Former Doctor Who Star Tom Baker Reflects On Why He Quit The Show

The Doctor Tom Baker Doctor Who The BBC

Former Doctor Who star Tom Baker really let loose in a recent interview about his experience with the franchise, airing out a few long-term grievances he's had over the years. On the heels of recent headlines that he felt insulted by most of the cast and crews' apathy on the set of the 50th-anniversary special, Baker reflected upon his own Time Lord-ian days and shared details behind why he quit the show back in 1980. According to Baker, it all came down to his tumultuous relationship with producer John Nathan-Turner.

I didn't like his approach to anything very much. His approach as a producer, to the scripts and to my performance...he managed somehow -- how terrible -- to diminish me. He made assumptions about how I should do things, or what lines meant, or how it should be shot, which diminished me, and I found that unbearable.

Tom Baker felt suffocated by the series' boss at the time, John Nathan-Turner, whom Baker felt was micromanaging his entire Doctor Who process, and not in pleasing ways. It sounds as though Baker lost most of his control over the Doctor, his lines, and his stories, which he didn't like, having already embodied the role for several years. In his surprisingly honest interview for the Doctor Who: The Collection Season 12 set (via Digital Spy), Baker said his relationship with Nathan-Turner, and the latter's new style of running the show, were the beginning of the end of his run as the Doctor.

Tom Baker didn't dislike John Nathan-Turner's style of running Doctor Who merely because Baker felt he had less creative freedom, however; there's also an indication the actor felt some major decisions the series boss made were just bad. As an example, Baker said Nathan-Turner changed the Doctor's wardrobe to feature a set of question marks on the Time Lord's collar. Baker called the idea "insufferably vulgar and cheap," and it made him soon realize it was time for him to move on from the franchise altogether. In his words:

It was silly of me not to have faced him and spoken to him. He nudged me towards the realization [Doctor Who] had run its course and I should go somewhere else. I think, in a way, when I said when I wanted to go, he was relieved, that he wouldn't have to have that fight. He could get his stamp on it. There was a lot of tension [before that]. But as soon as I resigned, everything was perfect - he adored me, because he'd won I suppose.

Tom Baker left Doctor Who in 1980 after just one season of working with John Nathan-Turner, who remained the head of the show until 1989, when it was taken off the air until Paul McGann's stint in 1996. Baker said leaving Doctor Who and the role of the Doctor was rough for him, saying he was happier when he was "being unreal" than real, which speaks to why Baker's Doctor has the longest tenure of them all, with seven seasons. Baker did follow up in saying that he's not a big fan of reality in general, so there's a bias but that he's happier now in the present than he's ever been. And no producers are going to come in and tell him otherwise.

Doctor Who returns to the BBC this fall for Season 11, which will showcase its first ever female doctor. For a list of promising television shows to watch until then, visit our summer premiere guide.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.