Unsettling. Impassive. Slightly… well, haunted. The face of Tom Baker in that iconic 1970s Doctor Who opening title sequence left an indelible impression on so many of our childhoods. The more sensitive of TV viewers even found it scary, but Tom’s penetrating stare nevertheless provided the gateway to a giddy cavalcade of teatime thrills: the Doctor’s daring battles with Daleks, Zygons and Cybermen proving the perfect Saturday accompaniment to fishfingers, marrowfat peas and Mr Kipling’s Cherry Bakewells. Preferably not all on the same plate.
Watching from the safety of his Chelmsford home was four-year-old Christopher Naylor, whose love of the show inspired him to create a beautiful piece of DIY artwork – his own Doctor Who Top Trumps! And incredibly, 45 years later, Chris has actually become part of Tom Baker’s TARDIS team. In March 2021, prolific audiobook producers Big Finish will release Return of the Cybermen, an audio adaptation of the original Gerry Davis script that was extensively rewritten to become the 1975 TV story Revenge of the Cybermen. It stars Tom Baker as the Doctor, Sadie Miller as Sarah Jane Smith… and Christopher Naylor, recreating the late Ian Marter’s role as bold and burly companion Harry Sullivan.
Over to you, Christopher…
“It’s hard to put my finger on my first memory of Doctor Who, although I have a vague image of staring out at the street light through the rippled glass of our front door one night, and imagining myself being taken into Sutekh’s sarcophagus time-tunnel from The Pyramids of Mars.
But I do know that every Saturday, from Grandstand all the way through to Parkinson and beyond, the television was on all day – and always on BBC1, so my awareness of Doctor Who must have faded in gradually. By 1976 – the year from which these frantic scribbles date – I was four, and the show had seized my imagination completely, terrifying and thrilling me in equal measure. I really did hide behind the sofa every Saturday night as the opening titles burst onto the screen. Tom Baker’s Doctor was a hugely important part of my childhood – I adored him, and the show soon took a central place in my life. I had a long (albeit brown) scarf, and a wardrobe to stand in for the TARDIS; during lunch breaks at school I would play at being the Doctor or Harry Sullivan with my best friend Steven Packer, and the following year I failed to win the Silver Jubilee Fancy Dress competition in my home-made Dalek costume.
Even at that age I was always drawing – I still am – so it was inevitable that I’d turn my pencil to the Doctor. I can’t remember the origins of this particular masterwork, but I seem to have been attempting to create some sort of Doctor Who Top Trumps. Tom is the most easily recognisable, and clearly the one I have spent the most time on – his hat and scarf are definitely in evidence. There’s a suggestion of a frilly shirt on the top left, so that must be Jon Pertwee; the dark bob haircut at top right indicates Patrick Troughton, which leaves William Hartnell at bottom right. Well, at least he gets a TARDIS. The whole thing seems to have been scrawled on the back of a Cornflakes packet and hacked into pieces with a pair of safety scissors.
Back then, I longed for the Doctor to land his TARDIS in my back garden and take me with him on his adventures. But somewhere along the way, I worked out that the Doctor and his friends were actually actors, and an idea slowly grew that maybe I could join in by becoming an actor too…
Cut to forty-something years later – and two decades into my own acting career – and I found myself working for Big Finish, the wonderful company who make Doctor Who audio dramas with many of the original actors from the television series. Including the legendary Tom Baker himself. Just to be in the same room as my childhood hero was more than I could ever have expected, so I could hardly believe it when their producer, David Richardson, asked me if I would play Tom’s classic companion, Harry Sullivan.
Working with Tom has been a delight – he’s really everything I had hoped and expected him to be. I was very nervous before I first met him, but he was funny and generous, and of course, wildly eccentric. I remember him making everyone laugh by remarking, ‘Isn’t it terrible about Brangelina?’, as they’d just broken up!
I had to contain myself when I first heard his voice through the headphones – suddenly it was 1976 again. It’s been a real joy to work with him, and to hear him say ‘Hello Chris!’ when I arrive at the studio is still hard to comprehend. It’s almost as good to hear him call me Harry over the headphones…
I can’t believe my luck, really. I still have to pinch myself. But I think if you told the four-year old Christopher back in 1976 that one day he would be the Doctor’s companion and travel through space and time in the TARDIS, I have a feeling he would say, ‘Yes, quite right,’ and then turn back to his cornflakes packet and carry on scribbling.”
Return Of The Cybermen, starring Tom Baker, Sadie Miller and Christopher Naylor (above), is released in March 2021, and available to pre-order now from the Big Finish website:
Felt Trips is a collaborative effort. If anyone would like to contribute their own childhood drawings from the era, I would be utterly delighted – please drop me a line using the “Contact” link at the top of the page. A good quality scan would be perfect, but – if not – then a clear photo of your artwork, lying flat, is fine. And maybe a few words of explanation, too: when the drawings were done, how old you were, what inspired you to tackle those particular subjects? Thanks so much.