Posts Tagged With: the silence

Have I Got Whos For You (Interlude)

All is not well in Planet Who, folks. There is discontent over the absence of a trailer, anticipatiion fatigue over the BBC’s continuing refusal to name a date, and a general sense of ambivalence about whether it’s going to be any good considering the writers they’ve got on board for next series. And over in a Viking village, Edgar’s let his sneeze get the better of him again.

I spent half an hour yesterday trying to interpolate footage from this year’s John Lewis advert into footage of explosions and disintegrating snowmen and the cracking of ice. It did not go well. My heart simply wasn’t in it, which is never a good beginning. So I cleaned the bathroom instead. There’s no video this week, but at least the house smells fragrant. We’ve done John Lewis before – more than once – and that comparative post I did back in 2016 really is due a revamp. Maybe next year. Maybe.

There was a pile of good things. Georgia Tennant posted a photo on Instagram of her new baby’s induction into the world of Doctor Who, although there was some concern over the episode that she was watching.

“HUNGRY,” said one FB user I occasionally interact with, to which the response from me was “Wrong episode.”

“Close, though, right?”

“Five years out. So in the grand scheme of things…”

If we’re talking series 12, of course, you have to work with what you’ve got. For example, a few weeks back we became aware of a suspected leaked image from an upcoming sequel to ‘Flatline’, although there was immediate speculation as to whether or not it was fake.

It’s not fake, surely? I mean it’s got lighting and everything.

One thing that definitely isn’t fake is the Dalek redesign, which was recently spotted on Clifton Suspension Bridge during a closed ‘maintenance’ slot which was actually booked for the BBC. There was immediate uproar over the apparent redesign, which served no purpose except to highlight the double standards inherent in the assessment of such things, because the Cybermen have been going for almost as long as the Daleks and the new ones are basically unrecognisable, whereas the Daleks have hardly changed at all over the years and the moment they do there’s wailing and crying and gnashing of teeth. Maybe that’s the whole problem. Perhaps a general evolution would have made the removal of the sink plunger an acceptable thing. Perhaps they’ve signed up to a twenty-four hour callout service and there’s no longer any need to do it themselves.

Anyway, it turns out there’s a reason for it.

I’ve been struggling a little bit with Thomas’s school this week, who have been perhaps less than understanding about some of his additional needs, even though they usually do a good job. We have explained to him that while copying out the question before you add the answer does seem rather pointless, you sometimes simply have to toe the line and pick your battles. We live in a system of assessments and targets and indecipherable lingo, and with four kids at four schools it really can be a bit of a minefield.

Anyway, Thomas is basically happy, but I do wish he’d read more. It’s Ripley’s Believe it or Not or a Beano annual or something in the Big Nate range, and while I’m not a reading snob of any sort there’s a wealth of great stuff out there he’s missing out on simply because he can’t be bothered. Occasionally – just occasionally – you can find something that’ll interest him, like we did when we found a Derren Brown book about hypnotism and the power of suggestion. He’d developed something of an interest in the man after regular visits to Thorpe Park this year where we all got rather attached to the Derren Brown ghost train – a ride I’m not allowed to spoil, because they ask you not to. Then this book showed up in a charity shop and he was riveted. It’s the sort of thing that makes me shudder, just faintly, because whether it’s genuine psychic ability or a simple confidence trick Brown is a piggin’ genius and the thought of Thomas going down that road makes me wonder what the consequences would be. It’s like giving the supersoldier serum to Red Skull. “No man should have that kind of power.”

I was trying to find something for him the other week when I stumbled upon this hideously inappropriate Doctor Who novel. I could still let him read it; the joke would probably sail over his head.

Audiobook available soon from all good streaming services.

Star Wars updates now – and cometh the man, cometh the Mandalorian.

It’s not just me, is it? Tell me it’s not just me.

I am trying to put my finger on the moment I lost interest in the Star Wars franchise. It might have been the Clone Wars movie. It might actually have been Shadows of the Empire, Lucas’ 1997 foray into episode 5.5 territory that tried several approaches, none of which really worked. The book was particularly disastrous. Years down the line and we’re bombarded with spin-offs no one asked for and comparatively few people watched and now there’s a TV series about a masked bounty hunter who may or may not be Boba Fett (is he Boba Fett? I haven’t bothered to find out) and oh look, George Lucas has changed the Greedo death AGAIN. If I’m grouchy about this it’s because Disney has announced this week that they’re pulling the Lego Star Wars exhibit from Legoland Windsor because for some unfathomable reason the sight of tiny brick men in a dimly-lit walkthrough will be enough to prevent people going to their own Star Wars-themed parks, most of which are in another country. I am one of the few people who objected to Disney buying the thing a few years back – as far as I was concerned they couldn’t come up with a bigger mess than Attack of the Clones, and thus far I’ve been proved right – but this annoys me. Next time I might just take the kids to a museum instead.

