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Fourth Doctor
"I'm not a human being, I walk in eternity."

First appearance: "Planet of the Spiders" (1974)
Debut: "Robot" (1974-1975)
Regeneration story: "Logopolis" (1981)

Played by: Tom Baker (1974–81, 1993, 2017note )
Voiced by: Tom Baker (1992–1993, 1997); Jon Culshaw (2020)

"You may be a doctor, but I'm the Doctor. The definite article, you might say."

The idiot abroad, an aggravating cross between Sherlock Holmes and The Mad Hatter. Somewhat crazy-eyed, famous for a stupidly-long scarf, and very alien. In reaction to his long exile as the Third Doctor, the Fourth Doctor is defined by his strong wanderlust and a deep-seated resentment toward authority figures — particularly UNIT and his fellow Time Lords, resulting in him fleeing from whatever responsibilities they place on him. Naturally, this resulted in Four's leash promptly getting yanked by every authority figure in the known universe, including the show's embodiment of God; the White Guardian.

Highly eccentric, the Fourth Doctor delighted in keeping both friends and foes alike off-guard with oddball comments (including the occasional Stealth Insult) and pranks. But despite his generally goofy and cheeky attitude, he would occasionally have moments of intense brooding and seriousness, and could even be outright callous and intimidating at times (the result of Tom Baker, dealing with then-undiagnosed bipolar disorder, injecting himself into the character) — frequently emphasizing and affirming his distance from humanity. Nevertheless, he still displayed a strong moral code when the chips were down; firmly believing that the end never justified the means. His most famous quirks were offering people jellybabies and doing tricks with a yo-yo whenever he needed to relax or think (or test the gravity of a new planet).

His ultimate fate came at the hands of his old nemesis, the Master, who tilted the gantry of the Pharos Project antenna and made the Doctor fall several stories to the ground. He managed to disable the device to prevent the Master from using it to hold the universe at ransom under fear of the ability to destroy what was keeping it intact- after the Master already took out a large chunk of it. A strange entity that the Doctor's newest companions named the Watcher lurked about, which this Doctor took as a sign of his impending demise. Fortunately, the Watcher was a kind being that actually existed as a figment of his future self, and united with him to facilitate his regeneration.

The longest-serving Doctor to date in real-world time, both by years and season count (seven each), and probably the best known of all his incarnations. If you don't know who Tom Baker is, close your eyes and think of Doctor Who. That's him. (or possibly David Tennant for newer fans — see the Tenth Doctor page.)

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Tropes associated with the television series

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: He tended to draw out his vowels a fair bit.
  • Action Hero: In his earlier adventures, Four would have little problem leaping into action, such as in "The Sontaran Experiment," but nearly all of his later adventures feature the Doctor more willing to give the monster-of-the-week a jelly baby than engage in fisticuffs. Keeping in mind that he was in the role for seven years, going from being forty to almost fifty during this time, this gradual slowing down does begin to make a bit more sense.
    • The fact that Tom Baker also slipped and cracked his collarbone during the location filming for "The Sontaran Experiment" had something to do with it as well; for several weeks afterwards, Baker couldn't leap into those kinds of action sequences, so they either had to find ways to stage those scenes with a stunt double without making it painfully obvious it was a stunt double, or the writers had to find a way to avoid action-hero scenes.
  • All-Loving Hero: One of the few Doctors who was outright merciful to his enemies (rather than affable but judgemental), always seeming to hope his opponents would just get over wanting to take over the universe, and (thanks to his anti-authoritarian personality) he fails to see punishment as a good thing even when deserved.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Much more so than even Eight and Eleven. All he has to do is think and he's completely zoned out of reality.
  • Attention Whore: Always strikes a pose, or does a huge amount of googly-eyed flailing, or usually some mixture of both. If he didn't get a good enough reaction, he would sometimes leave the room and do it again. Sometimes, if another character was talking and everyone else was paying attention to them, he'd fidget about and gurn in the background until everyone got distracted, or just blatantly interrupt the other person just so that people would look at him.
  • Badass Adorable: He possessed great big eyes, huge amounts of childlike wonderment and behaviour, oversized clothes even though he was enormous and a dog he would treat like a puppy. For instance, on one occasion he wanted to go around modern-day Earth Cosplaying a historically-questionable Viking and is gutted when told it is inappropriate, acting just like a little kid told to take off his costume before he can go outside.
    • When Tom Baker was asked to sum up his Doctor in one word, he said, "Adorable".
  • Badass Longcoat: He ditched his red jacket in favour of a rather lovely purple velvet frock coat in his costume update in "Pyramids of Mars", and continued wearing frock coats almost exclusively from then on as Baker preferred the silhouette (his favourite was the chestnut-coloured velvet one, because it was very full-skirted and swung dramatically as he moved). In his final season, he switched to a heavier, burgundy greatcoat, designed to billow in a swashbuckler-style manner. He also got an Inverness cape in one story, though one much more colourful and in line with his usual style than the Third Doctor's one.
  • Bad News in a Good Way: (excitedly) "Gentlemen, I have news! This lighthouse is under attack and by morning we may all be dead!" (toothy grin)
  • Berserk Button: The Fourth Doctor is the clown, the court jester, the life of the party. There are very few times in his existence where he is legitimately pissed off. When that happens...
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • The Fourth Doctor, despite his alienness and eccentricity, is overall one of the friendlier Doctors. He's also the one who took part in the longest and most brutal fight in the show's history, when he spent the bulk of the episode playing cat-and-mouse with his opponent in "The Deadly Assassin."
    • In "Genesis of the Daleks" (the serial where he famously muses on whether he has the right to erase the Daleks from history once and for all) he threatened to shut off Davros' life support system to coerce him into destroying the Daleks. He meant every word of it.
    • In "The Seeds of Doom", he spends nearly the entire episode either screaming at everyone, or trying very hard not to say Screw This, I'm Outta Here, grab Sarah Jane and leave Earth for good. Plus, he hits a minion with a chair.
    • "The Pirate Planet" is notable for featuring the Fourth exploding into a rage far more violently than he ever had before or after, and perhaps even more so than any other Doctor. As we've established, if you manage to even piss Four off, you're seriously screwed.
    • While he told Leela "No more Janus thorns, ever!" in their first adventure, at other times he seemed to be much more sanguine about Leela killing random attackers, as long as she kept quiet about it.
    • Although, the Doctor has killed many monsters, The Fourth also is the first to directly take human life as seen in The Brain of Morbius where he intentionally poisons Dr. Solon with cyanide gas.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: On a few occasions, it's even acknowledged he is Obfuscating Stupidity. ("City of Death")
    Countess: I don't think he's as stupid as he seems.
    Count: My dear, nobody could be as stupid as he seems.
    (The Doctor flashes a manic wide-eyed grin at them both)
  • Big Entrance: Loved to ensure that all eyes were on him when he entered a room. Especially in "Horror of Fang Rock": since the lighthouse was cramped and the camera had to be very static, Tom Baker insisted on entering each room with a flourish to make up for it.
  • The Big Guy: At 6'3" (191 cm), matching Three's height in a rare case where incarnations don't get taller or shorter after regeneration, he also towers over almost everyone he meets, but is less likely to physically hit someone than he is to offer them a Jelly Baby, whip out a cunning plan, or troll a foe into submission.
  • Bling of War: As part of his coronation as Lord President in "The Invasion of Time", the Fourth Doctor adorned himself with the giant gold Sash of Rassilon and its accompanying scepter.
  • The Blind Leading the Blind: Much like the Second Doctor, he spends most of his on-screen adventures in the company of companions who aren't from contemporary Earth — in fact, after Sarah-Jane is forced to leave shortly into his third season in the role, he won't get another such companion until Tegan arrives in his final story — which inevitably means that Hilarity Ensues on any occasion when the Doctor does arrive on 20th century Earth.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Sees no problem with manipulating or bullying his friends for the greater good or even, occasionally, for fun, but finds the whole concept of exercising authority over others to be at best objectionable. Sometimes, if it looks like he's led allies to fend off a monster to the point where his allies can gain official power, he will stab them in the back to keep this from happening. The first thing he will offer any villain in a dispute is compromise and diplomacy, no matter how repugnant its ideas — of course, if the villain has no intention to change or betrays him, he will not feel any guilt about killing them.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: He's an extremely weird variation of this archetype. His appearance and personality are modelled on Victorian bohemians like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Oscar Wilde, but he has as much material wealth as he needs, is technically a Lord and possesses lots of stereotypically upper-class mannerisms and interests. He makes a great show of being anti-authoritarian and his hatred of it is genuine, but spends much of his run as the puppet of the Time Lords, fulfilling their orders (although he does show notable resentment whenever he's aware this is happening and usually only plays along because not doing so would be catastrophic on a potentially world-or-universe-ending level, which the Time Lords of course exploit).
