Posts Tagged With: tenth doctor

God Is In The Detail (12-03)

Greetings, fair traveller. Welcome to Tranquility Spa, a place to relax and unwind and escape from the hubbub and stress of everyday life. We invite you to sit down, take the weight of your feet and catch up with this week’s list of VERY IMPORTANT CLUES AND SIGNS that you might have missed while watching the Doctor and her fam run around the scorched Earth. Luckily, I’ve written them all down. You may thank me later.

You’ll recall, fairly early during the episode’s running time, that the intrepid foursome ran out of the main building on Tranquility Spa and found themselves up against a brick wall – or at least a reasonably disguised barrier. To those of us who’d seen The Truman Show, it was familiar territory – and like everything else in the story it erupted at breakneck speed, which meant it was easy to miss what was going on when the Doctor examined that energy wall. Let’s slow down the action and take a closer look.

Believe it or not, this relates to Turlough. Notice the chequered pattern that makes up the slab’s exterior? We may, if we squint, count the Doctors in squares – the top line is Doctors 1-3, while 4-6 and 7-9 appear beneath. This means that the red square right in the middle of the board corresponds with Davison’s Doctor, and thus the portal we can see behind his square is themed around the idea of centres – the Doctor, of course, having visited the centre of the universe during the events of ‘Terminus’. (While we’re talking about red squares, we should also point out that the Eighth Doctor – represented directly beneath the Fifth – visited Red Square in Revolution Man. But of course you all knew that.)

“Yes, that’s all very well,” I can hear you all ask, “but why Turlough?” Well, have a look at this.

Notice the five illuminated markings round the edge? And the 20.5% in the middle? That wasn’t an accident. It stands, unless I’m very much mistaken (and I’m not) for Fifth Doctor, season 20, story 5 – also known as ‘Enlightenment’, in which Turlough faced up to the Black Guardian and redeemed himself, even though Tegan never fully trusted him. This probably all sounds a bit tunous, but lest we forget, the name Turlough comes from the Irish turlach, meaning ‘dry place’ – it’s a village in County Mayo and, more interestingly, a city in California with the zip codes 9538095381 and 95382 – corresponding DIRECTLY AND UNAMBIGUOUSLY with the years that Davison (represented by 5) signed the contract, first appeared on screen and then made his debut properly (80, 81 and 82 respectively). Oh, and the 3? The number of stories in the Black Guardian trilogy, of course. Need I point out that Mark Strickson was born in ’59, the reverse of 95? I need not.

The next image may be a little difficult to see close up, but suffice it to say that the cameras that make up its four separate sections are all numbered. Assuming that we can ascribe each number to a separate Doctor – and factoring in that Whittaker is technically the Fourteenth incarnation, if one factors in John Hurt – we can make connections as follows:

Let’s split it up and look for clues. As you can see, the top half of this is to do with zip codes: the numbers at the bottom of each video display each correspond to separate zip codes, creating a CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS link to some unannounced (but long-rumoured) content from Big Finish. First up is an untitled Short Trip, narrated by Katie Manning, in which the Third Doctor and Jo visit Maine in 1984 and fall foul of a mysterious alien race wanting to invade Earth via the phone lines. There then follows an upcoming Sixth Doctor adventure in which the TARDIS materialises in nineteenth century Hartford, where they discover the inspiration for Injun Joe was a stranded Sontaran. According to the grapevine it features a sequence where the travellers keep missing Twain by a matter of minutes, prompting the Doctor to quip “And ne’er the Twain shall meet”, to which Peri rolls her eyes.

The bottom half is all about words: you’ll see that these two cameras are focused on the Tropical Vista Zone and the Peaceful Paradise Zone, both of which sound like levels from an abandoned Sonic The Hedgehog title. However, if we are to combine the words ‘Tropical Vista’ and ‘Peaceful Paradise’ and then rearrange the letters, you can see that we get ‘AFAR PLURAL APPOSITE VISIT’, which is a blatant reference to the recently released Thirteenth Doctor comic strip, in which Whittaker’s Doctor has a close enounter with Tennant’s Doctor during the events of ‘Blink’. Am I saying that the Scorched Earth we saw in ‘Orphan 55’ is linked to the unresolved cliffhanger from Class? No, I am not. I leave the dot-joining to you.

Next time: Melanie Brown…

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The Doctor Who Fiction Collection

I recently finished a wonderful book called The Night Circus. It features, close to its conclusion, a seemingly minor character lecturing another on the importance of stories. “Someone needs to tell those tales,” he says. “When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.”

Sometimes you write because you have the idea. Other times, you write because there’s a project, or simply because you need to, and the idea comes when you’ve brainstormed and head-scratched and run down a hundred different scenarios, none of them particularly good. And then sometimes the scenario will evolve out of a seed of an idea, reworked into something tangible and even, dare we say it, quite good. And sometimes it won’t, and you’ll go for a walk or brush the kitchen floor and wait for some unsuspecting narrative spark to drift past that you can pluck from the air. Most of all the process of writing is not always pleasant. Sometimes it is arduous and laboured and you press on, head to the wind, hand shielding your eyes against the storm, secure in the knowledge of nothing except the fact that this is not your best work, but at least it is work, and it is easier to rewrite a mess than it is a blank page.

But writing fiction using TV characters is the MFI (sorry, Ikea; I’m showing my age) of story construction. The characters come pre-assembled: you just have to put them together. You still have the job of establishing a setting – and, unless you’re playing it really safe, a supporting cast – but much of the work is done for you, the arduous task of establishing likeable protagonists already completed long ago by your intended audience. From one perspective it is cheating. From another, it is a template to enable ease of use, allowing you more time to concentrate on the story. Pick one.

I will, as a general principle, leave the character development to the novels: when I’m writing short fiction, it tends to be about Doctor Who. This particular collection spans a little over four years. Some of it is better than others: that’s as it should be. If every tale was only as good as the one that came before then we’d have a problem (if it was worse than the one that came before, we’d have a serious problem). There are Ice Warriors and Weeping Angels; the Doctor tangles with disgruntled matriarchs and angry villagers and, more than once, himself. You will have your favourites – I have mine. You don’t get to hear what they are. But you do get to read the stories. Enjoy them.

 

Sleep No More: Behind The Scenes

(Brian of Morbius, November 2015)

We start, ironically, with something that isn’t really a story at all, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. To give a little context: in late 2015 I was burned out, bummed out and very nearly wanted out. Doctor Who had lost its sheen, and I spent most of series 9 drumming my fingers on a table top (in a rather irritating four-beat pattern) waiting for it to end. I’m over it now, but those were dark days. To cope with a lackluster and occasionally frustrating series I began to get creative in my reviews, and this one – which tackles, ironically, an episode I’ve come to rather enjoy – is perhaps the silliest of the lot, being one of those fictionalised fly-on-the-wall documentary type things that became big business the moment Ricky Gervais first stepped foot into Wernham Hogg. It would be interesting to find out whether any conversations like the ones depicted ever actually took place. I’d be willing to bet there were at least a couple.

 

Dickensian

(The Doctor Who Companion, December 2016)

Write a Christmas-themed short story for The Doctor Who Companion? In 1500 words? No problem. Mostly. In this seasonal tale the Third Doctor is visited on Christmas Eve by a couple of spirits, with an obvious TARDIS-related twist. What I like about this is the stripped back Aristotle-esque nature of the setting: getting in and telling a story in one room and getting out again is something I really don’t do very often, so it was fun to rise to that particular self-imposed challenge. Oh, and there are jokes about vol-au-vents, because you always have to have a joke about vol-au-vents.

