Friday, September 18, 2009

Doctor Doctor

Photos from the Doctor Who website

The cover of a recent issue of the U.K. publication Doctor Who Magazine proclaimed exciting news for Anglophiles and sci-fi fans: Tom Baker will once again play the time and space traveling, universe-saving alien known as the Doctor. Alas, his performance won’t be one we’ll see on TV or in a movie. Baker is reprising his most famous role for a BBC Audio Series called The Hornets’ Nest.

Still, the interview (the first he’s granted the mag in 12 years) is funny and informative, and should delight anyone who loved the actor’s charismatic work on the cult series back in the 1970s. Baker’s was the fourth, and for many, the best incarnation of the Doctor; a character a friend of mine once described as “the coolest guy in the universe.” Flashing a toothy grin in the faces of terrifying villains, the Doctor used his wits to thwart their diabolical plots. Doctor Who could be a violent show, but its hero always sought peaceful solutions. Describing his take on the Doctor, Baker tells Doctor Who Magazine, “I prefer a kind of benevolent lunacy . . . because I’m an alien.” 

Now 75, Baker seems to dismiss the specter of old age with the same irreverence he used on Daleks and Cybermen. He gets a kick out of fans who approach him with photos they took with him when they were children. “Well, it amuses me no end, when I’m looking at a bald, middle-aged man who’s worn out with domesticity, then there he is in the picture, sitting on my knee. But it’s all about the happy memories, isn’t it?”

Baker is well aware of the current buzz surrounding actor David Tennant ‘s work as the tenth incarnation of the Doctor. Tennant seems to be having a blast, and his winning mix of strength, compassion, and youthful looks have placed him in several publications’ most popular or sexiest male entertainer polls. (To me, he looks like a cross between John Lennon and Elvis Costello, but that might be because I always thought Lennon would have been a great choice to play the Doctor.) In a 2006 Doctor Who Magazine reader survey, Tennant replaced the usually unbeatable Baker in the Best Doctor category. But Baker is not about to be mastered by the green monster of envy. “We all owe David Tennant a great debt,” he says in the recent DWM, “because, with his style and brio, he has revitalised the whole thing!”

There are similarities in the way Baker and Tennant handle the role, but one major difference is that Tennant’s Doctor had a romantic connection with his female companion, Rose Tyler while Baker worked in a more innocent era. “We didn’t think of that,” Baker recalls, looking back on companions like Leela and Sarah Jane Smith. “So, for my part, I played the Doctor without any sexuality at all.”

Just as Tom Baker eventually left Doctor Who, Tennant will wrap up his tenure this year. Each actor will always be remembered as the coolest guy in the universe.


Jeff K said...

Tom Baker was the man. I've still got every Baker episode on VHS.

Jim Munro said...

Hi Terry, I like the blog.

I see they are coming up with the new Doctor Who logo I guess I'm a crusty moldy fig who is still a fan of the old one. (The diamond)

I even owned a Tardis key necklace in high-school, how nerdy is that?

-Jim Munro

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