Tom Baker’s Final Season of DOCTOR WHO Materializes on BBC Blu-ray

Take a trip back in time to the ‘80s for Season 18 of the Classic series

Back in 2005, Russell T. Davies relaunched a British icon, one that had lain dormant since the late ‘80s, a polarizing US made for TV movie aside. Since then Doctor Who has gone from strength to strength, creatively and commercially, culminating with the most recent regeneration for the show with Jodie Whittaker taking the helm as the first female incarnation of the Time Lord. One of the great things about the show’s success is how it has sparked interest in the pre-2005 content, deemed Classic Who (as opposed to Nu-Who), resulting in the BBC remastering and reissuing collections from this era. They’re offering nu-Whovians the chance to see early adventures from the show, in this case looking at the final season featuring Tom Baker, regarded by many as the delivering the quintessential depiction of the character.


Grab your jelly babies because BBC Studios, home entertainment division is bringing back ’70s nostalgia in Doctor Who: Tom Baker Complete Season Seven coming for the FIRST TIME to Blu-ray on March 19, 2019. Join the iconic Tom Baker during his final adventures in “The Leisure Hive”, “Meglos”, “Full Circle”, “State of Decay”, “Warriors’ Gate”, “The Keeper of Traken”, and “Logopolis”, each digitally remastered in high definition for Blu-ray.

We recently reviewed the eleventh season of Doctor Who here at Cinapse. That nomenclature stems from the rebirth of the show in 2005 rather than its original start in 1963. But many purists include the classic series in the counting, meaning the most recent is actually season 37. This release takes us all the way back to 1981, and season 18, the final season of the Fourth Doctor’s tenure. Tom Baker took over from Jon Pertwee (Three), a swashbuckling, no-nonsense Doctor who was largely confined to Earth for his tenure. Baker brought back more of the alien to the show, and not just in terms of his performance.

Baker filled the role for seven seasons (12–18), from 1974–1981, still the longest run of any actor to take on the role. His regard as a British institution largely stems from his take on the Time Lord, often regarded as the most definitive take. Quirky and unpredictable, he veers from a doddering father-like figure to that crazy uncle who inevitably gets you into trouble. Later in his run, he tends more toward mildly egocentric and somber, with hints of a darkness, while still doing the right thing morally. He positions himself as an outsider, notably with his own people, and as such forges some strong bonds with his companions, resulting in some of the most memorable supporting characters in the show’s history, including Sarah Jane Smith, who was not only brought back for Tennant’s run (School Reunion), but also got her own spinoff series. While there are character and moral underpinnings defining the character, each actor puts their own stamp on their version, some aspects of which stick and become part of future depictions. You’ll notice many of these qualities (as well as new ones) in Nu-Who performances, perhaps most noticeably in Capaldi when referencing Baker. Part of the fun in watching the old series is seeing these seeds or quirks first laid out. Jelly Babies anyone? His iteration was so beloved he even returned as “The Curator” in the 50th Anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor, with the implication the Doctor might revisit one of his favorite faces at some point in his future.

Baker’s final season, as regeneration seasons often do, signified a changing of the guard, both in front of and behind the camera. A new decade marked the BBC wanting to wrap up and refresh the show. There was less of the frivolity and fun that typically marked Baker’s tenure, instead replaced by melancholy and brooding about his reaching middle age (half-way through his regenerations), with the Time Lord bidding adieu to old companions, bringing back a classic villain, and a mix of tales, some a little lackluster, some classic Who.

The Serials

Back in the classic era, the show typically adhered to a serialized format, like old sci-fi shows such as Flash Gordon. A single story unfolds over multiple episodes, in this instance each standalone adventure comprised of four 25 minute episodes. The season covers seven individual tales that loosely arc together.

The Leisure Hive

The Doctor and Romana II (a fellow Time Lord companion!) take a trip to the famed Leisure Hive of Argolis, but once there get caught up in a a plot to try and take advantage of a financial predicament the resort has gotten itself into, oh and there’s a while plot about a native attempting to take control with a clone army. It’s typical classic Who, old school sci-fi that’s just slightly silly. The serial does look a little dated now, but there is a rather grand nature to the whole thing.


Another standalone, rather playful adventure as the Doctor takes on a murderous shape-shifting sentient cacti. Try saying that three times fast.The show was rather famed for drawing on some great British talent to play the supporting roles (notably baddies), and this is a good showcase for that. You also get two Tom Bakers, which is a guaranteed source of entertainment and brilliantly pulled off.

Full Circle

This serial forms the first part of a story trilogy continued in State of Decay, and concluded in Warrior’s Gate. They all center around a pocket negative (alternate) universe known as “E-Space.” The Doctor and Romana land on the planet Alzarius and get caught up in a conflict between the Marshmen and Marshspiders that has a lot more to it that first perceived. This serial is perhaps most notable for the introduction of a new companion Adric, whose tenure on the show is rather polarizing amongst the fan base.

State of Decay

Doctor Who often dips into horror-tinged storylines, and this is a good example centering around three blood-sucking monsters looking to restore their leader to life and resume their conflict with the Time Lords. Vampires vs. aliens. It’s a story from script editor/writer Terrence Dicks, who I believe had more credits to his name for the show than anyone else, making it something of a treat, especially with some of the extra material included (see below).

The Warriors’ Gate

The Doctor frees the time-sensitive Tharils from a group of slavers, also noted for the last appearance of Romana and K9. This serial wraps up the trilogy of E-space with the Doctor and Romana looking to liberate a race from slavery. A predictable jaunt, but one that sadly bids farewell to Romana and K-9, two of the most stalwart and loved companions of the show’s 55 year run.

The Keeper of Traken

For those of you more familiar with Nu-Who, this serial (and the next two) is a bit of a treat given you get to see one of the early portrayals of The Master (debut of Anthony Ainley), the evil Time Lord that is the only villain to really be considered his equal. In Traken, the Master is a shell of his former self having expended all his regenerations looking to use the mysterious energy source of a planet to revitalize himself.


Regenerations ahoy! The Master and the Doctor go head to head and we get yet another new companion in Tegan. Are the portents for change obvious enough yet? The story itself is a little muddled, but the emotional beats more than make up for it.

The Package

Episodes are presented in the original broadcast ratio of Fullscreen 1.33:1, up-scaled to HD resolution. The results are pretty fine to behold, clearly a product of the ‘80s but spruced up, with no haze, a nice amount of definition, and some colors that pop well. In some cases the improved detail shows up some of the production shortcomings, like spotty makeup and set design, but it’s all part of the charm of the show. There is also some difference from serial to serial, likely due to the quality of the source stock (video tape). As a kid who grew up watching the show in the ‘80s on an old CRT TV, it’s wonderful to see the show retain its aesthetic while getting a nice burnish to its looks. This is straight up the best visual presentation of classic era Who I’ve seen.

Each serial is contained on its own disc, along with connected special features, along with a extra disc with other materials, making eight discs total. There are some nifty menu screens showing a CGI recreation of the TARDIS interior (the round things!) too. The release contains a remarkable amount of extra features:

General Extras:

  • Audio Commentaries: Each episode has a commentary recorded with cast members (including Baker!) and production staff, including writers, editors, and directors.
  • Eight new editions of Behind The Sofa: The old adage for the show was that kids used to watch from “behind the sofa,” and it’s a term of endearment appropriated by this series. Each accompanies one of the episodes of the show. Chats more than anything else, warm and fun, delightfully charming with plenty of tidbits of information and opinion.
  • Isolated music tracks
  • Photo Galleries
  • Info text: Oodles of info that runs throughout the episodes.
  • Archive Info: Detailed production and script info from the season.

Disc 1 — The Leisure Hive

  • Making of Documentary:
  • From Avalon to Argolis: Nice chat with the writers of the episodes.
  • Studio Footage: Raw footage from filming.
  • Synthesizing Starfields: Featurette on the revamped opening sequence.
  • Clean Opening and Closing Titles Costume Featurette: Costume designer June Hudson talks about some of the fantastical work you see on the show.
  • Blue Peter: A visit to a Doctor Who exhibit taken from a long running UK kids TV show.

