Established career

Doctor Who

Barry (Letts) asked me how I might be playing the part of the Doctor.  What a question!  I had to tell him that I had no idea.  Although I’d seen the programme a bit, I was not knowledgeable about it and I was so tense after my recent troubles that ideas just fled my head.  Barry was a little amused by my admission. He certainly didn’t seem worried and for that I was grateful.

From Tom’s 1997 autobiography, “Who On Earth Is Tom Baker?”

One of the best known pictures of Tom as Doctor Who. Picture © BBC

One of the best known pictures of Tom as Doctor Who. Picture © BBC

Once announced as the new Doctor, Tom’s life was transformed. Other offers started coming in and even before he started recording Doctor Who, he was cast as the lead in The Author of Beltraffio, a film for television directed by Tony Scott. He also played Oscar Wilde in The Trials of Oscar Wilde at the Oxford Festival. Soon life was full of the kind of work he loved: rehearsals, recordings in television and film studios, on an extraordinary range of different locations, from caves to nuclear power stations, from Cambridge to Paris. There were script meetings, costume fittings, interviews and promotions. Suddenly he was in demand for voiceovers and commentaries and appearances on other programmes such as Call My Bluff and The Multi Coloured Swap Shop. He also presented a series on ITV about books for children called The Book Tower an appropriate subject for Tom whose love of books is his most consuming interest.

Click here to read an excerpt from Tom’s autobiography about visiting a family while they were viewing Doctor Who

Tom was pleased to be playing Doctor Who, not just because of the steady work but because the character inspired him. The imaginative possibilities of playing a benevolent alien were endless because the Doctor was not expected to act like an ordinary human being, constrained by the conventions of human “reality”, the stuff of much television drama.

Find out more about Tom’s seven years as Doctor Who

Tom brought his own personality and ideas to the character so that very quickly he became totally identified with the Doctor and everywhere he went was celebrated as a hero. The ratings rose and he was regularly getting from 8 to 11 million viewers. A great lover of the conviviality of pubs, Tom became part of the group which regularly drank in the Colony Room, a tiny but famous drinking Club in Soho. Here and in other famous Soho pubs, Tom became friends with Jeffrey Barnard, Francis Bacon, Daniel Farson, and many other journalists, artists and writers.

After 7 years as Doctor Who in which he recorded 178 episodes, worked with 4 different Producers, and 4 different actresses playing the 3 different Assistant roles, Tom decided he’d had enough of the series although he had fallen in love with his co-star Lalla Ward, who played Romana and married her on 13th December 1980. However, it did not last long and ended amicably.

Tom as the Doctor in his first story: Robot

Tom as the Doctor in his first story: Robot

Tom in The Genesis of the Daleks - series 12

Tom in Genesis of the Daleks – series 12

Tom in The Hand of Fear (series 14) Picture © BBC

Tom in The Hand of Fear (series 14)
Picture © BBC