It’s Tom Baker.
With the upcoming release of Stranded, the next series of audios for the 8th Doctor, many were surprised to see Tom Baker appearing among the cast. The Curator has been slowly but gradually turning from a glorified cameo into a new facet of the Doctor Who mythos. Many are fine simply thinking of him as a future version of the Doctor, but I would argue that there’s more to it than that. I’ve been developing my own theory for years that addresses one of the biggest discrepancies in the franchise, so obviously now is the perfect time to share it, before I’m disproven by more than one panel in a Titan comic. So, with all that said, who is The Curator?
It’s Tom Baker. Not as in that Tom Baker is playing the Curator, I mean that The Curator is literally an appearance of Tom Baker, in the Doctor Who Universe. “But wait,” I hear you typing in the comments, “That can’t make sense if Tom Baker played the Doctor!” Well, let me direct you to the 7th Doctor story Remembrance of the Daleks. For those of you that aren’t familiar, the serial features the 7th Doctor and Ace going back to Coal Hill School in 1963. At one point, Ace is watching TV on November 23rd, 1963, at around 5:15. She listens to the announcer talking about, “The new science fiction program, Doctor—” before the TV is cut off. This means that Doctor Who is a TV show in its own universe. This is nothing new, as the series has similar problems with Star Trek, Star Wars, and the canon established by H. P. Lovecraft. With the knowledge that the show exists, it would make sense that Tom Baker would want to talk to The Doctor at some point.
If that wasn’t enough proof for you, I would recommend you look at the page of the TARDIS wiki of Doctor Who Actors that exist in the DWU. For example, in Last Christmas, there was a mention of the Alien series of films. This is noteworthy because the 3rd Alien movie had Paul McGann in a supporting role, and the 1st movie had John Hurt in it. On the topic of Christmas specials, 12 incredulously suggests that Stephen Fry is one of River Song’s past husbands. Fry played the Minister in the webcast Death Comes to Time, and more recently the head of MI6 in the first episode of Season 12. I could go on all day; the point is that it’s not a mysterious contrivance I’m making that Tom Baker and the 4th Doctor can and have coexisted in the same universe.
With that comes the next question; why is he acting so weirdly? Part of that could be explained with Tom Baker being the closest thing England has to a trickster god, but some more context could be given, thanks to the company Bafflegab. It’s not quite Big Finish, but they’ve still made a handful of audio dramas that Doctor Who fans would love, not the least of which being Baker’s End, written by Paul Margs, the creator of Iris Wildthyme. The series features Katy Manning playing Suzy Goshawk, someone who acted alongside Tom Baker some time ago, coming to a weird little town for the poor man’s funeral. Only now, she’s actually trapped in the town and Tom Baker isn’t actually dead. I won’t spoil any more for you, as I’d definitely recommend you find it and listen for yourself, but there’s a character who shows up at one point that sort of connects it to the actual Doctor Who Universe. It’s very silly, and I’d argue that it strengthens my theory.
So, with that in mind, what would lead to Tom Baker becoming The Curator? The idea I always had was that sometime after acting in the show, Tom Baker finds out through some means that The Doctor is real. Being both very curious and perhaps just a twinge self-absorbed, he grew determined to meet them, to the point where he got himself entangled with some government-types. Perhaps it could play out somewhat like the comic story where the 8th Doctor and Izzy end up in an alternate universe where Doctor Who is a TV show and Beep the Meep gets fooled into thinking that Tom Baker is the actual Doctor. He could wriggle himself into getting the Curator position and the government couldn’t do anything about it. If they were tricked into thinking he was The Doctor, then, well, they can’t just kill The Doctor. And if someone finds out the truth, what are they gonna do? Kill Tom Baker? England only has, like, 20 actors as it is. He might spend a great deal of time thinking of what to say to The Doctor, this enigmatic figure who has defined his life as much as he defined their life. Getting to finally meet him after so long would probably feel just as mystifying to Tom as the cameo was to the audience.
At least that’s my interpretation. I’m certainly not the only one who’s come up with some sort of explanation for it. The Titan Comics line went with the idea that The Curator is a future version of The Doctor. Not to say that’s not a fine way of thinking of it, but we already have a handful of weird future-Doctors showing up at points that never get addressed after the fact. On Fleak Productions, however, has a different idea. At some point, they had plans to make an audio series with their own fan version of the 13th Doctor that they introduced with a possible finale to the 12th Doctor’s run. Taking place shortly after Season 9, it heavily featured Gallifrey and introduced the idea that the Black and White Guardian died during the Time War, with The Curator being a successor of sorts. Sadly, the story seems to be less easily found now that the group is moving on to new projects, but if you can find it I’d heavily recommend Gallifrey Reborn.
A bit of digging through the TARDIS wiki, any obsessive fan’s best friend, shows that Steven Moffat originally intended for The Moment, as played by Billie Piper, to also be The Curator, and considers that The Curator could still be The Moment interacting with The Doctor while looking like the 4th Doctor. Apparently, Moffat prefers to think of him as a distant version of The Doctor who chooses to revisit different older incarnations in a similar fashion each day, which I think is pretty cool as it adds a level of mystery to the idea of regeneration that I haven’t seen since reading Interference in the 8th Doctor novels.
Whatever way you decide to look at it, The Curator was a neat cameo that introduces some fun concepts. Now that I’ve finally gotten all this written down I can watch Doctor Who Night on BBC in 1999 or rewatch the home video release of Shada without having an aneurysm trying to connect timelines that only make sense to me.
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