We have now finished reviewing all of the Tom Baker – Fourth Doctor episodes; in the episodes section.
It’s odd to think, looking back now. That when Tom Baker was confirmed – as the Fourth Doctor; to replace outgoing Third Doctor – Jon Pertwee. He (and the shows producers) were criticised for employing the then youngest actor cast in the role – at only 39 years-old!
Some said, that casting Baker was a risk, who bar a few small noteworthy TV and movie character parts; was not a well-known enough face – to step into the Doctor’s shoes.
Nevertheless, new producer Philip Hinchcliffe saw in Baker, enough to compliment his grown-up new era – of gothic and horror pulp-inspired sci-fi stories.
Baker eventual trademark, was his distantly cold “alien quality”. As Philip Hinchcliffe coined it, Baker also brought a sense of “olympic detachment” – to the role. Along with his intimidating presence, piercing stare – and booming voice.
Of course, Baker brought a multitude of other qualities to the role too. With Sarah-Jane, the Fourth Doctor showed manic charm and tenderness.
After serving in the role of the Doctor, for 8 years. It then became – not a matter of ‘who can we get to replace Tom Baker?’. More like ‘can anyone replace ever Tom Baker?’
Baker’s time in the role, also set a number of records on the show; which have still yet to be bettered today.
He is still, the longest serving actor – in the role ‘to date’ – at 8 years. He has appeared in the most episodes (and more arguably) – he is considered the most eligible candidate z for the greatest ever Doctor.
It’s hard to dispute this, when you look at the opening catalogue of Tom’s run in seasons 12 to 14. Robot aside, The Ark in Space, Genesis of the Daleks, The Brain of Morbius, The Seeds of Doom, The Deadly Assassin, The Talons of Weng-Chiang and Pyramids of Mars;easily rank in any top-20.
Behind the scenes, writers like Robert Holmes, Bob Baker, Dave Martin and Terry Nation; were churning out creative material. Producer Philip Hinchcliffe, was guiding the show in a more adult-orientated direction; which was to prove controversial, not least with TV moral-crusader Mary Whitehouse.
In front of the camera, most popular companion – Sarah-Jane, found her feet (much better with this new younger and more dynamic Doctor) and went from strength-to-strength, alongside Baker for four seasons; till dropping out – in The Hand of Fear. A turn that is still the longest serving companion to date – alongside longest serving Doctor.
If each actor chosen to be the Doctor, brings a new take to the role and new direction. Then the same can be said about the head producer – behind the scenes. Baker had three different producers.
Philip Hinchcliffe brought serious grown-up drama and gothic horror, homaged from the pulpy Victorian classics. Graeme Williams brought a more child-friendly and watered down horror – and tongue-in-cheek humourous take. JNT brought an upto-date 80’s inspired science-facty real feel.
The Graeme Williams era, moved the tone back from adult drama to child-friendly – and humourous. However, there were still some good Hinchcliffe stories in there; Horror of Fang Rock, Image of the Fendahl and The Invasion of Time – amongst others.
New companion – Leela was a strong step-up in feminist progression (on steriods) from Sarah-Jane. As a fearsome Sevateem warrior maiden; Leela who would sooner stab an opponent in the throat – or pierce them with paralyzing Janus thorns.
Other stories didn’t quite hit the mark – though and the Hinchcliffe golden-era was offically over. Underworld, The Sun Makers, The Creature from the Pit, The Horns of Nimon and The Invisible Enemy, all had promising concepts but didn’t quite make classic grade – due to budget constraints. Although the latter, brought in the much loved new companion; K9.
Season 16, brought in a episode format shift – with the ‘Key To Time’ story arc; which involved the retrieval – every week of a key segment; to build a fearsome weapon. It was at this point, that Doctor Who started the trend of looking back to old episodes – for inspiration.
‘Key To Time’, was much like the First Doctor adventure The Keys Of Marinus from 14 years earlier. It also introduced, new companion Romana – into the mix. Romama made an interesting intellectually equal(sometimes superior!), foil for the Doctor.
Season 17 went back to a more open narrative, with individual stories. City of Death was the season highlight – and the seasonal finale Shada was strong but (sadly) never finished due to a BBC Technician’s strike. The forum debates still rage, about whether it would have been a good episode; or not. General consensus is – it was probably a classic.
Baker’s final season 18, also heralded a change of head-producer; from Graeme Williams to JNT. JNT introduced a large number of sweeping changes, in his first season – in charge.
Out went K9, Romana, the old time-tunnel titles, Delia Derbyshire’s theme-tune arrangement, Baker’s trademark scarf.
To be fair, the general quality of the stories in Season 18, was still reasonable. Along with the use of new state-of-the-art visual effects. Meglos, State of Decay and Warriors’ Gate – were all strong affairs.
The Keeper of Traken, also saw the re-introduction of the Master character. So sorely missed, from the previous 8 years; as played by a new actor – Anthony Ainley. Ainley was to figure, quite heavily – in the Fourth Doctor’s demise
Baker’s swansong Logopolis, was not – in itself; a strong episode but did offer Baker – a memorable exit from the show. With probably the best realised regeneration sequence. Featuring, the mysterious Watcher character; who stalked the Fourth Doctor, throughout. And that was that.
Sadly Baker could not be persuaded to return, for the 20th Anniversary special The Five Doctors and stock footage of Shada was used instead. In publicity shots, they bizarrely used Baker’s Madame Tusseads waxwork!
What Baker brought to the role of the Doctor, was a real commitment to the character and a love for playing the role week-in-and-out, to high standard. Even in poorer stories, he was still dynamic and enthusiastically pushed the story along; which was enough to raise an average episode – somewhat.
After 8 years in the role, Baker had become singularly identifiable – as the Doctor. Baker remains to this day – the greatest Doctor there ever was, is – and probably – ever willbe.