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Good Doctors make a house call (1986)

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The tall, angular Englishman stood on the stage Friday at the Milwaukee Auditorium and introduced himself.

"I'm a stranger, and my name Is Tom Baker, and I may remind you of someone you know."

At which point some wiseacre In the audience of 1,000 yelled out: "Who?" Which, of course, was absolutely right.

Tom Baker is best known to fans In Milwaukee and the rest of the English-speaking world as Dr. Who, the hero of the British science fantasy TV show of the same name. The show has been a fixture since the 1960s.

The good Doctor Is an unusual character, partly because he's an alien who skips through time arid space. And partly because no fewer than six actors have played the part as the Doctor literally regenerates into a new body.

Baker, the fourth "Doctor," appeared at Milwaukee's "Dr. Who" convention with Colin Baker (no relation), the sixth and current Doctor. Since Colin Baker's episodes have not yet been seen here. It Is Tom Baker whom most Whovians think of as "Who." The program airs locally on Sundays on Channel 10 (WMVS-TV).

Tom Baker calls himself a character actor. If anything, he Is even more of a character today than when he played the Doctor from 1974 to 1981. His trademarks then were a long, flowing coat, a 20-foot scarf and a halo of bushy brown curls. The curls are mostly shorn and gray now, but a group of student journalists at a press conference at WMVS still sat in frozen awe of him.

"Do you think I Intimidated them?" he asked later, only semi-innocently. Baker may wonder whether he has the same effect on American TV and film producers.

That's because at age 52, the cult figure with enormous appeal on both sides of the Atlantic can't find work in the United States. He blames his plight on the good Doctor.

"It was a pleasure to do the part," Tom Baker said, stretching out his 6-foot-4-inch form, clothed not in flow-Ins coat and scarf. but in a trench coal, sinks and white Topsiders. "I couldn't tear myself away from It. And now I regret It, because I'm virtually unemployable In the minds of very conservative directors and producers.

"When you're very well known for one thing, you are rather stuck In the role. What happens Is that you're in another part, and — say I'm playing some kind of visiting British journalist In an American series and 1 say, 'Good morning,' — in the view of the directors, It's very likely I'm just going to get a laugh. They trunk the viewers will say, 'Look, darling. It's Dr. Who!'"

Still, It seems strange that an industry that awarded minor cult figure Howard the Duck his own film should overtook the Doctor's box-office potential.

Saying Americans were wonderful for exploitation, Tom Baker said he found It striking that producers here seem unaware that he has hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of fans. "I'm on 200 stations. I'm not saying that that should be translated Into some kind of big job with Spielberg, but ...."

Actually, Tom Baker did land one stateside part, as a "deteriorating Interpol agent" on TV's "Remington Steele." The role was trimmed to about five lines.

"It's very difficult really, for a leading man to have to opt for tiny parts." he remarked. "It's very chastening."

But actually, Tom Baker, who, like the Doctor, can be thoroughly charming one moment and thoroughly Irascible the neat, doesn't seem chastened at all. He happily admitted that the original appeal to playing the Doctor was "the money." And he has a genuine affection for the fans who still love him in the role.

Milwaukeeans who saw the two Bakers Friday paid $16 apiece for the privilege.

Tom Baker said the fans knew more of the chow than he did. "I never watched 'Dr. Who' when I wasn't doing It. The American fans say I was very spontaneous. and that may have sprung from the fact that never knew quite what was going on, because sometimes I was working on five or six scripts at one time, an shot out of sequence."

At the convention, Tom Baker spent an hour fielding questions from teenagers to 20-foot scarves. "Will you ever be taken seriously as an actor?" one asked.

"I hope not, sir," came the answer.

He let fans in on little "Who" Jokes, like the fact that he would sometimes deliberately mess up the Doctor's Shakespearean quotes. "Nobody on the set Laid anything."

And he was pleased when the fans shared his puzzlement that Hollywood vice presidents in charge of development haven't seen the Doctor's potential. "The fans know how popular 'Star Trek' was, and look incredulous when I tell them then are no plans for a 'Who' movie."

But, until Hollywood wakes up the Doctor is doing just fine, thank you. He has found steady work in the British theater, and he is looking at upcoming roles either as Sherlock Holmes or as Captain Hook in "Peter Pan."

Whatever regeneration the Doctor takes next, Tom Baker keeps one career goal in sight. "I have no desire to be liked," he explained with a perfectly straight face. "At my age, I want to be adored."


Caption: Tom Baker, who played Dr. Who in Milwaukee Friday

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  • APA 6th ed.: Loohauis, Jackie (1986-09-20). Good Doctors make a house call. The Milwaukee Journal p. 1A.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Loohauis, Jackie. "Good Doctors make a house call." The Milwaukee Journal [add city] 1986-09-20, 1A. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Loohauis, Jackie. "Good Doctors make a house call." The Milwaukee Journal, edition, sec., 1986-09-20
  • Turabian: Loohauis, Jackie. "Good Doctors make a house call." The Milwaukee Journal, 1986-09-20, section, 1A edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Good Doctors make a house call | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Good_Doctors_make_a_house_call | work=The Milwaukee Journal | pages=1A | date=1986-09-20 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 July 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Good Doctors make a house call | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Good_Doctors_make_a_house_call | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=15 July 2019}}</ref>