Posts Tagged With: tardis

Doctor Who Myths Debunked

There are certain things you get tired of saying more than once. This is particularly applicable if you happen to be me and if you have a bad habit of not letting matters rest. I spent decades saddled with a “Must win the argument” mindset that I have spent the last year or two trying to destroy. It’s partly a desire to be kind; partly a knowledge that none of us are getting any younger. There are too many other things I could be doing rather than arguing with Karen on Facebook, particularly when it’s about Doctor Who.

But still. When urban legends pop up in my feed, it’s a trigger. Because there is a sense of irritation about oft-repeated tales of supposed improvisation on set, of strange production decisions and the reconciliation of purposely ambiguous plot lines. For one thing it tends to grant Doctor Who a reverence it doesn’t really deserve, a series plucked out of the air or weaved into existence by magic, TV as alchemy – which undermines the months of hard graft, sweat and on-set bitching that is the cold reality of producing the show. For another it proves that people are inclined to believe everything they read on the internet as long as it makes for a nice story. It is important – and this will be said again and again until everyone understands – that people do not love Doctor Who too much, and do not assume that it is some sort of miracle; it is also important that we scrutinise and evaluate the stories we have been told, rather than simply believing them because we want to. That is the reason I burst people’s bubble; at least that’s what I tell myself when I’m frantically pasting links to verified sources and dissecting badly-written Tumblr posts for the third time in as many days.

With that in mind, these particular hornet’s nests have been aggravated for my own convenience as much as anyone else’s, because it’s easier to post a link to your blog than it is to write it all down again. Here’s a trigger warning for the rest of you: this post contains cynicism, sarcasm, sanctimonious self-righteousness, and doesn’t pull any punches. I suggest you approach it with a pinch of salt and refrain from leaving angry responses that tell me how wrong I am about all this. Save that for part two. And yes, there will be a part two. I’m already writing it.

 

 

1. No, the TARDIS doesn’t make that noise because the Doctor leaves the sodding brakes on

This little gem is usually accompanied by the words “I was today years old when…” or “Mind literally blown”. We will circumvent, for the most part, the eye-rolling silliness of those two internet tropes (although seriously, how is it possible to be ‘today’ years old? You’re literally naming the date). Let’s think back instead to that moment in ‘The Time of Angels’ where River parks the TARDIS alongside the wrecked Byzantium, seemingly without a single VWORP, VWORP. When the Doctor protests, River’s response is classic Moffat: “It’s not supposed to make that noise. You leave the brakes on.”

Our great departed showrunner is often accused of a certain misogyny, at least in the way he writes women. I’m not about to get into that, but this is one of those times when the TARDIS is to all intents and purposes a car and women drivers are better. After the early years of broken fluid links, poorly-judged time hops and a general sense that the Doctor didn’t have a clue how to actually fly the thing, we’ve seen a gradual shift in tone as his piloting skills have become more and more accomplished, at least until a moment like this comes along to blow them out of the water. Two possibilities spring to mind. Either River (having achieved a greater sense of understanding vis a vis the workings of time and space capsules) is actually telling the truth, and the Doctor, the Monk, the Rani and also the Master all leave their brakes on – plausible but ridiculous – or she’s somehow dampened the noise, and is simply winding the Doctor up.

But there’s a third option, and that’s that it’s neither, or both, and Moffat simply put it in as a joke, much the same way he did when he mentioned the supposed destruction of the TARDIS manual, or the Doctor’s past as a little girl (a throwaway line that had Chibnall reaching for his notebook). Because Moffat never treated Doctor Who with any more reverence than it deserved, and thus you shouldn’t either. We may make these things real if we choose, or we may discard them. The Doctor is an unreliable narrator, of both his own history and that of others; River is much the same. I’m happy if you choose to take this particular joke seriously. Doesn’t mean the rest of us have to.

 

 

2. Captain Jack isn’t necessarily the Face of Boe

This is the one that always ruffles feathers, and very few people seem to understand the point I’m trying to make with it, but let’s have one more try. In the first instance: yes, Jack does call himself ‘The Face of Boe’ at the end of series 3. And yes, that’s clearly what Russell T. Davies wants you to think, however much he backpedals in the episode commentaries. We’ve never seen the product of a billion years of human evolution but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that, after much toing and froing, a seemingly immortal Jack might find himself morphing into a giant head over the course of many, many millennia. Philip K. Dick had the same idea (see The Infinites, which posits that humanity would basically go this way). Such a physiological change is even more plausible had Moffat gone down the road he supposedly considered for ‘A Good Man Goes To War’, which would see Jack decapitated by the Headless Monks – a plotline he only abandoned after it became clear that Barrowman was, for one reason or another, unavailable during the filming block.

