Posts Tagged ‘tom baker’

[As I wrote this piece, I found it harder than I anticipated, and actually was pleased when I stopped writing to take a break and realised I’d said enough; I didn’t want to write any more. How odd.]

As I write this, I’m sitting outside a coffee shop in Charing Cross Road; I’ve been a’wandering in central london this afternoon after taking a PCR test and

Huh, I wonder whether, years from now, I’ll read the foregoing and faintly recall when that was a thing, or whether it’ll be ‘ah yeah, 2021… that was when we realised it was here to stay…

Anyways, yeah, I’m sitting outside a Nero, with a nice hot coffee by my side, processing – that’s a horrible word but it does the trick – the memories of this afternoon.

Or rather, more accurately, the memories from long ago that I’ve recalled this afternoon.

Because, you see, pretty much wherever I’ve wandered this afternoon, I’ve been before. And not in the ‘Oh, I remember this, I’ve walked this before‘ way. Neither the ‘Oh yeah, I walked past here last week‘ way.

No, more like the ‘huh, I spent a chunk of my life walking down this road every day for years‘ way, and ‘oh blimey, I remember getting drunk in this pub with [comics person] and [comics person]‘ way, and the ‘oh, right… yeah, I remember this because this happened, when I was in the process of cracking up…‘ way.

So, not entirely wholly pleasant memories… but not entirely wholly unpleasant either. And if that’s not a decent summing up of any year, or any period of time longer than a few days, I don’t know what is.

But here are three places I walked past or into which provoked some memories.

Denmark Street
For years, long before it moved into a huge place, Denmark Street was the home of Forbidden Planet comic shop.

Jasper Carrott used to have a line about why Brits feel a sense of deja vu when visiting New York for the first time: because they’ve seen it on telly so many times, it feels familiar in a lot of ways. Well, when I first moved to london, and walked into the place, it was the same feeling. Because I’d seen the comics shop depicted in several comics stories over the years.

But what was different, I recall, from the depictions was the people. Inter stories, they’d never easily been in the background, or there as comic relief. The main stories usually involved one hero or another being in a fight in central london and crashing through the window of Forbidden Planet. Whereas when I first visited the shop, what struck me was how nice the people were who were running it; they positively welcomed everyone who walked into the place, were warm and friendly and… well, nice.

(As a general rule of thumb, by the way, that’s what I’ve found with most comics shops and most of the people who work in them. It’s not a hard rule; sometimes you come across an idiot, or someone who views customers as a necessary evil, but on the whole, yeah, I’ve encountered nice people in comics shops.)

But as I walked through Denmark Street and up towards Shaftesbury Avenue and the bigger, Forbidden Planet ‘mega shop’, I felt a tiny bit of sadness for the shop that once was but is no more.

Percy Street
When I was at work, my local coffee shop was on the corner of Percy Street and Charlotte Street; the coffee shop is no longer there, and nor is anything else other than an empty building. But while I was hit by any number of memories while I was walking past it today, one very pleasant indeed hit me.

It was early 2010, and I’d wandered over for a coffee and a break from work, which was – I recall – rough at the time. I just wanted to turn my mind off for a bit and read a book for an hour before returning. I got my coffee, sat down outside, and after a few minutes, I noticed someone had sat at the next table. I glanced over and managed to retain my composure as I realised, sitting next to me, was Tom Baker.

Years earlier, while working as an entertainment accountant, my then boss had tutored me on how to deal with such circumstances. First off, when introducing yourself call them by Mr/Ms [surname], apologise for bothering them, and say that you know that they’re very busy (that gives them the chance to agree, and very politely tell you to go away after you’ve said more) then tell them how much you enjoyed their work, and thank them. And then shut up.

All of which I did… at which point, Mr Baker waved off any concern about time or whatever he was doing and we had a gloriously wonderful chat about acting and Doctor Who and humour and radio comedy, and his other work I’d enjoyed over the years.

After about three-quarters of an hour, I glanced at my watch and started to make my excuses. “Oh, do you have to go?” He asked. Now, I was financial director of the company, so no I didn’t. Not quite then. So I said so… and about 45 minutes after that I strolled into my office, ready for the rest of the day.

A lovely, totally unexpected, meeting that was genuinely unreservedly lovely.

Newman Street
Yeah, a biggie. I walked past where I used to work, where I was working when my brain and mind went a bit… gaga (to use the technical, medical, expression.)

Of course, according to the one psych I actually liked and got on with, it had been going gaga for a long time before the 12 years I spent working there. The building may still be there – it is – but the company moved elsewhere some years ago, and indeed, to my surprise, I found that they shuttered the channel in the UK last year.

I’ve walked past the place a few times over the years; I’ve no idea what triggered so many memories today – both good and bad – but for the first time in years, I recalled some stuff as clear as day. Both good stuff and bad. I was honestly shaken a bit by the strength of the memories, and how vivid they were.

I had some recollections that made me smile, genuinely. Some silly stuff, some serious stuff, people I worked with.

And the end of my tenure at the company, which wasn’t let us say under the most ideal of circumstances. And I remembered it in clear, vivid, detail. Every bit of it. And what immediately followed.

Yeah, ok, that was weird and very very not pleasant at all.

And that’s where I’m drawing a line today.


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.

I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

(Part 1 here.)

OK, so when I left you, Jon Pertwee had just left and so we got

The Fourth Doctor – Tom Baker
Fourth Doctor.- Tom BakerUndoubtedly most people’s ‘true’ Doctor, their Doctor. OK, most people over the age of 30, anyways. Partly this was because he had the role longer than anyone else… on television, that is. Because if you’re looking at how long they actually held the role (in our time, not in terms of the show’s continuity) the First Doctor, the Eleventh, and especially the Twelfth all had longer time spans in their regenerations), then the Eighth Doctor wins it by a mile, having had the role from 1996 to 2005. He also spent the least time on screen, which would be weird… if it wasn’t Doctor Who.

But no, Baker took over as the Fourth Doctor in 1974, when I was ten years old, and was in the role until 1981. As I said, he wasn’t ‘my’ Doctor – that was Jon Pertwee – but his was the first in the role where I remember not only him getting the role, but it being A Thing who the ‘new’ Doctor was going to be. I clearly remember his first story, and could have a good stab at remembering every story of his tenure run. It was a golden age of Doctor Who that was never really repeated arguably until the Tennant years.

Part that was because everything seemed to come together: perfect companions for the Doctor as Baker played him. Harry Sullivan was drafted in because they didn’t know wether Baker could do the action stuff. When they realised he could, then poor Harry was sidelined. A pity because I always loved him as a character. But what made Baker’s run so good for me was a synergy of perfect stories for Baker, allowing him to play a range, a huge jump in the special effects, and plots that had a start, a middle and an end. Doctor turned up, sorted some stuff while in danger, and then pissed off. Just about perfectly done. But at the centre of it all, Tom Baker, who was obviously having the time of his life playing this character who could go from childish wonder to terrifyingly arrogant, from patronising to pathetic, from dangerous manipulator to court jester in the twinkling of an eye. And Baker enjoyed twinkling his eyes.

I don’t remember Hartnell or particularly Troughton, but Baker excelled in being underestimated by the baddies. Which made his inevitable triumphs so satisfying. He didn’t merely win, he did so by astonishing the baddies. Always fun to see.

I mentioned yesterday that Sarah Jane was the big sister so many boys wanted. We all loved her.

Then Leela came along in that leather bikini and we still all loved her but – and I speak only for myself as a very confused young 14 year old – it was.. different somehow and I was entirely unsure why. Yes, ok, I said, I was a very young 14 year old, ok?

But Leela returned Baker’s Doctor to a professorial type character, a teacher as much as an explorer, and given how he had been with Sarah Jane and others, it should have been a jolt. It wasn’t, it was an entirely natural evolution of Baker’s Doctor, and again – as much if not more down to Baker’s performance as to the writing. And, of course, Louise Jameson’s acting.

I suppose I have to mention K9, don’t I? OK, I’ve mentioned him. Happy now?

But my memories of Baker’s Doctor are simply: he loved doing it. He obviously loved doing it, every bloody minute of it. And it showed. I can’t think of anyone, again apart from Tennant, who so loved the job.

I have no idea whether he’d have enjoyed today’s almost necessary publicity that surrounds anyone in the role, the endless rounds of interviews, etc. Cons weren’t the thing they became but I don’t doubt he’d have loved meeting fans. But very bloody entertainment show, every Good Morning Britain, etc? I don’t know.

I met Tom Baker once. Years after he left the role. He just happened to sit at the table next to mine outside my regular coffee shop. I apologised for bothering him, thanked him for his work, said how much I’d enjoyed it. He was gracious,.as I’ve found most celebrities are in those circumstances. (Especially if you give them an immediate easy ‘out’ and say you know they’re very busy and apologise for bothering them, giving them the chance to politely tell you to leave them alone.)

Baker thanked me. Then started chatting. Almost two hours later, I was the one apologising as I had to go back to work. A lovely man, funny, smart, silly and genuinely thrilled that people enjoy(ed) his work

The Fifth Doctor – Peter Davison
Fifth Doctor - Peter DavisonThe biggest thing I remember about Davison getting the role was ‘he’s so young!’ Not from me; I loved the idea, the very young appearance, older Doctor… which they didn’t actually get right until Matt Smith, but more about that on Sunday.

But there was SO much fuss about Davison being so much younger.

But Davison’s Doctor was where I started not so much to fall out of love with Doctor Who but certainly I had less interest in it; it wasn’t must see as much as it had been.

I mean, I watched it every week, but it was becoming a habit, rather than something I actively looked forward to. I still liked Davison as the Doctor, but the stories seemed less important, less serious, less… big. That’s it. The stories seemed smaller.

And the companions didn’t help, to be fair. Any of the characters, taken individually, were fine. Even the annoying ones were annoying because they weren’t annoying enough to make them interesting for me.

And the show seemed a bit… tired.

It didn’t help that when Davison came in, I was 17; I’d discovered other interests. I was reading Doctor Who novelisations and I was enjoying them more than the show. I was getting ready to go to University, and I’d passed my driving test and… yeah. I was beginning to find my weekly dose of Doctor Who, at a fixed time (well, kind of) inconvenient.

Davison was ok, as the Doctor, and I still have friends who think not only was he hugely underrated in the role, but he’s their Doctor. Which is of course as it should be.

Every Doctor should be someone’s Doctor.

And so we come, inevitably, to the Doctor few admit to having as their Doctor.

The Sixth Doctor – Colin Baker
Sixth Doctor - Colin BakerWhat can I say about Colin Baker’s Doctor that hasn’t been said by others… who frankly should have had more respect and tact?

For me, it was fine. If by ‘fine’ you mean it gave me an excuse to stop watching. Which I pretty much did. I caught the occasional episode, but that was about it. I didn’t enjoy his performance, the stories, the dialogue, the acting, the set design, the companions or the obvious, painfully obvious, cuts in the budget.

Apart from that, and that fucking coat, everything was fine.

So, no, best to just say: if you enjoyed Colin Baker as The Doctor, good for you. I’m glad someone did.
Part 3 tomorrow.