 

Day of the Dead

(The Doctor Who Companion, October 2017)

The year after the run of Christmassy stories over at the DWC, the site’s fiction editor organised a Halloween project. The brief was simple: write a story about a monster in which the Doctor does not feature at all. One of the most challenging things about this was finding a way to bring the Angels to life and make them scary when everyone already knows what they are – everyone, that is, except for the poor sap who encounters them. This is ramshackle in places, but I think it just about hangs together. If you forward it on, you have to promise not to give away the ending.

 

The Twelfth Doctor Gets A Phone Call

(The Doctor Who Companion, August 2018)

I’ve often wondered about the first time we see Peter Capaldi. His unanticipated blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in ‘Day of the Doctor’ – “No, sir – all thirteen!” – was one of the show’s key talking points, if only because you never hear about it again. It’s always possible that the Twelfth Doctor just turned up, knowing that was where he needed to be and when, but I’ve always liked to think that his immediate predecessor got in touch – something that could likely only happen once he knew there would be another Doctor coming along, which should give you some idea as to when this all takes place. The whole thing is a bit meta, but I quite like doing meta; it keeps me sane in between all the fan bitching.

 

Love That In A Family Dwells

(The Doctor Who Companion, December 2018)

We don’t get Christmas specials any more, it seems. We certainly didn’t last year, a schedule change that caused a great deal of fuss amongst the online community, most of whom were suitably disgruntled that they would have to spend December 25th actually hanging out with family members rather than simply crashing in front of the TV. I seem to have been one of the few people who wasn’t bothered – I never enjoy Christmas Day episodes because when you’re in my line of work there is a sudden and immediate urge to blog about them, something I’ve frankly never wanted to do after several sherries and a bucket load of mince pies. New Year’s Day is a much better candidate, although I accept that I’m in a minority.

Anyway, to plug the gap between Ranskoor and ‘Resolution’, I came up with this, which tells the story of what happens when the Doctor and her fam visit…look, you’ll just have to read the thing and find out, won’t you? One advantage of doing a story which is deliberately comic in tone is that you can advance the plot and cram in all sorts of expository information simply by including as many unexpected non-sequiteurs as possible: it’s a creative risk, but it works, provided you get the tone just right. I still don’t know if I did, but it was one of those occasions where I actually enjoyed the writing process, as opposed to simply having written. Those moments are gold dust, and must be seized without fear.

 

A Martian Sends A Postcard Home

(The Doctor Who Companion, August 2019)

Every summer, when we can, my family and I head down to the same camping field on the coast of Pembrokeshire. There we’ll indulge in campfire singalongs, quaff the local ale and spend hours on the beach looking for starfish and crabs. It usually buckets it down at least once, the clouds rolling in off the Irish Sea like an advancing invasion force, but you’re in Wales, and you basically come to expect it. In any case, that particular location (right down to a reasonably accurate depiction of its topography) is the setting for this little tale involving a lost Ice Warrior who winds up shipwrecked and blunders into, of all things, a village fete. Does the Doctor make an appearance? You’ll have to keep reading to find out – but it’s not a spoiler to reveal that several of the supporting characters are named after DWC staff, something I still don’t think they’ve noticed.

 

Wedding Crasher

(Brian of Morbius, October 2019)

Emily and I celebrated fifteen years of marriage this autumn. I still remember that morning as if it were yesterday: rising, sleepily as we both drove to separate houses in Reading to prepare; the argument I had with the insurance company, ripe and bruising after the argument we’d had with my aunt the previous evening over the reception place markings. Eating brioche with the best man and his wife in their housing estate semi, the pacing in the vestry when she was ten minutes late, and then that thrilled, anticipated moment where you see her walking down the aisle, at her most radiant. On balance, it was a good day.

The wedding of Harriet and Nick does not go to plan. But they might get their happy ending, thanks to an unexpected interruption. This was written in a rush job, and it shows, but it hangs together by the thread of a poorly-tied ribbon long enough to load it into the back of the car to open after the honeymoon. A disclaimer: Nick is not based on me, and Harriet is not based on Emily, and while Harriet’s mother was cut from the cloth of a real person, that person was not my mother-in-law. Probably.

 

Furby From The Deep

(The Doctor Who Companion, December 2019)

It’s the UNIT Christmas party, and the Third Doctor is reluctantly in attendance – along with Jo, the Brigadier, Yates, Benton and some sinister-looking toys. What could possibly go wrong? I’ve been wanting to write this for years – I even started it once, but there were technical problems and it was necessary to begin again from scratch. The intent was always to make it feel like something Terrance Dicks might have churned out, which means it concentrates more on the story it’s telling than the way it’s being told: Dicks had a flair for prose but was never one for literary flourishes, except where they were really needed. Does it feel like him? Probably not, but it has a beginning and a middle and an end, which is perhaps the best you can hope for. This will take you a while, so I strongly advise making a cup of tea first.

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Have I Got Whos For You (Mandalorian Edition)

Happy December! Did you know that the Master’s hatred of Will Ferrell spawned an unexpected seasonal tradition?

It’s Monday, which means two things. First, I’m entirely failing to finish tidying the lounge. Second, it’s time for our regular roundup of news and gossip from the world of everyone’s second favourite TV show (right behind Stranger Things, which I will get round to seeing one of these days). So what’s been going on in Whovania this week?

Needless to say, Jodie Whittaker has dominated. It’s not enough that we had two – two! trailers in the space of a week; we also have an episode title and guest cast. (At the risk of implementing a well-worn cliche, Doctor Who trailers are like buses, only they’re like buses in Reading town centre on a Friday night, because you have to wait ages and then two come along at once and you can’t actually hear yourself think on there for all the shouting and food fights and babies throwing toys out of prams. At least you can block these people on the internet; you can’t do that on the 38 to Purley-on-Thames.)

Still. I think we can all agree that ‘Spyfall’ really is a fairly dreadful title, although it did give me the excuse to do this, which almost works.

What happens in ‘Spyfall’? Well, there’s a bit of gubbins about rewritten DNA and Stephen Fry turns up playing a character called ‘C’. Whittaker herself is heard to mutter “The name’s Doctor…the Doctor” in a moment so gut-wrenchingly corny it could only have come from the hand of Chris “HELP ME WITH MY BEATLES QUIZ, MUM!” Chibnall, but this is the sort of thing I’m prepared to let go if I’m watching something enjoyable. ‘The Crimson Horror’ was thoroughly stupid, and occasionally excruciating, but it was also fun. Isn’t that really what Doctor Who is supposed to be about? Fun, and hopefully not too transparently woke?

I’ve been thinking about the word ‘woke’, really. It implies a heightened state of awareness, the notion that all those who are not transparently and overtly tuned in to injustice and equality and political correctness are in some way unconscious. It’s ridiculous terminology because there’s really nothing wrong with being asleep, particularly when you’ve spent a hell of a long time campaigning and fighting and you just need a bit of a rest. You never get the full story, really, do you, from someone who seems to be the opposite of ‘woke’? They’re just dismissed as fossilised dinosaurs who have no awareness of the world around them, rather than someone who has perhaps more awareness than you’d care to realise, and who has learned how to pick their battles, and who has decided that the best thing for their own state of mind is to give the outward appearance of being asleep.

“Yeah, I think we’re gonna have to cancel Christmas.”

While we’re at it, I have another pet hate I’d like to just mention and then talk about another day when I have more time.

Seriously, this is what happens if you let the internet write Doctor Who scripts.

There’s also news about the upcoming comic crossover in which Jodie Whittaker encounters the Tenth Doctor; one that had already given rise to speculation that he would appear in the next TV series for the current Doctor to castigate (in a conspiracy laden video I refuse to link to, because it’s bollocks and I’m not giving them the traffic). After much back and forth between the idiot fans who genuinely thought this was happening in the TV series and those of us who actually read beyond the headline, we’ve finally cleared up that this is a spin-off, and that whatever happens it’s probably not going to be hateful. I almost wish it was, really; you might as well give the haters something to really complain about.

In any case, it’s now emerged that said crossover will actually be a revisitation of the events of ‘Blink’, but from the perspective of both Doctors rather than Sally Sparrow. Unfortunately the most widely-shared link for this story came from Screen Rant, who ran with “BLINK TO BE REWRITTEN” (paraphrasing, but that was the sentiment), in a story I refuse to link to for reasons that should by now be obvious, and then all hell broke loose because many people, it turns out, are too thick to go any further than a fan baiting headline.

I had a near miss with writing for Screen Rant; did I ever tell you? I will spare you the details, but let’s just say there were one or two creative issues with their work ethic, and given the garbage they put out these days I think it was a lucky escape. Teaching piano is far more fun, and nobody tells you to kill yourself.

A little Star Wars news now, because I’ve got a stack of gags, and Jodie Whittaker’s got a bad feeling about this.

There’s also an exclusive press photo from the Episode IX After Party.

And this deleted scene from ‘It Takes You Away’ suggests that the BBC originally planned something quite different for last year.

It’s very easy to knock the direction Star Wars has taken, simply because it’s contemporary. You remember what you choose to remember, which was that the Ewoks were rubbish but at least they were cute rubbish, and that yes, Jar Jar was racist, but I suppose it was a long time ago and anyway it’s NOT AS BAD AS THAT STUPID SCENE WHERE LEIA SHOOTS OUT INTO SPACE. Likewise, there are a bunch of people yelling at Chibnall for producing an overly simplified portrait of racist white people in ‘Rosa’, simply because that was the best way to tell a story which (let’s be honest) was aimed at kids, and every single one of these people has completely forgotten the laboured monologues we used to get from McCoy and Pertwee and Hartnell, mostly when they were slagging off the military, or the lecturing about sweat shops in ‘Planet of the Ood’, or…I mean, if we’re going to throw any shade in the direction of last year, couldn’t we just agree that the monsters weren’t much cop? I don’t mind straight white men being the villains, because that’s kind of the way it always used to be, but the new creations they did include (benevolent or otherwise) weren’t so much offensive as simply dull. But that’s all fine, because Bradley Walsh has promised us that series 11 will feature some “absolutely terrifying monsters”.

Oh well, at least it’s official.

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The Smallerpictures video dump (2019, part six)

Midnight. Not a sound from the pavement. Until the unmistakeable noise of boots on concrete, a plaintive, distant roar, and the cry of “DOCTOOOOOOORRR!”

There are cats in today’s video roundup; of such things you may be sure. But we’ll get to that. First, the Doctor’s off to Norway.

 

1. Doomsday: The Sitcom Version (July 2019)

It’s no great secret that I’ve long found the ending of ‘Doomsday’ unintentionally amusing. Oh, I know it tugs at the heartstrings. I know there is a great tragedy in the story of Rose’s death and eternal separation from the Doctor, where ‘death’ means ‘dropped off a stack of papers at the council registry office’ and ‘eternal separation’ means ‘off screen for a year so Billie Piper can get her teeth done’. At the time, it was like the end of the world. For some of us. I was sitting there wondering if Davies would be able to outdo his “I think you need a Doctor” line from ‘Parting of the Ways’. I was not disappointed. The Doctor flits in and out of vision on a beach in Glamorgan and bottles out of the conversation in the middle of a sentence when the signal drops. He even burns up a star, for pity’s sake. The TARDIS carbon footprint must be astronomical.

So here’s a thought: if it’s funny by accident, what if we made it funny on purpose? What if I stuck in a laugh track? And the theme from Me and My Girl? How many Tennant fangirls and humourless puritans could I annoy? As it turns out the answer is ‘quite a lot’, although doing a quick headcount I do think I made more friends than enemies. It works reasonably well, given that this was a first attempt, and I know what I need to change for next time. “It would work better,” someone said, “if you had less general tittering and stuck to some belly laughs. As it stands, it becomes a lot of white noise.” Which is a perfectly valid criticism. “OH MY GOD YOU SICK UNFEELING BASTARD HOW COULD YOU MAKE THIS?”, I’m afraid, is not.

 

2. The Cats Trailer, Doctor Who style (July 2019)

The Cats motion picture is the new Class. It’s a film nobody asked for and nobody really wanted. It exploded onto the internet in a nightmarish display of peculiarity: a half-lit freakshow, filled with pawing and acrobatics and bizarre, decontextualised choreography. James Corden bounces and Taylor Swift sits in a hammock and Judi Dench plays Judi Dench, only in a wig. It was horrible. “And besides,” said hundreds of Doctor Who fans everywhere, “we had cats in Doctor Who and they looked much better than this lot”. Which is true, of course, although it’s not exactly fair: we’re talking about two largely separate mediums, and the requirements for the two types of role are completely different. It doesn’t help that I actually can’t stand Cats, although I do love a bit of Lloyd Webber: it is a disjointed melee of stories and ‘character’ songs, some of which work, some of which do not, and a tedious, oversung finale.

Within a day of the first trailer drop, someone had uploaded their own version, which married the footage with the music used in the trailer to Us, with alarmingly good results. And however misguided the complaints about makeup and CGI, there was – I realised, just in the nick of time – a definite market for a Who-themed remake. And so I took footage from ‘Gridlock’ and ‘The Shakespeare Code’ and stuck in a couple of carefully chosen soundbites and then put the whole thing together on one fevered, insomnia-drenched evening back in the summer. To answer a frequently asked question, the cats from Doctor Who aren’t in here because they simply wouldn’t have worked next to this lot: you’d just have a weird and confusing juxtaposition of different styles of feline and sometimes it’s best to just keep these things simple. As it is it hangs together, much like Tabitha is currently hanging from the edge of my tablecloth. For heaven’s sake, I’ll feed you in a minute.

 

3. Flatulent Clara (August 2019)

Fart jokes are brilliant, aren’t they? I make no apology for loving them to bits. Russell T Davies built an entire recurring villain around them. Dropping in a fart gag, in any capacity, is a good way to sort the wheat from the chaff, because supposedly sophisticated people are always very quick to tell you how juvenile you’re being and how toilet humour is the lowest form of humour. Sod the lot of you, I say. Fart jokes are funny, just like a pie in the face is funny. I love a bit of Oscar Wilde as much as the next man, but who can honestly say that The Importance of Being Earnest wouldn’t have been improved if Lady Bracknell had tripped over the handbag and landed flat on her arse?

There are plenty of brilliant fart redubs on YouTube – a Star Trek one and a quite spectacular reimagining of the restaurant sequence from ‘Deep Breath’ are just two of the mashups I’ve seen comparatively recently – but when I was dipping a toe into the murky waters of flatulence gags, it was Clara, of all people, who stood out. I think it’s the eyes. Jenna Coleman does most of her acting with her eyes, whether she’s gazing fearfully at a rampaging monster or staring incredulously at the Doctor, waiting for him to finish monologuing. There are lots of moments like that, and it struck me that – as good as her acting was – many of them would have been improved with a couple of gas bombs in the background.