But that word ‘think’ is incredibly important. Let’s look at the evidence, or rather the lack of it. We don’t see him become the Face of Boe. It’s never confirmed onscreen or anywhere in the literature (Davies has, for reasons we’re about to discuss, taken great pains to ensure that it isn’t). The sole basis for this theory – honestly, the only one there is – is a single conversation between Jack and the Doctor in which he jokes about grey hairs and then wraps up by mentioning his childhood nickname, having heard the Doctor and Martha talk about it two episodes back. It’s the power of association; put two unrelated things together with the most tenuous of connections in an emotionally charged situation and people will join the dots, even if they’re the Doctor. So don’t tell me you take Jack seriously. He’s had a year manacled to a metal fence to come up with this ruse.

Having said that, it is fairly obvious that you were supposed to take him seriously, if only for a moment. This was before Children of Earth, before Miracle Day, before…well, I needn’t continue. The problem is that once you establish Jack’s eventual fate you kill off any sense of interest in the character, because you know they’ll walk out of jeopardy at the other end. Davies knew this, and he wasn’t about to strangle a golden goose. He also knew, as I do, that the key to the success of this moment lies not in the revelation that Jack will become the Face of Boe but in the fact that he might; it’s all about what you don’t see. Just for a minute or two, one of the Doctor’s most cryptic supporting characters is given just a little more meat on the bone (not that there’s much bone, beyond the skull), and the hint is ultimately far more powerful than anything they could have shown to definitively link the two, given that the audience is allowed, for once, to fill in the gap.

So this isn’t Davies telling you Jack’s future. This is him giving you options. Nothing upsets TV viewers more than the ambiguous, but personally I’ve always thought it’s more fun not knowing. Barrowman and Tennant say they believe Jack / Boe are one and the same, but neither of them get a vote – I’m sorry, I know you all love hearing what actors think about their characters, but the writer’s opinion is final, and the writer is commitment phobic, at least on this matter. Let me be very clear: having Jack evolve, over the course of millions of years, into the enigmatic sage who gives his life for New Earth is perfectly acceptable headcanon. It is the shortest distance between two points, and it would be a fitting end to Jack’s story line. Nonetheless, headcanon is all it is.

On that subject, I tend to think headcanon ought to actually stay in your head, but seeing as so many people are seemingly determined to voice theirs to anyone who will listen (and more than a few who aren’t really interested), let’s set some ground rules for terminology. It’s fine to say “I think Jack becomes the Face of Boe”. It is wrong to say that he definitely does, and to argue the toss with anyone who believes otherwise. It is also wrong to do the opposite. This is the paradox of the story, because let’s face facts – Davies put this in to keep us all arguing for years, and left it ambiguous for that purpose (“The moment you explain it,” he said, “the joke dies”), and that is why you get people like me on the forums, forever balancing the equation against anyone who states what they ‘know’ to be true. There are no definites in this story; this is an optical illusion rendered on screen. Some of you see the vase, some of you see the faces. That’s absolutely fine, just as long as you acknowledge that they’re both part of the picture.

 

 

3. David Tennant didn’t ad lib his “Are you my mummy?” line in The Poison Sky

This one really gets my hackles up.

Here’s the gist. It’s September 2007, and they’re on set in Pontypool, filming a particularly memorable scene in episode 5. As UNIT prepare to unveil their secret weapon, the Doctor is briefed by Colonel Mace, who is explaining firing stock. The two of them are wearing gas masks, and when the Colonel asks him what he thinks, the Doctor quips “Are you my mummy?” The urban legend that instantly sprang up around this is that Tennant made up the line on the spot, having forgotten what he was supposed to say, and when everyone had finished laughing they elected to leave it in. And lo, Tennant’s legend as a clown and a genius and an uber fan gains further traction.

The problem with that little nugget – as there is with many such stories of this ilk – is that there is not a single citable reference for it. Not one. I’ve looked. It is mentioned in precisely zero commentaries. I cannot find any interviews that confirm it. Let’s be clear: twelve years have elapsed since this episode was first broadcast. That’s over a decade, which is plenty of time to clear things up. If it were true, we’d know about it, because factoids like this take root in convention anecdotes, magazine columns, press releases; we could go on. To the best of my knowledge (which, by no means exhaustive, is not inconsiderable) that’s never actually happened. There are no sources to confirm this story except the entirely anecdotal one that does nothing more than tell you it is true. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told, over the years, that this categorically and undeniably happened on set, only to have the person I’m arguing with crumble like handmade fudge the moment I ask them to prove it (to be fair, they don’t normally crumble; they just block me).

