THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS
BBC Video
The Tom Baker Years

Presented by Tom Baker.
Produced by John Nathan-Turner.


Reviews

Baker Reviews His Era by Michael Hickerson 30/9/98

Nine times out of ten, if you mention the words Doctor Who to someone who isn't a devoted fan of the show, they usually reply, "That's the guy with the big grin and the long scarf, right?" And while there have been eight very fine actors who have portrayed our favorite Time Lord over the years, still far and away, Tom Baker is still the most actor most associated with the Doctor. Part of it was that during his era, Doctor Who reached new heights of popularity, part of it was the controversy surrounding the Hinchcliffe years and the new emphasis of the Gothic horror. And a large part of it was just the character of the fourth Doctor--decidely looney at times, loveable, a lopsided grin, the the ability to having nothing in the universe from Daleks to anceint Egyptian gods phase him as he sought to fight evil, restore order, and crack a few jokes along the way.

Which may explain a bit of why the Baker years are so popular among the fandom. And why the BBC thought that putting out a two tape set, full of clips from each fourth Doctor story as well as Mr. Baker's thoughts, insights and memories would be such a great idea.

For the most part they are right. One of the intriguing things is that Tom Baker has no previous knowledge of what the clip from each story is going to be. It's a nice touch because it allows for a more conversational tone than the other Years tapes. And Baker is so wonderful candid in most cases that it makes the insights that much more enjoyable. Another treat is getting to see Baker's reactions to certain scenes--such as when he laughs hysterically at the Nightmare of Eden clip.

And Baker is candid and honest. He admits that he felt his performance as Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles was lacking and how he thinks he made a mistake by not only leaving Who but by rejecting the opportunity to come back in The Five Doctors. It's a very candid, open Baker we see presented before us and it really shows the difference between the actors who have portrayed the Doctor over the years and stars of other shows who get swelled egos and think they can do no wrong.

It's also interesting to note which stories Baker would like to dust off and take a look at again. He specfically sights Pyramids of Mars and the first three stories of season eighteen as some he'd like to watch based on the clips he's seen.

...which is amazing, since the clips are rather sporatically chosen. Each segment comes from either early in an episode or right at the very end, leading to Baker being a bit confused at times or not able to remeber specifics of the story. Indeed, the entire clip from Genesis of the Daleks has neither Davros nor the Daleks, though Baker does remember the famous "Do I have the right?" scene in detail. In restrospect, a better aprroach might have been a series of clips that showed the strength of the story but also a bit of the plot to help Mr. Baker.

In the end, what makes the tape a good way to spend three hours is Baker's candor. He doesn't gloss over details very much. He addresses Mary Whitehouse's objections to Deadly Assassin, revealing that he was even a bit horrified by the cliffhanger in episode three, as well as talking about his mixed emotions leaving the part. He also talkes about how truly happy he was in the role and that he misses playing the part. Never does he come across as condescedning or arrogant. The thought and emotions are genuine.

In all, it's a fitting tribute to the Baker years.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 5/12/98

Mention Tom Baker to anyone over the age of 15 (although some younger fans may also recognise the name), and the majority of people mention Doctor Who. When they are asked what they remember about him, the answer usually is toothy grin, long scarf and jelly babies. The Tom Baker Years video pays homage to the longest serving Doctor in a fitting way. Being the type of person that he is, Tom wanted to be surprised and have the clips he was to see chosen for him. And as such, we have genuine memories and spontaneous outbursts of laughter.

The tapes chronicle every story (including Shada) and watching Tom`s reactions are the highlight of this tape. The anecdotes are either clear, as from Robot, of enjoyment, as from Pyramids of Mars, of shock, as from The Deadly Assassin and of sadness, as from Logopolis. Most amusing are however, his reactions to the majority of the stories from season 17, which seem to be of great hilarity.

