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Recap: Doctor Who S12 E1 "Robot"
Harry Sullivan and the Brigadier find themselves in the presence of a massive scarf and the fresh face of the humorous Fourth Doctor.
"Still, I must be patient. A new body is like a new house: it takes a little time to settle in!"
The Fourth Doctor, observing his new body for the first time.

Picking up with a flashback to where the previous serial left off, the Third Doctor regenerates into the Fourth. He wakes up and madly babbles quite a bit, worrying Sarah Jane and The Brigadier before he's taken away by the new castmember: Doctor Harry Sullivan. However, a few scenes later, the Doctor has wrangled his way out the infirmary and ties up Harry in a jumping rope (in a rather funny moment) before leaping off into the TARDIS.

Sarah Jane and the Brigadier return to the Doctor's lab just in time to see the TARDIS start to take off, but manage to stop the Doctor from fleeing into the cosmos (not really). Eventually, the Doctor's random babbling and memory lapses subside long enough for him to remember what's going on — and just long enough for the Brigadier to tell the Doctor our problem of the week. Someone's stealing things from top-secret government and military bases. After the Doctor decides on his new outfit, they head outside. At the scene of the most recent break-in, it takes the Doctor a few minutes (and a look at the list of other items stolen) to deduce that the stolen items could make... a disintegrator gun!

The Brigadier immediately has the final part of the gun secured with as much personnel as UNIT can afford to spare. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane heads over to the local "think tank", the National Institute for Advanced Scientific Research, to investigate. UNIT and the Doctor try to protect the remaining part of the gun, but as the Doctor already suspects, the thing gets stolen from underneath the ground.

Sarah Jane is taken on a tour by the head of the organization, Hilda Winters. But all she finds is some oil in an abandoned lab, supposedly left behind by the former occupant: Doctor Kettlewell. Sarah drives over to visit Kettlewell, only to have him ramble on at her worse than the Doctor just did. Kettlewell manages to get something out about "robot research," so Sarah sneaks back into the abandoned area of the lab, to confront... a giant robot! It lurches towards her, demanding to know why she's there.

She panics and flees, but Winters and her lackey are standing at the doorway. They proclaim this is all a massive joke and everyone's having fun looking at this robot, the Experimental Prototype Robot K1. And Winters proves this is all a great joke by ordering the robot to... kill Sarah Jane! The Robot, unable to kill because it goes against his primary directive (or maybe knowing that companions rarely die), decides to enter the dreaded Blue Screen of Death mode — and Sarah Jane hurries herself out of there. Winters' lackey, Jellicoe, voices concern over that "joke", as the robot's programming has been screwed with. Which is why it killed earlier when it was instructed to do so. Unfortunately, this made the robot's mind unstable and he refused to listen to his adoptive masters.

So, rather than let the robot defragment its hard drive or reflash its firmware or whatever the hell ailing computers did in 1974, Winters and Jellicoe decide to reprogram K1 and... send it off to kill a Cabinet Minister! Meanwhile, the Doctor and UNIT decide to visit Kettlewell, as Sarah Jane's reports of a giant robot that could crush you without a second thought if its operating system doesn't crash aren't proof enough for UNIT. Kettlewell mocks the idea of the K1 Robot still being around, as only he has the ability to make it work... but does eventually admit that if the robot was reprogrammed, it could go utterly insane. But, really, what are the odds of that?

So, everyone goes back off to the Think Tank under various guises. The Doctor as a simple visitor, Harry as a random medical inspector. The Doctor and Winters banter back and forth about the K1 Robot, but Winters claims it's been dismantled while the Doctor figures she has to be lying. Back at UNIT HQ, the Doctor receives a call from Kettlewell about the Robot being at the Institute. He leaves a note on the TARDIS and then runs back to the Think Tank. There, the Doctor finally runs into the K1 Robot, which proclaims him the enemy of Humanity. The Doctor gives it a game struggle (involving marbles, creative use of his scarf, and his own hat) before being knocked down, and the Robot begins to bend down and... well, not actually do anything to the Doctor, as Sarah Jane runs into the room and shouts that the Think Tank is deceiving the poor Robot.

Rather than continue, the K1 Robot flails around helplessly. And then it runs away, showing an ability to tank UNIT bullets like nobody's business. Our TARDIS crew finds Kettlewell tied up in a corner and takes him off to UNIT, where he explains that the robot is made out of living metal. And, in a remarkable coincidence, that he's just developed an anti-formula that can turn that living metal into scrap. (Why the Institute even funds stuff like this is never elaborated on.)

Kettlewell is a member of a new group: the Scientific Reform Society. Sarah Jane investigated them earlier and declared them to be general nutters, but since Kettlewell is a member, it's time to go investigate them in more depth. Sarah Jane runs off with Kettlewell to attend tonight's meeting. The Brigadier and the Doctor realize that the recently-killed Cabinet Member held secret nuclear launch codes for all the nations of the world. note  The Doctor puts all of these individual pieces together and somehow realises... that the SRS is evil. And Sarah unintentionally screws the pooch further by letting Kettlewell pay a return visit to the SRS. On some level, Kettlewell approves of the SRS, because he's also an environmentalist feeling irate that nobody heeded his advice to stop wrecking the planet. He also faked being captured by K1. And the one time he attends a meeting again, it's enough to convince him to fully sign on with the baddies. Yet he's squeamish about the idea of a nuclear holocaust being used as an end to justify the means of a better world, hesitantly straddling between good and evil.

UNIT charges in to save the day, only to be rendered useless by the fact that the slow-moving robot can't be hurt by small-arms fire. And that they're now holding Sarah Jane hostage, despite the fact that they have clear shots at everyone else in the organization who poses a threat (well, they have the place surrounded, anyway- no need for unnecessary casualties when you can round up the crooks in cuffs). But the Think Tank is able to escape to their bomb shelter, which happens to be right nearby. As UNIT approaches, the K1 Robot comes out again. It's brandishing its massive disintegrator gun and shooting at random tanks, declaring that it will destroy them all!

As it turns out, Winters has had the robot steal those nuclear secrets so that she can destroy the world... and that's about it. Kettlewell, for his part, has a change of heart and decides to talk the K1 Robot out of guarding the entrance. Sarah Jane is still right behind him. The K1 Robot apparently wants none of this talking stuff, despite waffling back and forth, and just plain shoots Kettlewell (as a result of helping the SRS, his character lost his sympathetic light with the audience, which gave him immunity to being killed off, and so karma has its way with him). The Robot doesn't take this nicely, however, as it decides to suffer a nervous breakdown from killing its father and pulls a blue screen of death long before it was popular.

Deep in the Bunker, the Doctor is capable of turning off the main threat of nuclear annihilation in mere seconds, thus defeating those nasty science Nazis before any real harm is caused. Except that the K1 robot has revived and has decided to kidnap Sarah Jane. Because Kettlewell decided to program Oedipus Protocols into the robot. And now it's going to wipe out all of humanity, because it's what Kettlewell seemed to really desire, not knowing that the professor renounced those evil ways. So, K1 tries to restart the countdown in the bunker to wipe out humanity — but it doesn't work. As the robot exits the bunker, the Brig shoots the robot with the disintegrator gun, thus killing the robot in seconds and saving the day once and for all.

Haha, no. As it turns out, the robot absorbs the energy from the gun grows into a giant robot.

The Doctor decides to end this all quickly: he must be more than a little miffed that the Robot has messed up his day-saving and kidnapped Sarah Jane in one fell swoop. In minutes, the Doctor whips up some of Kettlewell's magical anti-metal formula and splashes it all over the Robot. The Robot dissolves horribly and Sarah Jane is saved. Sarah is a little broken up about it, but the Doctor offers her a Jelly Baby and some words of consolation. It works well, and thus the Doctor has now started a new tradition in giving out candied snacks that puts smiles on people's faces. But the Brig wants the Doctor to go through a lot of rigmarole to clear up the robot rampage, and he's in no mood for it. So he's acting childish on a whim and going off in the TARDIS posthaste for some exploration of the cosmos. Sarah prepares to join him, but Harry walks in on them about to leave and finds the idea the Doctor's got an interstellar time-travelling police box preposterous. Wanting to prove him wrong, the Doctor indoctrinates him as a companion. To celebrate, the Doctor and Sarah Jane drag Harry into the TARDIS and fly off into the night.

The Brigadier arrives just in time to see the TARDIS vanish. Immediately figuring out that the Doctor has snubbed him once again, his face goes glum. Eyebrow raised, the chastened Brig says to himself rather defeatedly, "Yes, well, I'll tell them you'll be a little late."

Watch it here

Tropes

  • Actually That's My Assistant: Sarah Jane makes this mistake while visiting the Think Tank.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot - Well, the poor robot was under a lot of stress. You'd probably be a bit upset too, in his situation.
  • Arch-Enemy: Hilda Winters, to Sarah Jane, but not at first. Many years later, when Sarah had left the company of the Doctor, Winters would return to plague her in several audio stories before finally kicking the bucket of natural causes.
  • Art Shift: Because of the effects needed for the battle with the giant K1, all outdoor scenes were shot on video. They would do this thrice more in the Tom Baker era.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me
  • Brick Joke: A literal one. The Doctor uses the enhanced strength he got from recently regenerating to karate chop a brick in half. Later, when he tries to do it again, it's to no avail, with the regeneration cycle finished.
  • The Brigadier: Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, full name quoted by the Fourth Doctor, makes his last regular appearance on the show, as the new Doctor is tired of following order, decides to drop the ballast he's had with UNIT, and ship off to travel time and space regularly just like he used to. But that doesn't stop the Brig from getting in on the action of this story one bit. He's in full form here.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Doctor mutters something about Brontosauri being "Large and placid. And Stupid" and mentions Sontarans perverting the course of human history.
    • Before the Doctor is found by Harry after escaping the sick bay, he goes to the TARDIS and after wondering to himself where he left his key, then pulls it out of his shoe, which is where he found it last time he regenerated.
  • Costume Test Montage: A viking outfit, colorful court garb, and a bright jester costume, before settling on the iconic scarf, hat and jacket.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: When he first comes out of the bunker, K1 would clearly prefer that UNIT's forces go away and not make him destroy them.
  • Einstein Hair: Kettlewell's hair cares not for gravity.
  • Five Rounds Rapid: Shooting the eponymous robot with small arms fire, again and again to no effect.
  • Honor Before Reason - Apparently the Brigadier "wouldn't shoot a woman", even though she's about to start a nuclear holocaust! Sarah Jane, it turns out, has no such qualms.
  • Humongous Mecha: The robot at the climax.
  • Immune to Bullets: Trope Namer.
    • Also lampshaded by the Brigadier: he says he'd be happy to face an alien that is not immune once in a while.
  • Interrupted Cooldown Hug: Sarah Jane Smith just has K1 calmed down when Sergeant Benton appears in the doorway and, naturally thinking his friend is about to be attacked, opens fire with his submachine gun. Benton is rather miffed at Sarah's lack of gratitude.
  • Large Ham: This is to be expected from Tom Baker's first episode.
    Harry: "I'm sorry you are simply not fit t-"
    The Doctor: "NOT FIT!? NOT FIT!? OF COURSE I'M FIT! ALL SYSTEMS GO! *karate chops a brick in half and proceeds to run in place*
  • Make My Monster Grow: What happens when the Brigadier shoots K1 with the disentegrator gun, and the living metal absorbs the energy.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Brig thought he had a working disintegration gun to destroy K1 with. Instead, it made the robot grow.
  • The Nth Doctor
  • Nuclear Weapons: SRS's plan is to start a nuclear war.
  • Oedipus Complex: After K1 accidentally kills Kettlewell and then kidnaps Sarah Jane, the Doctor assumes he's suffering from the Oedipus Complex.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: The tank UNIT sends to destroy K1.
  • One-Word Title
  • The Patient Has Left the Building: The Fourth Doctor does this in his first appearance.
    "You might be a doctor but I'm the Doctor."
  • Putting on the Reich: SRS.
  • Rank Up: Sergeant Benton is promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major. (That's the second time he's had a promotion just when the Doctor regenerated.)
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Kettlewell
  • Robot Buddy: Ol' K1 himself. One wonders if future robot buddy K9 is his descendant...
  • Shout-Out: The story contains several resemblances to I Robot and King Kong.
  • Stock Episode Titles: 10 uses
  • Tanks for Nothing: K1 makes short work of the tank sent to stop it.
  • Three-Laws Compliant: K1 is programmed to not be able to hurt humanity. He can, however, kill humans as long as he thinks they're a danger to the human race.
  • This Is No Time for Knitting: The Brigadier, Harry Sullivan and the Doctor are investigating the scene of a robbery, only to have the Doctor play a seemingly inordinate amount of attention to a squashed flower on the lawn. However, the Doctor explains that he is investigating an important clue, considering that flower was near pulverized by being stepped on by something that apparently weighed a quarter ton, a piece of information that the officers definitely find interesting.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means
  • Villainous Breakdown: "I have killed he who created me!"
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Kettlewell joined the SRS because he saw it as the only thing that could stop humanity bringing about its own ecological downfall. The rest of the SRS, though, simply hold other humans in contempt and believe they have a right to rule over them.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: For an oversized tin can that attempts to start a nuclear holocaust, K1 comes off as being surprisingly sympathetic.
  • Wouldn't Shoot A Woman: The Brig.
  • You Will Be Spared: The robot decides that Sarah Jane will not be destroyed along with the rest of humanity, because she was nice to him.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: Not K1 itself, but its masters. They tell the robot that whomever they want killed is an enemy of humanity, so the robot kills them.

Doctor Who S11 E5 'Planet of the Spiders"Recap/Doctor WhoDoctor Who S12 E2 'The Ark in Space"

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