This originally started life as a single scene – the notorious console room ballet that opens ‘The Rings of Akhaten’, in which Clara and the Doctor are seen cavorting round the TARDIS interior like a couple of tryouts for Swan Lake. Try as I might, I was unable to get it to gel, but it then occurred to me that Clara’s penchant for meaningful pauses and penetrating stares extends far beyond that one story, so I widened the scope to encompass the whole of series 7B. Akhaten still has a reasonable part to play, but you’ll also see shots from ‘Hide’, ‘Cold War’ and ‘The Crimson Horror’, among others. I tried to do something similar the other week with Jodie Whittaker, with only limited success – despite the scrunching she really doesn’t lend herself to that sort of humour. I might have another look. In the meantime, Clara’s done three series. Keep the clothes pegs on standby.

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Have I Got Whos For You (Not Exactly Trailer Edition)

God. The sequel to ‘Army of Ghosts’ looks rubbish.

Content warning: if you really want me to talk about the trailer, you’re best heading off to The Doctor Who Companion, where you’ll find a brief missive I tapped out Saturday afternoon in between doing the taxi run and preparing for Edward’s birthday party. Suffice it to say that “The name’s Doctor – the Doctor” is an absolutely dreadful way to begin anything, let alone one of the most hotly-anticipated trailers since…well, since the last one, but apart from that clunker of an opening I really rather enjoyed it. Certainly it felt like Doctor Who. Things exploded and there were monsters. Oh, and we got our first proper glimpse of Stephen Fry, whose presence in the upcoming series has been foretold since the ancient times.

“So you’re the Master, then?”
“Of Lake-town, yes.”
“But you are the Master.”
“Yes. Of Lake-town.”

Having said all that, I really can’t see how some vloggers managed to stretch out the conversation to an hour. An hour? To discuss a fifty-second montage of shots? Did they talk about the location of the vineyard or Jodie Whittaker’s goggles? Oh, no, wait. It was the tuxedo, wasn’t it? I mean, I’m only guessing (I refuse to listen to the thing), but I assume there was a lengthy discourse as to whether or not it ought to be her permanent costume this time round, along with whether she borrowed the coat from Jack (she didn’t; Jack’s coat is completely different). Either way they all scrub up nicely. And ooh look, scenery.

“I could have sworn it said White Tie.”

One of the big talking points is about exactly how the series opener (from which this shot is purportedly taken) will be the ‘game changer’ it’s reported to be. Speculation is rife, with everything from Tennant’s supposed return – leading to a scene in which Whittaker castigates every single male Doctor that’s preceded her – to the revelation that Hartnell was actually the first of a brand new set of regenerations, with the previous thirteen being female. Which is so ridiculous I don’t really know where to start, although as it turns out I started here.

When one particular fan chose to speculate about whether or not this would happen, I told him it was unlikely because it was a stupid idea – leading someone else to interject with the words “It’s plausible, though”, and then follow it up with a long explanation of Gallifreyan history I didn’t need to read. I replied that it was plausible, but still stupid.

“Hang on,” he said. “How could something plausible also be stupid?”

“In the world of Doctor Who,” I explained, “just about anything is plausible. That doesn’t mean it’s sensible. The next Doctor could be a young girl with pigtails, a pink TARDIS and a pony fetish. That would be plausible, within the confines of established scientific laws. But it’s a stupid idea and it would kill the show outright. You can see where I’m going with this.”

I mean, I’m fine with tinkering with the history, but fan-baiting is always going to land you in hot water. That’s what Moffat did, and people didn’t enjoy it then either. I am at the stage where I genuinely don’t care any more – Doctor Who is a silly show and I don’t have any particular concerns about them making it even more silly, as long as it’s dramatically satisfying (in a way that the frog wasn’t), but doing a retcon of Captain-America-is-actually-from-Hydra proportions for no other reason than to grab a headline is frankly a little bit insulting.

(Incidentally, when I posted the above, I had a few people saying “Hinchcliffe? Everybody loved Hinchcliffe, surely?” To which I had to explain that no, no they didn’t. Not at first. The love came later, once people had got used to the disbanding of UNIT and Baker being a bit mad and the whole Gothic thing. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. I wonder if years later people will look back at ‘The Tsuranga Conundrum’ and hail it as the classic it probably isn’t?)

1975 was also the year that Jaws came out, which made me think about Bradley Walsh’s assertion that series 12 will feature some “absolutely terrifying monsters.”

Oh well, at least it’s official.

[coughs politely]

In other news this week: a photo of three small children outside a Canadian gold mine in 1898 has led to much speculation that Greta Thunberg could in fact be a time traveller. I have embedded it below so that you may judge for yourself. No idea who the fella at the back is.

Entertainment, and one of the big talking points at the moment is the BBC’s grandiose, delayed-beyond-explanation adaptation of War of the Worlds – big-budget, ‘contemporary’, and (if you read the Telegraph) unnecessarily Woke. I’ve not seen it yet, and thus couldn’t possibly comment, but I note with interest that they seem to have cast Francis Begbie as the astronomer.

“The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to – what? What is it? What?”

War of the Worlds may be the most anticipated BBC show in years, and just about the only thing to rival it for sheer levels of excitement is Picard, the new Star Trek series that sees Admiral Jean-Luc climb back into his spaceship for one last job. Patrick Stewart’s been rather quiet about the whole thing, but I’ve had this one hanging around for a while, so in it goes.

Oh, and in a highly anticipated crossover moment, the Doctor laments to Clara his decision to allow Yoda to examine the heart of the TARDIS.

“I told him not to look inside. I bloody told him.”

 

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Have I Got Whos For You (Multi-Doctor Special)

I think this’ll be the last batch post for a while. We’ve taken a good chunk out of the meme backlog, and while there are still quite a few to go up, they can stagger in as and when, like drunk students crashing back into halls of residence after a night down the union. At least one of them might involve a traffic cone.

Today’s theme – if you hadn’t guessed – involves images involving more than one Doctor, which is something I do quite a bit when the ideas come. They do seem to come thick and fast these das, which is an indicator that I have more free time than is strictly healthy, but at least one family member appears to be following in my footsteps. This is both encouraging and slightly alarming. A bit like life, really.

We begin with a couple of Doctors celebrating the summer solstice, which should give you an idea just how long some of these have been hanging around.

Meanwhile, in a nearby playground.

Time Lord songwriter’s workshops.

Impromptu lightsaber battles.

Derby walking tours.

Family reunions.

Posted without comment.

“This mirror’s brilliant; I look years younger.”

So there’s this guy I found on Facebook who takes pet photos and one thing sort of led to another.

“Bugger off, David.”

Time Lord mid-air collisions.

Edward set this up. Edward is five. I am worried about Edward.

Finally, in the TARDIS…

“Yeah, I’d give it five minutes.”

 

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Papa Louie Pals Presents: The Companions (Part 1)

Hello! Welcome to Good Burger, home of the good burger; may I take your order?

As you’ll have seen the other week, I spent large parts of August assembling a plethora of Doctors with the help of Flipline Studio’s Papa Louie Pals, which enables you to create your own characters in the vein of the developer’s cutesy, animated consumers and baristas. In other words, you too – in the comfort of your own home – can make the sort of people who wander in to Papa’s Tacoreria and order…well, tacos. Or burritos, or whatever else they sell; I’m sure I don’t know. I haven’t played them, remember?

