Have I Got Whos For You (Interlude)

All is not well in Planet Who, folks. There is discontent over the absence of a trailer, anticipatiion fatigue over the BBC’s continuing refusal to name a date, and a general sense of ambivalence about whether it’s going to be any good considering the writers they’ve got on board for next series. And over in a Viking village, Edgar’s let his sneeze get the better of him again.

I spent half an hour yesterday trying to interpolate footage from this year’s John Lewis advert into footage of explosions and disintegrating snowmen and the cracking of ice. It did not go well. My heart simply wasn’t in it, which is never a good beginning. So I cleaned the bathroom instead. There’s no video this week, but at least the house smells fragrant. We’ve done John Lewis before – more than once – and that comparative post I did back in 2016 really is due a revamp. Maybe next year. Maybe.

There was a pile of good things. Georgia Tennant posted a photo on Instagram of her new baby’s induction into the world of Doctor Who, although there was some concern over the episode that she was watching.

“HUNGRY,” said one FB user I occasionally interact with, to which the response from me was “Wrong episode.”

“Close, though, right?”

“Five years out. So in the grand scheme of things…”

If we’re talking series 12, of course, you have to work with what you’ve got. For example, a few weeks back we became aware of a suspected leaked image from an upcoming sequel to ‘Flatline’, although there was immediate speculation as to whether or not it was fake.

It’s not fake, surely? I mean it’s got lighting and everything.

One thing that definitely isn’t fake is the Dalek redesign, which was recently spotted on Clifton Suspension Bridge during a closed ‘maintenance’ slot which was actually booked for the BBC. There was immediate uproar over the apparent redesign, which served no purpose except to highlight the double standards inherent in the assessment of such things, because the Cybermen have been going for almost as long as the Daleks and the new ones are basically unrecognisable, whereas the Daleks have hardly changed at all over the years and the moment they do there’s wailing and crying and gnashing of teeth. Maybe that’s the whole problem. Perhaps a general evolution would have made the removal of the sink plunger an acceptable thing. Perhaps they’ve signed up to a twenty-four hour callout service and there’s no longer any need to do it themselves.

Anyway, it turns out there’s a reason for it.

I’ve been struggling a little bit with Thomas’s school this week, who have been perhaps less than understanding about some of his additional needs, even though they usually do a good job. We have explained to him that while copying out the question before you add the answer does seem rather pointless, you sometimes simply have to toe the line and pick your battles. We live in a system of assessments and targets and indecipherable lingo, and with four kids at four schools it really can be a bit of a minefield.

Anyway, Thomas is basically happy, but I do wish he’d read more. It’s Ripley’s Believe it or Not or a Beano annual or something in the Big Nate range, and while I’m not a reading snob of any sort there’s a wealth of great stuff out there he’s missing out on simply because he can’t be bothered. Occasionally – just occasionally – you can find something that’ll interest him, like we did when we found a Derren Brown book about hypnotism and the power of suggestion. He’d developed something of an interest in the man after regular visits to Thorpe Park this year where we all got rather attached to the Derren Brown ghost train – a ride I’m not allowed to spoil, because they ask you not to. Then this book showed up in a charity shop and he was riveted. It’s the sort of thing that makes me shudder, just faintly, because whether it’s genuine psychic ability or a simple confidence trick Brown is a piggin’ genius and the thought of Thomas going down that road makes me wonder what the consequences would be. It’s like giving the supersoldier serum to Red Skull. “No man should have that kind of power.”

I was trying to find something for him the other week when I stumbled upon this hideously inappropriate Doctor Who novel. I could still let him read it; the joke would probably sail over his head.

Audiobook available soon from all good streaming services.

Star Wars updates now – and cometh the man, cometh the Mandalorian.

It’s not just me, is it? Tell me it’s not just me.

I am trying to put my finger on the moment I lost interest in the Star Wars franchise. It might have been the Clone Wars movie. It might actually have been Shadows of the Empire, Lucas’ 1997 foray into episode 5.5 territory that tried several approaches, none of which really worked. The book was particularly disastrous. Years down the line and we’re bombarded with spin-offs no one asked for and comparatively few people watched and now there’s a TV series about a masked bounty hunter who may or may not be Boba Fett (is he Boba Fett? I haven’t bothered to find out) and oh look, George Lucas has changed the Greedo death AGAIN. If I’m grouchy about this it’s because Disney has announced this week that they’re pulling the Lego Star Wars exhibit from Legoland Windsor because for some unfathomable reason the sight of tiny brick men in a dimly-lit walkthrough will be enough to prevent people going to their own Star Wars-themed parks, most of which are in another country. I am one of the few people who objected to Disney buying the thing a few years back – as far as I was concerned they couldn’t come up with a bigger mess than Attack of the Clones, and thus far I’ve been proved right – but this annoys me. Next time I might just take the kids to a museum instead.

I mean honestly.

We conclude with politics, and Kay Burley has an empty chair in her studio.

I had a conversation with Trevor Baxendale about this: he’d said it didn’t work for him because the Silence wasn’t actually invisible (a mistake many Who fans seem to make when they’re making jokes about them online), so surely she’d be able to see it? We were back and forth for a bit, with me explaining myself and the two of us eventually agreeing that the actual concept of the Silence was so vague there is wiggle room. Better yet that we should concentrate on episodes of Doctor Who that actually work. Like ‘Heaven Sent’, for example, seeing as we seem to be on a bit of a series 9 kick this morning. I had cause to rewatch ‘Heaven Sent’ this week – for reasons that will become apparent another time – and one thing that strikes me is how meticulously constructed the whole thing is; aside from certain questions about where the first set of dry clothes came from it really hangs together quite well.

“What?”

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Bottom of the Barrel

It was one of those things that trends for no apparent reason. Well, it trended because it was funny; it’s just it came out of nowhere. Anyway, there it was, stuck near the top of my feed: those three little words you could append to classic movies in order to change their meaning, or (to put it another way) #ruinafilmbyaddingupyourbum.

There’s a bunch of them: Lord of the Rings Up Your Bum. The Third Man Up Your Bum. You’ll have your own favourites. Run Lola Run Up Your Bum, Carry On Regardless Up Your Bum, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Up Your Bum and yes, I am reading from my DVD shelf now. Tell me you wouldn’t have done the same. I need to stop, though, because I tend to italicise film titles and it didn’t work for this particular gag, and it’s making me uncomfortable.

Anyway, it turns out it works for Doctor Who stories as well. So I have gone through the lot and picked out my own particular favourites, presented here in no particular order. I tried to prioritise the ones that actually made some sort of joke, so stuff like…I don’t know, The Aztecs Up Your Bum is not here, simply because it’s a bit obvious. But this isn’t intended to be exhaustive, so do tell me about the ones I missed. That’s what the comments box is for – well, that and the hate mail.

Allons-y!

 

Listen Up Your Bum

Invasion of the Dinosaurs Up Your Bum

Dark Water Up Your Bum

The Doctor Dances Up Your Bum

Flesh and Stone Up Your Bum

Hide Up Your Bum

Kerblam! Up Your Bum

Survival Up Your Bum

The Tenth Planet Up Your Bum

Inferno Up Your Bum

The Woman Who Lived Up Your Bum

It Takes You Away Up Your Bum

Full Circle Up Your Bum

Rise of the Cybermen Up Your Bum

The Big Bang Up Your Bum

Fury From The Deep Up Your Bum

State of Decay Up Your Bum

The Sontaran Experiment Up Your Bum

Face The Raven Up Your Bum

The Crimson Horror Up Your Bum

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Have I Got Whos For You (Multi-Doctor Special)

I think this’ll be the last batch post for a while. We’ve taken a good chunk out of the meme backlog, and while there are still quite a few to go up, they can stagger in as and when, like drunk students crashing back into halls of residence after a night down the union. At least one of them might involve a traffic cone.

Today’s theme – if you hadn’t guessed – involves images involving more than one Doctor, which is something I do quite a bit when the ideas come. They do seem to come thick and fast these das, which is an indicator that I have more free time than is strictly healthy, but at least one family member appears to be following in my footsteps. This is both encouraging and slightly alarming. A bit like life, really.

We begin with a couple of Doctors celebrating the summer solstice, which should give you an idea just how long some of these have been hanging around.

Meanwhile, in a nearby playground.

Time Lord songwriter’s workshops.

Impromptu lightsaber battles.

Derby walking tours.

Family reunions.

Posted without comment.

“This mirror’s brilliant; I look years younger.”

So there’s this guy I found on Facebook who takes pet photos and one thing sort of led to another.

“Bugger off, David.”

Time Lord mid-air collisions.

Edward set this up. Edward is five. I am worried about Edward.

Finally, in the TARDIS…

“Yeah, I’d give it five minutes.”

 

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Papa Louie Pals Presents: The Companions (Part 1)

Hello! Welcome to Good Burger, home of the good burger; may I take your order?

As you’ll have seen the other week, I spent large parts of August assembling a plethora of Doctors with the help of Flipline Studio’s Papa Louie Pals, which enables you to create your own characters in the vein of the developer’s cutesy, animated consumers and baristas. In other words, you too – in the comfort of your own home – can make the sort of people who wander in to Papa’s Tacoreria and order…well, tacos. Or burritos, or whatever else they sell; I’m sure I don’t know. I haven’t played them, remember?

But give me an app that lets me be a bit creative and it’s like a red rag to a bull, and – having done all the Doctors – I elected to spend a little time creating the companions as well. We start, today, with the New Who brigade: most of the big players are in there, although I’m kicking myself for not including Wilf. Just for good measure, I stuck a couple of villains in as well (all right, one villain in multiple forms, which does rather narrow it down). Oh, and I couldn’t bring myself to do Adam, largely because he’s a twat.

Still. Everyone else is here, just about. And yes, there is a Classic Who companions gallery in the works, at some point when I get round to it. I may even take requests, as long as they’re more imaginative than “Please stop doing this”.

Let’s get cooking…

We’ll get these two out of the way first. There are lots of ways to do Rose; I have gone with her series one look, which is a little more chavvy and a little less refined than the slicker haircut and more revealing outfits she wore in series 2. Donna looks like a slightly younger version of herself, but that’s not a bad thing.

Nardole is…well, he’s a little taller than I’d like, or a little slimmer; pick one. But he looks vageuly Nardole-ish. And I’m quite pleased with Bill; I even remembered to put the bow in her hair.

The Masters, next (yes, there are multiple versions). Simm’s 2007 look is basically a man in a black suit; take away the evil eyes and he could be auditioning for Reservoir Dogs. He’s accompanied here by River Song, sporting her classic vest-and-skirt combination, as worn in ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ and probably other episodes I can’t be bothered to Google.

Two more Masters: the hooded monstrosity from ‘The End of Time’ and the restrained, bearded 2017 Master I always hoped we’d get to see. That’s my favourite contemporary take on the character, and it’s irritating that he really doesn’t work here: the hair is too shaggy, the beard (while being the closest I could manage) is wrong, and the tunic is more chef than rogue Time Lord. he looks like an evil sensei from a Japanese martial arts movie.

Missy, on the other hand, came out a treat, even if she does vaguely resemble a sinister version of Lucy from Peanuts. That’s presumably what Mickey Smith is thinking, unless it’s “Did I leave the iron on?”.

Series 11 now. Graham and Ryan first. Note that Graham’s smile is slightly smaller than the rest: this is deliberate.

And here’s Yas – along with Captain Jack, who is probably staring at her bottom.

The Ponds! They’re wearing matching shirts, which happened because I was feeling a bit lazy that morning, but it’s rather cute.

Lastly, Martha – whose jacket is just about perfect – and Clara. Specifically Oswin, although that dress isn’t quite as figure-hugging as I’d like. Still, she looks pleased with it.

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Have I Got Whos For You (Star Wars-tinted interlude)

We open with a deleted scene from ‘Cold War’.

You always wondered why they favoured close-ups for that scene, didn’t you? Well, now we know.

I was up at six this morning scrubbing through the Rise of the Skywalker trailer for stuff to Photoshop. Heaven knows there was no other reason. I was about to say I can’t remember when Star Wars trailers got so dull, but actually I can: it was the moment they released the full trailer for The Last Jedi, which was to all intents and purposes a direct copy of the one they did for The Force Awakens, and the moment that you realised that not only had they decided to emulate the teasers, they were also doing the same for everything else. I know I probably shouldn’t moan about this but there is something very lazy about the whole process: this idea that because something works you do it again, in exactly the same way, purely because people expect it.

So in no particular order, you have…ominous voiceovers! People glaring through the blades of ignited lightsabers! Running through forests / corridors / the snow! Wide shots of battle fleets! Cruise ships! Spacecraft flying through explosions! Ambiguous shots of first generation characters who might be killed off! General tedium! Next time, can we have a little information on the actual story? I’m not suggesting the entire story – the world does not need another Double Jeopardy – but something, anything that the gossip rags can talk about with actual substance, rather than combing Reddit threads for fan theory. God the rumour mill is tedious this time around. If it’s not mind games about Rey’s parentage or the redemption of Kylo Ren, it’s people trying to decide whether C-3PO is going to turn evil or sacrifice himself for the rest of the crew, or possibly both. At the same time.

They also talk about Matt Smith, of course – whom we assume was cast as the Emperor, although there was some fun to be had going back through the trilogy working out who else he might be playing.

What else has been going on? Well, the fallout about whether Doctor Who has become too politically correct continues in earnest, with the Real Fans on one side and the True Whovians (I leave it to you, dear reader, to determine which is which) on the other, and the likes of yours truly in the middle – wondering whether history is destined to repeat itself, wondering when “bad writing” became a cop-out soundbite for describing something you didn’t particularly enjoy without actually making the effort to explain why, and also wondering how it’s possible for a bunch of human beings to be so obnoxious and generally shitty to each other about a wretched television programme.

I mean God almighty. Still, on the upside, it’s something to read while you’re trying to circumnavigate Occupied London.

“How are we supposed to get through that lot?”

I’m not sure how I feel about Extinction Rebellion. I’m not sure how I feel about Greta Thunberg either, to be honest, but I suppose that’s the point – just as E.R. wouldn’t exactly be doing anything of consequence if we didn’t find them a nuisance and a pain. They’re getting out there and doing stuff, and perhaps that’s better than not doing anything, which is what I do. There are conversations to be had about their use of Starbucks and McDonalds, rather than the home-grown organic fair trade produce I presume people expected them to be carrying in those cotton rucksacks – either you can criticise them for double standards, or you can applaud them for doing what they can and acknowledge that everybody’s human, with the possible exception of some residents of South Dakota. I tend to veer between one extreme and the other, according to how generous I’m feeling. Still, it’s better than the Mercedes van-driving idiot who appeared on Good Morning Britain dressed as a vegetable – and who then, having already crossed the line between effective parody and preposterous nonsense while most of us were still in bed, proceeded to drag out a banana from his pocket and pretend it was a phone, in a scene worthy of Bert and Ernie. Now there’s a Rubbish Monster waiting to happen.

“Yeah, the red one next to the – hold on a second. Ah, Doctor. We meet again.”

To take our minds off all this, Emily and I elected to catch up on Holby City – we’d watched the episode where the plucky Scottish nurse was trapped in the holiday cottage with baited breath, and then lost interest when it sputtered out in a disappointed sigh as things failed to resolve the way we hoped (i.e. with a corpse). Here’s a fun fact: if you unravel the small intestine in any adult male, it will stretch to precisely the same length as this ludicrous Chloe and Evan story arc, where the locum doctor followed the predictable path from ex-boyfriend to current squeeze to husband to demented abuser within the space of a few weeks, before finally meeting his death when the respitory machine malfunctioned and Kate Stewart’s son left it just a little too late before telling anybody. Suffice it to say the bastard had it coming – he was a slippery customer and would almost certainly have weaseled his way out of things, as we were told in a clumsy monologue that reinforced, with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to a walnut, precisely how justified Cameron had been in his breaking of the Hippocratic oath. Evan was a nasty piece of work – a plot device used for issue highlighting, which is always Holby at its most annoying – and he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for that meddling kid.

Things are back to normal now, except Sacha Levy appears to have gained the ability to teleport across from the hospital entrance to the taxi rank, completely unobserved, as long as the cameras aren’t on him. Weeping Angel, anyone?

It was Emily wot noticed. That should probably go on record, because she gets huffy when I don’t acknowledge her as the source for these things. (It reminds me of a paper that arrived in the proofreading pile some years ago: the first draft read “Professor ____ also acknowledges his wife, H.C. _____, who read through the original submission”. When the corrected proof came back from the authors, the final paragraph read “Professor ____ also acknowledges his wife, H.C. _____, who read through the original submission and provided many helpful amendments”.)

And she has been brilliant these past months: has that been written down yet? She is so much better than she realises: the rock and the anchor and the port in the storm and all the other cliches you can think of – but a cliche doesn’t invalidate truth. She is the best of both of us, and in a world where everything is hazy and grey and mad, she will carry you home.

Seriously. I could do this all day.

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Have I Got Whos For You (Tenth Doctor Special)

You know how this works by now, folks, so let’s crack on. Today we examine the lighter, darker and more idiosyncratic sides of poll winner and sex symbol extraordinaire, David Tennant – better known as the Tenth or Tenth and Eleventh or Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, depending on how you count. But seriously, let’s not go there this morning. I haven’t the stomach for it, particularly not after all that Photoshopping.

First and foremost: alternative Alien 3 casting.

Boring Doctor Who episodes, #53.

Star Wars revisited.

Alarming discoveries in the Antarctic.

David Tennant, reluctant trumpet player.

Seasonal observations, part one.

We did Roald Dahl the other week, but any excuse.

“What a glorious feeling, I’m happy again…”

If you’ve seen Akira, then…

There, I fixed it.

I fixed it here as well.

And talking of beach farewells.

“When I finally do what frozen things do in summer…”

David Tennant, reluctant Oxford tryout.

Presented without apology.

“Ah.”

In later years, the Meta-Doctor would experience a midlife crisis, and an exasperated Rose would eventually leave him.

“Parachute? PARACHUTE?!?”

Seasonal observations, part two.

David Tennant, reluctant sunflower.

“I don’t wanna – actually, yeah. Yeah, I do.”

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Wedding Crasher

Figuratively speaking, Harriet had cold feet.

It was October, and while there was a nip in the air there was still a bit of warmth left in the Hampshire sun. The days may have been shortening, as the year performed its merry dance with the gusto of a drunken relative at a sixtieth birthday ceilidh, but you couldn’t exactly call it cold. It was more the expectation of cold, an opening act for the chill to come, as if autumn were in the middle of an acoustic set before abruptly vanishing into the wings just in time for the main event.

Whenever she actually thought about it, Harriet decided the whole notion that the changing day lengths were something to be remarked upon was quietly ridiculous. It would start in late June – right after the equinox – with the words “Well, that’s it now, the nights will start drawing in”. The process took six months, through summer beach holidays and festival season and the apple collecting and the ridiculous Halloween costumes that were in the shops on the first of September every year without fail, through fireworks and John Lewis Christmas adverts until just a few particularly short days before the bank holiday. The return journey, back to hazy afternoons and thundery barbecues, took another six months, rounding out the year quite nicely. The nights were always growing progressively longer or progressively shorter, and there was never a time when they weren’t. The whole system was perpetually in flux. So why even mention it?

No: Harriet’s cold feet had nothing to do with temperature, but she always thought it was important to denote the difference. She looked down at her actual feet, encased in a pair of ridiculous white shoes that she had never worn before – save ten minutes’ breaking in the week before the wedding – and would likely never wear again, unless she and Nick wound up visiting Ascot, or somewhere like it. And seeing as neither of them were the betting sort – “Gamble responsibly?” Nick would snort at the TV ads, before declaring it an oxymoron – this was probably not going to happen.

Harriet smoothed down an imaginary crease in her dress, and was gazing in the mirror when the door opened. Her mother, all red velvet and feathers. The hat would probably get stuck in a sliding door. That would be a story and a half. Harriet found herself chuckling inwardly at the thought, although she kept her face as pokerish as she possibly could.

“I’m about ready.” The woman bustled about the room, shutting windows and turning off the lamps. “Took me nearly fifteen minutes to straighten the plumage on this thing. Still, we can go now.”

“Because, of course, it’s all about you.”

“Oh, don’t start.”

“I really don’t want to start anything. We’re late enough as it is.”

“He’ll wait.” Her mother shrugged. “Least, he will if he’s got any sense.”

“Mum…” Harriet leaned on one arm, tentatively.

The eyebrows narrowed. “Oh dear. I know that look. Fine, what is it?”

“Why am I marrying him?”

“Because he’s adequately handsome, reasonably educated, and financially solvent. And more to the point, he puts up with you.”

“I think he’s terrified of you,” said Harriet.

“Good. That’s precisely the way it should be. Now come on – ” and her mother tugged her off the bed with one arm, re-adjusting her hat with the other – “before the salmon starts to decompose.”

 

* * * * *

 

Nick was on his penultimate fingernail – the rest chewed down to rags – when the vicar opened the door to the vestry. “Here. Finally.”

Nick was already a bundle of nerves and took exception to his tone. “We’re not paying you by the hour, you know.”

“I wish you were. I’d make a fortune. Are you set?”

“Give me a moment.” The groom stood, adjusting his corsage. “Where’s Bill?”

“Your best man is outside, placating a few guests who are even more anxious than you are. A moment ago he was reassuring your elderly aunt that he can get her back to the hospice in time for Strictly.”

“That’ll be Iris,” muttered Nick. “Never mind ballroom dancing, she’s a complete drama queen.”

“Look,” said the vicar, crossly. “Do you want to get married or not? Only I’ve got another wedding this afternoon and a sermon to write for tomorrow.”

“Well, that’s the question.” Nick stared through the frosted glass that was the vestry window, the exterior beyond an unreadable collage of blacks and greens and greys. “I mean, I thought I did. So did Harriet. But lately it just seems like it’s – ”

* * * * *

“ – too soon,” Harriet was saying. “You know, it was three months. Three! And he was drunk. And so was I, and one thing led to another and we wound up visiting the outlet centre for an engagement ring because it was late night shopping.”

Her mother shut the door of the rental. “And they say romance is dead.”

She leaned through the window. “Park it in the short stay and come back. We don’t want to get ticketed.”

The driver nodded and pulled away from the kerb. Harriet stared at the busy road, counting the cars. Red. Green. Silver. Blue. Another silver. The sky was a rich azure, pockmarked with dark grey clouds, the biggest of which threatened to block out the sun. Harriet wondered if it would rain, and then wondered whether that would be appropriate.

Her mother was stabbing at the screen of an ageing smartphone.

“What are you doing?”

“Just checking in on Foursquare.”

“Nobody uses that any more.”

“I do.” Her mother glared at her frostily. “You can use the thirty seconds’ breathing space to get yourself presentable.”

Harriet turned away – and almost collided with a man in his thirties, wearing a long brown coat, who was pelting up the street in a tremendous hurry. Harriet tottered on her heels, struggling to keep herself from falling. “Hey! Watch it!”

The man in the coat turned and gave her the briefest of apologetic waves. “Sorry!”

Harriet seethed as he disappeared round a corner, and then turned her attention back to the present.

“The thing is,” she said, as her mother picked up the train on her dress and moved it away from the gutter into which she’d absent-mindedly allowed it to trail, “I just don’t know if he’s the sort of person who’d jump in front of me to stop a bullet. How can I marry him not being sure of that?”

“What a ridiculous cogitation.” Her mother straightened her jacket, which had wandered skewiff in the car. “Who gets the chance to know a thing like that? Who, apart from the military or people who meet in those ridiculous films your father always enjoyed? Nobody.” She had her hands on her hips now, which meant she was both attentive and cross. “That’s who.”

Harriet sighed. “Still, you know what I me-”

“No. I don’t. I never do. Your mind works on a different level to me, and I’ve accepted it. I accepted it long ago. But I don’t understand you. Here you are, minutes away from the chance to be happier than I ever was, and we’re standing in the street discussing…”

She fumed. “Keanu flippin’ Reeves.”

“I just – ”

“Yes. You just. As in just now. Why couldn’t we have had all this out in the car?”

“BECAUSE YOU WERE ON YOUR BLOODY MOBILE TRYING TO REBOOK THE OSTEOPATH! ON A SATURDAY!”

“AND I WOULDN’T HAVE HAD TO IF YOU HADN’T – ”

“Excuse me. Ladies?” said a polite voice.

The two-person bridal party ceased its affectations, and turned in the direction of the voice: the best man was standing by the church doorway, trying to look casual and not quite managing it.

“Are you ready to get married?” said Bill. “Only the caretaker forgot to adjust the heating this morning and they’ve had to keep the doors open, and I think everyone inside can hear you.”

 

* * * * *

 

Harriet had misjudged the length of the church. This meant she was already at the front while the organist was still halfway through Haydn’s Trumpet Voluntary, which meant that she had to stand next to her husband-to-be for an embarrassing length of time while everyone waited for him to finish.

Nick used the time to pay compliments. “You look amazing.”

She kept her eyes fixed straight ahead. “Thanks.”

“I mean it,” Nick said. “It’s just the most incredible dress I’ve ever – ”

“I know,” Harriet hissed. “You said. Thank you.”

“Right. I’m sorry, I’m just nervous.”

The organist finished with a flourish. A couple of people clapped, which was frankly awkward, as it wasn’t generally done, and the vicar made his displeasure known by glowering at them.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began – ‘Dearly beloved’ having gone out of style round about the time Hugh Grant was caught in a BMW with a prostitute – and that was about as far as he got before all the windows shattered.

 

* * * * *

 

The thing on the church carpet was reptilian in appearance, scaled and grimy, the shape of a horse and the size of a large rhino. Two human-length arms protruded from its front, in addition to the four legs upon which it was now crouching. A coral-coloured fin and two bulbous, empty eyes adorned its long, sleek head, while at the creature’s rear end a spiked tail lashed back and forth in front of the lectern.

Harriet was up on her feet, staring hard. Oddly her first thought had not been one of abject terror – although from the looks of her wedding guests there was plenty of that to go around in any case – but rather a scientific conundrum, namely how a single animal could have been responsible for the destruction of every window in the church when it had presumably come through just one. Her question was answered as the creature opened its mouth and roared – a piercing, ear-shattering noise that would surely have broken all the glass in the room had there been any more glass to break.

Harriet glanced over at Nick. He was standing next to her, his head lopsided, a look of utter incredulity plastered to his whitened face, as if he could not quite believe what he was seeing. His breathing had quickened and there was a rip in the shoulder of his jacket that was staining crimson where the glass had torn it, along with some of the flesh beneath. He seemed not to have noticed, and Harriet decided that this was probably not the time to bring it up.

“This is a dream,” Nick was muttering. “And I know it’s a dream, so I can wake up.”

“It’s not a dream,” Harriet said.

“I can wake up I can wake up I can – ”

“It’s not a bloody dream!” she snapped.

The creature was shaking bits of glass out of what Harriet assumed must be its mane. It whinnied (if that was the right word) and stamped. Then it reached out an arm and grabbed the vicar, who would very soon wish he’d got out of the way sooner.

“No!” was all the unfortunate clergyman had time to get out before the creature propelled him into a wall, whereupon he slumped to the floor with a dismal thud, then lapsing into silence.

Harriet looked around for her mother, who was cowering behind the organ. “Don’t just stand there!” she hissed, when they made eye contact. “Come and hide!” She was beckoning frantically, and the feathers in her hat were dusted with tiny shards of glass.

Harriet shook her head. “We’d never make it.”

The beast was directly in their path to the organ, and Harriet sensed – correctly, as it turned out – that any attempt to cross that path was liable to end in tears. She risked a glance at the congregation, who were in the process of either fainting, sobbing or running. She observed Bill running out into the street and away from the carnage that was presumably about to unfold, and felt a pang of annoyance, even though she’d never much liked him.

She turned to Nick. “What do we – ”

The church had a rear door; it led through to the vestry and the back exit and it was through this door that the newcomer arrived. He half ran, half fell through into the main body of the church, skidding to a halt in front of the creature, beholding it with something that resembled quiet and considered alarm, but not surprise. He was out of breath, although no sweat seemed to glisten across his forehead.

Harriet recognised his coat. It was the man in the street, the one with whom she had almost colli- no, wait a minute, the one who had almost collided with her. Now that he was standing there, she could see him properly. He looked to be in his late thirties, with dark spiked hair that rose from the top of an angular head. He was attractive but not threateningly so, well-defined and perhaps just a shade too thin. The coat swamped a pinstriped brown suit and necktie; on another day he wouldn’t look out of place selling houses in London, and for all Harriet knew that was what he did anyway.

“Sorry,” he said. “Hello.”

Something inside Harriet snapped. “Hello?” she echoed. “This – this thing comes through the window and nearly kills us, and still might, and all you can say is ‘Hello’?”

“Well, it’s a start,” said the man. “I mean, I was going to say ‘Is everybody all right?’, before you interrupted.”

“What is it?” said Harriet, indicating the monster, which seemed to be pacing up and down the width of the church, leering at her. “Is it something to do with you?”

“No. Well, kind of.” The stranger wore an expression that might have been construed as guilt. Harriet thought his eyes looked old, or at least older than the rest of him. “It got out.”

“Out of where?”

“Doesn’t matter. Listen.” He turned to her, staring hard – there was fear in those eyes, she noticed, or at least a quiet desperation. “You need to get everybody out of here now, so I can contain it.”

“Can’t you just take it away somewhere without people?”

The stranger seemed to consider this, before changing his mind. “Could, but no. Too risky. He seems to have stopped here for the moment. I think I need to subdue him before he moves again.”

“It’s a he, then?”

“Probably. I mean, the noisy ones generally are.”

“So we move, then.”

“Yes. And keep quiet about it. The more noise you make, the more – ”

“Harriet!” In the excitement she had almost forgotten her mother, who was still hissing beside the organ, although it was now less of a hiss and more an anguished squeak. “Who on earth is this travelling salesman and why isn’t he doing anything to help?”

“Excuse me?” the stranger addressed her in the way you might expect a disgruntled maths teacher to address a disobedient child. “Helping is top of the list, thank you very much, if you’ll kindly stop panicking and let me get on with it.”

The woman bristled. “Just who are you, anyway? And what the hell is this thing?”

“I’m the Doctor. And this is a Myrka. Nasty things, usually bred for war. And when they’re cornered they get agitated, so I’d appreciate it if you could just calm – ”

The monster reared and rallied. The head threw back and it gave another roar, rising onto its hind legs, which were flailing wildly in mid-air.

