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Television PopWrapped | Television

The Fourth Doctor: Unraveling Fun and Danger in the TARDIS for Seven Years

PopWrapped | PopWrapped Author


11/04/2013 9:45 am
PopWrapped | Television
The Fourth Doctor: Unraveling Fun and Danger in the TARDIS for Seven Years
Media Courtesy of the BBC

Heather Maloney

Staff Writer

With a pocket full of Jelly Babies and ridiculously long scarf, Tom Baker took over the TARDIS in 1974.  Regarded as the most popular actor to play the tile role in Doctor Who, Baker quickly became the face of the show and many fans still think of him as ‘their Doctor’.  Residing in the role for longer than any other incarnation, Tom Baker portrayed The Doctor from 1974 through 1981, during a time when the program began to find a following in the United States.  A much more whimsical Doctor than his predecessor Jon Pertwee, The Fourth Doctor’s sense of inquisitiveness and wanderlust propelled him into many dangerous situations.  Seen as a bohemian type character, The Fourth Doctor continued his disdain for authority, and most of all The Time Lords themselves.  His humor hid his dark side, though he could be a bit snappy and judgmental.  A fan favorite, Baker graced the screen and help spur the imaginations of a generation. After being exiled to Earth in his third incarnation, The Fourth Doctor took off at a feverish pace to explore time and space.  Beginning his journey along side him were two of his previous companions Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter).  Sarah Jane is one of the Doctor’s greatest friends and he has a deep love for her.  Though never explored, their admiration for each other was a driving force for the show.  Her take-charge attitude and unstoppable loyalty brought girls to the show in droves and even almost created a spin off titled K-9 and Company.  In a heartbreaking moment in the show, The Doctor drops her off on Earth before he must return to Gallifrey, returning later only for a proper goodbye. Following his trip home to Gallifrey and time spent travelling alone, The Doctor meets Lela of the Sevateem (Louise Jameson). During Lela’s travels with The Doctor, his tin best friend joined in on the fun.  K-9 (John Leeson) joined the show and immediately became a viewer favorite.  Always there just in time, K-9 turn out to be The Doctor’s secret weapon and loveable pet.  Additional companions joined later including Romana I (Mary Tamm), Romana II (Lalla Ward), Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) and Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding). The Fourth Doctor’s travels encompassed seven seasons and therefore he came across many different versions of evil.   One of the greatest episodes of Doctor Who took place during this his first season titled Genesis of The Daleks.  While The Doctor had previously battled with The Daleks, the show had never explored their origin.  Meeting the Dalek’s creator, Davros, viewers learn of the war on Skaro that created such horrific beings.  The Doctor must decide if he has the right to destroy a whole civilization simply because The Time Lords do not approve of the terror they cause in the future.  Can one person decide who is fit to live and who must be eliminated and at the same time wouldn't one destroy all of the good that came about due to their aggression along with the devastation they cause? With his friendly yet comical manner, The Doctor was often able to play coy and hide his true intentions.  Many mistook his charisma for benevolence and The Doctor manipulated this to his advantage.  In the story City of Death, The Doctor attempts to obtain information from the villain Count Scarlioni and his wife by utilizing this tactic.  In defending the fact that he stole the Countess’ bracelet while at the Louvre the Doctor explained, “Well, I just thought it was awfully pretty. Terribly unusual design. Of course, it would have been much nicer to have stolen one of the pictures but I've tried that before and all sorts of alarms go off which disturbs the concentration.” There were some important production changes during Tom Baker’s time that proved to be as essential to the tone of the show as the stories themselves.  Hanging up their hats along with Jon Pertwee were producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks. Letts had been a part of Doctor Who since 1967 and was instrumental in the casting of Baker in the role.  After working on Baker’s first episode Robot, Letts passed the torch to Philip Hinchcliffe and Dicks to Robert Holmes.  This shift in the guard also brought about a dramatic change in the tone of the show.  It became a darker program geared more toward adults.  After an incident in The Deadly Assassin that became a national controversy due to a scene where it appeared that The Doctor was drowning when his head is held underwater, the BBC decided they needed to lighten the tone of the show and turned to producer Graham Williams.  After Graham Williams’ three years in the producer’s chair, John Nathan-Turner took on the role.  With this switch came Baker’s last season and the end of an era. It is almost impossible to sum up Tom Baker’s time in the TARDIS as anything except magical.  With global popularity gaining momentum and Baker’s portrayal of the role, all of the puzzle pieces fell into place.  With some of the most endearing companions and spellbinding stories, Tom Baker is regarded as the most recognizable actor to play The Doctor and remains a favorite to this day.


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