Doctor Who: Your instant guide to classic Who on iTunes

There's a batch of Tom Baker Doctor Who stories just gone up on iTunes. Here's the Den Of Geek guide to them...

Tom Baker, as Doctor Who

It’s time to upgrade your broadband usage to unlimited and max that credit card. Yes, that’s right, iTunes have uploaded a bunch of classic Tom Baker stories for your delectation and delight. The swines! But which ones should you choose? Here is Den Of Geek’s at a glance guide…

The Deadly Assassin (Not on DVD yet) For the first and last time in the classic era, the Doctor flies solo. Set on his home planet of Gallifrey, this is one of the original series’ true classics. Penned by Robert Holmes, there has been nothing quite like it since. The home world of the Time Lords is shown to be as rotten and corrupt as anywhere else the Doctor has visited. The surreal nature of the Matrix is truly disturbing and it has some of the best cliffhangers ever. Unfortunately, the Master’s mask is a bit rubbish, but it’s still everything the Trial Of The Time Lord isn’t: gripping, dramatic and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (On DVD) Writer Robert Holmes really went for broke on this one. It’s Doctor Who as Sherlock Holmes (Tom Baker even wears a deerstalker), with every Victorian cliché thrown in for good measure. But having said that, it is another of Who’s truly great stories. Tom Baker really relishes the chance to play Holmes in all but name (he did go on to play Conan Doyle’s detective in 1982). The villains make the most of the creepy atmosphere and the double act of Jago and Litefoot are a joy to watch. Pity about the giant rat, though.

The Pyramids Of Mars (On DVD) One of the best Fourth Doctor/Sarah Jane Smith adventures. It’s another horror homage with killer mummies stalking a stately home. Everything goes a bit pear-shaped in the final episode, but until then it is one of the most gripping yarns in Baker’s era. Actor Micheal Sheard, better known as Grange Hill’s Mr Bronson, makes one of his regular Who appearances. The villain doesn’t really do much, but Sutekh has plenty of good one liners.

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The Sontaran Experiment (On DVD) One of the earliest Fourth Doctor stories, this is notable for two reasons. It was shot entirely on location on Dartmoor and Tom Baker managed to break his collarbone half way through filming, which meant stuntman Terry Walsh had to don a wig for some very long shots in the second episode. The Sontaran is quite chilling and there’s a robot who runs about, doing very little. Apart from that, it’s rather good.

The Hand Of Fear (On DVD) This was Sarah Jane Smith’s last journey with Tom Baker and the parting scene is one of the original series’ finest moments. The story itself is notable for Lis Sladen wandering around a nuclear power plant in Andy Pandy style dungarees, yelling “Eldrad must live.” And it really was filmed in a power plant, which makes a nice change from all those chalk pits. The story ticks along nicely until they travel to the alien planet, so consider yourself warned.

The Ark In Space (On DVD) Although this is Tom Baker’s second only story as the Doctor, he has already nailed the character and made his mark. The Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane are stranded on a deserted ship, but evil forces are at work. Considering the non-existent budget and the gratuitous use of bubble wrap, this is a remarkably fine piece of science fiction. You may never look at bubble wrap in the same way, though.

The Leisure Hive (On DVD) The first story from Tom Baker’s final series. The opening shot in the first episode goes on for 90 seconds. It’s very stylish, but you can see why millions of children immediately turned over to watch Buck Rogers In The 25th Century instead. The American series had space ships, Wilma Dearing in lyrca and funny robots. The Leisure Hive had a clearly unwell Tom Baker banging on about tachyons. It was one nil to the Yanks, then.

The Sun Makers (Not On DVD yet) Famously written after Robert Holmes got a large tax bill, this is easily a treatise on free market economics. Look out for the corridor marked ‘P45’. Can the Doctor and Leela help the locals, who are being unfairly taxed? Of course, they can. If the credit crunch continues, this could well be the first original story which gets remade.

The Invisible Enemy (On DVD) The is K9’s first story and it also features the legendary Michael Sheard. A space virus infects the Doctor. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, although there are plenty of good ideas. It was originally broadcast in October 1977, just as Star Wars hit British screens. The differences between the two couldn’t be more apparent.

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The Nightmare Of Eden (Not On DVD) Deeply silly, but a good romp. Say what you want about script editor Douglas Adams, but at least he made Doctor Who fun to watch.