Origin : Gallifrey
(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 – when cast as the Fourth Doctor, was the ‘youngest’ cast Doctor – at only 39 years old. He caught the eye of Doctor Who producers, playing the outstanding evil villain; the Sultan – in The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad – in 1973.
Baker quickly set-about, making the Doctor’s character – his own. He was the most stand-off-ish – alien Doctor yet, the most eccentric and frequently remarked that the “……human species was his favoured area of research”.
Baker’s Doctor – 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. Amply backed-up with his booming and commanding voice.
The Fourth Doctor’s trademark – was a ridiculously long scarf (knitted by Marie-Antoinette), a tall hat and a never-ending supply of jelly babies. The Fourth Doctor, would often break the tension; by offering a captor – a jelly baby in the middle of a life-threatening situation.
The Fourth Doctor’s first companion; was Sarah Jane Smith. The two had a great rapport and chemistry. If Pertwee had been Smith’s – elderly judgmental father figure. Then Baker was her – younger and hip dad.
To many people, Tom Baker came to be the embodiment of the Doctor; never to be bettered. He is currently still, the longest serving – at 7 years in the role. Usually, the role would be filled for no more than 3-4 years, at a time; due to a punishing schedule and a fear of typecasting.
Baker worked under three different producers, for nearly a decade. His era’s can be split into 3 very distinct phases; also linked to the producer of the time.
Phillip Hinchcliffe’s era – was dramatic, dsrk, violent and gothic horror inspired. Graeme Williams era – more lighthearted, silly but still good Sci-fi staple. John Nathan Turner’s (JNT’s) era – 1980’s progressive, pastely colours and concept stories.
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 12, took-off in new ways, thanks largely to Baker and ,visionary producer; Phillip Hinchcliffe.
Hinchcliffe brought a new sense of scope, characterisation and – a good dose of Victorian horror – to his tenure. The Doctor picked up lovable English UNIT buffoon Dr Harry Sullivan (who nicely complemented Sarah-Jane and the Doctor). The truo went off on a number of adventures, in one whole season, all interlinked – by the same story-arc.
The Ark In Space – 1975, featured the space-station Nerva; with the trio discovering the human-race in the deep freeze, being attacked by the Alien Insectoid ‘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 mutation. 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, had the Doctor cast back-in-time; by the Time Lords. Without the Tardis, to prevent the creation of the Daleks, on their home world of Skaro. Here, the Doctor met their creator – brilliantly mad scientist; Davros. Caught between the Kaled/Thal civil war, the doctor found a moment; wiring up the Dalek embryo-chamber with explosives. The Doctor stood, with two wires in each hand; which would finish the Daleks – before they begun :
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 with the mission. The trio were returned back, to the point in time, they had left. Finding themselves, back on space-station Nerva; being harrassed by the Cybermen and their deadly Cybermat pets – in Revenge Of The Cybermen – 1974.
Baker’s excellent first season (12) has been seen by many as Doctor 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; Robert Holmes, Terrence Dicks and Terry Nation – to name but a few, of the outstanding pen-meisters.
Season 13’s – The Brain of Morbius and Pyramids of Mars, were also standout moments in Baker’s era and would easily rank in any Doctor Who.
The Brain of Morbius, was the sci-fi retelling of Frankenstein and Pyramids Of Mars, pitted the Doctor against the evil Egyptian god; Sutekh.
Pyramids Of Mars ranks probably – as Baker’s finest episode. It had the right blend of gothic horror – with the lumbering robot mummies, possessed minions and the evil Lord 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, Seeds of Doom and Terror of the Zygons – were all further season highlights and excellent individual episodes, in the Baker era.
The Hand Of Fear marked Sarah Jane’s final story, before she left the Doctor’s company. For a time, the Fourth Doctor travelled alone – seemingly not requiring a companion and was not impacted; such was Baker’s watchably.
The Deadly Assassin, had the Doctor returning – to Galifrey. Before getting involved, in a ‘Manchurian Candidate’ – style plot; involving the assassination of the Lord President. The Master returned to the fray but Roger Delgado had died and the Master character was brought back; as a rotting corpse (allegedly dying – at the end of his 12th regeneration but unwilling to due and prolonging existence unnaturally, as the body fell apart). This episode is also notable for the Doctor entering a digital world, called (strangely enough) – “the Matrix”. Here, to battle an unseen foe, where death inside the Matrix computer – meant death in the real world also. [Wachowski’s brothers watching this?]
The Face Of Evil 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 strengths.
Robots Of Death was set aboard a huge mining vehicle, which was staffed by cherub-looking creepy robots; the robots ran amok killing the crew.
In 1977, producer Philip Hinchcliffe left and was replaced by Graham Williams. Williams had the unenviable task of trying to continue the run of Baker’s brilliant first three seasons. Horror of Fang Rock was a relic from the Hinchcliffe era; lonely, claustrophobic – featuring a shape-stealing Rutan, killing the lighthouse crew – one by one. Afterwards, the tone got lighter, on orders of BBC chiefs; after years of complaints levelled at the show – led by moral-crusader; Mary Whitehouse.
“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.
K9 – a robot dog companion, joined the Doctor – in The Invisible Enemy. K9 was an instant hit with children and K9 would go on, to star in most of the Baker run – and eventually a spin-off show.
InThe Invasion Of Time, the Doctor returned to Gallifrey, to claim the vacant Lord Presidency, 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 Sontarans, who also tried to invade Gallifrey aswell.
After renouncing the Lord Presidency, the Doctor gained a new companion – Romana; a fellow Time Lord. 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 (who had played Princess Astra in The Armageddon Factor – 1978).
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 ‘key to time’. Each episode had the Doctor hunting – for a piece of the key, which was hidden in various places.
The Ribos Operation, The Pirate Planet, The Stones of Blood, The Androids of Tara, The Power of Kroll and The Armageddon Factor.
Destiny Of The Daleks had the Doctor visit a planet, the Time Lord did not recognise (but had an unerving feeling of deja-vu); only to go and unearth Davros – still buried where they had left him on planet Skaro.
Finally, the Doctor realised it was Skaro, many years since having previously visited. Cue hilarious scenes, of the Doctor forcibly pushing Davros’s wheelchair around, to spirit the mad scientist away, from the persuing Daleks.
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 alien Jagaroth. Who was manipulating human history, to push the envelope of human technology – so it could repair it’s 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 promising Shada was never finished or broadcastn(due to a BBC strike). Graham Williams left as producer – at the end of season 17 and was replaced by John Nathan-Turner (JNT).
Depending on your point of view, JNT either dragged the show – into the 1980’s and updated it; or ruined it completely. I like to think that he did – a bit of both but more on that; in later Doctor profiles.
Season 18 began with the awful Leisure Hive. Romana 2 was still the companion but efforts were made to begin to write K9 out (by having the robotic damaged for much of the season). The Doctor’s outfit aswell. Gone was the scarf and replaced with a burgundy red-coat, and a white shirt covered – in question marks. It was a bit too obvious and silly. Baker later remarked, he didn’t like it much either, years later.
The music and title sequences changed in favour of newer computerised graphics and synth music – for the Theme and later incidental music tie-ins.
Meglos, had the Doctor fight against a doppleganger, 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 and the Doctor got lost, in a parallel universe. This began a trilogy of stories, with decay and deterioration – as the central theme. The Tardis had slipped through a doorway – in space, into another universe; known as “E-Space”.
The trilogy followed, the Doctor’s attempts to get back to [normal] N-Space. He gained a new companion – Adric; a know-it-all artful dodger type kid.
Full Circle was a promising story, about a crashed human-ship; where the humans had to barricade themselves in – during the seasonal “mistfall”. As scary Marshmen, came swarming out of the swamp to try and break into the ship.
State of Decay, was a return to Phillip Hinchcliffe’s gothic era, mixing horror with sci-fi. An alien-medieval-era world, involving vampires – harvesting a village of peasants to revive the great vampire, from a race; which the great Time Lord Rassilon – had tried to wipe out aeons before.
Warriors’ Gate was notable, as a minimal ‘high-concept’ story. Set against, only a blue screen; as the Doctor tried to locate the gateway – between E & N-Space. The story 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” aliens – called the Tharils.
The Doctor – then began the first part of another linked trilogy of stories. Beginning with The Keeper Of Traken; where the Time Lord – bumped into The Master again. The decaying corpse of the Master, managed to prolong it’s life – by stealing the body of an inhabitant of Traken; called ‘Tremas’ [anagram of Master].
The new Master (played ably enough by Anthony Ainley), was dastardly, cunning and appeared frequently – in stories over the next few years.
Meanwhile, the Doctor was being pursued by a mysterious white lone figure – who kept watching the Time Lord’s every move – from a distance.
Tremas’s daughter; Neesa – joined the Doctor amd Adric – in the next adventure – Logopolis. Alongside Tegan – an Australian Air hostess.
The Doctor, intending to finally fix the faulty chameleon circuit; travelled to the planet Logopolis. Where a race of brilliant mathematicians, got to work on repairing the circuit. It was the Logopolitans, who calculations kept the universe from collapsing. Only to bring down the wrath of the Master, on themselves; who promptly killed them all. 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 followed and realising that the Doctor was attempting to thwart his plans, tilted the Telescope – causing the Doctor to plunge from the dish, where his companions raced to flock around the injured Time Lord.
The Fourth Doctor’s dying words, are probably the most poignant of any regeneration – before or since.
“It’s the end…… but the moment … has been prepared for!”
The dying Fourth Doctor then pointed to the White Watcher, who approaches – and melded into the Doctor and the kickstarted the regeneration sequence.
And so ended Tom Baker’s reign as the Fourth Doctor; Baker was – looking notably older in the last two seasons and was beginning to tire of the punishing filming schedules. He didn’t see eye-tozeye with JNT – or some of his companions, so he felt the time was right to bow out and had wanted to leave in 1979 but held off – until 1981.
Baker’s Fourth Doctor, was the most syndicated around the world – in terms of foreign sales. So Baker is probably still the best known (and regarded) – outside of the UK, – as he is, in it.
When a new Doctor took the role – after Baker. The question was always the same; could they be as good as Tom Baker?
Season Twelve – 1974-75
Season Thirteen – 1975-76
Season Fourteen – 1976-77
Season Fifteen – 1977-78
Season Sixteen – 1978-79
Season Seventeen – 1979-80
Season Eighteen – 1980-81
Season Twenty – 1983
The Five Doctors⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Stock footage from Shada)