Tom Baker has been alive for 29 thousand days, something he regularly thanks his doctor for. He is the longest running Doctor Who, having played the role for over 40 years. “Playing the Doctor has entirely filled my life. When I got Doctor Who everything came together. As soon as I saw those silly scripts it was right up my street, and I stopped acting when I became him.”
After a prolific acting career which has included working with the National Theatre and narrating Little Britain, Tom has settled in Rye and has reached his 30th adventure in a Doctor Who audio series.
“When I was offered to take part in the audio series for Big Finish, I was told the studio was in London but I don’t like travelling anymore, so I turned it down. The next day I got a call to say that they had found a studio near Wadhurst. The studios are wonderful and since we started recording Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes is being recorded there too.”
Having turned 80 this year, Tom spends less of his time travelling and more of his time pottering around his home, surrounded by woodland full of badgers and deer. “My idea of dying and going to hell is being at an airport. Years ago travelling was glamorous, now you visit an airport and it’s full of sour faced people peering at us.”
Tom settled in Rye a few years ago with his wife Sue Jerrard, who he met in 1977 when she was an Assistant Film Editor on Horror of Fang Rock, in his fourth season of Doctor Who. After a stint of living in France and an attempt to retire, Tom returned to the UK in 2004 to play the part of Donald MacDonald, in Monarch of the Glen, recorded in the Highlands of Scotland. The commuting back to the UK made it difficult for Tom and Sue to settle in France, so in 2006 they sold the house and moved to the middle of Tunbridge Wells, before finally settling in East Sussex with their Burmese cats and a lurcher dog.
“When we decided that we were disappointed with Tunbridge Wells, we started scouring the surrounding areas for our penultimate resting place. Sadly it was a no go.
“Then one day I heard a woman in Marks and Spencer talking intensely to another woman, who was paying great attention: ‘…And after all these years George and I have decided that Sussex, especially East Sussex is just heaven, or paradise as George says. He has varicose veins you know…’ Just then, there was a staff announcement which drowned out the rest of that snippet of wisdom. But this tiny incident led us towards East Sussex.
“Well George was right, paradise is the word. We came across an old fruit farm. It was quiet and very romantic and it whispered to us both. My wife looked at me and I looked at her, and she read my thoughts and within 40 minutes she made an offer. So for the past seven years, we have been in heaven and all thanks to my ear wigging in M&S; thank you George.”
Find out more about Tom’s life and times at his website tom-baker.co.uk