Its kind of ironic for a Doctor killed by falling off a massive communications dish that Tom Baker would end up working for BT. In fact its hard not to fire off a chorus of boos when the dish arrogantly swings towards the camera at the end of this 1985 BT ad… Damn metallic murderer!
Apart from baiting fans Tom seems like a perfect fit for BT: his voice is commanding, articulate, and above all refined. Something the advert uses to great strengths – who couldn’t listen to Tom talk about the Roman Theatre of Verulamium? Which makes it all the more strange that Tom has been dressed to look like Quentin Crisp after a bout of chemo. There’s something deeply unflattering about the whole thing, perhaps even the whole 80’s if the phone itself is anything to go by.
Here is this refined character forced to carry around something that ground-crew members use to scramble jets with.
Maybe it’s a sign of the times that the first people Tom informs you can call on his ball and chain of a phone is his ‘Bank Manager’ or ‘The Office’ rather than those pesky family members: Don’t they know time is money? T
here’s also an odd moment of Jingoism towards the ad’s conclusion with the non-Tom proudly proclaiming that BT have been ‘putting Britain ahead of the world, in touch with the world.’ So there rest of the world; sure we can talk but don’t forget who made this possible…Doctor Who or something. The message isn’t very clear but there are satellites, big buttons and a tenuously thrown in set of ruins.
Tom’s relationship with British Telecom lasted until 2006 when he was dropped as the voice of the Text Messaging service in favour of a gender specific selection – much to the chargin of the fabulous Tom Baker Says, a website that took full advantage of the readily available voice of the Fourth Doctor to craft hilarious Tomcentric takes on classic movie quotes.