Posts Tagged With: creative

No jacket required

The_Kingmaker_cover

I’m not saying ‘The Kingmaker’ is typical of the Doctor Who Big Finish audio dramas. Nor is it, perhaps, the best introduction to Peri and Erimem if you’re unfamiliar with either. But if you have a couple of hours to spare, and the iPod playlist is looking stale, you could do a lot worse. I haven’t laughed quite so much in a long time. The anachronisms come thick and fast – there are gags about spoilers, concussion and commemorative mugs. Davison is clearly enjoying himself, while Caroline Morris gets to serve drinks in Tudor England and break a publican’s arm. Arthur Smith turns in an amusing guest turn, and Peri, in particular, has some wonderful scenes (which should surprise no one, give that her husband wrote them).

One particularly amusing sequence in ‘The Kingmaker’ sees the Doctor communicate with his companions – stranded two years in the past – with a series of letters, each one designed to be opened “directly after the last one”. The whole thing is rather like that scene in ‘Curse of Fatal Death’ where the Doctor and the Master travel further and further back in time in order to bribe the architect of the building in which they’re standing, an unfortunate series of events which culminates in the Master spending over nine hundred years in a sewer. Curiously, however, said notes were delivered by someone who was clearly supposed to be to the Ninth Doctor – a character that Fountain wasn’t told that he had to leave out – with no one noticing the inclusion until the thing had been shipped.

This is Joss Ackland in the second Bill and Ted film. If you've seen it, you'll know why.

This is Joss Ackland in the second Bill and Ted film. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know why.

If you’re wondering why I’ve mentioned this, you should know that Big Finish are barred from dealing with certain plot lines or characters, or entrance and exits stories – which is why, nearly thirty years after ‘Terror of the Vervoids’, we still don’t know how the Sixth Doctor met Melanie. They’re also barred from talking about anything post 2005, in case it messes with the series continuity. (Continuity is still a relatively recent thing, in the grand scheme of things. “We didn’t have a series Bible,” Terrance Dicks is fond of saying, proving that if there were no Ian Levine it would be necessary to invent him, and then lose him before rediscovering him and then bitching about it on Twitter.)

Of course, if challenged, it’s possible to contest that the “Northern chap with big ears” was actually the Eighth Doctor, given that he carries a trace of a Liverpool twang (unlike Tom Baker, who does not). Or perhaps – oh, I don’t know…

(If this strikes you as ridiculous, I feel it my duty to make you aware that there is fan fiction that features the Second Doctor meeting up with Noddy and the gang, before helping to find Bumpy Dog by playing his recorder.)

You have to feel a bit sorry for the Eighth – and for Big Finish in general, come to that. There they were, gearing up for the end of the Time War, by having the Doctor lament that he was about to do something terrible. He even got the leather jacket. The next thing you know, John Hurt is running around Gallifrey, blasting holes in the Arcadian walls and trying not to eat the cornbread. Presumably the jacket went back in the wardrobe, and the “terrible thing” turned out to be a re-recording of ‘Doctor in Distress’.

Luckily, the jacket is not mentioned, otherwise you’d have a potential continuity error, and we all know what happens when jackets turn up where they’re not wanted.

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“The thing with Moffat,” says Gareth, “is that I couldn’t tell whether he did that, turning continuity errors into plot points, or did it deliberately as an important “clue” for later on, but which is so minor as to be pathetic. He often seemed to make a big thing out of tiny “clues”, while at the same time ignoring massive foreshadowing because the build up and suspense was more exciting than the resolution.”

I think that one was almost certainly deliberate, but if it wasn’t, the conversation would have gone something like this –

“Steven? Here are the rushes for scene 37.”
“Shit. He’s still wearing his jacket.”
“Oh dear. I’m surprised no one noticed that.”
“How did it happen?”
“We’ve got this intern production assistant.”
“Memo for the next meeting: no more interns.”
“She’s the exec’s niece.”
“She could be the Queen of bloody Sheba for all I care; I can’t have cock-ups like this on my watch.”
“How are we going to fix this one, Steven?”
“…Hang on, it’s just given me an idea.”

Anyway, Gareth and I have spoken on various occasions – and I’m sure I’ve mentioned it here – about that scene in ‘Parting of the Ways’ where the Doctor is on the floor of Satellite 5, frantically assembling things out of cables and bits of circuits. I like it because, for just about the first and only time that series, Eccleston really felt like the Doctor. And perhaps with that in mind, I did this for Emily’s birthday card.

Card

Yes, Emily is in a pram. Except it’s a shopping trolley. I got the legs wrong and damage control was needed. I’m a rubbish artist, but it’s quite fun being a loving husband.

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The Creation, Mister Maker Style

Well, it is a Sunday.



