Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)

THE MAN WHO COACHED GHOSTS

Excerpt taken from
Cult Times #55

Emilia Fox interview here
Reeves & Mortimer in TV Zone

Tom Baker is dead… in his role of Wyvern, Marty Hopkirk’s expert on ghoulish tricks. “Comedy,” he tells David Bailey, “is a matter of fashion”

In this issue: we also go on location with producer Charlie Higson and cult comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, as they bring a series about a deceased detective back from the dead, and we meet their perfect Jeannie, Emilia Fox

Tom Baker as Hopkirk's mentor Wyvern

"I’m never far from my Rowenta. In fact, I’ve left it at reception,” Tom Baker claims as we meet in the austere surroundings of the lounge of Berners Hotel in London’s West End. Not somewhere you’d expect to chat with a household name about household chores. But then, that’s typically Tom Baker.

“Ironing is my great passion. Certainly, I’d much rather iron a shirt than watch most things on telly. When I’m ironing shirts, I’m not just any old presser, you know…”

Tom Baker’s not just any old anything. He is, of course, best known for his portrayal of the fourth Doctor Who (the one with the floppy hat and the improbably long scarf), but he is about to return to our television screens as Marty Hopkirk’s spiritual mentor in the BBC’s revival of the cult series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) which stars comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer in their first acting roles.

Baker plays a long-dead ghost who takes it upon himself to tutor Hopkirk (Reeves) in the difficult art of haunting. Baker himself, having once spent time as a monk, has a deeply religious background, but, as he says, “Even Catholics don’t come back from the dead, so researching the role was all guess-work.

“I’m playing a person with a lot of experience, I’ve been dead a long time. That’s why I don’t work very often in real life, because most people believe I’ve been dead a long time! In the series, Hopkirk dies and he’s shocked at being dead, and I’m there telling him it’s not bad. In fact, I’m telling him it can be rather good. I enjoyed that, because it’s a very improbable thing to tell someone.”

When asked why he feels he was asked to appear in the series, Baker points to a very simple reason. “Powerful people like Charlie Higson [the writer-producer of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), better known for his regular roles on The Fast Show], who are in their 40s, were only boys or at university when they watched me in Doctor Who. And now they say, ‘You know, we’ll give Tom a go.’ They can pluck me out of obscurity and give me a job, and they like me.”

Nevertheless, he is still a little bemused by this warm reception. “Comedy is a matter of fashion. A fellow of 23 or 24 employing a man who’s 40 years older than him is a great compliment, really. Most people who are 66 wouldn’t get laughs from people who are 24.” So, does he feel that the producers and his co-stars were pleased with Baker’s role in the finished programme? “They liked what I did, they laughed sometimes. Not often, but they laughed...”

David Bailey

• Buy Cult Times #55 for the full six-page feature on the rebirth of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) : Reeves & Mortimer interviewed, Charlie Higson, Emilia Fox...

Images © Working Title / Universal / BBC
Feature © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction.