TOM Baker, one time star of Doctor Who, has always stuck me as being a bit bonkers. Batty even.
Ever since first seeing him on screen - a school trip to watch the movie Nicholas and Alexandra at the Filmhouse, back in the days when you entered through a lane at the back - there was something hypnotic about him, and not just because he was playing Rasputin, the mad monk.
It was around the same time he stepped into the shoes of Jon Pertwee as the famous Time Lord, and the press lapped up his stories of working on a building site and being a monk.
Colourful was too dull a word for this man’s tales, tall or otherwise, as his outrageous biography Who On Earth is Tom Baker confirmed in 1997. Consequently, when Baker’s End, the latest audio drama from Bafflegab, dropped into my inbox the other day, I wasn’t too surprised to read that Tom Baker played, well, Tom Baker, in the madcap adventure.
The drama begins as his friends and colleagues - including Katy Manning, best known as Jo Grant, assistant to the third Doctor, and for her guest appearance in The Sarah Jane Adventures opposite Matt Smith’s cosmic hobo.
By coincidence, Katy also happens to be in town next Thursday as part of Le Monde Hotel’s My Life In... series, which I am delighted to have been asked to host - 3pm start if you’re interested.
But Back to Baker’s End. Never did I expect to hear Baker utter such an immortal line as ‘They’re firing lasers from their bosoms’, yet in this, he does exactly that.
In fact, there’s a clue as to just how surreal things are going to get in the press blurb.
‘Peevish actors are descending upon the remote English village of Happenstance for the funeral of TV legend Tom Baker.
His one-time co-star Suzy Goshawk (played by Manning) is sucked into a parochial vortex of intrigue involving the local vicar, Tom’s housekeeper Mrs Frimbly and various other scumblebums. None of whom can agree about how Tom met his end.
‘Suspecting something murksome and swervish, Suzy investigates and encounters creepy pensioners, a strange, dancing dragon, a sinister presence... and just who is the King of Cats?’
Beautifully bizarre and laugh-out-loud funny, writer Paul Magrs’ wonderfully baroque dialogue suggests the star himself may have had some input.
That Baker and Manning are joined by Boy Meets Girl’s Lizzie Roper, Fringe favourite David Benson, and New tricks’ star Susan Jamieson, just adds to the fun as roles are tackled with barely concealed glee.
A riotous, fantastical, absurdist romp then... 82-year-old Tom has never sounded more at home than in Baker’s End.
Baker’s End is released 2 September, details www.bafflegab.co.uk