Published on June 8th, 2014 | by Christian Cawley

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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About the Author


A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

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

  1. avatar Harry M VanHoudnos says:

    The story that got me hooked on Doctor Who was a Tom Baker story. It was February 1982, and I was home from work and didn’t want to watch my local news here in the USA. So, I started flipping the channels, and found on my Local PBS station Episode one of the Classic Era story, and it it STILL considered a Classic, Pyramids of Mars. I watched it, and I GOT HOOKED! Tom Baker, to this day, is STILL my Doctor, and I love his stories.

  2. avatar Mark Lenton says:


    • avatar TonyS says:

      Avoids the inherent pronunciation controversy of Metebelis III

      • avatar Mark Lenton says:

        Of course :-)

    • Fair go, the Doctor can’t even pronounce it right these days… ;)

      • avatar TonyS says:

        I’d leave it. Bluff it out by saying it’s spelled Spiridon but pronounced Metebelis III and that Metebbelis III is a completely different planet :) Continuity sorted at a deft stroke

  3. avatar vidarraven says:

    At the time I was devastated this was the third Doctor I’d lost and the one I enjoyed the best

  4. Nice article, but I’m pretty sure it was Metebelis 3, not Spiridon. Spiridon was the planet in Planet of the Daleks.

    • You’re absolutely right. Too much ginger beer home brew last evening. I shall adjust forthwith!

  5. avatar Colin says:

    Notice how the scene is played with virtually NO incidental music. The drama and emotion of the scene are a product solely of the actors’ performances. Something you don’t often find in modern dramas (including New Series Who). Not saying it’s a good or a bad thing, just something you don’t often see.

  6. avatar ronda O'Donnell says:

    <3 4

  7. avatar rickjlundeen says:

    It really was a wonderful event and I think it’s interesting that each regeneration has gotten more and more explosive as time goes by. Back then there was either a glow with Hartnell, a simple dissolve with Pertwee, an extended bright light as Baker left. Davison was the first to have more energy flow out of him and by the time we got to Eccleston, it was a geyser, Tennant blasted apart the Tardis and Smith was blowing space ships out of the sky! I wonder if now with the new cycle, the next regen might start out simple again…..

  8. avatar Geoff says:

    I have some very vague snap shot memories of Planet of the Spiders but not much. The spiders voices are my strongest memory. After that it’s a blank up until Tom Baker dressed as the Chauffeur in Seeds of Doom and the horrible krynoid thing. After that it all starts to come thick and fast. Guess I was the right age at the right time!

  9. avatar Gareth says:

    My first regeneration , watched it as a six year old and was completely entranced by this scene and the story as a whole .

  10. avatar J W says:

    Robot was my first story when my local PBS station started running Doctor Who way back in 1981. Unfortunately I missed the first episode so I didn’t know anything about other actors playing the part until The Five Doctors aired in 83. I didn’t get to see the Pertwee to Baker regeneration until 85 when they aired the Pertwee run of the series.

  11. avatar Teh goat says:

    When Jon Pertwee falls out of the tardis he hits that floor with one hell of a slap.

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