Tom Baker

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Thomas Stewart Baker (born January 20, 1934) is a British actor, mainly associated with playing the fourth incarnation of the Doctor in the long-running science fiction television series Doctor Who, whom he played from 1974 to 1981.

Early life and career

Baker was born in Liverpool. His father, Thomas, was a sailor who was rarely at home resulting in Tom being raised largely by his mother, Mary Jane, in her Roman Catholic faith. He left school at 15 to become a novice monk and remained in the monastic life for six years, but left and went into the Merchant Navy, at the same time taking up acting, at first as a hobby. In 1971, he got his first big break with the role of Rasputin in the film Nicholas and Alexandra.

Baker in Doctor Who

In 1974, Baker took on the role of the Doctor from Jon Pertwee. He was cast largely because of his performance in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Baker was working on a construction site at the time, as acting jobs were scarce. Initially he was dubbed "Boiler Suit Tom" by the media as he had been supplied for a press conference with some old studio set clothes to replace his modest garments.

He quickly made the part his own. As the Doctor, his eccentric style of dress and speech — particularly his trademark long scarf and fondness for jelly babies — made him an immediately recognisable figure and he quickly caught the viewing public's imagination. His decision to move on in 1981 was regretted by many of the programme's fans, and his incarnation is generally regarded as the most popular of the Doctors. Baker played the Doctor for seven consecutive seasons over a seven-year period, making him the longest-serving actor in the part on-screen.

In 1981 he married Lalla Ward who had co-starred in Doctor Who with him for two years - their marriage lasted only 16 months. In 1985, Baker married Sue Jerrard, who had been an assistant editor on Doctor Who. They moved to a converted school in Maidstone, Kent where they kept lots of cats before emigrating to France in 2002.

Post Doctor Who career

Baker has played character parts on television (including Captain Redbeard Rum in the second series Blackadder episode "Potato" and Puddleglum in the BBC's production of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair) and radio (including John Mortimer Presents the Trials of Marshall Hall in which Baker plays Britain's most celebrated criminal barrister, Sir Edward Marshall Hall).

He has also hosted the children's literature show The Book Tower. He became mostly known, however, for doing advertising voiceovers. Baker's distinctive voice has become a gift for impressionists, and he is regularly impersonated in the popular comedy series Dead Ringers.

In the 1990s, he played Professor Geoffrey Hoyt in Medics and had a recurring role in the Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer revival of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). (Reeves later bought Baker's school house when he moved to France.) He also had a part in the 2001 BBC Radio 4 version of The Thirty-Nine Steps as Sir Walter Bullivant and narrated the BBC radio comedy series Lionel Nimrod's Inexplicable World and later Little Britain. He continues to narrate the television series of the same name.

Also in the early 2000s, it was reported that Baker was a candidate for the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings films, after playing a minor role as a wise elf in the Dungeons & dragons film.

In 2002 he also had a speaking role in the critically-acclaimed but commercial flop Hostile Waters as the Narrator.

In 2004, Baker completed filming a season of Monarch of the Glen, a BBC drama series. He plays Donald McDonald, an eccentric former race car champion who, having been away since early childhood, returns home after hearing of the death of his brother Hector (who was played by Richard Briers until his departure at the end of the previous season). More recently, he voiced the role of the villain ZeeBadDee in the computer-animated film version of The Magic Roundabout, and played the role of the Captain in the Challenge TV version of Fort Boyard..

He continues to be associated with the Doctor, appearing on documentaries like The Story of Doctor Who and Doctor Who Confidential and giving interviews about his time on the programme. Although he reappeared as the Doctor for the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time, he has, to date, declined to follow his successors and reprise the role for any of the audio dramas based upon the series.

Miscellaneous

Several reference books published in the late 1980s erroneously reported that Baker died of a drug overdose in 1982. Baker does have a reputation, acknowledged in his autobiography, of being a heavy drinker like fellow Doctor actor William Hartnell, and sometimes makes humourous reference to it. In response to the numerous inquiries he gets about his time as the Doctor he often replies 'You will have to excuse me but I was drunk at the time.'

Baker had a brief foray into the world of music, providing the monologue to the track Witness to a Murder (Part Two) on the album Six by Mansun.

Baker's autobiography entitled Who on Earth is Tom Baker? (ISBN 000638854X) was published in 1997. He has also written a short fairytale-style novel titled The Boy Who Kicked Pigs (ISBN 057119771X), which has been described as "A Grotesque Masterpiece".

Tom Baker is no relation to Colin Baker, who played the Sixth Doctor in Doctor Who.

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External links

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