Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The tall, mad-eyed man in the long coat and hat hopes you'll enjoy some of the candy he keeps in his pocket(!)

Even in small towns in Canada that didn't have the confectionary 'jelly baby' it was imitative behavior to offer gummi bears in their place for a young Mike.  I went trick-or-treating in a long scarf as the Doctor for Halloween when I was, I think, 5.  (Used the same hat as my Inspector Clouseau, age 6.)  There was only one Doctor so far as I knew- the only one I'd seen on my Uncle Cliff's Beta tapes from PBS screenings.  Tom Baker.

Thomas Stewart Baker (born 1934) is so ubiquitous that it's unnecessary to describe him. 
So here goes: former monk who lost his faith, worked in Royal Army Medical Corps in the fifties, took up acting, drank a great deal, married some, and seemingly has a voice voted fourth most famous in England.  Possibly the only laudable part of the egregious 2000 'Dungeons and Dragons' movie.
Finally started making audio 'Doctor Who' adventures last year.  Which are spectacular.

The Fourth Doctor is the one everyone in North America thinks of when (if) they think Classic Doctor Who.  He wins every time they have a poll for 'Best Doctor' in Doctor Who magazine. Mostly.  (7 and 10 won sometimes.)  He's usually called bohemian, bizarre, or mad as a box of frogs.  If the frogs are also under the impression that they are as barking mad as Tom Baker.

An appropriate description for the star of the 75th through 115th stories of the series was unpredictable.  If the Second Doctor was an odd little anarchist, there was some question whether the 4th wasn't completely UNHINGED.  
Never entirely averse to the action, the fourth Doctor's persona tended toward less violent means, often baffling his enemies instead of overpowering them.  In a scene from 'The Face of Evil" (apparently improvised when Tom didn't want the Doctor to brandish a knife), he held a jelly baby to a man's throat instead.  And, since it was a savage, alien, culture (rather like primitive Canada) nobody knew what that was or whether it COULD, in fact, kill you.  An insane bluff that paid off.

The Doctor loved humans now.  Call it Stockholm syndrome, or the alien equivalent, but once he was no longer confined to Earth he still came back ALL THE TIME.  He still thought a lot of us were idiots, mind you, and told us to our faces, but the immediate distrust and suspicion of his earliest incarnation had faded with experience.  After all, he was getting on a bit, even though he couldn't be troubled about the specifics of his age. (749 when I met him in 'The Brain of Morbius', Season 13.)

El Doctor Quatro had a soft spot for his companions as well, with a particularly painful good-bye to Sarah Jane, and (almost? totally? maybe?) romantic feelings for Romana. But we'll get to them.

Dashing about, putting his boots on the furniture, driving his car into paragraphs, all while clad in an outlandish long scarf knit for him by Madame Nostradamus, the Fourth Doctor won the hearts of children everywhere forever.  

He's my favorite Doctor of the sixties and seventies, he's the one I wanted to grow up to be, and he's the one I built a little TARDIS and Bessie for out of Legos.

FAVORITE FOURTH DOCTOR STORY: City of Death (It's the most Douglas Adams-y of the Douglas Adams era, in a sort of Douglas Adams milieu.  Also: John Cleese.) 

LEAST FAVORITE FOURTH DOCTOR STORY: Underworld (Oh, it's poor.  I guess they were relying on the effects to sell it which was a BAD idea.)

FAVORITE FOURTH DOCTOR QUOTE: "To be fair, I did have a couple of gadgets which he probably didn't, like a teaspoon and an open mind."

No comments: