Posts Tagged With: weeping angels

The One Where We Visited The Doctor Who Experience

The chamber is amber and sparsely lit. We gather around metal walkways, surrounded by broken remnants of machinery, things long past, in a battle-scarred landscape drenched by a setting sun. Our guide warily picks himself through the throng to what is presumably the optimal vantage point for addressing the whole group. Suddenly a hatch opens. Pressing further into the room we can make out a bulky shape, sloped with odd protrusions: the cylindrical minimalism of a familiar-looking sink plunger, counter-balanced on the other side by what looks rather like an egg whisk. The lights go on, just in time for a grating recorded voice to bellow “EXTERMINATE!”.

That’s when the eight-year-old says “I need the toilet.”

They don’t let you take photos in the first part of the Doctor Who Experience. I’ve probably broken some sort of contractual law just by telling you about that bit – we didn’t sign anything, of course, but there’s presumably some sort of Mafia, and I’ll wake up tomorrow with a Slitheen’s head on my pillow. Not that it matters, really, given that the entire first paragraph was constructed almost entirely from memory and is almost certainly false, or at least inaccurate. Certain things slip out through the cracks. There were Daleks; I do remember that much, but the rest is a bit of a haze.

It worries me because it was only a couple of years ago. I can recollect sixth form parties from a quarter-century hence with more clarity. On the other hand were distracted that day; we spent most of our time wandering around worrying about Daniel, who had made it through to ‘Day of the Doctor’ but who still ran screaming from the room whenever a Weeping Angel turned up (or swiftly covered his eyes, which in itself is curiously ironic). A couple of months before I’d briefly encountered Steven Moffat at a press screening for ‘The Pilot’, and had passed on – at Daniel’s request – the information that his favourite episode was ‘Blink’. Not that this is in itself unusual – the Angels’ inaugural (and, we might argue, only really successful) venture is regularly at the top of the polls, or at least top five, but to be honest I think he’s just pleased he got through the damned thing without wetting himself.

That’s in very real danger of happening today, though, and it is for that reason that Emily never actually got to do the Experience properly. But I’m getting ahead of myself: we’re going to rewind several hours and shuffle a few hundred yards to the west, where the six of us are standing in front of an eight-year-old shrine to a dead fictional character.

“So when did he die?”
“Hmm?” I say to Josh. “Oh, it was 2009. I mean this is a spoiler, really, but the aliens gassed the chamber, and – ”
“No, not him. The actor who played him.”
“He’s not dead.”

Josh looks at me quizzically, so I explain. “This is the shrine for his character,” and I swear I can see him rolling his eyebrows.

Don’t get me wrong. I was as affected by ‘Children of Earth’ as the rest of you. Peter Capaldi confronting the 456 is still among the most electrifying moments Torchwood has to offer. Jack kills his own grandson, for pity’s sake. And yes, the climax of episode 4 – a sobbing Ianto dying in Barrowman’s immortal arms – is sudden, shocking and unexpectedly moving. But the public outpourings of grief have long perplexed me, particularly given the propensity of many fans to refuse to forgive Davies for killing one of his darlings. Eight years for a Welsh admin assistant? Isn’t that over-egging the pudding just a tad? Mind you, we’re in a world where people old enough to know better routinely travel to King’s Cross in order to visit a platform that doesn’t exist and celebrate a day that doesn’t exist, where characters who didn’t exist were about to travel to a place that didn’t exist, on a magical steam engine. Perhaps a few dried bouquets down by the lapping surf are small fry in comparison.

Our timed tickets for the Experience proper don’t start until after lunch, so I’ve suggested we come here first, just so I can show the kids what happens when you let fandom get the better of you. This whole day is a birthday present from Emily, as we’ve talked about coming for years and have learned, comparatively recently, that the thing is closing, which has led to a public outcry from fans who haven’t got around to actually seeing it yet but will, honestly. I scratch my head at such responses. I would very much like to go to the Who North America store, for example, but Indiana is beyond my travelling budget and if it were to suddenly close up shop tomorrow I’d feel a small pang of regret for the staff and then I’d move on. Listen: the Experience at Porth Teigr was only ever supposed to be a five year plan and it only closed so they could move it somewhere else. There’s no sense in throwing your toys out of the pram because you have to scrub something off the bucket list, or at least move it down a couple of notches. Change is the very nature of the show; deal with it.

But it’s easy to say that when you’re in South Oxfordshire and Cardiff is an hour and a half on the M4, and perhaps I didn’t do myself any favours by sneering about it the way I did at the time. It’s a lesson in kindness, and it’s one you learn the hard way. It’s something I’m trying to correct, although not always successfully. A part of it is knowing the difference: being kind doesn’t mean you can’t hold certain people in withering contempt, depending on their actions (one minute Capaldi’s ranting about how important kindness is, the next he’s chiding the Master for his “stupid round face”). Silly ideas are still silly and poorly-conceived logic is stilll…well, you get the idea. It’s all in the way you tell people, and sometimes you probably shouldn’t.