But give me an app that lets me be a bit creative and it’s like a red rag to a bull, and – having done all the Doctors – I elected to spend a little time creating the companions as well. We start, today, with the New Who brigade: most of the big players are in there, although I’m kicking myself for not including Wilf. Just for good measure, I stuck a couple of villains in as well (all right, one villain in multiple forms, which does rather narrow it down). Oh, and I couldn’t bring myself to do Adam, largely because he’s a twat.

Still. Everyone else is here, just about. And yes, there is a Classic Who companions gallery in the works, at some point when I get round to it. I may even take requests, as long as they’re more imaginative than “Please stop doing this”.

Let’s get cooking…

We’ll get these two out of the way first. There are lots of ways to do Rose; I have gone with her series one look, which is a little more chavvy and a little less refined than the slicker haircut and more revealing outfits she wore in series 2. Donna looks like a slightly younger version of herself, but that’s not a bad thing.

Nardole is…well, he’s a little taller than I’d like, or a little slimmer; pick one. But he looks vageuly Nardole-ish. And I’m quite pleased with Bill; I even remembered to put the bow in her hair.

The Masters, next (yes, there are multiple versions). Simm’s 2007 look is basically a man in a black suit; take away the evil eyes and he could be auditioning for Reservoir Dogs. He’s accompanied here by River Song, sporting her classic vest-and-skirt combination, as worn in ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ and probably other episodes I can’t be bothered to Google.

Two more Masters: the hooded monstrosity from ‘The End of Time’ and the restrained, bearded 2017 Master I always hoped we’d get to see. That’s my favourite contemporary take on the character, and it’s irritating that he really doesn’t work here: the hair is too shaggy, the beard (while being the closest I could manage) is wrong, and the tunic is more chef than rogue Time Lord. he looks like an evil sensei from a Japanese martial arts movie.

Missy, on the other hand, came out a treat, even if she does vaguely resemble a sinister version of Lucy from Peanuts. That’s presumably what Mickey Smith is thinking, unless it’s “Did I leave the iron on?”.

Series 11 now. Graham and Ryan first. Note that Graham’s smile is slightly smaller than the rest: this is deliberate.

And here’s Yas – along with Captain Jack, who is probably staring at her bottom.

The Ponds! They’re wearing matching shirts, which happened because I was feeling a bit lazy that morning, but it’s rather cute.

Lastly, Martha – whose jacket is just about perfect – and Clara. Specifically Oswin, although that dress isn’t quite as figure-hugging as I’d like. Still, she looks pleased with it.

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Have I Got Whos For You (Tenth Doctor Special)

You know how this works by now, folks, so let’s crack on. Today we examine the lighter, darker and more idiosyncratic sides of poll winner and sex symbol extraordinaire, David Tennant – better known as the Tenth or Tenth and Eleventh or Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, depending on how you count. But seriously, let’s not go there this morning. I haven’t the stomach for it, particularly not after all that Photoshopping.

First and foremost: alternative Alien 3 casting.

Boring Doctor Who episodes, #53.

Star Wars revisited.

Alarming discoveries in the Antarctic.

David Tennant, reluctant trumpet player.

Seasonal observations, part one.

We did Roald Dahl the other week, but any excuse.

“What a glorious feeling, I’m happy again…”

If you’ve seen Akira, then…

There, I fixed it.

I fixed it here as well.

And talking of beach farewells.

“When I finally do what frozen things do in summer…”

David Tennant, reluctant Oxford tryout.

Presented without apology.

“Ah.”

In later years, the Meta-Doctor would experience a midlife crisis, and an exasperated Rose would eventually leave him.

“Parachute? PARACHUTE?!?”

Seasonal observations, part two.

David Tennant, reluctant sunflower.

“I don’t wanna – actually, yeah. Yeah, I do.”

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Wedding Crasher

Figuratively speaking, Harriet had cold feet.

It was October, and while there was a nip in the air there was still a bit of warmth left in the Hampshire sun. The days may have been shortening, as the year performed its merry dance with the gusto of a drunken relative at a sixtieth birthday ceilidh, but you couldn’t exactly call it cold. It was more the expectation of cold, an opening act for the chill to come, as if autumn were in the middle of an acoustic set before abruptly vanishing into the wings just in time for the main event.

Whenever she actually thought about it, Harriet decided the whole notion that the changing day lengths were something to be remarked upon was quietly ridiculous. It would start in late June – right after the equinox – with the words “Well, that’s it now, the nights will start drawing in”. The process took six months, through summer beach holidays and festival season and the apple collecting and the ridiculous Halloween costumes that were in the shops on the first of September every year without fail, through fireworks and John Lewis Christmas adverts until just a few particularly short days before the bank holiday. The return journey, back to hazy afternoons and thundery barbecues, took another six months, rounding out the year quite nicely. The nights were always growing progressively longer or progressively shorter, and there was never a time when they weren’t. The whole system was perpetually in flux. So why even mention it?

No: Harriet’s cold feet had nothing to do with temperature, but she always thought it was important to denote the difference. She looked down at her actual feet, encased in a pair of ridiculous white shoes that she had never worn before – save ten minutes’ breaking in the week before the wedding – and would likely never wear again, unless she and Nick wound up visiting Ascot, or somewhere like it. And seeing as neither of them were the betting sort – “Gamble responsibly?” Nick would snort at the TV ads, before declaring it an oxymoron – this was probably not going to happen.

Harriet smoothed down an imaginary crease in her dress, and was gazing in the mirror when the door opened. Her mother, all red velvet and feathers. The hat would probably get stuck in a sliding door. That would be a story and a half. Harriet found herself chuckling inwardly at the thought, although she kept her face as pokerish as she possibly could.

“I’m about ready.” The woman bustled about the room, shutting windows and turning off the lamps. “Took me nearly fifteen minutes to straighten the plumage on this thing. Still, we can go now.”

“Because, of course, it’s all about you.”

“Oh, don’t start.”

“I really don’t want to start anything. We’re late enough as it is.”

“He’ll wait.” Her mother shrugged. “Least, he will if he’s got any sense.”

“Mum…” Harriet leaned on one arm, tentatively.

The eyebrows narrowed. “Oh dear. I know that look. Fine, what is it?”

“Why am I marrying him?”

“Because he’s adequately handsome, reasonably educated, and financially solvent. And more to the point, he puts up with you.”

“I think he’s terrified of you,” said Harriet.

“Good. That’s precisely the way it should be. Now come on – ” and her mother tugged her off the bed with one arm, re-adjusting her hat with the other – “before the salmon starts to decompose.”

 

* * * * *

 

Nick was on his penultimate fingernail – the rest chewed down to rags – when the vicar opened the door to the vestry. “Here. Finally.”

Nick was already a bundle of nerves and took exception to his tone. “We’re not paying you by the hour, you know.”

“I wish you were. I’d make a fortune. Are you set?”

“Give me a moment.” The groom stood, adjusting his corsage. “Where’s Bill?”

“Your best man is outside, placating a few guests who are even more anxious than you are. A moment ago he was reassuring your elderly aunt that he can get her back to the hospice in time for Strictly.”

“That’ll be Iris,” muttered Nick. “Never mind ballroom dancing, she’s a complete drama queen.”

“Look,” said the vicar, crossly. “Do you want to get married or not? Only I’ve got another wedding this afternoon and a sermon to write for tomorrow.”

