By Shannon Lush
From the archives of The Whostorian Quarterly, the original fanzine that evolved into the Podcast we have today, we present, an until now unpublished interview with Colin Baker.
Colin Baker portrayed the sixth incarnation of The Doctor on the classic BBC 'Doctor Who' series, from 1984 to 1986. Here he is interviewed by one of his biggest fans!
** Editor's Notes: Michael Grade was the BBC executive most responsible for placing 'Doctor Who' during Baker's tenure on indefinite suspension, and was instrumental in the decision to remove Baker from the role less than a year later.
Big Finish productions is a very popular audio drama company that produce 'Doctor Who' and other SF/fantasy genre audio plays, of which the Sixth Doctor stories have garnered tremendous fan notice and critically strong reviews.
Eric Saward was the script editor for the majority of Colin Baker's time with 'Doctor Who'.
Verity Lambert was not only the first producer of 'Doctor Who', she was also the first drama producer the BBC ever had at that point.
'The Stranger' was a series of direct-to-video stories which often assembled former 'Doctor Who' writers, actors, and production personnel to work on and appear within them. **
Shannon: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for 'The Whostorian' Quarterly Colin. I want to get right to it...Michael Grade. Have you ever received anything approaching some form of formal or informal apology from Grade, especially given his admitted change of heart and devotion to the new series and in light of the time past now...?
Colin Baker: No, and I did not expect nor would expect an apology from someone who did what in his opinion was right for the BBC. I didn’t like what he did, obviously, but there is no reason for him to apologize unless for some reason he decided that what he had done was wrong by his own standards. He just did his job as he saw it. That’s life. I moved on.
Shannon: Is there any other juggernaut SF/Fantasy/Drama 'franchise' to which you ever wished to be affiliated with and /or appear within, such as 'Star Trek' or 'Battlestar Galactica' or 'Star Wars'?
Colin Baker: I would have been proud to have been associated with any of those TV series. All good – and as a jobbing actor who likes sci-fi, it would have been great to have contributed to any of those. And I would love to have been in a Matrix film! I would love to be in a Harry Potter film, or Lord of the Rings – the list is endless.
Shannon: Has there ever been a situation where someone in print or other media slagged you off, as was once the fashionable thing to do regarding your era… only to come back years later and apologize and realize the error of their ways, either due to reassessment of your TV era or the wonderful Big Finish audio plays?
Colin Baker: That has never happened from the press or media – but they didn’t “slag me off” in quite the same way as some of the fan media did. I have had letters from people rather ingenuously confessing that they used to think I was rubbish but have revised their opinion in the light of the Big Finish work or even the passage of time in some cases. A bit double edged as until they told me I didn’t know they were out there and thinking I was rubbish!! But better that way round than the other way round, I suppose!!
Shannon: Do you ever get the chance to pal around with your 'War & Peace' co-star Anthony Hopkins?
Colin Baker: Yes, he and I were quite chummy for a while and I went to his house and he came to mine and we went out for a drink after rehearsals on many occasions. He was a very good companion and very talented and committed to the work. A brilliant mimic and could impersonate all the great actors superbly. Everything he does is touched with genius and faultless.
Shannon: Can you elaborate on the process of writing the graphic novel 'Age of Chaos'?
Did you only write the text, or did you also have input regarding the art?
Essentially, how collaborative an effort was this graphic novel, did you enjoy the experience, and would you do another?
Colin Baker: I greatly enjoyed the process of writing 'Age of Chaos'. It was like writing a film script. I wrote what the content of each frame should be; for example, 'close up of Peri with castle in the background', and what the dialogue bubble would contain. Sometimes the artist would choose a different angle or backdrop, etcetera, but in the main my description was followed. It was really enjoyable and I like to think that one day I will get the opportunity, and the time, to do it again. I was lucky with my artists, one for the cover and one for the content, I recall. The visualization was superb.
Shannon: The Daleks look a lot different now than they did in your era of the show. Do you like the design and voice of the Daleks now, or do you prefer the 'classic' look of the Daleks as they were in your time?
Colin Baker: To be honest they all look like Daleks to me! I have no strong feelings about the design, any more than I have about the design of 'companions' for instance. Jo was a companion of her time as Peri was of hers. No preference in that area.
Shannon: Is there any episode of the classic and new series that, if you had the power to do so, you would have made an episode featuring your Doctor instead of the one in the series at the time?
Any episode that you have thought 'That one would have been a perfect tale for my Doctor?'
Also, given that you turned down the option of regeneration, and rightly so, I wonder, had you decided to go ahead and pass the torch so to speak, was there any particular scenario and writer that you would have considered ideal for the regeneration to have occurred?
