Monday, August 16, 2021

Okay, Tom Baker was great. I admit it.

 I keep going back and forth when it comes to Tom Baker. 

As someone who got into Doctor Who in the mid-80s, Tom Baker was _the_ Doctor. He still holds the record for the most years on the show. He was the iconic version of the character. If people knew nothing else about Doctor Who, they knew about the scarf. 

And there have been so many times that I have felt his time on Doctor Who is so over-hyped. But, to be completely fair, I blame that almost entirely on Graham Wilson.

While my introduction to Doctor Who was reruns of the Jon Pertwee era, a lot of the people I knew who loved Doctor Who had been introduced through Tom Baker. For some, he was their only Doctor. I’ve heard of at least one station (I think it was a college TV station, not a PBS one) that ONLY showed Tom Baker. When they’d get to Logopolis, they’d loop back to Robot.

I think of Tom Baker’s time as breaking down into three distinct parts. Phillip Hinchcliffe as the producer, Graham Wilson as the producer and John Nathan-Turner as the producer. And, frankly, I don’t think Phillip Hinchcliffe’s time as a producer can be overhyped. Those three seasons are such a golden era of Doctor Who that I have seen retrospectives that basically ignore Tom Baker’s other four seasons!

Graham Wilson’s time, on the other hand, was hit by budget struggles, production union strikes and a demand to make the show lighter and sillier. (Mary Whitehall was the murderer of children’s  dreams)  There were still some gems. City of Death is a _classic_ But I sometimes rewatch The Horns of Nimon just to relive my utter amazement that it exists. 

Honestly, as controversial as John Nathan-Turner was as a producer and a human being, I remember having a sense of relief when I first watched his one season with Tom Baker. I was just so tired of the goofy tone of Wilson and the Doctor being so unbeatable. 

Tom Baker’s time had some low points (The Nightmare of Eden anyone?) but it had more high points than low points. It was during his time that Doctor Who had its first time as an international phenomenon. And as singularly unique as Tom Baker is, I don’t think another actor could have done the same. We may well not have a New Who without him.

Okay. Tom Baker’s Doctor was great.

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