Posts Tagged With: doctor who series 7

Have I Got Whos For You (Part 379)

There’s nothing like a bit of dumbing down, is there? I mean it even happens in here. There was a time when this site was more than simply a glorified meme collection, but most of my sensible writing is reserved for other pages these days. I do have another video collection coming up, but that’ll have to wait for a bit.

What’s been happening this week? Well, the staff at Holby City had to deal with a devastating Cyber attack.

(Yes, that is a Cyberman smoking a fag in the background. You get ’em outside every hospital.)

If you actually saw the thing, it was a two-part story which incorporated various characters from both shows interacting in a joint storyline which put two of their finest on the operating table. While Connie tried desperately to save Ian, who’d overdosed to get away from his incredibly annoying sister, rival queen bee Jac Naylor was fighting to get to the sole working theatre in the building in order to save Sacha, who was clearly in a worse state than he was prepared to let on after he climbed out of the car he’d just crashed. (Inevitably they wound up saving each other’s patients, and everybody learned a valuable lesson.) Meanwhile Sacha’s daughter was downstairs with Essie, who’d had a diabetic attack and was lying prone on the floor of the radiology department, which led to Ric Griffin crawling through the ventilation ducts in a scene that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Alien. All the while, the lights were going out along the corridor, one by one, which is really not how power cuts tend to work.

It did rather remind me of The Stolen Earth. Josh watches Casualty on Thursdays with Em (yes, I know it’s broadcast on Saturdays, but they watch it on Thursdays), and Em and I watch Holby once a week. She is the only one who watches both, which led to Josh filling me in on the Casualty cast and vice versa. But when you drop in characters to both shows it gets awfully confusing. Or, as Gareth put it when Ianto and Gwen were facing off against that Dalek, “Oh great. More people from spin-offs I don’t watch and therefore don’t care about”.

Last Friday, of course, was Women’s International Day.

What? Oh. Oh well, have this anyway.

“Why oh why oh WHY,” someone said, after a fashion, “did you go with a picture of Davison when he didn’t like the idea of a female Doctor? Or are you deliberately trying to get someone to retaliate?”

“I just went with the cricket vibe,” I said. “I don’t think it matters.” You can have great fun mashing up things like this. It annoys the heck out of the traditionalists, and people who don’t understand why you’ve posted this in a Classic Doctor Who group when it’s been tainted with the ineffable stench of something that was created nine years (or sixteen, depending on how you count) after a designated cut-off point. I mean, there’s a market for separating old and new, for certain, because they are very different shows. But it inevitably leads to fallout. How long is that going to last, do we think? Will there be a point at which it’s all…I don’t know, Doctor Who?

Presumably, if and when that happens we’re going to have to find new ways of annoying the puritans. Luckily I’ve got a stack of them lined up.

This one was funny. I had someone tell me that the Daleks were older than Vader.

“No they’re not,” I said.

21 December 1963 to 1 February 1964 first appearance of the Daleks. 1977, first appearance of Darth Vader. Yes yes they are :/

“No, no they’re not. The Genesis of the Daleks happened thousands, if not millions of years in our future. Star Wars happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

“The Daleks have a time machine and were created outside of time and space by a fallen Time Lord. There’s nothing stating that it happened in the future but according to several episodes the Daleks and their creators were at war with the Daleks in the time before time began. Ergo still older.”

“Somewhere along the line I fear you may have rather missed the point of all this.”

“No, I caught on when you commented but decided to just continue being sassy. :P”

GAAAH. I hate it when they catch me out.

What else has been happening? Well, there was tension at a house in London when Dr Simeon elected not to dress up for World Book Day.

And in politics, Theresa May isn’t having the best of weeks, but she did have time to upload this to her Twitter account.

(If you missed the reference, have a read of this. It was almost certainly down to the person who runs the Downing Street Twitter account, and as is the case with most things of this nature, it is very churlish to blame her directly. Watching her handle this train crash of a government I happen to think she’s probably a very nice woman in an impossible situation, and whatever my misgivings about Brexit she’s the best of a very bad lot. I also imagine she’s a lot of fun at parties.)

Much of the Brexit campaigning, of course, consisted of both sides telling us about dreadful things that would happen if we stayed in / left the EU, most of which probably weren’t true at all. It was done largely to scare people, which in turn distracts us from the really important issues and drives up internet traffic, and what was weird about it was that it isn’t something that normally happens, at least not in popular culture.

Away from fake scare stories there has, at long last, been word from the Disney front about the upcoming Aladdin remake, with a full length trailer finally released this week. And for all you Doctor Who fans, there was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter Egg during the magic carpet sequence.

“A whole new w-”


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

Have I Got Whos For You (February Made Me Shiver Edition)

This week in Whoville, there’s trouble in paradise.

This is from a film, right? They walk around wearing blindfolds for some reason. Is it like that bit in ‘Flesh and Stone’ where Amy has to navigate the Angels? Can someone enlighten me seeing as I can’t be bothered to Google this afternoon?

Elsewhere, it snowed, so obviously.

