Who would’ve thunk it? Forty years ago today, Tom Baker made his very first appearance in the Jon Pertwee classic, Planet of the Spiders. As a tribute to the man who many see as the definitive Doctor Who, the writers here at Blogtor Who, along with a few very special guests, have got together for a big Tom love-in. Below you’ll find our favourite The Fourth Doctor stories (or ones that have a special place in our hearts) and just why the curly-haired, wide-eyed, scarf-wearing, jelly baby-brandishing Time Lord is such a legend.
THE BRAIN OF MORBIUS
Edward Russell (Doctor Who Brand Manager)
Tom Baker story, I honestly didn’t know where to begin. I was four
years old when Tom began his tenure. Back then, I had no concept of a
favourite adventure. It was all wonderful. Every episode was such a
magical experience and I’ve tried to carry that feeling into everything I
do today. I began to wonder if it’s only when we get older, when we
become “a fan” that we start ranking stories against each other?
But it then occurred to me that we’re talking about the Philip
Hinchcliffe years. A truly golden era in Doctor Who’s rich history. I
find it hard to fault anything from those three series but, with Blogtor
holding a metaphoric gun to my head (he’s more Countess Scarlioni than
Scorby) I’ve decided to go for Brain of Morbius.
Famously, Terrance Dicks was so unhappy with his script for the story
that he asked for his name to be removed. It’s hard to see why, but
giving Uncle Tel the benefit of the doubt, a lot of this story’s
greatness comes from the performance. I still laugh like a drain at the
“can you spare a glass of water?” line (allegedly improvised by Tom and
Lis in rehearsal) and Sarah Jane’s temporary blindness is truly
frightening – so believable is Sladen’s performance.
But it all boils down to Tom. A year into the role and truly at this top
of his game, no other story showcases his ability to turn from comedy
to pathos to anger to euphoria.
I was six years old at the time, but I’m positive it was this story that
made me want to one day work on our favourite TV series. As Tom would
say, some 37 years later, “You know, I really think you might”.
Chris Chapman (Doctor Who documentary maker)
What Planet of Evil does so well (and what certainly had a big impact on me that early morning) is atmosphere. The jungle sets are rightly acclaimed, but it’s more than that – more than most Who stories there is a real sense of impending doom here, of life and death hanging in the balance. David Maloney’s taut direction is a big part of that, but it’s the performances of Tom and Lis that really seal the deal. It might be Sarah Jane going all twitchy-fingers in the jungle, or the Doctor shouting dire warnings at the naive Morestran crew – they sell every moment.
So imagine my surprise when I got more involved in fandom and realised this was seen as a pretty average adventure. Well, fandom, you are wrong. It’s frikkin awesome.
GENESIS OF THE DALEKS
Richard Starkings ((DWM comic strip editor, 87-89)
there’s one DOCTOR WHO story that has stayed with me over the years,
not just from the Tom Baker era but from the entire canon, it is GENESIS
OF THE DALEKS. Long before STAR WARS drew upon the iconography of World
War II, long before BATTLESTAR GALACTICA featured a war of attrition
depicting freedom fighters as terrorists, Terry Nation, Robert Holmes
and Philip Hinchcliffe delivered a harrowing morality tale that set the
tone for Tom Baker’s seven year reign as The Doctor.
It not only gave us
a completely satisfying new villain in the shape of Davros, and his
compelling “Up above the Gods” exultation; it also gave us Daleks who —
despite having played second fiddle to Davros through most of the story —
delivered their own chilling manifesto “When the time is right, we will
emerge and take our rightful place as the supreme power of the
Best of all, when the Doctor decides he cannot complete his mission for
the Time Lords, the humanistic Doctor established by Barry Letts,
Terrance Dicks and Jon Pertwee is evident when Baker’s Doctor considers…
“If I kill. Wipe out a whole intelligent life form, then I become like
them. I’d be no better than the Daleks.”
In that moment, in all the
moments like this that followed — and preceded his decision — the Doctor
manifests his enlightened nature as the World Honoured One, the Buddha,
and encourages us to do the same. THAT is my Doctor.
THE DEADLY ASSASSIN
Richard Dinnick (The Underwater War author, Big Finish writer)
Deadly. Assassin. I know. The qualifier is
unnecessary. We all know. And yet… It is an amazing story for so many
reasons. And I don’t think “The Assassin” has quite the same ring.
the time I was jumping about this story was so exciting. The Doctor. On
his home planet. Framed for being the titular lethal killer by the
grimmest and most ruthless portrayal of the Master to date. I thrilled
at the Time Lords robes and it seemed absolutely right at as characters
they should appear as old duffers. This was what the Doctor had run way
from. As a kid, I totally got that.
