Interview: Tom Baker - SciFiNow - The World's Best Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Magazine

Interview: Tom Baker

We chat to a true sci-fi icon.

HN GENERAL PUBLICITY Tom Baker gardenSciFiNow recently interviewed legendary Doctor Who star Tom Baker. Tom was eager to talk about his famed time spent as the Doctor, and also had some other interesting revelations regarding a certain fantasy trilogy.

At the time, was it daunting to land the role of The Doctor?

It wasn’t nearly as daunting as not getting it, because I was on a bloody building site mixing concrete. So no it wasn’t daunting, it was wonderfully exhilarating. In a sense it made me kind of anxious until I signed the contract – I was full of confidence then.

Which storyline did you most enjoy being a part of?

Well I don’t know if there was just one because I was always working on four or six scripts at a time, and the filming was done out of sequence. So I didn’t always know what was going on, which helps a lot because as you know, The Doctor is an alien. I didn’t realise this at the time, but the sillier I got the more the audiences liked it. I’ve always felt myself to be a slightly benevolent alien.

Americans were particularly taken with your version of The Doctor weren’t they?

Oh yes. The Americans, some Americans saw me as a messiah, some even asked me to bless them.

Would you say that you very much moulded the character of the Fourth Doctor to be your own?

I didn’t mould him, it was just me. It was Tom being friendly, and rather silly. As I come from a very religious background I can follow any old guff.

So your seven years on the show was a totally happy and harmonious experience?

Yes it was in terms of success, but it wasn’t entirely harmonious. I was apparently often very demanding, stroppy and bloody-minded.

Following your spell as The Doctor, who has impressed you most in the role?

I have no idea, I have only discovered this morning that there were successors [laughs]; I thought I was the only one. I didn’t watch Doctor Who when I was in it and I certainly didn’t watch anyone else in it. If you’re an actor and you’re in something like Doctor Who, which is full of special effects and things like that, and when you watch it you’re asking yourself to be miserable. Because you think “That’s a lousy bit of editing”, or “They’ve cut my line about the jelly baby”. So the best thing to do, instead of worrying about that, is I just listened to the fans and was absolutely delighted if they liked it. I was more concerned with being Doctor Who, promoting it making and it into a huge hit.

DR_TOM_BAKER_4Would playing The Doctor again be something that interests you? Say, for a television or charity event for example.

Yes, of course it would, because simply it was the happiest time of my life, and the best part I’ve ever had. I stayed long, couldn’t tear myself away. This was because we were laughing all the time; why am I going leave something that makes me happy and that every actor I meet wants to be in? The boys from Z Cars used to be in the next rehearsal room and they would creep in just to watch us rehearsing.

Are you excited about the new series? Do you see Matt Smith as being a good choice?

I know nothing. Although he should take comfort that nobody has ever failed as Doctor Who. He’s following a man of prestigious success; Tennant was a wonderful actor and he would ever so often take a break and go off and do Hamlet, or Love’s Labour’s Lost. He was incredible.

What was the nature of the role you were approached to fill in Lord Of The Rings? Were you offered a part?

I was asked to. During my audition, however, I wasn’t too impressed with the director and his assistant who were sitting on the floor. It was very difficult for me to take people seriously who were sat on the floor when there were chairs around, and he was all in black as well. Anyway, I did this number straight at him, and he said to me, “Listen, the first question I have to ask you is if I offer you a part in this film, will you come to New Zealand for two years?” and I just laughed in his face and said: “I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got a dog, a cat and a wife. I’ve got roses to prune and a life to lead, I’m not going away for two years, no sir.” So naturally I didn’t hear anything about it.

Tell me about your involvement on the BBC’s upcoming Doctor Who: Hornets’ Nest audio series?

Well the Hornets’ Nest is the overall adventure and it is broken down into five parts, and is called The Stuff Of Nightmares written by Paul Magrs. Now Paul Magrs by the way is an extraordinary writer. It’s about these malignant hornets, which have a queen hornet, and they are going to take over the universe, as in the way of most science/fantasy adventures. They are led by this queen of prestigious beauty, who’s sting makes old men happy before they die. It gets very funny at times because it goes backwards and forwards in time. There’s some lovely old-fashioned stuff in Suffolk, and then we go back to an 11th Century nunnery. Now nuns used to be a great hobby of mine, because to get a nun to come across required certain ingenuity, especially the ones I used to mix with. It’s totally improbable as all good science fiction should be.

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