Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tom Baker: Death & Me [Part III]

The concerned look over that final destination with the good Doctor.

The idea of death is a profound one and the mere consideration of it is often daunting for the mind to comprehend. Tom Baker, too, suggests it difficult to fully understand, because we never actually experience it, return and digest the experience to inform our comprehension.

For whatever reason, former fourth Doctor Who Tom Baker seems to acutely get my own sense of unease on the subject. He manages to articulate thoughts on the matter quite eloquently. We are very much of one mind on the subject of mortality. Now, perhaps many have these thoughts, but never actually verbalize them. Whatever, the subject is replete with great emotional depth and somehow every time Baker broaches the subject he manages to impart some wisdom of observation on the topic and captures my own relative thoughts on the matter quite succinctly. Click here for Part One and Part Two.

My tribute to Nicholas Courtney and a check of Doctor Who Magazine #436 revealed a Tom Baker interview. He waxed poetic on his old friend, and once again, addressed his personal obsession with death. It is clearly a concept of some fascination for the the man and I certainly understand especially given the passing of so many of his creative partners.

One particular excerpt struck me and I wanted to share it here as part of a direct connection to the two aforementioned earlier entries on the theme, thus the reason for the title.

Baker certainly isn't simply presenting his thoughts to be theatrical or raise a brow, of which he's certainly not a stranger. But Baker clearly has mortality on his mind and the end of this great run we call life, "electric word life...." I don't know what the future brings, but I know that I too consider such existential quandaries and I know that I understand him.

"It's quite difficult to think happily about the fact that life is only 4,000 weeks, isn't it? Or a thousand months."

"And for one third of that, you're asleep! The one thing that happens to us all is we die, but it's the one, single thing in our lives that we can't imagine."

"My first job was as a professional funeral-goer. But now, I find going to a funeral distressing, actually. The sense of loss is so acute, because I identify with it myself, 'actuarially speaking', as they say. 'Actuarially speaking, Tom, you'll be the next Doctor Who to die.' 'Thanks,' I said."

"Life is frequently coming to terms with a sense of loss, isn't it? Losing one's childhood. People dying. People betraying you. Breaking up from your partner. Becoming an orphan. It's always loss. The sense of loss that we all feel, all the time. But especially when we lose someone like Nick."

"Seeking consolation - the only consolation we have - is that we knew him, and we loved him. We were part of that. It was a fantastic privilege. We should be grateful for that, and hope that when it's our turn to be eulogized someone might say that of us." Amen brother Baker.


Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

Tom Baker’s preoccupation with death and his ability to speak so eloquently on the subject should not come as a complete surprise as he is a lapsed Roman Catholic. Tom joined a Roman Catholic monastery at 15, but after 5 years he lost interest and left the church to do his National Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

There is a wonderful interview with Tom Baker at the New Humanist magazine’s web site. The interview is done by Laurie Taylor and in it Tom talks at some length as to why he joined the monastery. Perhaps this is a bit of revisionist history, but Tom claims he became a Roman Catholic monk for more practical than religious reasons.

"I went because there wasn't much room for me at home. The house was a bit crowded. No, seriously. Well, I think I'd never really recovered from failing the 11 plus. It was a terrible blow to me. For boys in Liverpool the only way out was through an education. Ordinary boys went to work on the docks or became waiters at the Adelphi or joined the Merchant Navy. So, the only alternative for me was to do something heroic. Make a grand gesture, like joining the Foreign Legion or the SAS. Joining a religious order was like that. Not only were your parents willing to give you away, but it actually gave them some kudos in the parish.“

You can read more of the interview here:

Even though Tom is obviously not currently a devoutly religious man, he still must have spent much of his youth contemplating life, morality and death from a Roman Catholic perspective. I myself have never thought too much about mortality or death. I like to live as much as possible “in the moment” and face every day like it could be my last. When I was younger, I used to have and make grand plans for the near and distant future. They almost never went as planned and I eventually learned to enjoy and appreciate the way my life was and not the way it wasn’t. So, yes, I do miss departed family and friends. The older we get, the more frequently this occurs. However, I like to think our lost family and friends would not want us to be unhappy or depressed after their deaths, but would want us to be happy and continue to live our lives to their fullest.

I didn’t mean to turn this into a pulpit post, so I’ll end this by recommending to any Tom Baker Doctor Who fan (which I was and still am) to watch the new Doctor Who show on BBC America. The second half of the sixth season, starring the delightful Matt Smith as the Doctor, starts this Saturday night August 27 at 9pm!

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I read his biography which had a great deal of interesting information on his background. It was a nice read.

There's no question we need to enjoy every day like it could be the last, and loved ones would wish us well, but I do find the subject still of interest.

Enjoyed your perspective, additional info and links. Thanks for the additional angle on Baker.