I was chatting to Christian Cawley on Twitter. “Having just finished PD’s memoirs,” he said, “Davison, Troughton and Pertwee pushing the snow onto Tom Baker might be more apt.”

“There were so many combinations,” I told him. “It was almost the Brigadier and Jo pushing the snow onto an unsuspecting Pertwee. I like the idea of Capaldi being caught out, but the real reason Baker and Pertwee are up there are simply because they’re the only ones who would balance.”

Still, you can’t keep a good Time Lord down. Not when there’s a big game on.

In case you were wondering, most of them are Falcon players. I went for the ones that were already transparent, as I couldn’t be bothered to do any cutting out. I have no idea if this makes any sort of statement on the quality of the game or the people that play it. I don’t even know what I’m looking at. I played an early John Madden game on the Sega Mega Drive but I never really got to grips with it; the whole thing seemed awfully stop-and-start. You will notice the Doctor is the only one not wearing any padding, and there’s a hint of sneering culture wars at play here: my feelings on American Football (or, as they call it, Football) aren’t exactly well-documented, except to say that over here we call it rugby. And we don’t use helmets.

But by the time you read this, of course, the Super Bowl will be a distant memory, because it’s all about Chinese New Year. Only with the Doctor, of course, it never goes to plan.

Gung hay fat choy…

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

Remastered: A Town Called Mercy, Silent Movie Style

There are different types of YouTube comments. Some heap undeserved praise to the point of sycophancy. People will tell you that a mediocre product is the best thing they’ve ever seen on the internet; it is crucial above all else to ensure that you do not start to believe your own hype, because therein lies artistic complacency and the excessive inflation of ego. At the other end of the scale are the downright abusive. I used to be polite; these days I’m inclined to argue back, albeit without letting them see that they’ve got to me. I’m not suggesting you should ever feed the troll, but sometimes you can poke it with a stick.

Somewhere in the middle there is a sweet spot; a small compartment of users who offer something that actually might be considered constructive feedback – the people who say “I liked this, but have you tried…?”. For instance, there was the chap who told me my Kraftwerk montage was a little too long. He was quite right, and were I to redo it now I’d go for a shorter edit. There were the numerous people who pointed out the mistakes in the Red Dwarf mashup – a hard lesson learned about when less is more – to the extent that I gave it a substantial overhaul in the tail end of last year and made something I actually almost liked.

Then there’s the silent movie I did three and a half years ago. Generally people seemed to like it, but a comment I got a few months back got me thinking. “Speed it up just a little more and put it slightly out of focus,” said a user named cemeterymaiden1. “It will look authentic I think! :D”

And that’s great. I can work with that. It did need to be faster, and it did need a little blurring round the edges. That’s the sort of comment I love receiving, because it is constructive without being disrespectful. It makes a welcome change from this –

I’ve decided, after careful reflection, that most Doctor Who fans are fucking idiots.


In any event: when I decided to retouch a few old projects that never quite lived up to their potential, this one seemed like a prime candidate. Most of the changes are cosmetic – loose frames tucked, timings adjusted. Then I ran it through a gaussian blur and tinted it with sepia, rather than the black and white I originally used. I’m still not sure how authentic this makes it as a result – my knowledge of silent movie production techniques isn’t as comprehensive as it ought to be – but it’s a Western, dammit. It looks cooler.

“Don’t you think,” said Gareth when I posted the original, back before ‘Day of the Doctor’, “that the joke about the Eccleston cameo is going to date rather quickly?” He was right, of course – it’s not something that bothered me at the time, given that all it did was time stamp the original, but the remaster replaces it with a gag that’ll never go out of style, even if the BBC eventually follow through on it.

The original is still up there, if you want to take a peek. But I’m happier with this one. Some things don’t need changing. But sometimes you reap the benefits when you do. Happy trails, y’all.

Categories: Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Unused Doctor Who Monsters (part four)

If you don’t know your British chocolate, Wispas are bubbly chunks of goodness, first available in 1981 and then brought back a few years ago. Arguably more successful, at least in this form, than their homophonic counterparts.

The second one ought to be self-explanatory.

Categories: Unused Monsters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Hide’ – 1970s style

Watch this first.

There’s a bit about a third of the way through the first episode of ‘The Mind of Evil’ that more or less encapsulates Doctor Who as it was in the 1970s. The Doctor is attending a demonstration of a new machine that purports to suck the evil out of men’s minds. When the Doctor raises valid ethical concerns, the egotistical professor in charge asks what he could possibly find objectionable. Pertwee adopts a theatrical flourish in his response. “UNIT, sir, was set up to deal with new and unusual menaces to mankind,” he says. “And in my view, this machine of yours is JUST THAT!”


If you’re so inclined you can watch it here. Skip to the eight minute mark.

Anyway, Emily and I were watching this very episode a number of weeks ago, and when this happened we both roared with laughter.

“What I’d really like,” said Emily, “is for them to do a modern episode of Doctor Who that plays like one of these. Maybe he gets stranded in time and winds up in 1980s U.N.I.T. And they have wobbly sets and weird special effects and a funky score.”

Just because the Doctor gets to leap around in time, it doesn’t mean the show doesn’t age. The problem with any episode of a programme about time travel is that whenever it’s set historically, it’s always going to be aesthetically bound by the period in which it was filmed. In other words, if you shoot a story that’s set in medieval Italy, but do so in the 70s, it’s still going to have that visual style attached to it, even if your costumes are authentic. Likewise, if you shoot a story on a distant alien planet, but fill the background music with orchestral hits and Korg samples, it’ll come across as being very 80s. Big explosion? Drop in a white-out. Someone’s having their mind probed? Put swirly effects all over the screen. And don’t forget the facial zooms, the sort of thing that Mike Myers and Dana Carvey would later parody extensively on Saturday Night Live.

This was standard practice, of course. There were certain things you did back then, simply because everyone else did. I couldn’t find a decent version on YouTube, but anyone who’s seen the first Superman film will remember the moment when Christopher Reeve discovers Margot Kidder’s car with her lifeless corpse inside: his reaction as he takes in the scene is filmed from multiple angles, and while it might seem old hat now, it heightens the emotional pathos no end. Or there’s the scene in Carrie where John Travolta and Nancy Allen approach the blood-soaked titular teenager on her way home from the prom, and Carrie’s acts of telekinetic revenge are preceded by jerky zooms. Watch it and not only will you see what I mean, you’ll also recall you’ve seen a hundred things from the same period that did things this way. Fast forward a quarter of a century, of course, and every action film post-Matrix features tedious bullet time camerawork and excessive use of slow motion, with the refreshing (and intentional) exception of The Expendables.

This is not a criticism. Not really. You’re tied to what’s perceived as cutting edge. It’s become very fashionable to sneer at the stop-motion used in the likes of Robocop and Ghostbusters. But I do wonder if we’ll look back in twenty years at episodes like ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ and laugh at them as naff and silly. And I can’t help thinking that this will be futile. The point is that while sneering at the Thunderbirds effects at the end of ‘State of Decay’ may make for an amusing documentary soundbite, it ignores the fact that at the time they never let plastic doors and rickety staircases stop them telling a good story. It’s common knowledge that the ‘cheap production values’ of Doctor Who were laughed at even back in the 70s in the wake of Star Trek and Star Wars, but by and large the people cracking the jokes today are the very same people who were hiding behind the sofa during the likes of ‘Earthshock’. Or, as Colin Baker puts it, “I get a bit impatient when people say ‘I loved watching Doctor Who because of the shaky sets’. No you didn’t, you liar. You loved watching because you believed it and you were scared.”

In any case, Emily’s ruminations on contemporary Who filmed in a 70s style got me thinking. We might call it a parody. But it needn’t be. Part of the appeal of Hot Fuzz (a film you really should see, if you haven’t already) is that while it takes the conventions of the action blockbuster and changes the setting to a sleepy English market town, it works precisely because it refuses to send up the genre it’s referencing – it’s a tribute, rather than a parody. (The same cannot be said of Scary Movie, a sneering, puerile effort that fails partly because it sends up a film that was itself a parody, although the main reason it doesn’t work is that it simply isn’t funny.)

So it’s a fine line to walk. Still, the idea of reworking modern Doctor Who and changing it a little bit was an appealing one. ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’ has dated in many ways (giant rats, anyone?) but the episode five cliffhanger in which Leela pulls off Magnus Greel’s mask to reveal a hideous, deformed face underneath is one of the great episode endings, right up there with the ascending Dalek and, well, this:

Second rate story, but oh my.

Anyway: when it came to actually picking an episode, ‘Hide’ seemed the obvious choice. It’s structurally flawed, but it has some lovely Doctor / Clara moments, is appropriately scary at given points, and it has Jessica Raine. The Doctor’s hop through time is a gratuitous use of the CG budget, but the monster is reasonably convincing, and the National Trust property they used for the mansion’s interior could have come straight out of the Baker / Pertwee era.

I’ll try not to bore you too long with the technical stuff, but here it is. The trickiest stage was choosing a suitable clip, because so many of them are riddled with fancy camera angles and quick jump-cuts, so that they’d still look contemporary even if you changed everything old. In the end I plumped for a scene about halfway through where the Doctor and Clara get a scare on the landing, before the ‘ghost’ appears downstairs, accompanied by a spinning black disc. It builds in intensity, without being too effects-heavy. I stripped out the score and replaced it, and then re-sequenced things so that the jokes were gone and the spinning disc formed the cliffhanger. After that it was a question of filtering to death – I think I used about three different filters, stretched and reprocessed across two software packages – in order to make it look as if it were shot under the harsh lighting of an old studio. The ‘effects’ – polarising filters, a spontaneous zoom at a crucial moment and one of those grainy things that break up the picture at the end – were the last thing to be added.

In case you were wondering, the score samples used are (in order):

  • The Mutants (from ‘The Mutants’)
  • The Axons Approach (from ‘The Claws of Axos’)
  • Keller Machine Appears and Vanishes (from ‘The Mind of Evil’ – this was the pulsing effect used in the last forty seconds)

Does it work? More or less. The filtering isn’t as I’d have liked it, and I’m sure that someone with more technical expertise could have improved the processing. But even if it doesn’t really look like an old episode of Doctor Who, it does at least look a little bit like a new episode that’s purposely trying to look old. Which was the entire point, so I guess we can call that a win.

