Posts Tagged With: rainbow

Have I Got Whos For You (Easter special)

I’m going to be poking a sizeable portion of the fandom with a stick in a few days, folks, so do tune in later this week if you want to see the fireworks. I should point out that there’s nothing sensationalist about it; I just felt like a bit of a rant. You know, like when you’re in a Subway and they’ve stopped heating the sandwiches even though it’s only half past eight and they’re not closing for another hour and a half and THEY DIDN’T TELL YOU, and the only seating available is next to five black bin bags that have been left on the floor and the drinks machine is basically flavoured water, and your nacho beef subs don’t actually contain any nachos because they ran out and THEY DIDN’T TELL YOU, and they can’t give a refund because it’s just the two of them and there’s no manager.

I mean, hypothetically.

Anyway, that can wait for a bit. In the meantime, here’s a bumper roundup of news from the last fortnight or so. First: Record Store Day. Which I missed, which wasn’t a bad thing because the so-called vinyl revival is nothing but a fad purported by specialist retailers and music snobs. It did, however, reach the TARDIS.

I sometimes wonder if Levine sees anything I write about him. God I hope not. I do try and have a bit of patience with the man, but he makes it so piggin’ difficult.

If you follow the news, you’ll be aware that scientists have released a photo of a black hole – to be specific, the event horizon of a black hole, as the hole itself is impossible to photograph due to being…well, black. (“The thing about space,” Hattie Haydridge once explained in Red Dwarf, “is…”) Some 55 million light years from earth, the thing was 6.5 billion times bigger than the sun, which meant you had to have eyes as big as the Earth in order to photograph it. Or something. But a closer examination of the image reveals some interesting debris floating across not too far from the singularity.

(Eagle-eyed viewers will notice there’s a mistake in that. Bloody BBC interns. Never could get the staff.)

Back down to Earth now, and a leaked promo image for a new Brexit-themed mashup which goes under the working title ‘Fury from the DUP’.

If you were in the UK, it was a gorgeous weekend: we spent part of it in London, which was full of environmental protesters, selfie-snapping tourists and the smell of cannabis. There were new things at the Tate Modern and we got lost in Canary Wharf, but the Cabot Centre has a piano, so all was well. In the meantime, the Doctor and her friends were out enjoying the sunshine, but nobody spotted Darth Vader sneaking off with the Easter Eggs.

“Hmm,” says every single person to leave a comment. “I can’t see anything in that picture.” I knew I should have used a bloody Cyberman. Question: if you’re looking at one of the Silence / Silents, and then you look away, do you really forget the whole scene? Surely that’s not the case? You only forget about the Munsch derivative; everything else – characters, scenery and so on – is completely intact. If you’re going to reference a series 6 low point, at least do it properly.

Some people unsub from Doctor Who groups when they want to avoid spoilers. Others unsub because the fandom can be toxic, or because they feel their opinions are unwanted. Personally, I unsub around this date every year when you can barely move for selfies and arm shots covered in fucking tally marks. “Ooh! I don’t know why I have all these marks all over me!” I don’t know either. Because you’re a twat?

Sticking with today, and turning away from things that just make me sour, we turn to William Shakespeare, who celebrates a birthday and deathday, and who is close to losing it completely with his new understudies.

(This is crying out for a caption. Anyone want to oblige? No? That’s fine.)

I’m not the only one who’s been hanging out on Twitter. It seems the Doctor is keen to broadcast his TV viewing habits.

Things happen when you’re away. Thankfully nobody died, or at least nobody I’d have wanted to write about, but I did miss the Episode IX announcement, with all its bells and whistles and the pleasing presence of Billy Dee Williams, who will presumably turn out to be Finn’s uncle (or a closer blood relation). It’s something of a disappointment to discover that the film will be titled The Rise of Skywalker. Still: being out of the loop at least meant that I missed (or largely missed) the furore surrounding the Emperor’s laugh, the significance of Leia’s ring, and whether Matt Smith is involved. I can’t remember when this stopped being interesting, although I daresay I’ll see it and enjoy it more than most of the people who purport to be fans. Thank God it’s never like this with Doctor Who.

