Posts Tagged With: once upon time

Doctor Who: Flux – The Executive Summaries (part 2)

I’m writing this in the midst of a gale. The wind is buffeting the hills, saturating the coasts, uprooting trees, downing power lines. None of this is happening outside my window. Outside my window it’s a bit blowy. It’s a bit blowy and all the schools are shut, which is a first world problem. I’m supposed to be on my way to the cafe to work on this book that will never get published, but there is a Danger To Life and in any case the cafe will probably be closed.

Anyway: where did we get to? We imagined a conversation between Chris Chibnall and Matt Strevens. Oh, and we did a field report to High Sontaran Command. Today, things get a little weirder. But then so did Flux, so at least it’s consistent. You will find three episode summaries below: we’re missing one for ‘The Vanquishers’, because that’s the episode I reviewed. I may write a precis at some point in the future, purely for the sake of completeness. But probably not.

By the way, if anyone at CBBC wants to hire me, I am available for interviews.

Once, Upon Time

INT. TARDIS

[Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor wakes up and shakes her head. She gazes in awe at the sight around her: a vintage 1980s TARDIS, all gleaming white walls and round things.]

WHITTAKER: Holy mackerel, you’ve had a factory reset.

[Dan enters the room wearing Melanie Bush’s tracksuit.]

DAN / MEL: Ah. Feeling better, are you?

WHITTAKER: No. What happened?

DAN / MEL: You fell off the exercise bike and regenerated. Don’t you remember? Ooh, you’ve gone all Scottish.

WHITTAKER: Eh? No I haven’t, I –

[There is a flicker and she briefly looks like Sylvester McCoy, and then it’s back to the blonde.]

WHITTAKER: Oh, I see. I’ve fallen into my own timestream and I’m reliving events from my past. And you’re Bonnie Langford.

DAN / MEL: Who else would I be?

WHITTAKER: That explains the outfit. I thought it was a Scouse thing for a moment.

DAN / MEL: At least I’m not a talking dog this time.

WHITTAKER: That’s a matter of opinion.

[Bang! There is an explosion and we cut to – ]

INT. POND’S HOUSE

[Whittaker manifests in the lounge with a Wiimote in her hand.]

WHITTAKER: Oh, hang on, I remember this. It’s the one with the cubes. Trust Chibnall to reference his own stories.

[Yaz appears in the doorway wearing a checked shirt and padded jacket; Vinder follows in a miniskirt.]

YAZ: You’re playing video games again.

VINDER: No one calls them video games.

YAZ: They really do. I mean unless you work for a magazine or something. Then they’re just ‘games’. But still.

VINDER: How can one man in a position of responsibility be so clueless about popular culture?

YAZ: Ask the Commons Secretary.

[A Weeping Angel takes the place of the onscreen tennis player, serving a perfect ace that smashes through the screen in the direction of the startled Doctor.]

WHITTAKER: Oh, bug-

[The screen explodes in front of us and we cut to – ]

INT. HALL OF MIRRORS

[A dingy funfair. The Doctor, now wearing a cricket jumper, is exploring in the company of Bel, who is clicking incessantly on a small screen.]

WHITTAKER: Can’t you put down the bloody Tamagotchi?

BEL: I’m talking to someone who may or may not be you.

WHITTAKER: Does this mean if I pat your stomach we’ll wipe out the universe?

BEL: Again, you mean?

[The Doctor stops in front of a mirror, gazing at its garish reflection.]

WHITTAKER: This one makes me look fat.

COLIN BAKER: I resemble that remark.

[Enter Dan, dressed as Adric; a lone Cyberman is limping in behind him.]

DAN: Aw, this really isn’t fair.

[Bang! And we cut to – ]

EXT. THE ARUNDEL CASTLE

[It’s the set of Frozen. The Doctor is dressed as Princess Anna, and is in the middle of a duet with the White Guardian.]

WHITTAKER / GUARDIAN:

All this story’s been a series of doors out of place
And some changes in the TARDIS crew
And some dogs turned up and kidnapped the whole human race
And the Angels nicked the phone box and now we’re all screwed

But I think
Yeah I think I finally get it
Though I think it fell short of its ambition –

Love is the only mission!
Love is the only mission!
Love is the only –

[Something explodes offscreen, and the two of them are buried in a landslide. Roll credits.]

DWC write-up

Village of the Angels

DIVISION ENTRY EXAMINATION: PAPER ONE

Time allowed: 6 episodes. (A period of extra time will be allocated in the event that plot strands do not fully resolve themselves.)

Please answer all questions on a separate sheet. Use the black ink of an Andulasian octopus, or crayon.

