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Season 12 Overview

By Stuart Brown & Philip Braithwaite

SB: Tom Baker's first season is interesting for a number of reasons. It was the first to have all existing episodes released on video, it is six episodes short of Tom Baker's usual season length, it has old favourites the Daleks and Cybermen making an appearance, and perhaps most importantly it ushers in the new Doctor. More mad and archaic than any of his previous incarnations, the new Doctor's thought processes seem less logical and tend to flip about on a whim - at least for this season. Season 12 as a whole is highly enjoyable entertainment with Tom giving a great performance. Harry is similar to Ian Chesterton except that he is more chauvinistic and repeatedly calls Sarah 'old thing' much to her chagrin. Harry is independent and the Doctor doesn't have to spell everything out for him. A rapport quickly builds up between Sarah and Harry. Sarah finds she can relate to the new, different Doctor easier than his previous incarnation; as a friend rather than a protector. She has a few sarcastic remarks for Harry or the Doctor when they start to annoy her. Sarah is also intelligent and independent but trusts the Doctor implicitly.

PB: In this season we see Tom Baker as a rational, sensible, and logical Doctor certainly not the Tom Baker that everyone grew to know and love; surely not the Tom Baker that has never slipped in popularity for not only the fans but the viewing public? Strangely enough it is the aforementioned qualities that give this season its excellent quality. In City of Death - a much later Tom Baker story - we see a bumbling, clumsy, idiotic 'fool', but in Season 12 we see a much more serious and down-to-earth Fourth Doctor who is at times almost miserable. It seems odd to me that this being his first season and the fact that he was in a post-regeneration state, Tom didn't exert that natural wit and humour as an excuse for his unstable state. It would have made more sense that he would begin unstable and gradually 'tone down'. Although I have not seen the entirety of any other Tom Baker season, I have viewed many of his stories and would not be surprised if the best came first...


SB: The Doctor is much more eccentric than any previous incarnation. His comedy routine when he tries to return to the TARDIS and Harry stops him, is hilarious and when he walks out of the TARDIS with a Viking costume on, his dead-pan expression and line are wonderfully executed. The robot looks good although the CSO with the tank and 'rag doll' Sarah failed to impress. Some of the action was taken away from the Doctor to allow Sarah. Harry and the Brigadier to do things independently and this carries the story along and brings credibility to the notion that the world does not revolve around the Doctor. The idea of a robot with a brain and emotions seemed rather clichéd but works well and the robot has a menacing air about it. The plot has many threads - an emotional robot, plans to start World War III, a disintegrator gun, the Scientific Reform Society and the Doctor's regeneration - they all come together to add up to a satisfactory conclusion. Good acting from all comers, in particular Patricia Maynard (Hilda Winters) and her snivelling assistant Alec Linstead (Jellicoe). Tom Baker does take a while to adjust to his role and it seems as if he's 'trying on' various versions of the Time Lord - in doing so creating a very erratic and even neurotic Doctor. Overall, a good solid story which successfully ushers in a new Doctor and tells a decent story without being too heavy-handed about it. One of Tom Baker's better stories.

PB: Robot was a reasonably good story to introduce Tom's Doctor however it suffers due to the far-fetched ideas of 'living metal', a robot with a brain and a vaporising weapon that makes things disappear - Earth technology in the 1970s? Save it for the alien planets! On the effects side, the robot itself is not exactly a visual masterpiece, but typical Doctor Who. The CSO work of the robot growing and shooting the tank is laughable but forgivable. I enjoyed Tom's performance as the 'erratic' new Doctor, though I feel that he settled in to the problem at hand far too easily. Of particular interest were the scenes of the Doctor escaping the sick bay, only to be tracked down by Harry. The following 'exercise' scenes in which the Doctor tries to prove to Harry that he is fit, are very humorous. When Sarah and the Brigadier find Harry tied up and locked in a cupboard it is reminiscent of the sort of thing the first Doctor would do. When the Doctor walks out of the TARDIS dressed as a Viking and is unable to agree with the Brigadier that he would be too conspicuous is very funny. What wasn't so satisfactory was how easily everyone accepted the Doctor's regeneration and went on with their daily lives, especially Sarah. She'd seen K'anpo regenerate and heard the Third Doctor's explanation, but it would surely still be hard to come to terms with.

The Ark in Space

SB: The Ark in Space works very well. A strong plot, witty dialogue (especially between the Doctor and Harry), sparkling characterisation and an atmospheric setting which is almost gothic - perhaps a precursor to later seasons? There is top-notch acting from Kenton Moore (Noah) and Wendy Williams (Vira). Especially of note are the scenes in which Noah pleads with Vira for her to kill him and she finds she can't and when he pleads with her to come with him. The story is spiced throughout with comic relief, such as Harry's concern for his shoes. Rogin's moaning about the transmat setting his teeth on edge, and the Doctor's general 'madness'. The gradual transformation of Noah from human to Wirrn was extremely effective. The Wirrn looked okay and the larval stage was also acceptable. The cost-cutting exercise of using the same set for Revenge of the Cybermen and the strong story link with The Sontaran Experiment effectively allowed The Ark in Space fit in with the rest of the season. Of particular note was the cryogenic room with its vast interior and lighting which made it seem bigger than it really was. The only let-down was the Wirrn puppets in episode four.