What happens in the Doctor Who Experience is this: you enter a series of rooms, led by a costumed Time Lord, and interact with Peter Capaldi (the earlier, grumpier version), who appears on screen via a series of pre-recorded interludes. There are buttons to press and things to carry – at one point you get to fly the TARDIS – and over the course of your journey you encounter a variety of creatures, but notably Daleks and Weeping Angels. We know this because we have done a little research – nothing spoiler-heavy but our family’s needs more or less demand it – and the eight-year-old does a good line in ‘suddenly queasy’. Or perhaps he really was feeling ill; it’s a hot day and while the Experience’s dark corridors and atmospheric rooms (“It’s not a restaurant for the French!”) are decently air-conditioned there’s only so much you can do when you’re suddenly inundated by sweating tourists.

Emily knows how much this means to me, and when Daniel says he feels sick she offers to take him out, so the Time Lord guide briefly breaks character to shepherd them through the fire doors. We continue the walkthrough without them, and they catch up with us in 1963 London, which is where you wind up when you’re finished. What remains is two floors of props and scenery and costumes – oh, so many costumes – from fifty-four years (as was) of Doctor Who, ranging from vintage Daleks to the Veil that pursued the Twelfth Doctor in ‘Heaven Sent’. There are antique consoles, an interesting Radiophonic Workshop display and there’s a bit where you can hide inside a Dalek and dance like a Cyberman. Or something like that.

It’s all very comprehensive, of course – the costume centrepiece, in particular, is like the final frame of ‘Day of the Doctor’, only we all missed the Rapture. But there’s something a little sterile about the whole thing, something oddly flat and almost clinical, the lighting a little too harsh, the monsters arranged in neat displays in the manner of a police lineup, rather than the immersive casket of wonders from which you’ve recently ventured. I’ve written about this elsewhere, so we won’t dwell on it, but the original Cardiff exhibition over at the Dragon Centre was better: darker and more thrilling, a coherent whole rather than two disjointed halves. In layman’s terms it’s ‘Blink’, while Porth Teigr is….oh, I don’t know, ‘The Girl Who Died’ and ‘The Woman Who Lived‘. You will have your own choice, but you can see where this is going.

It’s a shame, because there are some lovely pieces. My family are all fans – even Edward – but I’m the one who knows it best, and in places like this I’m like a puppy off a leash, prancing and jumping around the exhibition like Willy Wonka in the Inventing Room or Matt Smith early in ‘Rings of Akhaten’ (“Panbabylonians…a Lugal-Irra-Kush…some Lucanians…a Hooloovo!”). Here there was a 1980s Cyberman. Over there the Special Weapons Dalek, the Fisher King from Series 9 and BLOODY HELL THAT’S A MANDREL!

They gave Emily a commemorative sick bag. It was a good few months before it became sufficiently tatty to wind up in the bin; we never did get round to auctioning it on Ebay like we’d planned. Better still, she’s managed to grab a slot in the day’s final tour, which is quiet, and so she and Daniel get to do it all again, at least until they get to the Daleks, which is when he announces he needs the toilet and they have to once more make a swift exit through the fire doors. The two of them eventually join us in the park, half a mile round the bay, my son sheepish and insistent that it really was his bladder and nothing to do with the Angels; my wife quietly simmering.

“Well,” I say, trying to make her feel better, “The best bits were in the first half. You didn’t really miss much.”

She gives me a look. “Oh, don’t say that. It just makes the whole thing worse.”

I have more photos than paragraphs, today, so what remains is the gallery: Daleks and pinballs and round things. What are the round things? No idea. I’m glad we went, if only for the first half – which does make you feel like you’re in an episode of Doctor Who, even if it’s one of the slightly rubbish ones. To those of you who never got the chance: fret not; there’ll be another one along soon, presumably with Jodie Whittaker on the other side of the screen and presumably involving some sort of story where you have to save the world from bigots or internet trolls or people who don’t flush the toilet when they’re done, complete with enormous monsters made up of festering excrement.

Actually that might be half-decent. They could call it The Doctor Loo Experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Out and about in Haworth

By the time this little missive turns up on the feeds, I will be in Swansea. I trust your week is going well. I will probably be shouting at the kids. One of these days I really must take them down to Cardiff and do a proper location tour, rather than simply strolling along Roald Dahl Plass and giggling at the Ianto shrine. I need to go and check out that cemetery, for example, and re-enact bits from ‘The Girl Who Waited’ in Dyffryn Gardens. So many power stations, so little time.

As I write this it’s late July, we’re still in the middle of a heatwave and it’s almost impossible to think remember a time when it wasn’t insufferably humid. But the last holiday we had – and one I’ve unfortunately neglected to write about until now – was back in February, when we visited Haworth in Yorkshire, under a couple of feet of snow. Home of the Brontë sisters (and their wayward black sheep), Haworth is hilly, picturesque and overly tourist-driven, particularly in the old village, but it’s not a bad place to spend a week, and the moors are right on your doorstep – providing you can cope with the mud.

