This is a post in the Tor.com Twelve Doctors of Christmas series. Click the link to peruse the entire series.
There’s something to be said for the idea that we all think Doctor Who was best when we first started paying attention to it. I was seven when Tom Baker became the Doctor, and thirteen when his term in the TARDIS ended; for me he has always been the definitive Doctor, alien, unknowable, yet powerfully moral and frighteningly intelligent, against whom all other Doctors must be measured. Few come close—Hartnell, Eccleston, and the new boy Smith being the nearest.
I’m not alone. Poll after poll of fans put Fourth Doctor stories right at the top of the Old Who rankings. Like many others, I love “The Ark In Space” (1975), “Genesis of the Daleks” (1975), “The Deadly Assassin” (1976), and “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” (1977), all of which gripped me on first viewing, over a third of a century ago, and still grip me now. Particularly in Baker’s early years, the people making the show really gelled—producer Philip Hinchcliffe with his attraction to the gothic and commitment to making things look right, script editor Robert Holmes with his subversive, anti-establishment instincts, and of course Baker himself with his fundamental anarchism.