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‘Doctor Who – The Tom Baker Record Collection’ review

Demon Music Group’s latest classic ‘Doctor Who’ release is hands down their best yet. ‘Doctor Who – The Tom Baker Record Collection’ is a magnificent compilation of audio recordings featuring the greatest Doctor of all time. The design work is superb. The cover uses the 1970s diamond ‘Doctor Who’ logo and depicts Tom Baker in his earliest Fourth Doctor costume when he was in his absolute pomp. The o-ring sleeve lifts away to reveal the grey menace of the Doctor’s deadliest foe – the Daleks – on the inside cover. The orange and red spots and the geometric designs on each of the four LP sleeves root the iconography firmly in the mid-1970s. Nostalgia buffs and audiophiles will get a kick out of this collection.

This release brings together much of Tom Baker’s most celebrated ‘Doctor Who’ audio recordings in one place. Last year when I was on holiday in LA, I visited the legendary Amoeba music store (if you know, you know!) and found an original printing of the ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ LP from 1979, which is released here. Experiencing it again in its original LP format is a delight. For fans at the time, the audio recording came before the wide availability of video players, so hearing an edited version of the much-revered classic Terry Nation story was the only way to enjoy it again, save for scarce television repeats. To many, the audio recording of ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ is a sacred part of their ‘Doctor Who’ memories and a route into collecting merchandise. Much has been written about how great the story is. Tom Baker’s linking narration – recorded whilst he was still playing the role – fills in the visual gaps. The menace of Davros and his infamous creations the Daleks are even more terrifying on audio, when the imagination conjures the visuals.

The second LP features a story that was, uniquely at the time, written for audio. ‘Doctor Who and the Pescatons’ was penned by Victor Pemberton, who had both appeared as an actor in a Patrick Troughton story as well as written one of his classic adventures, ‘Fury From the Deep’. It was originally released in 1976 and allowed fans to hear the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith team up for an exclusive audio adventure. Writer Pemberton enjoyed creating menaces from the sea, and the Doctor is one again up against deadly seaweed, except this time London is invaded by intelligent sharks called Pescatons too. Recorded with only three actors (Bill Mitchell features as the baddie), the adventure soon reveals the limitations of the format and is more of a brave experiment than a brilliant success, which is perhaps why similar audio stories weren’t attempted. Nevertheless, as something unique in the annals of ‘Doctor Who’ history, ‘Doctor Who and the Pescatons’ certainly has its fans. An eccentric performance by Tom Baker that leans heavily into comedy is a sign of things to come as the series took a turn towards humour and levity.

Doctor Who the Tom Baker Collection
Credit: Demon Records

The third disc includes ‘Exploration Earth: The Time Machine’ which reunites the dream team of Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen as the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith. Originally broadcast on radio in 1976, the recording was part of a BBC Schools radio series that intended to be educational for children. It is written by Bernard Venables, who was never part of the ‘Doctor Who’ production team. As such, ‘Exploration Earth: The Time Machine’ is a curiosity that doesn’t quite sound authentic. Despite that, hearing Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen together is always a joy. The instalment is a science lesson with a baddie called Megron (played by John Westbrook) thrown in to keep younger listeners entertained. Despite its limitations, it would be the last time that Tom and Lis would work together on audio, and so its inclusion in this collection is warranted and essential.

The other side of the vinyl is perhaps my favourite of all. ‘Tom Baker in his own words’ is a collection of five interviews with Tom Baker recorded at various times during his career. The first three catch a confident Tom Baker whilst he was still playing the Fourth Doctor, and the last two are from 1999 and 2001 respectively. The final interview on the LP is Tom’s celebrated encounter with impressionist Jon Culshaw for ‘Dead Ringers’. Imitating the Fourth Doctor, Culshaw persuaded Tom to immediately fall back into character and their exchange is deliciously witty! The other interviews feature a greatest hits of Tom Baker anecdotes. He covers off labouring on a building site at the time he was cast in ‘Doctor Who’, how Begonia Pope came to knit his iconic long scarf; his delight in watching ‘Doctor Who’ with young children who double-take when he appears on the screen; being a big celebrity in Abu Dhabi… it’s all here! I laughed relentlessly listening to this side. It’s a showcase of what a sparkling, brilliant wit and personality Tom Baker truly is.

The fourth and final LP features Tom Baker’s original narration of ‘The State of Decay’, which was Terrance Dicks’ novelisation of his classic story. One of the final stories he ever recorded in the role, this 1981 audiobook comes just as Tom Baker had left ‘Doctor Who’. In years to come, he made a small fortune in voiceovers alone. This LP demonstrates how adaptive his deep, resonant voice really is. The only thing that is lacking is the ‘Doctor Who’ theme tune, denoting that it was not a BBC release.

A very special feature of this limited edition release, which runs to only 600 copies, is a print boldly signed by Tom Baker himself. It is on an LP-sized high-quality colour print on thick card. The signed image depicts the Fourth Doctor holding his hat to his head in a publicity photograph.

‘The Tom Baker Record Collection’ includes 4 x 140g LPs in orange, green, blue & red vinyl, each with full cast & credits and its own brand new graphic design. If you love Tom Baker and hold his characterisation as the Fourth Doctor in high esteem, then this terrific limited edition vinyl collection is a must-have item. Dive headlong into nostalgia for the 1970s with this welcome release centred around a national treasure. It is a magnificent celebration of Tom Baker’s much-loved and never-bettered era of ‘Doctor Who’. Produced to an immaculate standard, ‘The Tom Baker Record Collection’ is a terrific addition to any collection and is likely to become a much sought-after collector’s item.

Cast: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter, John Westbrook, Bill Mitchell, Writers: Terry Nation, Terrance Dicks, Victor Pemberton Director: David Maloney Released by: Demon Music Group Release date: 15th September 2023 Buy ‘Doctor Who: The Tom Baker Record Collection’

Greg Jameson
Greg Jameson
Book editor, with an interest in cult TV.

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Demon Music Group's latest classic 'Doctor Who' release is hands down their best yet. 'Doctor Who - The Tom Baker Record Collection' is a magnificent compilation of audio recordings featuring the greatest Doctor of all time. The design work is superb. The cover uses...'Doctor Who - The Tom Baker Record Collection' review