Categories: Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Town Called Mercy: The Silent Movie

Remakes are endemic to Hollywood. Like sequels, they enable you to revisit an established cash cow with minimal creative input: the characters and basic premise are there, and all (all!) you need to do is come up with a decent story. Sometimes, if you have an established name in the title, you can get away without even doing that, which may be why Batman and Robin, Attack of the Clones and Spider-Man 3 all sucked.

With remakes it’s a slightly different story: you take existing material and add your own spin. This is why of all the remakes I’ve seen, Gus Van Sant’s take on Psycho must count as the most pointless: a shot-for-shot rehash that apparently came with Hitchcock’s supernatural approval (they held a seance to ask for his blessing from beyond the grave; the portly director apparently granted it, and then gave technical advice). In interviews, Van Sant has explained that his rationale was to “bring the movie to a whole new generation”. Fine. So you colourise the original, if you must. You don’t do it over with a new cast who (William H. Macy aside) aren’t a patch on the likes of Perkins and Leigh. Why mess with borderline perfection?

I’m of the opinion that Hollywood should concentrate on remaking bad movies – or, more specifically, movies with unrealised potential. You know – the ones that sucked but had a spark about them, a glimmer of a good idea let down by poor acting or sloppy direction or atrocious dialogue. As an example, consider Playing For Keeps, which I saw some years ago in a Philadelphia hotel room – a 1980s flick about some wayward teens who decide to do up a dilapidated hotel in small town America, overcoming resistance from the hostile locals and a corrupt sheriff. It was truly appalling, but the worst thing about the whole experience was that it could have worked – a good idea, well and truly squandered.

All of which leads me to this. I seem to be producing videos at a rate of knots at the moment. They’re mostly small projects. I’ve learned that anything over a couple of minutes doesn’t always gets watched, at least not in its entirety. That doesn’t mean that the big magnum opuses, in the manner of Darth Gene or Wheatley the Navigator, have been retired. They remain among my best work. I’m just going through a short-but-sweet phase. You might call them mini-episodes.

This one came about because of a little dabbling with filters, and a current preoccupation with The Three Amigos. Silent Movie style Doctor Who is nothing new, of course, as a YouTube search will reveal. But ‘A Town Called Mercy’ lent itself perfectly, being the only time New Who has ventured properly into the American Old West (all right, Spain). When I think of silent movies, for some reasons the defining images that jump out at me are moustache-twirling villains with tremendous eyebrows, cowboys, and Buster Keaton.

“I’m surprised you did it,” said Gareth, “because presumably it involved watching the episode again”. It’s a fair point. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know all about my hostility towards ‘A Town Called Mercy’, which remained (for me) the worst episode of the New Who canon (at least until a few months later, when they broadcast ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’). Revisiting it the other week did, as Gareth suggests, filled me with some trepidation – but on the other hand, I had the sound off.

An early realisation was that if you’re going to try and improve ‘Mercy’ the best way is to indulge in a little deconstruction. So this doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a series of in-jokes and fourth wall demolitions. There are two Red Dwarf references – see if you can spot both – and a nod to an old Lucasarts graphic adventure that I’m not going to bother explaining – you’ll know it if you see it.

The Three Amigos footage works on two levels. It’s a cowboy silent movie that I didn’t have to touch – just paste in – and it enabled me to do a juxtaposed mashup for no real reason other than that I could. And everyone loves The Three Amigos, and it’s been a while since the antics of Short, Martin and Chase have graced our DVD player. But of course there’s also the recognition that ‘Mercy’ does, in itself, use the climax of The Three Amigos in its final act (although I’m willing to concede, if challenged, that The Three Amigos got the idea from somewhere else).

I knocked up the captions in Fireworks. I think they’re reasonably authentic, stylistically at least. The projector effect was found after a brief YouTube trawl, and music came from a variety of different sources, all of which I mention in the end credits. The star find was Keeper1st’s piano rendition of the Doctor Who theme, which seemed to fit the mood perfectly. I used MPEG Video Wizard for the editing, and then ran the old movie filter from Movavi, as it was better. So this one really has been through the mill a bit, but I think the end results are reasonably good.

Anyway, that’s enough of that. I’m off to spend some time with the boys. It’s Sunday afternoon, which means film day, and I get to pick. Guess what we’re watching?

Categories: Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doctor Hurt

It’s been far too long since we had a video, and today I bring you not one, but two.

There’s a catch, of course. They’re two different versions of the same piece, presented in two different forms for reasons I will shortly divulge. But the lesson you need to take from this today is that less is sometimes more. There’s a reason why ‘Midnight’ is one of my favourite episodes of series four, and the first instalment of ‘The Ark in Space’ is one of the best twenty minutes of 1970s television. Budget problems have cursed Doctor Who for decades, but doing things on the cheap does allow for inspired bouts of creativity in the right hands.

