Doctor Who-Robot (1974)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 3-Jul-2007

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Terrance Dicks, Barry Letts
Featurette-Are Friends Electric?
Featurette-The Tunnel Effect
Featurette-Blue Peter
Informational Subtitles
Gallery-Photo
DVD-ROM Extras-Radio Times Excerpts
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 98:22 (Case: 158)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (40:33) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Christopher Barry
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Tom Baker
Elisabeth Sladen
Jon Pertwee
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Information
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    No sooner has he regenerated into his fourth Doctor body (Tom Baker) than the Doctor is roped into investigating a series of burglaries that appear to have been conducted by a robot. The evidence soon points to a sentient robot produced by a government organisation called The National Institute for Advanced Scientific Research, also known as the "Think Tank".

    Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) does a little investigation of her own and tracks down the bumbling Professor J.P. Kettlewell, the original inventor of the robot. Kettlewell isn't much help to Sarah Jane, so she continues her investigations into the Think Tank while the Doctor engages Kettlewell. Followed by a medical doctor that UNIT have appointed to monitor the new Doctor's erratic behaviour, Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), members of UNIT and Professor Kettlewell, the Doctor continues the hunt for the robot.

    Sarah Jane uncovers ties that a number of members of The Think Tank have to an extremist organisation known as the Scientific Reform Society ("SRS"). The SRS believe that society should reorder itself to a system of class where a person's status is based on their intelligence. They initially seem to be little more than a bunch of eccentrics, but it isn't long before it emerges they are willing to launch a nuclear war in order to "reform" society to their way of thinking. Worse still, there would be little standing in their way to do so if they had a giant robot to help them...

    Tom Baker slips effortlessly into his role as the Doctor, as does Ian Marter into that of Harry Sullivan - one of the Doctor's shorter lived but reasonably popular companions.

    The sets and effects are pretty good for the era. The titular robot looks a bit like the child of Robbie the Robot and a vending machine. While that sounds horrible to look at, it provides for a classic looking robot that suits the story well.

    Robot is a paint-by-numbers Doctor story, written by the show's long-time script writer Terrance Dicks. It is quite an enjoyably story, despite its formulaic nature (as they say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!"), and manages to bring in a number of interesting influences. The "SRS" mimic the Nazi Government (a popular caricature in many Doctor Who stories), and Nazi Germany's SS, in both their look and actions. The titular robot, whose programming borrows heavily from Isaac Asimov's robot laws and ideals, goes through the whole gamut of existential morality questions and emotions. None of it is strikingly original, but it is done very well.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This episode of Doctor Who looks particularly good. Virtually all of the story appears to have been shot on video rather than a mixture of video and 16mm, so the video quality is much more consistent than many episodes as old as these.

    The video is presented in its original 1.29:1 aspect ratio and is not 16x9 enhanced (nor should it be).

    The video is surprisingly sharp given its age, and very little low level noise or grain are visible. The shadow detail and black levels are quite good.

    Colours are quite vivid throughout, surprisingly so for an show of this age.

    Very mild pixelation is visible throughout the episodes, but for the most part they look quite good. Edge enhancement is noticeable in some parts, but is not particularly noticeable next to many of the old green screen special effects. The most noticeable video artefacts are from the original filming rather than the DVD transfer and remastering process. The most noticeable artefact is the overabundance of comet trails, which was a particularly pesky artefact of shooting on video at the time. There is a considerable amount of reflection from the titular robot, which causes plenty of comet trails. Microphony, banding in the image caused by loud noises, is a bit of a problem in episode three (eg at 4:00), during which the soldiers of UNIT unleash gunfire at several points, but it is typically fairly mild. There is no problem with film artefacts as these episodes appear to be virtually entirely shot on video.

    English subtitles are present. They appear to be well timed and accurate to the spoken word.

    This is an RSDL disc, but the layer break occurs at 40:33, partway through the second episode, but is not noticeable during playback.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is one Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kbps) audio track available.

    The audio is very well preserved. Dialogue is quite clean and very clear. The audio sync is generally fine, but appears a little off at the start of a number of scenes, more so in the second episode.

    The score is a fairly typical Doctor Who synthesizer score. Not particularly memorable this time, but it does the job.

    There is no noticeable use of the surrounds or subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are a bit middling compared to other Doctor Who releases. They preserve the usual high standard of quality, but there aren't too many of them.

Main Menu Audio and Animation

    A standard Doctor Who themed menu featuring clips from the episodes and some dramatic music from the show.

Audio Commentary with Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Terrance Dicks and producer Barry Letts

    A reasonably chatty commentary that makes for a decent listen, but far from an essential listen.

Are Friends Electric? Featurette (38:59)

    A "Making Of" documentary that focuses on the production of the story as well as the introduction of Tom Baker as the Doctor. The bulk of the featurette consists of interviews with a wide assortment of cast and key crew members. This one is reasonably interesting without being particularly remarkable.

The Tunnel Effect Featurette (13:49)

    Production designer Bernard Lodge discusses and demonstrates how he produced several versions of the opening "tunnel" effect that Doctor Who fans would know well. This is a very interesting featurette on the optical effects used for the show's intro.

Blue Peter Clip (2:15)

    A short clip of the opening of a Blue Peter episode that was forced to shoot on the set of Robot because of the closure of their own set. It's interesting in that it is possible to see the set layout and design from the clip.

Informational Subtitles

    These subtitles are like a commentary track of trivia about the show that play through the episode. Much of the time they prove more reliable, and interesting, than the actual commentary. This particular track features some interesting tidbits on the new Tom Baker credits sequence.

Photo Gallery (4:15)

    A run-of-the-mill photo gallery slideshow featurette containing production stills, behind the scenes shots and such.

Radio Times Excerpts DVD-ROM

    5 pages of excerpts from Britain's Radio Times, the UK equivalent of a TV guide, including headshots for the new and old Doctors.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    An identical version of Robot is available in Region 2.

    The Region 1 edition, besides being converted to NTSC, omits the Blue Peter clip featured on the Region 1 release. That release also advertises that it features an Easter Egg, which I have been unable to find the exact details of. It may well be that missing Blue Peter clip!

    I would recommend picking up either the Region 2 or Region 4 edition, mainly because it preserves the show's original formatting, whichever you can find more cheaply!

Summary

    A routine, but very entertaining, Doctor Who story that introduces Tom Baker as the doctor.

    The video and audio have been preserved very well. The extras are a bit middling compared to other Doctor Who releases.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE