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The Fourth Doctor is the name given to the fourth incarnation of the fictional character known as the Doctor in the long-running BBC television science-fiction series Doctor Who. He was portrayed by Tom Baker for seven consecutive years, and remains the longest-lived incarnation in the show's on-screen history. For American audiences, who saw the show only in syndication (mostly on PBS), it was this incarnation of the Doctor who is the best known, as his episodes were the ones most frequently broadcast stateside.

Within the series' narrative, the Doctor is a centuries-old Time Lord alien from the planet Gallifrey who travels in time and space in his TARDIS, frequently with companions. When the Doctor is critically injured, he can regenerate his body; in doing so, his physical appearance and personality change.


The Fourth Doctor's eccentric style of dress and speech — particularly his trademark long scarf and fondness for jelly babies — made him an immediately recognisable figure and he quickly captivated the viewing public's imagination. This incarnation is generally regarded as the most recognisable of the Doctors and one of the most popular, especially in the United States. In polls conducted by Doctor Who Magazine, Tom Baker has lost the "Best Doctor" category only twice: once to Sylvester McCoy (the Seventh Doctor) in 1990, and once to David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor) in 2006.

The Fourth Doctor appeared in seven consecutive seasons over a seven-year period, from 1974 to 1981, making him the longest running Doctor on screen. He also appeared in the specials The Five Doctors (via footage from the uncompleted Shada) and Dimensions in Time, Tom Baker's last appearance in-character as the Doctor (aside from a series of television advertisements in New Zealandmarker in 1997).

There are also novels and audio plays featuring the Fourth Doctor. Two early audio plays featuring Tom Baker voicing the Fourth Doctor date from Baker's television tenure as he had mainly declined to appear in any further audio plays since leaving the series. In 2009, however, it was announced that a new five part series would be produced by BBC Audio (see below).


After contracting radiation poisoning on the planet Metebelis 3, the Third Doctor makes his way back to UNIT headquarters, where the Time Lord K'Anpo Rimpoche aids him in regenerating (Planet of the Spiders).

In his new incarnation, the Doctor draws back from continuous involvement with UNIT (with which he had worked closely as the Third Doctor) and the Time Lords. The Time Lords continue to send him on occasional missions, including an attempt to prevent the creation of the Daleks (Genesis of the Daleks), during which he also meets a new adversary, Davros. The Doctor travels with journalist Sarah Jane Smith, whom he had befriended prior to his regeneration, and, for a time, with UNIT Surgeon-Lieutenant Harry Sullivan.

The Doctor's companionship with Sarah Jane is ended when he receives a telepathic summons to Gallifrey, as humans were not then allowed on the planet. The summons is part of a trap set by his enemy the Master, who has used up all his regenerations and become little more than a withered husk. The Master frames the Doctor for the assassination of the President of the High Council of Time Lords. In order to avoid execution the Doctor invokes an obscure law and declares himself a candidate for the office, giving himself the time he needs to defeat the Master (The Deadly Assassin).

The Doctor is seen to travel alone for the first time since season 1, returning to a planet he had visited centuries before. During his previous visit, he had accidentally imprinted a human colony ship's powerful computer, Xoanon, with his own mind, leaving it with multiple personalities. On his second visit the Doctor is remembered as an evil god by the descendants of the colonists, some of whom had become a warrior tribe called the Sevateem. After the Doctor cures the computer, one of the Sevateem, Leela, joins him on his travels (The Face of Evil). The Doctor brings the intelligent but uneducated Leela to many locales in human history, teaching her about science and her own species' past. In Victorian London, the pair encounters the magician Li Hsien Chang and his master, the self-styled Weng-Chiang (The Talons of Weng-Chiang). Later, the Doctor and Leela visit the Bi-Al Foundation medical centre, where they acquire the robot dog K-9 (The Invisible Enemy).

The Doctor returns to Gallifrey and declared himself Lord President, based on the election held during his previous visit. This is a ploy to reveal and defeat a Sontaran invasion plan. Leela and K-9 decide to remain on Gallifrey; the Doctor comforts himself by producing K-9 Mark II (The Invasion of Time).

