Tom Baker: “I really like being loved” | TV and radio


“I miss Waitrose terribly,” says Tom Baker in those unmistakable tones. “And Boots, and places I went and didn’t realize how dependent I was on them.” “The year of the coronavirus treats the veteran actor well overall, he explains, “because I live in the country and have a garden and woods, a cat and a woman.” But there is a melancholy and a reminder of his own mortality when he ventures out. “When my wife and I go for a drive, I drive to Tenterden [in Kent] and – we’re not exactly crying – but it becomes solemn when we see the hardware store, Boots, and Waitrose, and then we turn around and walk home. Then I go down to the paradise of my woods and I think, “Well, that will pass eventually. Another voice, of course, said, ‘Yes, but by then you’ll be gone.’ ”

Baker, who turned 87 in January – “It’s a little shocking, really” – has been busy during the summer, working from home in isolation. He still voices the character he’s best known for, the BBC’s Doctor Who, for audio tracks produced by Big Finish. He has a busy schedule, appearing with new and old companions and monsters.

“They haven’t worked hard on me in the sense that it’s some sort of ordeal,” he said. “It’s heaven for me. This morning we got bogged down for a moment over the difference between an ice cream sundae and a knickerbocker glory. And I thought, ‘Well that’s a good way to spend half an hour no matter what day of the week it is.’ ‘

This month, 40 years ago, it was announced that after seven years Baker would be leaving “the hit children’s space show,” as the Sun’s cover put it. The day the world found out began with Baker unveiling two wax figures at Madame Tussauds. He was the first person to have two aftershocks simultaneously – one as a Doctor under normal circumstances and one as a Doctor possessed by the alien cactus Meglos, a villain from a 1980 story.

Tom Baker with his two wax doctors in 1980. Photograph: Chris Ware / Getty

He made the headlines for suggesting – the audacity – that his replacement could turn out to be female. He was a few decades away with that one.

Baker remembers little of that day, there is a half-life. “I don’t really remember that, because deep down I really felt that it wasn’t the end of me,” he says. “Because I couldn’t really imagine this ending for me. And, of course, in no time it turned out to be true.

Although he refused to reprise the role in 1983 for the show’s 20th anniversary special – his part in the publicity photos for The Five Doctors being taken by this Tussauds wax – he continued to tell books. Doctor Who audio and film linkage material for VHS and DVD. came out in the 90s before returning to the role in audio. And, indeed, as a plethora of medics have followed, Baker’s portrayal – all the teeth and curls and that insanely long scarf – is still the go-to visual shortcut for the Time Lord.

“What I appreciate most over the past 50 years of my life is this gift of playing Doctor Who,” he says. ” Because he is a good soul and I am a good soul, that allowed me to be my own cheerful, rather silly but good-humored character, you know, pretending to be heroic.

Out of Time from Big Finish, which featured the voices of Tom Baker and David Tennant

Out of Time from Big Finish, which features the voices of Tom Baker and David Tennant. Photography: great finish

This year, much to fans’ delight, Big Finish posted a story pitting Baker against the Daleks alongside the more modern Doctor David Tennant. Because of Covid, everything was recorded in isolation. Does Baker miss the interaction of working with actors in the studio? “Well, I’m pretty used to it. Also, I’ve often worked with people who can’t stand the sight of me, so they don’t really look at me. I like getting along with actors very well, but many of them would rather turn down a job than work with me. I understand that. ”

Baker returns frequently to talk about her religious upbringing and how it has shaped and enabled her career. “Being an actor, for me, has to do with the wonderful theater of being brought up like a mad Catholic, where everything has made us oblivious. I was raised on nonsense, so that meant when it got to Doctor Who, people were like, ‘How can you keep a straight face?


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