There is no penalty for spelling or grammatical errors, but we will dock a ton of marks if you dare use the phrase ‘Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey’.

QUESTIONS

  1. Tanya is a Weeping Angel. She has been working with the Division for six months. List the pros and cons of trying to engage with Tanya on a Zoom call.     (7 marks)
  2. Determine, to the nearest parameter, the probability that Bel is the Doctor’s mother. Calculate the ratio of disgruntlement within the fandom.     (8 marks)
  3. The Flame Angel and Scribble Angel are two new derivatives that have recently been launched by the Creativity Department. Design a new type of Angel to complement them. Your drawing should include a comprehensive nomenclature, suggestions for marketing, and size notes for B&M.     (12 marks)
  4. Examine the comparative influences of either: a) George Romero, or b) Peppa Pig upon this story.    (6 marks)
  5. Boris is giving a speech at a conference. He loses his place for 36 seconds. Given that an unobserved Angel travels a distance of five and a half metres a second, what is the furthest distance an Angel could be standing away from Boris in order to zap him before he finds the right piece of paper?    (3 marks)
  6. Count the number of times the Doctor called the Angels ‘Weeping Angels’ in the last episode. Discuss whether this was awkward and clumsy or just mildly irritating.     (10 marks)
  7. List some of the reasons vicars never come out well in Doctor Who stories.   (4 marks)
  8. Using your knowledge of space-time and temporal ripples, determine Ruth’s exact place within the Doctor’s timeline. Prove your hypothesis. You will find a TARDIS under your seat.    (60 marks)

Bonus question: Given that God is infinite, and that the universe is also infinite, would you like a toasted te– THIS QUESTION HAS BEEN REMOVED FOR BREACH OF COPYRIGHT.

DWC write-up

Survivors of the Flux

SPEC SCRIPT: THE DUMPING GROUND, SERIES 9, EPISODE 1

‘SECOND CHANCES’

INT. ASHDENE RIDGE – JODIE’S BEDROOM. DAY

[We’re in a functional-but-brightly-coloured bedroom at the local children’s home. JODIE, a sullen blonde teenager in a t-shirt and jeans, is standing in front of a mirror, holding up a variety of outfits to her chest.]

JODIE: No… not this one… nope… oh, it’s no good. I’m never gonna find an outfit that works.

[Enter JO, Jodie’s African roommate.]

JO: Still looking?

JODIE: Still looking. Ooh. What about this one?

[She holds up a pair of incredibly baggy trousers, hung by a set of braces.]

JO: You have got to be kidding. You look like Mork from Ork.

[Jodie sticks out her tongue, and leaves.]

JO: Oh. Mike wants to see you!

INT. LOUNGE. DAY

[Jodie passes by MONK and SACHA, two boys of about 12 or 13, both ensconced in a video game.]

JODIE: God. Don’t you two ever do anything except sit in front of that thing?

MONK: We’re grounded. Ever since the incident with the toaster.

SACHA: Which was your fault.

MONK: You were the one who switched it on! During an official visit!

SACHA: How was I supposed to know it’d explode?

[Enter MIKE, the long-suffering lead carer. An anxious-looking MAY-LI follows in his wake.]

MIKE: Jodie? Can we see you in the office, please?

[Jodie sighs, and follows May-Li.]

SACHA: Can we go out, Mike?

MIKE: Absolutely not. You two aren’t going anywhere until all the vice-president’s missing limbs are accounted for. Oh, and your room could do with tidying, while you’re at it.

MONK: We’re building something.

MIKE: I know what you’re building. Look, I’ve told you both. You’ll never get Sebastian to fit inside a Dalek case. He’s got no opposable thumbs, and he’s a Doberman.

[As he leaves, Sacha holds up a laser screwdriver and points it at the screen, whereupon Monk’s character explodes.]

MONK: Sach! You’re such a cheat!

INT. OFFICE. DAY

[Jodie slumps sulkily into a chair. Mike sits opposite; May-Li perches in a corner.]

MIKE: Now. You’re not in trouble. We just want to know what happened.

MAY-LI: What were you thinking, running off like that?

JODIE: [shrugs] Don’t know. Got bored.

MIKE: Do you mean bored like when Rani gets bored? ‘Cos we all know how that goes.

MAY-LI: Actually, where is Rani?

MIKE: Out in the workshop. Scraping up bits of rabbit.

MAY-LI: Jesus, that’s the third this week! Where’s she getting them?

MIKE: She mentioned something about Teletubbies. Can we, you know, focus?

MAY-LI: Right, yeah, sorry.

JODIE: I just wanted to see my mum.

MIKE [sighing]: Your mum. Listen, we told you. She’s a bad influence.

