on the whole thing was heaven.
was right down my street because I'm very interested
script editing and realising stories..."
In October 1982, Tom Baker became
Sherlock Holmes in the BBC adaptation of Conan Doyle's HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
(1981). Following in the (television) footsteps of the likes of Peter Cushing,
Douglas Wilmer, Luis Hector, Stewart Granger, Christopher Plummer, had Tom extensively
researched the part?
"No, I find the films a bit amusing. A lot
of actors have played Holmes but the thing is that modern audiences are completely
influenced by the image of Basil Rathbone. It was like when I took over DOCTOR
WHO , I was nervous because I thought, "Christ! You know Jon Pertwee's
really jumped on it very hard." He was very popular, as you know and he
worked like a dog to promote it. So I thought, "Christ! How am I going to
But of course you can only do your own version
of it. Then I realised that on DOCTOR WHO it doesn't matter
who's doing it because it's the formula that is bigger than the actor in front
of it because of the amazing flexibility that it has.
You see one of the marvellous things about DOCTOR
WHO is that, done reasonably well, it's in an area where there's no
competition. I mean SPACE 1999, SAPHIRE AND STEEL, STAR
TREK; those are earnest, rather too earnest whereas DOCTOR WHO isn't
anything like that.
When I went to America, the reception in Los Angeles
was absolutely stupefying. I could hardly keep my face straight. There were only
a few children there, mostly young adults like you, all taking it extremely seriously
and reading all sorts into the stories or into my character that I'd never thought
of. Of course I couldn't say, "Look here, you know it's a load of bullshit!" I
was doing a job. I couldn't really disappoint them or disenchant them but I was
surprised at their obsession with it."
Having spoken so kindly about Pertwee
and Troughton, had Tom ever met William Hartnell?
"No, I never met him. Of course, I would have
liked to but apparently he was very irascible at the end of his life because
he wasn't very well. I would have liked to have met him like I'd met the others.
Peter Davison? I was very familiar with his work on television. Patrick is the
one I know the best, I think."
DOCTOR WHO is known for
having a tight budget and a quick rehearse-record turnaround. The possibility
of problems at a high premium. Did things frequently go wrong during the filming?
"Well quite often small things went wrong, like
the scarf getting tangled up which caused me to fall about the place. They always
re-took those scenes but I longed to leave them in because that's what happens
if you wear a ludicrous scarf."
During the filming of THE SONTARAN
EXPERIMENT (1975), Tom had injured himself but had the scarf caused
"Oh, THE SONTARAN EXPERIMENT,
the very first one. I had a terrible fight in that. I'd forgotten about that
one. I broke my shoulder on the very first episode. After that I got very interested
in how to stage and how to cope with fight sequences. Then I discovered that
terry Walsh was a brilliant 'stand-in' and stunt double for me especially in
mid-distance shots. They cut in close for the dialogue from me and pulled wide
for Terry Walsh, who was a marvellously conscientious stunt double and also a
very good friend to me.
I remember in a TARDIS sequence in the studio
an entire TARDIS fell in because it was only made up of four sides and a roof.
There was this juddering sequence and they hadn't got the pins in properly and
the whole place fell around me. I wondered what the hell was going on! I think
that was one directed by Douglas Camfield."
We suggested that the story could have
been THE SEEDS OF DOOM (1976).
"SEEDS OF DOOM? That's right.
It was winter scene. There was a wonderful actor in it called Tony Beckley who
played the villain."
Tony Beckley played Harrison Chase.
"He used to wear gloves. He's died since then,
I was horrified. An excellent actor. Very good in those spooky roles; very smiley
and gentlemanly with them. Really terrifying."
If he hadn't secured the DOCTOR
WHO role, where would have acting taken him?
"Well, in those days I was in such a state of
anxiety. I'd done NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRIA (1971) and a few
films, and then I was working a building site. I was going through a crisis but
it was so wretched to be out of work. Then DOCTOR WHO came
up; I got the job and signed up. It was great relief. I was terrified in the
first few days before they drew the Contract up that someone might actually ask
me what I was going to do with it because I honestly had no idea. Maybe I had
no idea even at the end what I going to do with it. The spontaneity came from
the fact that I didn't know what was going on. Sometimes you work on four or
six scripts at a time. It was never shot in any narrative order."
During his time with DOCTOR WHO ,
Tom had eleven companions (including, later, his wife, Lalla Ward). Did he have
"As far as I was concerned, I did like Elizabeth
Sladen's sort of 'Pearl White' style of acting. I liked that. The young girl
with the hero, and sometimes she'd help me out. I thought that was wonderful."
If Tom had had a choice in casting a companion
for the Fourth Doctor?
