(Actor) Born : 20 January 1934 -
(Actor) Doctor Reign – 1974 – 81
“Homo Sapiens! What an inventive, invincible species. It’s only a few millions years since they’ve crawled out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenseless, bipeds. They’ve survived flood, famine and plague, they’ve survived cosmic wars and holocausts, and now here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life, ready to outsit eternity. They’re indomitable! Indomitable!” – Fourth Doctor
Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor, was a revelation even before he began the role. He was the youngest cast Doctor to date – at 39 years old, when filming began. He caught the eye of producers playing the outstanding evil villain – the Sultan – in The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad – 1973.
Baker quickly set about making the Doctor’s character his own. He was the most stand-offish alien Doctor yet, the most eccentric to date and the human species was his favoured area of research.
He was quick witted and had a cheeky almost childlike playfulness – even with his enemies. He could castigate his opponents and supporters – with an icy cold stare and his booming – almost inhuman commanding voice.
His trademark was his scarf and hat and his never-ending supply of jelly babies. He would often break the tension, by offering his captor a jelly baby in the middle of a life threatening situation.
His first companion – Sarah Jane Smith, had a great rapport with Baker’s Doctor. If Pertwee had been her elderly judgmental father figure, then Baker was her younger, hip and ‘with it’ dad.
To many people, Tom Baker came to be the Doctor – the only Doctor. He is currently still the longest serving at 7 years. In a role which has usually been filled for no more than three years at a time – due to a fear of typecasting.
Baker worked under three different producers for nearly a decade. His era’s can be split into three very distinct phases – also linked to the producer of the time. Phillip Hinchcliffe’s era was dramatic stories, plenty of violence and gothic horror. Graeme Williams era was more lighthearted, a little silly and stretching the boundaries of credibility in places but still good Sci-fi staple. John Nathan Turner’s era dragged Who kicking and screaming into the 80′s with garish pastely colours, concept stories and synthy keyboard music.
Baker’s first jaunt was a very Pertwee earth-based adventure Robot – 1974; which involved the newly Regenerated Doctor and Unit trying to out manoeuver a homicidal robot, on the rampage. This is where the similarities with Pertwee ended, though. The first Baker season took off in new ways, thanks largely to Baker and then producer – Phillip Hinchcliffe.
Hinchcliffe brought a new sense of scope, characterisation and a good dose of horror to his tenure. The Doctor picked up lovable English UNIT buffoon Dr Harry and along with Sarah went off on a number of adventures in one whole season, all interlinked – by the same story arc. Something the new series of Who is all over – with story arcs!
The Ark In Space – 1975 featured the Space station Nerva, with the trio discovering the human race in the deep freeze, being munched through and impregnated by the Alien Insectoid race known as the – ‘Wirrn’. This excellent story set the tone for the Baker / Hinchcliffe reign and was truly ahead of its time.
This episode was – Alien, 4 years before Alien was made. The Wirrn were horrific predatory and wasp-like. Beginning as huge slimy green larvae, a touch from one would cause a human metamorphoses. The adult versions were little better, hunting for new human hosts to feed on – or impregnate.
This is where Baker came into his own, orchestrating the human resistance in his broody and sometimes arrogant, pushy manner. Occasionally he would be brilliantly spontaneous, like when he gave his glowing reference to the human condition as he paced the human deep freeze cryo unit – “indomitable”.
Genesis Of The Daleks – 1974had the Doctor cast back in time by the Timelord’s, without his Tardis to prevent the creation of the Daleks, on their home world of Skaro. Here, the Doctor met the brilliantly mad – Davros, their mad creator. Sandwiched in between the Kaled / Thaal civil war, the doctor found his moment. Having wired up the Dalek embryo chamber with explosives, he had two wires in his hand which would finish the Dalek’s before they began :
The Doctor: “If someone who knew the future, pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives…… could you then kill that child?”
Sarah: “We’re talking about the Daleks; the most evil creatures ever invented! You must destroy them! You must complete your mission for the Time Lords!”
The Doctor: “Do I have the right? Simply touch one wire against the other, and that’s it. The Daleks cease to exist. Hundreds of millions of people, thousands of generations can live without fear, in peace…… and never even know the word ‘Dalek’”
Sarah: “Then why wait? If it was a disease or some sort of bacteria you were destroying, you wouldn’t hesitate!”
The Doctor: “But if I kill…… wipe out a whole intelligent life-form…… then I become like them. I’d be no better than the Daleks!”
Unable to follow through, they returned back to the point in time they had left and found themselves back on Space station Nerva, being harrassed by the Cybermen and their Cybermat pets in Revenge Of The Cybermen – 1974.
