This is Part Two of a five part series about the actors who have played the character of Dr Who in the hugely popular BBC TV series.
In Part One, we looked at William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee.
In this article, we will put Tom Baker, Peter Davison and Colin Baker under the InfoBarrel microscope. There are some surprising facts about each actor that you may not know!
The Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
played Dr Who from 8 June 1974 - 21 March 1981
Baker went into a Roman Catholic Monastery at the age of 15 and stayed there for six years. He lost his faith around the time he went into the Royal Army Medical Corps to do his National Service as all young men had to in those days.
He started acting as a hobby and then became a professional. Baker’s career took off when he was invited to join Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre. It was Olivier who recommended Baker for the film role of Rasputin in Nicholas and Alexandra in 1971. His performance earned him two Golden Globe nominations - for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and for Best Newcomer.
Baker becomes Dr Who
Baker was recommended for the part of Dr Who by Bill Slater who was the BBC Head of Serials. With Baker’s name in mind, Barry Letts, the Dr Who producer at the time watched Baker in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and liked what he saw.
When Letts approached him, Baker was working as a builder as acting parts were few and far between.
Baker quickly became very popular with the public and went on to play Dr Who for seven seasons over seven years. This made him the actor who served longest in the part.
The famous trademark stripy scarf which spawned so many home made imitations in the seventies was actually a mistake. The lady who knitted it, Begonia Pope, had been supplied with much more wool than was needed. She didn’t realise this and just kept knitting until she ran out of yarn. It was Baker himself who argued for them to keep the crazily long scarf.
Baker's Dr Who was one of the most popular. In Dr Who Magazine polls he lost out only three times, once to Sylvester McCoy and twice to David Tennant. In 2006, Baker wrote a column for the BBC’s Radio Times magazine and admitted "I have watched a little bit of the new Doctor Who and I think the new fella, Tennant, is excellent.”
After Peter Davison took over the role of Dr Who, Baker continued to do a lot of work for the show.
- He appeared in The Story of Dr Who
- He appeared in Doctor Who Confidential
- He gave interviews regarding his time as the Dr
- He appeared in Dimension in Time, a charity show in 1993
- He recorded an audio track for Destiny of the Doctors – a PC game and read for four Dr Who audio books
- He has appeared in many ‘extra’ features on Dr Who DVDs
Baker worked on two productions for Big Finish which were released in 2012, with his former companions Leela and Romana (played by Louise Jameson and Mary Tamm respectively). They had also intended for him to reunite with the character of Sarah Jane Smith – which inspired the spin off series The Sarah Jane Adventures. Sadly, Elisabeth Sladen who played Sarah Jane died in 2011, before they had a chance to work on it.
In October 2009, Baker paid tribute to Dr Who producer Barry Letts who had just passed away. Baker said that Letts who had given him the role was "the big link in changing my entire life".
Baker is also famous for the huge amount of voiceover work that he has done, most notably for the series Little Britain. The creators, Matt Lucas and David Walliams loved Baker’s Dr Who, leading him to comment on a DVD commentary "I am now being employed by the children who grew up watching me.”
Baker's autobiography, Who on Earth is Tom Baker? was published in 1997.
The Fifth Doctor: Peter Davison
played Dr Who from 21 March 1981 - 16 March 1984
Before he went to the Central School of Speech and Drama, Davison had many jobs, including working as an attendant in a mortuary.
Davison became hugely popular in 1978 for his portrayal of the young vet Tristan Farnon in the BBC series All Creatures Great and Small.
Davison first appeared on TV in a Sci Fi series for children called The Tomorrow People. He co- starred with Sandra Dickinson, an American who he married in 1978. They divorced in 1994.
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Their daughter, Georgia Moffett, acted in Dr Who in 2008. She played The Doctor’s cloned daughter. David Tennant was the Dr at the time.
Georgia and David married in 2011.
Davison becomes Dr Who
When Davison signed up to play Dr Who for three years he was 29 – the youngest actor to have played the Time Lord. He held this record for almost thirty years but had it taken from him by Matt Smith who was only 26 when he became The Dr.
- Davison played the Dr again in a charity special called Dimensions in Time in 1991.
- He recorded an audio soundtrack for Destiny of the Doctors, a 1997 video game.
In 2007, Steven Moffat wrote a special episode of Dr Who for the charity Children in Need – a BBC telethon. The mini episode shows the Fifth Doctor meeting up with the Tenth Doctor and is called Time Crash. It features Davison along with his future son in law, David Tennant. It’s introduced by John Barrowman and is well worth a watch.
Time Crash - a mini episode for Children In Need
featuring Peter Davison and his future son-in-law, David Tennant
Since Dr Who, Davison has worked steadily in TV and radio.
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The Sixth Doctor: Colin Baker
played Dr Who from 16 March 1984 - 6 December 1986
Colin Baker (no relation to Tom Baker) was born on 8 June 1943, in Waterloo, London during an air raid. During a subsequent blitz, a piece of shrapnel embedded itself in the side of his cot, just missing him.
The family moved to Manchester and Baker began studying to become a solicitor. His mother took him to see a stage production of The King and I and the acting bug bit. Baker made a radical career change and joined the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) at the age of 23.
In the 1960s, Baker shared a flat with David Troughton who was the son of Patrick Troughton, who played Dr Who number two. Baker was later Best Man for David at his wedding.
Baker worked steadily in TV and became well known for playing the evil character of Paul Merroney in a series called The Brothers. Liza Goddard played Baker’s wife and eventually they married but the marriage ended in divorce.
Baker becomes Dr Who
Halfway through transmission of Baker’s first season in 1985, the Controller of the BBC – Michael Grade – decided that the show had become too violent with poor story lines and so the programmed was put on hiatus for 18 months. It returned the following year.
Baker was dropped from the role because it is alleged that Grade wasn’t keen on his performance. However, in Doctor Who Magazine No 338, published in January 2004, a former production manager for Doctor Who, Gary Downie, alleged that Grade had fired Baker for more personal reasons. Baker was married to the actress Liza Goddard at the time. Downie was quoted in the magazine as saying -
"There's a history between Michael Grade and Colin. Liza Goddard was Colin's wife. And she was Michael Grade's best friend. The divorce was acrimonious and she moved into Michael Grade's house while she was getting over the divorce. And I'll say no more.”
Baker didn’t even get to re-generate into the next Doctor. Instead, Sylvester McCoy wore a blonde wig and played the Colin Baker character in the regeneration scene – regenerating into the McCoy Doctor.
Baker tragically lost his son, Jack, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1983. Baker was a Trustee of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths and was Chairman of the Foundation from 1997 until 2005. He also worked tirelessly to raise funds for them.
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