His memories of working with his co-stars, particularly his companions, are clear and for the most part complementary. Tom is also quick to note lapses in his own performances, which says a great deal about him as an actor. While the tape doesn`t showcase the best clips from every story, it is to the credit of Tom Bake that he can remember so much about them and give such honest reactions, thus providing an entertaining tape and a candid look at the actor who played the Fourth Doctor. A fitting tribute to Tom Baker and the time he spent on Doctor Who.


A Review by Ben Jordan 15/4/02

In which Tom Baker shows how little he remembers about what he himself declares as the happiest time of his life.

Tom Baker can entertain. It's as simple as that. 3 hours go by and you barely notice. How many people can you sit and watch for 3 hours? Mind you, if you think Tom is eccentric after watching this thing, try listening to his Who On Earth Is Tom Baker? audio. The wit and self-deprecation he delivers here, with such entertaining flair that you'd find it hard to believe that he really is like this all the time, and it's not just a clever construction, is what his autobiography is all about. What you get here is just the tip of the iceberg. But both the biography and this Years tape go together quite well, since Tom talks very little about his Who years in the biography and very little about himself on the tape. Mind you:

"I'm so sorry. I can't remember anything about that one at all."

Some might say that Tom talks very little about his Who years on this tape. Still, ask yourself how much you can remember about what you were doing for 7 years of life - 11 years later. Although in some ways, it was probably a good idea for Tom to have previewed stuff first, we would've lost Tom the person and instead have had Tom the actor, which we can see plenty of in the clips. There were times when I thought to myself "Why the hell did they choose this clip to jog his memory?", like the couple of minutes from Genesis Of The Daleks which really don't give an impression of that story at all.

"Ha ha ha! That was really rather good!"

I have to say that when Tom laughed at the more... er... daft moments of the show, I couldn't help but laugh along with him. Perhaps the best example is when he sees the Nucleus of the Swarm from The Invisible Enemy, or 'the prawn' as he calls it. Let's face it - that one was silly. But I think it's easy to laugh along with him because it's very clear that Tom still has a great deal of affection for the show, something still evident in the 10 years since the tape was made. It's laughter 'in good humour'. Many's the time you hear him express an interest in seeing the full story. Ironically, this is something he says several times while watching Season 18 - the one that made him decide to leave the show. Watch his expression when he watches himself regenerate in Peter Davison, something he hasn't seen since he actually filmed it. And it's a very mellowed Tom Baker who admits that it actually was a mistake to turn down The Five Doctors. Of course the viewers are thinking "Oh, you just figured that out now?!"

Bottom line: although Tom has forgotten much of his 7 years as the Doctor, what he does remember is more than enough to keep you amused, for far longer than you'd expect. I also think that this was a much better format for the Years tapes than the previous one, with each tape basically being 3 episodes you've probably already got the full story of interspersed with brief mutterings from the man who's supposed to be the focus of the thing. The Tom Baker Years is how the Pertwee Years and Colin Baker Years should have been done. Let's hope that if the Davison and McCoy Years ever get made, it'll be done this way.


A Review by Terrence Keenan 15/9/02

This was an unexpected treat.

Take a bold idea -- have Tom Baker watch clips from all his stories in transmission order, but not tell him which clips, or have any sort of prep, and tape the results.

It could have been an utter disaster, given the wrong person. However, despite not remembering all the titles of stories, Tom is always fascinating. The stories he tells are amusing side notes, such as Phil Madoc reading a Latin text on the set of Morbius, or how learning that Beatrix Leahmann's last performance was in Stones of Blood. He talks about the dog who bit his lips at the pub, causing the scars seen in Ribos and Pirate Planet. Tom also mentions his regret about not doing the 5 Doctors and tells a touching story about the day he cut off his famous curls for a role and how on the way out the hairdressers, he went out unrecognized after being given a hero's welcome on the way in.

