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Monday, 4 November 2013

Fifty Years in Time and Space 9 - The Fourth Doctor

All teeth, curls and a never-ending scarf - ask many people about Doctor Who and they will come up with the legendary Tom Baker who held the role from 1974 - 1981. He remains the actor to have served the longest in the part and is perhaps the most recognisable holder of the role, both domestically and internationally. In fact when the Simpsons spoof Doctor Who it is most often the Tom Baker version that they use.

Prior to landing the role Baker found his acting career had gone down the toilet, indeed immediately before taking the role he had found himself working as a labourer on a building site in order to make ends meet. Baker was a difficult actor to cast being unsuitable for both leading parts and comic roles but it was this odd quality that made him perfect as the Doctor. That the show was about to enter its most entertaining period was a happy coincidence, and Baker benefited from both quality writing and improved production values.

Baker was born in Liverpool in 1934 and before deciding to become an actor he had trained to be a monk, but the acting habit bit hard and he turned his back on the monk's habit. Just as well since that scarf would have clashed with the sombre religious robes. For many years after leaving the role Baker tended to avoid all things Doctor Who and even refused to reprise his role for the Five Doctors, 20th anniversary special. This was a great pity as he did appear in the show through clever manipulation by the producers of unused clips. It would have been entertaining to see Baker performing alongside Troughton, Davidson, Pertwee and Richard Hurndall who took the late William Hartnell's role of the first Doctor.

These days Baker is back playing the Doctor for the Big Finish series of all original audio plays based around the adventures of the fourth Doctor.

Try as he might Tom Baker has now realised that there is no escaping the Doctor.

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