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A Dr. Who encounter of the philosophical kind

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  • Publication: The Age
  • Date: 1979-02-22
  • Author: Mark Lawrence
  • Page: 2
  • Language: English

DR. WHO's alter ego. Tom Baker, was a little jaded when met him in his hotel room last week.

He was in town to publicise the beginning of a new series of Dr. Who, which began on ABV-2 this week.

A whirlwind timetable of publicity appointments, then an opera and late dinner the night before had left him looking rather like he'd just survived 10 rounds with a Dalek.

But it did not take king to discover that this very tall, fast-talking gentleman was a mon of deep thought, a philosopher in his own right.

The only problem for the reporter was Baker's somewhat erratic conversational style. Ask a question on one subject and it often triggered memories of some anecdote or another — not necessarily related to the original question.

Children quickly emerged as the greatest benefit of Baker's four-year stint as Dr. Who. Wherever he goes he is swamped by them —and he loves it.

"I get the benefit of talking to children when they are in good form and I'm about the only man in London for whom the 'don't talk to strange men' tag does not apply.

"I can be walking through the park reading a script with two days of beard growth and the kids will run up to me and say hello —usually the parents don't mind.

"One of my favorite conversations with them is: 'Haven't I seen you somewhere before?' and they'll reply 'no. I don't think so'.

"Then I'll say 'yes, I have, I've seen you watching the' and they'll reply 'yes, that's right, that s right'."


Then the philosopher steps backstage and the social observer emerges.

"Children remind you of your own mortality. You get some freckle-faced little girl running up to you and you want to put your arms around her and then think 'no I can't', because you know people are so suspicious.

"One of the awful things about society is that people's assumptions are based on suspicion and tear and so It's very difficult to talk to people in the street or people living in the same apartment build-in."

The innocence which Baker sees reflected in children is very much a part of the character of Dr. Who.

"I quite like the idea of playing a character who does not learn anything. I'm interested in this character who comes out of the Tardis to be confronted by a massive King Kong character looking at him balefully.

"I go up to this character and say 'hello' and promptly get flattened.

"When a friend brings me around with a splash of water I say something like 'We will have to look out for the gorilla'.

"It's my little affirmation of innocence," he said.

The glow of success has not blinded Baker to the fact that he has now become type-cast in television. But it concerns him little.

"There are other areas to work on. I can go back to theatre, In fact I hope to go back to the theatre at some stage.

"There is the problem of becoming tightly connected to one thing, but then maybe nothing will happen for me after this. I'm very loathe to think too much about the future or say I must give this up for the sake of my future. I mean, what future has an actor got anyway? You can just as easily face oblivion.


"I experienced great success with Nicholas and Alexandra and began to believe all the publicity material about a great character actor having arrived. I thought I bad really arrived.

"That's the irony of an actor's life; you can advance from nowhere to somewhere exciting in such a short time in a way that no other group can.

"Anyway, I got a lot of attention from that and had quite a few offers to work In America, but I left Los Angeles to take a rote in Isabella of Spain, opposite Glenda Jackson.

"As soon as I got home the film tell through. It was a very chastening experience, but then they're a good thing." he said matter-of-factly.

One of Baker's early experiences was a period of six years in a monastry as a Brother of the Order of Ploermel where he passed his novitiate.

He's not too sure how that period affected him.

"I am not a religious person in the formal sense any more. I often go into churches but I'm not sure I know why. Maybe it's the architecture. And I don't want this to sound flippant. I can still get up early in the morning with relative ease.

"I can also stand silence, not too much, but some.

"I think we tend to censor our defeats and I suppose in some way I think of my religious experience us a defeat. I try to rationalise it but it was something I started and did not finish.

But Baker did not want to linger on such things for too long.

"The crazy thing is the way the pattern evolved. I went from the monastry into the army — and that was a shattering contrast.

"I think the army did the most in shaping my future. Not many people really like the army but most will say they got a tot out of it. Suddenly I was interacting beautifully and I also began performing in the camp shows —you could say camp shows in those days —and It was then I knew I wanted to do this."


One of the amusing notes in Tom Baker's biography stated that he enjoyed reading unusual epitaphs on tombstones.

But it remained amusing only until it became clear that this was not just some eccentric whim but a very effective type of emotional therapy

"Yes, that was something of a garbled quote I am certainly fascinated by grave stones and their inscriptions When I am feeling very depressed I can walk through a graveyard and feel much better afterwards. It somehow makes me think there is some good around."

Talk of grave stones Inevitably led to talk of death Baker speaks coherently on the sub-Oct though he obviously shares with many some bewilderment when contemplating the subject

"I think that with the decrease of religious faith — and it's almost completely disappeared in some places don't you think — death becomes the final obscenity. It's the end. It's as if there is some kind of impulse to immortality in man.

"I can remember living in Liverpool when the coffin did not arrive until the day before the funeral and a chap would be lying on a bed in his best dress and people would come in and say a brief prayer, take a pinch of snuff and say something like *he was a very good man, Mrs ..." People were still scared of death then but they did not think of it as obscene."

Then, frustratingly, time caught up with television's time traveller and Baker had to move off to another appointmnent.

One can only hope the Tardis manages to drop Dr Who's frame in our lap again to conclude what was becoming a fascinating interview.

Caption: Dr. Who In Melbourne last week.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Lawrence, Mark (1979-02-22). A Dr. Who encounter of the philosophical kind. The Age p. 2.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Lawrence, Mark. "A Dr. Who encounter of the philosophical kind." The Age [add city] 1979-02-22, 2. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Lawrence, Mark. "A Dr. Who encounter of the philosophical kind." The Age, edition, sec., 1979-02-22
  • Turabian: Lawrence, Mark. "A Dr. Who encounter of the philosophical kind." The Age, 1979-02-22, section, 2 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=A Dr. Who encounter of the philosophical kind | url= | work=The Age | pages=2 | date=1979-02-22 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 June 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=A Dr. Who encounter of the philosophical kind | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 June 2024}}</ref>