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40 Years Ago Today: Tom Baker’s First Doctor Who Appearance

You may – or may not – have noticed, but we’re not exactly sticklers for anniversaries around here. We can take or leave birthdays, especially if the subject has been dead for quite some time (after all, they’re not going to be doing any celebrating, are they?). However, momentous, defining moments are another matter.

(Although before we proceed, a very happy birthday today to Colin Baker…)

Such a moment occurred 40 years ago today, when Jon Pertwee made his final appearance as the Third Doctor (at least, as the show’s star) to be replaced by the incomparable Tom Baker, whose run in Doctor Who would go on to define the role for the best part of the show’s 50 years. Above, you can see the clip from Planet of the Spiders in which the Brigadier and Sarah Jane Smith witness the Doctor’s return from Metebelis 3, his body ravaged with radiation after getting lost in the time vortex (retconned in Paul Cornell’s novel Love and War to reveal that he had been trying to get home for ten years!).

No one in their right mind could possibly have known what would happen next in the show. Rather than carry on as it had, with a change in the lead every few years (although Pertwee had been in the TARDIS for five years, the longest running Doctor at that point) Doctor Who‘s new star became so admired and loved that he felt it was impossible to hang up his scarf until 1981 – seven years later!

While you won’t hear any dialogue from 1974’s new incarnation of the Doctor above, you will enjoy the memorable last words of the Third Doctor, and relive the assistance he needed to make the transition. Amazingly, viewers had to wait over six months, until Robot kicked off on 28th December 1974, to see Tom Baker in action.

So, take a few moments to enjoy it. Quite simply, this is one of Doctor Who‘s greatest moments. One you won’t find in a BBC Three clips show…

Do you remember this great moment from its first broadcast, or are you watching this for the first time? Whatever you want to say, let us know your thoughts!


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