Tom Baker (2009)

This is a brief extract from Tom Baker’s panel at the Time Quest 2009 convention. You can see more of it here, but I wanted to include this short section because of his interesting comments on Peter Davison and Ian Marter.

Q: What did you think about Peter Davison taking over from you as your successor in ‘Doctor Who’?

A: I thought at the time that Peter Davison’s choice… I must say, he’s an excellent actor, he’s done wonderful work, and I’ve often met him. We’re not exactly friends, but we’re civilised to each other. I remember thinking at the time it was a terrible error of judgement, for this reason: when Peter Davison took over from me, he was already established as having a fictional identity. Those of you who are old enough to cast your minds back, he was prodigiously successful as the vet in ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, so when the children were watching I imagined the children were saying “that’s not the Doctor, that’s the vet”, so I think that was a very strange…

Although no-one has ever failed as Dr. Who, no-one has ever failed remotely, even the boy who did the film, I’ve forgotten what his name was… if you say “do you miss being ‘Doctor Who’, in a sense, with the devotion of the fans, I’ve never stopped being Dr. Who because the fans don’t want you to stop being Dr. Who. And when I go on stage, which I do occasionally, I realise whatever I’m doing that people want me to do it as Dr. Who, so when I played Sherlock Holmes it caused an absolute sensation, of course it did, because first of all Sherlock Holmes never wore a long scarf, and secondly he didn’t walk the way that I apparently did walk, in the days when I could walk, because the bonding of the fans, and here I am thirty years after the event – most of you probably weren’t born thirty years ago – it’s the power of fiction, that fiction can become part of our lives, the fantasy world of literature, films, television, stamps, whatever it is you’re interested in, and by fantasy I mean the unprovable world, religion even, and people believe absolutely preposterous things, don’t they? Absolutely believe them, emphatically.

Q: What was it like to work with Ian Marter?

A: Well he really was an absolute darling. He shouldn’t have died when he died. I do remember, in rehearsal, he had a terrible habit, he had diabetes, and if he didn’t eat things he’d get terribly irrational and somebody would give him a biscuit or a bite of a Mars bar and suddenly he seemed better. And he was living alone at the time, and I always thought, you know, to go home with that type of illness, you know feeling a bit down or whatever, was a terrible waste because he was a kind man. Not only was he gifted, but he was kind, and that’s a wonderful combination, to be gifted and kind, and he adored his children and his wife… and he came home one night and the next thing he was in a coma, and of course the terrible irony is he wasn’t discovered in time. I only have warm memories of him.

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