Monday, 20 January 2014

Happy Birthday Tom!

Happy 80th Birthday Tom Baker

  (Photo copyright: Sue Jerrard at

Thomas Stewert Baker was born in Liverpool on 20 January 1934, the eldest of three children. His father was a steward in the Merchant Navy, and his devoutly Catholic mother worked as a barmaid and cleaner. The family was poor but aunts, uncles and cousins were kind and supportive, so it was not an unhappy childhood.

Tom aged 22 at about the time he joined the army During the war, Tom's mother chose to keep him at home rather than send him away with the evacuees as she couldn’t bear to be separated from him.  As the war brought no harm to him or his family, Tom found it an exciting time, and became such a dedicated collector of shrapnel and salvage that he was presented with a certificate by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool. He also became an altar boy revelling in the stupefying smell of incense, the incomprehensible mutter of Latin and the thrill and danger of Hell compared to which World War seemed fun.

 (Tom aged 22)

Tom was not at all academic and struggled with everyday school work, failing the eleven plus. At 15, much to the delight of his family, he joined a religious order, the De la Mennais Brothers originating from Ploërmel in Brittany in France, and he dedicated himself to the monastic life. However as the years went by, disillusionment overwhelmed him, and at 21 he decided to leave. Tom later wrote about his time in the monastery in his autobiography “Who on Earth is Tom Baker?”

Tom Baker played the Doctor; a time travelling Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of  Kasterborous from 8th June 1974 to 21st March 1981. A total of 172 appearances as the Doctor.

After Jon Pertwee's very successful four year run as the Doctor, fans of Doctor Who were about to see the Doctor as they had never seen him before. The fourth Doctor would be playedby an actor who was unknown to the general public and had been working on a building site waiting for his big break. That actor was to be Tom Baker! Baker, some would say, was a man destined to play the Time Lord  from Gallifrey, an alien who wandered the cosmos in a battered old Police Box, which can travel in both space and time. Fortunately for the Doctor Who loving public, Barry Letts, after searching high and low, chose to follow his gut instinct and cast this wide eyed unknown. Tom Baker would become one of the most successful Doctors in the programme's fifty year history. 

After 7 years on our screen as The Doctor, the longest actor in the role, that even today in 2014, that when anyone mentions Doctor Who, they usually think of a scarf, Jelly Babies, Sonic Screwdriver and of course his robot dog companion K9. In short they are thinking of the fourth Doctor; such is the lasting impression of Tom Baker
Something was happening to Doctor Who. Tom Baker was in place, and his chemistry with Elisabeth Sladen would mean that she would shine like she had never shone before. Philip Hinchcliffe took over as producer whilst Robert Holmes would be handed script editing duties. Doctor Who was about to get a whole lot scarier and a little bit darker.

As for the age of this incarnation of the Doctor, he was 748 at the start of this regeneration  and later on he consistently said he was "something about 750", and was about 757 or 749 when he travelled with Sarah Jane Smith, a further year older when travelling with Leela and 756 with Romana during her first incarnation. She soon corrected him by saying he was actually 759. Before they assembled the Key to Time, he turned 760. Another time, he said he was possibly 730, but couldn't remember his actual age. In essence, this Doctor claimed  to be anything from 400 to a tad over 1000 years old during his life.  Romana told the Doctor that after the first couple hundred years, it would be hard to remember your exact age. This would explain the Doctor's problem with remembering his exact age.

Tom Baker was to become THE Doctor, the definite  article you might say ....

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