“Well, that’s the question.” Nick stared through the frosted glass that was the vestry window, the exterior beyond an unreadable collage of blacks and greens and greys. “I mean, I thought I did. So did Harriet. But lately it just seems like it’s – ”

 

* * * * *

 

“ – too soon,” Harriet was saying. “You know, it was three months. Three! And he was drunk. And so was I, and one thing led to another and we wound up visiting the outlet centre for an engagement ring because it was late night shopping.”

Her mother shut the door of the rental. “And they say romance is dead.”

She leaned through the window. “Park it in the short stay and come back. We don’t want to get ticketed.”

The driver nodded and pulled away from the kerb. Harriet stared at the busy road, counting the cars. Red. Green. Silver. Blue. Another silver. The sky was a rich azure, pockmarked with dark grey clouds, the biggest of which threatened to block out the sun. Harriet wondered if it would rain, and then wondered whether that would be appropriate.

Her mother was stabbing at the screen of an ageing smartphone.

“What are you doing?”

“Just checking in on Foursquare.”

“Nobody uses that any more.”

“I do.” Her mother glared at her frostily. “You can use the thirty seconds’ breathing space to get yourself presentable.”

Harriet turned away – and almost collided with a man in his thirties, wearing a long brown coat, who was pelting up the street in a tremendous hurry. Harriet tottered on her heels, struggling to keep herself from falling. “Hey! Watch it!”

The man in the coat turned and gave her the briefest of apologetic waves. “Sorry!”

Harriet seethed as he disappeared round a corner, and then turned her attention back to the present.

“The thing is,” she said, as her mother picked up the train on her dress and moved it away from the gutter into which she’d absent-mindedly allowed it to trail, “I just don’t know if he’s the sort of person who’d jump in front of me to stop a bullet. How can I marry him not being sure of that?”

“What a ridiculous cogitation.” Her mother straightened her jacket, which had wandered skewiff in the car. “Who gets the chance to know a thing like that? Who, apart from the military or people who meet in those ridiculous films your father always enjoyed? Nobody.” She had her hands on her hips now, which meant she was both attentive and cross. “That’s who.”

Harriet sighed. “Still, you know what I me-”

“No. I don’t. I never do. Your mind works on a different level to me, and I’ve accepted it. I accepted it long ago. But I don’t understand you. Here you are, minutes away from the chance to be happier than I ever was, and we’re standing in the street discussing…”

She fumed. “Keanu flippin’ Reeves.”

“I just – ”

“Yes. You just. As in just now. Why couldn’t we have had all this out in the car?”

“BECAUSE YOU WERE ON YOUR BLOODY MOBILE TRYING TO REBOOK THE OSTEOPATH! ON A SATURDAY!”

“AND I WOULDN’T HAVE HAD TO IF YOU HADN’T – ”

“Excuse me. Ladies?” said a polite voice.

The two-person bridal party ceased its affectations, and turned in the direction of the voice: the best man was standing by the church doorway, trying to look casual and not quite managing it.

“Are you ready to get married?” said Bill. “Only the caretaker forgot to adjust the heating this morning and they’ve had to keep the doors open, and I think everyone inside can hear you.”

 

* * * * *

 

Harriet had misjudged the length of the church. This meant she was already at the front while the organist was still halfway through Haydn’s Trumpet Voluntary, which meant that she had to stand next to her husband-to-be for an embarrassing length of time while everyone waited for him to finish.

Nick used the time to pay compliments. “You look amazing.”

She kept her eyes fixed straight ahead. “Thanks.”

“I mean it,” Nick said. “It’s just the most incredible dress I’ve ever – ”

“I know,” Harriet hissed. “You said. Thank you.”

“Right. I’m sorry, I’m just nervous.”

The organist finished with a flourish. A couple of people clapped, which was frankly awkward, as it wasn’t generally done, and the vicar made his displeasure known by glowering at them.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began – ‘Dearly beloved’ having gone out of style round about the time Hugh Grant was caught in a BMW with a prostitute – and that was about as far as he got before all the windows shattered.

 

* * * * *

 

The thing on the church carpet was reptilian in appearance, scaled and grimy, the shape of a horse and the size of a large rhino. Two human-length arms protruded from its front, in addition to the four legs upon which it was now crouching. A coral-coloured fin and two bulbous, empty eyes adorned its long, sleek head, while at the creature’s rear end a spiked tail lashed back and forth in front of the lectern.

Harriet was up on her feet, staring hard. Oddly her first thought had not been one of abject terror – although from the looks of her wedding guests there was plenty of that to go around in any case – but rather a scientific conundrum, namely how a single animal could have been responsible for the destruction of every window in the church when it had presumably come through just one. Her question was answered as the creature opened its mouth and roared – a piercing, ear-shattering noise that would surely have broken all the glass in the room had there been any more glass to break.

Harriet glanced over at Nick. He was standing next to her, his head lopsided, a look of utter incredulity plastered to his whitened face, as if he could not quite believe what he was seeing. His breathing had quickened and there was a rip in the shoulder of his jacket that was staining crimson where the glass had torn it, along with some of the flesh beneath. He seemed not to have noticed, and Harriet decided that this was probably not the time to bring it up.

“This is a dream,” Nick was muttering. “And I know it’s a dream, so I can wake up.”

“It’s not a dream,” Harriet said.

“I can wake up I can wake up I can – ”

“It’s not a bloody dream!” she snapped.

The creature was shaking bits of glass out of what Harriet assumed must be its mane. It whinnied (if that was the right word) and stamped. Then it reached out an arm and grabbed the vicar, who would very soon wish he’d got out of the way sooner.

“No!” was all the unfortunate clergyman had time to get out before the creature propelled him into a wall, whereupon he slumped to the floor with a dismal thud, then lapsing into silence.

Harriet looked around for her mother, who was cowering behind the organ. “Don’t just stand there!” she hissed, when they made eye contact. “Come and hide!” She was beckoning frantically, and the feathers in her hat were dusted with tiny shards of glass.

Harriet shook her head. “We’d never make it.”

The beast was directly in their path to the organ, and Harriet sensed – correctly, as it turned out – that any attempt to cross that path was liable to end in tears. She risked a glance at the congregation, who were in the process of either fainting, sobbing or running. She observed Bill running out into the street and away from the carnage that was presumably about to unfold, and felt a pang of annoyance, even though she’d never much liked him.

She turned to Nick. “What do we – ”

The church had a rear door; it led through to the vestry and the back exit and it was through this door that the newcomer arrived. He half ran, half fell through into the main body of the church, skidding to a halt in front of the creature, beholding it with something that resembled quiet and considered alarm, but not surprise. He was out of breath, although no sweat seemed to glisten across his forehead.

Harriet recognised his coat. It was the man in the street, the one with whom she had almost colli- no, wait a minute, the one who had almost collided with her. Now that he was standing there, she could see him properly. He looked to be in his late thirties, with dark spiked hair that rose from the top of an angular head. He was attractive but not threateningly so, well-defined and perhaps just a shade too thin. The coat swamped a pinstriped brown suit and necktie; on another day he wouldn’t look out of place selling houses in London, and for all Harriet knew that was what he did anyway.

“Sorry,” he said. “Hello.”

Something inside Harriet snapped. “Hello?” she echoed. “This – this thing comes through the window and nearly kills us, and still might, and all you can say is ‘Hello’?”

“Well, it’s a start,” said the man. “I mean, I was going to say ‘Is everybody all right?’, before you interrupted.”

“What is it?” said Harriet, indicating the monster, which seemed to be pacing up and down the width of the church, leering at her. “Is it something to do with you?”

