Tom Spilsbury, the editor of Doctor Who Magazine has very kindly allowed us to reproduce his article about the event, which says it all:
“It’s Thursday 8 May 2014, and Doctor Who Magazine has come to a recording studio in Wadhurst, where Tom Baker, Louise Jameson and John Leeson are making a new Fourth Doctor adventure, written and directed by Nicholas Briggs, for release by Big Finish sometime next year.
DWM has brought an award to present to Tom, and we want to surprise him. We feel a bit like Michael Aspel (This Is Your Life), and we’re keen to pick the right moment. As we arrive, the cast members are in the sound booths, so we settle down to listen to the Fourth Doctor, Leela and K9 in the middle of a new adventure.
Suddenly, the action grinds to a halt.
“I say, Nick,” Tom Baker ventures, after a brief pause, “instead of saying, ‘K9’s located the signal,’ couldn’t I say ‘K9’s found Geralk?’”
“Um… yes. Okay! Good idea, Tom,” says Nicholas Briggs, who’s sitting at the control desk.
“Well, I don’t want you just to indulge me!” Tom replies, with mock indignation.
“No, no, that was me agreeing with you, Tom! You’ve persuaded me!”
“Ah! Okay then!” Tom beams.
As the team breaks for lunch, we take our chance, announcing to the roomful of actors and Big Finish crew members that DWM readers have voted Tom Baker the Most Popular Doctor of the first 50 years of Doctor Who. Everyone breaks into a spontaneous round of applause.
“Wow,” Tom says, after a moment. “Do you think this will advance my career?”
Tom examines the award, turning it over in his hands. Unfortunately, the shiny trophy is prone to getting finger marks all over it. It will need a lot of dusting, we’re sorry to say. But Tom Baker doesn’t mind at all.
“No, no, that that will be one of the great services of my future!” he grins. Then he has a thought. “We should have some photos taken,” he insists. He rises from his chair and leads the way outside.
As the photos are being taken, Tom compliments DWM. “Gosh, you fellows have been banging out some great stuff recently, haven’t you?”
Thank you, Tom! Very nice of you to say.
Tom nods. “Yes, it’s been wonderful. There was a lovely spacious column last month with the little fellow… Sylvester. I’ve never seen him looking like that before.”
Does it surprise you that you are still playing the Doctor, even after all these years?
“Well, I never have stopped playing the Doctor…” he says, and then draws us in closer to him. “Thing is, I was playing the Doctor before I got the part! Not many people know that.” He laughs. “And after I played the Doctor, everything I did afterwards, I played like the Doctor. Because otherwise there is no point. If you’re an actor, you have to play to the audience, and I’d refuse to be in a play and go on and disappoint the audience. They weren’t coming to see me do something else, they were coming to see the old Doctor Who. I mean, when I played Macbeth, people would say to me afterwards, ‘I never knew he was such a nice man!’ because the place was packed with Doctor Who fans.”
You obviously seem to be enjoying doing the Doctor Who audios…
“Well, yeah, it’s revitalised me.”
When did you realise that Doctor Who was never going to leave you?
“Well, I knew it would never leave me because it was the only job I’ve ever done that I was thoroughly happy doing, that I didn’t have to reach for. I was completely sympathetic to that idea. It think it has something to do with my religious background, the fact that I’m very credulous anyway. I was brought up on miracles. There’s lots of time and space travel, especially in the Old Testament…”
Can you ever see a time when you won’t want to play the Doctor any more?
“Oh, no, no,” Tom says, dismissively. “My wife – who loves me dearly, because she likes antiques – she calls me ‘Doctor’ all the time. She knows it amuses me no end. And I call her Leela! She just thinks it’s the side effects of my pain killers.
“I met an old lady the other day – most of the ladies I meet now are old, except for Louise – and she said, ‘When I was a little girl, I used to hide behind the sofa, watching you in Doctor Who.’ And I thought, ‘You are lying, madam! You are lying! When you were 25 you might have hidden behind the sofa, but when you were a little girl, I was a very small boy!’”
Tom returned to Doctor Who on television last year, for a special scene at the end of the 50th Anniversary Special – the poll-winning The Day of the Doctor…
“I felt very uneasy doing it,” Tom admits, “because I don’t understand any more what’s going on. It was very slow for a small scene, so it took a long time. And I had to go all the way to Cardiff in the middle of the night, because they didn’t want anyone to know. So it was very difficult – getting out of bed without telling my wife, and going down to Cardiff… and then getting back before she woke up! So I didn’t quite know what was going on. In fact, I would have been very unhappy if Matt Smith had not been so nice. He’s a lovely, lovely boy. I didn’t know what the scene was about, really – but then I never used to know what it was about…””
© Doctor Who Magazine/Panini UK Ltd reproduced with permission.