I loved Runcible the fatuous (had to
look that one up) and the whole police procedural thing. And The Doctor
suddenly rising and being Byronic while waxing lyrical about facets of
legal precedent. This was meaty. This was serious. And Gough. I loved
Gough. I think he’s actually the best renegade Time lord we’ve ever had.
And I include this, perhaps my favourite Master, in the line up.
people get hot under the collar about taking away the mystery. I don’t
think this is true. The Doctor was still a mystery after this. We just
knew a bit more about why he ran away. There was character development
here. And real jeopardy for the Doctor and something personal. Great,
great stuff. Who cares if the title was a tautology? It was a great
tautology and it sounded scary and serious and important. All of which
the story was. So I think it works just great. In fact, if an assassin
isn’t deadly, he or she is pretty rubbish. So there, it’s a great story.
CITY OF DEATH
Tommy Donbavand (Shroud of Sorrow author)
to be the ultimate outing for Tom Baker as The Fourth Doctor. With
location filming in Paris, a fracture in time, the last of the Jagaroth
race and the creation of all life on Earth – it has, literally,
In this story, Tom is at his playful best – delivering
the lines provided by Douglas Adams and Graham Williams with gusto.
From flirting with fellow Gallifreyan, Romana II, to trading quips with
the irrepressible Duggan – here is an actor who is finally comfortable
enough in the role of the Doctor to leave the scientific gobbledegook
for another day and just have a little fun.
That’s not to say
there aren’t problems here. We never get to know who the character is
that draws Romana quite so strangely, and there is the on-going wobble
to Scaroth’s mask and gloves – but these issues fail to detract from a
stunning location, solid direction and joyful performances.
say, what a wonderful butler! He’s so violent!” remains one of my
all-time favourite lines from Doctor Who – and who better to deliver it
than all teeth and curls? Truly brilliant television!
THE HAND OF FEAR
Niel Bushnell (The Timesmith Chronicles author)
The climax of episode one is what sticks in my mind the most – the stone hand coming to life, wriggling like a finger-nailed spider, scaring me half to death. But it was the wild eyes of the Doctor that kept me coming back for more, week after week. Tom Baker really shines in this story. He’s intelligent, playful, inquisitive, and very alien. Yet it’s all reigned in here, bubbling just under the surface. He takes every moment seriously, from mishaps in a quarry to navigating a crisis at a nuclear power station. His intensity compels us to believe it all. He makes the story all the more terrifying. Even now his genius is evident.
Thank you, Tom, for helping to make me the proud geek that I am today.
Hayden Black (The Dr Who Ultimate List Of Lists, Behind The Sofa)
It was a few days after Christmas, 1974 when the world
realized there was an unopened present hidden under the tree. It opened the
wrapping and out popped one of the best Christmas pressies ever.
team of Hinchcliffe, Holmes, Sladen & Marter behind him, the world got a
few perfect years. Never mind the budget (or lack thereof); just look at that
first Doc-splosion, Robot. His personality dominated the screen
along with his wide eyes, curls and teeth. Within seconds it was “Jon
Pertwee-wee-wee, all the way home”. Throwing himself in and out of Bessie,
a stupidly long scarf blowing in the wind that became cooler than any Fez or
bowtie could EVER be, Baker stamped his unique impression on the series faster
than any other Doctor before or since.
sequence where he keeps emerging from the TARDIS in different outfits; skipping
rope with Harry; throwing a bucket of metal-eating goop onto the giant robot
(okay, well, maybe not that sequence. After all, K1 wasn’t the best-realized
robot. I much preferred the eighth-next version, K9). But it brought with it a
man born for the role.
NIGHTMARE OF EDEN
Cameron K McEwan (The Who’s Who of Doctor Who author)
the world of Doctor Who this Tom Baker four~parter has rather a sour name; “laughable”
is usually the word it arouses. But not for me.
When I was “getting” back into Who (around 1992), I was collecting all the stories I could – usually taped off UK Gold (using
various friends who had such a remarkable thing as “satellite” TV) and
purchasing the odd one here and there. Heading this journey was my quest
to find a story which utterly horrified me as a youngster and one that stuck in my mind as scaring me to my very core.
There was a story that included a painting, or screen, that came to life. People would go into it and bad stuff would happen…. *shivers* And then whatever was in there, escaped… *double shivers*
Even worse, these things, these
monsters, were disgustingly malevolent beings and THE MOST SCARIEST,
MOST BONE~CHILLING THING EVER!
