Monthly Archives: December 2019

Have I Got Whos For You (May The Force Be With You Edition)

Lost wandering the plains and hills of an undisclosed location, the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends stop to ask for directions.

And over at Westminster, a minor Twitter war erupts during the Queen’s Speech at Westminster when no one can decide on the colour of her dress.

I went to the cinema this week. You can sort of guess what we saw, can’t you?

There’s a bit in Muppet Treasure Island that’s stuck with me. It’s the scene where the pirates are sitting around in a cave or or a hill fort or a jungle clearing or something in the aftermath of their not-quite mutiny against Long John Silver (played with customary brilliance by the now sadly retired Tim Curry). As they’re licking their wounds, one of them holds up a muppet skeleton. “Dead Tom’s dead!” he wails. “Long John shot him!”

It falls to one of the other pirates to point out that Dead Tom’s always been dead, and that this is in fact why they call him Dead Tom. And this, for reasons that ought to be obvious, is the scene that comes to mind every time some fanboy whines that Disney have killed Star Wars. Anyone complaining about supposed virtue signalling and bad plotting in The Last Jedi has clearly forgotten Attack of the Clones, which was crap from start to not quite finish.

Anyway, it turns out we weren’t the only ones there.

SPOILERS FOLLOW. Things I noticed:

1. That kiss came out of nowhere. I know Kylo and Rey had a psychic connection but in what universe was this building up to any sort of love story? (There’s also the fact that they had even less on-screen chemistry than Matt Smith and Alex Kingston, so it really seems a bit strange).

2. The C-3PO thing was one big fan troll. In the film it serves as an inconsequential comic relief side plot: the media speculation had us believing it was much, much more. The same goes for Dark Rey. Or perhaps it’s nothing to do with the way trailers are edited; perhaps it’s the way the press functions now. Sometimes I think there are too many of us, and we’d function better if we had a bit of a cull.

3. It’s kind of distracting watching Carrie Fisher and trying to work out which lines were redubbed, which scenes were recut and which shots were filmed with body doubles (that death scene certainly was).

4. Likewise, there’s something kind of off-putting about a film that spends its final half hour trying to be a straight up remake of Return of the Jedi, only falling rather short. As much fun as it was to see Finn and Mel B ride across the surface of a Star Destroyer before a last-gasp save from Lando Calrissian (Williams was the only actor, as far as I could tell, who appeared to actually be enjoying himself) the whole thing felt a little flat next to Jedi’s perfectly-paced third act. Having the Emperor repeat the exact same lines he spouted thirty-five years ago – give or take a conjunction – isn’t fan service; it’s simply lazy writing. The whole film read like an acknowledgement that The Last Jedi annoyed people, which is fine, except it never annoyed me. There’s nothing wrong with giving people what they want, but it’s a sad state of affairs when a bunch of whining thirty-somethings can hold a series to ransom.

5. Zorii – the masked beauty from the planet that got vapourised – was to all intents and purposes the Red Ranger.

6. There were so many unanswered questions you get the feeling Abrams shot another hour’s worth of footage in an attempt to do an Infinity War and then got his wrists slapped by Disney. Was the Scary Spice clone on a horse Finn’s romantic interest or long lost sister? And what was Finn about to tell Rey?

7. That cameo – you know, the one at the Death Star – was nothing short of marvellous.

8. Poe is a dickhead. Sorry.

SPOILERS END HERE.

We were finished in time to get back and not clean. Christmas preparations are in a state of some disarray. The house is not really tidy, the chestnuts are unpeeled and I haven’t wrapped Emily’s presents. It’ll get done. Probably.

“Ooh, exciting. I wonder what it is?”

Curiously, the only other thing playing at the cinema is the subject of our other news for this week, as the Daleks devise new and ever more ingenious methods of torturing the Doctor.

“There’s a whisper down the line at 11:39…”

Categories: Have I Got Whos For You | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Doctor Who Fiction Collection

I recently finished a wonderful book called The Night Circus. It features, close to its conclusion, a seemingly minor character lecturing another on the importance of stories. “Someone needs to tell those tales,” he says. “When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.”

Sometimes you write because you have the idea. Other times, you write because there’s a project, or simply because you need to, and the idea comes when you’ve brainstormed and head-scratched and run down a hundred different scenarios, none of them particularly good. And then sometimes the scenario will evolve out of a seed of an idea, reworked into something tangible and even, dare we say it, quite good. And sometimes it won’t, and you’ll go for a walk or brush the kitchen floor and wait for some unsuspecting narrative spark to drift past that you can pluck from the air. Most of all the process of writing is not always pleasant. Sometimes it is arduous and laboured and you press on, head to the wind, hand shielding your eyes against the storm, secure in the knowledge of nothing except the fact that this is not your best work, but at least it is work, and it is easier to rewrite a mess than it is a blank page.

