Posts Tagged With: mary poppins

Have I Got Whos For You (Harvest Festival Edition)

Gosh. David’s really not having any fun up there, is he?

For weeks we’ve been hanging about for new footage. Or images. It’s sort of exploded over the last forty-eight hours, an oasis in the desert. Until recently we had to work with what we had, which wasn’t much. First there was the hood-in-the-forest. Then the standing-on-a-hill. The smiling-through-the-cafe-window. The cloaked-magical-elf-with-wand. And now, the glass ceiling – that winsome smile to camera, accompanied by “Whoops”.

“WHAT SORT OF ATTITUDE IS THAT?” complained one fan. “IT’S LIKE SHE JUST DOESN’T CARE ABOUT THE SHOW OR SOMETHING.” There is only one response to this sort of thing, but it’s sadly unprintable.

Anyway. Doctors: Assemble.

I made the mistake of asking what the collective term for Whittakers might be, and more than one person replied “An Agenda of Whittakers”. Sigh.

But look, while we’re at it –

You will have your own. Leave them in the comments box, along with your collective hatred.

And then earlier this week we had that new wallpaper, which you’ll have seen by now, and which looks lovely, although it doesn’t feature nearly enough people standing around gazing in wonder and alarm.

It was my old friend Rachel who pointed out that there are patterns to this sort of thing. “I’ve never noticed before how many of the Doctor Who promo photos involve crouching,” she said. “I hope the Tardis does knee replacements.” She’s right. They look like they’re examining a corpse or something. “Scully. C’mere and take a look at this.”

And then there was the trailer, which featured a lot of running, and wide stares, and a cryptic farewell kiss blown across a white room, as the Doctor goes to what looks like her death. People have dedicated reams to its deconstruction and we don’t have time this morning – besides there is nothing new to add. I sort of liked it, I suppose. Could have done without the music, but there is a nice ensemble feel to the whole thing, the concept of family. It’s been a while since we’ve had that vibe in the TARDIS – 1967, really, although the Pertwee years came close.

But Doctor Who hasn’t been the only enduring British franchise graced with a new trailer this week: Mary Poppins Returns got one as well. We all know that Mary Poppins is a Time Lord, of course, given her love of hats, umbrellas, her ability to speak dog and the bag that’s bigger on the inside, but an exclusive leaked scene shows the connections run right through to the core.

Gor bloimey.

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“And when I turned round…” (part two)

Those of you who are interested might want to have a look at some of my more recent Metro posts, which include:

A tongue-in-cheek examination of the Paul McGann movie (which has upset at least one person)

Doctor Who characters who’ve cheated death (which arguably worked better over Easter weekend, when it was posted)

Fifteen thoughts every parent has while watching children’s TV (which has nothing to do with this blog, but it touched a nerve)

Today, though: Mary Poppins, revisited.


You will feed the birds, or you will become like us.

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Call off the search (the Brian of Morbius edition)

In the first instance, I’m going to copy-and-paste the paragraphs below from a similar post (with quite different specifics) over on one of my other blogs. So apologies in advance if what you’re about to read is familiar, but I couldn’t think of a better introduction. Scroll down to the search terms if you want. Go on. I don’t mind.

The other week, SJ and I were having a conversation about post popularity – not a period of time that chronologically follows popularity, but popularity of blog posts. “I wonder,” she said (I’m paraphrasing), “just how many of my so-called followers actually read what I’m writing. I’ll bet a fair number of them are spam”.

I have the same thoughts – you wonder how many of the people who blindly click the ‘follow’ button are actually digesting your missives and thoughts. I know a good number of you do, and for that I am grateful. To the rest, well, you’re excused. Lip service is part of the WordPress way, it seems, and I’d be lying if I said I had never followed blogs that I don’t read properly.