But then you’re back in Oxfordshire and you need to scratch the creative itch, at least a little. “Can I – ” (I found myself wondering) “- reference the tenth anniversary of ‘Planet of the Dead’, David Tennant’s birthday and the new Star Wars trailer, all within the confines of a single image?”

Yes. Yes, I can.

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The Rainbow Connection

Today, boys and girls, you have a choice. You can read this through, or you can skip to the bottom. That’s where the video is. I will not hold it against you, and I’ll never know you did it. Your time is precious. But do, at least, spare five minutes to watch the Thing At The End, because that’s the whole point.

Somewhere in the home counties – I’m thinking Surrey, although it’s never clear – in a cheerfully painted house, a fluffy gay hippo is carefully stacking blocks. To his left, there is a weird orange thing that may or may not be extraterrestrial, doing a puzzle. There is a piece missing: in his frustration, he chucks the box in the direction of the hippo, upsetting his tower. “Ooh, Zippy!” complains the hippo, rife with melodrama. “Zat’s very naughty! Now I’ve got to start again!”

“Oh, well, never mind George,” says the alien. “You can always make another one.”

Stage right, there is a large brown bear reading a comic. “Oh, Zippy,” he sighs. “You are careless.”

“Yes, well, it’s not my fault!” says the alien. “He shouldn’t have been building right next to my jigsaw!”

Their greying foster carer – all sensible shirts and white trainers – walks in, carrying a basket of washing that is inexplicably full given that he’s the only person in the house who wears any clothes. Scenes like this no longer astound or surprise him the way they once did: he’s watched every episode of The Dumping Ground and accepts most of his job is firefighting the squabbles and arguments his young charges have daily. He suspects the alien may have ADHD. He has caught the bear rewiring the electrics once or twice and has asked him not to. The hippo is constantly put upon by his would-be siblings, and the people down the road are always holding impromptu glee clubs in his front room. This, he reflects, was not how he saw his life going when he signed up for this gig.

When we were children, Rainbow was a part of the furniture. It had been around so long that no one gave its murky origins a second thought. There were all manner of questions about the setup in the house – who were these strange anthropomorphic characters and why were they living with this middle-aged storyteller? What did they do for money? And are the frequent fourth wall breaks some sort of indication that they’re in some sort of kids’ version of Big Brother, mercifully without the sex? But no one really asked. It was just something we accepted. It was, like Doctor Who, more about the situation, and the hijinks that ensued, than anything that might have led to them.

It’s strange when you reflect upon how much things have changed. I often read comments on the CBeebies Facebook page about The Tweenies, usually complaining about something obnoxious that Bella is doing. It is inconceivable that a show like that would be made today. Everyone spends all their time arguing. The characters are real, but they’re not a good influence, and even though their behaviour usually results in consequences and discipline, that’s lost on today’s thou-shalt-parent-my-children-for-me audience. While it’s hard to pinpoint precisely where it happened, somewhere along the line we lost the concept of dramatic irony.

There was – I swear I’m not making this up – an episode of Rainbow where Rod, Jane and Freddy sang a song that went “A flying saucer / In our garden / It must have come from outer space…”. Whereupon Zippy poked his head out of the window and offered them a trip to the stars, which they gleefully accepted, finishing the song along the way. It was, to my mind, the best origin story for Zippy that we’ve ever had. There is no other explanation for a creature with a zip sewn into its mouth, other than one that evolved on a planet where it’s an essential survival feature. Perhaps he was expelled from his home world for being thoroughly obnoxious – it would explain why ‘cousin’ Zippo is so mind-numbingly placid, at least until that later episode where he develops a bad American accent and starts talking about crisps.

Little moments like this are integral to our understanding of Rainbow. There are episodes where Geoffrey randomly ‘has to go out’. We never know where he goes (unless he returns with something plot-related) or why. Sessions at the dole office immediately spring to mind. So too do images of Geoffrey attending a drug deal or hiring himself out as a gigolo. It all depends on the mood I’m in. So you can understand why I’d latch onto the image of Zippy emerging from a wrecked spacecraft and setting up home with a bear and a hippo, which is to all intents and purposes what the song implies. (It also implies, of course, that Rod, Jane and Freddy were actually housed together in some sort of communal living situation, which corroborates many 1980s tabloid rumours.)

Then there’s…um. Rainbow cosplay.