I mean honestly.

We conclude with politics, and Kay Burley has an empty chair in her studio.

I had a conversation with Trevor Baxendale about this: he’d said it didn’t work for him because the Silence wasn’t actually invisible (a mistake many Who fans seem to make when they’re making jokes about them online), so surely she’d be able to see it? We were back and forth for a bit, with me explaining myself and the two of us eventually agreeing that the actual concept of the Silence was so vague there is wiggle room. Better yet that we should concentrate on episodes of Doctor Who that actually work. Like ‘Heaven Sent’, for example, seeing as we seem to be on a bit of a series 9 kick this morning. I had cause to rewatch ‘Heaven Sent’ this week – for reasons that will become apparent another time – and one thing that strikes me is how meticulously constructed the whole thing is; aside from certain questions about where the first set of dry clothes came from it really hangs together quite well.

“What?”

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Have I Got Whos For You (Everybody’s Gone To The Moon Edition)

I’m not gonna talk about Boris; in fact, we’re not gonna talk about Boris at all. We’re gonna keep him out of it.

Let’s talk about the moon landing. But before we do that, let’s talk about a book I read thirty years ago in my first (and second, and third, and fourth) year at secondary school. It was called Arthur C. Clarke’s July 20, 2019 – a date which, at the tender age of eleven, seemed like a distant prospect. Compartmentalised into thematic chapters, taking us through smart houses, healthcare, travel and work on a single day in the then future, it explored a typically optimistic future society where things have mostly gone right, anchored by the celebration of fifty years since the moon landing. I can still quote bits of dialogue but I’m fuzzy on the detail; nonetheless people who still have the book assure me that the results were a bingo card, with some astonishingly accurate predictions and others that either haven’t happened yet or which happened years ago. It was glossy, and the photos were very nice. Sadly the Amazon prices are not, so it’ll have to stay as a memory, which is probably for the best.

Anyway, Armstrong didn’t quite make it to the fiftieth anniversary – but Aldrin did, and he’s still keeping his mouth shut about what really happened.

People got really cross when I did this. “I don’t like the idea of the Doctor being part of this conspiracy,” said one. To which the obvious reply is – well, she isn’t, she’s just landed the TARDIS in Shepperton instead of 240,000 miles up. Listen, I don’t have the monopoly on stuff like this. The X-Files got there first. Actually, I’ve been doing some thought in recent months and have decided that much of the way society is today can be blamed on The X-Files. Because it gave us a world where chemtrails were real, the moon landing was faked and governments were using vaccinations as a ploy to infect us all with viral pathogens, and the heroes were two likeable, intelligent white Americans whose job it was to convince us that this was all really happening. And the opposite of obedient sheep – “Comrade Napoleon is always right” – is abject paranoia, which really isn’t any better. So now no one trusts a thing they’re told by people who frankly know more about this than they do, and before you know it you’ve got people believing the Earth is flat.

Anyway, at least – thanks to the miracles of modern technology – we can finally find out what that Silence was really saying back in 1969.

Finally, to the far side of the moon, where an old enemy is about to run into some old friends.

“Christ. Not you lot again.”

 

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A referendum in six memes

1. The ‘I did this last year but it sort of fits’ meme.

DW_Election_2

2. The Biff Tannen.

Biff_EU

3. The ‘Totally random and seemingly unconnected but ultimately prophetic’ one.

Sad_Doctor

4. The ‘Use a pen. FOR GOD’S SAKE USE A PEN!’ fiasco.

eRASER

5. The morning after.

Camps

6. And finally.

EU_Alpha

This may be an overreaction. But it sort of fits.

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The inevitable Doctor Who / General Election thing

I have no idea which political party the Doctor would plump for. He’d probably spoil his paper, or write ‘THIS IS A FAKE’ on the back. I can be reasonably confident that the UK Independence Party would not get a look in. The Third Doctor was, of course, a big part of the establishment he claimed to despise, namedropping left right and centre (in the political sense). Mind you, he does the same thing with Horatio Nelson, so I don’t suspect that most people paid any attention. (John Lennon presumably had the same problems. It’s difficult to take seriously a man who said “All you need is love” the same year he said “I am the walrus”.)

Anyway. I’d say that the last of these images is only funny if you’ve seen ‘Pyramids of Mars’, but I think you’ll get the general idea even if you haven’t.

 

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Conversations with Thomas (part two)

IMAG0044

Me: Guess what.

Thomas: What?

Me: The other day, Edward picked up this Silence figure and started caressing its head. It was very sweet.

Thomas: Cool.

Me: I’ll put it back down here now, so we don’t lose it. Ooh, guess what? Edward picked up this figure the other day and started stroking its head. We laughed a lot. I’d better put it back down again, so we don’t lose it.

Thomas: You already told me that?

Me: Told you what?

Thomas: About the figure.

Me: What figure? Oh, look, where’d that come from? I’ll tell you something interesting – the other day Edward picked this up and started stroking it. Mummy and I laughed a lot.

Thomas [giggling]: Daddy, you’ve told me that three times now.

Me: Sorry, what have I told you?

Thomas: About the Silence.

Me: The what? Oh, look, what’s this doing here. Now I’ll tell you something about this –

Thomas: Daddy, you already told me that.

Me: What, about Edward stroking it? Did I tell you that already?

Thomas: Yes, you did.

Me: Oh, right.

Thomas: I don’t get it, by the way.

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You should kill us all on sight

Sorry for the absence these last few days. This is partly why.

Mask

 

When I was a kid I always wanted one of those Masters of the Universe Man-E-Faces dolls with the rotating head. Never mind the fact that it’s a Smiler (arguably the dullest monsters in series 5), years before its time. It was chunky, and substantial, and generally brilliant. I remember going to the sixth birthday party of a boy from church in a house whose ceilings were not, I daresay, as high as I remember them, and while everyone else was eating or doing flap-the-fish games, I just wanted to play with the toys. You can still get them on Ebay, but I really can’t justify filling the house with more junk and spending money we can’t really afford to waste purely in the name of nostalgia, so a home-made Minecraft multi-faced cardboard head – produced for Joshua’s birthday party tomorrow – may be the closest I ever get.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with Doctor Who, and this is (I remind myself regularly) a Doctor Who themed blog, so here – in case you needed any further explanation – is the real reason England got knocked out of the World Cup last week.

Now you know.

 

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Enjoy the Silence

“So anyway, that’s the Silence in action. Scary?”
“A bit, Daddy. I thought they had guns.”
“No, just the lightning. Although that’s probably enough.”
“What did they mean by that thing that the Doctor must never know?”
“Spoilers, sweetie!”
“Oh, fine.”
“Anyway. Perhaps the scariest thing about the Silence, Josh, isn’t the voices or the lightning, it’s that when you look away from them you – hang on a minute, what were we doing?”
“I forgot.”

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Willo the Silent

Come here for a minute. That’s right. Just a little closer. This should probably be whispered, or at least murmured, because I fear it’s not going to make me popular. OK, I’m going to lower my voice a little. Can you still hear me? Good. Well, listen carefully because I won’t be saying it a second time.

I don’t like the Silence.

I mean it. They were billed as this creepy, horrifying Who villain and I found them inexorably dull: lanky aliens in CIA suits who speak in throaty voices, facially resembling a Munsch painting. It’s like Moffat went to the design-your-own-monster website and clicked three buttons at random, or perhaps he and the other writers were playing that game where you write something on a piece of paper and then fold it over and pass it on to the next person in the group. I know what they’re supposed to be, and I sort of like the concept of them having been here for millennia unnoticed because we can’t see them when we’re not looking at them, but the whole hidden-influence-memory-wipe thing was done to death when Men In Black came out. (One of my favourite ways to torture sci-fi buffs is to challenge them to prove that Men In Black didn’t happen. It always provokes a fun argument.)

Perhaps it was the media hype machine that did it. The Silence were, after all, billed as ‘the scariest monsters in the show’s history’ in the heavily-publicised run-up to series six, which proves that while Matt Smith is a damned fine Doctor, he’s obviously never seen ‘Pyramids of Mars’ (or ‘The Empty Child’, come to that). The press releases, the teaser clips, the organised leaks and the fact that they’re mentioned throughout the ENTIRE FIFTH SERIES meant that most of their novelty value had been lost before we even saw them, much like one of those tedious email jokes you get which has pages and pages of blank lines reading “Scroll down…you’re nearly there…wait for it…” before finally arriving at a punch line that really isn’t that funny at all. Conversely, the Weeping Angels were – in ‘Blink’ at least – the most frightening thing to appear on TV since the beginning of the revival, and their success may have been because they weren’t introduced with nearly as much fanfare. (Or perhaps they were, and I was just reading the wrong stuff. The Angels are, in any case, sadly deteriorating into parodies of themselves, largely because every time we see them they seem less effective. I shudder when I think of what Moffat may be planning this autumn.)

