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The Tom Baker Years

Video review by Neil Lambess

Unlike William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and to a lesser extent Jon Pertwee, all of Tom Bakers' output as the Doctor exists in transmission quality and therefore can theoretically be released on BBC home video.

Thus the latest release in the 'Era' tapes introduces a drastic change in both style and content, for instead of showing a selection of complete episodes from his time as the Doctor, BBC Video have elected to present a selection of clips from every Tom Baker story along with his spontaneous reactions to the clips themselves.

Sadly this format is what lets the double tape set down; once the pattern of clip / Tom Baker's comments / clip / Tom Baker's comments / clip / Tom Baker's comments... is established, it quickly becomes very boring, sadly due to Mr Baker having no prior knowledge of which clips have been selected (the entire 170 minutes being totally unrehearsed). He quite often has no idea of what the story was or any recollections of its filming - most notably during the Key to Time clips where he draws a total blank on stories such as The Power of Kroll. Some of the blame for this must lie with the selection of clips; most are out of context with the story - Genesis of the Daleks for example features the Doctor talking to a Time Lord - no Daleks or Davros!

Tom Baker also falls into a pattern of presenting his recollections. A typical reminiscence is similar to this: "Oh yes, I remember this one very well / Oh, I'm terribly sorry, I can't remember a thing about that one." "Wasn't it lovely to see dear old Sarah/Ian/Liz again! What a lovely blue/green/red dress she/he was wearing." "Poor old Ian/Tony/Ray. They're dead now, so terribly, terribly sad." "I can't remember much else about that on, very, very sorry." "Let's try another one, shall we?"

Having said that however, the tape does have its moments. Particularly memorable is Baker's reminiscence of The Seeds of Doom (which he refers to as 'Terror of the Krynoids'!!!), where he fondly remembers a date he had during filming with a chrysanthemum! Various other stories are remembered for the pubs visited during filming! It's revealed that Gallifrey's co-ordinates were the BBC's production office telephone number! Surprisingly, Season 18 (and Lalla Ward), are remembered most fondly and it is here that both the clips and Tom Baker's presentation become most enjoyable. Personally I feel that this tape would have worked much better if it had been presented as an interview with Tom Baker (along the lines of The South Bank Show), with clips spliced in a regular intervals. This would have averted the predictability of the format and enlivened the end result for the viewer.

However, if you're a fan of Tom Baker, the tapes are worth a look, I'm just not sure that it justifies its UK retail price of £19.99. Curiously enough Baker's comments at the end of tape one indicate that this was originally intended to be sold as two individual volumes, so at least by releasing it as a double tape set it's a little cheaper that it would have been. But sadly the end result falls short of what it could have been if a little more effort had been put into it.

Nice try, BBC, but no cigar.

This item appeared in TSV 32 (February 1993).