That said, the last story for Sarah Jane is a solid one, one that concentrates on her as the one who is possessed by the hand. Clearly the makers wanted her to go out on a high, which she does, despite one of the worst outfits that they ever asked her to wear.

So long Sarah, we missed you.


THE DEADLY ASSASSIN Originally transmitted 30 Oct - 20 Nov 1976

After dropping off Sarah at the end of the last story, the Doctor travels alone to his home planet of Gallifrey where he immediately becomes embroiled in a plot to assassinate the President. Accused of the murder himself, he stands for the Presidency as he is protected from all prosecution during the campaign. His campaign, though, is to find the true killer. The assassin seems to be hiding in the Matrix of the central computer, an artificially created world in which the normal rules of physics don't apply and the power of the mind can shape reality (hang on a minute, that sounds familiar. Paging the Wachowski brothers...).

The Deadly Assassin is the story that brought the wrath of the decency campaigners of the UK down on the back of Doctor Who. After all the threats to his life, torture and abuse, the cliffhanger ending showing the Doctor being drowned was considered to be too violent. Go figure.

Despite the loss of the best companion he ever had, the Doctor carries on with a pretty damn fine adventure. As well as the backdrop of Gallifrey (shown in more detail than ever before), the plot is clever, pacy and exciting. The sequence where the Doctor challenges the unseen assassin within the heart of the Matrix is surreal, bizarre and very successful. This is Doctor Who on the edge and all the better for it. The reveal of the true mastermind behind the plan and his motives are fantastic, playing with the show's mythology to brilliant effect. As well as action, tension and, a little bit, of horror there is also a leavening of humour that serves the story well.

The sets depicting the closed Citadel of the Time Lords are very effective and quite grand. The Time Lords themselves are shown to be a bunch of fussy old worrywarts, which seems like a pleasing depiction of a race that consider themselves to be one of the greatest powers in the universe. They are singularly unable to deal with the viper in their midst and the Doctor is soon running rings around them all. The make-up for the evil genius at the heart of the plot is also extremely good, perhaps a little too good for smaller, impressionable children.

The Deadly Assassin is a fine example of what the show is capable of and bridges the gap into the new era of companionship for the Doctor extremely well.


THE FACE OF EVIL Originally transmitted 1 Jan - 22 Jan 1977

Escaping from Gallifrey before he can be invested as the President, the Doctor winds up on a jungle planet where a tribe of savages called the Sevateem are locked in an eternal combat with the evil Tesh, another tribe that has kidnapped their God, Xoanon and taken him behind a giant wall that bears the giant face of the Evil One. That this Evil One is the dead spitting image for the current incarnation of the Doctor takes some explaining, as does the quite advanced, though unworking, technology that serves as the holy relics of the Sevateem. They, it seems, are the descendants of a survey team from an alien ship. The Tesh are the descendants of the ships technicians. The question is, how did they devolve to their current warring status and exactly what role did the Doctor play in matters?

After one, rare, story in which the Doctor is alone, a new companion is introduced in the shape of Leela, played by Louise Jameson, and The Face of Evil is a good story for an introduction. Admittedly, many of the elements (regressed colonists, mad computers, technology masquerading as the divine) are far from original, even for the show, but they are combined in a solid and entertaining story that has its share of surprises (the revelation of the face in the wall as that of the Doctor is a classic Doctor Who moment). What really raises it up, though is the introduction of Leela. A refreshingly unwordly and violent companion, she makes for a fun departure from the templates of the past. She also provides an antithesis to the Doctor, relying on her reactions and strength, where he relies on his mind and technology. This allows for plenty of fun dialogue and the immediate creation of a chemistry between the leads. Leela also marks a very definite attempt by the Doctor Who team to sex up the show, for the males at least.


THE ROBOTS OF DEATH Originally transmitted 29 Jan - 19 Feb 1977

The Tardis materialises aboard a giant sandminer, a ship with a small human crew skilled in the art of mining precious minerals out of swirling sandstorms. To aid these decadent experts are dozens of robots, governed by unbreakable programming to ensure that they cannot harm their masters. The crew are dying, though, and it appears that the robots are responsible. Can the Doctor convince the officers that he and his companion have nothing to do with it, find out how the robots are now able to kill and stop the slaughter before it is too late? Could it be a natural revolt against their servitude or the work of the missing scientist Taren Capel, who was raised from birth by robots? If it's the latter, then which member of the rapidly dwindling crew is the robot master in disguise?