Seriously. They fly up like doped pheasants only to be instantly shot down. “I read it somewhere”, is the usual response. Yes, you did, you read it on Tumblr – in a post that’s now infamous because it’s been quoted so many times people simply assume it is fact. “It’s in the Confidential“, one person said. No, it isn’t; I looked. “It was on a Graham Norton interview just after the episode aired.” Really? In this country? Because I checked the BBC schedules for that night. You’re simply feeling the Mandela effect. There is no evidence at all, unless it’s hidden in a Nigerian shed somewhere. That’s why I haven’t provided any links to corroborate my views, because there are no links to provide.

Written down in the cold light of day, it seems a silly thing to argue about. Faced with a stubborn old mule who refuses to budge, the person I’m arguing with tends to shift the conversation down one of two roads. “You can’t prove that it didn’t happen,” I’m told, which is more or less true, at least within my admittedly limited capabilities – although if I were particularly inclined I could contact Helen Raynor (who, to the best of my knowledge, is not on Twitter). I can’t prove it didn’t happen in the same way I can’t prove a pink elephant with wings didn’t land on the field over the back of our house last night before rustling one of the fir trees and promptly taking off again. When I was at university they used to talk about the Oxford Rabbit. “Imagine a rabbit,” my philosophy tutor said. “The rabbit has no physical presence, no odour, and is blind, mute and makes no noise. Does the rabbit exist?”

A word in your ear about TV production: ad libs and on-set improvisation are less common than you might expect, unless you’re shooting a Woody Allen film. They certainly don’t apply very much to the world of high stakes TV drama where most of it is about deadlines and getting the thing in the can before the union turns out the lights. Tennant flubs his lines and they decide to keep it in because it’s better than the alternative? Don’t be ridiculous. If I were feeling charitable, I might – might – be prepared to believe that it happened at a read-through. But they probably weren’t wearing gas masks at the read-through. Go figure.

This leads me on to my second point, which is “Well, it’s a nice story, so what does it matter?” It matters because it undermines the writer. I’ve no great love for Raynor’s TV work, at least on Who, and I speak from the position of unavoidable bias, but writers work hard. They get very little of the credit when things go well and most of the flak when they don’t. Tennant is a brilliant actor, but that’s what he does: he responds to a set of dialogue, and for the most part sticks to what he’s given. Is it so hard to imagine that one of the most successful (if clumsily rendered) jokes in the episode is actually the work of its designated storyteller? And what does it tell you about the general attitude towards writers – both male and female, present and past – if you find that sort of concept difficult to swallow?

 

We’ll be back with more of these in a week or two. In the meantime I need to go and hide from the mob.

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Have I Got Whos For You (June special)

God but it’s been a week. I don’t really want to talk about it. I’m not going to give you a lecture on Why Black Lives Matter because I don’t have the energy, and besides you’ve read all that elsewhere written to a much higher standard. What’s happened is appalling, and the whole thing is a mess, but I have enough going on here without trying to implement a sea change. You will have to rid the world of prejudice by yourselves. Right now I need to look after my family.

I’ve written paragraphs about Cummings, about his disregard for protocol, about his puppet mastery of the government, about the use of autism as a sympathy card (in fairness this is not him, but the sycophants who champion his acquittal, largely out of fear), and about his refusal to apologise for absolutely anything, with an arrogance that is simply breathtaking. I have deleted it. You know it all already, and I don’t want you to have to go over it again. This is the way of things now: this puppet government, this man who will not be made to resign because he knows where the bodies are buried. This is how people voted and many people simply don’t care. I have, I will admit, been feeling largely helpless, and have hit out with a series of Photoshopped memes, because that’s about all I know how to do these days.

What’s the natural human response to all this? Stay at home, adhering to lockdown protocol, and be sensible and responsible? Or say “Ah, feck it” and head off to the beach, because if the elite can’t keep the rules then why should we? The latter, of course, as these scenes of people attempting to jump from Durdle Door clearly indicate.

In the middle of all this, Anonymous turned up with new video material, broadcasting what some people had suspected all along.

There was some good news. Elon Musk’s long-awaited SpaceX launch finally happened under the clear-sky window they desperately needed, although there was momentary panic when one of the astronauts left the door open and they lost the Zero G dinosaur.

As the world mourned the loss of yet another rock and roll icon, archeologists examining the oldest writing in the universe made a startling discovery.

Oh, and Pac-Man turned forty.

More space news, and the ESO was thrilled to discover a twist that looked like the formation of a new planet inside the gas disc burning around AB Aurigae, although there were a little surprised when an unexpected flying object clouded their telescope view.

Closer to home, and after a lengthy break, Ikea stores nationwide began once more to open, with customers desperate for flat pack furniture, cheap tupperware and frozen meatballs seemingly content to sit in a baking hot car for half an hour so that they could stand outisde in the sun for another three, although a few customers came up with some innovative ways of beating the queues.