Baker’s excellent first season has been seen by many as Who at its absolute peak. A Doctor on top of his game, with the right stories and the right direction. Credit in the Baker era has to be given to the quality writing behind the show; Terrence Dicks and Douglas Adams to name but a few of the penmeisters.
The Brain of Morbius and Pyramids of Mars – both 1975were also standout moments in Baker’s era and would easily rank in any Who top ten. Morbius was the sci-fi retelling of Frankenstein and Pyramids Of Mars pitted the Doctor against the evil Egyptian god Sutekh. Pyramids ranks probably as Baker’s finest episode. It had the right blend of gothic horror with the lumbering robot mummies and possessed minions of the evil Lord God Sutekh.
When the final matchup came, Sutekh was easily a match for Baker’s huge personality and a fitting episode ended with the Doctor travelling to Mars to play the treacherous games of the gods.
Planet of Evil – 1975, Seeds of Doom – 1975 and Terror of the Zygons – 1975 were all further season highlights and excellent individual episodes in the Baker era.
The Hand Of Fear – 1976 marked Sarah Jane’s last story before she left the Doctor. For a time, the Doctor travelled alone.
The Deadly Assassin – 1976 had the doctor returning to Galifrey and getting involved in a ‘Manchurian Candidate’ style plot, involving the assassination of the President and the Master returning to the fray. Roger Delgado had died but the Master character was still brought back – albeit as Delgado’s character but a rotting corpse.(he was dying at the end of his 12 regeneration but was prolonging his existence unnaturally, as his body fell apart). This episode is also notable for the doctor entering a digital world called strangely enough – “the Matrix” to battle an unseen foe, where death inside the computer meant death in the real world also. Wachowski’s brothers watching this?
The Face Of Evil – 1976 saw the Doctor joined by a new companion – an alien savage tribe girl – called Leela of the Severateem. This was the strong female role taken to the next level, a character who would draw a knife and fight her way out of a situation. She was physically strong which was a direct counterpoint to the Doctor’s cerebral strength’s.
Robots Of Death – 1976 was set aboard a huge mining vehicle which was staffed by creepy looking robots. These robots would be homaged years later as the Angel’s in the David Tennant episode Voyage Of the Damned – 2007.
In 1977, Philip Hinchcliffe was replaced by Graham Williams as producer who had the unenviable task of continuing the run of Baker’s brilliant first two seasons. Horror of Fang Rock – 1977 was a relic from the Hinchcliffe era – lonely, claustrophobic – featuring a lonely lighthouse and a shape stealing Rutan, killng the lighthouse crew – one by one. Afterwards the tone got lighter, on orders of BBC chief’s; after years of complaints levelled at the show, led by moral crusader – Mary Whitehouse.
In the Invasion Of Time – 1978, the Doctor returned to Gallifrey to install himself as High President of the Timelord council, seemingly aided and abetted by a race of Energy-beings called the Vardans. It was all a ruse though, to banish the Vardans into a perpetual timeloop. The Doctor even had time to thwart the Sontaran’s who tried to invade Gallifrey aswell.
After renouncing the Lord Presidency, the Doctor also gained a new companion – Romana, a fellow timelord. This fact was to prove rather useful as Romana eventually regenerated due to the original actress Mary Tamm leaving the show at the end of The Armageddon Factor – 1978, to be replaced by Lalla Ward.
A new story arc was introduced in season 16. The Doctor was sent on a mission by the White Guardian to find and reassemble the cosmic key. Each episode had the Doctor hunting for a piece of the key, hidden in various places.
The Ribos Operation, The Pirate Planet, The Stones of Blood, The Androids of Tar,a The Power of Kroll & The Armageddon Factor – all 1978.
Destiny Of The Daleks – 1979 had the Doctor landing on a planet he did not recognise, only to go and unearth Davros – still buried where they had left him. Finally, the Doctor realised he was back on Skaro. Cue hilarious scene of the Doctor pushing Davros’s wheelchair around, as he spirited him away from the persuing Daleks.
“You know K-9, sometimes I think I’m wasted just rushing about the universe saving planets from destruction….. With a talent like mine, I might have been a great slow bowler!” Fourth Doctor – Creature From The Pit
City Of Death – 1979 was a highlight of Baker’s later seasons. This one had Doctor and Romana out on location in Paris, happening across a collection of genuine Mona Lisa paintings being stashed by a Jagaroth, who was manipulating human history to push the envelope of human technology so it could repair its ship and leave Earth. Later it is hinted that the Jagaroth ship having gone back in time and exploding over the earth – kickstarting the very first life.
Creature From The Pit was another highlight in this season and the promisingly Shada – 1979was never finished or broadcast, due to a BBC strike. Graham Williams left as producer at the end of season 17 and was replaced by John Nathan-Turner.
