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Dr Who's ideal girl: fat and fun

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1979-10-27 Reading Evening Post.jpg


Albert Watson talks to Tom Baker about ...

IF TOM BAKER had had his way, Dr Who's girl assistant would be fat and funny rather than sexy.

Baker, who has played the eccentric time traveller on Saturday nights every autumn and winter since 1974, has had three leading ladies in that time and has decided views about the part.

"At the moment," he told me, "the girl is just a dramatic device to fill out each story with a secondary plot but she could he so much more than that, a personality in her own right.

"Last time it was vacant. I suggested a plump comedy actress called Miriam Margolyes. The reaction at the BBC was: 'You mean that big girl? No, we need a bit of glamour to keep the dads watching'."

Baker's three ladies have been Louise Jameson, as a scantily clad cavegirl type; Mary Tamm, all cool and regal - and the new Romana, Lalla Ward, who in the last story looked very fetching in the kind of school uniform of which fantasies are made.


Although he is himself the fourth Dr Who, Baker has made the part very much is own. In this country, its ratings have improved since he took over from Jon Pertwee and the series has at last been shown in the United States, where it is a big success.

Marvel Comics, the original creators of Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk, have bought the strip cartoon

rights and plan to launch a Dr Who comic in America soon. They have already produced an English version, and Baker has been touring bookshops and large newsagencies to promote it.

I caught up with him at one of these shops in the suburbs of London. In a private room at the back of the shop, before the signing session. he met a small group of boys and seemed ill at ease.

"I get panicky when I'm surrounded by children like that," he told me. "I don't know what to say, and neither do they. If can talk to them one by one, I'm fine, but I can't come to terms with being gawped at."

Fans need not fear, though: Tom Baker has no plans to hand over to Dr Who Mark Five for some time yet. When I suggested that he might, he looked as if nothing could be further from his mind.


"I'm contracted to do another series after this one," he said. "So that takes us into early 1981, at least. I'm very happy in the part and, let's face it, there are not a lot of parts for an actor like me.

"I mean, I'd be a somewhat unusual Romeo, wouldn't I?"

Tom Baker is 43, a Liverpudlian, divorced with two grownup sons, and owns much of his early success to Lord Oliver.

"He discovered me when I played Don Quixote's horse in a National Theatre pantomime in 1968," Baker told me, "and cast me as the Prince of Morocco in Merchant of Venice.

"Then when Sam Spiegel, the film producer, asked him to suggest an actor to play Rasputin in Nicholas and Alexandra, he gave my name.

Rasputin a great personal success for Baker, and raised his hopes high.

I thought I had really made it, that stardom and the Hollywood high life beckoned," he told me. "But it sort of fizzled out."

But Dr Who keeps him busy for most of the year. "We work for about 40 weeks a year on Dr Who," he said, "so there isn't much time for anything else.

Dr Who had already been running for more than 10 years when Baker took on the role. Each of his predecessors had played it differently - William Hartnell as an irascible old grandad, Patrick Troughton as something of a loony and Jon Pertwee as a more conventional hero figure

Baker took elements of all three and added something of his own - a kind of quirky irreserence which had something to do with him being the youngest Dr Who.

With his wild hair, flapping greatcoat and long, trailing scarf he is also by far the untidiest. But the fans seem to like the Doctor that way, and Baker is happy to serve them for a few years yet.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Watson, Albert (1979-10-27). Dr Who's ideal girl: fat and fun. Reading Evening Post p. 9.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Watson, Albert. "Dr Who's ideal girl: fat and fun." Reading Evening Post [add city] 1979-10-27, 9. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Watson, Albert. "Dr Who's ideal girl: fat and fun." Reading Evening Post, edition, sec., 1979-10-27
  • Turabian: Watson, Albert. "Dr Who's ideal girl: fat and fun." Reading Evening Post, 1979-10-27, section, 9 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Dr Who's ideal girl: fat and fun | url= | work=Reading Evening Post | pages=9 | date=1979-10-27 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 June 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Dr Who's ideal girl: fat and fun | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 June 2024}}</ref>