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Loves to put up his feet, draw his hat over his eyes and doze off — especially while UNIT is talking to him. His old teacher at the Academy, Borusa, remembers him as being his most out-of-control student; the adult Doctor is unrepentant.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Four loves this trope. Whenever threatened, captured or otherwise confronted by any kind of sentient menace, his first instinct is to smile and try to make small talk with them.
  • Character Catchphrase:
    • "Would you like a jelly baby?"
    • "Ah, well, I dabble a bit." Said whenever anyone asks if he has any knowledge of a particular field of science.
  • Characterizing Sitting Pose: Whenever he's sitting down, he tends to prop his feet up on the nearest elevated surface he can find, ranging from a desk to the windshield of his car, tying in with his more rebellious and informal nature compared to the Third Doctor.
  • Character Tics:
    • He almost constantly boggles his eyes out and stares at things unsettlingly. You will rarely see him blink on screen, even if you're looking for it. His eyes don't quite point in the same direction, especially when he's panicking, surprised or in a loopy mood.
    • His grin is a thing of pure horror and deployed generously. (Christopher Eccleston borrowed a dead-eyed, Knight in Sour Armor version of it for his Doctor.)
    • He tends to run his hand through his hair when he's about to concentrate on something. (David Tennant borrowed this for his Doctor too.) Occasionally fiddles with it if he's in a happy mood — see Peter Davison's impression of this, despite less hair, in "Castrovalva" for a really funny moment.
    • Saying "What!" whenever he heard something he didn't like.
    • Cocking his head and going "Ah, well..." whenever he was about to deliver technobabble. (David Tennant deliberately invoked that last one with his Doctor too.)
    • Cheeky little hand-waves.
    • A lot of his gestures call attention to his unusually big and awkward-looking nose — tapping or pushing on the side for 'on the nose' or 'it's a secret', prodding it, pinching the bridge or the tip in frustration, stroking it in thought.... even the very few times he's being flirty he tends to do so by delicately touching his nose.
    • He would often step on his scarf, which always makes him cross. Often also traps it in the doors of the TARDIS, leading him opening the door, pulling the scarf in and then slamming the door behind him.
    • When entering a corridor or entering a room, he always strikes a pose, rushes in flapping all over the place or enters in some other weird way, with Tom Baker's aim being to 'never enter a room the same way twice'. This supposedly started from frustration with the lack of camera angle and lighting variation possible in most of the cheap sets The BBC used and the stereotypical Doctor Who fascination with substituting action with running down identical corridors, and so becomes very obvious in the more claustrophobic and corridor-based serials, like "Horror of Fang Rock". Since the Fourth Doctor is a massive Attention Whore and a ham to end all hams, it works really well.
    • He never looks at his hands when going for his pockets, so whenever he does he flails his hands around in a rather comical fashion before finding them.
    • He really likes having things in his mouth. Whenever he's fixing, making or sabotaging some sort of device, he will inevitably put one of the tools or parts into his mouth to hold it while he works on it with his hands, even if it'd make more sense for him to just put the item down. If nothing's available he tends to chew on his thumbnail. (This is deliberately alluded to in "Deep Breath" when the post-regenerative-traumatised Twelve bites his thumb while contemplating how much he needs a really long scarf.) He also has a habit of licking his lips whenever he's excited.
    • If there is a chair he has a habit where he will begin to sit on it, and then has a sudden flash of insight just before touching the seat and stands back up again. Particularly hilarious in "The Seeds of Doom" where he actually brings a chair over from another room just to do this to it.
    • If he's sitting down he tends to put his legs up on anything he can. Note particularly when he props his legs up on the top of Bessie's windscreen in his first story — something the Third Doctor would find unthinkable.
    • Remember Sarah Jane's line in "School Reunion" about the Doctor 'stroking' the TARDIS? This is the Doctor she was talking about. Note particularly the funny way the Sutekh-Doctor caresses the door switch open in the last part of "Pyramids of Mars".
  • Characterisation Click Moment: His debut story "Robot" was written before his character was defined, so he was largely based on Baker himself — a wacky goofball. His second story "The Ark in Space" saw his balance of whimsy, brooding and ruthlessness cement, especially in the famous "Humans are indominable" speech
  • Characterization Marches On: This was cleverly used in his first story — thanks to production scheduling, Jon Pertwee's producer Barry Letts was forced to produce it instead of the producer lined up for the new Doctor, Philip Hinchcliffe. Having the difficult task of establishing the new Doctor as different from Pertwee while having no idea what Hinchcliffe planned on doing with the character, Terrance Dicks wrote the Doctor as a broad clownish comedy character (with some inspiration from Harpo Marx) but establishes that he's in a loopy, unsettled post-regenerative state for almost the entire story, only indicated as settling down into his real personality at the very end of the episode where the Doctor injures his hand on a brick now that his overdriven physical processes have worn off. While a lot of the Fourth Doctor's quirks are established in this episode (such as the natural funniness, the childishness, the bottomless pockets, his fondness for jelly babies and his resentment of all authority) Hinchcliffe took the character into a more Gothic Horror influenced direction, giving the Doctor a brooding and Byronic side to add an edge to his funniness, and playing his capriciousness and unpredictability For Drama at times as well as for cheap laughs. Even when he became a comedy character again later, he became a playful wit rather than a clown.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Having wide bulging eyes, a very large and toothy mouth and an egotistical, cheery, terrifyingly sly personality, it is virtually his default expression and forms a big part of his frightening yet oddly charming appearance.
  • Classy Cravat: Sports one on occasion, though it can be difficult to see under all that scarf.
  • Climbing Climax: This Doctor was defeated while trying to overpower the Master inside a radio telescope. It was up to the Fifth Doctor to finish the job.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Possibly loopier than all other Doctors combined; to call the Fourth Doctor nutty is to call the atomic bomb a firecracker. If you ever need evidence for why this Doctor was the weirdest, fire up the scene "The Seeds of Doom" when he barges into Sir Colin's office. He walks around with a chair on his head, puts it down, goes to sit on it, doesn't bother, soliloquizes on the nature of greed, throws a fit, accuses them of having a security leak whilst staring the guilty party right in the face, insults Sir Colin and orders a car! As written it is functional; but as read by Tom Baker, it is utterly barmy. He even eventually learns to weaponise this, combined with his Time Lord Academy training: his learned resistance to mind-reading and his inherent loopiness make him able to mask his thoughts better than any other Time Lord.