Depending on your point of view, Nathan-Turner either dragged the show into the 1980′s and updated it – or ruined it. I like to think he did a bit of both but more on that in later Doctor profiles.
Season 18 began with the reasonable Leisure Hive – 1980. Romana was still the companion – albeit in her new regeneration, along with K9. The Doctor’s outfit had changed and was now covered in question marks. It was a bit too obvious and silly and Baker remarked he didn’t like it much either – years later.
The music and title sequences were changed in favour of newer computerised titles and synth music for the Theme and later incidental music tie ins.
In Meglos – 1980, the Doctor fought a doppleganger of himself, covered in Cactus spines! This gave Tom Baker a rare chance to stretch his acting ability; playing the villain, as well as the hero – which he was pretty good at.
Full Circle – 1980 and the Doctor got himself lost in a parallel universe, this began a trilogy of stories with decay and deterioration as its central theme. The Tardis had slipped through a doorway in space into another universe, known as “E-Space”.
The trilogy followed the Doctor’s attempt to get back to [normal] N-Space. He gained a new companion – Adric – a kind of retarded looking snot nosed know-it-all kid (think young Van Damme in Bloodsport).
Full Circle was a promising story, a crashed human ship where the humans had to barricade themselves in during the seasonal “mistfall”, as the scary Marshmen came swarming out of the swamp to try and break into the ship.
State of Decay – 1980 was a return to Phillip Hinchcliffe’s era, gothic horror mixed with Sci Fi on an alien-medieval-era world, involving vampires harvesting a village of peasant’s to revive the great vampire, from a race – which the great Timelord Rassilon had tried to wipe out aeons before.
Warriors’ Gate – 1980 was notable as a minimal high concept episode, set only against a blue screen as the Doctor tried to locate the gateway between E & N-Space. The episode was also notable as it marked the departure of Romana and a rather broken K9, who decided to stay in E-Space and help a race of Thundercat like alien’s – called the Tharil’s.
The Doctor then began the first part of another linked trilogy; beginning with Keeper Of Traken – 1981 where he bumped into the Master again, still looking like an extra from MJ’s ‘The Thriller’. The decaying corpse of the Master managed to prolong his existence by stealing the body of an inhabitant of Traken, called Tremas.
The new Master – played ably enough by Anthony Ainley was dastardly and cunning and would feature in some interesting stories over the next few years, but he wasn’t really in the same class as Delgado’s master had been.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is being pursued by a mysterious white figure – who keeps watching his every move.
Tremas’s daughter joined the Doctor in the next adventure Logopolis – 1981, alongside Tegan – an Australian Air hostess and Adric.
The Doctor, intending to finally fix his chameleon circuit; travelled to the planet Logopolis. Where he met a race of brilliant mathematicians whose calculations kept the universe from collapsing. Only to bring down the wrath of the Master on the Logopolitan’s, who were promptly killed by the dastardly Timelord. This then caused the Universe to collapse in on itself, without Logopolis to stablise it. The Doctor then traveled back to Earth to make use of a giant earth radio telescope to re-stabilise the collapsing universe.
The Master had followed, and realising that the Doctor was attempting to thwart his plans, tilted the Telescope causing the Doctor to plunge to his doom, where his companions flocked to him.
His dying words are probably the most poignant of any Who regeneration :
“It’s the end…… but the moment … has been prepared for!”
The dying Doctor then points to the White Watcher, who approaches and melds into the Doctor and the regeneration then begins.
And so ended Tom Bakers reign as the Doctor; he was – looking notably older in the last two seasons and he was beginning to tire of the punishing filming schedules. He didn’t always see eye to eye with Nathan-Turner or some of his companions, so he felt the time was right to bow out.
Baker’s Doctor was the most syndicated around the world in terms of foreign sales so he is probably still the best known and regarded outside of the UK, as he is in it.
When a new Doctor takes the role, the question is always the same : Could they be better than Tom Baker? Probably not.
Ark In Space – 1974 – Alien before Alien.
Genesis Of The Daleks – 1974 – Meet the Daleks and their creator Davros.
Pyramids Of Mars – 1974 – Sutekh and the Robot Mummies.
The Deadly Assassin – 1976 – Rotting master and the Manchurian Candidate.
Brain Of Morbius – 1976 – Frankenstein, given the Who Sci-Fi treatment.
The Stones Of Blood – 1978 – Dark, eerie moors setting.
City Of Death – 1979 – Scaroth the Jagaroth, brilliantly played by Julian Glover.
Destiny Of The Daleks – 1979 – Unintentionally hilarious, Davros’s return.
Face Of Evil – 1977 – Brilliantly conceived Doctor Meddling With a race’s evolution storyline.
Warrior’s Gate – 1980 – Minimal high concept episode, set in E-Space.
Logopolis – 1981 – Baker’s swansong