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Genesis of the Doctor

Tom Baker travels back in time to reflect on his first year playing the Doctor. “It’s a bit like religion really, in that all you have to do is believe it…”
The indomitable Tom Baker 1 holds court on 15 May 2018
Photographs by MARCUS HEARN

Tom Baker is in East Sussex, admiring the oak-panelled splendour of a 15th-century inn. “This is a marvellous old place, isn’t it?” he says. “I often find myself standing next to old buildings like this one, or cathedrals, or gnarled old oak trees. Compared to them I look younger…”

Outside the sun is shining, but this doesn’t seem to lift Tom’s sombre mood. He recalls a line of WB Yeats – “The sorrows of your changing face” – and ponders, “Isn’t it awful, the fear of growing old? We live in a time where beauty is worshiped and old age is a terrible threat. And how horrid it is. Because, what’s going to become of me? I know the answer. I’ll tell you: I’m going to die.”

The ensuing, slightly awkward pause is curtailed by a deep, reverberating laugh. “And of course I’m consoled by the fact that I can look you right in the eye, at your lovely young face, and say, ‘And so are you!’ And there you are, laughing too.”

Tom is 84 years old, and while he might not be so quick on his feet anymore (“Oh I do miss running…”) his disarming wit is sharper than ever. “I laugh at my fears,” he says. “I try to pretend it doesn’t matter really. I go out early every morning, walking in the woods with my dog Poppy, and try to celebrate being well enough to do that at my great age.”

Tom was cast in his most famous role in 1974. Does it feel like 44 years since he started playing the Doctor? “Well, not if I’m relaxed. But if I’m walking along and it occurs to me, yes… I was just turning 40 when I began. And I’m still playing the Doctor, for Big Finish.” His eyes light up with obvious pride. Yep, Tom Baker is definitely still the Doctor. Always will be.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

TOM BAKER REVISITS HIS FIRST SERIES AS THE DOCTOR IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW! As part of DWM’s detailed preview of the forthcoming Season 12 Blu-ray set, Tom Baker reflects on the role that changed his life. Also in this issue... ROGER MURRAY-LEACH An extensive interview with the production designer who achieved the impossible on Season 12 of Doctor Who. THE HOLMES MASTER PLAN How Season 12 script editor Robert Holmes created a storytelling formula that continues to influence the modern series. KEVIN LINDSAY The life and career of the Australian actor who played Styre in Season 12’s The Sontaran Experiment. BREWING UP The untold story of how Doctor Who led a marketing campaign for tea bags in 1976. GEORGIA TENNANT The actress talks about how her life has changed since she made her Doctor Who debut – and met her future husband – in 2008. JESSICA MARTIN Jessica talks about illustrating her character Mags (from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy) for a new Seventh Doctor comic. NEW FACES The second part of a series looking at how new Doctors have been introduced to the public. THE TIME TEAM It’s hankies at the ready as the Time Team watch tearjerking episodes from 1982, 2006 and 2010. THE CLOCKWISE WAR Part Three of a new comic strip adventure written by Scott Gray and illustrated by John Ross. PLUS... The Blogs of Doom, previews, DVD and audio reviews, news, prize-winning competitions and much more!