And as traffic stretched around the block to the newly opened McDonalds drive thrus, news reporters broke lockdown protocols in order to get up close to the action and find out exactly what was causing all the delays.

“Yeah, I want six hundred hamburgers, three hundred and eighty orders of fries, four hundred and twenty-six McFlurries, and a Diet Coke.”

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Have I Got Whos For You (Disney special)

I seem to have far more doctored images and bad jokes than I generally get round to posting in here. In many ways that’s a good thing – if your content creation ratio outweighs your posting ratio then you usually have a surplus, which is great if there’s a famine round the corner (or in my case, a holiday). But I’m mindful of the fact that there are a number of memes sitting on my hard drive that just haven’t been posted yet. And while it’s good to be in a Seven Years Of Plenty kind of place, I might as well use the downtime between series to catch up a bit.

Today’s batch is – you’ll have seen – all Disney-related, beginning with the news that WALL-E is about to have a very, very bad day.

Elsewhere, the Potts gang are having a lovely time of things, until the Eleventh Doctor drops in.

Here’s a little cutting room floor footage from Aladdin.

Fan theory: a new explanation for the breakdown of Amy and Rory’s marriage.

The Tenth Doctor wonders if this might be a good spot to surreptitiously ditch his new companion.

And the Mulan remake opts to recreate the opening of ‘Day of the Doctor’.

Over in the pridelands, alternate dialogue recorded for The Lion King foreshadows the final words of the Twelfth Doctor.

There are scenes of general dismay when Bill Potts returns home to visit her family.

The cast of Monsters, Inc. watch a video.

“One jump ahead of the Dalek…”

And finally, as news of The Little Mermaid splashes across the internet, the Doctor confesses she’s really not sure about this new aerial.

Poor unfortunate soul.

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The Smallerpictures video dump (2019, part one)

Crumbs, it’s February. What happened? You know, apart from the obvious, clock-ticking, calendar-ripping passing of time? How did we get to the point where I’ve uploaded eight new videos to YouTube and have yet to scribble a single word about a single one for the BoM faithful, or at least for the sake of maintaining a decent archive?

Well, we can’t have that. There’s a lot to get through so here’s the first, and we’ll come back to the others when the dust has settled. In a way, I kind of miss the days when I had the time (read: hours of procrastination in the office) and inclination (read: nothing else to write about) to produce lengthy posts about each individual video I mashed. But that time has gone, and I do think it works better this way. Sometimes less is more. Big Finish might do well to remember that.

 

1. Theresa May Dances (October 2018)

When you’ve got a Prime Minister who’s inherited a dog’s breakfast and who’s been tasked with spinning straw into gold by the end of the tax year, you sometimes have to make the best of things. I offer no apology for the mixed metaphors: there simply isn’t a new way to write about Brexit, at least not one I can think of, and unimaginative literary analogy is about the best we can manage. But I’d like you to cast your minds back to October, when Mrs May visited Africa and was videoed dancing along with some natives, in a moment that made headlines because there wasn’t much else going on that day; before we knew it the whole thing had been remixed with Toto playing in the background and everybody was having a good old giggle at a middle aged woman dancing the way your aunt dances at weddings. God, at least she wasn’t trying to floss. That would have been a sight.

The Conservative Party Conference followed not long after, and the Prime Minister took to the stage to the strains of ‘Dancing Queen’, in a moment that was both wonderfully cheery and cynically opportunistic. Was the PM graciously sending herself up? Or burying bad news? Why not both? Can’t she have just a little fun in between trying to keep the party from splintering and fending off Boris’s gaffes? But there was something off about her choice of song, so I muted ABBA and replaced it with the theme from The Pink Panther, which I think is a marked improvement.

 

2. Doctor Who vs Baby Shark (October 2018)

Baby Shark is one of those videos that languished in comparative obscurity until the right person shared it on social media. Sometimes that’s all it takes: a single Tweet, a nod from a heavily-subscribed Facebook page and then bang! You’re viral. I’ve had it happen to me, on a very small scale, but the Baby Shark craze was a phenomenon you are probably quite sick of and one you don’t need me to recount for you now. Suffice it to say it was everywhere last year, from the toy shops to the clubs to that appalling James Corden version (I’m not linking. Look it up if you must, but don’t say I didn’t warn you). I encountered it for the first time at a Shropshire children’s holiday club where a mutual friend played it for the kids one afternoon, and…well, let’s just say it’s been an earworm, and not necessarily in a good way.