Anyway. That John Hurt chap. Who is he, and does anyone really care? Well, I don’t, because whatever they do with him he will be chronically underused. Hiring big names and giving them nothing to do seems to be the hallmark of series seven (cf. Richard E. Grant, David Warner, Diana Rigg) and already there is a shedload of speculation about whether John Hurt is playing the Ninth Doctor, an aged version of the Eighth, the Valeyard or even the very First Doctor, mostly in the form of lazy, semi-coherent YouTube vlogs recorded on badly-positioned webcams. Cue a hundred comments underneath, most of which involve poor spelling and a smattering of bad language, and that’s just the ones that bother talking about the show.

The short answer is we don’t know, and it’ll probably be disappointing – so instead of looking forward, I looked backward. Because it occurred to me, almost as soon as the episode aired, that Mr Hurt’s tied to certain visual images, at least in my head. One of them is the shot of him sitting in a car with Jason Priestley in the poster for Love and Death on Long Island. Another is the time he lampooned his role in Alien by giving birth to a singing extra-terrestrial baby, in a scene which parodies both Ridley Scott and Michigan J. Frog. And the third? Well, that would be Whistle and I’ll Come To You.

Those of you who’ve followed my video posts from the outset will recall that I’ve talked about Whistle and I’ll Come To You before. It was, indeed, the very programme that kick-started this little hobby, and revisiting it in the last week or two seemed oddly circular. If you haven’t seen it, you really should, largely because it’s utterly terrifying: there is no CGI, no overwrought score, and only a bare bones cast, with Andy De Emmony favouring slow buildups and long, dialogue-free passages where Hurt sits brooding in his hotel room or imagines he’s seen a ghost on the beach. It is apparently vastly inferior to the 1968 version, which I really should get round to seeing, but as a ghost story in its own right it’s minimalist and thoroughly successful, largely as a result of leaving so many questions unanswered come the closing credits.

This basically came about because of ‘The God Complex’, a similarly creepy episode of New Who, which manages to tease out the suspense by keeping the minotaur largely hidden for most of the story (it’s only in the closing minutes, with the final deconstruction of the hotel and the tacked-on epilogue, that the episode is in danger of unravelling). No one ever found out what was in the Doctor’s room, but for me the answer was apparent more or less the moment that John Hurt turned round at the end of series seven. It just seemed an obvious gag. Then I tried to turn it into a video, and all hell broke loose.

In the first instance, this was suffering from lack of clear direction. If you could use Whistle… as a basis for that hotel scene, why not stop there? Why not stick in footage from more of Hurt’s performances? And so I thumbed through the DVD collection to see what I could find. I’d envisaged him landing on LV-426 in his space suit and encountering David Tennant in ‘The Satan Pit’, or Matt Smith in ‘Hide’. Then I remembered that Fox are notoriously picky about what they allow online (YouTube footage from Alien, in particular, seems to be pretty sparse). Or I’d thought of him running into Daleks during his death scene in Hellboy, except that this sequence is compiled chiefly from over-the-shoulder angles that make it obvious he’s being interrogated by Karel Roden. There is an earlier scene which showed promise, but at this point I was bored with the idea.

Then there’s Harry Potter. Specifically there’s the bit  in Deathly Hallows Part II when Harry interrogates Ollivander in the upstairs bedroom of Shell Cottage. Which is fine, if you can find something suitable with which to match it. But all I wound up doing was wrecking emotionally laden scenes from ‘Blink’ and ‘Vincent and the Doctor’. So I gave up, and concentrated exclusively on Whistle…, which features various bedroom scenes (and that sounds far more kinky than it actually is, unless you’re mysteriously turned on by vanishing rugs and hammering on the door, which indicates you have a bedroom farce fetish). There are also a couple of beach sequences, which lent themselves to obvious throwbacks to – well, you’ve seen it now, so there’s no need to elaborate.

Except. Except! Our poor Mr Hurt spends half his time running away from ghosts when he’s on that beach. And I immediately thought of the pterodactyls-that-aren’t-really-pterodactyls in ‘Dinosaurs’. So I stuck that in as well, and then found that the lighting was completely off key, suggesting that they filmed that scene in the middle of winter. What you can see in the video at the bottom of this post is footage that’s had the brightness cranked up and the colour saturated, and even then it doesn’t look great. But I ran with it, because it basically hung together, by the skin of its teeth. The beach and hotel room scenes didn’t seem quite enough, at least not where the rule of three was concerned, so I added a bit where Hurt climbs the stairs and comes face to face with a Weeping Angel.

And it doesn’t really work. I mean, it sort of does. But I don’t have a clue what it’s doing there. Really, it should have been Hurt coming face to face with another Doctor, who stared back – a silent Mexican standoff. Or perhaps Gabriel Woolf in a gorilla mask. The whole thing felt rather flabby, and Gareth said so when I let him see the preview. “It would work better without the Angel,” he said (and I’m paraphrasing), “because I don’t see the point of it. And it’s confusing having the two Doctors stepping out of the TARDIS, and then seeing the Eleventh turn up. And there’s a jarring contrast in lighting between the dinosaur scenes and the John Hurt scenes.”