After a LOT of searching (before the internet, fact fans), I found it. Watching it again back in the early
Nineties was an eye~opener. Although I could recognise the facets that
had terrified me so, some fifteen years previous, the comedy of the
performances and production was most overwhelming. I had truly put my
demons to bed. And slept with them. Twice.
I’ll never tire of Nightmare of Eden. It’s of its time,
for sure, but it always reminds me that I was once scared. Once
terrified, even. A feat that no television programme or film, for that
matter, has managed. Now, of course, I sit and watch it laughing
uproariously wasted and blitzed out of my mind on Vraxoin™.
Gavin Dunbar (Camera Obscura bass player)
first Doctor. He’s probably still my favourite. I can’t remember which
series I first saw at the time, I remember watching Leela, and I’m sure I
saw some with Sarah Jane (or I could just be getting mixed up with my
much listened to LP of Genesis Of The Daleks that I played regularly,
even though it scared me senseless and the explosions near the start
were really loud).
It’s really hard to pick a favourite, but I’m
going to go with Logopolis. It was the first time I’d seen a
regeneration, and we all knew it was coming. The Master had returned
and we knew he’d escaped. The Fourth Doctor’s time was up, and the
funereal tone of the whole story is set out for all to see.
get to see the more of the TARDIS, I loved to see more of the TARDIS,
but it was proper TARDIS corridors and rooms, and not like in The Invasion of Time. The Cloister Room was a thing of beauty.
majestic, an amazing swan-song performance. A proper last chance to
show us his Doctor chops. You can really believe Tom Baker was The
Doctor, probably cause he believed he was. This was his last performance
and he went for it. He has great lines like the TARDIS wheezing like a
Grampus, and spouting the second law of thermodynamics. I still love the
burgundy coat and scarf get up. Logopolis gave him the send off he
THE ROBOTS OF DEATH
Emrys Matthews (Blogtor Who contributor)
This is my favourite ever Doctor Who story largely because when I was young it scared the bejesus out of me and nostalgically still does. The placid murderous Robots are so scary and the claustrophobic, inescapable locale aboard the sand miner add to the tension. Tom is on particularly good form here.
Regardless of all of the above, he is calm and makes the viewer feel safe in the face of adversity. His wit and wisdom is at its height with the immortal retort, “You’re a classic example of the adverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain.” I love his relationship with one-off secret goodie robot D84; he treats the undercover agent droid like a human in only the way Tom Baker could.
Even though Tom and Louise Jameson apparently didn’t get on very well, you can’t tell and even after just one prior adventure their camaraderie is perfect. The Doctor saves the day in a typical Doctor way, even when up against a particularly terrifying genius madman, he wins the day with science.
Another favourite, even though it makes little sense, is when Tom shows up as “The Curator” in The Day of The Doctor, when I heard his voice I had shivers, a magical moment indeed.
REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN
Dave Prince (Blogtor Who contributor)
When I was asked to write a piece on my favourite
Tom Baker story – The stories that sprang to mind first were Genesis Of
The Daleks, The Hand of Fear and City of Death. However I then found myself
coming back to one story that I always seem to watch and go to when I
want some Tom action – I always watch Revenge of the Cybermen.
return of the Cybermen was, for me, one of the highlights of The Fourth
Doctor’s era and still to this day the emotions I start to feel at the
sight of the Cybermat attacking Sarah-Jane are those of complete dread.
story for me has everything in it – Sarah Jane & Harry – tick,
Amazing Double Entendre – tick (Just check out – “Take the Cybermen from
behind.”, “We’re still heading for the biggest bang in history” and
“Pull it harder, it’s coming.”) and some great edge of the seat
cliffhangers. It was also the very first Doctor Who story to be released
on home video back in 1983.
This was the perfect end to Tom’s debut season and one I will truly cherish forever.
CITY OF DEATH
Andrea McGuire (Blogtor Who contributor)
There’s simply nothing that compares to City of Death for bringing together everything that is great about The Fourth Doctor’s era. Douglas Adams gives us a sparkling script that is fabulously played by everyone involved from the big chap himself to the wonderfully dour Tancredi’s guard, and every single line is a total delight in what is one of Doctor Who’s most quotable episodes.
The supporting cast in City of Death are especially memorable and the villains are so sartorially elegant, you’d be happy to join them just for the swish threads. Heck, even the henchmen sport dashing trilbies. But I digress.
Tom Chadbon’s clobbering, bashing detective Duggan is a great part, well played as is the tragic Countess and poor old Kerensky, who only wanted to feed the world. The standout role, of course, is Julian Glover’s fractured Scaroth. Glover brings wit, elegance and 400,000 years of agony as the last survivor(s) of a pretty nasty race. Scaroth is a one-off characters you long to see again.
