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Who on Earth is Tom Baker?

An Autobiography by Tom Baker

Book review by Paul Scoones

When I met Tom Baker in January this year at the superannuation adverts film set, I saw a side to the man that he doesn't usually project in public, and indeed at the Afternoon With Tom Baker event a few days later, he was far more restrained than he had been in private conversation. As he explained to me when we discussing arrangements for the event, he tones down his colourful anecdotes when there are young people present. For the uncensored Tom Baker, look no further than this book, which will probably shatter a few fans' illusions about the man behind the most popular and widely-recognised Doctor.

Of course, Tom is a great raconteur and I suspect that the facts of any event recounted in his autobiography fall secondary to his desire to embellish an anecdote. The broad strokes of Tom's life as it is widely known are there - his poor wartime upbringing, Catholic faith, monastical training, army service, etc - yet Tom brings each part to life in a way that no potted biography of his life has ever managed. It covers his entire life to date, from his early childhood right up to his visit to New Zealand this year, in which he talks about arrangements to make the adverts and his reunion with his son Piers.

Although Tom is the first to concede that Doctor Who has been his greatest success, his time in the role is dealt with within a couple of chapters, perhaps wisely realising that much of what he could have written has been documented elsewhere.

The most engrossing section for me was the story of his relations with the Wheatcroft family, his in-laws from his first marriage, to Anna Wheatcroft, which is both tragic and deeply funny at the same time. Indeed every anecdote in this book is at least very interesting and often side-splittingly funny into the bargain. When attempting to read a few passages out loud I was reduced to uncontrollable laughter. [5/5]

This item appeared in TSV 52 (November 1997).