And he’s right, of course. So I uploaded a leaner version, and that’s probably what I’ll wind up using in emails and other plugs. Nonetheless, the original stays, and is accessible below, because it gives an idea of what I was trying to do – an experiment that didn’t quite work. Paradoxically Gareth and I were talking just last week about some of the extras on the 2 Entertain Doctor Who DVDs, and how some of them contain single jokes that are stretched to breaking point (a notable example of this being The Elusive David Agnew). And that’s something I could have done with remembering here. Sometimes if you scale things back, they’re far more effective.

Still. Dinosaurs. On a beach!

Categories: Crossovers, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s in a name?

Well, now you know.


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where’s Clara?

Gareth sent me this. It will probably be part of a series, soon, if it isn’t already. I suspect it’ll wind up with its own Tumblr page.


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lords and Ladies

Q. A boy and his father get in a car accident and are rushed to hospital. The father goes to one room for surgery, and the boy is seen in another room. The doctor scheduled to perform the operation says “I can’t operate on this boy – this boy is my son.” How can this be?

A. The doctor is his mother.

When I was in my early twenties, I attended an annual event in Birmingham, organised by the Methodist Association of Youth Clubs. The gathering saw thousands of teenagers and their youth leaders, decked out in the organisation’s trademark green and yellow, walking through Birmingham (a poor substitute for London) for workshops, music events and ‘fun activities’. As a teenager I’d thought these weekends the greatest things on the planet. Now I found them tedious, although that was partly because the format had grown stale, and partly because the event had been scaled down considerably from what it was in its heydey.

One supposed ‘highlight’ of the weekend was the variety show at the NEC, attended by the (admittedly decent) youth orchestra and singers and a cast of hundreds, most of whom were admittedly reasonably talented. Shows had a theme, usually around social awareness of some sort. Basically it was an excuse for some contemporary musical numbers, skits that were ten years out of date and then awkwardly juxtaposed meditations about racism, followed by a random interpretive dance from the Midlands contingent. On this occasion, we saw (not for the first time) Commander Jane Bond, a long-haired teenage girl wearing glasses and a bowler hat over a pinstripe suit in what looked like cosplay before it was really fashionable. Jane Bond was given orders by MI6 to tackle the world’s most serious problems – unarmed, of course – which led to her dashing around the arena confronting tableaus of street violence, homelessness, drug abuse and, um, video piracy.

I will just let that sit for a minute.

Anyway, why am I telling you all this? Well, because we’ve had about four days since the announcement that Matt Smith will be stepping down after the Doctor Who Christmas Special, and already I’ve read more blogs, opinion columns and hack pieces about “Why the next Doctor should be black / Asian / female / Kim Kardashian” than I’ve seen in three years combined. Everyone, it seems, has their views about why it would be a wonderful / groundbreaking / crap idea to mix up the formula. And here’s mine, but I’m going to keep it simple. This little missive will be in two parts, and I’ve put them both together, because I’m nice like that.


1. Why The Next Doctor Probably Shouldn’t Be A Woman

The point of my opening story about Jane Bond was that for various reasons it was a chronic misfire. The video piracy thing was part of it. As someone who has been known to rip-and-burn the odd disc myself (although solely for personal use) I resent being lumped in with a serial child molester or narcotics pusher. But it was more than that: it was the whole concept. I don’t want to dump on the MAYC, because subverting the gender of established male heroes is hardly new – nor is it remotely harmful. It’s just awkward. It was as if the writers figured there was no way a man could be sufficiently compassionate to bring about an end to the world’s problems, and thus it had to be a woman. I’m reading too much into this, I know, but in any case, why on earth would you take a cold-blooded killer like James Bond, make him female and then have him act completely against character for the sake of having a well-known ‘secret agent’ fulfil a dangerous and complicated mission? It wasn’t an ideological hangup as such; it just looked out of place.

The awkward truth is that the same might be said of casting a woman to play the Doctor. Before we go any further, let’s deal with the first elephant (and this is going to involve some anatomical talk, so please try not to snigger): it’s not that the Doctor can’t be female. I roll my eyes at the fans who insist that Time Lords cannot change their gender when they’re being reborn. It implies a consistency about regeneration (and, indeed, Time Lord DNA) that simply isn’t there. With obvious exceptions, we know next to nothing about Gallifreyan physiology because for the most part we simply don’t need to know. The writers just shoehorn in explanations when it suits them. The Fifth Doctor’s celery explanation is a case in point. So too is the endless (and quite pointless) debate about how many times a Time Lord can regenerate, or the question of whether the Doctor’s first regeneration actually counts as a regeneration or not. It’s a case of throwaway lines taken to a literal extreme and used to form whole new schools of thought. (And those of you who think this doesn’t really matter might do well to remember that much organised religion starts in the same way.)

