Tom Baker: Doctor Of Theology - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Tom Baker: Doctor Of Theology

Chris Morley reads today's sermon.

While the majority of the viewing public knows Tom Baker as a very different kind of Doctor, prior to his replacing Jon Pertwee he might have taken up a calling with rather firmer roots on Earth! For as a young man from a devoutly Catholic background, at least on his mother's side, he very nearly took up a theological Doctorate of sorts!

As his official biography puts it,
“During the war, Tom’s mother chose to keep him at home rather than send him away with the evacuees as she couldn’t bear to be separated from him. As the war brought no harm to him or his family, Tom found it an exciting time, and became such a dedicated collector of shrapnel and salvage that he was presented with a certificate by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool.

He also became an altar boy revelling in the stupefying smell of incense, the incomprehensible mutter of Latin and the thrill and danger of Hell compared to which World War seemed fun. “
School proving to be a struggle, he pursued the religious life. Beginning at the age of just fifteen when he set off to become a novice of the Brothers of Christian Instruction. First in Jersey & then Shropshire before losing his faith entirely within six years.

He would recall his monastic life in part of his autobiography, Who On Earth is Tom Baker?
“Once when I was on laundry duty I had to go and fetch the clean rough sheets for the dormitory. At the far end of an immense corridor, perhaps two hundred yards long, I rang an old brass bell and waited at a highly polished door on which was a brass plate so worn I could not read the vital information on it.

I listened carefully. Sure enough there was the sound of fumbling. After what seemed about two days and nights the door was eased open and the top of a head appeared all covered in a black cotton veil. It was possibly the top of a tiny nun, I thought to myself.

A hand stretched out towards me and I placed the requisition note for seventy-eight sheets, thirty-nine pillowcases and thirty-nine towels. I’ll never forget those towels. They were as coarse as cheese graters; we didn’t need to shave. “
By 21 his faith was eroded & he now identifies as irreligious.
"People are quite happy believing the wrong things. I wasn't unhappy believing all that shit. Now I'm not unhappy thinking about it because I can laugh at it."
Something of his eccentrism also shone through, in hindsight, looking back at the release of his book!
“I tried to re-reread my autobiography recently, and I was really quite shocked! I could scarcely believe anything! It's amazing, what was true 40 years ago, and then you write about it, then 15 years later you read it... is that what I felt?

Because time does influence it, doesn't it? Now, I'm really rather benevolent. Even towards The Pope, and all those people I used to hate! Religion, you know, I used to always be saying sarcastic things. Now I just say mischievous things...”
His National Service coincided with the loss of the conviction that he was being watched by the Lord - before going on to portray the Fourth incarnation of a Time Lord in his own right. He would set out his thinking while speaking to the Radio Times-
“I saw [Doctor Who] as this kind of benevolent alien who was frequently heroic and often utterly silly.

And that suited my personality because I come from a very religious background, so that made me very partial to utter silliness and preposterousness."

Ahead of the big 50th anniversary he shared more of his views with Sydney's Morning Herald.
"My religious background – rampant, bigoted Catholicism in Liverpool – prepared me for Doctor Who because we were very strong Christians and you may have noticed there is something slightly shifty about them. I think it must be when you're a Christian you have no privacy. He's there all the time, watching you closely, and you have an angel on your shoulder watching you, so this makes life a bit tough in the bathroom, wondering why doesn't he leave me alone? ”
That background never really leaves you completely, especially after been taught during his boarding school years...
“...that I was always being watched by God. The more I learned [on Doctor Who], the more the audience grew, to include my good angel and my bad angel. I felt crowded, self-conscious. There was no privacy, so life became a performance. I was learning to act.”
"I have traded on it ever since, because no one would ever give me credit. And even years later when I played Macbeth, I played it like Doctor Who, and people said to me, I had no idea Macbeth was such a nice man, [but I did it that way] because it would have meant disappointing the audience."
He would go on to describe the jelly baby appreciating hero he gave life, and indeed distinctive voice to, in messianic terms...
“It is true there’s something messianic about him – he comes from somewhere extraordinary that we’ve heard of but we don’t know where it is; he comes down and does good deeds.”
Aided by his disciples; Sarah Jane, Harry, Leela and the many others who would step into the cathedral-like bigger on the inside blue box.

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