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Who On Earth Is Tom Baker?

Excerpts from Tom's autobiography

 

Chapter 1

My first ambition was to be an orphan. During the war of 1939-45, Liverpool was a good place to be. All routine was broken by the fear of death from the Germans’ bombs. The pleasure of being a child at that time is not easy to describe without seeming flippant. But it was drama, high drama: fires at night, the fires that burned people's houses away; bombs fell and left exotically shaped fragments in the form of shrapnel...

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Chapter 8

Once when I was on laundry duty I had to go and fetch the clean rough sheets for the dormitory. At the far end of an immense corridor, perhaps two hundred yards long, I rang an old brass bell and waited at a highly polished door on which was a brass plate so worn I could not read the vital information on it. I listened carefully. Sure enough there was the sound of fumbling. After what seemed about two days and nights the door was eased open and the top of a head appeared all covered in a black cotton veil. It was possibly the top of a tiny nun I thought to myself. A hand stretched out towards me and I placed the requisition note for seventy-eight sheets, thirty-nine pillowcases and thirty-nine towels. I'll never forget those towels. They were as coarse as cheese graters; we didn’t need to shave...

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Chapter 10

And so at the interviews with the company sergeant-major, who had heard about my bent for God, it was decided that I should become the curator of the camp museum. This was quite a small building near the guardhouse and contained all sorts of nostalgia from the old days. The Medical Corps was very proud of the number of VCs it had won and one of these was on show. There were also souvenirs from old wars, like samples of long-forgotten brands of cigarettes and blood-stained field bandages from former campaigns...

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Chapter 13

It was approaching the time of the York Festival, a heavily cultural affair in the I960s. In between our broad comedy at the Theatre Royal I had been seeing a good deal of Laurie Taylor, my old friend from my student days. He and I had started out as actors and he got off to a fine start at Stratford East in a new play by Alan Owen. But he soon got tired of acting and, by a terrific effort of teaching during the day and studying at London University in the evenings, he got a first-class degree and changed careers. By the time I met him in York, he was a professor and becoming very well known. Seeing me revived old interests and we decided to write and present a fringe comedy show. And so it was that Professor Laurie Taylor and I put on Late Night Lowther starring Laurie Taylor and Tom Baker with Jazz Quintessence...

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A (National Theatre) tour to America was announced. The productions of the Three Sisters, starring Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens, and The Beaux Stratagem, again with Maggie and Bob and with Ronald Pickup as Archer, were booked to go to Los Angeles for a season. Supporting actors and understudies were invited as well. Michael Halifax came round to all the dressing rooms to find out who wanted to go. We all wanted to go. I suddenly had an idea that with half the company away in the States for a while my chances of a decent part might be improved, so I turned down the trip and hoped that something might turn up while the other half was away...

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Chapter 17

In The Deadly Assassin (third story in series 14 of Dr Who) there was a scene where I was being held under water and where I had to appear genuinely afraid of death. It wasn't too hard for me to do this because I really am very afraid of water and I suppose this fear made me overdo the terror. David Maloney said it was very powerful and this made me faintly ill at ease........

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Chapter 20

As I mow and sometimes read the graves I feel comforted by the quietness of the old churchyard and the unchanging thoughts on the old stones. “Not Dead, only sleeping” makes me smile wryly as I rev my powerful Honda in the ear of a deceased. As far as I can see, they are all dead and not sleeping at all. And as I go about my little task, people sometimes toot their horns or shout from their car windows as they roar past. Usually they cry out: “Aye-aye, Doctor,” or something like that. And I bawl back, “Aye-aye, there,” and wave my right hand. But sometimes people stop and get out of their cars and loiter nearby and watch me in a funny way...

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Tom and Sue outside The Bell House

Tom's autobiography
© Tom Baker 1997
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