Disc 2 — Meglos

  • Meglos Men: The writers team get together and talk about thrashing out the serial.
  • The Scene-Sync Story: A behind the scenes on some of the special effects deployed in this serial.
  • Jaqueline Hill Tribute: Touching tribute to this wonderful actress who was, amongst other things, one of the first ever companions.
  • BBC News Report: Announces Tom’s departure from the series.

Disc 3 — Full Circle

  • Studio Footage
  • K9 in E-Space: The robotic dog gets his own little featurette with contributions from various cast members.
  • A Weekend with Waterhouse : An interview with Matthew Waterhouse who played the companion Adric, introduced this season. A very polarizing figure in the history of the show.
  • Swap Shop: Adric returns for a interview on the Saturday morning kids show, 1980.
  • BBC News Report: The announcement of who will portray the new Doctor.
  • Nationwide: An interview with Peter Davidson, the fifth Doctor.
  • Science Featurette: Real scientists comment on some of the ideas and events depicted in the show.

Disc 4 — State of Decay

  • Making of Documentary
  • Film Trims: See some of the practical/model sets and shots.
  • BBC News Report: Tom and Lalla Ward’s wedding announcement.
  • Pickwick Audio Book: Baker reads an audiobook version of the serial.
  • Featurettes: Leaves of Blood, The Blood Show, and The Frayling Reading, focusing on Vampire lore.

Disc 5 — Warriors’ Gate

  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • Lalla’s Wardrobe: Another costume featurette, this one focusing on Romana’s outfits.
  • The Axe Man: A documentary outtake.
  • Swap Shop: Another Saturday morning interview, this time with special effects designer Mat Irvine.
  • Prime Computer Adverts: Four TV commercials starring Tom and Lalla that are spectacularly weird.

Disc 6 — The Keeper of Traken

  • The Return of the Master: Writers/crew talk about bringing back the Doctor’s most potent foe.
  • Commentary Extra: Unused segment of audio commentary.
  • Swap Shop: Interview with Sarah Sutton (Nyssa) from 1981.

Disc 7 — Logopolis

  • Optional Updated CGI Effects: Some nifty reworked CGI sequences.
  • Making of Documentary: Of all the docs probably the best, with lots of reflection on the end of Baker’s run, and plenty of archival footage.
  • A New Body at Last: Another serial specific documentary.
  • Studio Footage: Focusing on the regeneration.
  • Audio Restoration: Brief look at some of the challenges.
  • Tomorrow’s times: Press coverage while Tom was in the role.
  • Stripped for Action: Check out the comic book versions of the show.
  • Doctor Who Stories: A interview with Baker from 2003.
  • The Five Faces of Doctor Who: Trailer.

Disc 8: Additional Extras— All new

  • K-9 and Company Pilot Episode: Yes, you got a glimpse of K-9 during the David Tennant years, but the robotic canine not only originally appeared in Baker’s tenure, but he got his own (deservedly short lived) spin off series too! The episode is accompanies by an audio commentary, a making or, a host of trailers and promo clips, as well as a mass of production info.
  • The Writer’s Room: Writers Christopher H. Bidmead, Andrew Smith, Stephen Gallagher, and John Flanagan reunite in a pub, and talk season 18. Good banter and insights as you’d expect.
  • The Forth Doctor Revisited: A retrospective made on the shows 50th Anniversary focusing on the Fourth Doctor’s era.
  • 50th Anniversary Archive: Another interview with Matthew Waterhouse.
  • The Panopticon Archive: Footage of Baker from 1993, in attendance at a Doctor Who convention. Probably the best featurette on here in terms of encapsulating the charm and quirks of the man.

The Bottom Line

For fans of classic Who, picking up this release is a no-brainer. For those looking to dip into the older seasons, it’s the perfect package, one that offers up an array of serials as well as special features that enhance appreciation for how much love went into the production. Season 18 was something of a sad swansong for Baker as he brings his brilliant and batty tenure to an end. The visual makeover is impressive enough, but throw in enough extra features to fill a TARDIS, and you have a release sure to please any Whovian.

Doctor Who — Tom Baker’s Season Seven, is available via the BBC store now!

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