Still, you don’t want to see my holiday slides. Well, you do; just not all of them. What possible interest could the BoM audience have with seven shots of us rolling an enormous head up a 1:3 slope? (I knew I didn’t think that one through.) Or panoramic views of the Peaks? You can go to Shutterstock for that sort of thing and you’ll probably find the lighting is better. Still, we did go to Cliffe Castle Museum, in the heart of Keighley (pronounced Keith Lee, for some unknown reason, although I live in a country where Godmanchester is pronounced ‘Gumster’ by the locals, so clearly it’s not worth turning over that particular stone). And this was on the top floor.

Cliffe Castle is home to a dazzling array of…stuff, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to nineteenth century tea bricks (Google it). There are ornate chandeliers in the Victorian parlour, contemporary paintings around the balcony, and there’s an impressive taxidermy collection near the geology exhibition. You walk through one room that deals with farming traditions into an ornate summary of the formation of the Earth, from magma through to Cretaceous, in an impressive inner sanctum with black walls that make the colours stand out. Sod local history: I’m going to look at rocks.

Speaking of stuffed animals, we did find this during our wanderings.

It’s hard to miss it, really, isn’t it? Apparently this really was a genuine sheep, born of ewe and graced with two heads; by the looks of it the poor thing didn’t live very long. It is in here because we think it resembles a Smiler.

My family and I visited an awful lot of museums on this trip – one of my favourites was the Bradford Industrial Museum, which has an impressive array of classic cars, printing presses and just about every loom that rolled off the production line, and if you’re not well versed in the history of weaving when you go in, it’s a dead cert by the time you leave. There are live demonstrations and workshops and a temporary exhibit near the gift shop – and that was where we found this.

I mean. it’s Peter Cushing, isn’t it? He’s changed his hair but I’m sure I can spot Roy Castle in the back somewhere.

One thing this neighbourhood is famous for is its art – or one artist in particular. David Hockney (you know, the swimming pool guy) was born in Bradford, and don’t they know it. Nowhere is this more prevalent, perhaps, than Saltaire – a model village (in the aspirational, as opposed to physical sense) that’s now a World Heritage Site since the mill closed its doors, before re-opening them to reveal a bookshop and hipster cafe. The mill’s enormous ground level is now a spacious, almost cathedral-like exhibit dedicated to Hockney (and a number of other artists): vast murals dominate the walls and ethereal music is piped through the speakers. It’s an almost religious experience, and I say that as a lifelong churchgoer.

We went to Saltaire, but just down the road from the Industrial Museum there’s a smallish gallery called Cartwright Hall, which doesn’t have any incense, but which does have a prototype for Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor costume in the Hockney exhibition upstairs.

Hockney’s a permanent fixture at Cartwright Hall, but the stuff downstairs is shaken up every couple of months. When we went there was a room dedicated to old circus posters, which was far more interesting than it sounds, and an entire wall of Abzorbaloff victims.

Meanwhile, spotted in a Bradford underpass: the DWSR team that never made it back from the ‘Flatline’ shoot.

Admit it, you’re secretly pleased.

What were we doing in Bradford? Amazingly, we weren’t there for Indian food (which Bradford does very well). We were visiting the National Science and Media Museum: five floors of old cameras, magic lanterns and a nice little exhibition about the history of the internet. (There’s also an IMAX cinema, for those who can afford that sort of thing.) If you troop past the walls displaying old cartoons (which are frankly a little unsettling) you will find the penguin jewel heist from The Wrong Trousers – the only set that Aardman didn’t lose in the fire that hit their studios several years back. There’s also an old arcade full of slot machines and consoles from the 70s, 80s and 90s, where we spent a happy half hour revisiting Asteroids, Gauntlet and Sonic The Hedgehog, and where I swiftly remembered that I was never any good at Street Fighter II.

No idea what this is, though. Apologies.

PUT-HER-IN-THE-CURRY.

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Have I Got Whos For You (Bumper Thirteenth Doctor Edition)

It’s just typical, isn’t it? You wait ages for a trailer and two come along at once.

To be fair, one’s not exactly a trailer; it’s more a teaser. Well, not even that. It’s more a bit of a publicity drive for Just Eat. There’s Tosin Cole, tucking into a full English (with sausage and mayo that the entire internet and her grandmother mistook for fish fingers and custard). Mandip Gill finds her pizza mysteriously replenished. And there’s Bradley Walsh, reading his newspaper. Then bang! There’s a bit of lightning and Jodie Whittaker appears. Look at that smile. It’s the sort of smile that says “Yay! I actually get to be the Doctor!” It sort of spreads, casually and steadily, stopping short of being the broad grin you know she’d like to be wearing; it’s understated and restrained, and it spells promise for her performance to come.

