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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 501 > THE UNBREAKABLE TOM BAKER

THE UNBREAKABLE TOM BAKER

PHOTO: OLIVER McNEIL

“I long to hear the story of your life, which must captivate the ear strangely.”

– Alonso, THE TEMPEST

THE ULTIMATE INTERVIEW

PART ONE

DAY EIGHT:

TOM’S HOUSE, EAST SUSSEX SAT IN TOM’S KITCHEN 27/04/16

Tom Baker prefers to be interviewed in print these days, rather than on camera. “So I can’t see myself on screen getting older, and older, and older,” he explains. “A woman said to me recently, ‘My son’s a great fan of yours, Mr Baker. Could I have a signed photograph?’ Then she said, ‘I mean, not of the way you look now –’ Dear God. ‘Yeah, okay,’ I said. Foolishly, I take people’s names and addresses, and I always send them pictures. A characteristic of actors is that basically we want to please. It’s that old saying: for we that live to please, must please to live.” Tom answers fan mail online, too. “I’ve got a little website,” he says, “and sometimes I answer questions – ‘If you were a tree, Mr Baker, what sort of a tree would you be?’ – but so many people are looking for a friend. They’re asking you what to do to ease their grief, because they’ve just become orphans, or they’ve got a half-brother who’s having a bad time – and I wish I could help them, but I’m not equipped to give that kind of advice.”

“Are they asking you,” I wonder, “or are they asking the Doctor?

“Well,” replies Tom, “there’s no difference.” He may be right.

Tom is 82 now, although he doesn’t look it. At least, I don’t think so. I’m not sure what an 82-year-old is supposed to look like. Especially a Time Lord. Even more so Tom Baker – all teeth, and eyes, and taste, and everything. He’s always been far more than just another Time Lord. ‘Oh, Ben,’ he’ll write in an email, after today’s encounter, ‘the average life is only about a thousand months; that’s 4,000 weeks, or 29,000 days, or at most two-and-a-quarter billion heartbeats. Nice to see you, Ben.’

Ever since our first interview, in Soho back in 2010, Tom has proved a keen emailer. After we published a teaser of today’s chat, in DWM 500, he emailed editor Tom Spilsbury, offering to sign some copies: ‘I find that the fans love the signature in silver or gold,’ he wrote. ‘We could keep back some Issue 500s to be used in another campaign, with silver-signed copies as a bait for some plan.’

“I’ve never really seen things the way I should. People often say I’m odd. Am I odd?”

Bait for some plan?!

For this last, momentous DWM interview with Tom, I meet him at his home in East Sussex; at the beautiful house, set in acres of countryside, that he shares with his dog Poppy, a ton of cats, and his third wife, Sue, who he met on Doctor Who. She was an assistant film editor on 1977 serial Horror of Fang Rock. This year, Tom and Sue celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. But today she’s in Rome – the daughter of a friend is getting married there – which might explain why, when I arrive at the house, no-one answers the front door. Tom doesn’t like answering the door. Or the phone. Or opening mail. I wait, and wait, and then give up, and wander around to the rear of the house. Through the back door, I can see Tom sat at the kitchen table – his hair whiter, and more unruly, than the last time we met. And I swear his curls are coming back. “Hello, is that Ben?” He greets me in typically rambunctious fashion: “Whoah, that’s a… that’s a real pirate’s beard, that is! Is that real?”

Hi, Tom. Of course it’s real. I grew it myself.

“It looks dyed. Shall I get you a cup of tea? Or a beer?”

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who Magazine's 500th birthday celebrations continue! DWM 501 is a Tom Baker Special: a bumper 100-page souvenir issue that features the mag's biggest interview ever with the man himself, and dozens of rare photos. Plus, the start of a brand-new comic strip, The Pestilent Heart, which introduces a new companion; a look at all the latest Doctor Who CD releases; and much, much more!
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