The Robots of Death is a very simple story indeed. It could be seen, in fact, as a direct update of the works of Agatha Christie, 10 Little Indians or Murder on the Orient Express perhaps, but the simple nature of the story is just one of the strengths of this particular adventure. Hanging off this simple premise is a quartet of scripts that build up rounded characters, real tension and a sense of mystery and threat that is palpable. This is one of the stories that might seriously have been considered for a later showing because of the content. The real power of the story, however, is the realisation of the titular robots. Though they are obviously performers in costumes and masks, the costumes and masks are triumphs of design. Their stylish, elegant and attractive, but most definitely non-human, faces immediately set them apart from the human crew and their unflappable courtesy and calm in the face of bad treatment from their masters and the terrible events happening around them only increases the sense of their alienness. There can be little creepier than the sight of a robot strangling a victim whilst calmly apologising in the same voice as it would normally acknowledge an order to open the door. This design work extends to the whole of the sets and the modelwork that make the sandminer seem perfectly real. This is one of the rare Doctor Who stories where the low budget special effects do not let it down for even a single shot.

At the heart of this is the double act of Tom Baker and Louise Jameson, whose partnership is off to a flying start, both seeming at ease in the company of the other. They are backed up by a cast that seem willing to play more for real emotional responses rather than the more pantomime playing that is normal for the show. The Robots of Death is not one of the show's high profile stories, but it is easily one of its best realised on every level


THE TALONS OF WENG CHIANG Originally transmitted 26 Feb - 2 Apr 1977

It's 19th Century London and the Doctor has brought Leela to Victorian England where a series of murders seem to have been caused by a giant rat in the sewers. The rat is really guarding the lair of stage magician Li H'Sen Chang who is in turn working for what he believes to be an ancient God, Weng Chiang. Chiang is, in fact, a war criminal from the future who is using living beings to keep his molecular structure intact.

Putting the Doctor into what is essentially a Sherlock Holmes story with added giant rats and pig monsters is such a stroke of genius that you have to wonder why it wasn't done before. The settings are suitably Victorian with lots of eerie fog rolling about setting up a brilliantly sinister atmosphere. It could be argued that the use of chinese characters as such villains is a bit racist, but no more though than accusing the show of picking on daleks. In truth, having human villains for once makes the show all the more chilling and believable.

Both Tom Baker and Louise Jameson rise to the challenge of the excellent script by giving excellent performances, to the point of Leela's fear in the face of the rather unconvincing rat making the creature look far better than it really is. The supporting roles are all well played, but John Bennett is particularly excellent as the inscrutable (well, the word had to crop up sometime) Li H'Sen Chang.

This is one of the more straightforwardly horrific stories and is all the better for it. The younger viewers might especially find the animated killer ventriloquist doll a bit on the scary side.


THE HORROR OF FANG ROCK Originally transmitted 3 Sep - 24 Sep 1977

The Doctor and Leela show up on a sea-washed rock whose only inhabitants are the two men running the lighthouse. Or rather were as they are soon joined by survivors from two wrecks. The first is a clipper ship washed ashore by the storm and the other is a Ruton starship knocked out of the sky. Soon enough, the humans start dying in weird fashion and its up to the Doctor to identify the source of the killings and use the victorian lighthouse equipment to neutralise a deadly enemy.

What an atmospheric set-up. A lonely lighthouse being lashed by storms. Strange lights in the sky. A huddle of sodden humans and an invisible killer in their midst. A classic Dr Who set-up that serves a not-quite classic adventure.

The period setting is quite lovely and fabulously realised with marvellous sets & costumes, but the characters are, whilst not quite cliché, really rather dull and react to their situation in predictable fashion, making it much harder to care about which ones of them don't make it. The acting is also much more of the exaggerated panto style as compared with the more genuine emotions of those caught in a similar position in The Robots of Death.

