Monday 12 December 2011

385 Robot Part Four

EPISODE: Robot Part Four
TRANSMITTED: 18 January 1975
WRITER: Terrance Dicks
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who – Robot

Winters has Kettlewell start the countdown to missile launch, but while Winters is checking the food stores Sarah & Harry escape overpowering Jellicoe and allowing Kettlewell to pauses the sequence and the three of them to escape. Kettlewell is accidentally slain by his robot who, having killed it's creator, collapses. UNIT storm the bunker and the Doctor cancels the missile launch that Winters restarted. The recovered Robot takes Sarah hostage. Benton reminds the Doctor of Kettlewell's living metal virus and the Doctor & Harry search Kettlewell's lab for it. The robot restarts the missile sequence and announces it plans to build more machines like itself. The Doctor has the Brigadier get the world powers to operate their fail safe procedures forcing the count down to abort. The robot emerges from the Bunker and the Brigadier attacks it with the Disintigrator gun. However the robot absorbs the energy and uses it to grow to giant size. It places Sarah on the roof of the Thinktank building then attacks the UNIT troops. The Doctor & Harry arrive with the metal eating virus which the Doctor throws over the robot causing it to shrink, rust and disintegrate. Sarah is sad following the robot's death, but the Doctor persuades her to come for another trip in the Tardis but as they're about to leave Harry enters the lab. He doubts the Doctor's claims about the Tardis and is tempted inside.....

You can't really go wrong with a countdown to add a little tension to a story but stopping it and then restarting it TWICE ? That's a little much. And what on earth is Winters doing checking their food stores five minutes before the start of a nuclear war? It's a bit late then to go to Sainsburys to stock up so I can only assume she's got OCD of the highest order! You actually feel as if the Brigadier has a reasonable number of men in this episode as there's lots of UNIT troops on display here. When the Robot grows to giant size, and plonks Sarah on a nearby roof, the episode's King Kong roots come to light. It's not clear if writer Terrance Dicks, writing his first solo Doctor Who script, or new script editor Bob Holmes came up with this element but Holmes obviously liked it because he spends a good proportion of the next few years, once he's cleared the backlog of scripts commissioned by Barry Letts & Terrance Dicks, doing homages to various old horror films. Terrance Dicks meanwhile raids the Third Doctor's back catalogue one more time: The scene of the Doctor slopping the virus from a bucket in the back of Bessie is very similar to Benton throwing the fungus at the Maggots, again from the back of Bessie, in the Green Death. Here Terrance Dicks claims to have invented the tradition of Script Editor writing the first story after he left but David Whitaker (left Dalek Invasion of Earth, wrote The Rescue), Dennis Spooner (left The Chase, wrote Time Meddler), Gerry Davis (left Evil of the Daleks, wrote Tomb of the Cybermen) & Derrick Sherwin (first left script editor's role at the end of the Mind Robber, wrote the Invasion). Bob Holmes will later follow the tradition by leaving after Image of the Fendahl and then writing The Sunmakers.

And a huge cheer please for the debut of a fourth Doctor staple towards the end of the episode:
Would you like a Jelly Baby?
Scarf, Hat, Jelly Babies, voice, wild staring eyes. All present and correct. We're all set up and good to go for the next Seven years. As an introductory story Robot does it's job: here's the new Doctor but look there's lots of old and familiar things round him, so that's OK, it's still the same show and I say that new chap is really rather good isn't he?

The end of Robot sees the final regular appearance of Bessie, the Doctor's yellow Edwardian roadster used on Earth throughout the Third Doctor's era. It'll be back though, with the Third Doctor in Five Doctors before making it's last appearance in Battlefield.

Robot is also the start of a four season long package of stories which was syndicated to television stations in the USA. Although Doctor Who had been shown previously these stories, frequently edited together to form compilations, were repeated an nauseum and were what really cracked the US for the show. Even more than the British the American image of Doctor Who is scarf wearing & jelly baby eating!

Terrance Dicks novelised his script for Robot, with the name being modified to the more dramatic sounding The Giant Robot. It was the first Target Book I ever read, being picked off the paperback shelf in my local library. In retrospect it probably has a lot to answer for as the books played a vital part in cementing me as a Doctor Who fan and in the process encouraged a love of reading in me. For many years Giant Robot only existed in paperback, a hardback edition not being released until 1986. A junior edition of Giant Robot, one of only two junior Doctor Who books, was released in 1980. Robot was released on video in January 1992 alongside Caves of Androzani, the Fifth Doctor's final story. BBC Video had obviously gone regeneration crazy because two months later they released Logopolis & Castrovalva, the Fourth & Fifth Doctors last & first stories respectively, and then in May 1992 released The Twin Dilemma as a Woolworths exclusive. Robot was released on DVD on 4th June 2007.

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