The Cambridge Geek

Baker's End - King of Cats

One for the fans of Doctor Who, this. Baker's End is the story of Tom Baker, his death, his funeral, and his rather strange home in the village of Happenstance.

Tom Baker here plays himself, in a series of flashbacks to his somewhat exuberant acting career, during his funeral which is being attended by Suzy Goshawk (Katy Manning - perhaps best known as Jo Grant, a previous Companion). It's hosted by a somewhat awkward vicar (David Benson) and Mrs Frimbly (Susan Jameson, who has something of a history as the Fourth Doctor's housekeeper as Mrs Wibbsey in Hornet's Nest and its sequels).

The cause of Tom's death is unknown, with Suzy being given many different tales by the villagers, ranging from falling off the post-office roof, to a simple running over. But all of them are linked to Tom's sudden and fervent belief that doppelgangers have replaced the people around him. Is his TV career leaking into real life, or have decades of pretending to be mad finally caught up with him?

It's about as silly as you might expect Tom Baker running around and shouting at people to be. The language could best be described as extravagantly fripperous, with Paul Magrs coming up with some very daft things for Tom to cry aloud. Thankfully, Manning is rather more restrained in her role of viewpoint character, and gets a few nice licks in regarding her time spent in Tom's shadow. There's also a couple of entertaining moments in which Tom is described as the Master of the house and my brain skipped a track.

When this is at its best, it has an impressive Summerisle feel to it, with the villagers becoming more demented and unfriendly to Suzy, and joining together in worship of a sinister "Clacky the Dragon". There's some subtle but powerful horror in the moments when the residents of the village are unable to resist its call.

Unfortunately though, it feels a bit like a success of style over substance. The journey is mostly fun, but the structure it's sat on seemed a little lacking. The final conflict and resolution is more surreal than the setup promised, and it takes away some of the dangerous edge it initially builds. Comedy is all well and good, but the tone shift in the last ten minutes was severe.

If you're a fan of Tom Baker's inimitable style, there is lots of it in this for you to enjoy. I also suspect there are no small number of references I am completely missing.

Score 3

Tagged: Audio fiction Comedy Cast Sitcom Science fiction Serial