Too late, Harriet realised that when they came down, they would most likely land on her head.

 

* * * * *

 

When she thought about it later, Harriet recollected that things seemed to happen in slow motion. First there was that horrid pause as the legs stopped flailing and began their downward descent, then there was a cry of “NO!”, and then she felt herself being pushed out of the way as Nick suddenly barged in front of her, standing directly in the path of the descending hoof as it came down onto his temples.

Harriet didn’t have time to scream, and then Nick was falling, falling and clutching the top of his head, but – what was this? – he actually didn’t look too badly hurt, and now the monster was flailing wildly from some sort of aggravation it was evidently experiencing, and then it turned with a crash and landed directly on top of the organ which had thankfully been vacated just seconds before, its tail three inches from Harriet’s mother’s chest.

There was a sudden and eerie silence.

The dust settled. The congregation got to their feet, shaky and upset and still trying to work out exactly what was going on. Harriet’s mother came out from behind the organ and ran over to embrace her daughter. Harriet herself was kneeling over the unconscious Nick, trying to work out if he was in fact unconscious or actually dead.

The man called the Doctor was brushing his coat.

“Let’s have a look,” he said, dropping to a squat and pulling a small tube-shaped device from his pocket – Harriet took it to be some sort of multi-purpose thermometer or torch – and shining it into Nick’s temples, once he’d rolled back the eyelids. “Brilliant! Don’t worry, he’s just unconscious.”

Harriet blinked away her tears, stunned. “He’s – he’s not – ”

“No,” said the Doctor, drawing out the sound of the word and drawing in his breath at the same time, giving it a warm, gutteral emphasis it arguably didn’t deserve. “The hoof clipped the side of his head. Just a scratch. He’s gonna have a whopper of a headache when he wakes up, though.”

Harriet shook her own head. “I was so sure it was going to crush him.”

“It nearly did. ‘Til I threw it off balance.”

“How?”

“With this.” The Doctor waved the thermometer at her. “Sonic feedback resonance cascade. Inaudible to humans; gave the poor old Myrka here the fright of his life. Bit of a last resort – I always find it rather cruel, mostly because they usually lose a bit of their hearing. But we were out of options. It was that or watch it crush your fiancé.”

Despite everything, Harriet smiled. “You saved him.”

The Doctor gave her a meaningful look. “And he saved you.”

Harriet was still processing the implications of this when she glanced over at the Myrka. “What about that? Is it dead?”

“No, just stunned,” said the Doctor. “I’ve got a few friends who can come and take care of him, get him to a place where he can’t be harmed. And where he can’t harm anyone else, of course,” he added, quickly.

“Just who are you?” Harriet’s mother demanded. “Coming in here with your weird gadgets and your mysterious friends and – ”

From the far wall of the church there was a groan.

“Sylvia,” said the Doctor, clearly anxious to kill two birds with one stone, “Go and check on the vicar, will you?”

Harriet’s mother bristled. “My name’s not Sylvia.”

The Doctor shrugged. “Well, if the cap fits.”

 

* * * * *

 

A few minutes later, when the men in uniforms had come with their trucks and taken the Myrka away to what Harriet assumed was some sort of heavily-armoured paddock, they were all sitting at the front of the church, recovering. The guests were subdued, a damp cocktail of relief and quiet reverence, as if they had been privy to something terrible which was now over without anyone fully understanding what had happened.

The Doctor was applying a bandage to Nick’s head, and dabbing it with alcohol. “Sorry,” he said, as the groom winced. “Haven’t done this for a while. Bit out of practice.”

“I thought you said you were a doctor,” Nick said.

“Well, yeah, but not of medicine. Though…” He paused, staring off into the distance in reflection. “Actually, no. I did do medicine. Glasgow, 1880s. Can’t remember.”

Harriet glanced over at the vicar, who was sitting on a plastic chair with a cup of tea. “What about him?”

“He’ll be fine,” announced her mother, who had bustled over with a bunch of towels. “He doesn’t even seem to have any concussion, though I’ve told him to get it checked out. After that we’ll need to set another date – ”

“No we won’t,” said Harriet. “We’ll give him a few minutes, then we’ll carry on.”

Her mother looked at her, speechless. “You can’t be serious.”

Harriet got to her feet. “You know what, Mum? For the first time in a while I think I actually am.”

“But – not like this! Surely not like this? And don’t you want to think about thi-”

“Mum.” Harriet’s voice was calm, self-assured, decisive. “There’s no thinking. We’re getting married, and we’re getting married now.”

She turned to Nick. “That is, if you still want to.”

Nick grinned. It was a grin that abruptly faded when the simple matter of logistics kicked in. “What about Bill?”

“I’ve tried getting hold of him,” said Harriet. “But he jumped on a non-stop to Plymouth, and he won’t be back for ages.”

“He was useless anyway,” Nick shrugged. “But we can’t have a wedding without a best man.”

They both looked at the Doctor.

“Oh, all right,” he said.

 

* * * * *

 

Rings or no rings, everyone agreed it was a lovely ceremony – even if some of the photos were a trifle unorthodox. What was more the hotel had managed to keep everything on ice and thus the fears about decaying salmon were unfounded.

The Doctor was currently in shovelling a forkful of it into his mouth. Harriet had insisted he come along. “You’ve saved our lives,” she had said. “It’s the least we can do.”

The Doctor had looked momentarily indecisive. “I should…I mean, I should really…the Ood, they keep…hmm. Oh, why not?” he had replied after the sort of dithering that would have impressed even Hugh Grant. “Really not my thing, but another day can’t hurt. It’s all relative.”

Harriet hadn’t understood any of this, but there were a lot of things she hadn’t understood about today, and she was coming to the conclusion – as she crossed the floor to where the Doctor was standing – that it probably wasn’t a bad thing. “Enjoying the food?” she said.

The Doctor put down his plate. “It’s delicious,” he said, wiping an oily mouth clean with a napkin. “Haven’t had salmon like this since Greenland, 1808. Coronation of Frederick the sixth. Lovely man. Very fond of darts.”

“Right,” Harriet, wondering how she was supposed to respond to these ersatz monologues.

