That this should prove so difficult is in many ways revealing. First, we should start with what this isn’t, which is an account of Tom Baker as the definitive Doctor. Satisfyingly, this isn’t accomplished with some deconstruction. This is unabashed hagiography – just not to the exclusion of other eras. The result is on a basic level satisfying: the joy that is Tom Baker’s Doctor is celebrated, but without the distorting effect that the era sometimes has.
But it’s curious that there’s no real attention given to the sheer span of Baker’s tenure. Indeed, what really jumps out about this is that Baker’s tenure is reduced almost entirely to its first half. There’s some clips from City of Death, and K-9 makes the companion list, but for the most part there’s not a breath of acknowledgment of anything that wasn’t part of the Hinchcliffe era. Romana isn’t mentioned outside of the City of Death clips. Davros is talked about entirely in terms of Genesis of the Daleks. The other stories to get decent clips are Terror of the Zygons, Robot, Talons of Weng-Chiang, and The Ark in Space.
It’s not full-out erasure, and there’s certainly no overt misrepresentations, but it’s strange to see the Hinchcliffe-only take on Tom Baker, simply because it opens a weird gap in the chronology of this – there’s a chunk as long as the Hartnell or Troughton eras that’s all but cut from the official history.
Some of that is a product of the focus only on actors. The good old “gothic horror to comedy” transition that is part of the history of the program through this era is, fair enough, outside the remit of The Doctors Revisited. And the aspects of the Doctor’s character that are focused on are mainly the more comedic ones, so in a way, even if all the examples are Hinchcliffe-era, it’s the Williams-era version of the character that’s remembered. Which has kind of always been the case.
But another way of putting that is that this is account is almost completely uninterested in the stories. Tom Baker’s performance consumes everything around it, even today. The fact that this is the first installment of The Doctor’s Revisited to have the Doctor in question on hand to interview adds to that, although the actual use of Tom Baker tends to be as a slightly unreliable narrator of his own era. But the focus is very firmly on the character, which Tom Baker as good as says at the beginning, when he admits that the line between himself and his character got blurred.
None of this is helped by the choice of stories to show afterwards. The Pyramids of Mars is not a bad story, although its fourth episode is a bit of a mess. But it’s a tragically safe choice, and it’s telling that Moffat, in introducing it, finds himself mostly talking about Tom Baker’s performance once again before adding a few sentences about how the story’s pretty good. The Ark in Space, The Terror of the Zygons, The Brain of Morbius, The Robots of Death, and City of Death were all the right length, and all perfectly defensible choices. All of them, one suspects, Moffat could have said more about than “it makes sci-fi out of a mummy movie.”
So in an odd way, despite avoiding the trap of proclaiming Tom Baker to be the best Doctor, this special ends up falling into all of the same problems. No matter what you do, somehow, even now, the sheer charisma of Baker’s performance seems to crowd everything else out of the picture. But after this many decades of that being true, one almost has to concede that the performance might just actually be that good and that charismatic.