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First 'Doctor Who' is TV Malpractice

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1985-07-12 Orlando Sentinel.jpg


If Doctor Who devotees are anything like Star Trek fanatics -- extremely protective, intolerant of heretics, etc. -- I am asking for trouble.

As announced here a while back, WMFE-Channel 24 has acquired 41 episodes of Doctor Who. The science-fiction series is a British institution after 22 years on the BBC and a syndicated hit in 54 countries with an estimated 100 million viewers worldwide. WMFE will televise the first episode of the batch it bought, "Robot," Saturday night at 10.

Now, the risky part.

"Robot" is a piece of junk.

Based on memories of Doctor Who from when WFTV-Channel 9 carried the series on Saturday mornings more than a decade ago, and on the comments of friends (intelligent, discerning friends) who had seen episodes more recently, I was prepared for a serious sci-fi series whose shortcomings in the special effects department were more than offset by intelligent, imaginative, witty scripts.

So my problem with this first episode WMFE is showing is not that it is less technically advanced than, say, a typical Star Trek installment. It's that "Robot" is not as intelligent, imaginative or witty as a typical episode of The Six Million Dollar Man.

It seems that the directors of a think tank called Think Tank and their colleagues in something called the Scientific Reform Society are planning to coerce the world into becoming more orderly and logical. The means to their end is a chrome-plated, quarter-ton robot. They have the robot steal the British army's "top secret" plans for a "disintegrator gun," then the materials to build it. The robot then uses the finished disintegrator gun to murder a defense minister and get the ' 'destructor codes" with which his masters can set off Britain's version of the atomic-doomsday machine.

The robot looks like an overgrown kitchen appliance and moves with the speed and grace of a garbage truck. Yet its victims never can seem to escape the clutch of its pincers.

Doctor Who gets involved because he works with the army. Doctor Who, as made fairly clear by the series' press packet if not this particular episode, is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who has taken a shine to earthlings. The Time Lords are an advanced race, profoundly intelligent and capable of traveling through time and space, protecting the righteous from evil scientists and monsters. They also have the ability to regenerate new bodies and minds (limit: 13 to a Time Lord) when they'r e on the brink of death.

The Doctor Who series is thus uniquely conceived to continue when its lead actor gets bored or difficult. England is now watching Doctor Who No. 6. The episodes WMFE has bought feature Doctor Who No. 4.

"Robot," as a matter of fact, begins with Doctor Who No. 3 (John Pertwee) regenerating into No. 4 (Tom Baker). It apparently takes Who a while to get his bearings after such a transformation, and that may account for the episode's awkward feel. Another episode or two will tell the tale.

The only memorable element of "Robot" is Baker, whose Doctor Who is distinguished from previous models by his childlike curiosity, his curly mane and his air of mischief. Baker supposedly was the most popular Doctor Who ever, and that's understandable. With his broad, floppy hat and trailing 17- foot striped muffler, he looks like a cross between Harpo Marx and the Shadow.

Spelling correction: Jon Pertwee

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  • APA 6th ed.: Holston, Noel (1985-07-12). First 'Doctor Who' is TV Malpractice. Orlando Sentinel p. E1.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Holston, Noel. "First 'Doctor Who' is TV Malpractice." Orlando Sentinel [add city] 1985-07-12, E1. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Holston, Noel. "First 'Doctor Who' is TV Malpractice." Orlando Sentinel, edition, sec., 1985-07-12
  • Turabian: Holston, Noel. "First 'Doctor Who' is TV Malpractice." Orlando Sentinel, 1985-07-12, section, E1 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=First 'Doctor Who' is TV Malpractice | url= | work=Orlando Sentinel | pages=E1 | date=1985-07-12 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=28 January 2023 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=First 'Doctor Who' is TV Malpractice | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=28 January 2023}}</ref>