No, I’d be fine with the concept of a gender swap. Besides that bit in the Comic Relief special (17:50, if you can be bothered to skip past all the ads), Big Finish have already covered it in some detail in ‘Exile’, which broadcast as part of the ‘Unbound’ series. It charts an alternative history whereby the Second Doctor, awaiting trial following the events of ‘The War Games’, commits suicide – a process that sees him regenerate into Arabella Weir and get a job in a supermarket. David Tennant turns up playing a Time Lord, and the previous incarnation of the Doctor is played by Nicholas Briggs, who also wrote the thing (and who does have a tendency to steal the most interesting / noteworthy stories for his own commissions, as well as monopolising all the monster parts).


The main problem with ‘Exile’, Gareth assures me, is not its central concept but that it simply isn’t very good. And I can’t help thinking we’d go down the same route with a female Doctor, and in a funny sort of way it’s precisely because this alternative universe never happened. Because I’ve been examining the history of the show and I’d say that there were two immense sea changes for Doctor Who over the years. The most recent was obviously the 2005 reboot, with its advances in filming methods and post production (resulting in a more cinematic look) and higher-quality effects (let’s just ignore the Slitheen), single-episode stories and an entirely different approach that arguably created as many problems as it attempted to solve.

But try and imagine watching back in 1970. For certain, the Hartnell / Troughton change probably shook you. You get used to a pompous old man and you’re suddenly faced with a slightly less pompous younger man with a Beatles haircut who plays the recorder. Then, just when you get used to him, he gets exiled! To Earth! With a non-functioning TARDIS! And a new haircut! And – goodness me – a family! AND IT’S IN COLOUR! Well, sort of. In the grand scheme of things it didn’t take long for certain elements – the Doctor’s alienness, the hum of the TARDIS, the planet-hopping – to return, but it must have been quite a transition if you were there to see it.


And it strikes me that this point – not 1981, not 2005, and certainly not now – would have been the ideal moment to bring in a female Doctor. Because the show was fairly established, but it was being shaken up. And doing a gender switch might have killed it, but it would have been one of a big list of changes, and thus less fuss would have been made. The problem, you see, is that the longer things carry on the way they are the harder it is to change them, simply because such a transformation looks increasingly gimmicky. It no longer becomes about who the character is, but solely about who’s playing him.

The fact of the matter is that the Doctor’s been a white British male for so long it’s very difficult to truly imagine him as anything else. You’re doing it now, aren’t you? You’ve got your eyes closed and you’re imagining Lenny Henry or Miranda Hart or Sanjeev Baskar or someone, anyone, who’s going to go against type. But doesn’t that run the risk of casting an actor because they’re different, rather than because they’re the right person? If you’re going to re-cast a show in this manner, go the whole hog. Go for an exclusively minority roll call. Otherwise you have a Doctor who stands out in the crowd, which is something he spent most of series seven trying to undo. In years to come you’ll have guides that list Pertwee as ‘The Dandy Doctor’, Tom Baker as ‘The Alien Doctor’ and Idris Elba as ‘The Black Doctor’.


A while ago, I (very briefly) entertained the possibility of an incarnation that carried a disability. You might have a Doctor who only had one arm, or who needed to walk with a crutch, or one who was deaf. How might this change the dynamic of the show, the Doctor’s dependence on his companion(s) and how the character is perceived by its disabled audience? But it’s a stupid idea, and this is why: the regeneration would ‘fix’ things. You’d have a Doctor who couldn’t walk who was now able to do just that, and that only highlights disability in a negative, something-to-be cured way, rather than something that must sometimes be dealt with for the rest of one’s life.

So, too, do you run the risk of alienating one or both sides of the audience by appointing a woman or someone of different ethnic persuasion. It opens the floodgates to a sea of stunt casting, something that must be outdone every time the current Doctor decides to jump ship and concentrate on the stage or break out in Hollywood or claim they want to avoid typecasting when the truth is they didn’t like the management. I don’t mind in the least that Doctor Who feels the need these days to fulfil a quota of racial representation. Nor do I mind the tendency to have strong female companions – that a series has occasionally become almost entirely about them is to the programme’s detriment, but god knows we had enough of Bonnie Langford screaming in the 1980s, and given the choice I’d rather have Rose. (Actually, given the choice I’d rather listen to ‘The One Doctor’, just one of many audio dramas featuring Langford, who is quite wonderful, particularly when she’s putting up shelves with Christopher Biggins.)

One of these has, to the best of my knowledge, never been in Doctor Who. There's still time.

(As it turns out, this photo is loaded with Who-related connections. Have a look at this.

Cheers, Gareth.)

But casting a woman is going to be all about stirring up the bloggers and maintaining interest in the show, or bringing in a different ‘dynamic’ that simply doesn’t need to be there. We’ve already done the regeneration from a female perspective, both in ‘Destiny of the Daleks’ (in which Romana behaves as if she’s trying on outfits before a dinner party) and in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ (in which Alex Kingston is frankly embarrassing to watch). The BBC can’t write straightforward drama anymore; it has to be ‘about’ something, and while it’s fair to say that many of the best 1970s Who stories featured a healthy dose of satire or social commentary (‘The Sunmakers’, ‘Genesis of the Daleks’) there were also plenty of stories that were fun in their own right, and that did nothing more than spin a decent yarn.