The Rutan itself, when finally revealed as an amorphous red jellyfish is a real letdown and certainly does not appear to pose a credible mortal foe for the Sontarans with whom we are told they have been at war for years.


THE INVISIBLE ENEMY Originally transmitted 1 Oct - 22 Oct 1977

Oh where to start? The Invisible Enemy has more than enough people who will tell you that it is the worst Doctor Who story ever. That's a big statement and, considering the depths to which the series fell in the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy reigns, probably a little unfair. That it has one of the worst monsters is much fairer.

Things start off well enough with inmates of a penal colony contracting a disease that gives them enough intelligence to escape. The Doctor is contaminated and gets himself to a medical satellite. There, a copy of the Doctor and Leela are reduced in size and injected into the Doctor's brain to find the source of the infection.

It's at this point that everything goes pear-shaped. Doing a Doctor Who version of FANTASTIC VOYAGE is one thing, but doing it without any reference to medical knowledge is unforgivable. The two explorers wander around inside a brain without worrying about things like how they are going to breathe, or why there seems to be a studio floor them to walk on. Even the kids know enough to know it's not like this.

Then there's the Source, a truly dire monster that isn't even worth describing.

The Invisible Enemy also introduces the Doctor's latest companion K-9, the robot dog that so splits opinion. A great character, but a prop that never really works properly and ends up being fixed all the time as an excuse for not being in the show.


IMAGE OF THE FENDAHL Originally transmitted 29 Oct - 19 Nov 1977

Following on from the lamentable The Invisible Enemy, Image of the Fendahl was always going to profit by comparison. As it is, it stands on its own against the best that the series has to offer. An ancient fossilised skull being studied in a private lab seems destined to blow open theories about the evolution of mankind. Unfortunately, it isn't human at all and the energy it is being fed as part of the experiments is allowing it to exert a control over the technicians studying it. Through them, the Fendahl plans to come to Earth and conquer it.

There are some serious echoes of The Hand of Fear in the back story of Image of the Fendahl , but that aside, the plot is strong, there are some great characters from the testy, confrontational lab assistant to the feisty old white witch (absolutely not as demeaning as previous treatments have been).

On the non-human level, the glowing skull is used most effectively to raise unease and tension, being truly creepy. The Fendahleen aren't the best rendered monsters ever, but at least they are original in design. The final appearance of the Fendahl is a bit of a letdown as the all-powerful alien we have been told about is merely the lead actress painted gold. The fact that the eyes are painted over her closed eyelids is painfully obvious.

Even so, the build up is excellent with some real tension and good acting.


THE SUN MAKERS Originally transmitted 26 Nov - 17 Dec 1977

In the distant future, the human race has been reduced to slaves living underground and kept at bay by the huge taxes payable for the provision of air and the sunlight that only the privileged few are allowed to see. The Doctor foments a rebellion and finds out who is really behind it all.

A Dr Who story about taxation? Well, it's certainly a new idea, but like most tax returns it's dull.

At least the demise of the pantomime tax collector (and he is played just like a pantomime dame) is faintly shocking in its abrupt and brutally old fashioned manner.


UNDERWORLD Originally transmitted 7 Jan - 28 Jan 1978

The Doctor and Leela are caught on a spaceship that is turning into a planet. Matter is coagulating around it and the pressure will soon kill them all.

Following taxes, we now have a lesson in gravity and planet formation. Again, it's not exactly bad, just dull.


THE INVASION OF TIME Originally transmitted 4 Feb - 11 Mar 1978

After encountering some tin foil in space, the Doctor returns to Gallifrey to claim the Presidency that he won at the end of The Deadly Assassin. He immediately starts disassembling the planet's defences. Is he under the influence of the aliens or does he have a plan?

The Invasion of Time marks Leela's last trip with the Doctor as she elects to stay with a time lord security guard after a sudden and unconvincing romance. K-9 remains as well, but the Doctor has a Mk2 version. Both could have asked for a better swansong.


