Colin Baker Interview

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Colin Baker was appearing in the stage play 'Doctor Who the Ultimate Adventure' at 'The

Leeds Grand'
on 22nd June 1989. The Interviewer was Timelord.

Can you start by telling us how you became involved in acting?

Well, I suppose that it all started at school. I was brought up in Rochdale, just across the Pennines from here, and I

went to school in Manchester. Then, when I was 12 years old, attending St Bedes College in Manchester, I was invited to

take part in a production of 'Yeoman of the Guard'. They performed a piece by Gilbert and Sullivan each year at my

school and I was in the chorus for this one. Then, when I was 13 - for some bizarre reason known only to themselves - they

decided that I ought to play the female lead. So it was that I played 'Phyllis' in 'Iolanthe' and earned a review in the

school magazine which said:

'Colin Baker threw himself with verve into the part of Phyllis and rarely strayed more than half an octave

from the note.'

At the time I thought this a really good review but it occured to me later, when I went and re-read it as an adult, that there

was an implied criticism of my singing there. My singing hasn't improved over the years, I'm afraid! But the acting bug had

been planted and from thereon in I took part in all the school productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas with varying

degrees of success.

When I left school I told my father I was contemplating acting as a career. He sat on that idea very firmly and sent me

off to train to be a lawyer. Whilst doing that I joined various amateur dramatics groups, including The North Manchester

Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society based at the Curtain Theatre in Rochdale, where I learned an awful lot. There

were many extremely good and talented people there who could have worked, without any difficulty at all, in the professional

theatre had they wanted to, but chose to enjoy their acting rather than make money from it. Gradually I came to realise,

especially when my father became ill - this is very serious really - that we have a very short life on this earth and we might

as well do something we want to do rather than, at the end, query why we bothered. So I changed careers and at least I am

now doing something which I enjoy and am commited to. I've been extremely fortunate at making a living out of it as well,

which is more than I had a right to expect. At any one time probably 80% of actors are out of work so it isn't the most

secure of professions.

That is how it all started and why I am sitting here talking to you today.

You're returning to the role of 'Doctor Who' after four years away?

Yes, it will be four years in a month's time since I recorded my last episode and I am returning again. People ask if it

was a hard decision to make to come back but it wasn't actually. I left under not the best of circumstances; Michael Grade,

who was the Controller of the BBC at the time, decided that it was time to change The Doctor.It was an executive decision

and nothing to do with the producers and directors, but they had to accept it. We were all a bit sad and we felt a little

cheated because we were all enjoying the relationship, but those kind of decisions are made at the very top. He decided that

three years was enough for a Doctor and it was time for the character to regenerate, so that was what happened to me.

Over the last four years I've been doing other things but Doctor Who is still part of my life because you can never forget that

you have played The Doctor... and people never let you forget!

Do you still attend conventions?

I do when I can. Obviously, when you're doing the programme, there's a greater incentive to attend conventions because

you're helping an ongoing thing and, by going to conventions, you are, in a sense, publicising the work you are doing. Once

you are undertaking other work it becomes more of a labour of love than anything else. If I'm free and happen to be in a

town with nothing to do on that particular morning or afternoon, then I'm very happy to turn up to a particular convention.

Obviously I can no longer regard it as a thing I have to put into my schedule because it's kind of harking back rather than

forwards for me.

What alterations had to be made to the script of 'Doctor Who the Ultimate Adventure' when you took over from Jon


Jon Pertwee had been playing the part for 10 weeks before I took over and Terrance Dicks, who wrote the script, wrote

it specifically with Jon in mind. So he sent me a copy of the script and asked me what kind of changes I thought I'd want.

When I read it I rang him up and, to his great relief I think, I said that there were very few changes to make because,

basically, 'The Doctor' is 'The Doctor' and it's the mere fact that I'm saying the lines instead of Jon that makes it different.

The forces are very different so things like 'reverse the polarity of the neutron flow' - which is a Jon Pertwee line - have

been changed and there are a few things which have been added; some by me and some by Terrance Dicks in consultation

with each other. It's a shift of emphasis rather than a change of dialogue. I'm my usual kind of bumptious, arrogant self

whereas Jon was more dignified and courteous, but we're saying more-or-less the same lines. I estimate only one or two

percent of the original script has been changed in all.

I expressed surprise that the line about daleks being equiped with sink-plungers and egg-whisks was kept in because

that sounded more the sort of thing Pertwee's 'Doctor' might have said.

Yes! I've only recently learnt this. We changed 'polarity' because it was particularly associated with Jon Pertwee. I had

not realised, until recently, that the sink-plungers and egg-whisks were a Pertweeism, but it was such a good line that I was

loathe to lose it and it stayed in. Mind you, he did say 'lavatory plunger' and, as there is no such thing as a 'lavatory plunger', I

refused to say it! Mr Pertwee stands corrected.

I commented how I found it strange, at the begining of the play, that 'The Doctor' is sent on a mission by Maggie

Thatcher, because 'The Doctor' usually fights the forces of evil, but here he is being sent on a mission by them!

(laughter)You're saying that Margaret Thatcher is a force for evil? Well, I'm not going to get drawn into that type of

conversation about the democratically-elected leader of our own country! I think that has to be taken rather

tongue-in-cheek... it could have been anybody. Doubtless, if there was a general election during this show and Neil Kinnock

became the Prime Minister, we'd have a poor actor sitting with his back to the audience pretending to be him instead!

So you don't think 'The Doctor' is a 'Tory' and that's why the chamelion circuit turned the tardis into a blue


(more laughter)That's a very interesting viewpoint, but I don't think 'The Doctor' is a Tory - 'The Doctor' is a doctorite!

Perhaps he's a follower of Doctor Owen... a very interesting idea!

Have you been pleased with the public response to the play?

Yes. Obviously this being a matinee, in the middle of summer, with the test match starting today and a beautiful sunny

day outside, has affected the numbers. Most theatres would struggle to fill all the seats under these circumstances. We're

doing very well, otherwise, and the people who do come and see it fairly uniformly tell me that they are delighted with it. I

get to meet quite a lot of people because I go round afterwards and sign their autographs and things like that and the

response I get is obviously from fans of 'Doctor Who' which mean you would expect them to like it. The people who

accompany them, though, who say 'Well I didn't really want to come but my kids begged and I had to chaperone them'

usually tell me that they also enjoyed themselves enormously and will come again. I have had that said to me quite a lot.

It is a smashing show and I can say that without any degree of self-congratulation because I've seen it with Jon Pertwee

in it also. I went to see it in the first week when there were things that needed to be put right because it's a very technical

show and was quite hard to get on the road. Even when there were things going wrong - I saw it in Bristol, a couple of times

in Manchester and a couple of times in Oxford - every time I've seen more within it and enjoyed it more. It's the sort of

show that, if I were to turn the clock back thirty years and be working as a stage hand or something, I'd be happy to stand in

the wings and watch it every night. There's a lovely atmosphere to it and it's fun to be involved with. A great cast and a

great team.

One of your companions in the show is played by Rebecca Thornhill. She seems quite a talented young


I think that Rebecca Thornhill is smashing, aside from being a rather pretty young lady of twenty years of age which

makes me feel like a grandfather. She is a jolly good actress, yes. She makes up with talent what she lacks in experience

and the only way you can get experience is by working. She's doing that and she's doing very well. She's a good companion

in a long line of good companions.

You had two travelling companions in the TV series - Peri and Melanie. Did you have a personal favourite of the


Because I was with Nicola, who played Peri, for such a long time - two and a half years out of my three years - a close

personal relationship grew up between us and we still keep in touch with one another. She's like my younger sister or

something. I suppose she'd say more like father and daughter but she was always rude! The problem with the relationship on

screen was that Peri was obviously female; it made it difficult for the sixth Doctor to be too overtly friendly with her - you

know, the arm around the shoulder and all that. There's an old BBC rule about no hanky-panky on The Tardis and, lest there

be seen to be the possibility of hanky-panky, we had to keep it in a very firmly kind of avuncular relationship. When she

went, and Bonnie took over, her character was much more girl-like. Even though they're a similar age, the character of

Melanie was a bouncy, energetic girl so I could be more protective of her. As far as the two companions are concerned I

don't have favourites, I just knew Nicola better. I dare say, after a couple of years working with Bonnie, I'd have developed

the same sort of relationship with her as well.

In the Marvel comic strip your companion was a shape changing whifferdill!

Oh Frobisher! I think Frobisher was great! The Frobisher cartoons have come out in book form and they asked me to

write a little appreciation. I said that whifferdills were a great idea. A bit tricky to do on television, mind you, but I love the

idea of a whifferdill who stays as a penguin because he's too bored to change into anything else. Yeah, I think Frobisher was

great and I'd like to have a Frobisher. Well... we've got Zog who's Frobisherish and a cute furry alien. The nice thing about

Zog is that the actress who plays Zog brilliantly can go 'Chrip, chrip, zzxlaxablub' and I can say anything I like which is


Would you have liked to have done a story with Nicholas Courtney?

I would! It looks as though I'm going to be the only 'Doctor' who hasn't done a story with him. Nicholas Courtney, for

those who may not know, plays 'The Brigadier', a character that started in the Pertwee era - maybe before.

Yes, he started with Patrick Troughton.

Yes. He started with Patrick Troughton and, because he was in 'The Three Doctors', he appeared with William Hartnell

too! So, until he failed to work with me, he was the only actor to work with every single 'Doctor Who'. It was planned but,

unfortunately, because of what we were talking about earlier, that never transpired. In the season that was cancelled there

was a story planned that was going to involve 'The Brigadier' and 'The Autons' as I recall, set in Singapore. They'd got

filming rights for Singapore but, alas, Michael Grade came to the BBC and that story disappeared along with 'Nightmare

Fair', taking with it 'The Brigadier'. So, the sixth 'Doctor' and 'The Brigadier' are doomed to remain resolutely apart! I know

Nick quite well, we have talked on the phone and get along fine, so we are both sad about that.

Now that Michael Grade's gone to Channel Four isn't there any way you can return to the series?

Well I don't see how they'd do it really. I suppose that it is possible in the future. Someone might say 'Let's have the

sixth Doctor back' but I doubt it. It isn't the way they work.

Graham Williams has recently novelised 'Nightmare Fair'. Have you read it?

Yes, I've read it and I wrote a review of it for a fanzine called 'Private'. I think it's a smashing story. John

Nathan-Turner gave it to me to read before we knew the series was cancelled. I was very excited about doing it and very

disappointed when it was cancelled. I urge you to read it if you are a Doctor Who fan!

I will finish off by asking you if it's been difficult for you being on stage in Leeds during the hottest June since


Yes, it has been! I did ask for a costume that would be as cool as possible. I had quite a hot costume doing the TV

series, but was able to take it off between shots and cool down. Here I'm on stage for the full two hours so the fact that the

temperature has been 80 degrees and rising inside the theatre, with the audience sitting in shirt sleeves like a bull in whatever

they sweat in, has been hard. It's been even worse for the poor actress playing Zog because inside the furry alien costume

of Zog is a very non-furry human being called Stephanie and she's had a hard time of it. She's been kind of broiled alive, poor


Thank you for sparing the time to talk to me, Colin.


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