It could all have been so different.

When I put that one on Facebook it got a few laughs and also a fair share of abuse, mostly from people who thought I was actually being serious and that she’d be a better choice. It’s 2018, folks, and the irony meter is officially broken. Someone call an engineer. Frank Skinner’s probably got a window.

The full-length trailer proper, of course, launched a few days after the BBC’s World Cup teaser, and promised dingy corridors, period piece drama, sinister forests and alien beaches that look like Cornwall. Plus the Doctor visits an enormous soft play area. No, sorry, wait a moment.

Amidst the trailers: a wave of publicity, and a few photos, including a leaked shot of the new TARDIS.

(Sorry. Not sorry.)

Perhaps most notable is the one in which Jodie Whittaker and her band of merry men appear to be peering down at a glowing object. If you’re of a certain age, it conjures one particular image.

We never did find out what was in that briefcase, did we? There are various theories, mostly centred around the soul of Ving Rhames (which would make sense; nothing else explains why he did I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry). Tarantino sort of agreed with it, which led many people to assume that this was what he really intended all along, or that he was at the very least granting it canonical status, the way social media makes these things explode beyond all proportion. I sort of like the idea of the soul-in-the-box – it fits with the narrative, and it’s basically foreshadowing Se7en – but I can’t help thinking that it’s better if we don’t actually know for sure. The story in your head is always better than the one the writers eventually provide, and the gaps are always more interesting, but try telling that to Doctor Who fans.

Speaking of fans, someone on t’internet took umbrage at this image. “It’s upside down,” she complained. “David Tennant would be disappointed if he saw this.”

What’s upside down? I thought, and then realised she meant the screwdriver. Dagnabbit, she’s right. Truthfully I only put it in there because Tim Roth is holding a handgun and that didn’t seem very Doctor Who, somehow; removing the entire arm necessitated more time than I had so it was easier to Photoshop in a screwdriver. Unfortunately it’s pointing backwards, and I hadn’t noticed, which is the price I pay for doing it in a hurry.

But rule one: never admit that you’re wrong about these things. “What makes you think it’s upside down?” I said.

“The blue bit is supposed to face out.”
“Unless you’re pointing it the other way.”
“Why would they aim it at themselves?”
“I don’t know. Doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, though.”
“Maybe.”

Phew. I think I got away with it.

Anyway, you should be careful of listening too hard to what others think, particularly when it’s your own subconscious doing the talking. For example, a few weeks ago I had a dream that Ted Dewan, creator of Bing Bunny and with whom I’ve had a couple of convivial exchanges, got in touch over Facebook and told me I should redo Cliff Richard as the Thirteenth Doctor. Needless to say, the moment I woke up I went straight to the computer.

Cheers, Ted. Last time I listen to you.

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The inevitable Doctor Who / John Lewis thing

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It’s a dog. On a trampoline.

I mean, I can’t get too excited about it. I really can’t. They were doing so well. That old man with the telescope was a work of genius, despite being scientifically implausible and mawkishly sentimental. It said something important. It was touching. It made me cry, dammit. This one was tedious. It’s not even funny. Bad Buster. Go to your kennel.

John Lewis’ Christmas advertising always makes the headlines, as people discuss the adverts, the thinking behind them, the music, the emotional fallout, the fact that this is just going to encourage parents to buy trampolines and dogs, the risk of bovine TB…do you ever think that there’s such a thing as internet pollution? I know I do. It’s just so much rubbish, with perhaps a greater emphasis than one might expect from ‘so much’ – a myriad different websites all saying more or less the same thing. It passes the time, but I wonder how much we really stand to gain from saturating the web in this way.

Anyway. This post started life as a simple collection of Photoshopped images – the Man on the Moon image, produced last year, was the first, and the others followed yesterday. But a curious thing happened while I was cutting and pasting and adjusting hues and shadows. The moment of clarity occurred when I stopped to consider the fact that the twisted snowmen who appeared in Doctor Who turned up the same Christmas that John Lewis had their own snowman trekking across the wilderness to find a present for his soon-to-be-a-puddle playmate. This by itself means nothing, until you stop and consider the fact that the developments John Lewis took with their seasonal narratives echo (with uncanny precision) the way that Doctor Who has been written and produced these past few years.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look. (For obvious reasons, these concentrate on the past few years – the period when John Lewis actively started telling stories in their Christmas ads. And for what it’s worth, I tried – I really did – to work in 2011 as well. But it just didn’t fit.)

2012 – The Journey

In the John Lewis Christmas ad: An anthropomorphic snowman embarks on an epic quest to find a scarf.

In Doctor Who: A grumpy Time Lord, fond of scarves, embarks on an epic quest to investigate an anthropomorphic snowman.

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2013 – The Bear and the Hare

In the John Lewis Christmas ad: A tired, grizzly, world-weary bear is chronologically displaced when his hibernation is rudely interrupted. It turns out to be the best thing that could have happened. Features a hare.

In Doctor Who: A tired, grizzly, world-weary Time Lord is chronologically displaced when his destruction of Gallifrey is rudely interrupted. It turns out to be the best thing that could have happened. Features a rabbit.

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2014 – Monty the Penguin

In the John Lewis Christmas ad: A young boy spends Christmas with a penguin, whose living, breathing presence turns out to exist only in his imagination. He is observed by a parent, who watches as another imaginary penguin emerges from a box that appears to be bigger on the inside.

In Doctor Who: A young English teacher spends Christmas with her boyfriend, whose living, breathing presence turns out to exist only in his imagination. She is observed by a parental figure, emerging from a box that is bigger on the inside, and who once travelled with a penguin.

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2015 – Man on the Moon

In the John Lewis Christmas ad: A lonely old man, clearly not of this world, is re-invigorated thanks to the affection of a small child. And a telescope.

In Doctor Who: A lonely old man, clearly not of this world, is re-invigorated thanks to the affection of a bisexual English teacher. And an electric guitar.

Moon-Cybermen

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2016 – Buster the Boxer

In the John Lewis Christmas ad: An over-excited girl eagerly awaits the arrival of Christmas morning, only to find that her new present has been invaded by small woodland animals, and she has to wait until the dog has finished jumping on it.

In Doctor Who: A horde of over-excited fans eagerly await the arrival of a new series, only to find that it’s been delayed and that the new assistant looks a little bit like a dog, and they have to wait until the spin-off has finished.

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Spooky, isn’t it? Next week in Brian of Morbius: the nesting habits of tuna.

Categories: Crossovers | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The New Who Top Ten: #5

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Number Five: ‘Blink’ (2007)

Should this be higher?

A few years ago, it would have been an indisputable top slot. Even now I maintain it’s (mostly) impeccably structured, beautifully acted and immaculately presented. Few stories were as universally praised, or as talked about in weeks to come. Next to this, even the return of the Master seemed a relatively muted affair.

There are two problems with ‘Blink’. In the first instance, it launched a creature that swiftly became a Doctor Who sensation. Like many of Moffat’s creations, it is largely silent. Deaths, such as they are, occur offscreen. They even had their own catchphrase. But the Angels’ appeal lies in their instant familiarity, the everyday made sinister, epitomised in a final montage that’s there purely to scare the kids. If any statue can be an Angel – indeed, if any picture of a statue can be an Angel – then nowhere is safe, and I can’t help thinking that the prospect of being touched by an Angel was enough to keep many a primary school child wide awake for a night or two back in 2007.

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The big problem, of course, is that once you’ve done that, there’s nowhere for you to go. So Moffat branched in a new direction by having the next batch of Angels move, speak and even snap necks. It’s the sort of departure that has the Ninja Turtle fans up in arms, and the fact that comparatively few people seem to have complained about ‘Flesh and Stone’ is down to the fact that at time of broadcast, they were relatively new. The Tenth Doctor introduces them as “the only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely”, but once you’ve done that initial time travel story – and have them try and nick the TARDIS into the bargain – what do you do with them? The fact is that the Angels were one-story monsters, in the same way that the Silence were one-story monsters, the Spoonheads should have been no-story monsters and the Whispermen will probably be the subject of an out-of-court settlement with Joss Whedon.

I expanded on all the reasons the Weeping Angels are basically rubbish in a post called, appropriately, ‘Why the Weeping Angels are Rubbish‘ – written before ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’, a story that did nothing to enhance my opinion of them. But it seems churlish to pick on ‘Blink’ because of a less-than-impressive legacy. Better, instead, if we could point out that it’s actually a lot of razzle-dazzle, the problems hiding (for a change) not behind a sea of special effects but instead a whirling dervish of storytelling tricks, pretentiousness dressed up as paradox.

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The difficulty with many of Moffat’s episodes is that you’re encouraged to think, but not too much. He’s great with throwing in the clues and the mysteries and the wibbly-wobbly resolutions, but once you’re actively concentrating, as we are supposed to, the holes are as transparent as bullet-riddled tracing paper. With ‘Blink’, there are noticably fewer holes, principally because Moffat is trying to stretch an idea across a single episode, rather than an entire series. Hence ‘Blink’ hangs together with a greater coherence than, say, ‘The Wedding of River Song’. (Actually, my son’s first year art project hangs together with a greater coherence than ‘The Wedding of River Song’, so it’s perhaps not the best example.)

Nonetheless, there are traces of the misogyny for which we would know him later. Sally Sparrow is perhaps the strongest and most likeable female guest character in the last ten years. There have been petitions and campaigns to get her instilled as a regular character, one that the producers have denied on the grounds that she’s arguably too strong, and that the Doctor wouldn’t work well with such a resourceful, intelligent character. To which I say yes, of course, and ‘City of Death’ was a walking disaster. Nevertheless, the type of show they seem determined to make nowadays – where characters begin weak and feeble before developing an inner strength under the careful tutelage of the Doctor – doesn’t seem to work well with Sally’s mindset. (Somewhere in the creative ether there’s a story arc waiting to be written about a companion who travels with the Doctor and only leaves him once they’ve been well and truly messed up.)

