A surprise visit

Who On Earth is Tom Baker?  An Autobiography

© Tom Baker 1997

Excerpt from chapter 17

In The Deadly Assassin (third story in series 14 of Doctor Who) there was a scene where I was being held under water and where I had to appear genuinely afraid of death. It wasn’t too hard for me to do this because I really am very afraid of water and I suppose this fear made me overdo the terror. David Maloney said it was very powerful and this made me faintly ill at ease. I didn’t see the editing, and the broadcast came as I happened to be going through Preston on the way back from the Doctor Who exhibition in Blackpool. I was with Terry Samson and talking to him about this episode and my anxiety about the water sequence. Terry suggested we watch it in the window of a TV shop. We tried to but all that time ago in Preston the shop was either closing or the sets were tuned to the other channel. So the driver took us disappointedly off through some suburb or other and, as he slowed down on a corner, I saw a couple of kids’ bikes in a garden and wondered if I dared invite myself into the house to see Doctor Who. Terry encouraged me and stayed tactfully with the driver while I went to the back door of this house and knocked.

The programme was due at any moment and I felt a bit self-conscious about barging in on some innocent family at sacred tea time. I need not have feared. A young man of about thirty opened the door to me and I asked, ‘Do you watch Doctor Who in this house by any chance?’ For a split second the young man looked puzzled and then he smiled, opened the door wide, and simply said, ‘Come in, Doctor.’ And in I went.

As he ushered me into the sitting room I heard the title music and I quietly sat in the chair the man pointed to. As I took my seat, he pointed towards two little boys sitting on the sofa, eyes glued to the screen as I appeared. They watched with terrific intensity as a bit of the drama unrolled and then, as someone else took up the plot, they lost interest slightly and glanced up at their dad and then at me. Just as they did so, I reappeared on the screen and they looked at me there. Their amazement was simply amazing! They were utterly gobsmacked as the two images jostled in their heads. They could not grasp how I could be in two places at once and then, to the delight of their dad, they couldn’t believe Doctor Who was in their house. What a wonderful hour or so that was.

After the episode ended the two little boys became anxious that nobody at school would believe them when they said that Doctor Who had just dropped in at tea time on Saturday. For the first time ever I had no souvenirs with me: not a picture or jelly baby. Everything had been used up at the Blackpool event, I suppose. Terry Samson joined me, and his presence and the promise of proofs through the post eased the children’s anxiety. Terry was as good as his word and better. Pictures were sent from the BBC and Terry called their local paper. A reporter was sent round to the house and the children became famous and were believed. It had to be true, it had been in the newspaper. Oh boy, those were the days. I was a hero in Preston and all over the world.

Read an excerpt from chapter 20.

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