For example heroically sacrificing your incarnation to save others, being poisoned, shot, etcetera?
Colin Baker: No I am very happy with the other Doctors’ versions of their stories – although I have to say some of the stories of the new series are lip smackingly attractive. Chris Eccleston was superb in the two episode 'gas mask' story, as was David Tennant in the 'Angels' story. I envied them the writing and would have loved to have done such stories but they were rightly 'theirs'.
Shannon: Had you not taken the role of the Doctor, would you still have been interested in performing 'The Stranger'?
Did you initially consider the role to be an outgrowth of the concept of 'psuedo-Doctor Who' or did you always feel it was its own entity that, given time and material, would stand on its own as a science fiction saga?
Colin Baker: Well the Stranger was clearly a creation that would not have happened had I not played the sixth Doctor so the question would not arise, Shannon. But had those scripts landed in a vacuum as it were on my doormat, I would probably have been keen to do them. And they may well have had a life of their own.
Shannon: I wondered if you had any personal memories of Verity Lambert, the very first producer of 'Doctor Who, to share, and thoughts on her role in the success of 'Doctor Who'?"
Colin Baker: Sadly I never met Verity or worked with her. Clearly she had a key role in the existence of 'Doctor Who' and many other wonderful programs and her creativity will be greatly missed.
Shannon: Nicola Bryant was quite untested as an actress when she accepted the role of Peri and became your co-star. Did you impart any wisdom of the business to her when you two became co-workers, and do you believe that being a 'Doctor Who' companion in the original series was a benefit or a hindrance to actors and actresses?
Colin Baker: If anything, Nicola imparted her wisdom to ME. She was more experienced in 'Doctor Who' than I was and needed no advice or wisdom from me! Companions do seem to have had a tough time of it afterwards, too. But most of them were female and actresses generally have a tougher time forging a long career in this business, sadly.
Shannon: Had you stayed on the series, by all accounts the script writers and producer's intentions was to further 'darken' the tone of it, and shades of that can certainly be found in Sylvester McCoy's era later on. You indicated before that you would have been pleased with that interpretation of the character had it occurred during your time.
Was your conception of the Sixth Doctor always a character with an edge about him?
Had the producer wished to take a different approach completely, turning him into something else, such as more jovial or carefree, would you have accepted that?
Or did you enjoy the dramatic opportunities that playing a 'darker' tone allowed?
Colin Baker: I would have done whatever I was asked to do. That is the nature of the business I am in. Unless you are a huge star like Al Pacino, then you either deliver the goods you are asked to deliver or you don’t work much!! I would have liked the character to develop pretty much along the lines that Big Finish under Gary Russell and now Nick Briggs have offered me the chance to do. That involves a mixture of 'dark' and 'light', as all good stories do.
Shannon: Did you ever again work with or under Eric Saward after the 'Starburst' situation?
And in the grand scheme of things, would you have been rather more pleased working with, perhaps Phillip Martin, in the script writing capacity?
Or do you reappraise Saward's contributions to your era now, or feel, as most fans do, that his work was, in your words, 'casual script editing'?
Colin Baker: I am not well disposed towards Eric Saward, who as far as I am concerned treated me in a rather shabby way, saying one thing to my face and another behind my back. On that basis I would certainly have been disinclined to work with him again, if I had any say in the matter. Philip Martin was an excellent writer – I have no idea whether he has been or wants to be a script editor but am sure he would make a very good job of it.
Shannon: Kate O'Mara worked with you both in 'The Brothers' as well as 'Doctor Who'. Are there any actors or actresses from the former series that you wished had reunited with you in the latter?
Colin Baker: I am always happy to work with anyone that I worked with before and enjoyed working with all the actors and actresses in 'The Brothers'.
Shannon: 'Doctor Who' merchandise is, of course, plentiful. Are they any particular Sixth Doctor entrants into that pantheon that have caught your eye and that you thought was nice? And did you or do you ever collect any?
Colin Baker: You are a prolific questioner Shannon! I can’t think of any merchandise that stood out particularly though I must confess I haven’t made an in-depth study of it! There is a new sixth Doctor figurine coming out soon, which, if it is as good as the model they sent to me for my approval, I think will be excellent. The standard of merchandise has improved dramatically since my time, with the new popularity of the program and the more sophisticated modeling procedures.
And that concludes the interview. Thanks to my former Co-Host, and always Co-Conspirator, Shannon Lush for digging that interview out of The Whostorian Quarterly archives and a very special thanks to Colin Baker for granting Shannon the interview.
I can’t wait to see what else Shannon has in store.
- - Steve