I mean, seriously. What the hell is that? It’s like Zippy ate him. At least he can still breathe, which is presumably a situation that can be quickly altered with the swipe of a zip at the top. Come to think of it why does this have a working zip anyway, given that its sudden closure by an external party is likely to render the occupant airless and blind in an instant? Is this some sort of gimp outfit you use for fetish games? Does Christian Grey have one? It is only marginally less disturbing than the Rainbow comics which hit the stands back in the 1990s, in which every character looks basically normal except for George, who bears the haunted, blank-eyed stare of a hippo possessed.

(If you enjoy exploring the seedy underbelly of the animals in the house, you would be well-advised to check out World of Crap, who have devoted pages and pages to rewritten Rainbow comics with amusing captions.)

I’ve dabbled with Rainbow before, of course, in a video that I still quite like, some six years after its creation (not to mention Roy Skelton’s death, which upped the hit count considerably). But Zippy’s only one part of the trio – and while he’s the obvious candidate for voice transposition, that doesn’t mean the others don’t have potential. Except that George is timid and often stumbles over his words, of course, which makes placing him difficult. That left Bungle, who is usually well-spoken, as well as prone to bouts of pomposity. When it came to finding a Doctor Who character for him to replace, there really was only one choice, and that was Omega.

It’s not that I don’t like ‘The Three Doctors’. I think it’s overrated, not to mention structurally problematic – one of those stories that is beloved because it was the first multi-Doctor fusion (and even then, it fails to deliver on its title’s promise). The bickering between Pertwee and Troughton is about the best part of the story – although an unexpected highlight occurs when Benton walks into the TARDIS for the first time, and refuses to state the obvious. The Gel guards are quite fun, but this one is perhaps the epitome of the ‘Stupid Brigadier’ phase, in which U.N.I.T.’s finest devolves into a reactionary simpleton who refuses to accept the evidence of his own eyes.

Then there’s Omega, a villain so melodramatic it’s impossible to see him as a serious threat. Omega’s role in ‘The Three Doctors’ is to shout. In ‘Arc of Infinity’, it’s to shout some more, and then decompose at the edge of a river, just after bonding with a small child over the sight of an organ grinder. In ‘Omega’, the 2003 Big Finish audio drama, his role is to convince you that he’s the Doctor, which he manages with aplomb. But for the most part it’s just a lot of shouting. There must be a reason for all that anger. You almost want Tennant to lean round the door of his chamber, survey Omega’s colossally oversized mask and mutter “Compensating for something?”

Still, masks are handy. I use masks a lot, simply because it makes the dubbing much easier. And there’s something fun about having a supposedly sinister character rendered ridiculous. In the case of Omega, it only half works. You can make him ridiculous all right; he just isn’t very sinister.

When it came to putting this together, I wanted it to feel as close to an actual episode of Rainbow as possible, so I started with the animations. There are two of them, built up in that slow, frame-by-frame style (the sound effects, by the way, are all ripped directly from the show). Originally it was just going to be K-9, but I put the other one in just for the heck of it – the same might be said for the Rod, Jane and Freddy song that shows up later, although that’s partly the silliness of Pertwee’s slow motion fight with Omega.

The biggest problem was Bungle’s voice, which is less consistent than you imagine (unlike Zippy, who always sounds like Zippy). It’s perhaps most obvious in the opening scene, in which the changes are obvious. This being a Classic episode, I didn’t have the luxury of score-free dialogue, which meant dealing with ambience and the occasional sting from Dudley Simpson (who recently turned 95, if you want another entry to your list of Entertainment Veterans You Hadn’t Realised Weren’t Dead Yet). As a result it’s rather rough around the edges, and I almost like it that way.

Oh, and make sure you watch to the end…

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Paint the whole world

I’m working on something, and you get to see it soon, but to tide you over in the meantime, this is something Thomas made. No prompting from me whatsoever, although he was quite happy for me to share it via social media.

 

IMG_20150707_0001

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Nightmare in Plastic

I’m thumbing through the latest issue of Doctor Who Adventures yesterday afternoon, and this is what I see.

NewFigs

I’m sorry. What?

