At this year's Chicago TARDIS, I had the pleasure of interviewing several Doctor Who stars from the Classic era. The first was Mr. Colin Baker, better known as The Sixth Doctor. Baker lead the show from 1984 through 1986.
Colin Baker's history with Doctor Who is turbulent, to say the least. He was dismissed from Doctor Who before his arc was completed. Thus, the Sixth Doctor did not grow as much as he could have. The character went down in history as dramatic, brash, even disliked.
This bitter exit could have easily turned Baker away from the fandom. Instead, he loves his fans, goes to conventions, and continues to build the story of Six.
**Due to time constraints, I interviewed Mr. Baker alongside the Hoo on Who podcast. Much of this content is theirs. You can hear the audio version on their website.**
Now, grab a cup of tea and read on! I recommend making it to the end, particularly if you are a geek girl. :)
Hoo on Who: "We want to start out by asking you about the 50th Anniversary. You were involved in two huge projects- first, The Light at the End, which I think all the Doctor Who fans just fell in love with immediately. I think it's fair to say that the Sixth Doctor was the one that figured everything out close to the end there."
Colin Baker: "You know, I was quite pleased by that. I listened to it last week, and it was the first time I'd actually heard it. I'd only seen my bits, and I hadn't realized that I was so instrumental in saving the universe yet again!"
Hoo: "Well, [The Sixth Doctor's] personality was so take-charge that I think that made sense, honestly. I really did enjoy that- and also The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot."
CB: "I'm quite pleased to have been involved in the two best projects over the 50th Anniversary celebrations. I think The Light at the End is brilliant. Easier to do, of course... You can do superb visual effects on audio. (Laughs) ...and it was a great story, I mean, Nick Briggs is a genius.
Peter [Davison] came up with [The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot] because we became steadily aware that we weren't going to be involved in the TV special... He contacted me and Sylvester [McCoy], Paul [McGann], and Tom [Baker], to be a part of it. Sylvester and I agreed immediately. So did Paul. Tom said "yes," then said "no," then said "yes," then said "no..."
We found out, obviously, when the 50th Anniversary program was aired, why he was being so elusive. But, it's still called The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot because we cheated and used a bit of Shada... Standard ploy. When Tom Baker is not being cooperative, dig out Shada again."
Hoo: "I was going down your CV- Actor, Writer, Producer... I had to put on there probably one of the finest good will ambassadors that Doctor Who has ever had. Considering your history with the program, you've always been so wonderful with conventions and dealing with the fans."
CB: "I must be mad, mustn't I?? Whatever's happened around my Doctor, to my Doctor, and to me, it's never been the fault of the fans. The fans have always been very supportive and very kind... except when there's a poll, and they vote other people their favorite eleven Doctors above me. So, that kind of hurts a bit, but, you know, that's life.
Geek Girl Chicago "Speaking of your tenure on the show, I read the strangest article online! It was called Six Ways the Sixth Doctor got Screwed. It was a fascinating piece all about you not being able to choose your costume, how short your run was... If you could change one thing about your time on Doctor Who, what would it be?
CB: "I'd still be doing it."
Hoo: "They should bring you back as The Master."
CB: "No, I want to be The Doctor. I'd be extremely good as The Master, but I want to come back as The Doctor...
The costume that I wanted is exactly what Christopher Eccleston got- a long black coat... you can lurk in the background and achieve things you can't achieve when you go around looking like an explosion in a rainbow factory! It's just absurd, but it was a reflection of the time. It was 1983, it was glam rock and all that was going on...
All the Doctors' costumes reflect the era in which they played the part. I think, "Why do we have a costume? Why can't he wear clothes? Why does he have to have a look that he wears all the time? Who else does that? Nobody I know."
GGC: "No human. An alien."
Hoo: "I guess for the toy line it helps..."
CB: "The toy line, yea, and budgetry. They've only got to pay for one costume."
GGC: "There's a new Sixth Doctor costume on Big Finish- a blue one- that's a lot more understated."
CB: "Yea, they gave me a blue one, and somebody's made me a version of my doll in the black that I wanted. It looks really cool.
Hoo: "Well, I think Big Finish has kind of brought you around and given you a life in audio."
CB: "It's certainly true. Big Finish has given me the opportunity to finish the job that I was so rudely interrupted doing on television. The people who listen to Big Finish- and that is a fraction of the people who are aware of Doctor Who- are very kind to me...
The public at large sees me as The Doctor who was there when it was rubbish and nobody watched it. It's not true. It was neither rubbish nor did no people watch it. It's a kind of myth that's floating about, which nothing I say or do seems to be able to dispel."
Hoo: "The viewing numbers at your time are actually equal to the viewing numbers now, for the most part."
CB: (chuckles) "Yes, I know! Funny old world, isn't it?"
Hoo: "I also want to point out that you were probably the first Doctor that embraced social media. You got onto Twitter before any of the other ones, didn't you?"
CB: "I'm not sure what order it was, but yea, I love Twitter! Twitter is a brilliant way of letting people know what you're doing, and you don't have to engage in lengthy conversations with anybody. Every now and then, I go through my "@s"... There's an awful lot of people who talk to me, and I can't speak to them all, but I just pick a few out at random and say "Happy Birthday" or whatever and people get very happy. It's nice to make people happy so easily- just in 140 characters.
Hoo: "In the same vein, your blog, [Thoughts of a Time Lord,] is wonderful."
CB: "It's too infrequent! Very infrequent, I'm sorry about that. I must do one now, actually, in the wake of the 50th. I shall do one in the next few days."
CB: "The Bucks Free Press, which is my local newspaper- it's not free. It's free in the sense of free press, meaning not constrained... I've been doing that for 18 years now, every week. Never missed a week. I'm hoping, in about 6 or 7 months time, I hit one thousand consecutive articles. A thousand weeks- I'm wondering whether that might be a record!
Hoo: "So, if anyone ever calls you out about your blog and says you're not frequent enough, point them to that!"
CB: "Good point."
Hoo: "What do you have coming up?"
CB: "Well, I land in England on Monday and I go straight to rehearsals for pantomime. We're doing Aladdin, in which I'm playing Abanazer, who is the villain. If you watch Disney, it's Jafar."
GGC: "Oo, villains are my favorite characters. If you could design the perfect villain for The Sixth Doctor, who or what would it be?"
CB: "It would be The Sixth Doctor- a clone of the Sixth Doctor who turned bad. I would love to do that. Of course, when there are identical people being villains, the villain is always better at portraying the good one than the good one is at portraying the villain. It would be an interesting task.
I did do a Big Finish audio where my evolved Doctor, if you like, meets up with my post-regeneration Doctor, and I had to play both Doctors. It was quite interesting. There was a huge difference between my 1984 Doctor and my 2013 Doctor. I got to do scenes with myself. It's called The Wrong Doctors. It's worth listening to."
Hoo: "Do you enjoy playing a villain?"
CB: "I enjoy playing any character, really. Villains tend to be more interesting."
Hoo: "...In their mind, they're not the villain. They're doing what they think is right."
CB: "That's the key to playing most villains. One of the most interesting villains I saw for a long time was in Heroes. Sylar, played by Zachary Quinto, I thought was wonderful. As that series unfolded, he was the villain- he was the best thing in it... He was a goodie, he was a baddie, and that's what humanity's like. There are some people who just want to be evil, and they are unremittingly evil, but most so-called villains think they're in the right... They're the hero in their own life's story."
Hoo: "Do you find that that causes the line to blur between character and actor?"
CB: "There are some people who can't separate reality from fantasy, but most people are pretty clued up about that. Back in the 70s, I did a TV series called The Brothers in Britain, which was the most popular series on television then. I played a character called Paul Merroney who was a bit like JR in Dallas, and I was actually voted by the readers of The Sun newspaper as the most hated man in Britain in 1974. One or two people tried to attack me in supermarkets- hitting me with umbrellas, you know? But the majority of people know you're an actor."
GGC: "Let's explore those fan reactions just a bit more. I have a few questions directly from fans! Dannimon asks, 'Did you ever get to keep any of the pieces from the show? A Dalek or Cyberman piece, etc.?'"
CB: "Yea, I got Davros's finger. When I blew his hand up, after the explosion, I put this broken polystyrene finger up my nose, and I said my next line with a finger up my nose. As I was removing it, the Director politely asked me to not do it like that... I've still got the finger. Nobody else wants it, now that it's been up my nose. I've got some small props, yea- guns and pieces. And my costume."
GGC: "I think I know the answer to this one, but Mary Jo would like to ask, were you really under the shrouds in the 50th anniversary special?"
CB: "We were."
CB: "Well, we were!"
GGC: "OK, OK. I want to believe it so badly-"
CB: "Then you should believe it."
GGC: "Finally, I always close my interviews with the same request. Geek Girl Chicago reaches many young women-"
CB: "My favorite group of society."
GGC: "I would LOVE to hear if you have any special message specially for female fans."
CB: "My message for female fans is, part of me doesn't actually believe that there are male and female fans. It's just fans. Part of me doesn't believe there's male and female. There's just people. That's what I've brought my four daughters up to believe- that you are people first.
Yes, nature has given you different qualities and physiques, but otherwise, you are just as entitled, just as valuable, and you should be valued as such. I get very cross about unequal pay between men and women. That's me as a man. I would be appalled to think that I was getting more than a woman who was doing the same job as me. Mind you, I work at a job where everybody's getting more than me!
...and I love women. All my friends are women. I got more female friends than I have male friends... and... and... part of me would love to be a woman. And there should be a woman Doctor. Why can't we have one? I ask that question at conventions, and a large number of women don't agree with me!"
CB: "No they don't, but if you regenerate twelve times- every time a man?? Doesn't make sense!"
GGC: "At some point, I think you'd get curious!"
CB: "It should be six of one, six of the other. I'd love to see that."
GGC: "I would, too."
CB: "Maybe it will be you, then."
Now, here's the part where I pass out after screaming with glee, because The Doctor just told me that I could be one of his regenerations. I'm waiting for your call, BBC!! ;)
This interview was so surprising. It started off rushed, even a bit grumpy, and finished sweet. I think that says a lot about the Sixth Doctor- or, what his character could have been if given a few more seasons to grow.
My deepest thanks to Chicago TARDIS and Mr. Colin Baker for the opportunity. Two more interviews are coming up: Peter Davison and Louise Jameson! This was my only collaboration with Hoo on Who, though, so please check out their podcast if you liked their style.
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