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And yet the episode only concludes when Sally is able to deal with her obsession with the Doctor and gain narrative closure – a development that enables her, in turn, to gain romantic happiness with Larry. The Doctor is that most metaphorical of ex-boyfriends, or at the very least an internet romance – and while Sally saves the day, her brief narrative arc is ultimately defined by love. Curiously, in 2007 this didn’t bother me. Years later, having Clara flirt with the Eleventh Doctor and then get embroiled in a tedious love story, it does.

If I’m being a little harsh today, it’s largely because I’m tired of people talking about the bloody Angels as paragons of brilliance and ‘Blink’ as the ultimate example of clever storytelling. ‘Colony in Space’ is clever storytelling. So is ‘The Face of Evil’. And ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’, come to that. Clever doesn’t mean you tie your audience up in knots. It means you tell a story effectively and with sufficient emotional resonance, and you do not sacrifice narrative trickery for character development. Beware the man who says he can offer you both. More often than not, you’ll end up with neither.

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At the same time – and I think this might be the reason I continue to hold ‘Blink’ in high regard (despite having spent six paragraphs basically slagging it off) is because in 2007 – after eight episodes of Martha’s fawning and so much kitchen sink at the hands of Rose and the wretched Tylers – it was a bit of a novelty. It is loaded with amusing, memorable dialogue: witness, for example, the incredulous reaction of Larry when he learns about Sally’s miniscule DVD collection, or Sally’s realisation that Kathy lied about her age. Moffat’s never been one for naturalism, and even when his characters are in a locked room with a ticking bomb they still sound like they’re in an Oscar Wilde play, but it’s hard not to be amused, for example, at Larry’s first impression of Wester Drumlins (“You live in Scooby Doo’s house”) or Sally’s ruminations on feeling sad (“It’s happy for deep people”). Larry is, indeed, an early prototype for Rory, right down to the slightly gormless expression, but that’s not a bad thing.

Moffat also manages to tug at the heartstrings during the hospital scene, which remains almost the finest thing he ever wrote (with the exception of Miss Evangelista’s ghosting, in an episode that didn’t make the top ten). If you can live with the ludicrous final line, it’s both moving and comparatively understated, thanks in no small part to some fine performances, particularly Michael Obiora as the elderly Billy. Indeed, one of the best things about the story is the absence of its key players: we do not suffer for the general lack of Doctor, and the fact that Martha turns up only briefly is frankly a welcome bonus.

Martha-in-Blink

Plus, at its heart, ‘Blink’ is simply terrifying. The moment when the Angels eventually swoop on Sally and Larry, stalking them through the seemingly deserted house, is a fine example of how to do an effective set piece, with appropriate jump cuts and some great use of lighting. It’s hard not to feel unnerved when the Angels rock the TARDIS back and forth in their attempts to get in, and the moment when it then fades away, leaving them eternally quantum-locked (at least until someone buys up Wester Drumlins and decides to clear out the cellar), is one of initial horror followed by tremendous relief. It works. It works beautifully. It’s about the only time it ever really did, and while that’s not the only reason to single out ‘Blink’ as a miniature masterpiece, it’s certainly a good start.

Cameron’s Episode: ‘Blink (curiously enough)

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The Time-lapse of Angels

Children won’t settle? Do what I did two nights ago: download these five Weeping Angel shots from Photobucket, courtesy of Cerebral-Delirium, and set them as desktop wallpaper, timed to change every ten seconds.

Then wait for the boys to go into the study.

doctor_who____weeping_angel_changing_desktop_by_cerebral_delirium-d5tzt5k

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Unused Doctor Who Monsters (part three)

Here we go. I’m by no means the first to make this joke, as Google will testify,  but it really was too good an opportunity to miss.

 

A significant proportion of my audience is American, and may have never heard of the Wurzels, in which case this might help.

‘Love and Monsters’ is, of course, a story that many of us would like to block from our memories, but you may recall that two of the members of L.Y.N.D.A. sing the song on which this is based, ‘Brand New Key‘, early in the episode. This parody is arguably more successful, certainly on this side of the pond. The cheers it raises in Bristol nightclubs are frankly phenomenal.

The Wurzels are not to be confused, of course, with Worzel Gummidge, a popular scarecrow who starred in a series of novels and, eventually, a TV series, starring this chap.

Worzel

 

Worzel Gummidge wasn’t Pertwee’s only TV work during the 70s and 80s. He also provided the voice of Spotty in the memorable Superted, a show about an anthropomorphic teddy bear who can transform into the titular superhero at the mere whisper of his secret magic word. Pertwee’s co-stars included Sheila Steafal, who appeared in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., Derek Griffiths, a children’s TV veteran who’s turned up in at least one Big Finish production, and Melvyn Hayes, who was married to Wendy Padbury.