In the first instance, I should mention that I don’t buy the figures these days. Not since they dropped the size from 5 inches down to 3.75. Overnight, the Whoniverse characters shrunk from respectable, chunky ones that took up a good portion of a fist when you were holding them down to piddly little things that easily fall out of pockets. To give you an idea:

pegsoldiersize

I’m reliably informed that the new figures are about the size of the original (and, for all I know, contemporary) Star Wars figures that your friends used to have in the playground back in the 1980s. Maybe that’s why they changed them; it allows for greater cross-play between universes, presumably inspiring numerous scenarios in which Clara goes doe-eyed at Lando Calrissian and it is established that neither Han nor Greedo shot first; it was the Doctor, playing around with a laser pistol on the other side of the room and not realising that the safety was off.

I haven’t bought any of the new size figures; they look ridiculous alongside the original range, and it gives me an excuse to concentrate on DVD purchases, as well as dithering over whether I really want to spend £25 on that ‘Three Doctors’ set with the Brigadier and Jo Grant. The fact that I won’t be able to buy a decent scale version of the Twelfth Doctor annoys me, but there’s no sense getting too cross about it. It just means they don’t get any more of my money. Their loss, and I’m sure it’s minimal.

But these? Colossal fail.

Let’s start with the good stuff. They have, at least, not managed to fuck up the Dalek. Presumably doing so would incur threats of insane legal action from the Nation estate (even though Nation had bugger all to do with how the thing actually looks, beyond a vague description). If I were going to be picky I’d question whether you could really justify releasing two practically identical models where the only difference was the dome colour and the weapon attachment, and then charging £12 for each, but I think that ship already sailed back in 2010. The Weeping Angel, too, is reasonably functional. Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, meanwhile, resembles the androgynous singer in a New Romantic pop group, all impeccably smooth skin and hints of what looks suspiciously like lipstick, although if you examine closely, I don’t think it is.

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Capaldi’s Doctor is facially intact, if again the skin looks far too smooth for a man of his age. I recognise that some loss of detail is inevitable when you scale down your sizes, but one of the most interesting aspects of Doctor Who was their tendency – at least until 1981 – to avoid casting oil paintings. Sorry, but colouring his hair grey won’t do it; it looks like he’s had the sort of disastrous facial surgery that lands you on the right hand column of the Daily Mail’s home page, photographed by the paparazzi. The whole thing reminded me of an episode of Dad’s Army called ‘Keep Young And Beautiful’, in which the most elderly men in the platoon get makeovers from the undertaker in order to make themselves appear young enough to avoid being drafted into the ARP; the sight of the elderly Arnold Ridley, skin stretched so much that (in the words of Captain Mainwaring) “he looks like Madame Butterfly”, is enough to reduce me to fits of hysterical laughter every time.

But it’s arguably poor Clara who’s suffered the most. I mean, have another look.

NewFigs_Clara

 

She’s practically obese. At the very least she looks like she’s suffering from the mumps. Now, I’m not suggesting that all Doctor Who companions need to be slim and beautiful. I got as cross as you did when Disney did an extreme Photoshop job on Princess Merida from Brave. But the fact is, Clara is pretty slim – no Kate Moss, by any means, but the fact of the matter is that this doesn’t look anything like Jenna Coleman, and if I were here I’d be seriously mortified, or at least stomping around my house like David Huddleston in Santa Claus: The Movie, muttering “Is that how they think I look?”.

Well, it is, if you do this.

Clara-Oswin-Oswald-doctor-who-34512044-1440-900

 

And yes, it looks dreadful, but so does the figure.

(Seriously, there must be people out there who could do a better job of fattening up Clara’s face than I’ve managed in two minutes with a three-month-old baby on my lap. Anyone want to have a go?)

“The Zygon looks quite good,” said my eldest child.

“Josh, it looks like Bungle,” I said, having been apprised of this by Gareth some time before. And, of course, it does.

 

I’m not a toy manufacturer. I know nothing about plastic moulds, cost control or the limits of manufacturing technology. Still, even I can see that this is a massive turkey. I’m not asking for a return to five inch scales (although I do think that might fix some of the facial detail problems). But I think the only way they could make this lot any creepier would be for the things to come alive on the back seat of the car on the way back from the toy shop.

auton

 

Now, there’s a concept.

