Sunday, 20 September 2015

Tom Baker at 80

Some things are special.  Some things have that “something” that makes them stand out from the crowd. Sometimes the thing that is special is a person.  They have a unique quality, a warmth, a world view, a turn of phrase, a certain way of speaking that makes them a one off or a national treasure. Without a shadow of a doubt Tom Baker is one of these people.
His warm fruity tone is known worldwide and his delightful take on the world is a joy to behold. But how can Tom be 80? It only feels like yesterday I was watching him fight a Krynoid or larking about with a wig on in Stones of Blood, or being delighfully witty and oh so in love in City of Death, yet time catches up with everyone, and the great man himself turned 80 last January. In celebration of this milestone, Big Finish stalwart, all round nice guy and sometime Dalek Nick Briggs spent a couple of hours having a chat with Tom – the result is Tom Baker at 80.
Now, this could have been a cynical money spinner, Tom just trotting out the old anecdotes about building sites, Shirley Williams, bus queues and grave stones – but it isn’t, not at all, not one little bit. What we get is two hours of delightfully honest conversation, not really an interview, more like two friends discussing life the universe and everything.  There is a real warmth to Nick Briggs interviewing technique and Tom is on fabulous self-depricating form dealing with such diverse topics as life, death, religion, the acting profession, his work and being the grand old age of 80 – but not necessarily in that order!
Tom really has mellowed over the years, yet his beautifully rich booming voice is still the same.  When he dryly states that “…I am known for my saintlyness on Rye high street”, or that on his deathbed he would like “…a glass of wine and a pork pie”, you know you are in the hands of a true one off, not forced faux eccentricity, just the real measure of one of the gaints of British TV.
This release truly is a gem, a delightful, almost magical way to spend two hours.  I paused it about 8 minutes before the end and left it for two days before I listened as I truly didn’t want it to end, yet it had to.  To be honest, I felt quite melancholy when the end music played, not because it ended on a downbeat note, but because it had ended at all. I could have listend to Messers Baker and Briggs for hours more on end – in the words of Eleanor Bron in City of Death – “exquisite, simply exquisite”, in my words – marvellous! 80 out of 80 – here’s to 10 years time when Big Finish release a Tom Baker at 90.