A quick beggar story: a young man in Manchester, and I normally don’t believe that most beggars are beggars – they probably work for Channel 4 of else they’re high-powered directors thinking that this is a real thing to do – so naturally I like to hedge my bets and give them a pound. If they look revolting, then I’m absolutely certain they work for Channel 4 and I give them two pounds.
Anyway, I was passing, and they all say the same thing – I could be a beggar’s script-writer, I could write them good scripts, but the buggers won’t listen, they all copy each other – ‘Have you got any change?’ I hate that. When I was young beggars were different. They used to tell you marvellous lies like:
‘You’re a great, handsome fella!’
‘You’re a great, handsome fella.’
‘I’m sorry, I can’t hear.’
‘I was just saying what a great, handsome fella you are.’ And then I’d give him two shillings. You bought the performance. You bought the lie, and then we are equals, and that’s charming. It’s not going to go far, maybe… Anyway, a voice said to me, ‘Have you got any small change?’ in that pathetic way, so I said, ‘Yup.’ I got my money out and he looked up and said, ‘Christ! Dr Who.’
I said, ‘Yes. Have two pounds.’
‘Ah, man,’ he said, ‘You’re my hero. You were my hero.’
‘Look, have three pounds.’ Then there was a sudden change, and I looked at him in the terrible light of Deansgate in Manchester and I saw rushing through his face, as we was jolted back to sitting on the sofa with the smell of fish fingers and chips when he was secure and washed. And then you jump on twenty years and he’s begging in Deansgate, and who comes along to offer him three pounds, but The Doctor.
Three pounds is not much after the things I did at the BBC – saving the whole bloody universe every week. But he said, ‘No. I don’t want the money.’ Incredible. Then came the request. ‘Can’t you get us out of here?’ I could imagine… I should have said to him, ‘Eight o’clock, outside the bookshop. Be there.’ And at eight o’clock the place would be full of the magazine sellers and the beggars and they’d all pile into the Tardis, and I’d be saying, ‘Come on! Quick! Quick!’ They’d all pile in, thousands of them, and then I’d close the door and you’d hear a panting – ‘cos there’s always got to be someone late in order to tell the press afterwards. And then woo-woo and away we’d go to somewhere happy. There’d just be me and these people, and K9 and it would be great.
Then the next day, in the Manchester Evening News it would say, ‘Where Have All Our Beggars Gone?’ The special branch would be out misunderstanding everything. Walking round with pictures of beggars. ‘Have you seen this beggar?’ It would be fantastic, wouldn’t it?
Anyway. I persuaded him to have the three pounds.
Baker also mentions that of all his roles, "The hardest one was Dr Who, because I didn't know how to be an alien. If you play a hero then you know he's got to win. So I worried if I was alien enough, then someone told me, 'Listen, Tom. You are an alien. You don't have to bare your teeth. You give people the impression that you come from somewhere else. Like you're on day release.'"