Newsletter 2009


It’s sad about the closure of the Doctor Who Museum in Blackpool, but memories are the best museum of all – no-one can touch those! Inspired by this picture Blackpool Council very kindly found in their archives for me, here are mine:

Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter and me throwing the switch for the Blackpool Illuminations in 1975. Picture courtesy of Blackpool Council

Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter and me throwing the switch for the Blackpool Illuminations in 1975. Picture courtesy of Blackpool Council

 1975, Talbot Square, Blackpool.

The Doctor and his two chums, Sarah Jane and Harry Sullivan arrive at the Town Hall in Blackpool to switch on the lights.

“FIAT LUX”, I cried, which is Latin for “Let there be light”.

“What did he say?” roared the crowd; there were 15,000 people there. But before anyone could translate my Latin cry, 6 or 7 Cybermen appeared on the balcony of the town hall. They all looked threatening. Then a Dalek appeared on the lower level because in those days, Daleks could not go upstairs. The tension rose and it was almost unbearable. What would the Doctor do? Six Cybermen and a deadly Dalek stood between the light switch and the Doctor. Quick as a flash, the Doctor drew his sonic screwdriver and pointed towards the Cybermen who all carried deadly BBC hand grenades. As they raised their silver fists to hurl their grenades, the Doctor dropped on one knee and fired! One, two, three, four, five, six! Just like that! Every shot a bull. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! went the silky, slimy, silver Cybermen as each one in turn was blown to smithereens! How the crowd loved it, the cheers could be heard as far away as Liverpool.

BUT one obstacle remained: the merciless Dalek. “Exterminate!” she screamed. The Doctor turned his screwdriver towards the merciless female Dalek. At that very moment his sonic screwdriver jammed. “Oh!” cried 15,000 fans, all in despair. But in a flash, the Doctor leapt forward and snatched a huge sombrero which carried the words: “Kiss me Quick” from the head of a thin man with a wooden leg and thick spectacles. And with a second leap, a cabriole I think, the Doctor was next to the deadly Dalek and slammed the “Kiss me Quick” Stetson onto the head of the Dalek. So huge was the hat that it blinded the Dalek and opened up a path to the switch. Another leap and the Doctor pulled the switch. Zing went the current, and click, there was light! Blackpool was illuminated; everyone was happy. The Doctor was embraced and kissed nearly insensible.

I think that’s how it was.

My forum

When I decided to offer the fans a Forum, I had the idea it would perhaps be like having people around my table at home: a sort of digital dinner party. And, as at a jolly and affectionate meal everybody would feel free and confident enough to chip in on the chat. I imagined that I would learn something about my “Guests”, and that I would learn something about myself, which is what happens when people meet and are happy together. We learn more about ourselves by talking and listening to each other around a table. Don’t you agree? I hope you do because it’s my forum – I mean, my dinner table – and I hope that forum members see it that way, too.

I love listening to the fans of Doctor Who. That is why I do signing sessions and lately commentaries on the old stories. I was with Louise Jameson the other day as we watched The Sun Makers at a studio in Soho. Penant Roberts , the director and Michael Keating were with Louise and me as we enjoyed a story from 33 years ago! It was very good, so good that we sometimes sat in silence and admired the programme. And then the producer would cut in and remind us that he wanted our reactions to seeing ourselves 33 years younger. He also wanted stories from the past. The fans of course do not need reminding about the plots of the stories; they often know more than the actors themselves. But they don’t know everything. So we all in turn tried to describe what we remembered from so long ago. Sometimes we got carried away. Sometimes we contradicted each other; and sometimes we were surprised and even amazed at what we heard. It was all such fun. Like a good lunch or a dinner with old friends from long ago; from another world, when we were simply doing a television series that was jolly and very funny sometimes. We had no idea that more than three decades later we would be together in a studio trying to describe it all to our FUTURE fans. How could we know?

And on my forum I hope that the generous, warm and sometimes passionate reactions that Louise and my other friends felt last Thursday would be similarly repeated. The forum is NOT Twitter. It is not FACEBOOK. It is my little dinner party at a table that is much bigger inside than it looks from the outside! I don’t like jokes much. I love little stories; I love tall stories, fantastic tales or ideas that are sometimes quite unbelievable but totally entertaining. People often say to me: “Tom, is that true?” And if people are laughing a lot, I often answer: “That is a question you must never ask a storyteller.” I’m not talking about malicious lies; intolerable. No, I’m talking about the joy we feel at a good meal with an affectionate host at a feast where no one person dominates, or if he does the affectionate host will smilingly move the focus towards fun. There is nothing so irresistibly infectious as confident and full-hearted laughter. And just because we laugh it doesn’t mean we’re not serious. Sometimes at a lovely meal a story may emerge that makes us silent for a while, that makes us think and feel a little differently. But then the merriment reappears, and the laughter and the conviction that this is a good place to be. What place? Why Tom Baker’s forum of course. This is the way I want it to be. We’ll give it 6 months to a year to see how it goes, but in parts it’s doing well already. I hope you’re enjoying it.

More memories

I have just read Anneke Wills book “Naked.” What is this trip called life? What is this thing called love? Where is this stuff called Truth? And after the sadness of unrequited love and with her children in tow off she goes to India. And then to the new world of the US of A and then to Canada. And the adventures happen. Oh, how they happen, boom, boom, thick and fast. Anneke makes things happen. How? Read the book. Like a violently shaking kaleidoscope, the pictures change. Gurus for meaning and truth. Truth about Gurus, too, who are detached from the frenzy of shopping and getting and who selflessly settle for sheer luxury and Rolls Royce motors. It’s a grand tale. Well wrote, Anneke.

Poppy Talk

I just adore the smell of wood smoke especially on a slightly damp and chilly morning. I sometimes arrange my heaps of leaves on my last evening walk with Poppy. A few days ago, I prepared seven heaps and next morning I crept along well worn paths with my fire lighters and matches. And within five minutes a heavenly blaze. Or rather a hellish blaze. And after about seven minutes I was nearly surrounded by seven hellish fires. It was just heaven. Poppy and Tom in a half circle of flame and smoke. Oh, heaven, it was just hell. And how we loved it. All that delicious smoke making Poppy woof and making me weep. I tried desperately hard not to inhale; after all what might the doctor say? But the temptation was there to breathe in and blow smoke rings. I prayed to Guy Fawkes not to let me become a smoker, and he answered me. Then so many sweet chestnuts in the fire, their hairy husks going pop.

Now just a few days later the weather has changed. But the stag still roars and gurgles and coughs, too. He sounds to me like a heavy smoker. And then I think of my bonfires and wonder if I’m responsible for the stag’s cough. No more wood smoke. The leaves are too wet and slippery and beyond my matches. So it’s back to the wigwam project though I prefer the bonfires by a long sea mile. Poppy seems happy because I have to walk further in search of branches for the hotels I’m raising for the creatures. What creatures? Shh.

But what noise is that? Poppy has no idea. What does she know of stags? What does she know of the rutting season? What does she think of that growling and bellowing and stupendous throat clearing that randy stags make when the urge is upon them. And this morning from about 200 feet I caught a glimpse of the suffering stag. He was bawling out his wares: “ Come and get it, come and get it while stocks last!” But no takers while I was there. I didn’t feel too afraid as there were hundreds of young silver birches between him and me. And he was horny twice, one left and one right and he could never have caught me among so many saplings. But I was wearing my old dressing gown and in the milky early light I might have looked like an old deer. And as there were no young dears about he might have thought: “ Well, any port in a storm.” So I made myself scarce. Well, wouldn’t you?

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