Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart), John Levene (RSM Benton), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Surgeon-Lieutenant Harry Sullivan).
When the secret plans to a disintegrator gun are stolen by what appears to have been some kind of giant robot, the newly-regenerated Doctor is quickly called in to investigate. The trail leads to a group of right-wing scientists called Think Tank, who are seeking to use the robot and disintegrator gun to impose their edicts on humanity. As the situation escalates, Sarah Jane may prove to be the Doctor's only means of influencing the robot.
Although he had officially ended his time as Doctor Who's script editor with Planet Of The Spiders, the penultimate serial of the eleventh production block, Terrance Dicks continued to have an interest in establishing the direction the series would take under new Doctor Tom Baker. He suggested to his successor, Robert Holmes, that Dicks himself should write Baker's introductory story, scheduled to be made as the last story of the recording block, albeit held over to begin the series' twelfth season. Holmes agreed, and suggested Dicks' story involve some kind of giant robot. Drawing from the 1933 film King Kong, Dicks developed the storyline for what would become Robot. It was also agreed that, to ease the transition between Doctors, a number of familiar elements from the Pertwee era should appear in the story; these included the characters of Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart and Benton (now promoted to RSM), as well as the roadster Bessie, making its last appearance of the Seventies.
Meanwhile, Baker, Holmes and outgoing producer Barry Letts were hastily trying to refine the character of the Fourth Doctor. They were joined in this endeavor by Philip Hinchcliffe, who around November 1973 had been hired as Letts' replacement and was now trailing the producer. Hinchcliffe had gotten his start in television as a reader for ATV, and eventually gained the position of associate producer on programmes such as General Hospital, Crossroads and other children's shows. It was eventually decided to make the Fourth Doctor more of an anti-hero than the sometimes James Bond-like Third Doctor, with a complementary bohemian appearance. One happy accident resulting from this occurred when costume designer James Acheson asked a woman named Begonia Pope to knit a scarf for Baker. Pope inadvertently used all the wool Acheson had given her, resulting in a scarf some twenty feet long. Baker, however, liked the image this conveyed, and it was later decided the scarf could be incorporated into the action and make an effective prop (albeit at a slightly reduced length).
The casting of Tom Baker had come very late in the day indeed, and for a long time it had been thought that the new Doctor would be elderly. Consequently, a new character named Harry Sullivan had been devised, who would be able to handle the physical aspects of the Doctor's adventures in much the same way that Ian Chesterton and Steven Taylor had during the Hartnell years. Cast in this role was Ian Marter, who had previously appeared in Carnival Of Monsters (his first television work) and at one point turned down the role of UNIT Captain Mike Yates. Before Carnival, Marter had acted in a number of theatrical productions. By the time the more youthful Tom Baker was hired to play the Doctor, Marter had already been contracted for the twelfth production block, rendering Harry Sullivan an unfortunately somewhat redundant character.
The director assigned to Robot was Christopher Barry, whose last Doctor Who work had been on The Mutants two years before. Recording got underway on April 28th, 1974; Robot marked the first time a Doctor Who story was made entirely on videotape instead of a combination of videotape and film. Portable (Outside Broadcast) video cameras were now affordable enough to be used on some BBC productions, and greatly facilitated post-production editing and special effects. After a slight strike-induced delay, production moved to the studio beginning June 1st. Doctor Who's eleventh production block wrapped up on June 7th.
Robot episode one aired on December 28th, leading off Doctor Who's twelfth season and the Tom Baker era. It was fronted by another new title sequence, again by Bernard Lodge. Lodge decided to use the same design as the one he had created for Season Eleven, with the only major change being the replacement of Jon Pertwee's profile with Tom Baker's.
Robot drew to a close Barry Letts' lengthy tenure as Doctor Who's producer. Philip Hinchcliffe would take over officially at the start of the twelfth recording block, although Letts would remain for the next two serials in an advisory capacity. After leaving Doctor Who, Letts continued to produce and direct, with much of his work concentrating on classics serials for BBC1, sometimes in concert with Terrance Dicks. Letts would also return to Doctor Who as both a director and an executive producer, and in the Nineties wrote (and novelised) two radio plays starring Jon Pertwee, The Paradise Of Death and The Ghosts Of N-Space.