Tom-ic Relief! TOM BAKER's Finest Comedy Roles - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Tom-ic Relief! TOM BAKER's Finest Comedy Roles

Chris Morley wagers your skin's never been rubbed with salt, and then flayed off by a pirate chief to make fine stockings for his best cabin boy.

Hard as it may seem to believe, Tom Baker has actually worked on television outside of Doctor Who! How best, then, to make use of his natural eccentricity?

Having come aboard to steady the ship on Blackadder ahead of its second series, writers Ben Elton & Richard Curtis found a use for him among its guest stars!

Tom appears in the episode titled Potato as Redbeard Rum, the captain of a vessel rather different from the TARDIS, hired by Rowan Atkinson's Blackadder to accompany him on a Sir Walter Raleigh-ish voyage to the Cape of Good Hope...

It was Raleigh of course who discovered the titular potato - Stephen Fry's Lord Melchett offering Edmund one while revealing that he intends to smoke his! Seeking to one-up Raleigh, plans are made for this most dangerous of crossings! Not helped by the fact that Rum is quite deranged, has no crew & is a useless navigator.

He does at least have one admirer in Patsy Byrne's Nursie, who agrees to marry him should he return safely. His real plan isn't much better than that of the man who's paid for his services - circling the Isle of Wight repeatedly until everyone gets dizzy, Blackadder intending to get to France, stay a few months then head home claiming to have made a longer journey as far as the Cape!

The old seadog does at least have something down his trousers in case the water runs out, taking to drinking his own wee well before the chips are down. His goose is most definitely cooked after being eaten by cannibals on a mysterious tropical island, his beard given to his beloved as a sort of memento of him!

Yet surprisingly Tom's memories of working on it are far from fond. He later described his performance as "appalling” in the Radio Times, going so far as to say that,
"Someone should have taken away my Equity card, it was terrible and the buggers keep playing it."
Why was he so hard on himself? A portion of the blame can be laid at Atkinson's feet, perhaps unbelievably.
‘He took me aside the first afternoon of recording and he said: “You know Tom, I’m very experienced in this and the part you’re playing here, this sea captain, I think you’re actually doing too much. I think he should be as boring as you can make him.”
Even more unbelievable is what came next - Baker actually following the advice!
"So, we then had the final run-through, and I did this boring routine, and the producer came down and said, “What’s going on, are you ill?”

I said, “No, no, no, I’m just taking in the notes from your boss”. And he then said, “Tom, he does that every week. He gives those same notes to the visitors every week.”
Having been told to ignore that & do his own thing, what we see in the finished episode is the revised interpretation of the Captain. Hence lines like...
“I’m a bluff old cove with no legs and a beard you could lose a badger in.”
It did enough to earn a later mention during Tom's run as narrator on Little Britain nonetheless, during Lou & Andy's trip to a video store!
“ With nothing to watch but repeats on the telly of Doctor Who, Medics & that episode of Blackadder II I was on, Lou & Andy go to rent a video...”

Lou Todd & Andy Pipkin took on lives of their own after evolving out of a Ralf Little Show/Rock Profile sketch featuring their takes on Lou Reed & Andy Warhol, Walliams' Reed a dry run for Todd & Lucas' Warhol later evolving into Pipkin.

The experience of working with Matt Lucas & David Walliams as their surreal look at life on these shores went from Radio Four to BBC One was altogether happier for Tom. As he somewhat bemusedly reflected in a DVD commentary for the series,
"I am now being employed by the children who grew up watching me"!

Tom rose to the pinnacle of reading the BBC continuity announcements, as written by Matt & David, for two & a half hours between 7-9.30pm on 17 November 2005 to mark the start of Series 3. He'd opened with...
"Hello telly viewers, you're watching the BBC One. At nine o'clock it's Little Britain - the greatest show in the history of broadcasting... but first it's time for The Great Big Bid. Oh mah sweet potatoes!"
Just prior to that night's visit to Walford he said...
“Hello, telly viewers. You're watching the BBC One! In half an hour, Jenny Dickens's classic serial Bleak House. But first let's see what the poor people are up to in the first of two visits this evening to the EastEnders.”
He's also been responsible for opening credit introductions of the calibre of-
  • We have an underground tunnel to Peru & we invented the cat.
  • Land of technological achievement, we’ve had running water for over 10 years.
  • Britain, or scum, as we are affectionately known abroad.
  • Thank the Lord, who incidentally is British, for the great things he has brought to this land. Take-A-Break, Spearmint Rhino and Findus crispy pancakes.
  • Everybody is welcome in Britain, we are open 9 till 6, Monday to Saturday. No foreign gentlemen please.

Then of course there's his unique takes on old-school rap lyrics, usually also deadpanned over the opening credits particularly during the third series. Among those treated to the unique treatment was “boom boom shake the room” as of course first heard on the similarly titled hit for DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince!
“Why would you ever want to leave? Anyone who goes on holiday abroad is a traitor! God, I love it here… The Sistine Chapel? British!
The Pyramids of Egypt? British! The first moon walk? British!
Yet none of those wonders would be possible without the people of Britain, and it is they that we do look upon now… Boom-Boom, shake the room!!”
Britain, Britain, Britain......

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