Derek Griffiths (who voiced Superted) may have had his heyday years before my children were born, in the likes of Heads and Tails and Play School, but they did get to see him in the CBeebies pantomime late last year, in which he appeared as the Ghost of Christmas Past – that’s him on the left.

Derek_Griffiths__I_2752992b

They were doing A Christmas Carol, of course, with the role of the spiteful Ebeneezer Scrooge going to Andy Day. Here he is looking rather less than spiteful.

A CBeebies Christmas Carol

 

Andy can currently be seen in Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures, a show in which he travels back to the Cretaceous era using a grandfather clock that glows with sparkly blue energy, and that appears to be bigger on the inside.

Dinosaur

Andy usually ventures into the past in order to obtain a vital artifact for a museum display, to replace the one that got damaged at the beginning of an episode. His encounters with the dinosaurs are wonderful – CBeebies have taken the CGI footage from 1999’s Walking With Dinosaurs and superimposed Andy over the top in order to make the programme more accessible for children. The results are very effective and highly entertaining, if a little conventional – the butterfly effect is completely ignored, and I would love, for example, to see an episode where Andy swats a fly and returns to a future where everyone has lizard tongues and the world is ruled by a despotic Mr Tumble.

1999 is the year the Master messed around with the Eye of Harmony, of course, in a story that marked Paul McGann’s debut.  This is more than likely nothing but coincidence, but it’s telling that when Daniel was playing with my figure collection in late December, during yet another airing of the CBeebies Christmas Carol, he came running into the kitchen clutching five inches of plastic, declaring “Look, Daddy! It’s Ebeneezer Scrooge!”

Andy-Doctor

It takes a while, and the links may be occasionally tenuous, but in the end, everything comes back to Doctor Who.

 

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Badge for Mathematical Excellence

I mean, I’m not saying that Thomas is Adric. He’s far less irritating, for one thing, even at his worst moments. But one of the fun things about Thomas is the way he’s able to put a Whovian twist on his daily tasks.

I found these in his book bag. I have reproduced the dialogue for ease of reading. I make no apologies for his handwriting; he’s six years old, and it’s better than mine.

Homework_1

“There were five doctors to save the world. Then seven more came to help them. How many are there together?”

The dedicated amongst you will realise that this is actually a shaky combination of ‘The Day of the Doctor’ and ‘The Light At The End‘. Thomas has seen the former and is aware of the latter, but if I’m going to get him as hooked on Big Finish as I am we’re going to start with ‘Cuddlesome‘, which is about dangerously psychotic teddy bears, and we’re going to do it just before bedtime.

Meanwhile, in Scooby Doo’s house:

Homework_2

“There was [sic] 8 weeping angels and I blinked and 6 more came. How many weeping angels are there together? (Don’t blink!)”

 

“That drawing of the first five Doctors,” said Gareth. “It’s quite impressively accurate for Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee and Davison, but Tom Baker has come out a bit strange.”

Homework_3

It’s a hat. I swear it’s a hat.

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Call off the search (the Brian of Morbius edition)

In the first instance, I’m going to copy-and-paste the paragraphs below from a similar post (with quite different specifics) over on one of my other blogs. So apologies in advance if what you’re about to read is familiar, but I couldn’t think of a better introduction. Scroll down to the search terms if you want. Go on. I don’t mind.

The other week, SJ and I were having a conversation about post popularity – not a period of time that chronologically follows popularity, but popularity of blog posts. “I wonder,” she said (I’m paraphrasing), “just how many of my so-called followers actually read what I’m writing. I’ll bet a fair number of them are spam”.

I have the same thoughts – you wonder how many of the people who blindly click the ‘follow’ button are actually digesting your missives and thoughts. I know a good number of you do, and for that I am grateful. To the rest, well, you’re excused. Lip service is part of the WordPress way, it seems, and I’d be lying if I said I had never followed blogs that I don’t read properly.

Among the regular readers, of course, there are the people who drop in because they’re looking for something. Sometimes some of my posts can provide answers – other times, judging by some of the search terms, they’ve just happened to tap in a number of words that the Googlebots determine exist in random places on different parts of my home page. So the words ‘vaseline’, ‘pornography’ and ‘live goats’ are in completely different and entirely unconnected posts, honest guv. And the money was just resting in my account.

dont-blog

Every so often, I’ll scan through the site stats and make a list of some of the more interesting search terms that people have been using on their wayward journey through cyberspace – a journey that led them here, however long their rest stop. Here’s a selection from the last quarter, presented as is, including typographical errors.