To assemble this, I took footage from ‘A Christmas Carol’ (of course) and ‘Gridlock’ (sharks, crabs, basically the same thing) and then – once we hit the halfway point – all hell breaks loose. That’s largely because you eventually run out of sharks, and it rather forced me into a corner, but that sort of problem has created some of the finest episodes of Doctor Who, and a similar creative principle applies here, to a far lesser extent. Still, it’s a shame the Doctor hasn’t yet encountered the Selachians, at least on screen, because that would have given me far more to work with. Anyone got Chibnall’s phone number?

 

3. The John Lewis Christmas Ad – Doctor Who Edition (November 2018)

Christmas seems ages ago now, but some things can be watched any time of the year. The John Lewis Christmas Ad is arguably not one of them, but it does rather depend on the content: the sight of a small child waiting anxiously for December 25th so he can hand over the gifts he got for his parents doesn’t work; nor for that matter does a snowman struggling through the frozen wilderness to buy a scarf and gloves to the strains of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, but that one was a load of shite anyway, so it’s horses for courses. Nevertheless there was something timeless about this year’s offering – in which Elton John retraces his past to that very first piano – although whether it would have been quite so effective in the middle of June, instead of the warmly nostalgic glow offered by a cold autumn, is something we could arguably debate. Myself, I watched it with cynical eyes (they’ve never topped that moon one, and they’re becoming increasingly formulaic) until the very end, when the piano was unwrapped and I instantly thought of my five-year-old son, who tinkles with the house piano daily and who incidentally had ‘Your Song’ playing on his bedroom CD player almost nightly for about three months, and my eyes instantly brimmed with tears. Damn you, John Lewis. You did it to me again.

It’s a story about time travel, of a sort, and so it fits perfectly. And what better way to tell the Doctor’s story than by examining the history of his most constant companion? And so we start with Whittaker and move backwards through to Hartnell, with stories that (by and large) showcase the TARDIS. And, of course, I got into trouble with the purists because there’s no Troughton (although he’s there, lingering just out of shot) and because there’s barely any Pertwee and because the Hartnell is from ‘The Name of the Doctor’ because THAT WAS THE BEST BLOODY FIT AND I DON’T CARE THAT YOU WOULD RATHER I’D USED ‘AN UNEARTHLY CHILD’. Honestly. Still, if nothing else it served as a timely reminder as to why I unsubbed from most of the group feeds last year. Doctor Who fans. What a bunch of dickheads.

 

4. The Stalking of Dan (November 2018)

I loved ‘Kerblam’. ‘Kerblam’ was marvellous. The only complaint is that there really wasn’t enough of Lee Mack, who has one good scene with Yas before getting abruptly killed off so we can think the narrative is moving in one direction when in fact it’s dropping a colossal red herring (an episode of Doctor Who that surprised me; who’d have thought it still possible?). And there’s poor old Dan, lying dead in a warehouse like an Amazon headline waiting to happen. But you’ll remember, just before we discover his lifeless corpse, that Yas is walking through the darkness calling out his name, which immediately gave me flashbacks to the autumn of 2002. I did, in the process of putting this together, try and fuse Alan’s shouts with those of Yas, but it didn’t really work, so to the cutting room floor it went.

I might as well let you know that this is a dry run for something quite special I’m planning for a few weeks’ time, when I eventually get round to finishing it. But in order to actually do that I’m going to have to watch an awful lot of I’m Alan Partridge. Which is no bad thing.

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The Time Wind in the Willows

Going through the archives for an article I’m writing for Kasterborous, I discovered an odd thing that I wrote back in December 2011. If I were being silly I might almost describe it as fan-fic. As it is we’ll go with pastiche.

Today, just for the hell of it, I’m reproducing it again, only this time you get added pictures.To fill you in, the story as I envisaged this version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic is that Toad has nicked the TARDIS, only he calls it the TOADIS. When I originally spun this to Gareth, he suggested that “Toad presumably follows clues that read ‘Badger Wolf’ to find the Tower of Rattylon, and there engages in some pun involving ‘mole’ that I can’t think of this early.” (He had been interviewing for three days straight, so all things considered…)

‘The three animals regarded the bright blue box once again, as it stood there in the middle of the drawing room. Eight feet high it stood, reaching almost to the ceiling, a dark blue it gleamed – gleamed, perhaps, not being the word; I should say instead it seemed almost to glow. For all its apparent grandness, it seemed somehow fraudulently manufactured, as if certain nuances and details had been falsely inserted to misguide the curious passer-by of its true purpose. Rat observed that the telephone in one corner appeared to be unconnected, and the windows seemed of unorthodox size compared to others he had seen.

“Are you trying to tell us,” said Mole, slowly, as if only just grasping the facts, “that someone built a time machine out of a police telephone box? And, indeed, that you stole it?”

