That noise? That’s Edward, singing the theme from The X-Files. He picked it up from Thomas, who picked it up from YouTube, from a bloody Minecraft video. There is an Illuminati symbol on the screen somewhere (don’t ask me how they did this; god knows everything in Minecraft is essentially cubic), accompanied by the theme from The X-Files. Since viewing this Thomas has become convinced that the adventures of Mulder and Scully are in fact a documented history of the Illuminati, which (as any fan will tell you) is only half true. He began to ask about it with the sort of regularity that young children usually save for requesting mileage counts on six-hour car journeys. I almost throttled him several times. I thought the pictures of Glastonbury Grove would be enough, but it was like feeding a heroin addict. He absolutely refused to accept that the secrecy behind the Illuminati is precisely what makes them tick. “I can’t tell you what happens,” I said to Thomas, “or who’s involved, or what they do, because they’ve made it their life’s work to make sure we don’t find out.”
Oh, there are conspiracy theories, if you know where to look, but I left them untouched. Or at least I did, until the day (back in March) that he told us he wanted an Illuminati-themed birthday party. My heart dropped fifteen fathoms and I had to send out the deep sea recovery team. I mean, I’m always up for a challenge, but what the hell do you do for something like this? Still: nothing ventured, nothing gained: if nothing else it would be an adventure. We began the first stages of research: sourced logos, symbols, looked for triangular-themed foods and crafts. My friends on Facebook were disturbingly helpful. I even did this, at Thomas’s suggestion.
Five weeks before the event his enthusiasm waned overnight. “I don’t want an Illuminati-themed birthday party any more,” he declared one Saturday over lunch. “I want a Doctor Who party instead.”
Well. This is good. This is, for want of better terminology than the sort I despise, entirely my comfort zone. Because we did it, several years back, and I blogged it in a series of posts that made various Pinterest boards and which are, even now, the most popular result in the stats, by a significant margin. More popular than that Scrabble ranking post I did the other week. More popular, even, than ‘Why the Weeping Angels are rubbish‘. I mean, I don’t know why this is, particularly. We did a good job, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who did it better. Maybe it was the food, which I’ll talk about in part two, because I don’t want this to veer into TL:DR territory.
Enough rambling – let’s get on. We used the same invitations we used last time, suitably adapted, with new Doctors and a bleached background. I’d have pasted it here, but Fireworks is being weird this morning and the version I’m uploading is illegible. I really should use a better picture of the Cybermen if Daniel wants this theme in a couple of years ago. Those metal robot things are just pretenders to the throne.
Our birthday parties have become distressingly formulaic over recent years. The Troughton era practically invented the base-under-siege thing, or at least held a monopoly on it – we tend to go for the noisy game / less noisy game / craft activity / codebreaking game / noisy game approach, as this is the best way to keep them engaged and pique their interest without tiring them out. The net result of this is that all our parties are essentially the same, with as many concessions to the theme as we can include, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. At least it’s a bit more imaginative than the bouncy-castle-in-the-sports-centre thing that everyone else in the entire country seems to do these days.
Those games, then. We started with Grandmother’s Footsteps, which I turned into Weeping Angel Footsteps. I don’t think I even need to explain that. There are two default poses: Face-in-Hands Angel and Scary Angel. I am still getting over some of their scary angels. For a bunch of children who haven’t watched ‘Blink’, they’re pretty terrifying.
Next was Pin The Arm On The Cyberman. Earlier in the week I’d printed this – A4 sheets pasted onto a roll of craft paper:
You will note that everyone is lacking in at least one appendage: Missy is missing a head, the Mire has lost its gun-toting left arm, the Angel has had its wings clipped and the Dalek is going to be in a right mess if it needs to unblock a sink. But that’s OK, because here come a bunch of primary school children, armed with the Blu-Tack. By the end of the game, it looked like this:
I should have spun them round a bit first after I made them close their eyes. They were all just a bit too good – particularly Josh, who managed to get the Dalek plunger precisely in place with no effort at all. I do find it amusing that the Minotaur now has one of the Zygon’s legs, which – owing to the fact that it’s visible up to the hip – makes the interstellar monster look rather like it’s ballet dancing. (Missy, meanwhile, looks as if she’s in the last chapter of The Twits.)
Next was the Corners game, for which we were confined to the lounge, as the rain had made the garden inaccessible. I’d cut posters out of Thomas’s old Doctor Who Adventures magazines (with his permission – “It’s fine, because they’re all pretty old”) and stuck them on doors and walls around the room –
– and the kids had to dance around the lounge (to ELO, which was the only appropriately jolly music I could lie my hands on with a Whovian connection), preferably without smashing anything, choosing a corner to run to when I paused the CD player. Meanwhile, Emily had printed these:
You get a sweet if I pick your corner, and if I pick the Doctor everyone gets a sweet. As with pass-the-parcel, it is all hopelessly engineered. It’s the only way to avoid the tantrums.
Everyone was ready for a rest after that, and I needed to prepare the last game now that I knew we would be doing it inside. Emily usually arranges the craft activity, and on this occasion she did a make-your-own-party-bag thing. We’d done it with great success at the CBeebies party we held years back, but on this occasion –
And no, they’re not bigger on the inside. This is a plain blue (TARDIS blue?) bag – you can get them off Ebay. Emily cut out lighter blue squares to simulate the panelling, and I found these:
At full size it fits – just about – in a Word document, if you whack down the margins, which makes for easier printing.
While the kids were cutting and sticking, I was running around pinning up our last game. We usually do a Code-break of some sort – find the letter to match the symbol to unscramble the message – but on this occasion I’d managed to get hold of a 2016 Doctor Who calendar for a knock-down price (given that it’s now the middle of May, and who on earth is going to want to buy a 2016 calendar when half the months are already gone? Oh, that’s right.).
Normally for these games we just randomly paste pictures all over the place, but “on this occasion,” I told them, “I want you to do this in a specific order.” I’d cut out the dates from a spare page of the calendar and written a letter on each, like so –
So you write down that letter, and the number in the corner of the box is the Doctor you have to find next. Starting with the War Doctor (who is unnumbered), the sequence had them darting around the house trying to find each Doctor in succession, in an entirely random order. The tricky part was finding a thirteen letter word or phrase that was semi-interesting without being inaccessible for a bunch of children who (by and large) were unfamiliar with the show pre-2005, if they were familiar with it at all, but in the end I settled for –
(The ‘Y’, of course, is on Capaldi, the last Doctor in the sequence; I drew his directly onto the sheet.)
I’m sure you can make some sort of connection between Baker and Pertwee and Pertwee and Tennant and Tennant and McCoy and so on, but I wasn’t thinking about that. Although I’d like to see the fan fiction. Besides, going with a Weeping Angel quote fits thematically, “Because,” as Emily said, “it’s like the Doctor’s message. You know, it’s scrambled through time.”
That was when we got into a discussion about the ‘Blink’ message. IIRC it appeared on the series 3 box set, possibly even as an actual Easter Egg, but we agreed that it might have been more fun if the BBC had brokered a deal with various other distribution companies and inserted it in seventeen completely random and seemingly unrelated DVDs, just for the fun of it. “Because basically,” she said, “when it’s a Doctor Who DVD, you sort of expect it. I’d love to have seen other people react to something entirely random, with no context and no idea where it came from.”
“Thing is,” I said, “to work effectively as a marketing campaign it’d have to be completely removed in terms of association or subject matter. I mean DVDs that wouldn’t be owned by anyone who’d have watched the show. What sort of DVD would never in a million years be bought by a Doctor Who fan?”
She thought for a moment and said “Doctor Who: The Movie?”
Next time: Cake. Because cake.