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Eggwatch, Part 6 (and 7)

Gareth and I were talking about the God is in the Detail posts. I was explaining that they really are a joy to produce. There is no sense of logic, no planning, no structure. I simply scrub back and forth throughout the video and grab any still image that I think could be significant if you were looking for something incredibly obscure. Anything goes, the sillier the better.

“It is very silly,” said Gareth, “and, rather disturbingly, not so far from some of the discussions I encounter online.”

That struck a chord with me. I do hope the satire is obvious, and that no one is looking at this lot and thinking that I’m actually serious about anything I post. I have tried to be increasingly flippant as time goes on, but if there’s one thing I’ve leaned about the interweb over the years it’s that someone is always on hand to miss the joke.

“But wait a minute,” said Gareth. “These episodes are part of series 7, aren’t they? Which means we should do Eggwatch again!” And he was right, dammit.

For those of you who are new round here, Eggwatch was something we ran last year, when we realised that the ‘subtle’ arc that Moffat talked about for the first half of series 7 was eggs. And behold, there were eggs in every episode, if you knew where to look. Sort of. Egg-like substances, anyway. Of course, this half of the series is all about Clara, but there’s no reason why eggs shouldn’t continue their recurring appearances. There’s plenty of room to share.

Except, of course, I’ve just spent forty-five minutes going through ‘The Snowmen’ and I can’t find one. Single. Egg.

The Snowmen_0.44.31.20

Well, almost. Oh, and Gareth has pointed out that Clara talks about soufflés again – ground we covered in Eggwatch, Part 1, but no harm in revisiting. Still, all told the results are a bit disappointing.

But I will not be deterred, so let’s move on to ‘The Bells of Saint John’, which has a lengthy sequence in which the Doctor and Clara order breakfast in a cafe, where there is again not a single egg on show. It’s a wasted opportunity, but then you look at the monster-of-the-week, and it’s enough to restore your faith in humanity.

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A spoonhead, of course. And what do you put on spoons? Specifically on sports day? Josh, has the answer.

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There will be more Eggwatch in a few days. Take us home, Roy Zippy. (Scrub to 7:05.)

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Sunshine and showers with a chance of Rainbows

Today, the weather in Scotland will be mostly Zippy.

(Cheers Gareth…)

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Dalek Zippy

I always iron in front of the TV. This is because ironing is a therapeutic but monotonous task and I need some sort of stimulus. We don’t watch much of the tube (I really should stop calling it that; it seems hideously out of date, even though we still own a CRT TV) in our household, at least not in terms of collapsing in front of it of an evening; we’re more likely to play a game or chat over a takeaway. Exceptions are made for 24, The X-Files (or any other boxed serial we happen to be watching) and Doctor Who – and, for a few horrifying years, The X-Factor.

One evening last spring I was working my way through the extras for ‘Genesis of the Daleks’. The DVD bonus features for the 2 Entertain sets are generally great – whimsical, nostalgic and insightful, lacking the self-congratulatory air of the more recent stuff and pulling relatively few punches about the sort of problems the team would routinely encounter when producing episodes, whether it was Hinchcliffe coming under fire from Mary Whitehouse or Baker upstaging Louise Jameson. They’re fun and snappy and clever. (I recommend, in particular, the in-character interview with Sutekh the Destroyer in ‘Pyramids of Mars’, which someone has thoughtfully uploaded to YouTube.)

One of the extras in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ is a potted history of the eponymous monstrosities, from design to execution to evolution, along with occasional dialogue masterclasses led by Roy Skelton. Skelton became synonymous with the Nation’s finest (you see what I did there?) in the 1970s and 80s, but anyone who watched children’s TV during this time will also recognise his name from the credit crawl for Rainbow, a show which catalogued the adventures of three anthropomorphic animals (a hippo, a bear, and a…whatever) who seemed to have taken on the role of foster children with obviously troubled backgrounds, now living with a patient father substitute with ridiculous dress sense. Throughout Rainbows long and memorable run, Skelton managed to voice both George and Zippy, often more or less at the same time, in a staggering feat of almost schizophrenic voicing, by turns making himself sound wet and effeminate, and then immediately brash and boastful depending on who he was doing at the time.