I haven’t done a video in ages. There was a flurry of activity in the first part of the year, amidst all the old Who watching and trips to the job centre. Somewhere along the line there was an acknowledgement that freelance writing is what I do now. Since then, any time I’ve not spent child-caring has been mostly working on a portfolio, or generating all those memes that occasionally do quite well on the internet. When the novel is finished, I will go back and look at a few of the dozen or so projects I’ve got stewing. But this one? Well, this one was Josh.

We have made it a rule to try and attend our local church on a Sunday, whenever we can – they’re following a thirty week series called The Story that takes you through the Old and New Testament, or at least the Hebrew-centred bits of it. The resources are a condensed version of the New International Version of the Bible and a selection of children’s adaptations. There are also DVDs and YouTube clips, at least some of which contain those time-lapse painting things that are always great fun to watch. Services with our children can be a minefield: the church is extremely accommodating, and there’s no judgement or criticism, only wide-armed acceptance and great love, but we often have to take at least one of the boys outside to calm down. Throughout all of this we are determined to stick to it, because if we can’t teach them to behave in public, who will?

Still, there are some weeks when you don’t make it, and on this particular Sunday, the day after our London visit, everyone was exhausted, so we had a quiet morning at home. And that was when Josh – who, like most nine-year-olds, is normally ensconced in front of Minecraft or CITV – surprised me, largely by showing that he’s actually been listening during those fidgety children’s talks. I’d not been up long that morning when he revealed that he’d spent about an hour on Mister Maker’s Magic Paintbox. Mister Maker, for those of you unfamiliar with him, is the onscreen persona of Phil Gallagher, a sort of Mark Speight on Prozac who dashes around manically preparing a series of artistic creations. He has a talking cuckoo clock (with no cuckoo), a gigantic arts and crafts cabinet and a huge following in the Far East. It’s a far cry from the leisurely paces of Tony Hart, but the boys enjoy it, as do I.

Anyway, the joy behind the Magic Paintbox is its replay function, in which you can spend a while making an image and then review the drawing process in all its sped-up Flash-based glory, while Mister Maker himself shouts encouragement in the background. And when Joshua – completely unprompted – told me he’d made this story of the creation of the Earth, I knew it was too good to just leave on the website. It was a story we had looked at very recently, as part of an Advent series that starts with the fall of man and ends as Mary and Joseph bed down in Bethlehem – it’s impossible to really appreciate the Christmas narrative without its wider ramifications, just as it’s impossible to really appreciate that iconic closing scene in Dirty Harry until you’ve watched it in context, or appreciate ‘Memory’ unless you’ve actually seen the whole of Cats. What struck me about this was how Josh had managed to get the whole narrative in there, and all the important points, while retaining an attention to detail that I couldn’t have managed at all. Suffice it to say that he’s a far better artist than I am.

I ripped the replay video from the web using Movavi Screen Capture, which I knew would come in useful someday, and then Josh recorded his narration on my phone. We knew it would work better with music, and The Truman Show – a deeply religious film on many levels – seemed an obvious choice. While I was uploading this to YouTube, Daniel was working on his own video, which I really ought to finish at some point, once I can work out what to do with his narrative. I may not get the chance to do videos much these days, but my children have, it seems, inherited their parents’ creative spark, and the knowledge that we did at least one thing right makes all the fighting and squabbling and sleepless nights utterly worthwhile.

And on that note, we’re off to church.

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Creative Thinking

I’m in Cambridge with no access to my files, so God is in the Detail will have to wait until next week. Instead, I bring you this leftover from the Orient Express episode.

 

Thomas had a school garden project to complete before half term. If you’ve been here a while you may recall that Joshua had something similar a couple of years back, and that we did it with Lego, and then had the Cybermen trash the place. This time, Emily produced a quite wonderful winter-themed garden in about five minutes flat (winter’s always popular; I blame Frozen) rendered in cotton wool and filled with stuff they’d found out the back, to add a touch of authenticity.

Then I undid all the authenticity by adding a TARDIS.

Garden_Who

I’m no good with cotton wool, but I manage in other ways. The week before, Edward and I had gone to the local children’s centre for our weekly play session. On this occasion they’d got out the Stickle Bricks – toys I remember from my childhood and never really liked. The meshing system never works symmetrically, because the interlocking fingers never quite match up, so that if you try and jam a selection of bricks together it just looks uneven (this is impossible to explain, but if you’ve ever done it you’ll know exactly what I mean). What’s more, the gaps between the fingers get filthy, like the teeth of a comb, gripped by small hands who haven’t washed, and eventually they break off completely, leaving ugly edges that don’t stick together nearly as well as they do in the commercials, where bright and shiny children with perfect teeth produce immaculate, intricate models that wouldn’t look out of place in a modern art gallery.

Anyway, we made the best of things, and on this particular morning we built a stickle brick Ice Warrior, and also a Dalek. As you do.