The Doctor glanced over at her. “Are you all right?”

“I am, actually,” said Harriet. It was partly the wine, but her heart felt lighter, while her head was gradually vacuuming away the fog. “Just between you and me, I’d been having second thoughts. And then…you know. Gone.”

The Doctor nodded. “Speaking of which, where is he?”

Harriet surveyed the dimly-lit function room, and spotted Nick, in the middle of an intense conversation with a visibly upset pensioner. “Over there,” she said. “I think he’s trying to placate Aunt Iris. She’s upset about missing Strictly. Started half an hour ago.”

The Doctor appeared to be formulating some sort of idea in his head. “Well, I could…you know. I could probably do something about that.”

Harriet’s eyebrow arched. “How?”

The Doctor scratched his ear. “I’ve got a time machine.”

Harriet nearly spat out her wine, but managed at the last minute to swallow. “You know the weird thing? I actually believe that.”

“Just a small number, mind you, and doesn’t always work properly, but I could probably drop her off, say, an hour ago.”

“Really?”

“Yes. But you can’t tell anyone. It’s not something I do except in dire emergencies, which seems to apply here. Still, we can’t let it get out. I’ll never live it down.” The Doctor sighed. “Look at me, going soft in my old age.”

“But hold on.” Harriet’s face darkened. “If you could go back in time, couldn’t you just…I don’t know. Nip back and fix things? So all the stuff earlier won’t happen?”

“Doesn’t work like that.” The Doctor swigged his lemonade. “I can’t go back along my own timeline. Creates a paradox. Seven shades of hell break loose. Anyway. When you think about it, would you really have wanted this afternoon to be any different?”

Harriet thought about it and decided she probably didn’t.

“But if you’re from the future,” she continued, “which you must be, seeing as you have a time machine, do you know about us? I mean what happens to us?”

“Not offhand,” said the Doctor. “Big universe, lots of people. Can’t keep track of everyone.”

“But you could find out.”

“Theoretically,” he replied. “But I’m not going to.”

Harriet nodded, a little disappointed and also relieved.

“You wanted to know if you lived happily ever after,” the Doctor said, probing her thoughts. “Didn’t you?”

Harriet shrugged, and gave a small smile.

“Nobody does, you know. Not really. But you make the best of whatever you’re given. And you promise each other that that’ll be enough. And then, whenever things are bad, you push on.”

Harriet’s smile widened. Yes. That would do.

“Speaking of pushing on,” the Doctor said, putting down his glass, “I really should be making a move. Places to see, planets to liberate, that sort of thing. I’ll go and collect your aunt.”

“Nick’s aunt,” Harriet corrected him. “Listen, – ”

“Don’t thank me again,” said the Doctor, his hand up. “There’s really no need.”

“No, I was going to ask. What about you? Is there – ”

The Doctor smiled at her. It was the sort of smile that spoke volumes; it seemed to hide a wealth of sadness, of heartbreak and recollection and pushing on. There were stories, she sensed, that she would never get to hear, and she realised – in that moment, she finally realised – that they’d been in the presence of a man who was full of secrets, who played only the bare minimum of the cards he kept strapped to his chest, and that this sort of intervention, this breezing in and out of lives, was what he did every day.

“Good luck to you Harriet,” he said, and with a wink he was gone.

Harriet watched him leave, a straight-backed gentlemen pushing a wheelchair, disappearing as if he’d never really been there in the first place.

Nick joined her at the buffet table. “I’ve tried calming her down, but nothing doing,” he said. “I don’t know why they can’t stick iPlayer on a couple of the nursing home TVs.”

“I don’t think you need to worry,” said Harriet, gesturing at the departing Doctor. “It’s all in hand.”

She squeezed Nick’s palm. “And speaking of which,” she said, “I think you owe me a dance, my darling husband.”

Nick smiled. “It worked out in the end, didn’t it?”

“Yes,” said Harriet. “I think it did.”

“But there’s one thing I don’t understand.”

She looked at him, incredulous. “Only one?”

“Well. I mean, there’s a bunch of – but look, who was he? He waltzes in, there’s chaos, I get a whopping headache, then he’s off again, like he’s never been here. We didn’t even know his name.”

Harriet gave her new husband a kiss.

“Does it matter?”

 

For Emily, fifteen years after ‘I do’.

 

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The Smallerpictures video dump (2019, part five)

I seem to have a backlog of videos to embed, so what better way to spend a Saturday morning than writing about some of them? Today, we’re looking at political Cybermen, irritating mathematical geniuses and fudged Italian opera, so without further ado, let’s delve into the ridiculous world of tenuous connections and ridiculous mashups that is my head. Bring that slab of Kendal; at least one of us is liable to get hungry.

 

1. Doomsday: Strong and Stable Edition (June 2019)

There is something about Yvonne Hartman’s final words that resonates with me. We’re supposed to be moved as she stands on a staircase moping about queen and country and leaking oil (something I never want to see again, ever). In truth she sounds like a politician falling back on soundbites to get out of a quandary. It is a silly scene in a dreadful episode and thus when it comes to potential redubbing opportunities it is very much top of the list.

If you remember Theresa May’s farewell speech, all the way back in June, you will recall the moment her voice cracked as she spoke of serving the country she loved, before walking back into Downing Street for what we were supposed to believe was the last time (the likely truth is she had to go back in later when she forgot her purse). Meanwhile I was making notes, ripping out highlights and then running her voice through a couple of filters so that she sounded reasonably Cyberish (is that a word? I’m making it a word). The end result is something I confess I quite like. It is one of those transient videos, which stopped being funny as soon as the internet had moved on to the next thing (which took all of a week), but for a moment there, people were laughing.

 

2. Earthshock Redux (June 2019)

This is absolutely ridiculous, and I still don’t think it quite works, but it’s the best episode I could find of making the joke I’m not about to give away here. If you’re familiar with the ads, you’ll see what I was trying to do. If you’re not, then it will fly over your head like Concorde. That was a reference to Time Flight, by the way, in case anyone had failed to realise. At least you get to see Adric explode, which is no bad thing.

 

3. Jon Pertwee sings (July 2019)

How did I mark the Pertwee centenary? With this. Pertwee is easily the most musical of the Doctors, at least on screen – forever breaking into song as he’s driving or tinkering, and on more than one occasion a musical interlude proves to be a lifesaver. (Unfortunately it’s exactly the same monster and exactly the same song, two years down the line, which does rather cheapen the effect.)

Speaking of effects, wouldn’t it be far more fun if Pertwee’s voice was contaminated with helium? In recent weeks I’d finally worked out how to adjust vocal tracks so that the pitch is adjusted without the speed being compromised. At some point I’ll be applying it to River’s wedding scene, which will probably make it bearable. In the meantime, I tagged Pip Madeley in the Twitter upload, and he gave it his seal of approval, which is extremely gratifying. Anyone else fancy a bit of John Denver?

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Have I Got Whos For You (pie and mash edition)

Here’s how Jodie Whittaker spent her 19 September.

I mean honest to god. What the hell is it all about, really, apart from the whims of a single internet user, gone viral in an annual marketing extravaganza? It’s just an excuse for more pitiful emails from people trying to sell you stuff. It’s worse than Star Wars Day, and at least that one was rooted in a joke.

I am a little grumpy this evening, as you might perhaps have guessed, so I am cheering myself up by looking back at one of the finest albums ever made. I did my dissertation on the Beatles – the department head took some convincing and some twenty years later I’m still not sure there was really any actual substance, but I scraped an upper second so it can’t have been that bad. In any case it gave me the excuse to listen to wall-to-wall Beatles: something I still do from time to time, although I always come back to their final studio production, which is a fitting swansong for a quartet of musical legends, graced with an iconic cover, and forty-three minutes of sheer unrivalled brilliance. Plus ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’.

Elsewhere, a host of freshly unearthed transcripts reveal Admiral Nelson’s actual last words.

And on a train in Denmark, Greta Thunberg gains a new lunch buddy.

It may have escaped your notice, but the other week was Batman Day. We’re celebrating eighty years of the sexually ambigous, morally ambivalent flying rodent with a latex fetish; it’s quite fashionable, in these supposedly ‘enlightened’ times, to bash the bat for misappropriation of his philanthropic funds into a score of expensive cars and gadgets and imported weaponry that’s illegal on just about every high street, but I’m having none of it. Batman doesn’t owe you or anyone diddly squat. He’s Batman, and that’s all there is to it. Yes, he’s a multi-millionaire who beats up the mentally ill. You say that like it’s a bad thing.

Anyway, any excuse.

“This has nothing to do with Doctor Who.”
“Clara is in it.”
“BATMAN HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH DOCTOR WHO.”
“Look, tenuous mashups are what I do. Besides, it works on a number of levels. There’s Clara’s omnipresence. There’s the fact that Batman has been played a number of different ways by a number of different actors over the years, with varying degrees of severity. And there’s the fact that the Oswin doll is deliberately arranged so that she’s imitating the hug she has with Capaldi at the end of ‘Listen’. But hey, report me if you want.”

I mean honestly.

Finally this week, there are rumblings over in one of the Hogwarts classrooms.

“Hello, I’m the Doctor, and I’ll be taking you for Defence Against The Dark Arts this year…”

 

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The One with the Friends Titles

In many ways it feels like yesterday. That sense of envy, the homage to stressed-out Village life (capital intentional) where people are happy and unhappy at the same time, where humdrum jobs and complicated (or non-existent) love lives are made bearable by the people you hang out with. I was almost seventeen and it seemed such a carefree way to live: these twenty-somethings who existed in a hubbub of late films and spontaneous baking sessions and endless cups of coffee. I had just found, in the real world, an uneasy point of entry into a peer group in which I never really belonged and in which I was, for the most part, an outsider: a Gunther to everybody else’s Ross and Rachel, surrounded by ostensibly lovely people who would never actually call me.

But when you’re that age recognition of any sort is important, and you start to draw parallels. During more reflective moments, in evening conversations conducted over cider or Grolsch in our local pub, I would compare myself to Ross – heartfelt, sincere and slightly pathetic Ross. The analogy worked: Ross really was a bit of a dickhead. I didn’t see it at the time, seeing as I only recognised what how awful I was years down the line. Still, Phoebe was always my favourite – good old Phoebe, who was unable to think a sentence through in her head before saying it out loud (“There isn’t always time!”) and whose songs alone made the show worth watching, if only to detract from the tedium that was the Ross and Rachel love story. They wound up having a baby (by accident) and settling down, presumably in Scarsdale where the schools are good. We don’t know. I still don’t think I’ve seen that last series; the novelty had long worn off and my life had moved on.

It’s become fashionable to sneer at Friends, to dump the word ‘problematic’ into discussion as if that covered the multitude of readings: as if it is as simple as calling it homophobic (it isn’t), fat-shaming (guilty) and disproportionately white (so were the social lives of most people watching it). As ever, things are more complicated and as ever, the internet isn’t interested in grey, not least when black and white looks so much prettier. As far as I’m concerned Friends lost some of its sheen once it became markedly less Jewish, at least in terms of the humour it was producing, and when the characters disappeared up their own backsides in order to become stereotypical parodies of themselves, instead of rounded people: in other words, taking what the audience found funny and building the entire show around it, rather than writing something that could actually be called interesting. But I had this conversation a couple of years back, if you can call ‘conversation’ an eight-hundred word pot-stirrer I did for Metro that actually did reasonable traffic, not least because there were a number of people willing to haul me over the coals for it – or, as a particularly cynical American wrote on Twitter, ‘The one where the straight white man gets to have his say’.

What’s left? A series of eight stills from Doctor Who, accompanied by (hideously in)appropriate Friends episode titles. I have eschewed the obvious ones – hence, The One With The Flashback isn’t there, simply because it wouldn’t be funny. The rest of it sort of works. I don’t watch Friends anymore, for the same reason I don’t re-watch Doctor Who: there is too much TV out there I haven’t seen yet. But it  was a big part of my life for years, and it would be churlish to deny it that sense of cultural importance, at least on a deeply personal level: programmes like this are a comfort blanket, a sense of reassurance, a Friday spent in familiar company even if the conversation is only ever one way. It would be nice if we could just view it as that, instead of having all this other baggage. It would be nice, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, which is why I tend to keep out of it these days.

Anyway, those images.

How you doin’…?

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