Koch Media’s reissues of Reeltime Pictures’ Myth Makers interviews arrive here at The Big One, the Tom Baker collection – and it’s a bittersweet affair. While on the one hand it includes perhaps the pride of the Keith Barnfather collection, a fifty-minute interview with the fourth Doctor himself, elsewhere the interviewees are notable for how many of them are, in all cases devastatingly prematurely, no longer with us.
The three seasons of Doctor Who produced by Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes between 1975 and 1977 are feted by fans as the series’ glory days, an unrepeatable golden period of unforgettable moments, glorious dialogue and terrifying monsters. The icing on the cake was the programme’s regular cast, the redoubtable Tom Baker bestriding the production like a colossus, the Man Who Was Born to Play Doctor Who. The succession of companions he acted alongside each brought out different aspects of his otherwise opaque character, Sarah Jane for example eliciting an often-softer Doctor, while against Leela a rather tetchier Tom was much in evidence.
The Tom Baker Years concentrates most heavily on these earlier seasons, all but one of the set’s participants having debuted prior to the end of 1977. John Leeson, better known to all as K9, makes for an affable if slightly grandiloquent subject to close the collection, whereas Louise Jameson (whose selection is peppered with various readings in a Victorian museum in Leeds) is intelligent, engaging and game for a bit of fun. It’s a good job, indeed, that so many of Doctor Who’s luminaries don’t mind sending themselves up somewhat, especially in the earlier of Nicholas Briggs’ interviews, where we find Mary Tamm impersonating Alice to Briggs’ White Rabbit, running around in the grounds of Eynsford Castle in Kent – chosen presumably because it’s in the same county as Leeds Castle where The Androids of Tara was shot – before settling down to have a rather slighter but still indispensable chat.
The meat is on disc one. Alongside a quite substantial conversation with Elisabeth Sladen, recorded before her modern televisual reinvention, there’s a rare opportunity to enjoy Ian Marter talking Target novelisations and Doctor Who Meets Scratchman while ambling about the Terror of the Zygons locations. Ultimately, though, what really sells this collection’s importance is the three-quarters-of-an-hour spent in Tom Baker’s company in East Hagbourne (site of The Android Invasion) in 1989, before the affectation took over entirely and so with perhaps as much honesty as Baker has ever allowed about the programme and his place in it.
As usual the low budget archive sound and picture issues are but tiny niggles, when placed beside the value and enjoyment offered up by such a tremendous and truly essential collection of interviews.
Special Features: Introduction by Briggs and Barnfather
THE DOCTORS: THE TOM BAKER YEARS / CERT: E / DIRECTOR: KEITH BARNFATHER / PRESENTER: NICHOLAS BRIGGS / STARRING: TOM BAKER, ELISABETH SLADEN, IAN MARTER, LOUISE JAMESON, MARY TAMM, JOHN LEESON / RELEASE DATE: 18TH SEPTEMBER