Reeltime Pictures (studio)
300min approx (length)
20 December 2021 (released)
25 December 2021
THE TOM BAKER YEARS Vol 1 is the latest entry from Reeltime Pictures following hot in the wake of ‘The Jon Pertree Years’ and is eagerly awaited by the legion of Dr. Who aficionados. This 2-disc DVD set features a seemingly endless plethora of interviews with people who worked on the above title and in most cases with a number of other Dr. Who episodes besides.
Tom Baker was, for many, THE Doctor as it was he who featured in some of the undeniably best episodes ever (although in these woke-dominated days the very idea of the now heavily p/c orientated BBC producing something like 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang' is beyond the realms of the unthinkable!). As mentioned previously, this release is only for connoisseurs of a once brilliant TV series (surely the current viewing figures attest to this statement). Anyway we shall forget about the uninitiated - their loss need not concern us. Obviously no Dr. Who completest will wish to be without this very reasonably priced compilation, as ever lovingly compiled by Nicholas Briggs and if you don't know who he is it is a wonder you've got this far. This is man many Dr. Who fans have a great deal to be thankful for. So let us have a look at the tasty morsels on offer here in which to get our teeth stuck into:
Disc 1 kicks off with a filmed interview (admittedly the picture quality is rather appalling) with producer Graham Williams, then a rather vital 35-year old who sadly had but five years left to live. Williams succeeded Philip Hinchcliffe from 1977/80 when the series was tamed down (much as a result of the ‘delightful’ Mary Whitehouse complaining about the 'violence') and we saw the introduction of the irksome little K9... mmm. It is Nick who informs us that this is the only surviving interview with Williams who had a number of run-ins with Tom Baker. Forget the poor quality, this is an interview you'll want to see anyway. Next up is David Fisher - perhaps not the best known of Dr. Who writers, Fisher was in his mid 80's when this interview was recorded. He was brought in by then editor Anthony Read and was responsible for five shows and with Douglas Adams finishing one of them (going out as written by David Agnew). Although not on par with the great Robert Holmes' work they are all worth a look and feature bravura performances from the likes of Peter Jeffrey ('The Androids of Tara'). All were produced by Williams. After this Fisher wrote no more Dr. Who scripts.
Next up, Andrew Smith provides somewhat of a contrast to Fisher which some may find refreshing. He was but a seventeen years old Scots lad when he got his lucky break with the BBC after sending scripts to then editor Christopher Bidmead and was invited to write an episode, much to his surprise. It went out as ‘Full Circle’ in 1979. Sadly for Andrew it was his only Dr. Who and he then became a policeman. Happily he was soon back in the creative world and is now heavily involved with Nick Briggs and Big Finish Productions.
Disc 2 kicks off with a rather lengthy interview with designer June Hudson. With her background, as she explains, it is not exactly surprising that she found herself employed in this vocation. June designed costumes for a multitude of TV dramas and early in her life had worked with no less a figure than Oliver Messel. This interview will be of considerable interest to any budding designers out there. She clearly loved designing costumes for the 4th Doctor and this was no easy task as she was asked to design a completely new look. June particularly liked working on 'Warrior's Gate’ what with her being a firm favourite of the Gothic style. Then we have what will probably be the favourite of many fans: two conventions, one from '84 and Opticon 9 from '88 both featuring the great Michael Wisher - the actor who was to be forever associated with Davros - the dreaded creator of the Daleks. The pitfall perhaps of playing such a powerful character is to be forever associated with it. He is joined on the latter convention by Roy Skelton (Dalek voice supremo) and Peter Miles, perhaps best known for playing Nyder, Davros' Lieutenant. Miles, like Wisher, had been in previous episodes. All three are inextricably linked to this series and all are very entertaining. Michael actually arrived at the earlier convention wearing his Davros headpiece which wasn't that easy to remove. He also informs us of exactly what it was like having to spend many hours sitting in the bottom half of a Dalek! It was so uncomfortable the poor man had to wear a kilt… to say nothing of the bladder situation! This is the 'Genesis of the Daleks' team and few would disagree that this was possibly the greatest Dr. Who episode of all time!
Last we have 'Flight through Eternity: The Three Doctors Vol 4’ recorded at Gloucester Guildhall in 2008 featuring interviews with four actors, namely Arthur Cox, David Weston, David Garfield (who gave a memorable performance as Neeva in 'The Face of Evil') and Terence Denville. Although not exactly that well known all have interesting stories to relate regarding their work on the series and it compliments the earlier Jon Pertwee set. I suppose it should be mentioned that though this IS ‘The Tom Baker Years '74-81' the man himself isn't actually seen ... well, barely, and some of the links are somewhat tenuous.
Most thinking of acquiring this set (and you simply cannot be without it) will or should be aware of these relatively minor facts. Once again we have to thank today's chief Dalek Nicholas Briggs (among God knows how many other things... he's even a Sherlock Holmes) for putting the bag of goodies together, along with Keith Barnfather of Reeltime Productions.