What does Doctor Who mean to me? Well, that's a good question that deserves an answer. Firstly, as an adult, Doctor Who is a connection to some very fond memories I had as a child. I wasn't a popular boy growing up. I wasn't good at sports nor was I very outgoing. I did, however, have a wonderful imagination which I channeled into drawing which I was quite good at. Sadly, drawing doesn't win many popularity contests when your opponents are guys who score touchdowns or can bench press twice your body weight. Still, despite this social handicap, my childhood was actually very pleasant. I play acted Doctor Who in my backyard. I can't remember all the adventures I fantasized going on as a child. They were all good times.
Doctor Who was, to me, pure escapism. Every night at 6.30pm (on PBS - Public Broadcasting System) I got to sit in front of my television and travel inside a British Police Box that really wasn't a Police Box but a traveling time and space machine (bigger on the inside, of course). This traveling machine, as seen through a 12 inch TV screen, could take you anywhere, anyplace at anytime and it certainly did throughout Tom's years of service as the Doctor. Not only did Doctor Who stories entertain but they inspired as well.
Tom Baker's Doctor was a hero for me although he had no super powers (okay, he could regenerate but that's different), no super weapons (except a silly sonic screwdriver which could open locked doors), and often more than not all he had on his person to defeat some interstellar or inter-dimensional baddie was just his wits and maybe a jelly baby or two. Tom's Doctor, and all that followed, helped show a recluse little boy that you don't need super powers or super strength to be a hero; you can be a hero by just doing the right thing for the right reasons. The Doctor was morally upright but also respected diversity. Life, in the Doctor's eyes, was something to be cherished and admired with awe and astonishment. I use those same standards, now, as an adult.
I truly admired Tom Baker's comedic sense of humor and the show helped me develop my own silly sense of humor which helped me to step out of my own self imposed shell as I got older in life.
I have some things in common with Tom Baker. I was once a Catholic but not anymore (I did tell my Mom that I wanted to be a priest when I was 8 years old but once I became a teen and discovered that women were a no-no in the priesthood I quickly gave that idea up), I grew up poor and didn't know my father very well, I am politically ambivalent (I don't like politicians or politics at all), I have cats as pets and I served in the military (US Navy - I was a weather forecaster). This is probably where things in common end but, hey, its a start.
I became fascinated with England through Doctor Who and when I was in the Navy, I got to finally visit England and spend a few days in Liverpool, Portsmouth, and London. If not for Doctor Who, it is doubtful that I'd ever thought of visiting overseas. Visiting jolly old England was a dream come true. Someday, I plan on going back to visit but my only problem is that my wife is terrified of flying and I may have to either get her drunk or knock her out so that we can board the plane.
I don't know if Tom thinks of himself as "heroic" or not but his tenure on a silly science fiction TV show has had an enormous influence on people not only in his native England but across the globe.
If you read this Tom, a fan from America would like to say, "thank you" for some wonderful childhood memories and for inspiring me whether you knew it or not.
Someday, my ship will come in, but with my luck, I'll be stranded at the airport!