Tom Baker

4thAnd then there was Tom. Tom Baker, recognized across the world as the quintessential Doctor Who; a mainstay of British television for seven years, the Doctor as far as most Americans are concerned, and with his multicolored scarf and faithful robot dog K-9, inarguably the one icon other than the trusty TARDIS that has transcended the show and become part of the mainstream. For although there have been eight actors in the role, nobody is more inexorably linked the show than the reclusive Baker, and the one who more than any other has kept the air of mystique since he left the show decades ago.

During the seven-year tenure of Tom Baker, the series reached its incredible heights of popularity. Stewarded by such prolific producers as Philip Hinchcliffe, Graham Williams and John Nathan-Turner, the show also brought forth a young script editor called Douglas Adams. The Sontarans, Zygons, Rutans and the Black and White Guardians were introduced; the Daleks were given a very interesting prologue; and the Key to Time became the prize in a year-long quest. There were trips to E-Space, to ancient Egyptian mummy crypts and the sands of Mars, to the most distant planet in the galaxy and the familiarity of Victorian London. And Gallifrey itself was finally revealed to be not quite the idyllic paradise fans had come to imagine, but instead a decaying oligarchy subject to hostile takeover on more than one occasion.

The fourth Doctor was joined in his quest by a cavalcade of popular companions: the erstwhile reporter Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) and the bumbling medic Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter); the savage Leela of the Sevateem (Louise Jameson) and the aforementioned K-9 (voiced by John Leeson); the two incarnations of the Gallifreyan student Romana (Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward); the artful dodger Adric (Matthew Waterhouse); and in his final days, the timid Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) and bombastic Tegan (Janet Fielding). And he faced villains from Davros to the Master, Magnus Greel to Harrison Chase, Skagra to the Great Vampire itself.

It was the heyday of Doctor Who… a time long remembered, an era missed by many when Tom Baker left the role after seven years, heading into the great bounty of television and theatre. He returned solely for the charity special “Dimensions in Time”, but to this day, the mystique of the longest-serving yet most reclusive actor to play the Doctor remains.

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