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.
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.
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?
Baker isn’t on social media – “It’s not a matter of principle or anything like that; it’s actually incompetence ”- but his name is sometimes trending on Twitter, causing a first panic that it is bad news, followed by a wave of love for the national treasure. It’s something he’s used to now. “The idea of being loved really appeals to me. People would say to me, “What was it like to be loved? And I would say, “Yes, it’s wonderful to be loved. Wonderful to be loved. You should try it. ‘ ”
Since his tenure, the character of The Doctor has achieved a position in British pop culture similar to that of James Bond, Miss Marple, and Sherlock Holmes. And, while you can easily imagine new stories written and made about the character for decades to come, Baker remains a vital part of his story. “I managed to come to terms with life being that character,” he says. “Everywhere I go people – if they watch TV, especially Doctor Who – are happy to see me and they think I was fun. Once you’re in this world, see, this benevolent world where I’m a harmless old man with a nice line of jokes or whatever, people feel comfortable with me and I feel at home. comfortable with them. So I’m really, really happy right now.
Maybe being the doctor is a life sentence?
“A life sentence? Condemned to be happy? Condemned to applause? Condemned to be smiled? It really isn’t a bad fate, is it?