on 18 August 2013
This is an odd book by a self-confessed odd character, never at ease with the world or himself and turning to acting as an escape from both. I found the book quite patchy in that there seemed to be holes in the story that Baker doesn't want filled in. What exactly happened to his first marriage that cost him a relationship with his kids? Was he an alcoholic? A lot of what he misses out means you are left to draw your own conclusions but Baker doesn't seem to mind if you do.
I chuckled over a lot of the book in wondering what anyone who's a big fan of Dr Who would make of the whole thing. While Baker does devote a couple of chapters to the happy years he spent as the time lord, it's a relatively small part of the book. He spent more, I think, on his years as a monastery failing to impress his God or his latter years in Soho falling (sic) to impress Jeffery Barnard.
Definitely off-beat, it's an interesting tale which you suspect might be being told by an idiot, but always a likeable one. Baker's lament that he has never, ever had a best friend leaves you wondering why, but the answer isn't here in these pages and you leave the book thinking that if there was an answer to anything in Baker's life then it was to a daft question in the first place.
on 14 December 2014
If you're a fan of Doctor Who, specifically the Fourth Doctor, you'll want to read this book. Baker had an amazingly varied, if not always happy, life which prepared him to be the extremely talented actor and narrator he is. The book is quite risque at times but he doesn't gloss over anything. I loved his description of the day he was asked to be the next Doctor. His exhilaration at being catapulted from labourer to Time Lord jumps off the pages. The book confirms my suspicion that there was very little acting involved in playing Doctor Who -- he simply WAS the Doctor.
on 27 July 2015
Rather disappointed. Oh, Tom relates the miseries (and the laughs) of a poverty stricken childhood well enough, but he also, and with much determination, seems to have sought to use every known term for the male genitalia known in the UK. He dwelt too much upon sex and thus succeeded in transforming what should have been little more than a minor ingredient of his story into a virtually all consuming obsession which left this reader unimpressed. Likewise he relates his theatre experiences with the adulation of a star struck hanger-on which makes him appear rather fawning and shallow.
While it is obvious he sought to be honest in his writing, and does write in a rather pleasing style, there is just too much emphasis on sex.
on 3 June 2007
I've been a huge fan of Tom Baker since my childhood exposure to his wonderfully charismatic performance as Doctor Who in the 70s. I bought this autobiography to enjoy his personality once again and find out more about his perspective and experiences, especially during his time with the show that made him a household name. Having finished reading the book last week, I was left with mixed feelings, though this partly reflects the great affection I feel for the guy.
His legendary irreverence shines through enjoyably during the telling of his story and there are several memorable anecdotes, especially during his early years. In fact, his childhood, education and early career are explored in satisfying depth whereas his glory days as the Doctor feel disappointingly glossed over, despite seven years of potential material to mine. His stint on the show is characterised as one long adrenaline rush - he obviously relished the fame, the admiration of children and parents, and the attention of groupies - but I wanted more anecdotes about the show itself as well as his relationships with cast and crew. These elements are treated rather perfunctorily.
Finally, the period from the end of his Who to the present day makes for a very dull read, mostly consisting as it does of vaguely recalled episodes of heavy drinking in London pubs. I think even Tom himself had become bored by this part of the book. In fact, the sense I have is of a
book that was begun with an enthusiasm and energy that gradually evaporated as he worked his way through his life.
Unexpectedly, there is a regularly recurring sadness and resignation at his own failings, especially in his relationships. I admired his honesty here and I related to his sense of feeling terribly vulnerable to the whims of others but I would dearly liked to have been allowed more detail. For instance, the story of his first marriage is never quite concluded, while his marriage to the gorgeous and witty Lalla Ward is covered in just a few sentences. Perhaps such aspects or events were simply too uncomfortable for Tom to revisit.
I don't agree with the book jacket's claim that it stands comparison with Spike Milligan's autobiography, which is a far more developed and sustained piece of writing. However, it's certainly worth a read if you're already a Baker fan and want to fill some of the gaps in your understanding of his career, or be reacquainted with his wonderfully skewed perspective.
on 23 July 2013
Bought this as a present for my sister a couple of years ago now and she still mentions lines or stories from it every so often. Tom is such a interesting mix of working class, catholic childhood and an intelligent, witty, actor, at home in the company of artists, actors and the bloke down the pub. He has also had a few extreme experiences in his full and interesting life and he recounts them in a matter of fact and very humorous way that will have most people in stitches.
Update May 2014
The 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who was celebrated in 2013 and it was lovely to see that Tom was given a small role as a tribute his dedication to the show over many years. He still works regularly on an audio drama series with his former TV co-stars. If you haven't read this book, then I recommend you look out for a copy. I finally, got my own copy this week, as there seem to be a few available second-hand at the moment, many in very good condition.
on 9 March 2016
A very amusing read. As someone who grew up watching Tom on Dr. Who, it was interesting to find out more about his life.
