My earliest memory of Doctor Who
goes back to the autumn of 1976 when I was six years old. The Hollywood glamour of Star Wars
was still somewhere in the future but I was already showing early signs of an obsession. I was introspective, I played with LEGO and read comics. My condition was still in its dormant stage until one Saturday night, while eating a slice of banana cake, The Hand of Fear
began and I became a highly contagious geek.
The climax of episode one is what sticks in my mind the most - the stone hand coming to life, wriggling like a finger-nailed spider, scaring me half to death. But it was the wild eyes of the Doctor that kept me coming back for more, week after week. Tom Baker really shines in this story. He's intelligent, playful, inquisitive, and very alien. Yet it's all reigned in here, bubbling just under the surface. He takes every moment seriously, from mishaps in a quarry to navigating a crisis at a nuclear power station. His intensity compels us to believe it all. He makes the story all the more terrifying. Even now his genius is evident.
Thank you, Tom, for helping to make me the proud geek that I am today.
Hayden Black (The Dr Who Ultimate List Of Lists, Behind The Sofa)
It was a few days after Christmas, 1974 when the world
realized there was an unopened present hidden under the tree. It opened the
wrapping and out popped one of the best Christmas pressies ever.
NIGHTMARE OF EDEN
Cameron K McEwan (The Who's Who of Doctor Who author)
Oh, Tom. The perfect man for the perfect role – and with the
team of Hinchcliffe, Holmes, Sladen & Marter behind him, the world got a
few perfect years. Never mind the budget (or lack thereof); just look at that
first Doc-splosion, Robot
. His personality dominated the screen
along with his wide eyes, curls and teeth. Within seconds it was "Jon
Pertwee-wee-wee, all the way home". Throwing himself in and out of Bessie,
a stupidly long scarf blowing in the wind that became cooler than any Fez or
bowtie could EVER be, Baker stamped his unique impression on the series faster
than any other Doctor before or since.
Robot brought us many memorable moments. The
sequence where he keeps emerging from the TARDIS in different outfits; skipping
rope with Harry; throwing a bucket of metal-eating goop onto the giant robot
(okay, well, maybe not that sequence. After all, K1 wasn't the best-realized
robot. I much preferred the eighth-next version, K9). But it brought with it a
man born for the role.
Tom Baker has become my most treasured Christmas present
the world of Doctor Who
this Tom Baker four~parter has rather a sour name; "laughable"
is usually the word it arouses. But not for me.
When I was "getting" back into Who
(around 1992), I was collecting all the stories I could - usually taped off UK Gold
various friends who had such a remarkable thing as "satellite" TV) and
purchasing the odd one here and there. Heading this journey was my quest
to find a story which utterly
horrified me as a youngster and one that stuck in my mind as scaring me to my very core.
There was a story that included a painting, or screen, that came to life. People would go into it and bad stuff would happen.... *shivers*
And then whatever was in there, escaped... *double shivers*
Even worse, these things, these
monsters, were disgustingly malevolent beings and THE MOST SCARIEST,
MOST BONE~CHILLING THING EVER!
After a LOT of searching (before the internet, fact fans), I found it. Watching it again back in the early
Nineties was an eye~opener. Although I could recognise the facets that
had terrified me so, some fifteen years previous, the comedy of the
performances and production was most overwhelming. I had truly put my
demons to bed. And slept with them. Twice.
Gavin Dunbar (Camera Obscura bass player)
Tom Baker was my
first Doctor. He's probably still my favourite. I can't remember which
series I first saw at the time, I remember watching Leela, and I'm sure I
saw some with Sarah Jane (or I could just be getting mixed up with my
much listened to LP of Genesis Of The Daleks that I played regularly,
even though it scared me senseless and the explosions near the start
were really loud).
THE ROBOTS OF DEATH
Emrys Matthews (Blogtor Who contributor)
It's really hard to pick a favourite, but I'm
going to go with Logopolis. It was the first time I'd seen a
regeneration, and we all knew it was coming. The Master had returned
and we knew he'd escaped. The Fourth Doctor's time was up, and the
funereal tone of the whole story is set out for all to see.
get to see the more of the TARDIS, I loved to see more of the TARDIS,
but it was proper TARDIS corridors and rooms, and not like in The Invasion of Time. The Cloister Room was a thing of beauty.
majestic, an amazing swan-song performance. A proper last chance to
show us his Doctor chops. You can really believe Tom Baker was The
Doctor, probably cause he believed he was. This was his last performance
and he went for it. He has great lines like the TARDIS wheezing like a
Grampus, and spouting the second law of thermodynamics. I still love the
burgundy coat and scarf get up. Logopolis gave him the send off he
This is my favourite ever Doctor Who
story largely because when I was young it scared the bejesus out of me and nostalgically still does. The placid murderous Robots are so scary and the claustrophobic, inescapable locale aboard the sand miner add to the tension. Tom is on particularly good form here.
Regardless of all of the above, he is calm and makes the viewer feel safe in the face of adversity. His wit and wisdom is at its height with the immortal retort, “You're a classic example of the adverse ratio between the size of the mouth and the size of the brain.” I love his relationship with one-off secret goodie robot D84; he treats the undercover agent droid like a human in only the way Tom Baker could.
Even though Tom and Louise Jameson apparently didn’t get on very well, you can’t tell and even after just one prior adventure their camaraderie is perfect. The Doctor saves the day in a typical Doctor way, even when up against a particularly terrifying genius madman, he wins the day with science.
Another favourite, even though it makes little sense, is when Tom shows up as “The Curator” in The Day of The Doctor,
when I heard his voice I had shivers, a magical moment indeed.
REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN
Dave Prince (Blogtor Who contributor)
When I was asked to write a piece on my favourite
Tom Baker story - The stories that sprang to mind first were Genesis Of
The Daleks, The Hand of Fear
and City of Death
. However I then found myself
coming back to one story that I always seem to watch and go to when I
want some Tom action – I always watch Revenge of the Cybermen
return of the Cybermen was, for me, one of the highlights of The Fourth
Doctor's era and still to this day the emotions I start to feel at the
sight of the Cybermat attacking Sarah-Jane are those of complete dread.
story for me has everything in it – Sarah Jane & Harry – tick,
Amazing Double Entendre – tick (Just check out - "Take the Cybermen from
behind.", "We're still heading for the biggest bang in history" and
"Pull it harder, it's coming.") and some great edge of the seat
cliffhangers. It was also the very first Doctor Who
story to be released
on home video back in 1983.
This was the perfect end to Tom's debut season and one I will truly cherish forever.
CITY OF DEATH
Andrea McGuire (Blogtor Who contributor)
There’s simply nothing that compares to City of Death
for bringing together everything that is great about The Fourth Doctor’s era. Douglas Adams gives us a sparkling script that is fabulously played by everyone involved from the big chap himself to the wonderfully dour Tancredi’s guard, and every single line is a total delight in what is one of Doctor Who
’s most quotable episodes.
The supporting cast in City of Death
are especially memorable and the villains are so sartorially elegant, you’d be happy to join them just for the swish threads. Heck, even the henchmen sport dashing trilbies. But I digress.
Tom Chadbon’s clobbering, bashing detective Duggan is a great part, well played as is the tragic Countess and poor old Kerensky, who only wanted to feed the world. The standout role, of course, is Julian Glover’s fractured Scaroth. Glover brings wit, elegance and 400,000 years of agony as the last survivor(s) of a pretty nasty race. Scaroth is a one-off characters you long to see again.
And, of course, I can’t finish without mentioning Tom Baker and Lalla Ward who were never better than they are here, romping through Paris to solve a centuries old crime and save the human race. The chemistry between them is so great, you can see why they merrily waved Duggan a swift goodbye and skipped off together past the Eiffel Tower.
THE INVISIBLE ENEMY
Nick Fraser (Blogtor Who contributor)
Familiar twin strips of time tunnel stab their way across the television screen, expanding to envelop the TARDIS, travelling outwards topped by its peculiar dome-shaped blue light. Then the gradual reveal of the unsettling gaze of the curly-haired Fourth Doctor, staring straight ahead, no reassurance offered for what might be coming.
“Contact has been made”. Yes, it’s The One With The Giant Prawn. I’m cheating really. For my favourite Tom Baker adventure, I’ve chosen one that’s been stored away in my memory by the six year old me, and never been viewed since. Probably for the best, if only for the sake of that giant prawn.
The Invisible Enemy
is worthy of attention though. Doctor Who
voyaging properly, and perilously, into space. The Doctor infected by a deadly virus. A race against time to find a cure. A futuristic space hospital. The virus’s growing band of sinister hosts. Clones of The Doctor and Leela sent on a tour around the inner spaces of the Time Lord’s mind. The swarm’s bubbling breeding tanks on Titan (I was suspicious of mushrooms for a long time after).
No wonder the opening titles offered no comfort. For the six year old me this was deadly serious. The Doctor was under the control of an evil entity. Who was going to save him?
Cue sound of whining motors…”Affirmative…master”.
THE SEEDS OF DOOM
Philip Rowntree (Blogtor Who contributor)
I remember my first Baker story. I was around at my cousins and I was
introduced to The Seeds of Doom (also my first extended story... TWO VHS
PLANET OF EVIL
Sami Kelsh (Blogtor Who contributor)
I'd enjoyed other Doctor adventures, but as my mother had just obtained a greenhouse, I was genuinely terrified.
is something playful and unreliable about The Fourth Doctor. Baker has the
power to switch from happy go lucky traveller ambling his way through
the universe to a man in perilous danger.
we mention those eyes? Whether under the control of Sutekh, offering an
unsuspecting enemy the timely distraction of a jelly baby or the
heartbreaking moment he bade goodbye to Sarah Jane; those eyes told a
story like no other Doctor.
enough to be all of the above, The Fourth Doctor has (in my opinion) the
best costume... So much so, I may have asked my mother to provide me
with my very own scarf!
So here's to The Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker!
CITY OF DEATH
Darren Chadwick-Hussein (The Bloody Mary Show writer)
Tom Baker’s Doctor grins too much. He grins in the sort of way that sets off alarms with Operation Yewtree investigators.
reason I would say such a blasphemous comment? First, it was the
Seventies. And they were all at it. And ,secondly, HE SCARED ME.
personally, of course. The stories did. They were tales of terror that
these days would carry warnings in the Radio Times. Daleks, Cybermen –
pffft. Tin cans and silver paint. They were nonsense. The most
pant-wettingly terrifying moment? Scaroth unmasks in City of Death. Here
was the reveal of a wholly new organic terror and to this day I still
find myself explaining this in the offices of psychotherapists. Yes, I
screamed. Yes. I peed myself. Nothing else has ever had the same
Does it still fill me with terror? Not really. Not in the
same way a weather station outside Burnley still does. But that’s
because my parents told me it is where the Sontarans landed and were
busy conducting experiments.
Is Baker adored because of his
performance? Absolutely. But he heralded, in my eyes, the last of the
truly terrifying antagonists. Baker was great and needed equally
impressive villains – and he got them.
So yes, we all loved Tom
Baker. And his incessant gurning. If he ground his teeth at the same
time you’d think he’d be discovered crystal meth forty years before the
took me a while to warm up to Tom Baker. In hindsight, it's hard to say
exactly why: I suppose, in part, that as a perennial champion of the
underdog, I was entirely prepared to feel more or less lukewarm about
such a well-loved and well-remembered Doctor. That said, it was
inevitable that good old Crazy Eyes Bob Dylan would eventually charm his
way right into my heart, with his toothy grin always towing the line
between precious and unsettling, and, of course, his evident fondness
for quality knitting.
|Artwork by Sami Kelsh|
What really made me love him, though, weren't the jelly babies or the monsters or adventures, but those little character moments, the little instances of warmth and friendship between Doctor and companion, like that little scene in Planet Of Evil
, and that little smile the Doctor shares with Sarah Jane before they make their escape. The Doctor's inherent playfulness is such an integral element of Baker's performance, and it's hard not to be charmed by his irreverence in the face of danger, but for me, it's those little moments of sincere affection and rapport that make his Doctor nothing short of magic, and a part of some of my favourite television friendships.
Special thanks to everyone who contributed to this piece - your time and thoughts are very much appreciated.