THE RIBOS OPERATION Originally transmitted 2 Sep - 23 Sep 1978

A new idea and a new companion. The idea is a season of shows with an overrunning arc story (and you thought Babylon 5 was the first). Time is pretty unstable stuff and two powerful guardians keep the balance. Every so often, things get out of kilter and so the White Guardian assembles the Key to Time to sort it all out. The Black Guardian, meanwhile, tries to get hold of the key to cause untold chaos. The key has six segments scattered through time and space and the White Guardian has chosen the Doctor to be his tool for gathering them all together.

The companion is Romanadvoratrelundar (Romana for short), or Fred as the Doctor likes to call her. She is a time lord at least as versed in physical and temporal sciences as the Doctor, but without any of the streetsmarts. Played by Mary Tamm, she makes a wonderful counterpoint to the Doctor and the early exchanges between her and Tom Baker here are delightful. The story is less so......


THE PIRATE PLANET Originally transmitted 30 Sep - 21 Oct 1978

The search for the second segment of the Key to Time lands the Doctor and Romana on a planet ruled by a pirate captain. It is hollow and roams the universe, appearing around other planets and mining out their wealth, killing every living thing in the process. Romana sets about finding the segment, whilst the Doctor unlocks the secret to destroying this awful business and K9 comes up against a mechanical parrot even worse than he is.

The standard of this season seems to be set in this second story. The plotting is arch and beyond even the flexible boundaries of the show's reality. The acting is poor, not from the principals, but from the support. The captain is truly overboard in every sense. As a result, there is no tension and not a lot of entertainment if you're over the age of 5.


THE STONES OF BLOOD Originally transmitted 28 Oct - 18 Nov 1978

Now this is more like it. Somewhere near the Rollright stones in Oxfordshire, something strange is going on. A force is trying to break through and it is using the stones to do its bidding. The Doctor and Romana must discover the truth about the stones before the evil is released.

Easily the best of the Key to Time stories, The Stones of Blood has well-drawn characters, good acting all around, great monsters (not a lot you can do against an angry rock) and a plot that takes a sudden swerve in the middle and becomes something else altogether. It's not often, by this point, that Doctor Who manages to surprise its fans, but this story does it.


THE ANDROIDS OF TARA Originally transmitted 25 Nov - 16 Dec 1978

The next segment of the Key to Time is found on the planet Tara, but Romana is taken prisoner by a Count who is planning to overthrow the Prince before he can ascend the throne. The Doctor repairs an android copy of the Prince designed for use as a decoy against assassins to stall the plot, but the Count sends a killer android Romana to kill the Doctor.

This is a pallid story that is painfully copied from the classic tale THE PRISONER OF ZENDA with added androids. The political charades aren't particularly interesting and the the whole killer Romana thing harks back to Sarah Jane in The Android Invasion.

About the best things that can be said about this story are that everyone seems to be having a good time making it and the costumes loook really good on Mary Tamm.

We'll just not mention the Taran Beast OK?


THE POWER OF KROLL Originally transmitted 23 Dec 1978 - 13 Jan 1979

In a marsh on a moon of Delta Magna, a methane refinery is under threat from the indigenous creatures, nastily referred to as 'swampies'. Their life is being threatened by the refinery, but an even larger threat to both sides appears with giant Beast Kroll emerging from beneath the waters.

A story about the rape of the landscape by corporate greed and and the accompanying decimation of, sometimes ancient, cultures, you could take away the creature effects, put it in the rain forest and call it a documentary. Well, perhaps not quite, but there is a level of social commentary here that is very laudable. Sadly, very little else about the story is. The plot meanders about getting nowhere, the swampies' makeup is not very effective and the matting in of the giant Kroll is pretty poor, even by Doctor Who standards.

Nice last moment with the little Krolls, though.


THE ARMAGEDDON FACTOR Originally transmitted 20 Jan - 24 Feb 1979

Two planets are locked in neverending war, raining missiles down on each other. A giant fleet is assembled for one final assault, but the Doctor learns that the enemy race was wiped out ages ago and t e fight is being carried on by a war computer being controlled from an invisible third planet.

The final story of the Key To Time season is a poor creature to round off a poor season. The linking story idea was a good one, but the individual stories never matched the concept. The idea here that the final segment of the key is a living being and so the Doctor cannot transmute her is a fine one, especially as it leads to the unmasking of the White Guardian's true nature in a conclusion that works far better than it has any right to.