Among the regular readers, of course, there are the people who drop in because they’re looking for something. Sometimes some of my posts can provide answers – other times, judging by some of the search terms, they’ve just happened to tap in a number of words that the Googlebots determine exist in random places on different parts of my home page. So the words ‘vaseline’, ‘pornography’ and ‘live goats’ are in completely different and entirely unconnected posts, honest guv. And the money was just resting in my account.


Every so often, I’ll scan through the site stats and make a list of some of the more interesting search terms that people have been using on their wayward journey through cyberspace – a journey that led them here, however long their rest stop. Here’s a selection from the last quarter, presented as is, including typographical errors.

– gay lesbian “brianofmorbius”
– clara tardis meh meh
– ghostbusters cardboard house with kinder eggs
– why would I give her my screwdriver
– kiefer Sutherland as morbius
– scooby doo is stupid

I’m not sure what to make of the Ghostbusters query. Nor indeed can I fathom out that first term. Did I say anything particularly profound / stupid about lesbianism that would warrant someone to look me up, either to gasp in awe or in horror? And speaking of stupid, who the hell came up with that last one? Scooby Doo is a great show. It’s a little formulaic, but that’s why it’s lasted for this long and in spite of Scrappy Doo. I would blog about this further but I’m still trying to work out whether Kiefer Sutherland would make a convincing Morbius (and I’m assuming that the Morbius in question was the Marvel vampire, as opposed to the renegade Time Lord).

But. But! That’s only the half of it. Because I’ve discovered that a bunch of search engine terms take the form of questions. (Actually, the fourth entry in that list above is technically a question, but it’s also a direct quote, and I presume it was searched with that in mind.) And I’m figuring that if you don’t try and address what your would-be readers want to know, aren’t you missing out on something? I have therefore picked up on a few of the more interesting questions I’ve had this last quarter and reprinted them below – again, verbatim – with my answers.

– on flesh and stone you can see the doctor wearing a suit when the angel had already taken him away

Indeed you can. This is one of those ‘puzzles’ the chief writer set us throughout series five, and when it happened in ‘Flesh and Stone’ I was willing to let it go, as the concept was relatively fresh. This has been covered in more blogs than I could count, so it seems somewhat redundant to include it here, but basically the Doctor’s got his jacket back because it’s not the same Doctor. It’s the Doctor from a few weeks later, travelling backwards along his own timeline just before he’s obliterated from existence. (Yes, I know it sounds silly. It really was.)


– brian eyes burning like fire

Bright. BRIGHT EYES. I know Art Garfunkel’s diction was waning even in the 1970s, but sheesh.

I know it's scrappily done, but it almost works. Almost.

I know it’s scrappily done, but it almost works. Almost.

– does anyone understand numberjacks

No one understands Numberjacks. They just think they do. On the surface it’s an accessible children’s show about elementary mathematics problems that are solved by anthropomorphic numbers who live in a sofa. But beneath this CG-driven exterior there’s a sinister Groundhog Day-like undertone to the whole thing, as epitomised by the fact that the room they leave is constantly empty, the Numberjacks have to display the profile of every villain they face every time, and the fact that the cat is always sitting on the sofa. There’s also the white elephant that is the buddy block, the fact that the characters are apparently able to hack local CCTV (and also have cameras in places that really shouldn’t have cameras) but can’t tell the difference between a circle and an oval – oh, and the enigma of the dancing cow.

So no, nobody’s figured it out, and anyone who tells you they have is either hopelessly naïve, or just lying. (We’ve tried, though. Gareth recently asked me whether I thought Number Four was ever sad that no one was able to give him a high five, as well as observing that pink was an unfortunate choice of colour for Number Three.)


never confuse efficiency with a liver complaint meaning

Oh, look, it’s quite simple. Katie Nanna is perpetually grumpy, correct? Her sternness and strictness were qualities that the Banks evidently looked for in their incoming nannies, requiring as they did someone to keep the children in line. But George Banks blamed her health – in particular the itching, swelling and fatigue that are early signs of liver damage – and posited that this was what was making her cross, not a natural disposition towards effective discipline.

Katie Nanna. Fond of the gin, that one.

Katie Nanna. Fond of the gin, that one.

– a town called mercy shit

Yes. Yes it is.

'A Town Called Mercy'. A low point, at least until 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS'.

‘A Town Called Mercy’. A low point, at least until ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’.

– if a weeping angel sees the silence will it forget?

Ah, the old Angels vs. Silence question, a match-up rivalled in sheer tedium only by the prospect of the Daleks vs. the Cybermen. Anyway, Joshua asked me this a while back, so I’ve had time to think it over. If an Angel is able to move towards the Silent, unobserved, then it’ll be able to attack as it normally would. The moment the Silent turns to see it, the Angel freezes like it normally would. But I’m not convinced that the Silence’s weapon of choice (that stupid Force Lightning) would have any effect on granite, so the best thing to do would be to just bow out gracefully. Observe this hastily-sketched diagram.


Presumably the Silent would need to manoeuvre itself round the back of the Angel so that it could no longer be observed, keeping an eye on it at all times (and seeing as the Silence do not appear to blink, it would have a distinct tactical advantage in this department). When it leaves the room, the Angel unfreezes, but presumably forgets why it came in there in the first place, which is something that I gather happens a lot when you’re extremely old and prone to seizing up at the most inopportune moments.

– scooby doo boobies

Dude. Seriously. Get help.

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Review: ‘The Snowmen’

Around this time last year, I wrote that the function of the Doctor Who Christmas special – if we must have such things, although that’s a whole separate argument – should be to entertain people who don’t usually watch the show, and entice them into full-time viewership. It would be nice, for example, if someone were to be amused and interested by a Christmas episode, to the extent that they then checked out the next series, before then looking into the recent history of the show starting with Eccleston, and then eventually delved into Classic Who and realised how much better that was. I don’t have the viewing stats to hand, but I’d be willing to bet that at Christmas there are a good number of people watching Doctor Who that normally don’t – in the houses of Who-obsessed relatives, for example – and this is thus a good chance for the writers to evangelise.

Emily and I watched this episode alone, and I was glad that we did. Because while it felt more Whovian than last year’s instalment, it was practically impenetrable. Despite the hopeless Neela Debnath’s insistence that “it works as a standalone due to the simple story and the self-contained nature of it” (a comment I suspect she wrote about halfway through her first viewing, and then forgot to delete), you really can’t watch this without knowing what’s come before. It’s like trying to watch The Two Towers without seeing Fellowship of the Ring first. It hangs together as a standalone narrative, in that it adheres to the three-act structure, but the character’s motivations are going to be one big haze, and you’ll spend most of your time wondering why Vigo Mortensen doesn’t want to be king, wishing that John Rhys Davies would shut up (more on that later) and wondering why on earth Liv Tyler is there at all.

It’s just about enough to be told, for example, that the Doctor has suffered a loss and that this is what’s made him grumpy. Certainly this is not a man that you’d want to see leading a family drama series in his current state, and not someone you’d necessarily like if you didn’t realise that he was normally a lot chirpier. He’s become the burned-out cop who is hauled back in for one last job, engaging with society only reluctantly, and living in a castle on a cloud. Knowledge of the supporting characters, too, is inessential – although it would help, surely, to know that The Doctor is being assisted by two alien races (fine, the Silurians are more like flatmates) acting very much against type. The inexplicable return of the previously deceased Sontaran is mentioned only briefly, as the Doctor tells Clara that “another friend of mine brought him back”, so this is presumably something that Moffat is going to be explaining at some point in the future, in that smug-but-annoying way he does.

Then it gets to the last ten minutes, and all hell breaks loose.

Clara Oswin Oswald – as a standalone character – just about worked. We learn almost nothing of her past or motivations during the hour or so that we get to know her; one would assume that she keeps her double life a secret because class warfare was so rampant. In terms of both costume and voice she flits between being Mary Poppins and Nancy, the barmaid from Oliver Twist – her red button-up dress is a direct homage to the latter, and when she’s first seen collecting mugs in the Rose and Crown I half-expected her to start singing a chorus of ‘Oom-Pah-Pah’. Later, she is seen climbing a stairway that leads to the cloud where the TARDIS is parked, and – oh, well, one thing led to another.

I spent the first five minutes wondering why on earth the Doctor failed to recognise Clara, before recalling that the last time we saw her, he didn’t – or at least he saw nothing except a Dalek shell. The voice conjures up memories but it isn’t until the soufflé reference that the penny finally drops, before rolling down the drain of ambiguity into the sewer of general confusion. Because let’s face it – if you didn’t know that the actress who played Clara appeared in the last series as a marooned traveller with a very similar name who turned out to be a Dalek, you’d be hopelessly confused even when it was shown in flashback. It was explained, but even the explanation was unnecessary, because if you know what they’re talking about you don’t need to hear it again, and if you have no idea then someone else in the room will be able to explain it better than Moffat did. It was a shoehorned explanation, no doubt submitted for the approval of the board, rather than anything that worked from a writing standpoint.

Of course, the next season’s arc is established even before we know the title of the first episode: it will be Clara / Oswin / Jasmine and her mysterious omnipresence. One assumes both from the ending and from the trailer that followed ‘The Snowmen’ that he’ll meet at least one more version of her and that they’ll travel together – or perhaps the unnamed Oswin that we saw in the episode’s final scene is simply another incarnation who will meet their doom at the end of the first episode, like a highly condensed version of Blackadder, and the whole thing’s going to become incredibly stale in about three seconds flat. Killing a future companion once is one thing, killing them twice is intriguing, but if this is something Moffat’s going to do every week it’s going to get very dull very quickly. I shouldn’t be surprised, of course – our chief writer is renowned for self-borrowing and a companion who meets multiple deaths over and over again is something he’s never done before in the show, ever.

More than this, is it really necessary to have – once again – a companion that’s the centre of the show? Oswin’s been described to me (by Gareth, summarising) as a plot device with a pretty face, in much the same way that Amy / Donna / Rose were consigned similar fates. Admittedly some of the Classic Who companions were pretty vacuous, but their role was solely to be reactive rather than proactive – responding to cataclysm rather than being the cause of it – and at no point did the show really suffer for this. The role of the companion, we’re constantly told, is to be our eyes and ears into the Whoniverse – the person to whom we’re supposed to relate – and while I don’t really believe that this has to be the case, Moffat’s alternative is another example of him writing characters to fit the plot, rather than the other way round.

There were several other things that annoyed me.

1. Richard E. Grant. I know that telling a coherent story in the space of an hour was always going to be a stretch, but is it really fair to ask one of the finest British actors around to appear in Doctor Who as the villain and then give him nothing to do except look menacing and growl a bit? It was like watching all those character actors in Harry Potter, standing around and muttering their two lines of dialogue before cashing the cheque and heading off to The Late Show for the publicity interviews. Both the snowmen themselves and their creator were a colossal McGuffin – the episode was really about Clara, and we knew that – but by the end of the story we still knew next to nothing of Simeon’s motivations or backstory, and his entire presence seemed a bit of a wasted opportunity.

2. Strax’s use as comic relief. Come on, Steven. It’s not enough that you have a lactating Sontaran – you have to turn him into the “short, funny character”? It’s Gimli the dwarf all over again. I’ll grant you that the sequence with the worm was amusing, but when Strax appeared for the third time in the hallway asking about grenades I was about ready to put him in the oven and cover him with tuna or butter (god knows the episode had enough cheese already, but we’ll come to that).