As alluded to in other reviews, some areas are glossed over or brief, but overall it's still a great book. Recommended.
on 26 January 2006
If this book was written by anyone else, it would be regarded as one of the great media autobiographies. Because, however, the author was Tom Baker, it appeals mainly to Doctor Who fans, and on that score could be very disappointing.
If you want to know about Tom's time as the Doctor, there is very little for you here.
If, on the other hand, you want to read a book which is hilarious and tragic, terrifying and thought-provoking and paints a picture not only of the actor's London of the 60s & 70s, but also the vanished Liverpool of the post-war years, then find a copy of this and start reading. You are unlikely to stop until he has. Hopefully, with the recent interest in Doctor Who, and Tom's own higher profile thanks to Little Britain and Monarch of the Glen, this will soon be back in print. In the meantime, hunt it down!
on 23 January 2015
Along with many of my generation, Tom Baker was "my" Doctor Who. By this, I mean that he was the first Doctor I knew about and will always be the person I first think of as playing the role, despite Christopher Ecclestone's best efforts recently. Whilst those slightly older than I may recall William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee, they were before my time and I didn't enjoy anyone's roles as the Doctor as much after Tom Baker as I did his.
I may not be alone in this remembrance of Tom Baker's Doctor Who, either. After all, he played the Doctor for a lot longer than anyone else did, thereby giving him access to a wider audience than those before or since. Plus, he was playing the role at a time when the series was really rather popular and so had a potentially larger audience than many.
What I'd never really stopped to wonder was what Tom Baker had done before he was Doctor Who and what he might have done since. There must be a fair amount of this "other" life, as Baker is now seventy years old and he was only Doctor Who for seven of those years. So what has been going on with the other ninety per cent of Baker's time on earth?
Baker's early life was never really set up for him to be an actor. Indeed, his first ambition was to be an orphan as, growing up in Liverpool during the Second World War, he would get more presents that way. The harshness of life during the war and the strictness of his Catholic upbringing seem to be the main points from Baker's early life that he remembers most vividly.
This resulted in his first going to a monastery to be trained as a priest and then spending a period in the Army. It was during this time that he discovered his talent for entertaining people, although he was to spend some time in a rather unhappy marriage being bullied by his mother-in-law, which resulted in two children and a suicide attempt.
From here, the Tom Baker that we know as an actor began. He followed a long and particularly undistinguished career that proved to be nothing of a success, apart from the odd triumph, until he landed the role of Doctor Who. This was the be a brief shining period in the darkness of Baker's life and life after "Doctor Who" would prove to be no more of a success story than life before.
Unusually for an autobiography, this is not a story of success after success and a chance for the author to boast about how well things have gone and how good they are. If anything, Baker seems to revel in his lack of success, being completely open about his shortcomings and not giving much room to the show that made him a star, of sorts.
The style the book is written in is pretty interesting as well. Like the man himself, the writing is somehow quite stiff and almost seems impersonal at times, as if Baker isn't entirely happy with talking about himself. It's not a book that easily lends itself to being read for pleasure as it does seem quite stilted. Whilst the life it describes is fascinating, leading as it does from the austerity of the monastery to the hedonism of being an actor with a major television role, it isn't a pleasurable journey to be on.
The other major concern I would have with this book is that it seems to be aimed towards fans of his work as Doctor Who. The title of the book itself, the type face used for the title and the cover picture, showing Baker wearing his famous scarf all trade on that role. Whilst that may have been the major and most successful part of his life, it isn't a part that gets undue attention paid to it in this book. Indeed, the seven years of his life as Doctor Who seem to be less prominent that his six year period in the monastery, for example. The whole marketing of the book based on that part of his career does strike me as being slightly misleading.
However, the general approach of the book does offset that. It's sometimes difficult reading, but this isn't that surprising when you come to realise that it's a recollection of a sometimes difficult life. It's tremendously worthwhile if for no other reason than that it is not a chance for Tom Baker to boast or gloat or settle scores. He hasn't always been the great and the good in any of his attempted careers and he doesn't make himself out to be. There is a little of the somewhat traditional name dropping involved, but without the feeling that there is jealousy of the success of others or delight in their failures. For the first time in any autobiography I can remember reading, the failures the author seems to delight in most are his own.
If you're a fan of "Doctor Who", you may be a little disappointed by how little of that there is in here. If you're a fan of autobiographies, however, you may find yourself delighted by the subtle difference between this and many others. Whilst it is a difficult read, it is one worth persevering with, for the unique style and insight it provides. You may not find yourself with a decent answer to the question posed by the book's title, but you'll know plenty about Tom Baker by the time you're done.
This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
on 28 March 2016
Laugh out loud funny, eccentric, bizarre and at times disturbing, it would be great to have an update on intervening years. The honesty comes from the heart and I found it warming, sad and regreshing at various different times and would recommend it to anyone with an open mind, human interest and a patient reader.
on 27 January 2015
Very frank biographical account of Tom Bakers early life. No holes barred. The cruelty of the Catholic regime at that time is extraordinary. The fact that Tom came through such experiences as a whole and functioning adult is amazing.