MAY-LI: All that stuff she made you do! Those… outings with the Division! All the stealing, the breaking stuff!

JODIE: She’s still my mum! Not my real mum, but the nearest I’ve got!

MIKE [exchanging a glance with May-Li]: We know that. But she’s proved again that she’s not able to look after you. You’ll have to come back here until she can show us she can be a responsible guardian.

[Close-up on Jodie’s face as we cut to a garish Nick Sharatt animation: Jodie smashing some windows in the company of TECTEUN, who wears a wide-brimmed hat and an evil expression. All of a sudden her sneer vanishes as a gigantic crack blisters its way down the screen and the universe is pulled in half; Tecteun is wrenched into a black hole, away from a screaming Jodie.]

JODIE: So what? You’re gonna wipe my memories again? Send me back to the academy like a good girl?

MIKE: Well… not quite. There’s been a bit of a development.

MAY-LI: Jodie… we found your mum. Your real mum.

JODIE: My – my wha…?

MIKE: She made contact with us about a week ago. Just turned up out of the blue. She never stopped looking.

[The doorbell rings.]

MAY-LI: That’s her now.

INT. HALL. DAY

[Jodie walks up the corridor, heart pounding, as the bell rings again. She turns to look at Mike and May-Li.]

MAY-LI: We’re right here.

[Jodie opens the door on an unseen figure.]

JODIE [stunned]: You?!?!?

[Roll credits.]

DWC write-up

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Review: Flux Part Three – Once, Upon Time

I’ve just noticed something rather unfortunate. The problem with reviewing a series of single over-arching stories like this is that the reviews are rather difficult to title. You can’t do it without mentioning the ‘Flux’ thing, which leaves you with various syntax difficulties. I’m using a colon and an em dash as well as that strangely placed comma and I don’t really like it very much. And it came up in my thought process because this very week Rockstar Studios released Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, which is nigh-on impossible to say, let alone write down. There are far too many ‘the’s, for one thing. Oh, and as it turns out the GTA remaster was dreadful, largely because they mashed up the controls, ruined the Switch port, locked up the PC launcher, turned all the character models into Roblox knock-offs and took out the fog. Hence Metacritic’s average rating is (at time of writing) a whopping 0.6, which is both unprecedented and awkward.

I suspect that there were a lot of angry people on Twitter last night, both gamers and otherwise. For example, a fair few of us are trying to work out what on earth Chris Chibnall meant when he had one of his characters mutter “No one calls them video games” during the middle of a clumsy plug-that-wasn’t-a-plug-but-kind-of-was for The Edge Of Reality. Yeah, we do. I mean not all the time; ‘games’ is a perfectly appropriate shorthand. But if we’re talking to people who aren’t gamers (which does happen, honestly), we call them video games, just like we call him ‘the Doctor’ if we’re talking to people who watch the show, and ‘Doctor Who’ if we’re talking to people who don’t. Everyone does that, right? Right? I am right about this, aren’t I?

To be clear, I get that Yaz wasn’t playing The Edge of Reality. I also don’t think that having a Weeping Angel invade your video game like that could be seen as anything other than a nod, given the timing. Even if it wasn’t (and it almost certainly wasn’t). This is the problem when you immerse yourself too deeply in Doctor Who lore; you start seeing the patterns everywhere. For example, why does Vintner’s love interest (you know, the one who isn’t Yaz) talk about him ‘looking different’ when she’s chatting to her Tamagotchi-that’s-actually-a-foetus? Why else, unless he’s got some kind of regenerative ability? Which would presumably make him the Doctor’s father, of course. Or he isn’t and it’s simply another ridiculous fan theory, the way that people misinterpreted Dan’s “Had a mate with one of these” from episode one and turned it from a simple joke into obvious foreshadowing for a prior encounter that he’s keeping very secret, in all likelihood from the rest of us. Which is…oh, I don’t know, minimally plausible, even though it suggests to me that most of these people simply don’t understand British humour, or indeed humour full stop.

In fairness, we did find out this evening that Dan’s hung around with the Doctor before. It’s just he was a dog. And of course it’s not really him at all; there’s a projection thing going on. The Doctor figures this out just after she catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror that makes her look several thousand years younger, and perhaps a little taller. She’s in the middle of a ramraid on the planet Time, which is one of the Division’s illicit projects, and one that temporal terrorist Swarm is in the process of exposing. It leads to a standoff in which Jodie Whittaker is reading out the Fugitive Doctor’s lines in her own voice, which basically means she cranks up the intensity just a notch and shifts her body language. It does, at least, put paid to the season 6b theory, more or less. Probably less.