PB: The Ark in Space was a very good, solid and almost believable story. It had just a little more of Tom Baker's natural humour shining through, along with his natural madness! I very much enjoyed Harry's total bewilderment at what was happening to him; I could definitely sympathise! His initial 'burbling', as Sarah put it, was only to be matched by his shock of finding himself in a future time period: The Doctor: 'I'd say these were made in the 30th Century.' Harry: 'Oh no...' The Doctor: 'You don't agree?' At the start of this story Harry feels very inferior to the Doctor, but eventually redeems himself. The story itself is very well structured. Of course it was written (or at least rewritten) by Robert Holmes; one of the true masters of his time.

The Sontaran Experiment

SB: This story seemed to go all too fast. The acting was of a high standard with convincing reactions from the Galsec team. The robot was laughable. I didn't think much of the guns - with no beam and only a light flashing inside they did not look realistic. The redesigned Sontaran mask didn't look as good as in The Time Warrior but did show that Sontarans of different ranks do differ in appearance. I feel this story could have done with another episode but there did seem to be a lack of material to make it a four-parter. When Harry fell down the ravine it seemed far more realistic than the Doctor's fall. The strong links with The Ark in Space flow so smoothly that it could be considered a six-parter. Overall, a good story if a little short.

PB: In my opinion, The Sontaran Experiment has very few faults, except for the design of Styre's robot (which isn't bad. but does look like a cute toy!). There are the usual weapons which merely light up and the unforgivable cop-out of the Doctor being saved from death by a piece of metal in his pocket (although this later led to an amusing contradictory statement). This is an excellent piece of work which because of its length included no pointless padding. The same cannot be said for the next story.

Genesis of the Daleks

SB: This story was possibly the best of the season. It had some brilliant acting with Peter Miles (Nyder) and Michael Wisher (Davros). This is not so much an alternative history of the Daleks as a different interpretation of the same idea - instead of the Daleks evolving naturally (or unnaturally as it were) from a nuclear war. Davros pushes for the creation of the totally ruthless beings of destruction. Davros's reaction to what the Doctor says about having a virus which would destroy every living creature is very interesting. Davros's betrayal of his own race just to allow his Dalek dream to flourish was depicted to great effect as it showed that nothing would stand in the way of his dream, no cost was too great. The episodes did have a bit of a dull feel with may be an episode of padding, but Genesis of the Daleks is slightly cerebral with a strong moral message involving fascism, conformity, the effects of nuclear war, and genocide.

PB: This story is too long with much running around from bunker to bunker and not enough solid story, but it has an excellent realistic quality missing from too many Doctor Who stories, particularly the scenes in the Thal rocket silo with Sarah and the Muto. Here we see a very reserved and almost miserable Tom Baker, who appears to be positively dreading meeting the Daleks. In this story he seldom uses any of his natural humour at all. If the Doctor hadn't been there at all would anything have been different? I think it is quite an interesting and effective contrast that for once the Doctor actually fails!

Revenge of the Cybermen

PB: This is one of my all-time favourites. The plot's not complicated and a little weak in parts, and the Cybermen are slightly out of character but I think it makes a welcome change for being easy to follow and not at all heavy-handed. We see a little more of Tom Baker's wit and trademark humour with his mad shriek of laughter accompanied by the line 'Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!' I've always liked Harry's character and feel he was too short-lived. Throughout the season I enjoyed his naive baffled quality and his position as a target for putdowns from the Doctor, who constantly asked his opinion on things he knew nothing about, took the mickey out of him, or just plain insulted him!

SB: Revenge of the Cybermen is nothing special and the Cybermen do not look good compared with past and future Cyber-stories. The chilling scene where the Cybermen gun down the Doctor at the opening of the airlock and Sarah's virus both stay with me as vivid images of this story. The special effect of the virus was done successfully. The plot is sound, even if the Cybermen do seem to have thick South African accents. The single-minded determination of the Cybermen to destroy Voga - whatever the cost - made sense. This story also features one of the best Doctor Who actors, Kevin Stoney, who had previously been in The Daleks' Master Plan and The Invasion in which he played characters obsessed with power. In this story it's hard to recognise him under all that make-up! The level of acting was nothing great but there was the classic one liner from the Doctor 'Harry Sullivan is an imbecile! ' The running around under Voga was forgettable but the idea of being chained up with gold was an interesting one. I expect Harry would have taken large handfuls! Overall an excellent season with brilliant performances from Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter (pity he didn't last longer). It served the purpose of introducing the Doctor as well as adding and expanding on the current Doctor Who mythos of that time.