Some of the best bits are watching Tom's expressions as he watches certain clips -- surprise, laughter. He mentions that he'd never saw the stories after he shot them, but decides he should check out a few videos after watching the clips presented to him. There's another great bit where he mentions popping into a house to watch part three of The Deadly Assassin because of reservations of the ending. He seemed amazed, still, that he would be welcomed into a home so openly, and amazed by how the fans treated him over the years. And although modest, you can tell how proud Tom was to do the show, and do it for so long.

The Tom Baker Years is a sumptuous treat. Check it out.


A good new direction by Tim Roll-Pickering 20/8/03

This tape set represented a change in direction for the Years tapes, shifting from presenting a collection of episodes to allowing the relevant actors to share their memories accompanied by a collection of clips. The Tom Baker Years has the added twist that Tom Baker had no prior knowledge of which clips were selected and so can only react and comment upon each one shown to him. This can bring many good anecdotes and memories to the fore, but has the disadvantage that there are a number of stories which elicit a merely blank reaction as Baker admits he can't remember anything whatsoever about a story.

The choice of clips is interesting, with some stories looking extremely good (Meglos in particular benefits from the clip selected) whilst others come across as hideous (including The Armageddon Factor, focusing upon the Doctor and Drax shrinking, or Revenge of the Cybermen which shows the Cybermen poorly, especially the Cyberleader's pose). Sometimes the clips aren't the obvious ones - for example Genesis of the Daleks lacks Davros or Daleks, instead going for the Doctor's encounter with the Time Lord, Terror of the Zygons lacks any Zygons, neither The Brain of Morbius nor The Seeds of Doom show the Doctor's violent moments in those stories and The Invasion of Time lacks both the "tyrant Doctor" and the Sontarans. However everyone has very different ideas as to which moments show each story at its best and often the excerpts provide a new perspective. For some reason Shada is completely ignored at the correct moment, other than the occasional comment that this is something "for another time" or noting when an actor or footage pops up elsewhere. I believe that this tape may originally have been intended to come out before Shada and so this would act as a trailer for the other Tom Baker special of 1992, but as the tapes stand alone there is a clear gap in it. Also notable is that it's clear that originally the two tapes were going to be released separately but then the decision was taken to release them in a doublepack. This latter decision ensured that there was no danger of fans only being able to find one half, but it also meant that the tape set cost a pricey 19.99 on its original release - the last doublepack to be released at this price before a strong fan campaign won a cutback in the price.

The real highlight of this release comes with Tom Baker. He has a reputation for being utterly bonkers, perpetuated by more recent appearances such as an edition of Have I Got News For You a few years ago, but here he comes across as rational and reflective, offering many great insights into his time on the show. A few onscreen captions are used to answer a question such as what a story was called, who directed it or the name of an actor that Baker is unable to recall, but overwhelmingly the emphasis is on Tom Baker. He admits he very rarely watches any of his work but shows a willingness to take a look at some of them again, including Pyramids of Mars and The Leisure Hive. The memories are many, ranging from events on set to his feelings at the height of his time of the show. He's also candid about his regrets at turning down The Five Doctors and tells how his fame disappeared when he had his curls cut off. By the end of the three hours the viewer comes away with a very strong idea of just who on earth is Tom Baker, more so than many interviews have ever achieved.

This format for the Years tapes is different from before and represents a true success. It is a tragedy that just after this was originally released the project was put on hold and so only one further release was made. 8/10


I Was... Simply Adored! by Ewen Campion-Clarke 5/7/04

I picked up my copy of The Tom Baker years during a rainy Saturday afternoon trip to the ABC - and thoroughly disappointed that the only other Doctor Who stuff there was an eye-catching Dalek poster and newspaper comic strip about them. I won't spoil it for you, but it involved stairs. So, I grabbed this lovely orange colored box with that smiling face, impressed that what was clearly one video was advertising itself as a two-cassette box. I was either getting more than my money's worth or less than my money's worth, but at the time I was so engrossed in working out who the bloke on the back next to Styre was. Turned out to be Soldeed in the end. I'm still kicking myself, you know.

