REVIEW: The Robots of Death at the BFI

Tom Baker
Doctor Who at 50:
The Robots of Death
BFI Southbank, London, April 20,  2013

Featuring: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson and more.

Review by Cameron K McEwan 

For those lucky enough to get tickets, the monthly screenings of Doctor Who have been the highlight of the year (so far). Examining each of The Doctors (complete with a guest-laden panel), this month saw the attention turn to The Fourth Doctor with a screening of 1977's The Robots of Death and a Q&A featuring some of the main players (with a few surprises thrown in too!).

But before the screening and adoration began, there was a very moving tribute to The Fourth Doctor's main companion Sarah Jane Smith - the wonderful Elisabeth Sladen. A clip from her last public appearance was shown, which just happened to be at the BFI for the premiere of The Sarah Jane Adventures story, Death of the Doctor (you can find Blogtor's report from that event HERE). So lovely to see Lis honoured as she was such an integral part of Tom's time as The Doctor (and, indeed, of Doctor Who's history).

Waterhouse & Moffat
Next up was current Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat who gave a very amusing introduction to what he called a "perfect" story (coincidentally, Blogtor used the very same word describing the four~parter in this review HERE). Always heartening to see Steven's love for the show. Accompanying him was surprise guest, Matthew Waterhouse - one of Tom's Doctor's final onscreen chums, Adric. Again, another fitting intro from a fan who got to work on his favourite show.

Whilst I won't bang on about the actual story screened, as you'll find it at the top end of the Blogtor Who Top 50 in a few months, I will say that it's an utter classic - and seeing it on the big screen was absolute pleasure. Top notch Who-ery from start to finish.

During the "intermission" (between episodes two and three of The Robots of Death), Visual Effects Designer Mat Irvine was present to discuss his time on Doctor Who (though he didn't work directly on the story concerned). As a veteran at Who events [Whovents? - Ed.], Mat is a cracking speaker, and full of tittersome stories about his career on the show.

Louise Jameson & Tom Baker
To finish off, and most definitely the highlight of the day, was the fantastic panel with producer Philip Hinchcliffe, beautiful birthday girl Louise Jameson (Leela) and the irrepressible legend, Tom "The Guv'nor" Baker. The latter was in top form, regaling the audience with many hilarious stories (some true, some not so true); he was very much the centre of attention, as you would expect. 

Tommy B didn't fail to keep the audience entertained with his non-stop gaggery and his admission that he didn't actually watch Doctor Who (at any point in its history) reduced the hundreds present to hysterical fanboys/girls (especially when chatting about his female companions and his short-lived marriage to Lalla Ward). During the Q&A from the audience he was asked if he regretted no appearing in The Five Doctors to which he quickly repsonded, almost flabbergasted, "No!" adding that he didn't want to be "20%" of anything.

Keen to get in on the act was Louise who is no slouch when it comes to anecdotes with a knack for a good tale - especially at the expense of her co-star Tom. It was touching to see their honesty about their relationship - which was initially marred by Baker's ill treatment of her but now the two are the best of friends. And it really shows with gentle ribbing and affection at every turn.

Philip Hinchcliffe, Jameson & Baker
A superb panel with equally superb audience questions (though, sadly, nobody asked what his favourite monster was). Any Who fan could not have failed to come away with anything but a joyful feeling - as the standing ovation attested to.

If you can get a ticket for the next event (The Caves of Androzani on May 4 featuring Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton, amongst others) or any of the future screenings then do try. They do sell out very quickly but do keep checking with the box office or just queue on the day as there is always the possibility of returns (which people have been getting at each event so far).

The BFI know how to honour Doctor Who and they know how to do it expertly, in a fantastic setting with some of the biggest names in the show present (and some just sitting in the audience, happy to watch!). This is the ultimate experience for any fan, regardless of era-preference.

Thanks to the BFI

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Thanks to Emrys Matthews and My Anglo Files for the images, reproduced with kind permission.

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