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Tom Baker

 

Thomas Stewart "Tom" Baker (born 20th January 1934) is an English actor. He is best known for his role as the fourth incarnation of the Doctor in the science fiction television series Doctor Who, which he played from 1974 to 1981.

Tom was born in Liverpool, England. His mother, Mary Jane (née Fleming), was a cleaner, and his father, John Stewart Baker, was a sailor who was rarely at home. Baker left school at 15 to become a Roman Catholic monk and remained in this lifestyle for six years. He did his national service in the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving from 1955 until 1957. At the same time, he took up acting, first as a hobby but he turned professional towards the end of the 1960s.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Baker was part of Laurence Olivier's National Theatre company and had his first big film break in 1971 with the role of Rasputin in the film Nicholas and Alexandra. He also appeared in Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1972 version of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales as the younger husband of the Wife of Bath.

In 1974, Baker took over the role of the Doctor from Jon Pertwee to become the Fourth Doctor in the BBC TV Series. He was recommended to producer Barry Letts by the BBC's Head of Serials, Bill Slater, who had directed Baker in Play of the Month. Impressed by Baker upon meeting him, Letts was convinced he was right for the part after seeing his performance in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad.

He quickly made the part his own. As the Fourth 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. Baker played the Doctor for seven consecutive seasons over a seven-year period, making him the longest-serving actor in the part. Baker himself suggested many aspects of his Doctor's personality, but the distinctive scarf was created by accident. James Acheson, the costume designer, had provided far more wool than was necessary to the knitter, Begonia Pope; Pope knitted all the wool she was given. It was Baker who suggested that he wear the ridiculously long scarf.

The Doctor played by Tom Baker (1974–1981) is often regarded as the most popular of the Doctors. He continues to be associated with the Doctor, appearing on documentaries such as The Story of Doctor Who and Doctor Who Confidential and giving interviews about his time on the programme. He reappeared as the Doctor for the 1993 charity special Dimensions in Time and audio for the PC game Destiny of the Doctors. In 1996 he appraised his time on the show as the highlight of his life. He is often interviewed as part of documentaries on the extras of Doctor Who DVD releases from his era as the Doctor and has recorded DVD commentaries for many of the stories.

In March 2011, it was announced that Baker would be returning as the Fourth Doctor for two series of plays for Big Finish Productions, starring alongside former companions Leela (Louise Jameson) and Romana I (Mary Tamm). The first series of six audios were released starting from January 2012.

Baker has been involved in the reading of old Target novelisations in the BBC Audio range of talking books, "Doctor Who (Classic Novels)". Doctor Who and the Giant Robot was the first release in the range read by Baker, released on 5 November 2007, followed by Baker reading Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius (released 4 February 2008), Doctor Who and the Creature from the Pit (released on 7 April 2008) and Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars (released 14 August 2008). In October 2009, Baker was interviewed for BBC Radio 4's Last Word to pay tribute to the deceased former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts. He described Letts, who originally cast him in the role, as "the big link in changing my entire life".

Baker is a prolific and highly recognisable voiceover artist. In a 2005 survey of British adults, Baker's voice was found to be the fourth most recognisable after the Queen, Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher. During the first three months of 2006, his voice was used by BT for spoken delivery of text messages to landline phones. He recorded 11,593 phrases, containing every sound in the English language, for use by the text-to-speech service.