“No. Well, kind of.” The stranger wore an expression that might have been construed as guilt. Harriet thought his eyes looked old, or at least older than the rest of him. “It got out.”

“Out of where?”

“Doesn’t matter. Listen.” He turned to her, staring hard – there was fear in those eyes, she noticed, or at least a quiet desperation. “You need to get everybody out of here now, so I can contain it.”

“Can’t you just take it away somewhere without people?”

The stranger seemed to consider this, before changing his mind. “Could, but no. Too risky. He seems to have stopped here for the moment. I think I need to subdue him before he moves again.”

“It’s a he, then?”

“Probably. I mean, the noisy ones generally are.”

“So we move, then.”

“Yes. And keep quiet about it. The more noise you make, the more – ”

“Harriet!” In the excitement she had almost forgotten her mother, who was still hissing beside the organ, although it was now less of a hiss and more an anguished squeak. “Who on earth is this travelling salesman and why isn’t he doing anything to help?”

“Excuse me?” the stranger addressed her in the way you might expect a disgruntled maths teacher to address a disobedient child. “Helping is top of the list, thank you very much, if you’ll kindly stop panicking and let me get on with it.”

The woman bristled. “Just who are you, anyway? And what the hell is this thing?”

“I’m the Doctor. And this is a Myrka. Nasty things, usually bred for war. And when they’re cornered they get agitated, so I’d appreciate it if you could just calm – ”

The monster reared and rallied. The head threw back and it gave another roar, rising onto its hind legs, which were flailing wildly in mid-air.

Too late, Harriet realised that when they came down, they would most likely land on her head.

 

* * * * *

 

When she thought about it later, Harriet recollected that things seemed to happen in slow motion. First there was that horrid pause as the legs stopped flailing and began their downward descent, then there was a cry of “NO!”, and then she felt herself being pushed out of the way as Nick suddenly barged in front of her, standing directly in the path of the descending hoof as it came down onto his temples.

Harriet didn’t have time to scream, and then Nick was falling, falling and clutching the top of his head, but – what was this? – he actually didn’t look too badly hurt, and now the monster was flailing wildly from some sort of aggravation it was evidently experiencing, and then it turned with a crash and landed directly on top of the organ which had thankfully been vacated just seconds before, its tail three inches from Harriet’s mother’s chest.

There was a sudden and eerie silence.

The dust settled. The congregation got to their feet, shaky and upset and still trying to work out exactly what was going on. Harriet’s mother came out from behind the organ and ran over to embrace her daughter. Harriet herself was kneeling over the unconscious Nick, trying to work out if he was in fact unconscious or actually dead.

The man called the Doctor was brushing his coat.

“Let’s have a look,” he said, dropping to a squat and pulling a small tube-shaped device from his pocket – Harriet took it to be some sort of multi-purpose thermometer or torch – and shining it into Nick’s temples, once he’d rolled back the eyelids. “Brilliant! Don’t worry, he’s just unconscious.”

Harriet blinked away her tears, stunned. “He’s – he’s not – ”

“No,” said the Doctor, drawing out the sound of the word and drawing in his breath at the same time, giving it a warm, gutteral emphasis it arguably didn’t deserve. “The hoof clipped the side of his head. Just a scratch. He’s gonna have a whopper of a headache when he wakes up, though.”

Harriet shook her own head. “I was so sure it was going to crush him.”

“It nearly did. ‘Til I threw it off balance.”

“How?”

“With this.” The Doctor waved the thermometer at her. “Sonic feedback resonance cascade. Inaudible to humans; gave the poor old Myrka here the fright of his life. Bit of a last resort – I always find it rather cruel, mostly because they usually lose a bit of their hearing. But we were out of options. It was that or watch it crush your fiancé.”

Despite everything, Harriet smiled. “You saved him.”

The Doctor gave her a meaningful look. “And he saved you.”

Harriet was still processing the implications of this when she glanced over at the Myrka. “What about that? Is it dead?”

“No, just stunned,” said the Doctor. “I’ve got a few friends who can come and take care of him, get him to a place where he can’t be harmed. And where he can’t harm anyone else, of course,” he added, quickly.

“Just who are you?” Harriet’s mother demanded. “Coming in here with your weird gadgets and your mysterious friends and – ”

From the far wall of the church there was a groan.

“Sylvia,” said the Doctor, clearly anxious to kill two birds with one stone, “Go and check on the vicar, will you?”

Harriet’s mother bristled. “My name’s not Sylvia.”

The Doctor shrugged. “Well, if the cap fits.”

 

* * * * *

 

A few minutes later, when the men in uniforms had come with their trucks and taken the Myrka away to what Harriet assumed was some sort of heavily-armoured paddock, they were all sitting at the front of the church, recovering. The guests were subdued, a damp cocktail of relief and quiet reverence, as if they had been privy to something terrible which was now over without anyone fully understanding what had happened.

The Doctor was applying a bandage to Nick’s head, and dabbing it with alcohol. “Sorry,” he said, as the groom winced. “Haven’t done this for a while. Bit out of practice.”

“I thought you said you were a doctor,” Nick said.

“Well, yeah, but not of medicine. Though…” He paused, staring off into the distance in reflection. “Actually, no. I did do medicine. Glasgow, 1880s. Can’t remember.”

Harriet glanced over at the vicar, who was sitting on a plastic chair with a cup of tea. “What about him?”

“He’ll be fine,” announced her mother, who had bustled over with a bunch of towels. “He doesn’t even seem to have any concussion, though I’ve told him to get it checked out. After that we’ll need to set another date – ”

“No we won’t,” said Harriet. “We’ll give him a few minutes, then we’ll carry on.”

Her mother looked at her, speechless. “You can’t be serious.”

Harriet got to her feet. “You know what, Mum? For the first time in a while I think I actually am.”

“But – not like this! Surely not like this? And don’t you want to think about thi-”

“Mum.” Harriet’s voice was calm, self-assured, decisive. “There’s no thinking. We’re getting married, and we’re getting married now.”

She turned to Nick. “That is, if you still want to.”

Nick grinned. It was a grin that abruptly faded when the simple matter of logistics kicked in. “What about Bill?”

“I’ve tried getting hold of him,” said Harriet. “But he jumped on a non-stop to Plymouth, and he won’t be back for ages.”

“He was useless anyway,” Nick shrugged. “But we can’t have a wedding without a best man.”

They both looked at the Doctor.

“Oh, all right,” he said.

 

* * * * *

 

Rings or no rings, everyone agreed it was a lovely ceremony – even if some of the photos were a trifle unorthodox. What was more the hotel had managed to keep everything on ice and thus the fears about decaying salmon were unfounded.

The Doctor was currently in shovelling a forkful of it into his mouth. Harriet had insisted he come along. “You’ve saved our lives,” she had said. “It’s the least we can do.”

The Doctor had looked momentarily indecisive. “I should…I mean, I should really…the Ood, they keep…hmm. Oh, why not?” he had replied after the sort of dithering that would have impressed even Hugh Grant. “Really not my thing, but another day can’t hurt. It’s all relative.”

Harriet hadn’t understood any of this, but there were a lot of things she hadn’t understood about today, and she was coming to the conclusion – as she crossed the floor to where the Doctor was standing – that it probably wasn’t a bad thing. “Enjoying the food?” she said.

The Doctor put down his plate. “It’s delicious,” he said, wiping an oily mouth clean with a napkin. “Haven’t had salmon like this since Greenland, 1808. Coronation of Frederick the sixth. Lovely man. Very fond of darts.”

