Colin Baker (1986)

This is Colin Baker’s 1986 appearance on ‘Wogan’, covering such topics as lucky underwear, American ‘Doctor Who’ fans and people mistaking actors for the characters they’re playing.

Q: You’re not scared of monsters, are you?

A: No! I’ve been to the BBC canteen. Nothing can frighten me!

Q: Are any of your family scared? I know you have small children, do they look out for you?

A: The one who’s most frightened is my own wife, who actually wouldn’t come to the studio when we had Daleks there. She’s a grown woman and should know better, but she’s terrified of Daleks, and I told her that, you know, they’re not always real. Occasionally there’s one with a little man running around inside.

Q: Why is the old TARDIS a blue police box? I’ve never really understood why.

A: Well 23 years ago when it started, William Hartnell arrived in London in his police box, the TARDIS, and it had this thing called the chameleon circuit, and it didn’t work properly. It was supposed to make the outside of his time machine look exactly right in his surroundings. So in London, fine, but then the chameleon circuit broke and it’s been stuck like that ever since.

Q: Speaking of you as Colin Baker, you weren’t actually going to be an actor, were you?

A: Well, I always wanted to be, but when I was 18, I was shy and I said ‘I’d like to be an actor, please, Daddy’, and he said ‘Wouldn’t you rather be a lawyer’, so I said ‘Mmm, okay’, so I did that for five years.

Q: Then you went and joined rep, did you?

A: Then I went to drama school, I did my stint five or six years around reps.

Q: Hard, was it?

A: Yes. Well, I’d love to say we did twice weekly, but we didn’t, the worst I think was one play for two weeks, but we had our moments.

Q: Is it true, like many actors, you have your little chiblits and superstitions?

A: Is chiblits a posh word for knickers? When I did my first appearance on stage, I noticed that everyone else had their little things that they put around them on the dressing table, their lucky bits and pieces, so I thought that I had to invent a lucky bit and piece of some kind, so I said ‘These are my lucky knickers’ and everyone said ‘Oh, yes, lucky knickers’ and I kept them thereafter.

Q: Now the first time you leapt to fame was in that marvellous series ‘The Brothers’, in which you played a very nasty piece of work, didn’t you?

A: Yes. The readers of one of the national newspapers voted me the most hated man in Britain. I was chuffed at the time. How naive can you get?

Q: And did the public occasionally confuse you with your character?

A: I was attacked occasionally. The less violent ones were the little old ladies in supermarkets who prodded me and told me to leave Edward alone and don’t be mean to Jennifer. But I did actually get physically attacked by an irate driver once who took exception to the way I was driving and said ‘You’re that…’ and I said ‘Yes’, thinking he’d say ‘Oh, I love your work’, but no the first came straight through the window and into the face, and he marched off and got into his car. And I apologised for hurting his hand. He was a big man. A tooth came out.

Q: Men who play villains get a lot of fan mail from women, don’t they?

A: Yes. I got a fair amount. Funnily enough I get more now for playing the Doctor than I did then.

Q: In America, ‘Doctor Who’ is a cult series, isn’t it?

A: Yes. It’s not known to the man in the street, I mean I can walk down the street in New York and nobody will say ‘Aren’t you the Doctor?’ but it’s shown on the public service networks at eleven o’clock every night.

Q: There are ‘Doctor Who’ conventions. Do you go over to America?

A: I do. Those who watch it are potty about it. I mean, here you might get 1% of the people who watch the programme are Fans with a capital letter, but over there 90% of the people who watch it are besotted by it, so you go to conventions in various places, university towns, and thousands of people turn up to touch the Doctor’s hem.

Q: Isn’t it funny that after the sophistication of ‘Star Wars’ and special effects, ultra sophisticated, that this ‘Doctor Who’, apart from having an appearing and disappearing box, the effects aren’t all that good… what do you think the real appeal is?

A: I think that’s part of the appeal, actually. It’s very English, it’s always been plasticine and bits of string and you can’t summon up some piece of high-tech equipment to get you out of a situation, you have to rely on ingenuity. And because the budgets… you know, a special effect in ‘Star Wars’ would pay for an entire series of ‘Doctor Who’, but I think sometimes that can work to our benefit and I think it would be a mistake now for ‘Doctor Who’ to try to compete with the high-tech series.

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