“Stole?” cried Toad. “Of course I didn’t steal it! To steal would imply that I’d had no mind to return it, and for all my adventurous spirit I am not a dishonest animal. I merely borrowed it. And when I am done with it, it shall indeed be returned, cleaned inside and out and polished like two new pins.”

“When you’re – done with it?” asked the Mole, hesitantly, uncertain as to whether he wanted his question answered.

“Oh, come now Moley!” was the good-natured response. “Surely even you can’t envisage me borrowing a device like this and not using it! Imagine!” Toad went on, leaping now on a sturdy writing desk to emphasise his point. “The vast expanse of the American wilderness set out before you, ripe with buffalo and bear! The glory of Rome, not in its present decayed majesty, but new, and white and shining and filled with gladiators and dignitaries! Picnicking outside the Coliseum! Taking tobacco with Wellington! Snuff with Shakespeare! Seeing Da Vinci paint and Michaelangelo chip away at stone! And then, when culture bores you, journeying to the bottom of the sea, to find the sharks and rays and angler fish and other such strange creatures that you normally only read about in books! Time travel, now, that’s the life! To go where you please and when you please…why, think of the adventures we’ll have!”

“We?” asked Rat, to which Mole added, under his breath, “Just what I was thinking.”

“Why, of course! You’ll all be coming with me. This beast is burdensome to control entirely by oneself – how its original owner, a solitary gentleman as far as I could make out, having no visible companion to speak of – ever managed it is quite beyond me. I had fair problems dashing around inside the thing pulling levers and twisting dials, and the juddering shake of the thing is quite something to behold, although of course you get used to it. And the layout! My word, Ratty, you’ve never seen the like of it! Passages here, tunnels there, sleeping compartments and cavernous walk-in wardrobes – and a library, of all things, inside the swimming pool! I shall want navigators and people willing to share the cooking duties, and some baggage carriers and general help. And you needn’t worry about leaving your homes unattended for any great length. This being a time machine, we can have it back in a jiffy – less than that, even – however long it’s in our possession. I can return it to its exact point of reference, right to the last second. The owner need never even know it was gone!”

“Now, see here, Toad – ” interjected the angry Rat.

“See here! See here! I should think so!” replied the excited Toad, hopping on one foot around the parlour. “I can see here, and there, and everywhere – anything, and any time! Here today, somewhere else last week!”

“Toad!” said the suddenly apoplectic Badger, very sternly, sitting up in his chair and leaning heavily on his walking cane, regarding the now quivering Toad with contempt and disdain and anger. “You miserable wretch! You worthless excuse for a civilised animal! Have you learned nothing of the dangers these machines possess? You could be flung anywhere – into a stampede of wildebeest, a pitched battle at sea, or even an active volcano! And that is to say nothing of the sheer folly of travelling through time, the lunacy of brazen interference! You might wipe out your own grandfather, destroy the Wild Wood, or even worse! In the hands of even the most sensible person such a vehicle would pose a tremendous risk. In the hands of an idiot and a lunatic, it’s a recipe for absolute calamity! The theft is bad enough. Your intention to actually use the thing is tenfold worse! Wicked, wicked Toad!”

So ferociously choleric was the Badger’s tone, and so potent and compelling the content of his speech, that Toad’s knees began at once to knock. In an instant his facial expression had changed from one of utter confidence in his abilities to handle the time machine to one of sudden and serious doubt. Could it be, he thought to himself, that he had thought himself more capable than he was? Had he become so excited in the possibilities that the pitfalls had evaded him? And then he saw, as if in a dream, but waking, a flash of hidden insight that rose to the surface like the bubbles in a mill pond, a world hideously altered by his meddling, a world of continents in upheaval, towns overrun with plants, old dictators given new life, and – oh, the horror! – the weasels lording themselves over his manor and estate, and indeed the whole of the surrounding countryside, while he, poor Toad, was reduced to nothing but a common servant, doomed to a life of servitude, misery and poverty.

The vision had shaken him. Removing a pristine handkerchief from his waistcoat pocket he mopped his brow, which had become bejewelled with sweat, and with shaking hands he moved to the fireside armchair, and gingerly sat down. When he had recovered sufficient composure, he said “Oh, Badger. You’re right, of course. I had thought my scheme well-intentioned, but I have been foolish. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”‘

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The Clarkson Exposition

snickers-top-gear

I always try and have the coffee on by the time Emily gets back from work, but the other morning, I forgot. So I offered her a cold drink instead. She gave me a black eye. Then someone pointed out that she has more Facebook friends than I do and therefore I shouldn’t complain.