It also doesn’t help that the first time we see any of the Silence it’s in a scene that features Ruby Wax’s irritating younger sister. (The offending moment is at 26:17.) Just watch it again. I have nothing against them casting Americans in Doctor Who but they could at least cast Americans who don’t sound like British people doing bad American accents, which is exactly what Nancy Baldwin does here. The dialogue doesn’t do her any favours, but you’re frankly relieved when the lightning comes out and she explodes. I always felt that one of the chief failures of xXx (that third-rate Vin Diesel action flick) was that you wound up siding and empathising with the terrorists, and the same applies here. We want Joy to meet a sticky end, not in the conventional sense of being shocked and appalled (“Hurrah, here comes the villain and they’re going to do something dreadful”) but simply because she’s an annoying cow.

Another problem I have with the Silence is that they really don’t seem to be that malevolent. Aside from their tendency to kill anyone who gets in their way (and annoying women in toilets bathrooms) what proof do we have that their interference in humanity’s development and progression (a sort of subversive 2001 monolith, without the monolith) has been negative? If they’ve always been here, one would assume that they’ve helped us with the wheel, the development of tools, the invention of currency and the industrial revolution, all so they can – what – get us to design a space suit? So they have the technology to fly to Earth and blend in unnoticed for millennia, but they need us to do the suit? Of course, it later transpires that they’re all part of the tedious plot to destroy the Doctor, but by then they’ve already lost what credibility they’ve had, so the damage has been done.

One would assume that the Silence can remember each other even when they’re looking the other way. It would be awfully inconvenient if they couldn’t. Gareth pointed out that a Silence Olympics would, for example, be farcical, because whoever dashed into the lead would instantly forget that there was anyone behind him, and he’d then wonder “Why am I running?”, and then stop and let everyone else overtake him, and then the whole cycle would begin again with someone else. (I’d also have thought that the Angels were similarly hampered, simply because they can’t ever look at each other. Weeping Angel tennis matches must be short.)

It was Lawrence Miles who came up with one of the funniest deconstructions of ‘Day of the Moon’ I read – more overstating his case, but we laughed a lot. My own response was to make this video. I can’t remember the exact moment I thought that the Silence were due for a redubbing. Redubbing monsters with static mouths is, as I’ve said before, very easy, and there’s lots of footage, so perhaps it was inevitable. I was probably in the kitchen. I get lots of ideas in the kitchen. Something about being surrounded by food gets the creative juices flowing.

Why Willo the Wisp? Blame the multitalented Kenneth Williams. One show, one voice, but so many characters. It struck me that if the Silence were to have comedy voices we’d have to have a little variety, so it was this or The Goon Show. (I may eventually produce one with the Goons, if only because it would be lovely to have one of them shout “YOU ROTTEN SWINE, YOU!” as River blasts him at the end of ‘Day of the Moon’.) But Willo the Wisp recently turned thirty and is thus ripe for a revival. Listening to it again brought back a sea of childhood memories, and I laughed out loud every time the Moog showed up. A live action film must be on the way at some point.

Willo the Wisp is also almost devoid of incidental music, aside from the occasional sting whenever Evil Edna appears, which made this very easy to rip. I assembled the rough cut in an evening, although it was a late one. There was an inspired moment when I realised that Mavis Cruet spends quite a lot of time addressing the caterpillar by name with a melodramatic “Oh ARTHUR!”, which led to a couple of very obvious gags. After that it was a simple matter of papering over the rough spots, which occurred mostly in ‘Day of the Moon’ when I had to re-insert the score in the moments when I was dubbing over the Silence, not always very cleanly. It more or less hangs together, though, and I was particularly pleased with the credits.

I am currently contesting BBC Worldwide’s copyright stance – I have argued for fair use on the grounds that a redubbed, parodic video really isn’t going to hurt their ability to shift copies of season six – but there’s a fair chance this will be lifted from YouTube at some point. In the meantime, enjoy it. And then keep it on your screen and then look away so you forget what you were doing, and then turn back and watch it again. It all helps with the hit count.

Update: A few days after my post, on Friday 20 April, BBC Worldwide released its copyright claim and sanctioned my fair use argument. Which is a great result all round. The Beeb gets a lot of bad press, and most of it’s utterly unfair. God bless ’em.

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