Still, it’s nice to see Jo Martin back for another stint – even though we mostly get snatches of her, the camera cross-fading between her and Whittaker like a crap version of Keanu Reeves’ scramble suit in A Scanner Darkly. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) the impact is lessened by the fact that the mirror scene occurs in the midst of a giddying series of time-jumping fragments, as characters dip in and out of conversations they haven’t had yet or might never have, experiencing memories of each other and stories that some of them would rather forget. Yaz gets bored in a patrol car and smashes a Nintendo Switch (these are two separate events, just in case you’re worried about where your tax money is going). Dan has a coffee with his not-quite girlfriend, reminiscing moodily about getting dumped. And Vinder is exploring a murky past and a disastrous career move when he stuck to his principles and tried to expose – we presume unsuccessfully – the slippery Grand Serpent (Line of Duty alumnus Craig Parkinson, as corrupt in an interstellar penthouse as he was in AC-12). As for the Doctor, she’s darting around between timelines, swapping identities at random and trying desperately to get the gang back together before the universe implodes around her.

You will have gathered, even if you haven’t looked at the Twitter feeds, that this is love-it-or-hate-it TV. There are compelling arguments for both. It’s nonsensical from the get-go. That’s what happens if you tease out a largely metaphysical cliffhanger resolution for an episode’s entire runtime (bar a couple of frustrating minutes at the end when Vinder lands on his home planet, which looks like Constantinople after it’s been sacked, and the only emotional reaction he can muster is a slight pout – the sort you’d do when Greggs has run out of cheese and onion bakes). This is a story that isn’t a story, framed by the meandering poetic voiceovers from a woman who spends most of her time giggling at emojis. The exploits of Bel (Thaddea Graham) may be a distraction from the main narrative, such as it is, but at least she’s fun to watch, when she’s not pushing buttons on that wretched screen.

Still, you wonder. What would Moffat have made of this? Because that’s clearly the line that Flux is taking: the multi-stranded time-hopping magnum opus that the previous showrunner knocked off almost effortlessly. It’s all there, more or less – the characters with hidden backstories, the revisited scenes that shed new light on old moments, the connections that don’t become apparent until the final reel. The Doctor floats in a vortex with three white gods and then has a conversation with someone who may or may not be a Guardian. A few minutes later we’re watching a full-fledged TARDIS invasion. Moffat, you sense, would have been a little more restrained, a little more structured, and I’d probably have been bored. Chibnall knows his number is up, and wants to go out with a bang. You can almost picture him in the BBC bar, knocking back a few drinks with Matt Strevens. “I know it’s all over the place,” he says. “And people will probably hate it. But hey, at least they’ll remember it.”

I’ll tell you why I’m thinking about Moffat. There’s a scene halfway through where Bel is fighting off Cybermen. “Love is not a mission,” says the last one as it lies motionless on the floor, having asked Bel what she’s doing in this neck of the woods. “Love is an emotion. Emotions are not missions.” Bel barely skips a beat before she puts another blast through his cranium, noting “Love is the only mission, idiot”. It’s utter garbage, and it’s exactly the sort of utter garbage Moffat would have written had he still been in charge. We ignore revelations like this at our peril: people rail against Chibnall’s dialogue, and with some justification, but let’s not forget where we were and, more importantly, what it was actually like. Doctor Who fans spend most of their waking hours looking back at the hill they just climbed or peering at the one that’s just over the horizon, and it is always assumed that the hill they’re currently occupying is the most arduous of the lot. Never does it occur to them that it’s all a matter of perspective.

And it is perhaps for this reason, more than any other, that I adored last night’s installment. Because it was all over the place. You couldn’t work out what was real and what wasn’t. We jumped in and out of Liverpool and in and out of time in a whirlwind of cameos and flashbacks and flash-forwards and confused half-explanations. Daleks – awful CGI Daleks – swum into view in a scene that practically screamed “Contractual obligation” (and yes, I know that’s a myth, but really, that’s the sort of cameo that gives the myth its potency). Characters and motivations vanished up the creek faster than a spinach-infused Popeye off to rescue his girlfriend. It was audacious. It was ridiculous. It didn’t make sense. And I enjoyed every mad second of it. Sometimes, madness makes for TV gold. It’s not a hard and fast rule (see ‘It Takes You Away’), but some of the best Doctor Who stories are the ones that are thinking outside the box. On that basis alone, ‘Once Upon Time’ is an outrageous masterpiece – preposterous and absurd, but captivating from slow-motion teaser to high-octane conclusion. Bravo, we say, sir. Bravo.

Now: if you’ll excuse me, I really fancy a Marmite sandwich.

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