Q&A with ‘Doctor Who’ stars: The five Doctors
Over the weekend Neela Debnath attended the Collectormania convention in Milton Keynes where five of the actors who played the Doctor were present. Colin Baker, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Paul McGann and Sylvester McCoy answered questions from fans about their time on the show and returning for the 50th anniversary.
Would you be interested in coming back next year for the 50th anniversary?
Tom Baker: Well, if they ask me nicely or I could see what they wanted me to do I would consider it because I think the fans have been so good to me, they expect me at least to make an appearance so of course I would consider that. If it was something witty but I would want to know what the detail of the scene was or what I was supposed to do. I just don’t want to be paraded through as some shagged out old icon of the last century. It’s too much of a source of happiness. I was never really happy until I became Doctor Who. At the same time although, it’s the loveliest job I ever had, it essentially killed my career stone dead because I suddenly realised I liked being Doctor Who more than anything that had ever happened to me. So when I went to play Macbeth the audience wanted me to play Macbeth in the style of Doctor Who and naturally I did. Afterwards a critic said ‘I had no idea how nice Macbeth was’. So I realised then that the people coming to see me – people like you – didn’t want to see me playing Jack the Ripper or whatever it was. So when I went to Ireland to play Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty in the same play, they were absolutely baffled because they were absolutely interchangeable, my reason being the same person, really. So that was another failure, a glorious failure.
COLIN BAKER, PETER DAVISON, PAUL MCGANN AND SYLVESTER MCCOY ENTER THE ROOM
Do you actually like jelly babies?
TB: I hate jelly babies but at the time it was such a joke. And a joke that worked, you work it to death and finally you grow to hate it.
There were liquorice allsorts in some of the episodes.
TB: Well, sometimes I used to get very mixed up in the script and I didn’t know a jelly baby from a liquorice allsort.
TB: [ADDRESSING THE OTHER ACTORS] They’re a bit shy.
Colin Baker: We were waiting outside we didn’t know it had started.
Paul McGann: They’re all looking at us through lenses. People just don’t use their eyes anymore.
Is this the first time you’ve all been together on stage?
Sylvester McCoy: Yes
Peter Davison: Yes
Have you actually met each other before?
A RESOUNDING YES ALL AROUND
TB: We had a photographing session together, that was epic.
SM: That was splendid
PD: We had a robot taking photographs of us
TB: What did he keep saying? Kiss me, sir, next.
SM: Something about noise
TB: Sometimes I meet lovely fans who are feeling quite affectionate and I respond to affection like the next dog. I pull my arm back and starting reading a palm because I like reading palms, and they say to me ‘get a move on, Tom’. So the fans don’t get a chance to know us.
TB: They don’t get a chance. It’s terribly sad. I think they should do it for twice the money and a quarter of the numbers.
CB: Or ten times the money and a tenth of the numbers.
TB: Ten times the money and we could do it on Skype.
We’ve heard that Tom would be interested in coming back for the 50th anniversary, would the rest of you?
SM: Oh, all the fans will hate you.
CB: I think hate is a powerful emotion. Get some hate going and when you’re somebody nice, a little bit nice, they like you again.
TB: I think it would depend. I said I’m not automatically in, if the BBC ring me up, naturally of course I get very suspicious. Even if you say ‘BBC’, I think ‘allo, ‘allo dodgy. But if they ring me up and ask me if I want to take part, I would want to know what they would want me to do.
What did you think of the Doctor’s outfits?
TB: What do you mean? I just wore my ordinary clothes – that’s how I got the part. I just turned up – he’s got his own costume.
CB: I got the part because of the hat. I went to the BBC, it was a sunny day, one of the very few. I went along to see the producer and he said ‘ooo…I’d like that hat in Doctor Who’. Well, I said ‘I go with the hat’ and got the job.
PM: Did anyone else get a say in your costume?