DESTINY OF THE DALEKS Originally transmitted 1 Sep - 22 Sep 1979

There is activity on the dead planet of Skaro. The daleks are digging for something in their old city. Another race, known as Movellans want to prevent them from getting it. The target is Davros, creator of the daleks and not as dead as he ought to be. He could be the key to resolving a stalemate in an interstellar war, giving the daleks ultimate victory.

Dalek stories always cause a frisson of excitement and this proves to be an entertaining start to the new season. True, Davros should be deader than a dodo after the events of Genesis of the Daleks, but at least the reasons for the daleks digging him up have some sense of justification. Which brings us to the Movellans. There's something spooky about them from the start, so when they are revealed to be an android race as well they make for a credible foe to the daleks.

It's also welcome to Lalla Ward as the regenerated Romana. We're sorry to see Mary Tamm go, but she is a breath of youthful fresh air.


CITY OF DEATH Originally transmitted 29 Sep - 20 Oct 1979

Whilst holidaying in Paris, the Doctor and Romana follow a trail of alien technology to the home of a Count who is really an alien being who was shattered through time when his spaceship exploded in the past. Having guided the evolution of mankind to the point of discovering time travel it is his intention to go back and prevent the explosion. As the explosion provided the energy to create life on Earth the Doctor has to prevent him.

A combination of factors make this a delightful story, fondly remembered by many. The parisian atmosphere and location shooting give it an air of sophistication which is enhanced by the inclusion of the urbane Julian Glover and glamorous Maria Schell. The plot is quite dense, fitting a cunning plot to steal the Mona Lisa and sell genuine copies (commisioned by the alien from Leonardo Da Vinci himself) into an overarching plot that threatens the very existence of humanity itself. The scripts have genuine wit, rather than shoehorned in jokes and there is the impression that everyone is taking the show seriously again.

The appearance of John Cleese and Eleanor Bron as art snobs is funny, but ultimately detracting.


CREATURE FROM THE PIT Originally transmitted 27 Oct - 17 Nov 1979

On a planet with little metal, the supply is controlled by a female leader whose soldiers hunt down dissenters with animated plants and throws them to the creature in the pit. That creature is really an ambassador from a metal-rixh, but vegetation-starved planet that was hoping to trade. Not willing to give up her monopoly, the leader imprisoned it in the pit, but now the others of its race have sent a neutron star on a collision course with the planet in retaliation.

This is a poor story, with poor dialogue and poor acting. The original concept, allowing for an examination of the effects of monopoly and corruption, is fine, but the story spirals off into nonsense and silliness.


NIGHTMARE OF EDEN Originally transmitted 24 Nov - 15 Dec 1979

Two ships have become locked together by an accident on emerging from hyperspace. One of them is carrying a machine that traps whole environments in its crystals. From one of those environments escape creatures called Mandrels, which have been captured because when they die they degenerate into a highly addictive and very profitable drug.

DOCTOR WHO is a family show, so it is very unusual to find drugs featuring in a story. Add to that the commentary upon the exploitation of natural resources for greed and you get quite an interesting suntext to a DOCTOR WHO story. Sadly, the actual plot doesn't live up to that subtext and the Mandrels are amongst the most pathetically rendered creatures that the show has ever produced.


HORNS OF NIMON Originally transmitted 22 Dec 1979- 12 Jan 1980

The Tardis needs repairing and appears on a ship carrying sacrifices intended for the Nimon. This creature has promised a return to galactic greatness in exchange for the sacrifices and a powerful energy source. That source will open a passage through which all the other Nimon will surge to take everything of value unless the Doctor can stop them.

Vying for the top spot on the list of worst-ever Doctor Who stories, this is very poor with little to recommend it, although the nature of the Nimon and what they are about (ie intergalactic locusts) is just the same as that of the film INDEPENDANCE DAY only a couple of decades earlier. The Nimon creature makeup actually makes you look back on Nightmare of Eden's Mandrels with nostalgia.


THE LEISURE HIVE Originally transmitted 30 Aug - 20 Sep 1980

The Doctor and Romana visit a state-of-the-art leisure complex on an otherwise dead planet. The central machinery that creates the games that many come to play has been modified to provide a rejuvenating effect, something that will assure the financial future of the Hive, but old enemies plan to use it for more sinister motives.

This story is only memorable for its gimmicks. The Doctor is torn limb-from-limb and aged a hundred years by the machinery, but the rest of the plottingbis in turn by the numbers and dull. The production values have improved, however, with the settings looking more impressive than for some time.


MEGLOS Originally transmitted 27 Sep - 18 Oct 1980

An alien creature traps the Tardis in a time loop and becomes an exact duplicate in order to steal a power source which can be incorporated into a weapon of devastating power.

Seeing a time lord/cactus hybrid is the only reason to watch this story. This is the kind of thing that the Master used to get up to and do rather well, but here it fails miserably to inspire.


FULL CIRCLE Originally transmitted 25 Oct - 15 Nov 1980

Falling into a parallel dimension known as E-space, the Doctor an Romana find a crashed space-liner in which humanoids live in fear of the marshmen who emerge from the fogs. Romana falls prey to the powers of the marsh spiders asbthe Doctor tries to repair the ship and save the inhabitants.

The marshmen are updated silurians in unconvincing rubber suits that fail to engender any fear, thus robbing the seige scenario of a lot of its impact. That said, the marsh child lost and caught up in events it cannot possibly understand is a figure that engenders a lot os sympathy. The marsh spiders are also less than effective, except when a fruit Romana is using for defence bursts open and spills one onto her face.


STATE OF DECAY Originally transmitted 22 Nov - 13 Dec 1980

Three Lords live in a tower and terrorise the villagers living in their thrall. It becomes clear to the Doctor that they are vampiric creatures living in the remains of the spaceship that brought them to E-Space. They are the stewards of the last Great Vampire, a race that once ravaged the universe. Can the Doctor destroy the giant beast before it awakens to start a new reign of terror?

There is an atmosphere of dread and foreboding here that serves the story well. The idea of the vampire myth is nicely woven into a tale that both follows the traditional format whilst embellishing and explaining it.

This is the most effective story for some time.


WARRIOR'S GATE Originally transmitted 3 Jan - 24 Jan 1981

The Tardis is hijacked and brought to a white void where a slave ship sits alongside a gateway into an ancient banquet hall. Ancient robots walk abroad and neither time nor space are quite as they should be.

It's a long time since DOCTOR WHO concentrated on it older viewers. This is a story of strange, bizarre and otherworldy things that often defy explanation. There is casual brutality and deaths that have the kind of impact that death ought to have.

The result is a story that not only invites a second viewing, but actually requires it.

For the first time in a long time, DOCTOR WHO challenges its audience.


THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN Originally transmitted 31 Jan - 21 Feb 1981

A stone statue from space is exerting a dangerous and evil influence over the power struggles at the top of the Traken power structure. Its purpose is to gain access to a power source that will regenerate the Doctor's nemesis, the Master.

Political stories are often the least effective in DOCTOR WHO and this proves to be somewhat less than fascinating. The fact that the evil is a statue that cannot move about sums up the show. It is all an excuse to get the Master into a new regeneration and back on the show in a move that smacks of desperation.


LOGOPOLIS Originally transmitted 28 Feb - 21 Mar 1981

The universe should have died from entropy overload a long time agobut the people of Logopolis have calculated a way of draining away the excess entropy through phenomenal mathematical calculations and a copy of a radio telescope from Earth. When the Master kills several of the people making up the organic computer of Logopolis, they can no longer carry out their function. The Doctor must complete the signal from Earth or die in the attempt, or possibly both.

Tom Baker leaves the show after a seven year tenure that included some of the highest and some of the lowest points that it ever reached. That he had to go out in style was a given and Logopolis, whilst far from perfect, has a lot of that.

Discussions about heat death and entropy are about as close to hard science as Doctor Who ever gets. The idea of a race acting as components in a giant organic computer is wonderful. Exactly why they need an exact replica of an earthly radio telescope is never adequately explained and the Master is the pantomime face of evil, but the story is hugely enjoyable and at least sends the old doctor off well.














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