Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tom Baker and the Mortality of Heroes

When I was young the Doctor was my hero.  Not just any Doctor but Tom Baker as the Doctor. There was something soothing about his melodic tones.  Something that reminded me that everything would be all right.  He was in the universe defeating the monsters and the injustice so that I didn't have to.  He inspired me to be strange and goofy if I wanted to, but also reminded me that I could be serious too.  He convinced me that I should keep full pockets of trinkets because you never know when you might need one of them.  He taught me how to make an entrance at the most inopportune time.  He taught me there was a time to fight for what you believe in, but also to make the best decisions I could while doing it.  He taught me all of that in season 12.
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The Fourth Doctor - Image Copyright BBC

Tom Baker defined the role of the Doctor in my mind when I was very young.  He defined it in season 12. That is a near perfect season of the show.  For me it is what I judge all other seasons against, and to be honest, all other actors who are in the role.

Last night I had the opportunity to watch the Directors Cut of "Genesis of the Daleks" at my local theater.  The cut was put together in 1975 and it is rough, the edits seem hastily put together, incidental music is cut off, and the story is mostly able to be followed.  That said it did take a story that is nearly 3 hours long and condense it down to 90 minutes, which is no simple feat.  Its not perfect, but it was super fun to see it on a big screen.  Its great that we live in a time that you can go to a theater and see a 43 year old Doctor Who serial presented in a way that hadn't been seen in some time.

The thing that has been bothering me though, is an interview with Tom Baker at the end of the production.  We get the opportunity to see Tom be candid about the show, people involved in it, and more importantly, his mortality.

Tom drives home many of the answers to the interviewers questions with fun anecdotes from when he got the job and how the people around him reacted.  He looks back at how much life he had - how exciting it was to be him at that very moment.  He also mentioned mistakes he made toward the end of his tenure as the Doctor.  It is clear he has thought a lot about his time on the show quite a lot over the last 43 years.

And that brings me to his thoughts on his own mortality.  This is hard to watch.  Tom is well into his 80s at this point, so he is not young.  He knows this.  It seems to be a part of his whole being when he speaks.  It feels like he is jumping back in to the Doctor Who world long enough to get his feet wet and to enjoy some of that youthful exuberance that he once had.  He has been pounding out the Audio Adventures with Big Finish over the last several years, and of course he made that beloved appearance in the day of the Doctor -

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Tom Baker as The Fourth Doctor in the recent
release of Shada- Image Copyright BBC
Taking a step back and thinking about a much younger version of myself watching and re watching VHS tapes that were recorded off of our local PBS station.  I watched Tom Baker story after story, week after week,  fight tyranny and stand of what what was right.  I realized then (and now) that these are stories, but it doesn't change the fact that it is difficult watching this fictionalized hero that walks in eternity age. and watch him be tragically aware of this own mortality.

Tom Baker defines so much of my character.  The time I spent watching his adventures as a child and into adulthood is immeasurable.  I was inspired by him.  I continue to be a fan of Doctor Who, in no small part, because of his contribution to the show.  So much of what I latched on to comes from him.

Don't get me wrong, I think we have a lot more Tom Baker to come. But it is difficult to watch your childhood hero be so aware of his mortality, but I know there is a small part of me that is so heavily inspired by the man.  I will always appreciate him for that!     


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