CBeebies has a programme called Balamory. It’s about a bunch of slightly childlike adults who live on a remote Scottish island, and it’s brilliant, because it features a girl in a wheelchair who is a vibrant, useful member of the community, with a disability that is never mentioned. There is no episode that deals with Penny’s inability to climb stairs or reach something on a high shelf. Instead, she just gets on with things normally, and the wheelchair is entirely incidental. When it comes to Doctor Who I wish I could place at least some trust in the powers that be, but I can’t help thinking that the casting of a ‘different’ Doctor is too great a temptation for the production team to resist. There will be all sorts of running gags about genitalia, or the inability to run in a ballgown in the episodes where they’re at a party (you know, the sort of story where Smith would wear his tails, Tennant his dinner jacket and Eccleston would straighten up the neck of his jumper). Black Doctors will have their authority questioned by those who would have trusted Pertwee or McCoy, and there will be episodes that deal with segregation and being ‘unique’ or ‘alone’. It needn’t be like this, of course, but given the way the writing has gone in recent years that’s the way it will go, and no matter how much you think I’m grasping at straws here, I think you know that as well as I do.

It should be said that if it came to it, the ability of a ‘different’ performer to portray the character effectively is absolutely not in question. I reject the argument put forward by the Daily Mail that the only convincing role model for young boys is a man. I’ve got no doubts that you could have a strong black / Asian / female Doctor who ticks all the boxes and who could be played brilliantly by a black / Asian / female actor, and who comes across as appropriately Doctorish. The problem you’d have as a woman is not crossing that line that has you shamelessly emulating one of the male incarnations and coming across like a butch lesbian reading of the character. Tamsin Greig could probably have done it, but that’s just a name I picked out of a hat, and I’m sure there are plenty of others. Incidentally, while we’re on that, can we please stop with the Helen Mirren rumours? I mean it happens every time and it’s mind-numbingly tedious. It’s based on one or two quips in interviews and the BBC wouldn’t dare. They’d never be able to control her at conventions, for one thing. It would be all about how the Daleks’ quest for total domination is actually a veiled critique of U.S. foreign policy, or how the Silurian stories echo the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. Or perhaps that’s Vanessa Redgrave; I can’t remember which one is the outspoken one. In any event, if you’re still on this as a serious notion, you’re almost as naive as those people who genuinely thought that Amy Winehouse was in the frame to play the Doctor.


You see, Doctor Who is too steeped in history, and all this talk of a fresh start is futile – like it or not, we’re simply too far down the road now. We’ve had the show for fifty years. I’m fine with breaking with tradition, but I can’t help thinking that this isn’t about tradition. It’s about what works. It’s not that a female Doctor could never have worked, it’s that it couldn’t work now. Which leads me neatly to…

2. Why The Next Doctor Probably Won’t Be A Woman

Why? Oh, because…well, see above. Look, Moffat knows all this. Despite the ‘mixed’ reaction to series seven and the whinge about the drop in episode rates, amidst the rumours of falling ratings, Doctor Who is still a cash cow, and the BBC know it. They’re not about to rock the boat. Bringing in a female Doctor is going to lose them half their audience – right or wrong – and it’s the last thing they want to do at what is a strategically questionable time for the show. There’s also the question of what you do with River Song, and the prospect of a lesbian relationship – although I confess I don’t mind that too much. (Certainly you couldn’t cast anyone, male or female, who is a less convincing partner than Smith, who – for all his qualities – has never gelled with Kingston.)

Whatever newspapers may say about the role being ‘up for grabs’, it’s almost certainly been cast already – I’d be surprised, indeed, if the regeneration scene hadn’t been filmed. We just need to sit and wait for the press release / controlled leak / careless tweet that gives away too much. I told Emily the other day that Ben Whishaw was in the frame, and she rolled her eyes at the notion – “I enjoyed him in Skyfall,” she said, “but he’s going to be exactly the same as the last two! That sort of clever, occasionally sneering academic type”.

Irrespective of the result, there will be the usual mixture of outrage, applause and photobombing on social media before the first official publicity shot is released. The community who don’t want the boat rocked (either for the reasons I’ve described above, or because they happen to be prejudiced) will be established as too protective of ‘their’ show by the media’s left, in much the same way that Neela Debnath has used her Independent column to rant about the racial undertones of the programme and its fans. But to suggest that the Doctor is now too established as a white Alpha Male is not sexist or racist. It’s simply where we are. The moment you subvert what has effectively become a part of mythology, the story becomes entirely about the subversion, rather than about anything the characters happen to be doing. Judy Corbalis’s The Wrestling Princess, which I can remember reading at the age of nine, is a case in point – while entertaining, the underlying point was that of stories that deliberately cast against type, and that always overshadowed anything interesting that the narrative had to say (and that was a shame, because there were several good jokes in there). Any stories with long-established archetypes will only remain fresh if you find a new way of telling the story that doesn’t feel like a publicity stunt. I don’t want a male Cinderella. Why do you want a female Doctor?

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

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: