Here’s another Colin Baker interview, this time conducted shortly before ‘Trial of a Timelord’ was shown. From his comments about Mel, he seems to be about a week into the schooting schedule for ‘Terror of the Vervoids’. He also discusses violence in ‘Doctor Who’ (which was receiving a lot of criticism at the time), his friendship with Patrick Troughton and his desire to have the Brigadier return to the series.
Q: How did you prepare yourself for the role of the Doctor?
A: John Nathan-Turner lent me a lot of tapes; of Pertwee, Toughton, and Hartnell, and Baker mark one. I watched the tapes, not with a view to copying any of them, but simply to assimilate what it is that is the Doctor, that is, in addition to whatever the actors bring to it. But it is very much a part that depends on the personality of the actor. Producers cast because they see something in you that they want to bring to it. But I did have meetings with John and the script editor and the Head of Series and Serials, and I said what I thought I could do, and what I’d like to do in addition to that, and they seemed to like that. I wanted to bring unpredictability to it, and I wanted to highlight the fact that he was not an Earth person, and that he came from this place called Gallifrey, and therefore he was not going to behave in the way human beings would expect him to behave. I wanted to do things quite deliberately – like not crying when a person dies, but being extremely angry about other things.
Q: Did you consciously try to make your portrayal almost the opposite of Peter Davison’s?
A: No, not consciously the opposite of anybody. I didn’t decide on my Doctor as a result of the previous ones at all, really. I did what I would do, no matter who had played it before. Presumably, any contrast was dictated by the choice of me. Obviously, I am different from Peter. Peter is a much more introspective person, much more of a matinee idol sort. I’ve tried to get little echoes of my predecessors; Hartnell’s irascibility, the disrespect for authority of Troughton, the derring-do that Pertwee had, Tom’s irreverance and weirdness, and Peter’s innocence and honesty.
Q: What story did you most enjoy doing?
A: I most enjoyed doing ‘The Two Doctors’, because of working with Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines. Pat, I’ve adored for many years, and I’ve known him for a long time. I was best man at his son David’s wedding, and I shared a flat with David for ten years, so I’ve known Pat off and on, and always admired his acting, and adored his Doctor, so to actually work with him was a special treat.
I was a bit in awe, actually, but that was dispelled in a couple of days, and Frazer also is a delight. Frazer and I got on extremely well, and we larked around a lot, and Pat treated us like an affectionate… I’d say father… but he’d be offended. No, I’ll say father anyway, because he calls me Miss Piggy at the moment; I call him Gonzo.
Q: Which story have you least enjoyed doing?
A: I suppose it was ‘Timelash’, which never quite gelled for me. I thought it was actually much better than it was going to be. I thought it worked extremely well. Pennant (Roberts) did a good job on it. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with it, it’s just that of that particular series, it was the one that didn’t work for me. I don’t think that the Doctor’s element was as strong as I’d have liked.
Q: Who are your favourite enemies?
A: My favourite enemy is the Master, because Sherlock Holmes has his Moriarty, and while most monsters have no particular desire to destroy the Doctor, the good thing about the Master is that it’s a personal matter, so there’s great opportunity for confrontation. I would like, and haven’t yet had, a really thundering good Master story. I would also love to work with the Rani again. She was a wonderful adversasry. But after the Master and the Rani, I would say the Daleks and Cybermen come joint second, along with Sil, who is in the new season.
Q: What do you think of Mel?
A: We’ve only done a few days so far, so we haven’t quite worked out who we are, and what we are, but I think it’s going to be excellent. I think Melanie’s been conceived as being a little more ‘up and at ’em’ than Peri, and less complaining than Peri was, and in fact in a certain sense the situation is being reversed, in that she’s so keen that I’m the one who is saying ‘Hey, hey, just a minute, shouldn’t we think about this?’
Q: Would you like to have more than one companion?
A: I think the problem with having more than one companion is that it makes it extremely difficult for the writers to maintain a narrative, because you have to have a separation between the Doctor and one companion, which means that you’ve got two threads. I thought, for instance, that Turlough was a fascinating character, and I’d love to work with a character like that. With someone as strong and definite as him, then you would be all right having more than one.
Q: Would you like to meet the Brigadier in a future story?
A: I’d love to meet the Brigadier. I know Nick Courtney well, having met him at many conventions, and he’s worked with all the Doctors. I think it would be very sad if that was not continued. I know that JN-T says that he cannot conceive that Doctor number six will not meet the Brigadier, so I’m sure at some point it will happen.
Q: Do you think the programme has become too violent?
A: I didn’t think it was, but I can understand that others would miss the point, when the violence they complained of was in ‘Vengeance on Varos’ in particular, which was a programme saying ‘Violence is bad for you’. I can understand that some people would miss that message and just see hte violence. The good thing about ‘Doctor Who’ is that it does carry messages. Behind every story, if you look for it, and particularly if it was written by Robert Holmes, it’s usually making some other point. I think the tolerance of violence on television goes with swings of the pendulum, and we have to go with whatever is publically acceptable.
Q: How long do you intend to stay with the programme?
A: I think that’s probably in other peoples’ hands, rather than my own. Say the choice was mine; when I started doing this, I said that Tom Baker’s record of seven years was awfully attractive. I’ve done it three years now, even though we’ve only done two seasons, and I’m enjoying it. So I see no desire on my part in the near future to stop; also, I’d like to beat the episode tally! In order to do that at the present rate, I’d take about twenty years, because in Tom’s day they were making twenty-six episodes a year, now we’re down to fourteen.
Q: What are your feelings about the twenty-third season?
A: I’m very excited by the new season. The trial has a great many twists. The three stories are all very diferent stories, and there are also interconnections in them. There are lots of layers, and it’s very, very complicated, which I rather like. I like things you can’t understand. I think we have to get away from viewing figures. The BBC is about providing television for everyone, not necessarily at the same time. You can have seven million people watching one programme, and then going and doing something else, and another seven million watching the next one. The BBC has stood for quality for so long, it would be a shame to allow it to be watered down.