The funny thing about the ‘Genesis’ interviews is that when Skelton is doing his Dalek voice, minus the filters and the sound effects and the omnipresent hum that seems to pervade the ships and lunar bases that housed them in the TV series, he really does sound exactly like Zippy. Specifically Zippy when he’s playing a character in some fanciful game he may have invented – like the memorable episode where he dressed up as Zipman (with George playing Bobbin, the Boy Blunder), fighting against the evil Joker Geoffrey. (Watch it after you’ve watched this one, though, otherwise it’ll spoil one of the punch lines.) The Dalek voice is tinged with monotone, lacking some of Zippy’s rising and falling cadences – nonetheless, the raspy extrovert is there for all to hear and it’s quite apparent that he modelled the Zippy voice on the Dalek voice, or perhaps the other way around; we may never know.

So this set me thinking: what would the Daleks sound like if we took out their voices and dubbed them over with Zippy’s dialogue? Fortunately I had a lot of it. I will make no apology for the fact that the purchase of every single one of our numerous Rainbow DVDs pre-dates the birth of all three of my children. I got very nostalgic for old TV just after the millennium turned and all the shows that I watched in the afternoons after school or on lunch breaks during the holidays started coming out on DVD. Sometimes when you delve into these things again you find they’re not as good as they are in your head (as I recently experienced when I picked up a copy of The Family Ness in our local 99p shop, and found it a bit of a disappointment), but Rainbow – trust me on this – was every bit as good as I remembered it, with a formulaic approach that left plenty of breathing space for occasional variation.

There was only one obvious candidate for the Zippy re-dub, and that was ‘Destiny of the Daleks’. As Dalek stories go, it’s distinctly sub-par. Lalla Ward is as watchable as she ever was, particularly as it was her first story in the Romana role, and Tim Barlow lends decent support as Tyssan, but the Movellan robots are laughably camp, the story is inconsequential and the revived Davros is a huge let-down. The bad taste in the mouth was perhaps almost inevitable when you consider that the last time we saw Daleks was ‘Genesis’, which is arguably the finest Doctor Who story of them all, and certainly the best Dalek one – but really, Terry had five years to come up with something new, and you’d really think he could have done better than this (even if Douglas Adams, script editor at the time, rewrote most of it and may arguably have been more responsible for the mess we saw on screen). For all that, there are a couple of memorable moments – Romana’s interrogation at the hands of the Daleks in the second episode is chilling (despite the fact that all they actually say when they capture her is “DO NOT MOVE”, repeated for about a minute and a half) and despite all its flaws, the serial is arguably worth watching in its entirety purely for the scene in which the Doctor hoists himself up into a vent and mocks the approaching Dalek with the words “If you’re supposed to be the superior race of the universe, why don’t you try climbing after us?”.

The longest job I had was going through every single Rainbow episode to lift appropriate soundbites. Zippy is forever spouting obnoxious boasts and singing ridiculous songs and there was an abundance of suitable material, but chopping out the .wav files took ages (although I did manage to rip out the Rod, Jane and Freddy songs at the same time for an iPod playlist). After that, I dumped them all in over some appropriate moments in ‘Destiny’, added a little ambient noise where it was needed, re-edited the thing (there’s no narrative progression, it was just a question of sequencing for pace and variety) and threw together a patchy reproduction of the Rainbow credit sequence to finish it off. I basically threw the whole thing together in an evening, although it was rather a late one. I uploaded in May 2011, and that was that.

Then Roy Skelton died.

I wouldn’t say it went viral. ‘Going viral’ is one of those terms that gets bounded about far too often and in the wrong contexts, much like iconic (which I’ve whined about before). But the hit counter went from a couple of hundred to over five thousand more or less overnight, and I got all manner of positive comments and a brief mention in the August WhoTube listings in Doctor Who Magazine. And then things settled down again, although it remains one of my most viewed concoctions, and perhaps rightly so – I really am quite proud of it. Someone even added a ring mod filter to make Zippy sound more Dalek-like (something I’d experimented with, but without much success), and it’s quite clever, but I suppose I’m always going to prefer the original – it’s the juxtaposition of Zippy and the Daleks that makes it work, I think, and I do think they sound even more frightening now. I’d never intended this to be a tribute to Skelton but that’s basically what it’s become, and perhaps it’s better that way – the man was a genius and we really ought to recognise that. I don’t expect for a moment that he saw this before his death, but I hope he would have approved.

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