CB: Well, I was asked what kind of costume I wanted and the description I gave was almost exactly what Christopher Eccleston ended up wearing. It struck me that someone who wants to pass unnoticed and achieve the odd thing here and there wouldn’t go around drawing attention to himself, so the darker the better. And they said that’s a very good idea, however… they produced my costume. The only joy about that is that I was on the inside looking out and the rest of you had to put up with it. It was the Eighties, glam rock.
PD: Well, your outfit, it’s sort of bizarre, like my costume on acid, really isn’t it? I like the idea that the Doctor just goes into this room and picks out certain items of clothing, so I didn’t really like my outfit very much from that point of view because it was designed. I didn’t look like someone who had just gone in and picked up this, picked up that. Colin experienced my costume on drugs. [TO SYLVESTER] Yours looked quite shambolic, didn’t it? In a nice kind of jumbled up way.
SM: Yes, except for the pullover
PD: Yes, those question marks, it was too self-referential. I didn’t understand the question marks.
PM: But was it negotiable?
PD: It was negotiable in that you were involved in the discussions about the costume
CB: But why does the Doctor have to wear a costume? Why can’t he wear clothes? Why is it a costume because they are all costumes, aren’t they?
PD: I think it was in our case John Nathan Turner and let’s make a big impact and publicity.
What do you think is the enduring appeal of Doctor Who?
CB: If we could answer that, we would go away and make it ourselves or a variety of it. The fact that it has endured is part of its enduring appeal. Timing, isn’t it? And cowboy films fell out of favour, we all loved cowboy films, who is that masked stranger? The man who comes into town, sorts out the problems, goes. We couldn’t do that in England. So you’ve got to come up with something else. He’s the Lone Ranger.
TB: We are pre-disposed for fantasy, there is a natural impulse for human beings to want to get off their heads or out of their heads in something in a substance or a drink or an idea or a religion which will comfort them and make life exciting. Therefore, what you see on the television is nothing compared to the other things people believe in. I think people can believe in anything.
Peter, what’s it like to have the Doctor as your son-in-law?
PD: I’m waiting for him to call me dad. He hasn’t called me dad yet.
Do you debate which is better, the old series or the new series?
PD: No, we never do. You see David [Tennant] was this huge fan of the old, classic series because that’s what he grew up on, as did Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat. They know an infinite amount, massive amount of details that we couldn’t answer about the classic series. So, we don’t ever sit down and discuss it, we hardly talk about it actually. I do debate with my grandson because I said ‘who’s your favourite Doctor?’ and he said ‘David Tennant’ and I said ‘who’s your second favourite Doctor?’ and he said ‘Tom Baker’. So I said: ‘who’s your third favourite Doctor?’ and he thought about it and said ‘I haven’t got a third favourite’. I’ve managed to force and intimidate him into going slightly up the table there. Depending how nice I am to him, I get above Tom for a few weeks and then fall down again.
When you regenerated, were on the set with your predecessor/successor?
PD: Yes, when I turned up just before the lunch, the evening break and they were all behind schedule as usual, and I went up to the bar and Tom gave me some sage advice. I’ve told the story many times but never in front of Tom. We were in the BBC bar and I was nodding because I couldn’t hear what you said. You gave me some sage advice about playing Doctor Who but the noise in the bar was so great that I couldn’t actually hear what you said but I smiled because I was too scared to go: ‘sorry, could you repeat that?’
CB: I was present when Peter regenerated into me and we went up to the bar afterwards and there was a party and I said to you – it was a polite question to ask: ‘have you got any advice?’ And he thought for a minute and went ‘no’.
PD: I’d just been traumatised by regeneration, my great acting starring Nicola Bryant’s cleavage!
SM: Well, no one turned up for my regeneration. I didn’t even get bought a drink and I didn’t get any advice. I had to do it myself.
PD: And look what happened to you.
SM: I ended up killing off the programme for a while. Yes, I managed to close it and then Paul gainfully came along later and tried to revive it.
For more information about Collectormania visit: www.collectormania.com
Image credit: Neela Debnath/The IndependentTagged in: David Tennant, doctor who, Paul McGann, Tom Baker
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