But writing fiction using TV characters is the MFI (sorry, Ikea; I’m showing my age) of story construction. The characters come pre-assembled: you just have to put them together. You still have the job of establishing a setting – and, unless you’re playing it really safe, a supporting cast – but much of the work is done for you, the arduous task of establishing likeable protagonists already completed long ago by your intended audience. From one perspective it is cheating. From another, it is a template to enable ease of use, allowing you more time to concentrate on the story. Pick one.

I will, as a general principle, leave the character development to the novels: when I’m writing short fiction, it tends to be about Doctor Who. This particular collection spans a little over four years. Some of it is better than others: that’s as it should be. If every tale was only as good as the one that came before then we’d have a problem (if it was worse than the one that came before, we’d have a serious problem). There are Ice Warriors and Weeping Angels; the Doctor tangles with disgruntled matriarchs and angry villagers and, more than once, himself. You will have your favourites – I have mine. You don’t get to hear what they are. But you do get to read the stories. Enjoy them.

 

Sleep No More: Behind The Scenes

(Brian of Morbius, November 2015)

We start, ironically, with something that isn’t really a story at all, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. To give a little context: in late 2015 I was burned out, bummed out and very nearly wanted out. Doctor Who had lost its sheen, and I spent most of series 9 drumming my fingers on a table top (in a rather irritating four-beat pattern) waiting for it to end. I’m over it now, but those were dark days. To cope with a lackluster and occasionally frustrating series I began to get creative in my reviews, and this one – which tackles, ironically, an episode I’ve come to rather enjoy – is perhaps the silliest of the lot, being one of those fictionalised fly-on-the-wall documentary type things that became big business the moment Ricky Gervais first stepped foot into Wernham Hogg. It would be interesting to find out whether any conversations like the ones depicted ever actually took place. I’d be willing to bet there were at least a couple.

 

Dickensian

(The Doctor Who Companion, December 2016)

Write a Christmas-themed short story for The Doctor Who Companion? In 1500 words? No problem. Mostly. In this seasonal tale the Third Doctor is visited on Christmas Eve by a couple of spirits, with an obvious TARDIS-related twist. What I like about this is the stripped back Aristotle-esque nature of the setting: getting in and telling a story in one room and getting out again is something I really don’t do very often, so it was fun to rise to that particular self-imposed challenge. Oh, and there are jokes about vol-au-vents, because you always have to have a joke about vol-au-vents.

 

Day of the Dead

(The Doctor Who Companion, October 2017)

The year after the run of Christmassy stories over at the DWC, the site’s fiction editor organised a Halloween project. The brief was simple: write a story about a monster in which the Doctor does not feature at all. One of the most challenging things about this was finding a way to bring the Angels to life and make them scary when everyone already knows what they are – everyone, that is, except for the poor sap who encounters them. This is ramshackle in places, but I think it just about hangs together. If you forward it on, you have to promise not to give away the ending.

 

The Twelfth Doctor Gets A Phone Call

(The Doctor Who Companion, August 2018)

I’ve often wondered about the first time we see Peter Capaldi. His unanticipated blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in ‘Day of the Doctor’ – “No, sir – all thirteen!” – was one of the show’s key talking points, if only because you never hear about it again. It’s always possible that the Twelfth Doctor just turned up, knowing that was where he needed to be and when, but I’ve always liked to think that his immediate predecessor got in touch – something that could likely only happen once he knew there would be another Doctor coming along, which should give you some idea as to when this all takes place. The whole thing is a bit meta, but I quite like doing meta; it keeps me sane in between all the fan bitching.

 

Love That In A Family Dwells

(The Doctor Who Companion, December 2018)

We don’t get Christmas specials any more, it seems. We certainly didn’t last year, a schedule change that caused a great deal of fuss amongst the online community, most of whom were suitably disgruntled that they would have to spend December 25th actually hanging out with family members rather than simply crashing in front of the TV. I seem to have been one of the few people who wasn’t bothered – I never enjoy Christmas Day episodes because when you’re in my line of work there is a sudden and immediate urge to blog about them, something I’ve frankly never wanted to do after several sherries and a bucket load of mince pies. New Year’s Day is a much better candidate, although I accept that I’m in a minority.

