Tom Baker took a tumble as Dr Who arrived on Dartmoor

Hound Tor

Hound Tor. - Credit: Moors and More Tours

Tales from the storyteller with David Phillips:

Last week it was David Essex, this week our attention turns to Tom Baker filming on Dartmoor... now this I did know about, in fact I’ve been aware of it for sometime.

Not only am I passionate about Dartmoor and spooky stuff, but I’ve a lifelong love of all things Dr Who - favourite Jon Pertwee, closely followed by Tom Baker and David Tennant - as we were both born in 1963... the programme not the actors!

I watch it religiously. It took me a while to get used to a female Dr but I’m managing to get my head around it. Shame Jodie is leaving soon.

I've collect related merchandise when I can get my hands on it, although I do have to be selective these days as storage can be an issue! 

One of the things I have in my collection are lead figures that I love to paint in the authentic colours as seen on TV.

This can be difficult as early episodes were in black and white but a bit of online research often turns up studio photographs taken at the time of filming and these can prove invaluable.

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My love of painting figures stems back to my days at Bristol Grammar when table-top war gaming was all the rage and my armies of choice were from Middle Earth and Lord of the Rings.

I collected the lead figures avidly and as this was long before the films were made you had to use your imagination as to the colours, so I thought reading the books might help.

Hands up who didn’t know what a trilogy was? Yep me! One Christmas my grandparents asked what I would like and I thought this would be a good opportunity to start my LOTR research, so looking at the titles I thought The Two Towers sounded the most interesting so I chose that one... the middle book!

Starting to read it, I didn’t have a clue what was going on and it certainly wasn’t a guide to the fashions of Middle Earth so I put it to one side. I never did bother to read the others - choosing to use my imagination with my painting.

Interestingly, and most exasperating for the ladies in my life, my skills don’t run to DIY, just lead figures!

I guess the devil really is in the detail!

Over the years there have been several releases of Dr Who figures and I was more than happy to turn my attention to painting them.

The other week, during some housing rearrangements, I uncovered a stash of figures that I had started to paint but stopped before doing them all.

Imagine my schoolboy excitement at being able to resurrect that pastime - turns out I’ve still got an aptitude for it and an eye for detail!

One of said figures was Tom Baker’s Dr in a deerstalker’s hat and cloak in the style of Sherlock Holmes.

This he wore in a story called The Talons of Weng-Chiang set in Victorian London in and around a variety theatre.

Once again, in order to get the colours of the outfit authentic, I turned to Google, typing in “Tom Baker Sherlock Holmes outfit” .

Not only did this search give me what I was looking for - said figure is now nearly finished - but also images of Tom actually portraying Sherlock Holmes in an adaptation of Hound of the Baskervilles, some of which was filmed on Dartmoor.

Lydford Castle

Lydford Castle. - Credit: Moors and More Tours

The pictures in question show Holmes and Watson with Lydford Church and the mound of Lydford Castle behind them, and are the inspiration behind this particular article.   

Now I’ve mentioned previously the significance of Lydford Church to the overall history of Dartmoor, maybe next time I will tell you all about the gruesome goings on in the castle and the role the tin miners themselves played in this, but to finish up now I want to mention Tom’s more significant visit to the moors and his filming of a Dr Who story. 

The story in question was only two episodes long, entitled The Sontaren Experiment, and involved a lone potato-headed Sontaren carrying out experiments on residents of a futuristic earth, when the Dr, along with his assistants Sarah and Harry, turn up to save the day.

The whole story was filmed on location among the rocks of Hound Tor and was first broadcast back in 1975.

This particular experience of filming on Dartmoor is infamous in Wholore, for poor Tom took a tumble on the rocks and had to be whisked off to hospital where an x-ray revealed a broken collarbone!

Returning in a neck brace, he continued filming, using his long scarf to conceal said brace, and his stunt double portraying him in long shot. Brave Tom! 

This story isn’t bad, for a two-parter, and will always have a special place in my affections.

In my collection there is a box set of Tom, Sontaren and his spaceship against a backdrop of Hound Tor and every time I visit that area I expect to stumble across an alien and his craft among the rocks, with Tom rushing to my rescue - without falling over this time, hopefully.