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The Doctors – the Tom Baker Years review

A collection of in-depth interviews with the stars of Doctor Who, including Tom Baker himself!

The Tom Baker Years

Over the course of a few decades, in-depth interviews with the stars and creatives of Doctor Who were made by Reeltime Pictures. This amazing collection from the archives, released for the first time on DVD, brings together key players from the Fourth Doctor’s era, including with the great man himself – Tom Baker.

The main draw in this release does not disappoint. Interviewer Nicholas Briggs (the modern-day voice of the Daleks) catches up with Baker in 1989 when he is less than a decade out of the role.

Famously dyspeptic at times and often unwilling to be associated with his biggest success as he adjusted to a career post-Who, you were never quite sure what sort of interview Baker would give during these years. But Briggs gets the best out of him, catching up with him in East Hagbourne – the location for Baker’s story The Android Invasion (and, on a personal note, where this reviewer began his stag do…), and Baker runs the full gamut of emotions. He is reflective, witty and amusing, but also often melancholic. Watching Baker interact with a child and later an old lady (“What you must think of us, standing in the street talking about sex!” he says to the latter) reveal Baker at his best – effortlessly engaging, charming company and hilarious. As he reveals to Briggs in the interview, he yearns for people to laugh at his jokes – and it’s in these moments that he overcomes the sadness and his eyes sparkle. Those familiar with Baker’s autobiography will recognise some of the wonderful stories – playing Macbeth and giving away all of his possessions, for example. One of the longer interviews, this hour and ten minutes in Baker’s company is worth the investment alone. I’m not sure the cameo by John Levene adds much, but still – that’s a minor detail. The only surprise is that Tom and Nick didn’t venture inside the Fleur de Lys. Maybe that was once the camera stopped rolling…

This collection also features similar interviews with five of Tom Baker’s companions, three of whom are now sadly deceased. Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane-Smith, perhaps the best-loved of all companions, gives her thoughts in an interview filmed in 2000, which takes her back to Peckforton Castle where her first Doctor Who story was filmed, and she’s joined by Jeremy Bulloch (Star Wars) her Time Warrior co-star. The production is directed by Christopher Barry – one of the better Doctor Who directors. Next up is Ian Marter, who played Harry Sullivan. Poignantly, the interview was recorded (at the Terror of the Zygons location) only three weeks before his tragically premature death, and its heart-wrenching to hear Marter talk so positively about his acting and writing career, and the future projects that would never come to fruition. The longer cut of the interview (released in 1994) is introduced by Nicholas Courtney.

The second disc contains a further three interviews. Louise Jameson’s is delightfully theatrical. As much-loved companion Leela the savage, Jameson made a departure from her main passion of classical theatre, but she invites Nick and the audience into her world in this interview, and gives some excellent readings from the Target novelisations of the classic stories. The instalment with the late Mary Tamm also accommodates the actor’s interests, with an Alice in Wonderland theme running through it at the spooky location of Eynsford Castle. Rounding out the interviews is John Leeson (the voice of K9), who gives Nick a culinary lesson and reflects on becoming an actor even though the rest of his family joined the church.

Overall, these interviews are well-made and thoughtful. Returning to the original locations from Doctor Who, or choosing locations appropriate to the actors, is a lovely touch. Nick Briggs is a relaxed and genial interviewer, who allows the subject to be the star. They are an important slice of Doctor Who history, capturing the thoughts of the major players, some of whom are no longer with us, as talk about their lives, careers, and their time on the show. The Doctors – the Tom Baker Years is an essential part of a Doctor Who fan’s DVD collection.

Cast: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter, Louise Jameson, Mary Tamm, John Leeson, Nicholas Courtney, Nick Briggs Certificate: E Duration: 343 mins Released By: Koch Media Release Date: 18th September 2017

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