– gay lesbian “brianofmorbius”
– clara tardis meh meh
– ghostbusters cardboard house with kinder eggs
– why would I give her my screwdriver
– kiefer Sutherland as morbius
– scooby doo is stupid

I’m not sure what to make of the Ghostbusters query. Nor indeed can I fathom out that first term. Did I say anything particularly profound / stupid about lesbianism that would warrant someone to look me up, either to gasp in awe or in horror? And speaking of stupid, who the hell came up with that last one? Scooby Doo is a great show. It’s a little formulaic, but that’s why it’s lasted for this long and in spite of Scrappy Doo. I would blog about this further but I’m still trying to work out whether Kiefer Sutherland would make a convincing Morbius (and I’m assuming that the Morbius in question was the Marvel vampire, as opposed to the renegade Time Lord).

But. But! That’s only the half of it. Because I’ve discovered that a bunch of search engine terms take the form of questions. (Actually, the fourth entry in that list above is technically a question, but it’s also a direct quote, and I presume it was searched with that in mind.) And I’m figuring that if you don’t try and address what your would-be readers want to know, aren’t you missing out on something? I have therefore picked up on a few of the more interesting questions I’ve had this last quarter and reprinted them below – again, verbatim – with my answers.

– on flesh and stone you can see the doctor wearing a suit when the angel had already taken him away

Indeed you can. This is one of those ‘puzzles’ the chief writer set us throughout series five, and when it happened in ‘Flesh and Stone’ I was willing to let it go, as the concept was relatively fresh. This has been covered in more blogs than I could count, so it seems somewhat redundant to include it here, but basically the Doctor’s got his jacket back because it’s not the same Doctor. It’s the Doctor from a few weeks later, travelling backwards along his own timeline just before he’s obliterated from existence. (Yes, I know it sounds silly. It really was.)

5_-doctor-2-appears-jacket

– brian eyes burning like fire

Bright. BRIGHT EYES. I know Art Garfunkel’s diction was waning even in the 1970s, but sheesh.

I know it's scrappily done, but it almost works. Almost.

I know it’s scrappily done, but it almost works. Almost.

– does anyone understand numberjacks

No one understands Numberjacks. They just think they do. On the surface it’s an accessible children’s show about elementary mathematics problems that are solved by anthropomorphic numbers who live in a sofa. But beneath this CG-driven exterior there’s a sinister Groundhog Day-like undertone to the whole thing, as epitomised by the fact that the room they leave is constantly empty, the Numberjacks have to display the profile of every villain they face every time, and the fact that the cat is always sitting on the sofa. There’s also the white elephant that is the buddy block, the fact that the characters are apparently able to hack local CCTV (and also have cameras in places that really shouldn’t have cameras) but can’t tell the difference between a circle and an oval – oh, and the enigma of the dancing cow.

So no, nobody’s figured it out, and anyone who tells you they have is either hopelessly naïve, or just lying. (We’ve tried, though. Gareth recently asked me whether I thought Number Four was ever sad that no one was able to give him a high five, as well as observing that pink was an unfortunate choice of colour for Number Three.)

numberjacks_footer_784_242

never confuse efficiency with a liver complaint meaning

Oh, look, it’s quite simple. Katie Nanna is perpetually grumpy, correct? Her sternness and strictness were qualities that the Banks evidently looked for in their incoming nannies, requiring as they did someone to keep the children in line. But George Banks blamed her health – in particular the itching, swelling and fatigue that are early signs of liver damage – and posited that this was what was making her cross, not a natural disposition towards effective discipline.

Katie Nanna. Fond of the gin, that one.

Katie Nanna. Fond of the gin, that one.

– a town called mercy shit

Yes. Yes it is.

'A Town Called Mercy'. A low point, at least until 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS'.

‘A Town Called Mercy’. A low point, at least until ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’.

– if a weeping angel sees the silence will it forget?

Ah, the old Angels vs. Silence question, a match-up rivalled in sheer tedium only by the prospect of the Daleks vs. the Cybermen. Anyway, Joshua asked me this a while back, so I’ve had time to think it over. If an Angel is able to move towards the Silent, unobserved, then it’ll be able to attack as it normally would. The moment the Silent turns to see it, the Angel freezes like it normally would. But I’m not convinced that the Silence’s weapon of choice (that stupid Force Lightning) would have any effect on granite, so the best thing to do would be to just bow out gracefully. Observe this hastily-sketched diagram.

Angel-Silence_diag

Presumably the Silent would need to manoeuvre itself round the back of the Angel so that it could no longer be observed, keeping an eye on it at all times (and seeing as the Silence do not appear to blink, it would have a distinct tactical advantage in this department). When it leaves the room, the Angel unfreezes, but presumably forgets why it came in there in the first place, which is something that I gather happens a lot when you’re extremely old and prone to seizing up at the most inopportune moments.

– scooby doo boobies

Dude. Seriously. Get help.

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(Don’t) Blink – Easter Edition

I am quite sure my friend John wouldn’t object to my publishing this painted Weeping Angel egg he made for his not-quite teenage daughter.

Angel Egg

Happy Easter, everyone!

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