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You should kill us all on sight

Sorry for the absence these last few days. This is partly why.

Mask

 

When I was a kid I always wanted one of those Masters of the Universe Man-E-Faces dolls with the rotating head. Never mind the fact that it’s a Smiler (arguably the dullest monsters in series 5), years before its time. It was chunky, and substantial, and generally brilliant. I remember going to the sixth birthday party of a boy from church in a house whose ceilings were not, I daresay, as high as I remember them, and while everyone else was eating or doing flap-the-fish games, I just wanted to play with the toys. You can still get them on Ebay, but I really can’t justify filling the house with more junk and spending money we can’t really afford to waste purely in the name of nostalgia, so a home-made Minecraft multi-faced cardboard head – produced for Joshua’s birthday party tomorrow – may be the closest I ever get.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with Doctor Who, and this is (I remind myself regularly) a Doctor Who themed blog, so here – in case you needed any further explanation – is the real reason England got knocked out of the World Cup last week.

Now you know.

 

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Confessions of a crap artist

Even when there’s nothing on TV and precious little in the news, we still manage to find ways of saturating our lives with Doctor Who. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that you get stared at in the street, at least when you’re wearing the fedora and striped scarf (in June), and conversations with more sane, less obsessed people frequently end with the word “Riiiiigghhht….”, Doctor Evil style. I burned all my bridges with normalcy and adulthood long ago. Or, to quote C.S. Lewis, “When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

To start: further adventures of the Dinopaws troupe.

(This comes hot on the heels of the video I did last week, and the closing episodes of ‘Earthshock’. It seemed such an obvious joke – so obvious, of course, that the BBC got there years ago with Episode Five, but anyway.)

I completed that video to discover that Edward had regenerated.

IMG_4587_ed

 

Emily did this one evening and it damn near gave me a heart attack. It’s one of those freaky pictures you share with no one, which is presumably why I’ve stuck it on a blog that no one reads so that the whole world could theoretically see it. I would add that he is grinning underneath there. Honest guv.

Meanwhile Thomas has been reading the further adventures of Biff, Chip and Kipper, in a series for older readers with more time travel and an ongoing storyline. Oh, and this.

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Never mind the fact that Mr Mortlock’s first name is Theodore, and ‘Theodore Mortlock’ is an anagram of ‘The Elk Room Doctor’. Which I don’t think can be a coincidence.

Today I went to a carer’s social event where we got to decorate mugs. I confess I was dreading it. I have become something of a hermit these past six months, having been surrounded by people all day every day for years, and I have to say that solitude suits me. Maybe it’s a sign of age, but I am beginning to find people irritating. The world is really just an extension of Facebook, replete with the same superficiality. I have decided that Looking Up gets me nowhere; I just wind up making eye contact with people I don’t want to see.

“Get out of the house,” urged Emily. “Do something.” So I did. And besides, you know, mug decorating. Not to be sniffed at. I’m rubbish at drawing, but give me a picture to copy and I’m marginally less rubbish.

So, obviously.

Mug

 

This has been a good day.

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Photo opportunity

There are, in my experience, two ways to spice up a photo or screen grab.

The first is digitally.

 

There are, I daresay, other opportunities for Harry Potter / Doctor Who location mashups, but that’s all I can think of for the moment.

Sometimes, only the real thing will do. So when Thomas brought home the volcano he’d made at school at the end of last term, I thought it could do with some clarification on perspective.

Volcano

 

And to be fair, this is the sort of prop the BBC were routinely having to build in the 1970s, before CG sucked out a lot of the soul.

(The Fourth and the Eleventh Doctors were there, of course. But they’ve gone to look at rocks.)

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Sink plunger

The boys went to a craft session the other week at the local children’s centre, and wound up producing some sticker-based art. You have shiny space backgrounds, reusable stickers and some blank robots in urgent need of decoration.

Anyway, this is Joshua’s. I think you can guess what it is, right?

JTD_0761

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Things to make and do when your baby won’t come out

Emily spent the last week of her pregnancy making the models from sets I found for her in a charity shop.

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If this seems like a strange gift to get your other half, bear in mind that when we first met, she had a paper-crafted DNA helix hanging from her bedroom ceiling. This is despite the fact that the two of us despise junk modelling, and inwardly groan every time the kids show an interest, although we’ll cooperate. I know that children adore cutting and sticking and making bits and pieces out of toilet roll holders. But when you’re not particularly coordinated, like me, and when your ability to glue and stick and paint is limited, all those junk modelling sessions at the children’s centre father’s mornings can be a bit of a bind. The glue never works properly. Your offspring have ambitious plans with sheets of crinkly paper to decorate the outside of a spaceship, but the margarine tubs you’re given are too flimsy and the holes you punch always end up in the wrong place. Pretty soon the kids have lost interest and you’re the one doing it on your own, and it’s no longer a bit of fun – it’s a quest, and you’ll finish this job come hell or high water even though no one’s enjoying it anymore. In the midst of noisy mayhem, scissor hogging and devilish stares at the obnoxious little girl on the other side of the table who pinched the plastic lid you really needed for the ship’s wheel, you find yourself longing for a drawing corner, a puzzle sheet or some good old-fashioned colouring in. You know where you are with colouring in.

Anyway, this didn’t involve any glue, and she completed them with minimal bad language. Plus it’s hyper-realistic, because Martha is completely two-dimensional.

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Journey’s End

Yesterday, I left my job.

Leaving_04

I don’t want to go into all the details. Suffice to say that after twelve years, it was a wrench. But it’s time to move on. Like many I’ve been sucked into the complacency that comes with the familiar. It was a localised, unadventurous position which presented its share of challenges but which I could leave behind me at half past four. It was in its own way quietly fulfilling, and I’ve had a great time, but sometimes you need to pull off the band aid with a flourish. Getting out now was the right call, but the longer you’ve been in something the further you have to climb to get back to the surface.

Perhaps my inherent fear of change is one reason why I love Doctor Who so much. It’s a programme that has, after all, survived half a century by changing as often as it needs to, without fear of the consequences, and while there are certain conventions and rules and continuities, it’s fair to say that the show’s ability to adapt is what gives it its staying power and enduring appeal among a very diverse audience. Its willingness to take risks and embrace change as inevitable, whilst nonetheless maintaining a particular course (albeit one that has led it into some occasionally turbulent waters) have enabled it to survive far beyond the reach of many of its peers. More than this, the show at its best is the epitome of creative thinking and problem solving. Those effects teams had their backs against the wall and were shaking a virtually empty piggy bank, but they got round this by innovating and making the most of what they had – something I’ve always tried to encourage my team to do, particularly in the face of adversity.

People in the office know about my obsession with the folk of Gallifrey. I’ll drop references into any conversation where it suits the mood. The default notification tone on my S3 is a groaning TARDIS, which emits its wheezy rumbling every so often round the room when I’ve forgotten to put the thing on silent, much to everyone’s amusement. I’ll email video links and photos and dash down to the post room and back whenever I receive a DVD or book or figure selection in the mail, eagerly ripping off Amazon packaging and discarding manila envelopes with the enthusiasm of a six-year-old on Christmas morning.

So what do you do when your Who-fixated manager leaves and you want to mark the occasion? Well, you start with this.

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Then you hold a gathering. And there is cake. Oh, so much cake.

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If you know that your manager’s wife is expecting a fourth child, you do a little shopping on Ebay. And someone else in the team has a session with transfers and babygros.

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Hidden amongst the flowers and chocolates and wine and Lego (yes, really), there were other treasures, like this.

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Oh, and one of the team got busy with her knitting needles. And I’ve had to hang this on the door so you can see how long it was.

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And then you do a farewell speech which reduces said manager to tears, laden with quotes, and which is reproduced below, not out of vanity, but because I think it says more about the people I work with than it does about me.

“The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them ‘James’.

Seriously: it is going to be tough to see your desk empty. I think I speak for everyone here when I say we will sincerely miss your kindness and generosity, your contagious sense of humour, your positive attitude, your nodding Jesus, the crazy TARDIS eye-trickery thing buried under all your paperwork and journals, and your brilliantly funny and never tumble-weedy jokes that you always manage to crack at the most appropriate moments. [Ed’s note: I don’t think she was being totally serious here.]

There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive…wormhole refractors…you know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold. You made me feel like a part of the family when I first started here. And I know that everyone who has worked with you over the years would say you have made them feel a part of that extended family and regularly brought a smile to their faces.

This is one corner of one country, in one continent, on one planet that’s a corner of a galaxy that’s a corner of a universe that is forever growing and shrinking and creating and destroying and never remaining the same for a single millisecond. And there is so much, so much to see. It just won’t be the same office without you. But we bid you farewell and sincerely hope you find happiness in all your future adventures. Do what the Eleventh Doctor does: hold tight and pretend it’s a plan. And if that doesn’t work, you can always console yourself with some fish fingers and custard.

A final piece of advice which may or many not be helpful to you, but I like it because it comes from my favourite Doctor. Always take a banana to a party, James. Bananas are good!”

I’ll miss that place. I really will. But if nothing else, I’ve got twelve years of re-runs.

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‘The Bells of Saint John’ revisited

Coming soon: another EXCLUSIVE reveal about the Doctor’s true identity, courtesy of Gareth.

But you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow for that. In the meantime, I bring you Thomas’s latest Lego creation, which he calls ‘The Doctor Ascending the side of the Shard’.

Shard

Yes, I know the dimensions of the Shard are a little askew. He’s five!

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