WHO's the Doctor? Tom Baker

Tom Baker in the City of Death, 1979 Tom Baker, pictured here in 1979's The City of Death

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Unpredictable, witty, with an absurdly long scarf - Tom Baker's Doctor is the regeneration to beat, believes John Hamer, BBC Trust correspondence co-ordinator.

Before 2005, if you asked someone to describe Doctor Who the likelihood is that you'd end up with a description of Tom Baker's Doctor: curly hair, huge grin, wide eyes, and an absurdly long scarf.

Even today it's a template image of the Doctor, perpetuated in parodies and references in popular culture.

I wasn't even born when Tom Baker left the role in 1981, however, thanks to a niche but thriving black market in the 1990s of unreleased Doctor Who stories, I was brought up watching all the classic Doctor Who episodes in the years when there were none on telly (dark times indeed).

John Hamer John Hamer: Tom was always my favourite
Violent butler

I loved William Hartnell's grouchiness, Patrick Troughton's childlike curiosity, Jon Pertwee's 'Hi-YA', Peter Davison's celery, Sylvester McCoy's rolling 'r's. I even loved Colin Baker's costume. But no matter how much I have enjoyed these and all the subsequent regenerations, Tom Baker will always be my favourite.

There are a number of reasons why; not least that, to me, Tom's Doctor is the most alien of them all. This may well be because Tom Baker himself is from another planet, but we'll leave that aside for now. Little touches in the scripts and his performance accentuate this, like the Doctor's comment to Countess Scarlioni in the story City of Death: 'You're a beautiful woman, probably.'

There is also a real sense of unpredictability in Tom's stories. You have some of the funniest moments in Doctor Who (personal favourite, from City of Death again: 'What a wonderful butler, he's so violent'), together with some of the darkest and most horrific.

For example, in the story Seeds of Doom a character is infected by an alien spore and his slow transformation into an alien is genuinely horrific to watch.

The Doctor's sense of right and wrong is always present in these stories, yet his detachment from the individual suffering of the people involved stands out. His actions are moral, but they aren't human.

Sarah Jane heart-break

Tom Baker also has the best companions in the form of Sarah Jane Smith (Liz Sladen) and Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter). What humanity the Doctor has is brought out by Sarah Jane, in particular, and her departure from the series is heart-breaking, made all the more so by the fact he leaves her in Croydon.

Tom Baker and John Hamer meet at a convention John Hamer met his hero at a 1995 convention

Ultimately, Tom Baker himself adds to my love of his Doctor's era. As a kid, I frequently attended conventions with my Dad (I'm a real catch, I know) and in the early to mid-90s, Tom was very much a rarity at Doctor Who events.

However, in 1995, aged 13, I finally met him at an event at Longleat. He was as witty and as alien as the Doctor had been. It remains one of those special days in my childhood where I finally got to meet my hero [as you can see from the photo, he was delighted to meet me - please forgive my haircut].

I met him once more in Leicester Square a couple of years ago. He was waiting outside a theatre and I said hello to him and had a brief chat. As I was leaving I told him that he had always been a hero of mine growing up. He replied: 'Oh, I'm sure you'd be a hero of mine too, if I knew you.'

To me, that sounds like something the Doctor would say. And I suppose that's the point. Tom Baker is the Doctor.

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