50 Years of Doctor Who: The Tom Baker Era (1974-1981)


“Well, of course I’m being childish! There’s no point being grown-up if you can’t be childish sometimes.”

Jon Pertwee felt as though he’d lost a family.  Roger Delgado, the first actor to play The Master, died between the fourth and fifth season of his era.  Katy Manning left the show after “The Green Death.” And Barry Letts, who had been like a father to him, was stepping down as producer.  (He was allowed to help hire the next successor, however) Originally, Letts wanted to have an older Doctor, but the new head of serials, Bill Slater, suggested Tom Baker.  The Fourth Doctor’s era had begun.

About Tom Baker

Tom Baker was born in Scotland Road, Liverpool.  He left school at age 15 t0 become a Catholic monk, but left after six years because he had lost his faith.  In 1955, he began two years of service in the Royal Army Medical Corps, taking acting as a hobby at first before turning professional in the 60’s.  In the 60’s, he was part of Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre Company.  He got some movie roles, but was soon unable to make ends meet.  In fact, when he became the Fourth Doctor, he wasn’t even acting!

Tom Baker’s era is the longest so far.  During his tenure, Doctor Who began airing in both the US and Australia.  Before David Tennant, Tom Baker was the most recognizable actor in the role.

After his tenure ended, Baker played Sherlock Holmes in a BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. He also made an appearance on the acclaimed BBC comedy Blackadder.  He played Puddleglum in their adaptation of  C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair. He also had a small role in the so-bad-it’s-good Dungeons and Dragons movie.  He was the narrator on Little Britain and recently became the last Classic doctor to play his character in 2009 for Big Finish’s audio dramas.


  • Tom Baker had three producers: Phillip Hinchcliffe was influenced by the Hammer horror films, causing much controversy.  In 1977, Graham Wilson took the show in a lighter direction.  In 1980, John Nathan Turner began his tenure as the show’s longest-serving producer. Because his changes resulted in Tom Baker’s departure, I’ll talk more about him next time.
  • Final use of the tunnel opening.  In 1980, Turner proposed a new “starfield” opening that was used, with modifications, well after Baker left.
  • After Baker’s fifth season, six-parters were no longer broadcast.  The final six-parter that aired was “The Armageddon Factor” (It would’ve been “Shada”, but a production strike halted it after it was only halfway complete. The story can still be viewed on the BBC’s Classic Doctor Who website, with Tom Baker narrating what’s missing.
  • First appearance of Davros:  “Genesis of the Daleks”
  • In “The Deadly Assassin”, we learn that the Master has used up all his regenerations.  This sets up events in “The Keeper of Traken”, in which Anthony Ainley becomes the new actor for the role.


Tom Baker is my Doctor.  He was the first Doctor I ever watched.  I instantly loved how witty and clever he was, always ready with a snide remark. For instance, when he encounters a rather hammy villain in “The Pirate Planet”, he asks him “What would you want with the Earth? You wouldn’t know what to do with it, besides shout at it.” He had a childlike glee, possibly fueled by too many jelly babies, which he would constantly offer to friend or foe alike. He even offered one to Davros in “Destiny of the Daleks”! I do enjoy the others, but for me, none will ever top Tom Baker.

The Companions

Sarah Jane Smith

Instead of repeating what I said last time, I’ll explain why Sladen left the show. As her time went on, Sladen noticed that her character arc had downgraded. In her words, she had become a “cardboard cutout.” She was tired of constantly being kidnapped or hypnotized.

Dr. Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter)

First Appearance: “Robot”

Last Appearance: “Terror of the Zygons”

(note: made a guest appearance in The Android Invasion)

Dr. Harry Sullivan is boring.  Part of the problem is that he was cast before Baker, when they were going for an older actor. Sullivan was originally meant to be the person doing the action scenes. But Baker was actually capable of doing stunts (until he broke his collarbone in “The Sontaran Experiment”). Instead, they decided to make him a bumbler.  It’s sad when the most memorable thing I can think of that he did was cause the Doctor to shout “Harry Sullivan is an imbecile!”

Leela (Louise Jameson)

First Appearance: “The Face of Evil”

Last Appearance: “The Invasion of Time”

Leela comes from a race of primitive humans called the Sevateem.  The first time she met the Doctor, she was frightened of him because he resembled their god of evil.  When she learned she had nothing to fear, she joined him out of curiosity.  I thought it was neat how the Doctor constantly took her aside in attempts to educate her to rely on science rather than superstition.

K-9 (voiced by John Leeson in every appearance except in episodes filmed between 1979-1980, in which David Brierly voiced instead)

First Appearance: “The Invisible Enemy”

Last Appearance: “Warrior’s Gate”

K-9 the robot dog is probably the most recognizable companion, since he’s almost the mascot of the show.  He can fire lasers, scan the area and provide info the doctor. He can even play chess!

K-9 was not without problems. It’s radio signal was on an AM band and interfered with the cameras.  It would often careen into objects or people.

There were actually three K-9s, all played by the same prop.  The first one, Mark I, left in “The Invasion of Time” and was replaced by Mark II in the same story.  Mark II left in “Warrior’s Gate”. Mark III appeared in the failed pilot for K-9 and Company.

Romana I (Mary Tamm)
First Appearance: “The Ribos Operation”

Last Appearance: “The Armageddon Factor”

Romana is a Time Lady fresh out of the Gallifreyan Academy when she is appointed by the White Guardian to assist the Doctor in finding the fragments of the Key to Time. I liked her smug attitude and she had such great chemistry with the Doctor. One of my favorite scenes is when the Doctor suggests that her Gallifreyan name, Romanadvoratrelundar, was far too long.

The Doctor: By the time I’ve called that out, you could be dead! I’ll call you Romana.

Romana I: I don’t like Romana.

The Doctor: It’s either Romana or Fred.

Romana I: All right, call me Fred!

The Doctor: Good. Come on, Romana!

Romana II (Lalla Ward)

First Appearance: “Destiny of the Daleks”

Last Appearance: “Warrior’s Gate”

In “Destiny of the Daleks”, Romana grew tired of her body, so she decided to regenerate.  This Romana had mannerisms similar to the Doctor’s.  She also had great chemistry with the Doctor, so much so that they were married in real life–for sixteen months.

Adric (Matthew Waterhouse)

First Appearance: “Full Circle”

Last Appearance: “Earthshock” (w/5th)

Adric is probably one of the most hated companions ever.  In my opinion, he doesn’t deserve it. Yes, he was smug and a little bratty.  But he was also very intelligent and very good at outsmarting villains by pretending to side with them.  I think he was a great character, just poorly written at times.  I’ll explain more about him next time.

Nyssa (Sarah Sutton)

Fist Appearance: “The Keeper of Traken”

Last Appearance: “Terminus” (w/5th)

Nyssa wasn’t originally intended to be a full-fledged companion.  However, the writers liked her character so much that they decided to keep her around. I’ll keep her around for next time.

Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding)

First Appearance: “Logopolis”

Last Appearance: “The Resurrection of the Daleks” (w/5th)

John Nathan Turner created Tegan because of the show’s popularity in Australia.  (Although to me, Janet didn’t sound very Australian) Since I consider her more of a Fifth Doctor’s companion, I’ll save her for next time as well.
Best Stories:

Genesis of the Daleks (6 episodes)

This is the episode you must watch if you watch any story from the Classic period.  It was, according to Russel T. Davies, the “first shot of the Time War”. It’s an excellent introduction to Davros.

Pyramids of Mars (4 episodes)

One of Robert Holmes’s best stories. The Doctor encounters Sutekh, a Martian pharoah.  Sutekh is a bone-chilling villain, all thanks to Gabriel Woolf’s voice.

The Brain of Mobius (4 episodes)

This story was a great twist on Frankenstein, with a scene that was quite controversial for its time.

“The Robots of Death” (4 episodes)

I had a hard time selecting just one Leela story. I finally chose this one because it’s an excellent homage to Isaac Asimov.

The Key to Time Arc:

The Ribos Operation (4 episodes)

The Pirate Planet (4 episodes)

The Stones of Blood (4 episodes)

The Androids of Tara (4 episodes)

The Power of Krull (4 episodes)

The Armageddon Factor (6 episodes)

This is the introduction of Romana, who was appointed by the White Guardian to help the Doctor locate the fragments of the Key to Time.  To really enjoy the story, you should watch all six stories I listed above.  This is the highlight of Tom Baker’s era.

City of Death (4 episodes)

Before Douglas Adams wrote his magnum opus, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he was a script editor and occasional writer for Doctor Who. This story is almost universally hailed as one of his best.

The E-space Trilogy

Full Circle (4 episodes)

State of Decay (4 episodes)

Warrior’s Gate (4 episodes)

This is actually part of a larger arc themed around the concept of entropy.  The stories are quite cerebral, but well-handled. You really need to watch the entire trilogy, that’s why I picked all the stories in it.

The Keeper of Traken (4 episodes)

Anthony Ainley’s version of The Master debuts in this story and it’s an excellent introduction.  The story is well-paced and excellently written and Sarah Sutton’s small role as Nyssa is an example of great acting.

Logopolis (4 episodes)

This is it, the grand finale for Tom Baker.  It’s one of the best finales ever, with a great battle between him and the Master.

Worst Stories

The Creature From the Pit (4 episodes)

Oh, dear God, this story SUCKS! The script is weak and the monster is terrible, even for its time. Oh, and it was originally intended for Mary Tamm’s version of Romana, not Lalla Ward’s.

The Horns of Nimon (4 episodes)

This story had a weak script and budget restraints and was on the verge of the strike that halted “Shada”.  It was basically a recipe for disaster.


Author: rocklobsterjwt

I am a Christian and an anime fan. My blog will cover anime reviews and maybe an occasional story

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