Fans of the long-running time travel series "Doctor Who" (BBC 1963-1984, 2005- ) remember British actor Tom Baker for his lively portrayal of the title character during the 1970s. Donning a comically long wool scarf, Baker appeared as the fourth incarnation of the Doctor for seven seasons on the show, beginning in 1974 and ending in 1981. Although the Doctor went through several evolutions since the show debuted on the BBC in 1963, Baker's scarf-wearing, jelly baby-chewing version of the Doctor has long been considered the show's most popular, as well as the most recognizable. And with seven seasons under his belt, Tom Baker remained the longest-serving actor to have ever inhabited the iconic role. Of course Tom Baker had a long and varied career, appearing in dozens of films and television shows dating back to the early '60s, but his role as the Doctor remained the singular performance he was most identified with.
Born in Liverpool to working class parents in 1934, Baker never envisioned a life as an actor. In fact, at the age of 15, Baker left school to become a Catholic monk. Life as a man of the cloth was difficult, however, and Baker grew increasingly removed from his once-strong religious beliefs. Then, at the age of 21, Baker abruptly left the monkhood to pursue a more traditional path. In his early twenties he enrolled in the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving honorably from 1955 to 1957, before receiving a scholarship to attend the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama in Kent, England. It was there that Baker was able to fully immerse himself in the craft, while gaining even further experience performing in stage plays at play houses all across London. By the late 1960s Baker had joined the Royal National Theatre, which was then headed by Laurence Olivier, who proved instrumental in helping Baker turn his acting hobby into a lucrative profession.
Baker's big break came in 1971 when he landed the role of Rasputin in the historical drama "Nicholas and Alexandra." It was Olivier's recommendation that helped secure Baker the role of the shadowy Russian mystic, and his performance in the Academy Award-nominated film would earn him the necessary exposure his fledgling career needed. His acting career gained further traction two years later when he landed a supporting part in the family adventure film "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad" (1973). As if by chance, a producer of the popular science fiction series "Doctor Who" saw the film and thought Baker would be perfect for the role of the title character. Tom Baker made his debut as the Fourth Doctor in the fall of 1974, and quickly drew legions of fans for his eccentric portrayal. By the time Baker's run on the show had ended after seven seasons in 1981, he had the esteemed privilege of being the show's longest serving doctor. Baker has long since stated that his role as Doctor Who was by far the highlight of both his life and career, and although he never played as iconic a character on screen, Baker has remained one of the most popular doctors in the show's history. Baker continued to act on television shows and in films throughout the remainder of the 1980s and '90s, even gaining a second wave of attention later in his career for his role as the Narrator in the widely popular British sketch comedy series "Little Britain" (BBC, 2003-08). In 2008 Baker reprised his role as the show's narrator on the American spinoff "Little Britain USA" (HBO 2008). That show, however, was cancelled by HBO after a single season. As a special treat for fans, a nearly 80-year-old Baker made an uncredited cameo appearance near the end of "Day of the Doctor" (2013), a 50th anniversary "Doctor Who" special that teamed Matt Smith and David Tennant prior to Smith relinquishing the iconic role to Peter Capaldi. In a separate tribute, another character in the show wore Baker's familiar long woolen scarf.
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Breakout role as Rasputin in "Nicholas and Alexandra"
Supporting role in "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad"
Debuted as the Fourth Doctor on "Doctor Who"
Portrayed Sherlock Holmes on the mini-series, "The Hound of the Baskervilles"
Appeared as the Narrator on the popular sketch comedy show, "Little Britain"