"A companion? Oh, I'd have chosen someone like
Miriam Margolyes or Patricia Hayes or Sylvia Coleridge."
And what about SHADA (1979)
written by Douglas Adams. What do you remember from the abandoned serial?
"We never completed it, did we? Well, that was
a terrible shame because there were some filming sequences there. I would have
liked to have seen what we did. I wonder if they will ever cut some together
and use it somehow. Perhaps, in a documentary? They couldn't get the cast back
and I remember I was so depressed that afternoon they suddenly scotched it, and
then Graham Williams suggested that we should go to Los Angeles Convention."
On the 25 October 1980, Tom announced that
he was leaving DOCTOR WHO , and some eleven days later his successor,
Peter Davison, was 'crowned'. Had he managed to watch the new series?
"No, I haven't seen one of them. I've been working
in the theatre all the time and they've changed the running times. I don't know
anything about it. Is it still successful? I suppose it is."
We indicated that the viewing figures were
about 8 million.
"Well, that's stupendous. In fact, that's much
more that I was getting at the end of my stink, I did try and judge it. After
a while you know that enough's enough and maybe I stayed a season too long, I
Admittedly, we were apprehensive that the
larger-than-life Tom Baker may regard us as 'freaks', irritated by the endless
questioning. Our initial fears disappeared as we were welcomed with a handshake
and a wide, happy grin. He seemed a cheerful character, so he must have had some
very happy times (a phrase he accompanies with his autograph) over the seven
"Oh, on the whole thing was heaven. It was right
down my street because I'm very interested in script editing and realising stories.
Because I was the reference point in all of the stories I became very friendly
with the Directors who worked on the series. I could be helpful to them because
the scenes were very repetitious, and that fascinated me. So I began, a little
by little, to be able to be helpful about how to vary set-ups, which is sometimes
difficult as corridors are corridors, explosions are explosions, and as you know
most of DOCTOR WHO is resolved by explosions."
DOCTOR WHO has always
attracted a stunning array of guest-stars, with a number of them developing a
noteworthy career. Had Tom enjoyed working with other leading actors?
"I didn't have a villain except right at the end
with Anthony Ainley who's a great friend of mine. I know Tony very well indeed.
I was delighted when he got the part of.what's he called?"
"Yes, the Master. I was delighted when he got
the part and I enjoyed that last one I did with him. Who else? I remember Sylvia
Played Amelia Ducat.
".who was in THE SEEDS OF DOOM,
I think. She was an old lady in the story and we always had a good time. We laughed
an awful lot together. The word got round, especially in the canteen, that it
was fun to and we were able to get very actors in. We had Beatrix Lehman in once.
I've forgotten which story which that was."
STONES OF BLOOD, we
"That's right, and that was her last job, I think.
She died soon after that."
Tom continued to discuss his options for
"I wanted to have a very, very old lady as a companion
because there were some wonderful older actresses about then. I also proposed
to have a child who never spoke, just a 'snaggle-toothed' rather ugly child,
maybe naked, who tagged along. He'd just shake or nod his head but was always
there whilst I tried to get rid of him. I also wanted to do a story involving
children; a rather old-fashioned one. A rescue job across mountains and things.
The Producers were very kind to me but in fact most of my ideas, I'm afraid,
The eccentricity of Tom Baker was slowly
seeping into us, and so, infected by this garrulous man, we asked a seemingly
Was Tom Baker his real name?
It was greeted with spontaneous laughter.
"Yes. When I was drama student the first thing
I did was to practice my autograph on the assumption that lots of people were
going to ask me for it. I used to write, "Yours cordially, Jake Bromburg ".
I was going to be called Jake Bromburg and then I discovered there was a Jake
Bromburg in Equity. So I had to use the name Tom Baker which was silly as that
was my real name. I had to start practicing the signature all over again.
The next think I prepared was an OSCAR speech.
I thought I had better get things in proportion."
Cheesy link coming up.
In the immortal words of the Fourth Doctor, "It's
the end but the moment has been prepared for."
Our time was up but one last question was
plucked the air. A predictable one, yes, but it had to be asked.
His favourite villain or alien encounter?
"I think that my favourite monster because it
was so amusing was the 'walking tree' in SEEDS OF DOOM. The
Krynoid, yes. That used to 'kill me' because I used to know some of the fellas
who did the small parts and they were inside this tree thing shuffling about
all night. It amused me no end."
I thought the rat in THE
TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG(1977) was rather good because Stuart Fell,
who's an actor, stuntman, acrobat and conjurer was in the rat costume. It was
That last, rather surprising, answer ended
We would like to thank Tom Baker for his valuable
time, his generous manner and genial humour.
In addition, our thanks to Lynne Horton for arranging
the interview at the York Theatre Royal.