situations in DOCTOR
WHO were all predictable.
knows which side I'll come down on,
how do you vary the tempo of the story..."
one of the world's most famous men live on stage is exhilarating but it is even
more so to interview him.
On 19 November 1982, just who was Tom Baker?
Later that day, Tom Baker would open a week's run of EDUCATING
RITA, in which
he would play a middle-aged University Don; a baggy, bleary-eyed academic, whose
bookshelves hid whisky bottles and who acidic humour hides a sense of failure.
After interviewees with the Press and the customary photographs, Baker turned
his wide-eyed attention to the EYE OF HORUS team. Whilst autographing DOCTOR
WHO merchandise he told us of the immense interest that there is in America.
"Do you know in the States at the moment a firm called LIONHEART - the people
who distribute the BBC work over there? They sent me a very glossy catalogue.
It's full of hype but I suppose the facts are true. I was astounded to see that
I did 172 episodes of DOCTOR WHO and they are cutting it into 41 feature length
film cassettes - 41! It's going to be very hard for me to pull back from, especially
in America, this DOCTOR WHO thing because it is one job people remember me for
and it would be stupid of me to get irate about because it is fact of life. It
would be like me complaining that I'm going grey of that I'm six foot three.
It's something I have to live with. It was a very pleasant time when I was doing
DOCTOR WHO; I adored it."
The Baker referred to a misunderstanding earlier on during the Press Meeting
when a reporter insisted that he wears a multi-coloured scarf but he declined.
"I don't mind bending to some extent to accommodate and when I'm invited to
charity things I do insist that I do come as Tom Baker. Of course, my appearance
has also changed. You see I'm two years older now, I'm greyer and I've grown
a beard and so I'm not recognised in the streets by children anymore. I was quite
interested in my reaction to that sort of thing because you know some people
when they stop being recognised feel 'withdrawal symptoms'. I didn't feel 'withdrawal
symptoms'; I felt mostly a sense of relief to be anonymous again. I'm not anonymous
in my profession, of course."
Still no yet into the interview
that we had planned, Tom continued to chat, touching upon the agonising times
when his 'Tom
Baker' personal life became invaded by the DOCTOR WHO influence.
"You know I was terribly self-conscious or maybe conscious when I was playing
DOCTOR WHO. So whenever I was seen in public I was always careful never to be
seen smoking, plastered or boisterous in any way so that I never disappointed
a child. I would not do anything that might be upset a child, even something
which other adults were doing. I wouldn't even drink tea, and if someone offered
me a cup of tea or a sandwich, I would say, "No. Have you a jelly baby?" in order
to keep that sort of thing rolling among young children and, of course, it worked."
We commented that not only did he work hard on the programme itself but in
the vital work of promotion.
"I adored the promotion. I worked very hard
running round all over the world. I went to America, Australia twice, Holland,
Germany and Ireland, and certainly to every centre in this country promoting
the series. In addition, sending out greeting cards out to young children. Right,
let's get down to the questions!"
Researching Tom Baker's most
recent roles, he seemed to accept 'fantasy' roles
(like DOCTOR WHO and Prince Koura). Was he interested in science fiction/fantasy
or was it that he had been 'type-cast'?
"Yes, they have been extravagant; that's
true. I think in any profession, people like to classify you into what you can
do best. The theatre, television and filmmakers are largely cautions in the way
they cast people, so very quickly you get bracketed for the things you can do
best. So inevitably, I have become associated with extravagance and that has
pleased me because I do like extravagance. I would rather vintage Champagne than
Theakston's Old Peculiar."
No interview with a Doctor, like Baker or Davison, would be complete without
the perennial question: What is your most memorable DOCTOR WHO story? So, we
put this question to Tom, expecting a short, concise answer but instead got a
very full and informative reply, which included behind-the-scenes secrets of
"I think for some reason THE
ARK IN SPACE was my most memorable as I admired the designs in that.
I got very interested in the designs. A lovely house-style was developed from
a very small budget. It didn't matter that the scenery shook or when it came
to a shot with me and K9 I had to accidentally get on my knees in order to talk
"One developed a technique in how to do the dialogue
in moving scenes, especially if it was difficult to get a 'fishing rod microphone'
to track with you in an enclosed set. Sometimes you would have 15 lines of dialogue
to get in on the move and, of course, it was impossible."
I knew this more than the Directors because
I was doing it every week. So what would happen is they would ask how could get
the lines in. I'd say, "it's
an absolute push-over; watch this!" You see, I'm walking along with this girl
and then I would stop and say, "Ssshhh". She'd say, "What?" and I'd say, "Did
you hear that?" and she'd say, "No!" and then I'd say, "Now,
what were you saying?" She
would then say the lines and then we would go. It was terribly simple you see
to do that! DOCTOR WHO wasn't an acting job - in a sense it couldn't develop.
The paradox of television series and serials is that there is no character development
and when the character is fixed people don't want it to change. Then the onus
on the actor is the make the character as witty and surprising within the predictability
of the situation.
The situations in DOCTOR
WHO were all predictable.
Everyone knows which side I'll come down on; which moral attitude I'm going to
take. So how do you vary the tempo of the story or how to come through a door?
So perhaps when the door opens suddenly I'm not there and then the camera pans
downs to find me on my knees because I thought I heard a noise." (Potentially
a reference to the most recent story, FULL CIRCLE)
"I was playing an alien so it gave you a
massive licence, you see, and how do aliens act? We don't know. So I was allowed
a ludicrous costume."
An opportunity to move questioning from story direction to costumes.
"I grew to like the later ones. On that comic."
Referring to DWM issue 51.
".we began to get a little operatic, very
extravagant and maybe I was becoming tired then. I was unwell during that story.
Referring to THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN.
While thumbing through the comic, Tom came across a photo of Patrick Troughton
and named him as his favourite Doctor and one of his favourite actors as well.
Tom had confirmed that THE ARK IN SPACE was his favourite story but did he
have a least favourite.
"I can't say I dislike things but I can
remember us having a very difficult time in doing the two dalek stories, although
that story with Davros in was a huge success. He was brilliantly acted; a marvelous
character and such a fantastic costume, but that was hard one to do."
DOCTOR WHO Producer. Always a controversial subject. Many fans believe that
Graham Williams took the series to an all-time low and that John Nathan-Turner
reversed the trend.
We asked Tom if he had any comments on fan attitudes and if he favoured any
"Well, I don't know what the fans' REAL
attitude is. I got on very well with Graham and I got on terribly with John now.
I hear from John every couple of weeks. He's trying to involve me in a project
Inquisitively, we asked if the project was the 20 th anniversary special,
hoping that he would divulge some secret.
"Yes, that's right. Of course, I'll do the
special when I'm free. John is the only Producer I really socialise with. I've
worked with four in all. Just by accident we get on very well with each other;
he's very amusing."
DOCTOR WHO MEETS SCRATCHMAN - the
movie, scripted by Ian Marter and Tom. What did he remember about the story?
"I remember thinking that it was wonderful
but nobody else thinking it was wonderful, except Ian Marter who worked like
a dog on it. Also James Hill, who later directed all of the WORZEL
but at the DOCTOR WHO didn't like it all"
"The storyline was a kind of WORZEL
A sort of fertilizer goes wrong and animates scarecrows. It was extremely violent.
Scratchman was an 'old world' name for the Devil, and was an international mischief-maker.
He just wanted to make trouble, and I remember the end that took place on a pinball
table. We were going to turn a whole studio into a pinball table. We (the Doctor
and his companions) were stuck on the table and Scratchman was firing these balls
at us. The balls went down holes that lead to Hell, just full of old Daleks and
things like that."
At one time I think we had about £500,000
which was half the budget offered to us by the British Film Finance Company.
It looked as if we might raise the rest but it blew 'hot and cold'. It does that
on all films."
You see, the funny thing about being an
actor is that you've got to get out while you're winning. Now this play is a
huge success; huge!"
We commented that the present case was similar to the DOCTOR WHO situation.
When Tom had left in 1981, he was at the height of his DOCTOR WHO career.
"That's right. Time to get out. So I'm in
this play, with Kate Fitzgerald who is amazing and we're selling out everywhere,
filling Opera Houses and big theatres like Newcastle. Then in three weeks time,
including this week, I'm going to leave with absolutely nothing signed. But one
has to take chance all the time."
NEXT TIME - PART TWO OF THE
TOM BAKER INTERVIEW
Tom recalls accidents on the set of DOCTOR
WHO, his companions and plans for