“Mine was the biggest absurdity of all, because I was dead! So it was very difficult to give me notes, since no one there had actually experienced death.
The idea that I would deliberately annoy a director by scratching myself, the idea that a ghost had an itchy armpit, amused me no end…it’s wonderful to play ghosts.”
There’s really not a lot to say about this one; if you know Tom “larger than life” Baker, you know exactly what to expect here: an entertaining podcast interview only vaguely steered by Nick Briggs.
Baker, as ever, is all over the place, delivering one amusing anecdote after another in recollections on the vagaries of aging, the absurdities of religion, his impoverished and religiously strict childhood, schooling and brief misadventure in the monastery, his National Service “double act” as an army medic and his eventual move into acting.
He teaches us the art of upstaging the leads (how many sugar cubes was that again?), tells of working with Laurence Olivier and Derek Jacobi and his brief time in genre film (Vault of Horror, Golden Voyage of Sinbad). You also get a long, long riff on Columbia Pictures’ mogul Sam Spiegel, for whom he essayed the role of Rasputin in Nicholas and Alexandra and a brief nod to his days working in construction before being discovered for his role as the most well known, longest running incarnation as Doctor Who.
While things tend to really fly past with precious little truly in depth discussion of his time in the role, there are quick anecdotes and reminiscences about Ian Marter, Liz Sladen, his brief association with departing producer Barry Letts and the oddities of all the changes in staff during his tenure (Graham Williams, JNT and his short marriage to Lalla Ward all being touched on with a mercurial fleetness).
There’s even some amusing chat about my personal favorite Doctor, Jon Pertwee as relates to Tom’s refusal to take part in 1983’s The Five Doctors which should make fellow Pertwee aficionados nod their heads in bemused recognition.
I think the best part of the interview is where Baker quite honestly points out the alienness of a Doctor who was not supposed to notice the very obvious charms of Louise Jameson’s Leela. Totally agreed on that one!
The oddest part of all this is the goofily bombastic, rather inappropriate music that opens and closes the discs – what the hell was that all about (insert hearty laugh here)?
Nonetheless, as fans know, Tom Baker (like later Doctor and namesake Colin) is nothing if not a true raconteur, with a way of turning a phrase and dominating the conversation so as to utterly enrapture audiences with his half-mad battery of rapid-fire free associations and omnipresent good humor. As one might well expect, while surprisingly light and substance free, it’s still loads of fun and an entertaining way to spend an hour or two.