Shortly afterwards, the powerful White Guardian assigns the Doctor to find the six segments of the Key to Time, sending a young Time Lady named Romana to assist him. The two Gallifreyans find the six segments and defeat the equally powerful Black Guardian, who sought the Key for himself. After the conclusion of the quest, Romana regenerates into a new form (Destiny of the Daleks).

For a time, the Fourth Doctor and the second incarnation of Romana travel in another universe known as E-Space. There, they are joined by the young prodigy Adric. When the Doctor finds a way to leave E-Space, Romana and K-9 Mark II choose to remain behind. Adric and the Doctor are joined by the aristocratic orphan Nyssa of Traken and, in the Fourth Doctor's last adventure, by the opinionated Tegan Jovanka.

The conduit between E-Space and our own universe is revealed to be a Charged Vacuum Emboitment (CVE) — created by the mathematicians of Logopolis as part of a system to allow the Universe to continue on past its point of heat death. As he investigates this, the Fourth Doctor begins experiencing ominous feelings and spots a white-clad entity, "The Watcher," observing him. After succeeding in stopping the Master from disrupting the CVEs and destroying the universe, the Fourth Doctor is mortally wounded when he falls from the Pharos Project radio telescope control tower, where he utters his last words: "It's the end -- but the moment has been prepared for." The Watcher is revealed as a manifestation of the Doctor's future incarnation. Before the eyes of the Doctor's companions, the Watcher merges with the Fourth Doctor, regenerating him into the Fifth Doctor.

The Fourth Doctor appears once more in the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors. A renegade Time Lord attempts to pull the first five incarnations of the Doctor out of time, inadvertently trapping the Fourth Doctor (and Romana) in a "time eddy" from which they are later freed. A brief holographic clip of the Fourth Doctor appears in "The Next Doctor".


The fourth Doctor was known for his love of Jelly Babies
Fourth Doctor is a natural bohemian who permanently left UNIT in order to return to a life of deep universal wandering. More so than his previous incarnations, he is thrilled by discovery and adventure. Galvanised by higher purpose, he is disarmingly loopy (constantly offering friends and foes jelly babies; this trait is referenced in the Tenth Doctor episode 'The Sound of Drums', where the John Simm incarnation of the Master is seen enjoying a bag of jelly babies on board the Valiant), brilliant and entirely serious, all at the same time. To an extent, the Fourth Doctor is the most unpredictable of his incarnations, befuddling all with his intelligence, constantly leaving others wondering if they have his full attention and using his more off the wall mannerisms against adversaries to distract them while arranging to take control of the situation. His keen judge of character also enables him to navigate his way through situations with new people, helping him to discern friend from foe. Although like all his selves he prefers his brain over his brawn, he is a capable swordsman and wrestler, following on from the martial expertise of his immediate former self. He improvises non-lethal weaponry when necessary (Genesis of the Daleks) but was also not averse to more lethal weaponry as a necessity, against both sentient and non-sentient beings (The Invasion of Time, The Talons of Weng-Chiang).

Despite his charm and offbeat humour, the Fourth Doctor is arguably more aloof and sombre than his previous incarnations. He could become intensely brooding, serious and even callous, and would keenly scrutinise his surroundings even when playing the fool. In stories such as Pyramids of Mars he is concerned that he is approaching middle age and often contemplates his outsider status. He could also be furious with those he saw as stupid, frivolous, misguided or evil. When taking charge, he could be considered authoritative to the point of egocentricity, but as it is, he is usually the only one capable of solving the situations he finds himself in. He generally maintained his distance from the Time Lords even after they had lifted his exile, and resented that they were now capable of re-entering his life when they deemed it necessary. Not only did he seem more inclined toward a solitary existence (The Deadly Assassin), he also emphasised his distance from humanity, although he stated on more than one occasion that he found mankind to be his favourite species.

Two of the Doctor's most significant companionships occur during his fourth incarnation. His friendship with Sarah Jane Smith is implied to be deeper than the relationships he shared with other companions to that point (as alluded to in the Tenth Doctor episode School Reunion). She is consequently still profoundly affected by their separation many years later in her personal timeline. His relationship with Romana (specifically her second incarnation) borders on romantic attraction while being bolstered by her capacity to maintain pace with his mental processes. The largest proof of his influence on her is when she chooses to exile herself from Gallifrey to explore new worlds and help others, as he himself has done.


Painting of Aristide Bruant by Lautrec, which inspired the Doctor's famous look
Imposingly tall, with eyes that seem to constantly boggle, a mass of curls for hair and prominently displayed teeth, the Doctor favours an outfit that usually consists of a shirt, waistcoat, wide-legged trousers, a frock coat (with pockets containing a seemingly endless array of apparently useless items that would nevertheless suit the Doctor's purposes when used), a wide-brimmed hat (on occasion) and, most famously, his impractically long, multicoloured striped scarf, which was apparently knitted for him by Madame Nostradamus (whom he refers to as a "witty little knitter").

According to the creators of the show and Baker, the character's look was originally based on paintings and posters by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec of his friend, Aristide Bruant, a singer and nightclub owner whose trademark was a black cloak and long red scarf.

When John-Nathan Turner became the show's producer in Baker's last year, the Fourth Doctor was the first to sport an item of clothing adorned with red question marks as a motif, in this case above the points on his shirt collars. His coat and scarf were changed to a burgundy colour scheme.

Story style

The early stories of the Fourth Doctor were characterised by a strong "horror" theme. The combination of writer Robert Holmes and producer Philip Hinchcliffe consciously took well known themes such as Frankenstein (The Brain of Morbius, Robot), transformation (The Ark in Space, Planet of Evil), alien abduction, and even some elements lifted directly from Universal horror movies, such as the mummies in Pyramids of Mars, although they were given a science fiction explanation, rather than the typical magic. This era is generally seen by fans and critics as the best era in the show's classic run.

This horror element attracted much criticism, notably from Mary Whitehouse, and Hinchcliffe was moved on to police drama Target in 1977. The fourth season of Baker's run was produced by Graham Williams who was given specific instructions to lighten the tone of the stories, thus playing to Baker's strengths. Williams' three years as producer, see the tone of the stories shift from horror stories, such as Horror of Fang Rock, to fairy tale-like ones such as The Androids of Tara and eventually more comic ones such as City of Death.

During the Fourth Doctor's run, in Season 17, the science fiction author Douglas Adams was script editor and his distinctive style can be seen in the dialogue and stories of some of the serials such as City of Death and The Pirate Planet. For example, in Destiny of the Daleks, Adams included a scene of the Doctor trapped under a boulder, that resembles of similar scene in the second series of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Adams' tenure is controversial with fans, some of whom believe that the humorous stories are uncharacteristic of the series, and others who contend that the diversity of the storytelling was one of the series' strong points.

In Season 18, John Nathan-Turner became the series' producer. He instituted a number of changes to the show, including toning down the humour and introducing more science fiction concepts. During this season, the Fourth Doctor became very much subdued and, on occasion, melancholy. At the time, Baker's health was temporarily impaired, although he eventually recovered. Both the actor and character seemed noticeably older in this season, due to Baker's gaunt appearance and greying hair; many of this season's stories also had an elegiac tone, with entropy and decay being a recurring theme. This reaches it conclusion in Baker's final story Logopolis, in which the Doctor becomes aware of his own approaching regeneration by the ghostly figure of the Watcher.

The Fourth Doctor's stories saw fewer recurring elements than previously with few aliens and monsters appearing in more than one story. The Daleks only appeared twice and the Cybermen only had one story, Revenge of the Cybermen. UNIT, which had featured in most of the Third Doctor's adventures, only appeared in four early Fourth Doctor stories, playing a minor role in their last appearance, Season 13's The Seeds of Doom in which none of the regular UNIT staff appeared.

At the same time, stories such as The Deadly Assassin establishes most of the mythology surrounding the Time Lords and the Doctor's home planet Gallifrey, that would remain a key feature for the rest of classic series and still be felt in the revived series. For example, it is established that Time Lords only have a limited number of thirteen regenerations, which is a driving plot point in the stories Mawdryn Undead, The Five Doctors, The Trial of a Time Lord and the 1996 telemovie.

Other mentions

Visions of the Fourth Doctor appear in Earthshock, Mawdryn Undead, Resurrection of the Daleks and The Next Doctor. The Fourth Doctor also appears in Sarah Jane's flashback in The Mad Woman in the Attic, the footage is taken from The Hand of Fear

Other appearances


The Fourth Doctor's distinctive appearance and manner have made him a target for affectionate parody. The character has appeared several times on The Simpsons and twice on Robot Chicken. Even once in "Hugo Whodunnit 2", a computer game where the player's character can save Tom Baker's doctor from a dalek and in return he gives you his infamous screwdriver.He is frequently impersonated by impressionist Jon Culshaw on the radio and television series Dead Ringers. (Culshaw also voiced the Doctor for the Big Finish audio The Kingmaker--see below.) Even Barney Miller had an episode featuring an eccentric man claiming to be a time-traveller, and wearing a long striped scarf. Archival footage of the Fourth Doctor's first title sequence was also used in the Family Guy episode "Blue Harvest" to represent (and parody) Star Wars hyperspace. Tom Baker, as the narrator of the series Little Britain, has referenced Doctor Who.

Argo Records Audio Drama

BBC Audio Dramas

  • Exploration Earth: "The Time Machine"
  • Beginning in September 2009, five new full-cast dramas starring Baker and written by Paul Magrs will be released under the umbrella title Hornets' Nest, where the Fourth Doctor meets an aged Mike Yates many years after his departure from UNIT and have a series of adventures together.
  • Tom Baker also recorded narration, in character as the Fourth Doctor, for a 1976 audio release of Genesis of the Daleks, which was subsequently re-issued by the BBC on cassette and CD as a radio drama.
  • Baker returned again to Doctor Who for the 1990s audio cassette releases of "lost" Doctor Who stories. For some of these stories, he is in character as the Doctor. For others, he merely provides descriptive narration.

Big Finish Audio Dramas

Audio books


Virgin New Adventures

Virgin Missing Adventures

Past Doctor Adventures

Eighth Doctor Adventures

Telos Doctor Who novellas


TV Comic

  • Death Flower
  • Return of the Daleks
  • The Wreckers
  • The Emperor's Spy
  • The Sinister Sea
  • The Space Ghost
  • The Dalek Revenge
  • Virus
  • Treasure Trails
  • Hubert's Folly
  • Counter-Rotation
  • Mind Snatch
  • The Hoaxers
  • The Mutant Strain
  • Double Trouble
  • Dredger
  • The False Planet
  • The Fire Feeders
  • Kling Dynasty
  • The Orb
  • The Mutants
  • The Devil's Mouth
  • The Aqua-City
  • The Snow Devils
  • The Space Garden
  • The Eerie Manor
  • Guardian of the Tomb
  • The Image Makers

TV Comic Annual

  • Woden's Warrior
  • The Tansbury Experiment
  • Jackels of Space

TV Comic Specials

  • The Sky Warriors

Doctor Who Magazine

  • Black Destiny
  • Victims
  • The Iron Legion
  • City of the Damned
  • K9's Finest Hour
  • Timeslip
  • The Star Beast
  • The Dogs of Doom
  • The Time Witch
  • Dragon's Claw
  • The Collector
  • Dreamers of Death
  • The Life Bringer
  • War of the Words
  • Spider-God
  • The Deal
  • End of the Line
  • The Freefall Warriors
  • Junkyard Demons
  • Neutron Knights

Doctor Who Magazine Specials

  • The Naked Flame
  • Rest and Re-Creation
  • The Seventh Segment
  • Starbeast II
  • Junkyard Demons II

Video games

See also


External links

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