Nothing says ‘cult classic’ quite like Doctor Who. Indeed, when we think of Doctor Who of old, most of us probably hearken back to the days of Tom Baker with his trademark long scarf, eccentric personality and quirky approach. Indeed, as the longest serving ‘Doctor’ ever to grace our screens, and undoubtedly one of the most memorable, it’s no surprising that Tom Baker has become synonymous with the show, and his efforts are consistently rewarded by fans who regard him as the best actor ever to play the role.
Having injected much of his own personality into the role, Tom Baker became seen as something of an odd-ball, departing from the more rigid roles defined by previous actors to play the same part. By playing on the Doctor’s quirky sense of style and penchant for jelly babies, Baker created a character that reflects his own outgoing personality while also becoming one of the most memorable characters in UK television history. It was this mysterious, eccentric iteration of ‘the Doctor’ that was to become the crowing glory of his acting career, and make Tom Baker a household name.
The air of mystery and eccentricity about Tom as ‘the Doctor’ is evident in his early life, and as a youngster Tom left school and his family to become a monk, having become growingly fascinated with religion and faith. After a number of years devoted to religion, Tom undertook National Service for a period of two years from 1955, and ultimately left his monastery to pursue acting as a pastime more aggressively.
It was a decision that proved to pay-off for Tom’s career. After the occasional well-received acting job, Baker was nominated as a potential candidate for the fourth iteration of ‘the Doctor’, in the already successful BBC programme Doctor Who, by a senior member of the production staff who had previously worked with Baker on stage. At the time, Baker himself was working as a labourer in the absence of steady acting work, a fact which caught the attention of the UK media prior to his successful casting in the role.
From 1974 to 1981, Tom Baker played the role of ‘the Doctor’ in Doctor Who in what has become his most celebrated role to date. Many TV commentators and fans of the show suggest that Baker’s interpretation of the character, so different from those that had gone before him, helped define Doctor Who as the smash-ratings success it is today, coinciding with the shows highest ever ratings.
In recent years, Tom has enjoyed something of a revival as the voice of the narrator in Little Britain, the global smash-hit comedy show created by Matt Lucas and David Walliams. While, of course, he will always be remembered for his role as ‘the Doctor’, and continues to work with the BBC and fans of the show, being regarded as one of its main influences over the years, Tom’s personality and natural wit, so epitomized in his role with Little Britain will continue to underline him as one of Liverpool’s most memorable 20th century characters.