"You may be a doctor, but I'm THE Doctor. The definite article, you might say."Thomas Stewart Baker
(born 20 January, 1934) is Doctor Who
. An old story goes that if you don't know what Tom Baker looks like, all you need to do is close your eyes and think of the Doctor... and that's him. Curly hair, floppy hat, long multi-coloured scarf and toothy grin. Instantly recognisable. Even today, over thirty years since leaving the role, he's generally accepted as being the most well-known of any of the thirteen actors to have played it to date and has only now been surpassed in popularity by David Tennant
; even newer and/or younger Who-fen, for whom Tennant is their iconic Doctor, list Baker as the
Classic Doctor. Certainly he was the longest serving (seven seasons in total), so he is embedded in the public consciousness better than most of the others.
Born in Liverpool
, Baker initially studied to become a monk, but he dropped out when he realised that a life of isolation wasn't for him. He gravitated towards acting, mostly as an understudy on stage. He gained plaudits for his role as Grigori Rasputin
in Nicholas And Alexandra
, and this led to several other film and television roles, among them the evil magician Koura in the movie The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
Nevertheless, the forty year old actor was working on a London building site as a bricklayer (and, by his own account, was of "no fixed abode") when he got lucky. Very lucky. Being known socially to the head of BBC drama and his wife (no sniggering at the back please
), Baker's name came up in discussion as a possibility when the producers of Doctor Who
were looking for somebody to replace the departing Jon Pertwee. A meeting was arranged between Baker and the two men who were in overall charge of the series, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks
, both of whom took an immediate liking to the actor.
At the time of his casting, Baker was by far the least well known actor to have ever played the Doctor. William Hartnell
, Patrick Troughton
and Jon Pertwee
had all been much-loved character actors, even before playing the role, whereas Baker had largely been a supporting artist. It's somewhat ironic, therefore, that Baker ended up being the longest-serving and most well-known of them all. His portrayal of the Doctor was (and remains) iconic: Baker himself attributes his success to having played the role as that of a Man Child
, similarly to Harpo Marx
— this characterisation was a contrast to the more august former incarnations and became popular in later ones.
In 1981, Baker left Doctor Who
, handing over the reins to Peter Davison
. Accounts vary on exactly why he left. One popular story is that Baker tendered his resignation to the new producer of the series as a joke, believing that his massive popularity with the public would never see it accepted, only to be surprised when the producer snapped back, "Sure! When do you want to leave?" Commentary in the "New Beginnings" DVD boxed set suggests that John Nathan-Turner
, the new first-year producer of the series, wanted to put his own personal stamp on the series and felt Baker had become impossible to rein in. For his part, Baker wasn't fond of the changes Nathan-Turner began making and threatened, as he had done with other producers in the past, to resign if he didn't get his way. Oops
He maintained his Doctor persona
off-screen to a large extent, never smoking or drinking in public
and being on his best behavior around children. The pressure eventually led to endless in-fighting and even a few live television crack-ups. Later actors have testified that the Doctor, not unlike Sherlock Holmes
, is a tough character to get inside of; extended time there can take a toll on your mental well-being. Baker's example is probably a major consideration in most actors leaving the role after three or four years.
He subsequently made several appearances in productions as diverse as Oscar Wilde
(that must have been a sight to see), Redbeard Rum
, Sherlock Holmes, and an elf in the Dungeons & Dragons
movie, as well as the role of Puddleglum
in The BBC
adaptation of The Silver Chair
by C.S. Lewis
. He had a regular role as Donald MacDonald in the later seasons of Monarch of the Glen
. He has found a niche as a voice actor in recent years (that's him doing the narration in Little Britain
and the opening cutscene of Hostile Waters Antaeus Rising
), but he will forevermore be remembered as the Doctor.
A good decade after the other actors who played the character, he's now finally reprising the role in Big Finish Doctor Who
, and now speaks fondly of his time as the Doctor. He also appeared at the end of "The Day of the Doctor" as a museum curator, implied to be a future incarnation of the Doctor who willingly regenerated into Baker's form again.
He married one of his former Doctor Who
co-stars, Lalla Ward (who played companion Romana II), shortly after they both departed the series. The marriage didn't last very long. Neither wishes to elaborate further (though Baker contends that their relationship lasted a whole year
, which is rather good if one adopts a long perspective), and she is now happily married to Richard Dawkins
, whom she met through Douglas Adams
Tropes associated with this actor include: