We have now finished reviewing all of 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. Not like Jon Pertwee’s previous CV anyway!
Nevertheless, new producer Philip Hinchcliffe saw in Baker, enough to compliment his grown-up new era of gothic and horror pulp – inspired Who stories.
Baker eventual trademark was his distant cold “alien quality”. As Philip Hinchcliffe coined it, Baker 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 he showed tenderness, more than with any future companion. He was a myrad of complex and conflicting emotions, more so than any Doctor before – or since.
After serving in the role of the Doctor for the next 8 years, it then became – not a matter of ‘who can we get to replace Tom Baker?’ More like ‘can anyone replace 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 for the greatest Doctor.
It’s hard to dispute this, when you look at the opening catalogue of Tom’s run in seasons 12 – 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 must rank in every top-20 best Who.
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 with the kids-show-angle, 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 4 seasons; till dropping out – in The Hand of Fear, a turn that is still the longest serving companion to date.
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 – watered down horror and tongue-in-cheek humourous take. JNT brought an upto-date 80’s inspired science-fact feel.
Graeme Williams era moved the tone back from adult drama to child-friendly and humourous. But their 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, 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, 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 K9, as a new companion.
Season 16 brought in a episode format shift – with the ‘Key To Time’ story arc, which involved the retrieval – every week of a new key segment to build a fearsome weapon. It was at this point, that 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. Who 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 never finished due to a BBC Technician’s strike and the forum debates still rages about whether it would have been a good episode – or not.
Baker’s final season 18 also heralded a change of head producer – from Graeme Williams to JNT. Who introduced a large number of changes in his first season in charge.
Out went K9, Romana, the old time-tunnel titles, Delia Derbyshire’s theme tune arrangement. Even Baker’s trademark scarf wasn’t safe and it was changed, along with a new red outfit and a questionable question mark motifed shirt.
To be fair, the quality of the stories in Season 18 was still reasonable high. 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. Who was to figure quite heavily in the Fourth Doctor’s demise
Baker’s swansong Logopolis was not in itself – a strong episode but it did offer Baker a memorable exit from the show; with probably the best 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 the highest standard. Even in poorer episodes, he was still dynamic and enthusiastically pushing the story along; which was enough to raise an average episode – watchable.
After 8 years in the role, Baker had become singularly identifiable as the Doctor and remains to this day – the greatest Doctor there ever was, is and will probably – ever be.