Doctor Who #385: Robot Part 2

"I think you must be the sort of girl that gives motor cars pet names."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jan.4 1975.

IN THIS ONE... The Robot is asked to break his prime directive once too many times, killing a cabinet minister and... the Doctor?

REVIEW: As we continue to get to know the fourth Doctor, it strikes me that he will brook none of the padding the UNIT era was rife with. Just look at how he treats clichéed and redundant info scenes. He's always doing something unusual - talking with his hat over his face, turning off the light on the Brigadier while reclining on a table, building a tower of circuit boards, typing at super speed, coming up with a funny response to people who have already left the room. And when the villains invite a search, he insists on being a step ahead of the story as it might have been told over 6 dilated episodes and recommends they skip it, knowing, as we do, such a search would prove fruitless. His interrogation style is just as novel, getting Kettlewell to open up about science and then turning very serious and earnestly asking for answers about the robot. Very Troughton, this. And he brings the same approach to action and fight scenes, throwing everything at the rampaging robot until something sticks. It's not particularly well rendered in the filming of it (that piece of beam coming off deserved a better shot), but it's the variety of solutions in the space of a minute that's notable - marbles, chains, scarves, hats (ahh the old blind-a-Dalek trick)...

Sarah Jane is still an independent agent at this point, even if she does share information with UNIT. If it comes across as a bit odd that she would empathize so much with a machine (regardless of the fact that she's right about its emotional make-up), it's at least consistent with later stories. This is, after all, the woman who'll end up working with K9 and Mr. Smith. If Sarah's in no real danger from K1 (a coincidence, or K9's computer brain precursor 3000 years on?) and its Asimov circuits, one can't say the same of Winters and Jellicoe, two real creeps whether or not they'd soon been shown to be the villains of the piece. They set the robot to destroy Sarah... for laughs! Who does that? They're members of the Scientific Reform Society, an elitist fringe group that's FILLED with creeps, if we go by front man Mr. Short whose douchebaggery includes telling Sarah he'd decide her wardrobe in a more ordered society. It's pretty funny, actually, if all a little too obvious. The baddies are cruel jerks and nothing more, which gives the robot moral depth in comparison. At least it feels guilty, seeks out its "father", and threatens to go mad from cognitive dissonance. Winters et al. don't seem to have much of a life outside villainy. At the very least, they should LOCK THAT DOOR TO THE NO ACCESS ZONE! Dumb.

Harry, struggling to find a role to play now that the Doctor's been revealed as fit enough to do action (what Ian Marter was brought in for when older actors were still being considered for the lead), goes undercover as the perfect ministry stooge, but that's a story for the next episode. Watch out Harry, K1 just done killed a cabinet minister!  And in the middle of everything, they find time to give Benton a bit in which he gets promoted to Warrant Officer, acknowledging his usefulness to the Brigadier and to UNIT over the last few years. Aww yay.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The fourth Doctor keeps holding the padding and clichés at bay, but they're nonetheless knocking at the door.

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