  • Contrasting Replacement Character:
    • Foregoes any and all authority (and all seriousness) in response to having been forced into following it in his previous incarnation.
    • Done peculiarly in his first season — half of the creative team wanted to differentiate the new Doctor by making him lighten up and be wackier after such a serious previous Doctor, and the other half wanted to differentiate him by making him darker and more brutal after such a noble previous Doctor. It is a real testament to the ability of Tom Baker and Robert Holmes that they managed to pull off both, at the same time.
  • Creepy Blue Eyes: Tom Baker's thyroidism is used to full effect. Also, Four rarely blinks.
  • Creepy Good: Basically benevolent, but the height, the cadence, the eyes, and the frequent habit of blankly, unblinkingly staring into space for entire scenes at a time combine to make a truly eerie impression.
  • Cuteness Proximity: With K-9, whom he insisted on treating like a real puppy.
  • Dead Man Walking: Four knew he was toast when he spotted the Watcher patiently standing by. This may overlap with Future Me Scares Me, depending on your interpretation of the Watcher.
  • Depending on the Writer:
    • Steven Moffat once criticised Tom Baker for this, saying his performance was 'thunderously effective' but he 'completely reinterpreted his character to fit that week's script', saying it's impossible to tell that the Doctor in "The Seeds of Doom" and "City of Death" are supposed to be the same person. Moffat since disowned this criticism, but there is a grain of truth in it, especially early on: In "Robot", he's a genuinely funny and goofy Cloud Cuckoo Lander who doesn't care that much about anything, even Sarah; in "The Ark in Space", he's a fearsome and aloof Byronic Hero and very openly fond of Sarah; in "The Sontaran Experiment" he's all Obfuscating Stupidity and foul temper; in "Genesis of the Daleks" he's all wisdom and righteousness and the potential for Dirty Business. "The Seeds of Doom" makes him a cold and violent Tuxedo and Martini Expy, "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" makes him into a bohemian and methodical Sherlock Holmes Expy, in "City of Death" he's somewhere between Zaphod Beeblebrox and Dirk Gently and in "Warriors' Gate" he's a Wizard Classic. There are times in his tenure where he's an Invincible Hero who loves everyone and never ever shows any vulnerability, and times when he's a brooding and fallible Anti-Hero who genuinely struggles with his fear of the monsters, and sometimes swings into the opposite between stories. Tom Baker's performance holds the whole thing together, though arguably less from skill (his skill is in being able to pull off all those different personalities in the first place) and more from sheer force of personality.
    • Chris Boucher wrote him as a passionate atheist who has Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions. He's a lot more respectful of other religions in other scripts.
  • Dissonant Serenity: All the time.
    The Doctor: [very happily] Gentlemen, I've got news for you. This lighthouse is under attack and by morning we might all be dead!
  • Distressed Dude: Seriously, HOW MANY times has this Doctor been captured, kidnapped, tied up, locked up, drugged, knocked out, imprisoned, tortured, etc.? Sometimes it happens to him more often than his own companions! The Fourth Doctor is just as bad as the Third.
  • Duck Season, Rabbit Season: Thanks to his Nerves of Steel and constant Dissonant Serenity, when someone's trying to brand the Doctor's face with a red-hot iron and counting down from ten, Four helpfully joins in the countdown — confusing his captor and making him lose track.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Borusa admits that the Time Lords owe him a debt of gratitude and literally shoves him out the door.
  • Einstein Hair: In "The Deadly Assassin", he claims that his hair curls up whenever he's onto something. Considering his hair is a big, chaotic mop of curls, the presumed implication is that the Fourth Doctor is never not onto something.
  • Era-Specific Personality: He has three different personalities to go with his three different showrunners, between their conscious attempts to dictate the show's tone to the writers (first Gothic Horror Black Comedy, then witty Campy comedy, and finally very serious mystical science fiction) and Baker reinterpreting his performance to fit those. In the first, he's cheerful and amiable but has a dark, brooding side; in the second, he's off-the-wall bug-eyed crazy; in the final, he's more solemn and introspective. See also his characterisation in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips compared to his personality on the show - he loses virtually all of his dark side and is more sugary, childish and crazy than he ever gets to be on-screen.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: In one rather bizarre example, his brain became the nest of a pregnant space shrimp in "The Invisible Enemy".
  • "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: In "The Invisible Enemy", he has himself and Leela cloned and shrunk down so he can be injected into his own brain, fight the pregnant monster that's nesting inside it, make sure Leela's clone dies inside his head, and then absorb her corpse into his bloodstream to gain her natural immunity to the thing!
  • Fedora of Asskicking: He would often wear a fedora. He wasn't particularly aggressive in terms of combat, but could fight evil in many ways.
  • Flanderization: Ignoring Early Instalment Weirdness, he began as a brooding and distant character, darker than his predecessor due to his capriciousness, foul temper and alien spookiness. He also was childish and kind and loved making his companions laugh — he wore a funny scarf and a silly hairstyle but also had a solemn, sad-eyed face whose smiles were mad and disturbing. For various reasons (Lighter and Softer direction and an Attention Whore actor) he got sillier and sillier and sillier over Seasons 14-17, becoming a total Cloud Cuckoo Lander Meta Guy known for Comical Overreacting frequent wordplay. His rakish recklessness developed into Awesome Ego. Much of the humour involved K-9 or Romana proving him wrong about something and him scrabbling to look smarter than them. A quick discussion with a casual fan of his era will prove he is more memorable as a funny Doctor with a serious side than as a serious one with a funny side, but whether or not this is an improvement will strongly depend on your own stance on Camp and how funny you think Ham and Cheese mode Tom Baker is. It helped that Character Check moments would show up fairly frequently, so he still felt relatively fleshed out even though the focus was changing to his funniness. Season 18 radically Retooled his character in a different direction entirely and remade him into a science fiction version of Wizard Classic.
  • Genius Bruiser: Prefers of course to use his considerable intelligence, but of all the Doctors, he's the most capable in the simple art of fisticuffs. His stature probably has something to do with it.
  • Genius Sweet Tooth: Trope Codifier for the Doctor's fondness for jelly babies (after Two had them first).
  • A God Am I: He temporarily gains Guardian-level powers over time itself, through a nearly completed Key To Time and a bit of MacGyvering.
  • A God I Am Not: He is, after all, a vagabond at heart, with no interest in toys such as the Key to Time, or the Staff of Rassilon. That's not to say he doesn't enjoy trolling people with them, as seen in "The Armageddon Factor".
    Doctor: (mimics Prophet Eyes) As from this moment, there's no such thing as free will in the entire universe. There's only MY will. Because I possess the KEY TO TIME.
    Romana: Doctor, are you all right?
    Doctor: (snaps out of it) Well of course I'm all right. But supposing I wasn't all right?
  • Good Is Not Nice: He had some very "alien" moments, like showing no emotion over the death of an Innocent Bystander. (Though by no means the norm for him, there was still a large gap between himself and his previous, more "human" incarnations.) Robert Holmes' primary concept for him was "Olympian detachment", which he contrasted heavily with the villains in his era (most of them being completely overinvested in minutiae, and hopeless at controlling their emotions).
  • Good Is Not Soft: Despite his charm and offbeat humour, he could be intensely brooding, serious and even callous at times and would keenly scrutinise his surroundings even when playing the fool. When Sarah upbraided him over his callousness at the sight of Laurence Scarman being killed by the animated corpse of his own brother, the Doctor reminded her of the larger issue of stopping Sutekh. He would be furious with those he saw as stupid, frivolous, misguided, or evil.
    • He was also not against taking a life in extreme circumstances, though he was much less inclined to use physical violence than his predecessor, he would react aggressively if he had no alternative but to defend himself. He improvised non-lethal weaponry when necessary, but was also willing to use more lethal weaponry, like the De-mat Gun and Earth firearms, if necessary. He threatened to deactivate Davros' life-support machine to coerce him into destroying the Daleks, fatally electrocuted an attacking Tesh under Xoanon's control and seemed to have nothing against Leela killing random attackers, as long as she kept quiet about it. He was also willing to sacrifice himself in order to kill Davros via an explosive device in an attempt to prevent the Daleks harnessing their creator.
  • Got Volunteered: "Genesis of the Daleks" begins with him, Harry and Sarah getting yanked out of time and space mid-teleport by the Time Lords and told they need someone to stop the Daleks being created, and that someone is him. If he refuses, then he's stuck on a war-torn radioactive gravel pit of a planet with no TARDIS.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: He adores K-9, and takes great offence at others for calling him a "machine" (ironically Tom Baker actually hated the character — not without reason since the prop was notoriously temperamental and always breaking down, though he and John Leeson have always gotten along).
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Plummeted off a satellite tower after saving most of the universe from The Master.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Famously struggled with this in "Genesis of the Daleks."
  • Hot-Blooded Sideburns: To go with his massive hair.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Much like the Master, although he only uses it occasionally, and is the only incarnation of the Doctor to do so.
  • Hypocritical Humour: He wasn't above the occasional act of hypocrisy, telling Harry Sullivan that it was a waste to throw something away, immediately before disregarding a piece of metal that had saved his life. He also told Harry it was "a mistake to clutter one's pockets", despite he himself keeping a large variety of things in his own pockets. He later berated Romana for assuming the worst, and then stated himself that things usually were at their worst and took a liking to her second incarnation when she mimicked his dress sense, despite previously telling her that "external appearances weren't important". He was also unwilling to admit to any wrongdoing on his part.
  • I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: A few Doctors have since made reference to the scarf, dismissing it as an unfortunate garment choice.
    • Seven tried on the burgundy Fourth Doctor ensemble, only to declare it "old hat" and toss it away.
    • An amnesiac Eight found a scarf in a hospital locker, but decided against taking it.
    • A frigid Twelfth Doctor was overheard pining for a nice, long scarf, then rethought it.
      Twelve: No, move on from that. Looks stupid.
  • I Work Alone: He would have preferred this, and he says as much to the White Guardian in "The Ribos Operation" at a point when he's finally without one — but he has Romana forced on him anyway. In his final story, "Logopolis", he grouses that he didn't pick any of his companions; they were all stowaways, had accidentally boarded the TARDIS, or had otherwise pressed themselves on him. (This fit exactly with the attitude of Tom Baker, who famously argued that the companions be eliminated and that he instead carry a talking cabbage around on his shoulder to handle any necessary exposition.)
  • Iconic Item:
    • The scarf. Always the scarf. And jelly babies.
    • To a lesser extent, his fedora plays a part, especially when combined with his iconic curly hair.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: For years, he was the most recognizable Doctor in terms of public consciousness. It wasn't until David Tennant that a real threat to this status came along. Even then, he's still probably the iconic Doctor of the Classic era.
  • Identical Grandson: Of a sort. A retired incarnation of the Doctor, now peacefully pottering around the National Gallery, is wearing the Fourth Doctor's face for nostalgia's sake. ("The Day of the Doctor")
  • Invincible Hero: By Season 15, the Doctor has morphed into The Most Interesting Man in the World. He tried being frightened once — just to see what it was like. Season 18 dampened this effect somewhat, what with blood-sucking astronauts, a "mad cactus" framing him for murder, and of course the Master 2.0. Although the Fourth Doctor tried to remain unflappable, he was put into situations that were impressively tough.
  • It's All About Me: Wastes no opportunity in letting the world know how brilliant, marvellous, wonderful and all around amazing he is. Four genuinely considers himself the greatest genius he's ever met, and acts entirely superior to everyone around him. Some of his companions put up with it. Romana, who had much better grades than him at the Academy, doesn't.
  • Jerkass Ball:
    • As noted under Depending on the Writer, this Doctor could change dramatically between stories. While he's generally one of the more affable Doctors, he loves tormenting people for fun (occasionally going very much too far), and can be prone to sudden intensely dark moods and periods of brooding interspersed with attention-seeking and selfish unreliability. On his good days he's lovely to be around, fun and magnanimous and interesting and wise and hopelessly adorable — on his bad days, he's virtually impossible to talk to and no sensible person would consent to being in the same building as him.
    • For just three examples — in "The Seeds of Doom", he's Good Is Not Nice but firmly heroic; in "The Talons of Weng Chiang", he's a racist and amoral Jerkass; and in "City of Death" he's a rather sweet Nice Guy under all the eccentricity.
  • Kangaroo Court: Faces one in the second part of "The Deadly Assassin".
  • Large Ham: Even his eyes are hammy.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Mostly in earth tones. His most recognizable image was of a long brown, gray or burgundy coat (though for his first season he wore a short corduroy jacket), various waistcoats (though for his first season he wore a cardigan), a wide-brimmed felt fedora, buccaneer boots, and ridiculously long scarves (at least one of them knitted, according to the Doctor, by Madame Nostradamus). In the final season of his tenure, the variations ceased and he wore a much more stylized burgundy version of his traditional costume — still with the long scarf but now with breeches, a heavier, longer burgundy greatcoat, and the first appearance of stylized question marks on his shirt collar. The later costume was supposed to emphasise the slightly "darker" tone of the episodes.
