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The Three-Fold Man: The Fouth Doctor, Part II

General note for this entire series: this will, obviously, be a terribly subjective analysis. Firstly, because I'm me, and my ideas of good and bad will certainly vary differently from those of others. Secondly, because I will be basing my musings on an incomplete assemblage of sources. This includes all of the classic serials on DVD, but no others--I know, I know, but I'm fairly new to Who fandom, and I am not buying VHS tapes that won't even fit anywhere in a year or so. It also includes selected Big Finish audios, which are delightful on the whole. A parting note before I dive in to Doctor number 4: I love the new series, I love the old series, I love all the Doctors, and I love pretty much every companion, so, any criticism or picking which follows, comes from a place of love.

(go here for the first part of my Tom Baker scribblings)

If pressed, I would say that the episode The Invisible Enemy marks the beginning of the second phase of the Fourth Doctor's era, because it features the first appearance of everyone's favorite tin dog, K-9. Certainly, K-9's presence coincides with a rise in, well, silliness in the show and in the Doctor's character. It doesn't really truly take hold, however, until Leela leaves and Romana comes aboard as the Doctor's companion.* The Romana I era, which is completely encapsulated by the Key to Time season, gives the first real glimpses of the Fourth Doctor's almost flippant attitude toward, well, everything. Romana I, the ever glamorous Mary Tamm, has to constantly remind the Doctor that they're not just frolicking about--rather, they're on a mission from the White Guardian that is of vital import to the universe. The Doctor at times, though, seems more interested in playing with K-9.

This new tone was a conscious choice by new producer Graham Williams, who sought to bring the show more in-line with the idea of it being a family program. A good way to do this, to his mind at least, was to tone down the darkness and tone up the humor quotient. The flippancy really kicks into high gear when Romana I pointlessly regenerates into Romana II, played by (future Mrs. Tom Baker) Lalla Ward in Destiny of the Daleks. Aside from the amusing but tremendously confusing regeneration sequence, we also get the Doctor teasing Davros, who's not been seen since the masterpiece of serious Who, Genesis of the Daleks. This is a far cry from the relationship they shared in Genesis and is emblematic of the dynamics that the Doctor and his foes often shared in this era. It's been joked that this Doctor would offer a monster a jelly baby as soon as he would run away from it, and, in a way, that's not too far off.

To be fair, this is rather understandable for a variety of reasons, from producer changes, to star popularity, to scriptwriters--and in some of these episodes the Doctor's light-heartedness is used to very good advantage, most notably in City of Death a truly hilarious serial where the Doctor and Romana get to run around Paris. One of only two aired stories written by then-script editor Douglas Adams, it really is something special and the best example of what this version of the Doctor can do for a story. Unfortunately, very few stories in this era reach the heights of City of Death.

The unaired serial Shada marks the end of this era, when both a new producer and a new script editor came in with something of the express purpose of killing this version of the Doctor, and, in the end, killing the 4th Doctor completely. As it has recently with the 10th Doctor, the end lingers in the air when we see the 4th Doctor again.

*Though Tom Baker's (in?)famous fourth-wall breaking, "Even the sonic screwdriver won't get me out of this one!" in The Invasion of Time is certainly a harbinger of things to come.


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