December 1974 – January 1975
“You may be a Doctor, but I’m the Doctor: the definite article, you might say…”
Doctor to Harry Sullivan, episode 1
After ten years and three identities, British television’s early evening science-fiction hero, Doctor Who faced one of his gravest challenges in 1973. Confronting a giant spider in a cave bathed by lethal radiation, the third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) willingly sacrificed his life to thwart this creature’s insane ambitions of universal domination.
Tom as the Doctor studies his new identity in a mirror. Picture © BBC
Stumbling back to Earth a radiation-ravaged Doctor is saved from imminent death only by his Time Lord powers of bodily regeneration. Observed by friends Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), the Doctor’s familiar greying temples and craggy features blur and change, revealing the face of a younger man with piercing blue eyes and dark, curly hair; the face of the fourth Doctor Who.
But the Brigadier has a new problem: the theft of government construction drawings and components for a deadly disintegrator gun. Barely recovered from his regeneration, the Doctor, aided by Sarah and Surgeon-Lieutenant Harry Sullivan, confront the Scientific Reform Society – a partnership of power-hungry scientists backed up by a robot of frightening size and strength. As a threat of nuclear armageddon looms, the Doctor’s only hope of saving planet Earth is to refine and deploy a metal eating virus that will destroy both the robot and its disintegrator weapon before countdown reaches zero.