On Monday April 14th, the day was uncertain for one of the main attractions. Tom Baker
was to appear at The Ivy in Leicester Square, but days before, an illness seemed ready to put a stop to his attendance, having already cancelled a signing the Saturday before. Upon my arrival, and stepping aside at the main entrance, how wonderful it was when the Fourth Doctor himself was then happily posing outside infront of fans and photographers in the sunlight with one of his adversaries, a Dalek. Upstairs at the restaurant and bar provoked a lot of interest for the day with the very costumes of Doctors One to Seven (the latter being from The TV Movie
) on display after their previous presence at the 50th Anniversary Celebration at London's ExCel arena.
Gathering fellow Doctor Who fans, bloggers and journalist in a corner of the room, Baker himself, looking very well at 80, greeted all to an enthusiastic "hello" back, as the Q&A session began. A first question posed was his much talked about cameo in The Day of the Doctor
, something that the actor initially didn't want to have a part in. Baker spoke in a particularly vein manner when recalling a meeting with former producer Caroline Skinner
I did contemplate not doing it, and I was persuaded by a girl called Caroline Skinner, who was the producer, and she came to meet me in Rye at the Mermaid Hotel, a lovely antique place, and she begged me to be in it. She’s a very persuasive girl and she was very charming about it and said I could tamper with the script and whatever, and so I said yes to her. Anyway, then the script arrived and I didn’t much care for the script, so I rang the BBC and said, "Get me Caroline Skinner". They said, "I’m so sorry, she’s not with us any more". And it was only later I found out she’d been murdered by someone else in the BBC, I suppose, who was after her job. And I never heard of her again. Going to Cardiff on a winter’s morning at four o’clock couldn’t possibly be fun, but [Matt Smith
], he was nice and I didn’t understand the cameras any more because of the HD, so I was a bit uneasy. But Matt Smith was a charming young man and we did this little scene which people liked a lot.
He was then asked if another potential return to the show would be out of the question:
I wouldn't rule anything out. If it was a nice part, with some good lines, I might deign to appear! I greatly admire [Peter Capaldi
], he's a brilliant actor. He's lovely and apparently he's a great fan of Doctor Who. He might ask for me! [On his cameo if it affected the surviving Doctors] I was delighted! Oh I hope so yes! That really pleased me.
Baker is known to the fandom to have had, at the time, disagreements with producer John-Nathan Turner
during the 1980 run of the show which eventually saw a final season with his Fourth Doctor. He explained the reasoning behind his untimely departure:
My favourite period had to be the changeover from Barry Letts
to Philip Hinchcliffe
. He was amazing. Graham Williams
was absolutely devoted, but he didn't have that kind of flair that Philip had. But he let me get away with murder so that was alright! Then John introduced many more characters. In the 25-minute format, there isn't room to divide a script between four or five principal characters so it meant that I was surrounded by people nodding away saying, "Yes, Doctor, that's right", they couldn't drive the plot. I had to drive the plot, that wasn't so fun at all. John Nathan-Turner and I did not see eye-to-eye really about very much. It was only afterwards when he'd gone that I got to realise what he was doing for Doctor Who. He was promoting it all over the world which was all to my advantage. We became quite good friends as time passed, we forgot all about those disagreements.
Interviewing him, I kept creativity in mind, stepping away from the formulaic questions such as "what was it like being The Doctor?", and instead queried about his feelings of the several costumes he wore throughout his tenure, to which he lovingly took on as an acting job. I later queried about his supposed involvement in The Five Doctors
20th anniversary special and if his decline to the opportunity had something to do with his conflicts with Nathan-Turner, which was indeed true:
I turned down The Five Doctors because it wasn't long since I'd left. I had left Doctor Who because I think I'd run my course. I didn't want to play 20 per cent of the part. I didn't fancy being a feed for other Doctors. In fact, it filled me with horror. Now, of course, if someone asked me to do a scene with some other Doctors, I think, if they let me tamper with the script, it would probably be quite droll. I would think about that, yes. I did one series too many of Doctor Who. I probably stayed on too long. I think I should've gone when John was taking over to liberate him to recast. Maybe I did one series too many. But the truth is, I never did give it up because people wouldn't let me give it up! I'd been waiting for a part like Doctor Who all my life and since I finished, it's never gone away. I'm still playing it for Big Finish, and I'm still happy!
An interesting question cropped up, revealing that he had been approached to be in The Sarah Jane Adventures
for a guest stint as The Doctor intended for a sixth series. Enthused by the prospect, at the time, Baker then reminisced his memories being with former co-star Elisabeth Sladen
I think it was being mooted at a time when Elisabeth began to be ill. I'd never seen it, but she was so thrilled, I never got round to doing that.
I was saying all this gobbledegook and people were falling around laughing and especially Elisabeth. As a colleague, she was absolutely devoted to me, so when we'd cook up a scene, she was always there saying just what I wanted. She'd say, "Listen to Tom!". We both were fond of old movies and we often stole bits! And because she admired me, I in turn adored her! When people laugh at my jokes, I'm extremely vulnerable! Elisabeth, oh... it was terrible when she went.
A break allowed all to chinwag about their appreciation of Who and of the man present, with complimentary drinks, refreshments, and (believe it or not) jelly babies layed out on tables. Tom was then photographed in between Peter Davison
, Colin Baker
and Sylvester McCoy
's costumes while, as an extra special treat, wearing his burgundy hat and scarf he first wore in his final series as The Doctor. Leading next was Horror Channel's showcase of promoting Classic Doctor Who on the UK channel, represented by the face of the channel, Emily Booth
, who proceeded to give a speech and presenting scenes from a couple of Tom's stories, (The Face of Evil
and Genesis of the Daleks
) set to the full 1963 version of the theme tune. An interview followed with Booth to Baker about his life on the show and his delight at Classic Who being on the channel, sharing anecdotes of being a fan of horror himself. After which, Tom quietly left.
There were musings in coversations that Peter Davison and Nicholas Briggs
were to turn up, but alas, this never materialised, but Tom's presence certainly didn't bat this. Three individuals who did were The Fires of Pompeii
writer James Moran
, a representative from the BBC and a man named Peter, whose company (which I failed to know the name of) were responsible for creating the animation seen in Horror's posters and commercials.
It had been a frankly brilliant day talking non-stop to fans but also briefly exchanging words with the man himself. It had been arranged perfectly by the Horror team at an appropriately posh venue for a showcase like Doctor Who. Baker was on form and kept everyone in good spirits by joking in his usual manner but also being truthful and setting eyes on every person to interact with. Had Baker not have turned up, the launch would have been much shorter and would have felt somewhat empty. In short, Tom Baker saved the day and appeared to have enjoyed it very much.