  • Literalist Snarking: Frequently.
  • Literal-Minded:
    Scorby: Get your hands up. Turn around, Doctor.
    (the Doctor does a full 360-degree turn)
    Scorby: Facing this way.
    The Doctor: Have we annoyed you or something?
    Scorby: Shut up. Okay, start talking.
    The Doctor: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had perfect pitch—
    Scorby: What happened to him?
    The Doctor: Who, Wolfgang Amadeus? (looks at the corpse next to him) ...Oh, him! He died.
  • Manchild: Probably the most blatantly childish and anti-authoritarian of the lot. He offers everyone sweets, plays with children's toys, doodles cartoons of people he dislikes, loves playing and running around and getting attention, tends to sulk when he can't get his way, and has childish Character Tics that make him bizarrely cute despite being huge and imposing. He's sensitive and vain about his age, constantly lying about it to seem younger. He absolutely detests authority and is willing to go anywhere, do anything to avoid taking orders again.
    Sarah: Doctor, you're being childish!
    The Doctor: Well, of course I am! There's no point in being grown-up if you can't be childish sometimes.
  • Master Swordsman: He was shown to be a highly skilled swordsman, being able to hold his own against multiple opponents and the finest swordsman on Tara.
  • Messy Hair: He has a mop of longish, aggressively curly hair. Messing it up from the Third Doctor's hairstyle with his hand is actually the very first thing he does after regenerating and it's usually tangled, though precisely how messy it is seems to have a lot of variation depending on the story (ranging from relatively smooth and tidy in "Terror of the Zygons" to a complete frizz in "The Power of Kroll"). Tom Baker refused to let the makeup team touch it after the start of recording because he felt it would be out of character for the Doctor to comb his hair while he was saving the universe — see Episode 4 of "Pyramids of Mars", where he starts out with a combed bouffant which you can watch slowly coil up into a springy mess. In "The Deadly Assassin", the Doctor claims his hair curls whenever he's thought up a good idea (or when it's going to rain).
  • My Greatest Failure: His refusal to wipe out the Daleks from existence in "Genesis of the Daleks" has long lasting consequences for his future incarnations since he inadverently fired the first shot of the Last Great Time War by meddling with the Daleks' creation.
  • Nerves of Steel: Has a habit of striking up casual conversation with whatever's trying to kill him. At one point, he greets someone who's strangling him with a very friendly "oh, hello!".
  • Nice Guy: Behind his madly eccentric and sometimes cold-blooded nature, the Fourth Doctor is an empathetic, childlike and kind-hearted goofball who prefers a peaceful, albeit offbeat, approach to life. He also maintains a close, familial relationship with his companions, ranging from being a Parental Substitute to Sarah Jane Smith, to an Eccentric Mentor to Leela.
  • No Indoor Voice: Usually very hammy.
  • No, Mister Bond, I Expect You To Dine: Conquerors keep making the mistake of thinking the Doctor will be impressed with their exploits, preferably over red wine.
  • No Social Skills: He doesn't care at all for social conventions, and at times seems genuinely oblivious to them.
  • Not So Above It All: Occasionally his temper got the better of him: In "The Sun Makers", the Collector is happy to spill the beans about his exploitation of Pluto and how he taxed its inhabitants into indentured servitude. In the middle of wheedling the Collector with flattery, the Doctor turns around and declares him a bloodsucking leech. For more, see "Full Circle", which features one of the Doctor's all-time greatest freakouts. He also found it impossible to break bread with the Tharils in "Warriors' Gate", overturning his goblet and disrupting the banquet they throw for him.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: This incarnation is genuinely quite loopy, but he often likes to exaggerate it to unerve his enemies.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: He delighted in keeping both friends and foes alike off guard with oddball humour and curious pranks, often playing the fool to lull his opponents into underestimating him, believing that there was "no point being [a] grown-up if you can't be childish sometimes".
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Through a twist of fate in "The Deadly Assassin", he finds himself elected President of Gallifrey — and when he returns to the planet to take up the position in "The Invasion of Time", he promptly turns into a President Evil. Actually, it's part of The Infiltration to fool some Sontaran marauders; he clearly had fun tormenting his subordinates, though (his Emperor Nero moment with the jelly babies being a highlight).
  • Perky Goth: Played with. He's a "goth" in the Victorian sense.
  • Pimp Duds: In contrast to his previous incarnation, this Doctor dressed to be invisible (well, more or less — people tend to notice twelve-foot long multicoloured stripe scarves). In later life, however, he returned to wearing red velvet again. His floppy fedora got swapped for a maroon zoot hat with bright red trim.
  • Ping Pong Naïveté: He's known for veering wildly between being quite a sexual character and a very asexual one. He has trouble understanding what features are supposed to make women beautiful in "City of Death" and seems sexually oblivious to the gorgeous, ludicrously underdressed Nubile Savage he has following him around for a while, except to remind her that her style of dress is inappropriate on modern-day Earth or Victorian London. Yet he gets dialogue with Romana that is clearly intended to be flirtatious, makes double-entendres and even blowjob jokes, and sometimes flirts with side characters. Sometimes he treats Sarah Jane very sensually, touching her face gently, talking to her in a sultry voice, sniffing her hair while hiding behind her and even spooning her on one occasion - wheras at other times he looks at her like a thing. While carrying Eldraad in "The Hand of Fear", he uses a delicate touch, parts of the action choreographed like a dance; but notice how he manhandles Sarah Jane in "The Ark in Space" and "The Android Invasion", in a way intended to give the impression he had no understanding of handling women.
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses: He has a pair of very small-lensed, dark-tinted glasses which he occasionally wears while tinkering with scientific equipment, inspired by 1930s horror movie Mad Scientists. He also has a black jeweller's scope which he sometimes uses legitimately, but sometimes wears wedged in his eye socket like a monocle, possibly to free up his hands.
  • Quirky Curls: Lots of them.
  • Rail Roading: Constantly railroaded, most frequently by the Time Lords, and sometimes by other factions. He hates it.
  • Raygun Gothic: The secondary TARDIS console room he decides to use instead of the main one for a while — it first appears in "The Masque of Mandragora," near the end of his run with Sarah Jane, and goes on to be used for many of his adventures with Leela.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Moreso than any other Doctor, he chafes at following orders, whether they be from his fellow Time Lords or the White Guardian. His first instinct at being in any kind of office is to put his feet on someone's desk.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In "The Deadly Assassin" Rather than face the indignity of hearing the judgement during his mockery of a trial, the Doctor puts himself up as a candidate for the Presidency, an act so barking mad that nobody bothers to question why this loon slipped through the net in the first place.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Former classmate Drax in "The Armageddon Factor".
