Retro-View #7: Here We Go Again

Robot (Story #75, 1974-75)
Viewed 05 Nov 2012

Doctor/Companion: Four, Sarah Jane Smith, the Brigadier, Harry Sullivan
Stars: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Nicholas Courtney, Ian Marter
Preceding Story: Planet of the Spiders (Three, Sarah Jane)
Succeeding Story: The Arc in Space (Four, Sarah Jane, Harry)

    We've finally made it up to the era G saw bits of in college. "Yep. I remember him" is her first comment as Robot begins. It's wonderful to see this post-regeneration transition period again through the eyes of someone who's never seen it before. Granted, it's only been about five years since I first saw it myself, but evidence suggests I've turned into a bit of a ming-mong since then.

    So I take great joy in her delight over things like the Doctor's erratic behavior, his mention of "the definite article," his first sight of himself in a mirror, and the way he chooses his outfit. It is, perhaps, the main reason to recommend this particular serial. Not, of course, that G doesn't enjoy it thoroughly while still pointing out the obvious and/or silly bits.

    To wit, she realizes immediately when our intrepid Companion (Sarah Jane always did have a bit more gumption than sense of self-preservation) ends up at Think Tank that, "whatever it is is going to fall in love with Sarah." She wasn't taken in by the off-screen tinkering with K1's inhibitor, either: "A little WD-40, and we're on track to kill!" As Part Two progresses, she is particularly enamored of the way Sarah Jane is so proactive (she loves the Brig's call to action, "or shall we leave it all to Miss Smith?"), and she believes she's got it sussed when Kettlewell (whose hair is truly impressive) goes to answer a knock at the door: "Uh oh. It'll be the silver dude. It'll be like killing dad."

    And, true to form, she gasps a bit and wiggles in anticipation of the resolution as the sting crashes in as K1 is about to kill the Doctor. "These guys were absolute geniuses at knowing where to leave off." Sadly, the trend doesn't continue for the next episode, but she makes a good point - when they get a cliffhanger right, they really get it right.

    Some things, though, just kind of go wrong. Although, having seen it several times myself by now, I'm able to make the convolutions of the plot self-consistent in my own mind, I can't fault G for feeling things stumble a bit. As first Kettlewell and then his eponymous robot appear on stage at the Scientific Reform Society meeting, her reaction says it all: "I don't get it." It really doesn't quite make sense, at least upon first viewing, and I think G's put her finger on precisely why. "Kettlewell was a double agent? But he seemed so distressed about his robot! ... That's the part that didn't work for me."

    At least they seem to have gotten the characterization of their lead character down pat. "Isn't she just the evilest?" Maybe it's just putting a skirt on the standard over-the-top Evil Scientist (and it puts me in mind of the group the became the downfall of poor Yates in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, who also forgot that the end can't justify the means), but at least she was a strong female character, even out-women's-lib'ing Sarah Jane at one point.

    We had a good laugh together over the less-than-spectacular effects that just couldn't match the imagination of the script, but G always manages to take the story seriously nonetheless. "Oh! It's just making him bigger!" she exclaims as UNIT tries the disintegrator gun on K1. "'For once, we don't need the Doctor'," she scoffingly quotes the Brigadier. I'm pretty sure the Brig was regretting that particular utterance almost immediately himself.

    G also sees Sarah Jane's next role coming a mile away: "This is gonna be like a Fay Wray!" Then, things just kind of get silly - though she does spare a "What an ignominious end!" for the poor UNIT soldier who got stepped on. Most of the rest of the plot from this point on seems to be taken in stride or shrugged off.

    After the denouement, she offers a few observations about this new Doctor and the direction things seem to be going:

    • "At least he's arrogant in a fun way - enjoyably arrogant."
    • The Doctor offers Sarah Jane a jelly baby.
      G (as creepy Doctor): "Want a piece of candy, little girl?"
    • "So, the doctor's the next male foil. Good; I liked him."

    This all appears to bode well, as our next adventure will feature Harry again, and we've got several years' worth of material during which to experience that (hopefully still) enjoyable arrogance - though, of course, we'll only be doing a few here and there. We're on our fourth face, though, and there are still no signs that G will be deterred from her bubbly enjoyment of the franchise. May that never change.

    Verdict: Thumbs up

    Looking ahead: Genesis of the Daleks



    I did enjoy this review, although I myself have not seen as many of Three's, including this one. I have seen "Genesis of the Daleks," though, so yay!

    I bought the Davros box set. The most I have seen of Three is in "The Five Doctors" and the Dalek story. I have been concentrating on buying more of #5, Peter Davies. Not sure why, but he is what I am buying at the moment.

    Although I haven't been here in a bit, I have been following you on Twitter - not sure if you've seen me, have made a few comments!


    By TREE (not verified)
    mrfranklin's picture

    Welcome back. :) Have you tweeted me and I've not replied? Exceedingly sorry, if that's the case - I try hard to reply to everyone but spambots...

    Four had some good stuff. He can get on my nerves (as mentioned in Confession #6), but there's a good reason he was so popular.

    I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on other stories as you expand your repertoire! :)

    By mrfranklin

    I'll definitely share my thoughts in the future. I just finished "Castrovalva," and I enjoyed seeing the regeneration. I wanted to start fresh with Peter Davison. In terms of story, I didn't think it was all that great, and I take the acting for what it was, but at some points, I just wanted to smack Teegan and Adaric. I guess it was just the vehicle that introduced Peter Davison, but as I mentioned, the story didn't impress me.

    I am "tree1882" on Twitter. If you get a chance, follow me. I know you're busy with other things. I have tweeted you, but it's no big deal - I did know you got a lot of tweets. :-) I don't really tweet much on my own, but I am looking for followers. So far I have two, and one is my brother who is never on! LOL.

    I do have stories with Four, and I plan on watching them as well. It's just that he was on the show so long and there are so darn many DVDs to buy. Sigh! I have asked my husband for an Amazon gift card for Christmas, though, so I'll be able to get some more stories. I really wish I could go in order from the beginning, but it's just not possible. I'm that type of person, wanting to go in order. But it can't be with Dr Who - it's just been on too long! :-)

    Please take care and enjoy the holiday season. My thoughts are with you.

    Really take care and try not to stress,

    By Tree (not verified)
    mrfranklin's picture

    I know what you mean about wanting to start from the beginning; I tried to do that, too. :) I got super lucky when I found an eBay lot of everything out on DVD through about 4-6 months before I bought it - got them for about half Amazon price that way!

    Enjoy your holidays, too! See you on Twitter! ;)

    By mrfranklin

    That's great that you got a deal - wow, everything that was on DVD until that point?! I am so jealous, LOL. See you on Twitter and hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

    Take care,

    By Tree (not verified)
    mrfranklin's picture

    Only $600 for ~$950 of DVDs. I was psyched. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

    By mrfranklin

    What a deal! My husband would still think that too much, but I think it's worth it. I've been looking for deals, but so far, nothing...


    By Tree (not verified)
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