Put like that, it’s ludicrous, isn’t it? But what happened with the Top Gear host the other week isn’t really so different. There’s a lot of rank stupidity when it comes to media exposure these days. We live empty, leisure-filled lives where overreacting has become par for the course, and getting offended comes naturally when everything profound that’s said is usually said online – or on video, where it can be embedded online – to be dissected, retweeted, screengrabbed and analysed to death. The slightest complaint is a viral headline. So it’s easy to think that the news that Jeremy Clarkson had punched a producer was just another in a long line of “Oh, that Clarkson, he’s such a wag” stories by one of the ‘characters’ of BBC TV. We put up with Clarkson because he’s fun, and politically incorrect, and ‘tells it like it is’. (Well, so does Katie Hopkins, I’m informed, and she’s a provocative bitch whose views on mental health alone have made me physically nauseous – despicable if they’re genuine, and colossally unfunny even if they’re meant for pure headline-grabbing sensationalism. I’m not even going to link to them, because, you know, oxygen of publicity.)

But consider this. If a popular but immensely volatile member of your office staff decked one of the marketing heads, and wasn’t disciplined for it because of his exemplary sales record, wouldn’t you feel the teeniest sense of injustice? Wouldn’t you think that perhaps the disciplinary procedure was not quite as well-oiled as the HR department would have you believe? Wouldn’t you say “Hang on a minute, this really isn’t fair? There’s Pete with a broken nose and he has to suffer in silence, while all Bill gets is a slap on the wrists before sloping off down the pub? And this is after the racist joke he cracked the other week? There’s something fishy going on in that boardroom.”

Listen, Tom Baker was notoriously difficult in his final year, but I don’t think even he resorted to laying out the crew, even when Alan Bromly was directing. It’s not a question of putting up with the primadonnas because they bring in the coffers. It’s about having a chain of command. Clarkson’s not untouchable, nor should he be. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the camel has had enough. This will cost the BBC millions and I’m sure they didn’t strangle their golden goose without careful consideration; if they’re guilty of anything it’s that they never trained it to stop pecking. And you know what? Just because you pay your license, you don’t get a say in how they run their organisation. Throwing in a hundred quid a year and then whinging about it in a hundred Daily Mail threads does not make you a shareholder, nor does it give you a democratic right to dictate policy. Clarkson attacked a man for thirty seconds because the hotel had stopped serving hot food, because he’d been in the pub for hours. That’s not a delicately balanced hardworking trouper who’s suffered great misfortune for his art. That’s the hallmark of an obnoxious bully who’s fired up by Dutch courage. Wars have probably been started over less. And as for those who complain about the Jimmy Savile parallels, I’ve never heard such an outrageously misplaced analogy. It’s not even worth telling them how stupid it is.

I stopped reading the comments eventually. I’m not really a grammar snob – at least not online, where I’ve learned that it frequently doesn’t matter – but in this instance there really is a direct correlation between the ability of people to string a coherent and reasoned argument together and their ability to spell. “BOYCOT THE BEEB!” the Facebook comments scream in abusive capitals. “BRING BACK CLARKSON NOW OR WE DONT PAY NO MORE!” You cannot get through to these people. They’ll see what they want to see, and read what they want to read. It’s like the Dwarves at the end of The Last Battle. You can’t always open the eyes of the ignorant and stupid, nor can you consistently educate the naive.

So I have kept my distance. I don’t need the blood pressure. If anything, the whole incident proves that eating meat of any sort just leads to barbarism and that we’d be far better off switching to the sort of vegetarian tree-hugging lifestyle espoused by Clifford Jones in ‘The Green Death’.

Green-death

Anyway, Jeremy’s out of a job now and word on the street is that ITV, Sky and Channel 4 won’t touch him with a barge pole, so if he needs a new gig…

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Doctor in This Dress

I genuinely can’t work out whether this TARDIS is gold, white or blue.

TARDIS-Ring-Single-Band-Gold

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Five rounds (of beer) rapid (drinking)

TARDISes I have known and loved.

TARDISes

 

I realised that it really was time to take this photo after we visited Techniquest. Located on the university campus in Wrexham, it’s one of those hands-on places with rooms full of fans, heart monitors, light-and-sound displays and other stuff. There are many such places dotted around the country, and the first time we visited one since we’ve become parents was on a cold January morning back in January 2013. I had a raging hangover, but it was worth it just to see this.

DavrosPyramid

 

On this particular Sunday, my head was clear, which was a good thing, because some of the optical illusions would likely induce nausea if you’d had a few. Life, as it turns out, is all about perspective.

Techniquest

Or, as Gareth said, “That’s silly!“.

The day before we visited Techniquest we’d been in Shrewsbury – a place which has very little connection with the Whoniverse outside some of the novels. It’s also not too far from Ironbridge, as the crow flies, which I’ve talked about before

Ironbridge_3

 

Shrewsbury itself is the hometown of Wilfred Owen, war poet of legend, who was one of several famous locals to be commemorated with a memorial set up on Smithfield Road in the summer of last year. He appears alongside the town crier and Sabrina, goddess of the River Severn (I swear I’m not making this up).

The funny thing is that when you look at it from the road, Owen’s statue really does look a bit like the Brigadier.

Shrewsbury

 

Sort of. If you squint. And that’s nothing more than wishful thinking on my part, perhaps, until you drive down to the river and reach the local park, and the Doctor Who influence on the whole town becomes strikingly clear.

IMAG0261

 

You see what I mean…

 

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Riddles and sheds

So what have I been doing when I’m not either writing reviews, refining satirical conspiracy-laden theories about the arc or convincing the Metro readership that Classic Doctor Who was better?

Well, reading the news. Doing any sort of journalism, however low-key, requires a finger on the pulse. But even if I’d gone dark, it was hard to miss the Apple iPhone 6 Songs of Innocence debacle.

I also spend a lot of time answering email, and summarising plot threads to Gareth, who has yet to watch any of the new series on the grounds that “You aren’t exactly selling it to me, you know”. It’s true that the quality level has been variable: patches of good and patches of appalling, with one entire episode (‘Into the Dalek’) that lies squarely in between. Capaldi is great, but the scripts are not. I more or less accept this as par for the course these days; I can’t help feeling we’re all marking time until Moffat steps down and Gatiss takes over as chief writer – a prospect which, thanks to his recent output, actually no longer appalls me as much as it once did.

When New Who is proving to be a less-than-fulfilling experience, I go back to the old stuff, which isn’t always a good thing. The other week, for example, we watched ‘The Two Doctors’, which is (as Gareth says) “a tremendous waste of Patrick Troughton”. The basic problem is that there is no story: it takes two and a half hours for the Doctor to have two or three one-minute conversations with his past self, visit Seville and tussle with some comically tall Sontarans. The Androgum thing is a good idea that never convinces, because they’re so downright irritating. On the plus side, Colin Baker does manage to take Nicola Bryant on an early tour of the Google server farms.

Two-Google

Google actually figures – in a manner of speaking – in ‘The Ice Warriors’, which I finished this morning, and in which a group of isolated humans have become so reliant on technology that they are incapable of rationalisation or even thinking for themselves, relying exclusively on technology. When it’s suggested that Director Clent forego the I.T. consultation process and actually make a decision, he freezes and panics. In the 1960s the idea of a supercomputer that could answer any question and suggest a course of action for any situation was still buried deep within the realms of science fiction – but as time passes, and dependency on the internet and the cloud increases, I can’t help wondering if we’re breeding a generation who’d rather use a search engine than cultivate a thought process. Why bother finding out what happens when you drop Mentos in Diet Coke when you can just see it on YouTube?

It needn’t go this way, of course. It’s just a question of encouraging independent thought, which is what I try to do when I tell my children not to believe everything they read. We try and bring a little philosophy into the dinner table conversation. Occasionally this backfires. At Beaver camp earlier this year I spent half an hour in a forest clearing trying to explain the door riddle to Thomas, after he’d seen it in ‘Pyramids of Mars’. In the end I found three trees in a line, and took it in turns to be the guards in front of imaginary doorways. The conversation lasted most of the evening, on and off, in between the games of snap and the s’more session round the camp fire. What I should have done, of course, was this.

Anyway.

My parents have just got back from a holiday in Norfolk – a place that forms what may just about be my first memory, besides the one that I wrote about way back in 2011 when I started this blog.

“This,” said my father, “was in a garden just up the road from us.”

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(The TARDIS in question is, I’m told, in Stiffkey, near Wells-on-sea.)

“We knocked,” said my father, “but the Doctor was out”. So they didn’t see inside, although if they had, it might have looked like this:

TARDIS_Int

Edward, meanwhile, has developed the annoying habit of pulling any DVDs he can reach off their shelves, spilling them on the floor. This means that the carpet of my study is at this very moment covered with plastic boxes. Unfortunately the only ones he can reach are the Doctor Who discs, because I like to keep them close to hand, and THEY HAVE TO BE IN THE CORRECT ORDER. Thus, in the process of returning them to their rightful places these last weeks I have become highly prolific at the story sequence for Baker through to McCoy, and could probably tell you them by heart.

But here he is, embroiled in our now daily ritual that is the Touching of Peter Capaldi’s Head.

Capaldi

The other day I put on the recon of ‘The Wheel in Space’, and as soon as he heard the theme music, he clapped. I have trained him well.

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“It’s a disguise”

Crumbs. Screen grab from BBC News. (The actual page is currently unavailable, unfortunately; they seem to be having server problems this morning.)

TARDIS_story

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