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Tom's fanmail from the children answers the question: Who's afraid of Dr Who?

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1977-04-25 Liverpool Echo.jpg

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THE TV DEBATE: TODAY-A ONE-MAN DEFENCE OF THE MONSTERS


With TV chiefs urged from all sides to cut down on violence, brutality and the seamier sides of sex, the question arises: To what extent are to-day's television programmes exercising a harmful Influence now that an estimated 96 per cent of the population of this country has TV.

This week the Echo looks at three aspects of the problem, starling with the views of Liverpool's own Tom Biker—the fourth Dr. Who—in art interview with MARY KAYE.


ARE your children frightened of Doctor Who? Or, more accurately, of the array of malignant moaners he has to contend with?

As the world's most celebrated children's science fiction series heads for its 15th birthday, the man who has been fighting alien space beings for 902 years — the Doctor himself — sipped a pint in a West End pub and declared: "There have been insinuations that the show has changed into a real horror epic. But I'm afraid I just don't agree."

And 43-years-old Tom Baker, fourth in the line of Doctors, and celebrating two years in the part, continued: "I don't know how anyone can associate the programme with fear and nightmares among children. They aren't frightened of me."

"My fanmail has proved just how much trust and confidence children have in Doctor Who. I would never do anything which might upset that trust."

As the youngest of all the doctors. Tom plays the nine-century-old renegade Time Lord with a sense of fun and mystery. "Children know the monsters aren't real," he told me. "We aim to thrill not frighten."

And in the present, this genial ex-National Theatre actor has found himself becoming an instantly recognisable celebrity.

For even though he didn't have his long, straggly scarf and floppy hat he was recognised instantly as the inimitable Dr. Who, when we met recently in a London pub.

It's hardly surprising ... he's tall, a towering 6ft. 3in., with broad shoulders and a wild mop of copper curly hair. The nose is definitely prominent, the eyes piercing bright blue, and full of intelligence and laughter.

Tom has no illusions about the fact that his appearance causes a stir. "Even when I was at school I was taller than everybody else and weird-looking with it," he says cheerfully.

"I was pretty dense too, in those days and there wasn't much scope for the working classes."

He admits that he "wanted to be a hero — it I'd been asked to join the Foreign Legion, I would probably here agreed."

But what actually happened was that after leaving school he joined a monastery and stayed there for six years before entering the army for National Service.

Why a monastery? "I'd been brought up as a strict Catholic and I was looking for a calling in life. But after the army I never went back to the monastery."

Instead, he obtained a grant to go to drama school from Liverpool Council, and he followed that up with the usual round of repertory theatres, and then passed an audition for the National Theatre.

"It was then that I was discovered by Oliver," he told me. "I played the back end of the on horse in their 1968 pantomime!"

Perhaps not the most glamorous way to find the limelight, but it led to some excellent parts for Tom.

Parts that led eventually to his being spotted by the B.B.C., and chosen to be their latest and most eccentric Dr. Who.

"I think the show has changed from its original format," says Tom.

"It is, perhaps, a little more scarey than it was, but on the other hand, children are very much more sophisticated than they was even five or six years ago.

"And the way it is now, both adults and youngsters alike appreciate it.

"I think it has far more 'guts' than it used to ... and far more atmosphere"

Tom takes Dr. Who very seriously. "But even so," he says, "I can't think of acting as working.

"I enjoy it too much for that ... and I have this very old-fashioned belief that if you enjoy anything, then it can't be good for you!

"I actually enjoy really hard, physical work," he declared, which is why whenever he had a few weeks break from theatre or television be liked to get himself a job on a building site.

But nowadays he told me, "I find I'm too easily recognised. "Everybody would think the B.B.C. weren't paying me enough!"


Caption: Tom Baker — the fourth Dr. Who - with Cyberman enemy

Caption: Invincible Robot ... is it the stuff nightmares are made of?

Disclaimer: These citations are created on-the-fly using primitive parsing techniques. You should double-check all citations. Send feedback to whovian@cuttingsarchive.org

  • APA 6th ed.: Kaye, Mary (1977-04-25). Tom's fanmail from the children answers the question: Who's afraid of Dr Who?. Liverpool Echo p. 6.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Kaye, Mary. "Tom's fanmail from the children answers the question: Who's afraid of Dr Who?." Liverpool Echo [add city] 1977-04-25, 6. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Kaye, Mary. "Tom's fanmail from the children answers the question: Who's afraid of Dr Who?." Liverpool Echo, edition, sec., 1977-04-25
  • Turabian: Kaye, Mary. "Tom's fanmail from the children answers the question: Who's afraid of Dr Who?." Liverpool Echo, 1977-04-25, section, 6 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Tom's fanmail from the children answers the question: Who's afraid of Dr Who? | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Tom%27s_fanmail_from_the_children_answers_the_question:_Who%27s_afraid_of_Dr_Who%3F | work=Liverpool Echo | pages=6 | date=1977-04-25 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 June 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Tom's fanmail from the children answers the question: Who's afraid of Dr Who? | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Tom%27s_fanmail_from_the_children_answers_the_question:_Who%27s_afraid_of_Dr_Who%3F | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 June 2024}}</ref>