Tom Baker’s time as the Doctor is arguably the most iconic in the show’s history, and the length of his run as the Doctor is not only a result of but also a contributor to that fact. The first full episode with Tom Baker as the Doctor is simply called “Robot.”
The robot looks very unimpressive by today’s standards. But the story is one that continues to be told and explored, as we get closer and closer to that imagined future in which robots are not merely an accepted part of life, but are given a degree of autonomy, with us hoping that rules such as Asimov’s famous three laws may help to keep us safe.
The way the episode focuses on the conflicting commands which the robot has been given is reminiscent of what happens to HAL in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, as revealed in the sequel 2010: The Year We Make Contact.Despite the low-budget special effects, the episode marked a great introduction to Tom Baker’s time as the Doctor, with his somewhat manic air that could switch quickly back and forth between the comic and the serious. And it included poignant plot and dialogue. My favorite moment is when the Doctor says about the robot, “It was a wonderful creature, capable of great good, and great evil. Yes, I think you could say it was human.”