'I'm fetched back from my past to be Doctor Who again.'
The TVNZ Tom Baker Interview
Transcribed by Paul Scoones
On Thursday 23 January 1997, a film crew from TVNZ's One Network News visited the set of the Doctor Who commercials being made for New Zealand Superannuation Services, and interviewed Tom Baker for that evening's news programme. What appears below is a transcript of the entire, unedited interview, with the three short segments that appeared in the televised news report highlighted in bold italics. Asking the questions was reporter Simon Shepherd.
Simon Shepherd: I'd like to know whether you get frustrated because people only would see you as a Doctor Who, in these parts of the world anyway?
Tom Baker: No I don't frustrated about that, no because the association with Doctor Who was an association with a time of my life when I was a children's hero which was a very jolly time. It was a nice experience to be a childrens' hero and to be admired, and adored and trusted. I was the only man of my time for seven years for whom, the dictum don't talk to strange men didn't apply to, and so by courtesy of New Zealand I am revived, I'm fetched back from my past to be Doctor Who again.
SS: Do you enjoy the concept of time-travelling back to that era and to be remembered like that in New Zealand?
TB: Yeah, I'm astonished. I don't mind people remembering me like that. It was the nicest job I ever had, really. In fact I think it was the only success I've ever had. I've been a very successful failure for many years now, so Doctor Who has got tender memories.
SS: Are you like the Doctor Who that you portrayed, the eccentric time-traveller?
TB: Well, I mean I might be considered a bit odd, my wife thinks I'm very odd. Yes, but I wouldn't be as benevolent as he was, or as nice, or as heroic or generous. But yes, there is a kind of random quality in me that might be a bit like the Doctor.
SS: You differed from the suit of Jon Pertwee and people like that. Was that a deliberate ploy?
TB: I don't know. I don't think I really watched it when they were in it and I certainly didn't watch it when I was in it, because it always used to go out at a time when the pubs were just opening. I never watched it, if I could possibly avoid it, because I was never satisfied with it. Actors really don't like watching it - because you always think if you did another take it would be better, so I just assumed that people liked it. I left it at that. I never knew, you see, what was going on; it was very like life in that way. We worked on six scripts at a time so I never knew what was going on, and so if there was a sense of surprise, that was very genuine. I was genuinely surprised for seven or eight years. Very like life really. You pretend you know what's going on, but we don't, really.
SS: Did you have a favourite enemy? Did you have a favourite script?
TB: I married one of them. I remember I married someone in the programme, yes. That was amazing! No, all the enemies, the so-called enemies, I was enchanted by them all you see, because I used to beat them all. That was nice. I used to like being threatened, because I knew I was going to win at the end even if I hadn't read the scripts.
SS: So how did you take it when they thought okay, it's time for this incarnation of Doctor Who to disappear?
TB: They didn't. I decided on that. Because I became disenchanted with the way it was going. I became very proprietorial and I felt I was the only one who knew what it was like, how it should be done, that inevitably happens, I became too possessive. So if anyone wanted to make any changes that I didn't like, this used to upset me and so I began to think I'd rather go away from this. They didn't decide, I decided.
SS: So what would you put it down to, the charm of Doctor Who that so obviously captured so many young kids? Everybody remembers you.
TB: Well, of course he was heroic and we all need heroes, don't we? He was a hero who was an alien, and he was benevolent and sometimes funny, dare one say, and also there was no one like him, was there? I mean I can't really be defining how I did it, I can't remember very well. There was no one like him, you see, that was the main thing. So the objectives of the character, there was no competition so that was fresh, and astonishing and the method of travelling through time and space in that old TARDIS over there, great wasn't it?
SS: So would you time-travel ahead and do another series, or if a movie came around would you be interested in reincarnating yourself again?
TB: Well, I mean I try to reinvent myself every Easter. Yes, I suppose I would if it was interesting. I'm quite shameless and capable of deceiving myself that I could be a hero again. But of course you know there are not many middle-aged heroes. Middle-aged happiness and middle-aged heroism is death to the ratings, especially in television where you're shamelessly biased towards a kind of glamour and youthfulness, aren't you, really? I think, anyway. I don't really watch much television if I can possibly help it.
SS: So in terms of New Zealand, have you just been working with the crew here, or have you been able to get out?
TB: I've been out a bit over the past few days. I've been storming around the waterways of Auckland. Are you asking me what I think about New Zealand?
SS: Yeah, in a roundabout way.
TB: I think that it is so beautiful that I felt the other day that I'd died and gone to heaven, when I looked at all that water and all that space and everything like that. I just thought it was amazingly beautiful. And the New Zealanders do seem very gentle and friendly towards me, and quite a lot of them agree with what I say, and I'm very influenced, if people agree with what I say, and if they laugh at my jokes; I'm very vulnerable.
This item appeared in TSV 50 (February 1997).