So, the tape. It's set in that gloomy museum basement that all such tapes are set in, and Tom Baker wanders in - clearly having just stepped off the Shada reconstruction or just about to enter it - and gives a clearly scripted spiel that he never liked the idea of these tapes in general especially as the tape couldn't even follow the layout set down previously: there are no Tom Baker missing stories, or highly-regarded ones that weren't on tape back then.

Tom has been seduced into this because he has no idea what he'll be watching. True, there's an above-average probability it will be a Doctor Who story featuring him, but the details were live. Reality TV, you might say. And so, he watches a few minutes from every story he did - in the order it was on TV - and he regales you with what (if anything) he remembers. No, that's not fair. He comes to a complete blank only on a few stories, like Planet of Evil or Underworld. Story titles and dates he's normally quite good with, though a few mistakes are dryly corrected by captions at the foot of the screen. By the second tape, this is forgotten, letting him get away with calling Leela's first story The Face of Fear and simply shrugging over the name of The Androids of Tara. I get the impression that the captioner was as caught up in watching the stories and Tom as I was to bother with such trivialities.

Of course, nowadays there's nothing Tom can tell you that Doctor Who Magazine can't - though, there is an exception but Tom refuses to explain on the grounds this is a family-oriented tape by God it was fun, though. Apparently. But Tom recalls something from 90% of stories and it's always interesting and probably corrected by the next clip. Tom's recall is, altogether very good. While I, fan that I am, could recite you every working title for his stories backwards (please, don't hit me), would be rendered open mouthed at having to recall every anecdote for seven years eleven years ago. Due to my age, it's impossible anyway, but that's a tall order by anyone's standards.

Tom Baker makes it quite clear that he never watches things he stars in - with noticeable exceptions like The Deadly Assassin, for example, which he felt he had to. As such, this is all pretty new to him and he enjoys it. The early part of the tapes, with Tom grinning in front of us and on his TV are infectious. A real sense of melancholy falls over the second half of the tape, Seasons 16-18, but Tom Baker is, like the Doctor, having far too much fun to worry about things until Romana leaves in what has to be the longest clip - from her departure to the credits of Warriors' Gate episode four. From that moment, and the intrusive bit of film footage with the ever present "the marriage didn't last long you know" quote that Tom, perhaps for the best, doesn't say anything about, a real sense of... not quite bitterness, not quite depression sinks in. Mainly to me, as I can't judge Tom; the video has been edited slightly, I'm certain, as it shows his reactions to The Five Doctors before his reaction to his death scene, so his pathos moves backwards.

Watching those final scenes, with a brooding older Tom superimposed in the corner - a stark contrast to the chuckling figure watching the opening scene in Robot - make Logopolis seem even more poignant. As the Master shoves the glowering Doctor away from the controls, I get the strangest impression: denial. This can't be the end of Doctor Who. He's won before, he'll win now. He's not weak or old... is he? As Tom Baker says, he could have kept going after this. Maybe for Doctor Who it was best he didn't, but I don't think credibility would have been lost if the fourth Doctor survived Season 18.

Tom's final reminisces bring a lump to my throat as he explains he (at least tried to) leave Doctor Who, head held high and looking for greener pastures. He had the best part in the world behind him - surely things could get only get better? They didn't. The final anecdote where he left a hotel full of drinking Who fans hanging on his every word and return a haircut later to be barely noticed, sums it up pretty well. "They'd forgotten me," he whispers gently, "but I hadn't forgotten them."

He's not wallowing in misery, or cursing fate, just looking back at what happened, old and wise. As he says, no matter what happens to him from now on, for seven long years he lived the best life he'd ever had, a life that can be watched again. Proof it happened. How many people can say that? And, as he wanders off into the sunset again, cheerful and curious, you wonder just how much of the Doctor is Tom Baker and how much of Tom Baker is Doctor Who?

Well worth the cash, in my opinion, mainly because I didn't pay for it. I got a bit teary at the end, though.