And, of course, I can’t finish without mentioning Tom Baker and Lalla Ward who were never better than they are here, romping through Paris to solve a centuries old crime and save the human race. The chemistry between them is so great, you can see why they merrily waved Duggan a swift goodbye and skipped off together past the Eiffel Tower.
THE INVISIBLE ENEMY
Nick Fraser (Blogtor Who contributor)
Familiar twin strips of time tunnel stab their way across the television screen, expanding to envelop the TARDIS, travelling outwards topped by its peculiar dome-shaped blue light. Then the gradual reveal of the unsettling gaze of the curly-haired Fourth Doctor, staring straight ahead, no reassurance offered for what might be coming.
“Contact has been made”. Yes, it’s The One With The Giant Prawn. I’m cheating really. For my favourite Tom Baker adventure, I’ve chosen one that’s been stored away in my memory by the six year old me, and never been viewed since. Probably for the best, if only for the sake of that giant prawn.
The Invisible Enemy is worthy of attention though. Doctor Who voyaging properly, and perilously, into space. The Doctor infected by a deadly virus. A race against time to find a cure. A futuristic space hospital. The virus’s growing band of sinister hosts. Clones of The Doctor and Leela sent on a tour around the inner spaces of the Time Lord’s mind. The swarm’s bubbling breeding tanks on Titan (I was suspicious of mushrooms for a long time after).
No wonder the opening titles offered no comfort. For the six year old me this was deadly serious. The Doctor was under the control of an evil entity. Who was going to save him?
Cue sound of whining motors…”Affirmative…master”.
THE SEEDS OF DOOM
Philip Rowntree (Blogtor Who contributor)
I remember my first Baker story. I was around at my cousins and I was
introduced to The Seeds of Doom (also my first extended story… TWO VHS
is something playful and unreliable about The Fourth Doctor. Baker has the
power to switch from happy go lucky traveller ambling his way through
the universe to a man in perilous danger.
we mention those eyes? Whether under the control of Sutekh, offering an
unsuspecting enemy the timely distraction of a jelly baby or the
heartbreaking moment he bade goodbye to Sarah Jane; those eyes told a
story like no other Doctor.
enough to be all of the above, The Fourth Doctor has (in my opinion) the
best costume… So much so, I may have asked my mother to provide me
with my very own scarf!
CITY OF DEATH
Darren Chadwick-Hussein (The Bloody Mary Show writer)
Tom Baker’s Doctor grins too much. He grins in the sort of way that sets off alarms with Operation Yewtree investigators.
personally, of course. The stories did. They were tales of terror that
these days would carry warnings in the Radio Times. Daleks, Cybermen –
pffft. Tin cans and silver paint. They were nonsense. The most
pant-wettingly terrifying moment? Scaroth unmasks in City of Death. Here
was the reveal of a wholly new organic terror and to this day I still
find myself explaining this in the offices of psychotherapists. Yes, I
screamed. Yes. I peed myself. Nothing else has ever had the same
Does it still fill me with terror? Not really. Not in the
same way a weather station outside Burnley still does. But that’s
because my parents told me it is where the Sontarans landed and were
busy conducting experiments.
Is Baker adored because of his
performance? Absolutely. But he heralded, in my eyes, the last of the
truly terrifying antagonists. Baker was great and needed equally
impressive villains – and he got them.
So yes, we all loved Tom
Baker. And his incessant gurning. If he ground his teeth at the same
time you’d think he’d be discovered crystal meth forty years before the
PLANET OF EVIL
Sami Kelsh (Blogtor Who contributor)
took me a while to warm up to Tom Baker. In hindsight, it’s hard to say
exactly why: I suppose, in part, that as a perennial champion of the
underdog, I was entirely prepared to feel more or less lukewarm about
such a well-loved and well-remembered Doctor. That said, it was
inevitable that good old Crazy Eyes Bob Dylan would eventually charm his
way right into my heart, with his toothy grin always towing the line
between precious and unsettling, and, of course, his evident fondness
for quality knitting.
|Artwork by Sami Kelsh|
What really made me love him, though, weren’t the jelly babies or the monsters or adventures, but those little character moments, the little instances of warmth and friendship between Doctor and companion, like that little scene in Planet Of Evil, and that little smile the Doctor shares with Sarah Jane before they make their escape. The Doctor’s inherent playfulness is such an integral element of Baker’s performance, and it’s hard not to be charmed by his irreverence in the face of danger, but for me, it’s those little moments of sincere affection and rapport that make his Doctor nothing short of magic, and a part of some of my favourite television friendships.