Anyway, to plug the gap between Ranskoor and ‘Resolution’, I came up with this, which tells the story of what happens when the Doctor and her fam visit…look, you’ll just have to read the thing and find out, won’t you? One advantage of doing a story which is deliberately comic in tone is that you can advance the plot and cram in all sorts of expository information simply by including as many unexpected non-sequiteurs as possible: it’s a creative risk, but it works, provided you get the tone just right. I still don’t know if I did, but it was one of those occasions where I actually enjoyed the writing process, as opposed to simply having written. Those moments are gold dust, and must be seized without fear.

 

A Martian Sends A Postcard Home

(The Doctor Who Companion, August 2019)

Every summer, when we can, my family and I head down to the same camping field on the coast of Pembrokeshire. There we’ll indulge in campfire singalongs, quaff the local ale and spend hours on the beach looking for starfish and crabs. It usually buckets it down at least once, the clouds rolling in off the Irish Sea like an advancing invasion force, but you’re in Wales, and you basically come to expect it. In any case, that particular location (right down to a reasonably accurate depiction of its topography) is the setting for this little tale involving a lost Ice Warrior who winds up shipwrecked and blunders into, of all things, a village fete. Does the Doctor make an appearance? You’ll have to keep reading to find out – but it’s not a spoiler to reveal that several of the supporting characters are named after DWC staff, something I still don’t think they’ve noticed.

 

Wedding Crasher

(Brian of Morbius, October 2019)

Emily and I celebrated fifteen years of marriage this autumn. I still remember that morning as if it were yesterday: rising, sleepily as we both drove to separate houses in Reading to prepare; the argument I had with the insurance company, ripe and bruising after the argument we’d had with my aunt the previous evening over the reception place markings. Eating brioche with the best man and his wife in their housing estate semi, the pacing in the vestry when she was ten minutes late, and then that thrilled, anticipated moment where you see her walking down the aisle, at her most radiant. On balance, it was a good day.

The wedding of Harriet and Nick does not go to plan. But they might get their happy ending, thanks to an unexpected interruption. This was written in a rush job, and it shows, but it hangs together by the thread of a poorly-tied ribbon long enough to load it into the back of the car to open after the honeymoon. A disclaimer: Nick is not based on me, and Harriet is not based on Emily, and while Harriet’s mother was cut from the cloth of a real person, that person was not my mother-in-law. Probably.

 

Furby From The Deep

(The Doctor Who Companion, December 2019)

It’s the UNIT Christmas party, and the Third Doctor is reluctantly in attendance – along with Jo, the Brigadier, Yates, Benton and some sinister-looking toys. What could possibly go wrong? I’ve been wanting to write this for years – I even started it once, but there were technical problems and it was necessary to begin again from scratch. The intent was always to make it feel like something Terrance Dicks might have churned out, which means it concentrates more on the story it’s telling than the way it’s being told: Dicks had a flair for prose but was never one for literary flourishes, except where they were really needed. Does it feel like him? Probably not, but it has a beginning and a middle and an end, which is perhaps the best you can hope for. This will take you a while, so I strongly advise making a cup of tea first.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Have I Got Whos For You (seasonal cheer edition)

I’m on a bit of a clock today, so this is going to be light on the text front. We’ll just get on with the pictures, shall we?

This week in world news: while posing for that Time Magazine cover, Greta Thunberg inadvertently blunders into a scene from series 7.

There are disturbing developments at a pub in Suffolk.

And in a deleted scene from Game of Thrones, Bryn Terfel is coming.

Also coming soon: the Eleventh Doctor stars in The Collect Call of Cthulhu.

And Tom Hanks, fresh from promoting Mr Rogers or whatever he’s doing now, begins work on the upcoming Forrest of the Dead.

Speaking of the Eleventh Doctor, news emerges of an abandoned exchange from his regeneration story in which Clara voices what we’ve all been thinking for years.

And Chris Chibnall capitalises on Boris Johnson’s Love Actually parody to bring us this.

Last but not least: filming for the new Ghostbusters trailer is interrupted by an unexpected visitor.

“Seriously, Amy? Again?”

Categories: Have I Got Whos For You | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Have I Got Whos For You (Mandalorian Edition)

Happy December! Did you know that the Master’s hatred of Will Ferrell spawned an unexpected seasonal tradition?

It’s Monday, which means two things. First, I’m entirely failing to finish tidying the lounge. Second, it’s time for our regular roundup of news and gossip from the world of everyone’s second favourite TV show (right behind Stranger Things, which I will get round to seeing one of these days). So what’s been going on in Whovania this week?

Needless to say, Jodie Whittaker has dominated. It’s not enough that we had two – two! trailers in the space of a week; we also have an episode title and guest cast. (At the risk of implementing a well-worn cliche, Doctor Who trailers are like buses, only they’re like buses in Reading town centre on a Friday night, because you have to wait ages and then two come along at once and you can’t actually hear yourself think on there for all the shouting and food fights and babies throwing toys out of prams. At least you can block these people on the internet; you can’t do that on the 38 to Purley-on-Thames.)

Still. I think we can all agree that ‘Spyfall’ really is a fairly dreadful title, although it did give me the excuse to do this, which almost works.

What happens in ‘Spyfall’? Well, there’s a bit of gubbins about rewritten DNA and Stephen Fry turns up playing a character called ‘C’. Whittaker herself is heard to mutter “The name’s Doctor…the Doctor” in a moment so gut-wrenchingly corny it could only have come from the hand of Chris “HELP ME WITH MY BEATLES QUIZ, MUM!” Chibnall, but this is the sort of thing I’m prepared to let go if I’m watching something enjoyable. ‘The Crimson Horror’ was thoroughly stupid, and occasionally excruciating, but it was also fun. Isn’t that really what Doctor Who is supposed to be about? Fun, and hopefully not too transparently woke?

I’ve been thinking about the word ‘woke’, really. It implies a heightened state of awareness, the notion that all those who are not transparently and overtly tuned in to injustice and equality and political correctness are in some way unconscious. It’s ridiculous terminology because there’s really nothing wrong with being asleep, particularly when you’ve spent a hell of a long time campaigning and fighting and you just need a bit of a rest. You never get the full story, really, do you, from someone who seems to be the opposite of ‘woke’? They’re just dismissed as fossilised dinosaurs who have no awareness of the world around them, rather than someone who has perhaps more awareness than you’d care to realise, and who has learned how to pick their battles, and who has decided that the best thing for their own state of mind is to give the outward appearance of being asleep.

“Yeah, I think we’re gonna have to cancel Christmas.”

While we’re at it, I have another pet hate I’d like to just mention and then talk about another day when I have more time.

Seriously, this is what happens if you let the internet write Doctor Who scripts.

There’s also news about the upcoming comic crossover in which Jodie Whittaker encounters the Tenth Doctor; one that had already given rise to speculation that he would appear in the next TV series for the current Doctor to castigate (in a conspiracy laden video I refuse to link to, because it’s bollocks and I’m not giving them the traffic). After much back and forth between the idiot fans who genuinely thought this was happening in the TV series and those of us who actually read beyond the headline, we’ve finally cleared up that this is a spin-off, and that whatever happens it’s probably not going to be hateful. I almost wish it was, really; you might as well give the haters something to really complain about.

In any case, it’s now emerged that said crossover will actually be a revisitation of the events of ‘Blink’, but from the perspective of both Doctors rather than Sally Sparrow. Unfortunately the most widely-shared link for this story came from Screen Rant, who ran with “BLINK TO BE REWRITTEN” (paraphrasing, but that was the sentiment), in a story I refuse to link to for reasons that should by now be obvious, and then all hell broke loose because many people, it turns out, are too thick to go any further than a fan baiting headline.

I had a near miss with writing for Screen Rant; did I ever tell you? I will spare you the details, but let’s just say there were one or two creative issues with their work ethic, and given the garbage they put out these days I think it was a lucky escape. Teaching piano is far more fun, and nobody tells you to kill yourself.

A little Star Wars news now, because I’ve got a stack of gags, and Jodie Whittaker’s got a bad feeling about this.

There’s also an exclusive press photo from the Episode IX After Party.

And this deleted scene from ‘It Takes You Away’ suggests that the BBC originally planned something quite different for last year.

It’s very easy to knock the direction Star Wars has taken, simply because it’s contemporary. You remember what you choose to remember, which was that the Ewoks were rubbish but at least they were cute rubbish, and that yes, Jar Jar was racist, but I suppose it was a long time ago and anyway it’s NOT AS BAD AS THAT STUPID SCENE WHERE LEIA SHOOTS OUT INTO SPACE. Likewise, there are a bunch of people yelling at Chibnall for producing an overly simplified portrait of racist white people in ‘Rosa’, simply because that was the best way to tell a story which (let’s be honest) was aimed at kids, and every single one of these people has completely forgotten the laboured monologues we used to get from McCoy and Pertwee and Hartnell, mostly when they were slagging off the military, or the lecturing about sweat shops in ‘Planet of the Ood’, or…I mean, if we’re going to throw any shade in the direction of last year, couldn’t we just agree that the monsters weren’t much cop? I don’t mind straight white men being the villains, because that’s kind of the way it always used to be, but the new creations they did include (benevolent or otherwise) weren’t so much offensive as simply dull. But that’s all fine, because Bradley Walsh has promised us that series 11 will feature some “absolutely terrifying monsters”.

Oh well, at least it’s official.

Categories: Have I Got Whos For You | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: