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Doctor Who Is Brought to Book

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TOM BAKER walks fast, like a man in a hurry. But he isn't at the moment, although his philosophy is: "If you're in demand, keep moving." He is in Leeds to record the Wednesday afternoon series The Book Tower, which he presents. Yet I have the strange feeling, as he paces ahead, raincoat flying, that I'm assisting Doctor Who in his investigations — and I haven't read the script.

"Isn't that wonderful?" He stops dead, and I pile inelegantly against his Burberry mac. His arm sweeps upward, pointing out a graceful Victorian facade. "Wurzal and Co. I love the names of solicitors, don't you ?"

We continue at a brisk pace. Passers-by wave and call to him. He enjoys it immensely. "I've never wanted to be up some little alley," he confesses, "doing something for a small group of people. Ever since I've been interested in acting I've wanted to get at the mass audience." We hurtle onward into City Square. Another halt, but by now I'm flagging.

"They haven't really improved on that kind of outfit, have they?" he says, nodding approvingly at a frock-coated statue. I look around for K.9. to croak: "Negative, Master."

My involuntary apprenticeship had begun earlier in an executive office at the Yorkshire Television studios.

"I must say, I'm pretty disappointed in his taste," says Tom Baker, flicking through a desk diary. "There's nothing written here. The top drawers are locked, there's not a single clue to his identity, is there ? His lighter doesn't work, I notice, although it's leather-bound. Hmmm."

Inspired by this detailed observation, my own appraisal takes in Tom Baker's brown velvet jacket with matching tie, cream shirt, check trousers with turn-ups. "I've got about 12 pairs of trousers, all check; six pairs of black shoes; six pairs of brown. I buy expensive clothes, but always the same things. It must be something to do with my childhood, I think. Not wanting people to change."

Baker grew up off Scotland Road in Liverpool. "The sort of background," he says, "where people watched television, supported Liverpool and responded to popular things. There weren't many books around. I didn't read all of Beatrix Potter until I was 28." It explains why he's now a compulsive collector of books and his delight is presenting The Book Tower.

"It has to be a marvellous thing to be involved in a programme which encourages children to read. I've always resented the fact that I never had books around as a child, never had the sort of formal education which follows an academic discipline. That's why I collect books. It's a conscious effort to pretend I had a different past. I suppose I must have about 2,000 books, of which about 150 are dictionaries. It's not because they're valuable, I just like the idea of being able to reach for information."

Tom Baker's collection is becoming a problem. He is a wanderer, nomadic. He is rarely in the same place for more than five minutes.

"I don't have anywhere at all, or anything really," he admits cheerfully. "I don't own anything, except books, and they need a permanent home."

Married once, Baker has sons of 16 and 17. "I don't see them very much. It was from a long time ago." Everyone worries about Tom Baker except Tom Baker. "I don't believe in any kind of serenity. The real trick is to cope with the flak. Life is too vital and confusing and full of shrapnel to have people saying: 'What I really want is to feel serene.'"

Serenity apart, he's enjoying himself at the moment. "Success is an antidote to almost anything." He's enthusiastic about many things—romantic films, long train journeys, and he laughs a good deal. He is 6ft. 4in. tall, aged 45, has magnetic blue eyes, a strong face and powerful presence and he doesn't want to play Hamlet.

Dr. Who doesn't frighten him—"I think we should have many more monsters, more slimy and slithery"—and he doesn't think he'll have trouble shaking off the image of the good Doctor when he hands in his scarf and jelly babies.

"I don't fear for my career afterwards," says Baker. "I mean, I know my limitations as an actor. I've never played anything recognisably human with any success. I'm mostly interested in fantasy. I've been playing Dr. Who for three years and I can't say I've ever been bored with him. Anyway, I've always wanted to be a hero."

The photographer arrives and takes Tom Baker to Leeds Library for a photographic session. His eyes range hungrily over the stacked shelves. It's like taking a kleptomaniac to a street market. "Did I tell you I've got the Oxford Dictionary in 16 volumes, and the Dictionary of National Biography in 32 ?" he whispers.

It's obvious that Baker would be happy to spend the day here, but he decides to walk me to the station. He leaves me at the ticket barrier, insisting I have a meal on the train.

"Wasn't that Dr. Who ?" says the ticket collector.

"Actually, it's Tom Baker, I think."

We look around. He's gone.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Etherington, Jan (1979-01-27). Doctor Who Is Brought to Book. TV Times p. 9.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Etherington, Jan. "Doctor Who Is Brought to Book." TV Times [add city] 1979-01-27, 9. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Etherington, Jan. "Doctor Who Is Brought to Book." TV Times, edition, sec., 1979-01-27
  • Turabian: Etherington, Jan. "Doctor Who Is Brought to Book." TV Times, 1979-01-27, section, 9 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Doctor Who Is Brought to Book | url= | work=TV Times | pages=9 | date=1979-01-27 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=21 June 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Doctor Who Is Brought to Book | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=21 June 2024}}</ref>