3. The ending, in which the snow melts because a family is crying. Read that again. The snow. Melts. Because. A FAMILY. Is CRYING. Onscreen  it was bad enough, albeit glossed over with lots of soft lighting, mournful looks and Murray Gold schmaltz. Condensed into a sentence in the cold light of day it is exposed for the atrocity it was: a dreadful, third-rate finale unworthy of any family show, least of all this one. Only Russell T Davies has written worse.


4. The excessive use of ‘Doctor Who?’. It’s bad enough that they do it once. I got to three. There may have been more; I stopped counting.


It wasn’t all bad, of course. The new titles and theme music work well – gone is the irritating counterpoint that cluttered Murray Gold’s earlier arrangements, and the drums have been turned down. It’s still too loud and too brash but it’s edging closer and closer towards the versions that actually worked, even if the backdrop now looks quite close to what the Beeb were doing in the eighties during Sylvester McCoy’s run. To give you an idea, here’s the two of them side by side.

We may never go back to the sinister (and quiet) moodiness of the original, but this may be the closest we get, and whatever happens next, this was a step in the right direction. Likewise, the stripped-down TARDIS interior – reflecting a colder, moodier Doctor – was a throwback to the classic console designs of old, and when the doors opened for the first time I almost cheered.


Mention should also go to the striking visual approach they took – from the writing in the snow in the opening scene to the washed-out colour in the gardens of the Latimer residence, where Clara and the children were saturated against a subdued background in a subtle rendering of the tricks Spielberg was using in Schindler’s List. It really was very effective, particularly in HD, and a welcome change from the excessive browns that ruled the roost the last time Jenna-Louise Coleman made an appearance. The snowmen themselves were similarly impressive, although we saw too little of them for any lasting impression to be made – that’s probably for the best, as excessive sight of the monsters was one of the nails in the coffin of the Alien franchise, but suffice to say they resembled an evil version of Michael Keaton’s Jack Frost character.



Similarly, the cast acquit themselves well, and even Richard E. Grant made the most with what he had. Smith’s transformation from grumpy loner to the life-affirming Doctor we’ve come to love was executed with his usual panache – the divesting of Amy’s glasses, unseen but implied, was a particularly nice touch, and if he regained his zest a little too abruptly that’s largely the fault of the script, not the performer. Coleman’s job was to be feisty (which I’ve complained about before) but she was never less than watchable. Ian McKellen’s voiceover was competent, and complaints about comic relief aside, the Strax / Jenny / Vastra combination worked well – although I do wish that Moffat didn’t see the need to hammer home the lesbian thing as if it were something to be smug about (hey, look, Doctor Who is politically correct! Who knew?). It did, of course, mean that Madame Vastra got the episode’s best line, arriving on Captain Latimer’s doorstep with Jenny and Strax in tow and announcing “I’m a lizard woman from the dawn of time, and this is my wife”.

But as a whole, the episode probably got more wrong than it got right. Decent effects and a few big names do not a good story make, and it feels as if Moffat figured he could dump a few interesting characters into Victorian London, create a twisted version of Frosty the Snowman to scare the kids, throw in a few Christmas Carol analogies and then churn it out on December 25th without a single viewer noticing that he hadn’t actually given any of said characters anything substantial to do. It was an episode about the Doctor coming halfway out of the dark, and that’s probably what the show needed, but you can’t just build an hour-long character piece in a show like this if you’re not going to have something that at least vaguely resembles dramatic tension, and at no point – no point at all – did I feel that any of the characters were in any danger, neither from the snowmen or from the ice nanny, or from McKellen’s snow globe / talking plasma ball. Instead I spent all my time wondering who Clara was and where she came from, and given that (as I’ve realised this morning) I don’t actually care, that makes ‘The Snowmen’, for all its efforts, something of a failure. Humbug.

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Never confuse efficiency with a liver complaint

It was raining, so we went to see Mary Poppins. The screening room was comfortably full of children in t-shirts and discarded waterproofs. The adults sat and steamed for a while. Joshua was rooted to the spot for over two hours; rarely have I seen him so engaged.

“She was wonderful, wasn’t she?” I said afterwards. “But did you notice something?”
“What’s that?”
“She turns up from nowhere, wearing a crazy scarf. She can speak dog. And she takes her companions on magical adventures. And then she disappears again, as if by magic.”
“Penny in the air?”
“Tell me what you mean.”
“She has a bag that’s much bigger on the inside.”
“And the penny drops.”
“She’s a Time Lord?”

Those of you who have been following for a while will be aware that this is not the first time I mentioned the connection between Doctor Who and Mary Poppins. And, additionally, that I had the idea years before it became popular. Even despite the trappings and props, it’s the whole character: her English eccentricity, her aloofness, her sense of confident, assumed superiority…I have always been of the conviction that a female Doctor is not only unnecessary but would kill the show, but if we had to have one, I mean had to, I’d want it to be Julie Andrews.

“She’s clearly a Time Lord,” said Gareth when I mentioned it. “Her bag is obviously dimensionally transcendental. But since she’s clearly conducting subtle mental experiments on small children, I suspect that she’s an earlier (and slightly less evil) incarnation of the Rani. (I tried making a suitable anagram of MARY POPPINS, but only came up with MOPSY PP RANI, which is presumably how this gentler Rani signs her letters.”

“Maybe she’s like the Valeyard equivalent of the Rani,” I replied, “existing between her twelfth and thirteenth. But because the Rani is fairly sinister (as opposed to outright evil), the Valeyard Rani is fairly nice. This presumably means that somewhere out there is a Valeyard Master, rescuing injured puppies and giving children ice cream.”

Then Gareth found this.

I am frightened.

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Kind, but extremely firm

Anyone who gets bored and types random search terms into Google, or who spends as much time on Facebook as I do, will have probably by now seen something like this:

Which is just fine and dandy. But I’ve been going through diary entries this last week and a half, and came up with something from a few years ago. Flashback to August 2006:

 Conversation in the office this morning:

“I made the yummiest lasagne last night,” Louise was saying. “And there was loads of it! It was like the feeding of the five thousand.”
I sat up in my chair, always eager to talk about Biblical stuff. “Do you know there’s a theory behind that?”
Michelle raised a sceptical eyebrow. “Tell me, is this a James theory?”
“No,” I replied, patiently. “It’s established. It’s more of a sceptic’s theory.”
“Go on, then.”
“Well, the hypothesis goes that the feeding of the five thousand was less a miracle of science and more a social coup. You see, in that sort of communal situation where you had a bunch of people – however large – gathered together, and someone started to share food, everyone else who had food with them was morally obliged to share their food as well. It wasn’t a legal requirement, just the done thing. Anyway, when Jesus took the bread and fish and started to divide it amongst the people, the sceptic tells us that everyone else there who had food started to share out theirs as well, and because there were a lot of people carrying food, they all had plenty.”
“Absolutely. Mind you, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with this. It’s an interesting idea but maybe that’s all it is.”

Victoria, who started yesterday, said “I don’t think I’m comfortable with it either. I’m just taken with the image of Jesus pulling fish out of his sleeve, as if from nowhere. ‘And another one! And another one!'”
“Yes, it’s like Mary Poppins and her bag,” I said.
“Oh, don’t get me started on the bag,” said Louise. “I mean, when she pulls out that lamp stand…”
“It’s the mirror that does it for me. It’s simply that she has a bag that’s bigger on the inside than on the outside. It’s the same science as  they use in – hey, wait a minute!” I said, leaping up in the realisation that I was actually onto something. “That’s it! Mary Poppins is a Timelord!”
Alison, sitting behind, guffawed.
“No, seriously. Think about it. She comes out of nowhere and disappears again into the ether. She can understand dogs. And where else is she going to get that kind of technology?”

The moral of this little tale? Sure it’s a meme. But, much like the Doctor himself, it’s older than you think.

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