  • Rogues Gallery: K1, Wirrn, Sontarans, Davros, Daleks, Cybermen, Zygons, Sutekh, Kraals, Morbius, Krynoids, the Mandragora Helix, Eldrad, the Master, Xoanon, Sandminer robots, Taren Capel, Magnus Greel, Rutan Host, Vardans, The Captain, the Black Guardian, Scaroth the Jagaroth, Nimons, and the Great Vampires.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Believe it or not, he's actually dressed in a dashing Oscar Wilde outfit, with a poet shirt, classy trousers, riding boots and a crimson ascot (see "The Deadly Assassin"). It's just hidden underneath a collection of tacky vests, a giant coat and several layers of scarf. It comes as no surprise that Tom Baker hit several charity shops when first putting together his costume.
  • Scarf of Asskicking: Several iconic ones. In at least one episode he actually used it to trip up enemies.
    • One interesting note: his very, very, very, VERY long scarf was originally intended to be of just ordinary length. The costume designer bought huge amounts of wool in a range of colours and hired a friend of his to knit a scarf from it - and she used every last bit. It had to be shortened after "The Sontaran Experiment" when its length caused Tom Baker to trip and break his collarbone on location, requiring a double to take his place in long shots (!).
    • And tripping enemies wasn't the only use for the absurdly long and iconic accessory.
    • Early on, he made the throwaway comment that it was knitted by Lady Nostradamus.
  • Ship Tease: With Sarah Jane & both incarnations of Romana. He had a Kissing Discretion Shot (and a lot of innuendo) with the first Romana in a Christmas sketch. Tom Baker married the second one.
  • Shout-Out: His hat and scarf were inspired by Toulouse-Lautrec's famous posters of the French singer and comedian Aristide Bruant.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: When taking charge, he was authoritative to the point of egocentricity, though he eventually proved himself as the only one capable of solving the situations he found himself in.
  • Smart People Play Chess: In "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", Magnus Greel and Four casually shuffle around chess pieces while Greel delivers his evil speech. Four wins, of course. This later gets turned on its head in "The Sun Makers" when the Doctor tries playing chess with K9; the Doctor quickly arrives at what he believes to be victory and walks off, gloating about his genius, only for K9 to quickly whip around and put the Doctor's king into check, leaving the Doctor bewildered that a robot dog could be smarter than him.
  • Stealth Insult: He is very fond of using these on villains, usually mixing them into the middle of his usual erratic chatter.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: He's the funniest, warmest, loveliest, most charming person you could possibly imagine, but he can turn it on and off like a switch, suddenly becoming completely frightening, alien and emotionless and prone to righteous Tranquil Fury, particularly in his mid-to-late period. Steven Moffat described it as: "When that famous grin leaves his face, it's like winter in a moment."
  • Sword Fight: Got into a rather magnificent and very long fencing duel at the climax of "The Androids of Tara". He keeps the scarf on.
  • Talkative Loon: All the time.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: 6'3" (191 cm), influenced by Gothic Horror and the bohemian subculture of the late Victorian era, and perceived to being the most sarcastic Doctor.
  • Thinking Tic: When trying to concentrate or when lost in thought, he'll often run his fingers through his hair or stroke his nose. This gets ribbed at in "Castrovalva", where the newly-regenerated Fifth Doctor attempts to run his hands through his own hair while thinking, only to disappointedly discover that it's much shorter and straighter now.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: He's more emotionally distant and less courteous than his predecessors, and disregards the distress of others in tight situations. He goes through this again after Sarah Jane left, noticeably more harsh to her successors (Tom Baker felt he didn't need a companion; producer Philip Hinchcliffe and the production team disagreed. After Hinchcliffe was let go from the programme, Tom became much more difficult to work with, something which made it's way on screen).
  • Torture Porn: The Deadly Assassin has him being subjected to an Agony Beam and proceeds to take it up a notch. By the end of the adventure, he's lost half his wardrobe (and ripped the other half), he's bleeding heavily from several places, and he nearly drowns during a gratuitous mud wrestling/strangling match in a pond (and boy did all this cheese off Moral Guardians at the time).
  • Trademark Favourite Food: Jelly Babies, of course. Ginger beer was his favourite drink, but it didn't come up nearly as often.
  • Trickster Mentor: To Leela. He very much enjoyed intimidating her, placing her in Fish out of Water situations and playfully calling her "Savage" (as well as other nicknames like "Mouse").
  • Troll: He wasn't averse to winding up his companions on occasion, such as questioning Sarah Jane's integrity to encourage her to manoeuvre herself out of a ventilation shaft. He later fooled Leela into playing with a yo-yo for an extended period of time, with her believing it was a form of magic. On another occasion, he caused Romana to panic when he pretended to be corrupted by the Key to Time.
  • Trope Codifier: 99% of what's known about Time Lord Society comes from this Doctor's era. Being by far the longest-serving Doctor, Four also codified much of the Doctor's character, and the series as a whole. He's often considered one of the best Doctors, if not the best. Since his tenure lasted seven whole years, he's — statistically — the Doctor most longtime fans of the show grew up watching.
  • Try to Fit That on a Business Card: Lord President of the Supreme Council of Gallifrey and All Her Dominions, Holder of the Wisdom of Rassilon, Preserver of the Matrix, Guardian of the Legacy of Omega.
  • Unwitting Pawn: The Master coerces him into an alliance in "Logopolis". If the whole universe disintegrates, there will never be a galaxy to rule, right? Not so fast: The Master plans to bargain the healing technobabble for the unquestioned allegiance of the universe's inhabitants.
    Doctor: (outraged) Blackmail!
    Master: No, Doctor, I'm merely reporting the state of affairs.
  • Verbal Tic: He says "weeeeell", "I say", generally extends low vooooowels whenever he can get away with it, and has a habit of drawing out the last syllable at the end of his sentenceeeeeees. He also overpronounces the name of his home planet, 'Gallifrey', pronouncing it much closer to "Gallifree". Also, as his general speech is usually rather on the loud side, when he wants to emphasise something he instead drops into a slightly alarming loud whispering tone.
    • Also, just like the First Doctor before him, he would often go "hmmm".
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Dives headfirst into this trope with the first Romana, who's sent over to become his assistant without him asking for it.
    Romana: My name is Romanadvoratrelundar.
    The Doctor: ...I'm so sorry about that. Is there anything we can do?
  • What You Are in the Dark: Had a moral struggle when deciding between preventing the creation of the Daleks or letting them live in "Genesis of the Daleks"
  • With Friends Like These...: He chews out Harry for everything, calls Leela a savage, and talks down to Romana. Yet he would unfailingly call them "my best friend(s)".
  • The Worf Effect: All it takes is nerve-pinching the Fourth Doctor into oblivion, and he's down for the count. Amusingly, this is the exact opposite of Venusian akido.

Tropes associated with other media

    Comic Tropes 

Tropes associated with the TV Comics

  • Rogues Gallery: Professor Sarric, Daleks, Shazar the Half Time Lord, Vogans, Nazis, Zandans, Vrakons, and Cycrans.

Tropes associated with the Doctor Who Magazine line

  • Rogues Gallery: Malevilus, the Moderator General, Beep the Meep, Werelox, Daleks, Brimo, Sontarans, Zeus, Cannibals, Cybermen, and Catavolcus.

Tropes associated with Titan Comics

  • Rogues Gallery: Medusas, Cybermen, the Kroton Imperium, Quarks, & the United Confederation of Ogrons.

    Book Tropes 

Tropes associated with the Virgin Missing Adventures

  • Rogues Gallery: Barris Kambril, the Black Guardian, Hsien-Ko Chang, Managra, Mr Sin, Percival Ross, Tobias Breckinridge, Voracians, & Xais of Guaal.
  • Take a Third Option: The Well-Mannered War ends with the Doctor faced with the prospect of either remaining in the Time Vortex for the rest of his lives or materialising on twenty-sixth century Earth and releasing a dangerous swarm of telepathic insects into the past; he escapes by using an emergency switch to take the TARDIS completely out of time.

Tropes associated with BBC Past Doctor Adventures

  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In Tomb of Valdemar, the Doctor makes the situation worse when he helps Magus Paul Neville ‘wake up’ an ancient palace because he assumed Neville had no way to control its more dangerous resources.
  • Rogues Gallery: Jennifer Richards, Josh Randall, Koel Paddox, Lady Hakai, Living Ice, the Repulsion, Sandminer robots, SASV 1, & Voracians.
  • Spanner in the Works: Obviously the Doctor is this most of the time, but he and Leela are particularly prominent spanners in the novel Corpse Marker, when they become involved in an elaborate Batman Gambit against their surviving acquaintances from “Robots of Death”, to the extent that the mastermind behind the plan believed that they were just a hallucination and had no way to accommodate them into his strategy.

Tropes associated with other books

  • Byronic Hero: His Byronic traits are very heavily exploited in the angst-ridden Telos Novella Ghost Ship, a Gothic Literature Pastiche written from the Doctor's first-person point of view. Not only does he spend a lot of it having beautifully-described and romanticised brooding scenes (like standing at the prow of a ship in a rainstorm staring out at the horizon until the sunrise), struggling with his own regrettable actions from "The Deadly Assassin" and "Genesis of the Daleks", questioning the classism of British society, and experiencing The Dulcinea Effect, he also constantly namedrops writers of 19th Century literature and quotes poetry in times of stress or intense emotion, making it ever clearer that this was the character type he was intended to be commenting on. It's a fairly extreme Alternative Character Interpretation for a character most fondly remembered for smiling at people and offering them jelly babies, but justified as the Doctor admits that he is experiencing depression, and is well aware that his actions aren't how they'd usually be.

    Audio Tropes 

Tropes associated with Big Finish
"What's the point of a time machine if you don't use it, hmm?"
Voiced by: Jon Culshaw (2006); Tom Baker (2012–present)

In 2006, the Fourth Doctor made a cameo appearance as a recording in The Kingmaker, a Fifth Doctor audio. However, he was voiced by impressionist Jon Culshaw instead of the genuine article.

In 2011, a good five years later, someone somehow finally convinced Tom Baker to join the cast of Big Finish. Baker says that it was Elisabeth Sladen and Louise Jameson who eventually wore him down. Tragically, Sladen passed away before a planned series of Four and Sarah Jane stories could be recorded. The Fourth Doctor is by far the loopiest of all regenerations, and freely uses Obfuscating Stupidity and Obfuscating Insanity to make himself seem even more out-there than he already is. Big Finish likes to show off his skills as The Chessmaster as well.

  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Lists Daleks, Cybermen and Morris dancers as his greatest enemies.
  • Bad Liar: Especially in "The Beautiful People".
  • Didn't Think This Through: Despite his personal improvement, the Doctor still has some trouble understanding how humans will react to things. As a particular example, in "Ice Heist" he brought his old acquaintance Margaret Hopwood to an art auction in the future to show how she would be remembered, but didn't consider how she'd react to hearing people discuss how she had been dead for centuries by this point.
  • Hypocritical Humour: The Doctor is too modest to talk about how learned he is, and promptly goes on to talk about how great he is in other ways.
  • Insufferable Genius
  • The Mentor: To Leela.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: A Running Gag with his companions, especially with K-9. The Doctor frequently gets tired of listening to K-9 rambling on that he tells K-9 to be quiet just before he shares crucial information with the Doctor.
  • Obfuscating Insanity
  • Obfuscating Stupidity
  • Rogues Gallery: The Black Guardian, Boudica, Cuthbert, Daleks, Drashigs, Drax, the Eminence, Jack Corrigan, Kraals, the Master, the Monk, the Rocket Men, Saiph, Sontarans, Sutekh, Quadrigger Stoyn, Vardans, Vashta Nerada, Z'nai, Zephon Jr., and Zygons.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Despite never appearing in a monthly story, the Fourth Doctor has racked up a huge amount of Big Finish adventures in a relatively short period of time, coming close to matching the numbers made by the other regular Doctors, who had been recording their stories for more than a decade before Tom Baker signed on.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: "Babblesphere" has him up against a villain who's harmed by inane chatter. Four's extremely suited for the challenge.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Thanks to getting help with his mental issues, Tom Baker went on a long odyssey of fence-mending with co-stars he had been nasty to during his TV tenure. This shows in his performance on the Big Finish audios. Where the TV Four had been more distant, cynical, patronizing, irked or snarky towards Leelanote  the audio Four is much more supportive and mentoring of Leela. In general, the Four of the audio dramas is just that much nicer than the TV version to everyone, except of course Davros, the Daleks, Sutekh and whatever other universe-threatening menace has roused his ire.

Alternative Title(s): Fourth Doctor