“Right,” Harriet, wondering how she was supposed to respond to these ersatz monologues.

The Doctor glanced over at her. “Are you all right?”

“I am, actually,” said Harriet. It was partly the wine, but her heart felt lighter, while her head was gradually vacuuming away the fog. “Just between you and me, I’d been having second thoughts. And then…you know. Gone.”

The Doctor nodded. “Speaking of which, where is he?”

Harriet surveyed the dimly-lit function room, and spotted Nick, in the middle of an intense conversation with a visibly upset pensioner. “Over there,” she said. “I think he’s trying to placate Aunt Iris. She’s upset about missing Strictly. Started half an hour ago.”

The Doctor appeared to be formulating some sort of idea in his head. “Well, I could…you know. I could probably do something about that.”

Harriet’s eyebrow arched. “How?”

The Doctor scratched his ear. “I’ve got a time machine.”

Harriet nearly spat out her wine, but managed at the last minute to swallow. “You know the weird thing? I actually believe that.”

“Just a small number, mind you, and doesn’t always work properly, but I could probably drop her off, say, an hour ago.”

“Really?”

“Yes. But you can’t tell anyone. It’s not something I do except in dire emergencies, which seems to apply here. Still, we can’t let it get out. I’ll never live it down.” The Doctor sighed. “Look at me, going soft in my old age.”

“But hold on.” Harriet’s face darkened. “If you could go back in time, couldn’t you just…I don’t know. Nip back and fix things? So all the stuff earlier won’t happen?”

“Doesn’t work like that.” The Doctor swigged his lemonade. “I can’t go back along my own timeline. Creates a paradox. Seven shades of hell break loose. Anyway. When you think about it, would you really have wanted this afternoon to be any different?”

Harriet thought about it and decided she probably didn’t.

“But if you’re from the future,” she continued, “which you must be, seeing as you have a time machine, do you know about us? I mean what happens to us?”

“Not offhand,” said the Doctor. “Big universe, lots of people. Can’t keep track of everyone.”

“But you could find out.”

“Theoretically,” he replied. “But I’m not going to.”

Harriet nodded, a little disappointed and also relieved.

“You wanted to know if you lived happily ever after,” the Doctor said, probing her thoughts. “Didn’t you?”

Harriet shrugged, and gave a small smile.

“Nobody does, you know. Not really. But you make the best of whatever you’re given. And you promise each other that that’ll be enough. And then, whenever things are bad, you push on.”

Harriet’s smile widened. Yes. That would do.

“Speaking of pushing on,” the Doctor said, putting down his glass, “I really should be making a move. Places to see, planets to liberate, that sort of thing. I’ll go and collect your aunt.”

“Nick’s aunt,” Harriet corrected him. “Listen, – ”

“Don’t thank me again,” said the Doctor, his hand up. “There’s really no need.”

“No, I was going to ask. What about you? Is there – ”

The Doctor smiled at her. It was the sort of smile that spoke volumes; it seemed to hide a wealth of sadness, of heartbreak and recollection and pushing on. There were stories, she sensed, that she would never get to hear, and she realised – in that moment, she finally realised – that they’d been in the presence of a man who was full of secrets, who played only the bare minimum of the cards he kept strapped to his chest, and that this sort of intervention, this breezing in and out of lives, was what he did every day.

“Good luck to you Harriet,” he said, and with a wink he was gone.

Harriet watched him leave, a straight-backed gentlemen pushing a wheelchair, disappearing as if he’d never really been there in the first place.

Nick joined her at the buffet table. “I’ve tried calming her down, but nothing doing,” he said. “I don’t know why they can’t stick iPlayer on a couple of the nursing home TVs.”

“I don’t think you need to worry,” said Harriet, gesturing at the departing Doctor. “It’s all in hand.”

She squeezed Nick’s palm. “And speaking of which,” she said, “I think you owe me a dance, my darling husband.”

Nick smiled. “It worked out in the end, didn’t it?”

“Yes,” said Harriet. “I think it did.”

“But there’s one thing I don’t understand.”

She looked at him, incredulous. “Only one?”

“Well. I mean, there’s a bunch of – but look, who was he? He waltzes in, there’s chaos, I get a whopping headache, then he’s off again, like he’s never been here. We didn’t even know his name.”

Harriet gave her new husband a kiss.

“Does it matter?”

 

For Emily, fifteen years after ‘I do’.

 

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The One with the Friends Titles

In many ways it feels like yesterday. That sense of envy, the homage to stressed-out Village life (capital intentional) where people are happy and unhappy at the same time, where humdrum jobs and complicated (or non-existent) love lives are made bearable by the people you hang out with. I was almost seventeen and it seemed such a carefree way to live: these twenty-somethings who existed in a hubbub of late films and spontaneous baking sessions and endless cups of coffee. I had just found, in the real world, an uneasy point of entry into a peer group in which I never really belonged and in which I was, for the most part, an outsider: a Gunther to everybody else’s Ross and Rachel, surrounded by ostensibly lovely people who would never actually call me.

But when you’re that age recognition of any sort is important, and you start to draw parallels. During more reflective moments, in evening conversations conducted over cider or Grolsch in our local pub, I would compare myself to Ross – heartfelt, sincere and slightly pathetic Ross. The analogy worked: Ross really was a bit of a dickhead. I didn’t see it at the time, seeing as I only recognised what how awful I was years down the line. Still, Phoebe was always my favourite – good old Phoebe, who was unable to think a sentence through in her head before saying it out loud (“There isn’t always time!”) and whose songs alone made the show worth watching, if only to detract from the tedium that was the Ross and Rachel love story. They wound up having a baby (by accident) and settling down, presumably in Scarsdale where the schools are good. We don’t know. I still don’t think I’ve seen that last series; the novelty had long worn off and my life had moved on.

It’s become fashionable to sneer at Friends, to dump the word ‘problematic’ into discussion as if that covered the multitude of readings: as if it is as simple as calling it homophobic (it isn’t), fat-shaming (guilty) and disproportionately white (so were the social lives of most people watching it). As ever, things are more complicated and as ever, the internet isn’t interested in grey, not least when black and white looks so much prettier. As far as I’m concerned Friends lost some of its sheen once it became markedly less Jewish, at least in terms of the humour it was producing, and when the characters disappeared up their own backsides in order to become stereotypical parodies of themselves, instead of rounded people: in other words, taking what the audience found funny and building the entire show around it, rather than writing something that could actually be called interesting. But I had this conversation a couple of years back, if you can call ‘conversation’ an eight-hundred word pot-stirrer I did for Metro that actually did reasonable traffic, not least because there were a number of people willing to haul me over the coals for it – or, as a particularly cynical American wrote on Twitter, ‘The one where the straight white man gets to have his say’.

What’s left? A series of eight stills from Doctor Who, accompanied by (hideously in)appropriate Friends episode titles. I have eschewed the obvious ones – hence, The One With The Flashback isn’t there, simply because it wouldn’t be funny. The rest of it sort of works. I don’t watch Friends anymore, for the same reason I don’t re-watch Doctor Who: there is too much TV out there I haven’t seen yet. But it  was a big part of my life for years, and it would be churlish to deny it that sense of cultural importance, at least on a deeply personal level: programmes like this are a comfort blanket, a sense of reassurance, a Friday spent in familiar company even if the conversation is only ever one way. It would be nice if we could just view it as that, instead of having all this other baggage. It would be nice, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, which is why I tend to keep out of it these days.

Anyway, those images.

How you doin’…?

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