Doctor Who Bible Stories

Last week I was helping out at a children’s holiday club in Shropshire. In between the madcap games, craft activities and singalongs, I spent most of my time thinking about the Second Doctor, for reasons I won’t divulge right  now. Perhaps echoing my subconscious thoughts, two of the girls in the junk modelling session we had one afternoon managed to produce this – which looks, I told them, rather like a Quark.

Robot

“Or a War Machine!” suggested Verity, Gareth’s other half. “It could probably destroy a pile of boxes.”

The club itself detailed the story of David and his ascension from shepherd boy to king, along with some of the more memorable tales from the narrative, such as David’s encounter with the ill-fated Goliath. (One thing they don’t always tell you in Sunday School is that after David had felled Goliath with that pebble he found in the stream, he then cut off the giant’s head and paraded it round the camp, perched on the end of his sword. The Old Testament is full of grisly stories like this. The dogs licked up Jezebel’s blood, Herod committed blasphemy and was eaten by worms, and when Sisera, during a failed invasion of Israel, broke protocol and sought sanctuary inside the wrong camp, Heber’s wife Jael waited until he was asleep and then drove a tent peg through his head. And they complain about ‘The Deadly Assassin’.)

In any case, the encounter with Goliath set me thinking, and that’s when -

Goliath

(The fact that the most appropriate image of Jamie and the Doctor I could find is actually from ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ is a welcome bonus.)

But why stop there? Why not look, for example, at ‘The Beast Below’, and the Doctor’s little dance with Amy in the mouth of the star whale?

Jonah

Meanwhile, some of the Dalek stories deliberately lend themselves to this. I am still waiting for ‘Exodus of the Daleks’, but -

Daleks

 

(I’m quite sure there’s more I could do with ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, as well, perhaps by tying it in with ‘Kinda’. But anyway)

Revelation aside, the blood and gore has died down a bit by the time we reach the New Testament. Still, there’s the Christmas story, with its tale of a squalid virgin birth in a crowded town, followed by ritual infanticide. The birth of Jesus is, as the Tenth Doctor puts it, a “long story. I should know; I was there. I got the last room.”

Well, of course he did.

Bethlehem

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Cabbages and Kings

So I take a week-long holiday in Shropshire, and this is what I find when I get home.

I tell you this. If they use that line about redecorating one more time, I will break into the BBC props department, steal Capaldi’s screwdriver and ram it so far up the backside of the chief writer his throat will light up every time he opens his mouth. It’s not even that it’s no longer funny. It wasn’t funny back in November, when the Tenth Doctor used it.

Let’s be clear: the “You’ve redecorated – I don’t like it” line is not a recurring gag. It’s something that Troughton said twice. His delivery was impeccable on both occasions, as Troughton’s invariably was, even when he fluffed his lines (mostly because his Doctor was exactly the sort of person who might be appearing to fluff his lines in order to lull you into a false sense of superiority before he reveals his hand).

sandwiches

Then Matt Smith does it in ‘Closing Time’, and it’s quite funny then, partly because Smith’s delivery is quite different, and James Corden’s look of outrage is plain silly. And it is, as Gareth said, “a little homage-y thing.” But then Tennant used it, and now it’s being ground into a catchphrase, in the same way that the fish fingers thing became a meme and the question “Doctor Who?” became a highly important plot line. (I will leave that dangling there for a moment, just so you can take in how ridiculous it sounds.)

Actually, I was looking at a video of the ‘redecorated’ stuff on YouTube, in between deciding whether or not it was worth Photoshopping Clara into Dulux catalogue images or screengrabs from DIY SOS, with speech bubbles reading “I don’t like it” (I decided it wasn’t worth it). And I found this:

Grab_Decorate

Sheesh, some of these fans are intense. I’m so glad I don’t engage in pointless debate like this.

“I wonder,” says Gareth of this latest insertion, “if the intention is so that it can be flipped around later, with hilarious effect? Maybe someone will say ‘Oh, I just love what you’ve done with the place!'”

Gareth also likens this whole thing to Clara’s observation (in ‘The Snowmen’) that the TARDIS thing is “smaller on the outside” – which, as he points out, “doesn’t make sense at all. (On the outside, it was the size that it was. You now see the inside and this is what you should comment on. It would work if you started in the TARDIS and then went outside.)”

Snowmen_04

It’s a simple example of a scene being written to fit a joke. They wanted a pan inside the TARDIS, because that was new. But Moffat also wanted that joke, presumably because it makes Clara ‘different’. It’s a thinly disguised attempt at characterisation, but it doesn’t work with the moment that precedes it. But what does that matter to the tumblr feeds?

(Two of the greatest reactions to the TARDIS, incidentally, come not from full-time companions but from the supporting cast. In 1973, Benton – acting as a substitute for the unavailable Frazer Hines – is asked by a slightly put-out Doctor whether he’s going to mention that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside, because “everybody else does”. An incredulous Benton replies “It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?” Thirty-five years and seven / eight Doctors later, depending on how you count, Bernard Cribbins is faced with the spaceship’s vast interior, only to remark that “I thought it’d be cleaner.”)

“Also,” says Gareth of the trailer, “why does the Silurian woman shout ‘free the carrots, now!’..? Maybe we’re getting a crossover with one of the silliest episodes of Lost In Space.”

tybo2

“It’s clearly ‘cabbage’, not ‘carrots’,” I said.

“It was more sort of ‘cabbots’,” said Gareth, “and I thought that freeing carrots sounded more plausible.”

“Find me a picture of a space cabbage,” I said, “and we have a blog entry.”

So he did. And we do.

margaret_the_space_cabbage_300

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Doctor Who does porn

Warning: today’s post contains adult material.

That got your attention, didn’t it?

Not long before Friends jumped the shark, NBC aired an episode that saw Joey and Chandler inadvertently hook up to free pornography. This was basically an excuse to produce porn versions of movie titles – an academic exercise which the writers purportedly loved, if anecdotal evidence and their general track record was anything to go by. Hence we are told about the likes of Good Will Humping, as well as In & Out & In Again. Some years later, Phoebe’s sister Ursula breaks into the adult entertainment business with Buffay the Vampire Layer, Lawrence of a Labia (which, I’m told, actually exists) and Inspect Her Gadget. Cue much hilarity as a leather-clad Lisa Kudrow steals into a poorly-lit crypt where a gaunt man is waiting in a coffin. “Ah,” she says. “I thought I’d find you here, Nasforatool.”

When I was in my early twenties, bus rides home from work were often preceded by a visit to the video rental store (remember those?) where I’d peruse the latest releases, the world cinema section and (yes, I’m afraid so) the adult movies shelves. It would be nice to say that the mildly greasy (at least I hope it was grease) DVD boxes I found stacked up displayed the same level of titular wit as, say, Shaving Ryan’s Privates, which we all thought was a very clever pun. Sadly I think I came too late to the party, or perhaps arrived at the wrong house. I don’t think you can get that sort of thing in your local Blockbuster: we were saddled, instead, with the awkward faux erotica of Erotic Raider (in which Lara and her feisty assistant “get busy raiding each other’s tombs”, along with Sexy Scary Movie (which was neither) and Who Wants To Be An Erotic Millionaire (which doesn’t even make sense). There was nothing remotely sexy about any of them: they were formulaic softcore dross of the lowest order, according to a friend of mine.

Raider

Anyway.

“Just because I can,” I said to Gareth the other night, “I am coming up with a list of Doctor Who porn titles.” His first response was to point out that some of them already sound dodgy.

Full Circle
The Dominators
The Awakening
The Twin Dilemma

That’s before we get to the likes of New Who, which includes episodes entitled ‘The Beast Below’ and ‘Day of the Moon’ amongst its ranks. Then there’s ‘The Big Bang’, which Moffat himself (in Doctor Who Magazine) cites as “far too rude for Doctor Who” – knowing as he was writing it, that “this was the night that River Song was conceived aboard the TARDIS”.

Double entendres and smutty jokes in twenty-first century Doctor Who are par for the course. As Capaldi reveals that the upcoming series includes the line “No hanky panky in the TARDIS” (adding “for reasons which you’ll discover”, which alludes to something going on between Clara and Danny Pink), we can all breathe a sigh of relief that the show appears to have moved on from what I might term over-exposure. Part of it is the embarrassment of having to explain why Amy Pond is throwing herself at the Doctor to a six-year-old – I’m no prude, and we have plenty of baby-making books on the children’s shelf, but is it really necessary at half past seven on a Saturday evening? (Although ‘research’ shows that yes, it absolutely is.)

But it’s also that it seems incongruous. Having the Doctor snog River at the end of ‘The Name of the Doctor’s is one thing. Have her talk about screaming is another. I accept – with great reluctance – that contemporary Doctor Who has to deal with the romance thing, simply because if the show doesn’t, the fanfiction will (and already has, with numerous Doctors and multiple companions, often in the same room at the same time). I just think there’s a line. Torchwood crossed that line regularly, and was usually at its worst when it did (episode seven of Miracle Day aside). Torchwood dealt with alien invasion and any time it did sex felt like a gratuitous post-watershed shopping spree. The same could be said of the bad language – it was teenage boys writing rude words in the back of their maths books, or making the computers in the I.T. lab swear at them (never did this. Honest). There was an episode that dealt with a nymphomaniac alien that destroyed its victims at the point of orgasm, but aside from that most of the sexual encounters were mildly sordid (see Owen / Gwen, or Owen / just about anyone), or merely used for comic relief, rather than fitting with the narrative (although the irony of the Miracle Day series-closer, which saw an omni-sexual man save the world by depositing his fluids within an enormous crack, cannot be denied).

It’s not that it’s wrong to deal with sex – it’s just that neither show is really about sex, and thus its inclusion is always going to feel like a crowd-pleasing incongruity, rather than something that actually fits. There’s a story Gareth often tells me about John Nathan Turner and his tendency to provide a checklist of items that each story ought to include, whether they fit the narrative or not. “‘This one will be in Amsterdam.  And have Omega returning.  And a double of the Doctor.  And the return of Tegan.  And Nyssa’s outfit should look like [this], because it’s what the dads will want to see’ (this, as Janet Fielding points out often, from a gay man with a liking for Hawaiian shirts).” One suspects that Russell T Davies did much the same thing, only his mostly consisted of ‘gay jokes, catchphrases, and then the same gay jokes made in a different room’.

I accept there’s a certain amount of nostalgia inherent within this analysis, but we all bring our own baggage to readings of Who, whether we want to or not. The factor of the matter is that with a few notable exceptions, sex pre-2005 just didn’t seem to exist. Not really.

 

 

But if we’re really going there – and let’s face it, we can’t really not having come this far – and if we’re going to generate this list of Doctor Who porn titles, then this is the sort of thing we might expect from the back catalogue. Some of these are Gareth’s. I will leave it to you to work out which.

The Underwear Menace
Furry, Fun and Deep
Head From Space
Carnal Eve of Monsters
The Groin of Morbius
The Basque of Bandragora
The Hand-Job of Fear
Whore of Fang Rock
The Invasion of Tim
The Armageddon Fucked Her
The Horny of Nimon
Castrovulva
The High Penis Patrol
The Sontaran Slutty Gem
Flesh On Stone
Pandora Opens
The Angels Take Manny Hatton
Deep Breasts

This is not an exhaustive list. But I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Next time: sandwiches, and why they’re great.

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How to get as many Doctor Who references into a camping holiday as possible

“Take Who with you!” urged Gareth when I said I was going on a two-week camping excursion to the coasts of Pembrokeshire. I’d got in touch to tell him my Big Finish listening would have to go on hold for a fortnight, along with the dips into old stories. As tempted as I was to put ‘The Axis of Insanity’ on the iPod, I really don’t think that two hours of vaguely metaphysical ramblings was really the kind of thing I wanted to inflict on my family, even if Peter Davison was involved.

But there are other ways that you can take a break without taking a break from the show. For example, here’s my reading list.

Pembs_3

 

The Science of Doctor Who, in particular, is very good, and suitably all-encompassing, published as it was in 2006 with only the Eccleston series to draw upon in any great detail; it thus avoids the post-revival tendency towards revisionism, in which anything that happened between 1963 and 1989 is viewed as an irrelevance. I can’t speak for the scientific validity of the text, but Parsons’ Who-related knowledge is pretty impressive, although he loses points for getting his facts wrong about ‘Doomsday’. Then again, perhaps he – like me – could only bear to watch the episode once without the influence of alcohol, and has flushed it from his memory. (That’s the episode, not the alcohol, which is still sloshing about in my brain somewhere.)

Harvest of Time is still half-read as I go to press, so more on that on another occasion. Earthworld is a fun (and occasionally highly amusing) romp through a futuristic theme park, but it seems a strange choice for the Past Doctor Adventure reissue series, relying heavily as it does on an ongoing backstory. I could just about cope with the fact that the Doctor is suffering from partial amnesia and has forgotten that he’s just blown up Gallifrey (for the first time), and that one of the companions had recently suffered a major loss. But then there was cloning and multiple timelines and Blinovitch-related stuff that’s just confusing if you’re encountering this story arc for the first time, having been unceremoniously plonked in the middle of it. It’s rather like watching the original VHS release of ‘The Invasion’, with Nicholas Courtney’s between-episode summaries, or watching ‘The Time of the Doctor’ with no knowledge of what’s been going on for the past eight years, as a great many people presumably did on Christmas Day last year.

But anyway. We hadn’t been in Pembrokeshire long when we found the box of bricks at the Roch village fete. The Roch fete is a treasure trove of random, but instantly essential items. It has a vaguely Needful Things-esque quality to it. Three years ago we found a tea set that matches our coffee set. I don’t care that we’ve never used it and the dust layer is now three inches deep; it looks fantastic on the sideboard and that’s all that counts. The bricks we bought were mostly generic building blocks, but there was this.

Pembs_1

 

Which instantly put me in mind of the halfway point of ‘Logopolis’, and the incredible shrinking TARDIS – or the ending of ‘Hunters of the Burning Stone‘, which I’ve recently read (and which reads, by the way, like an on-spec script for one of Moffat’s Doctor Who stories, being thoroughly ridiculous). It wasn’t the first time I’d seen the TARDIS that week; it really does seem to be making an appearance here.

Pembs_4

(Yes, i know it’s a grain silo.)

In any case, there was a creative aspect to this that got my juices buzzing, and it turns out that you can make a Dalek out of just about anything.

Pembs_7

Pembs_5

Pembs_2

 

I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with that first photograph of the sand Dalek. It looks warped. I think I had the wrong lens on the camera. The stick figure in the second one, as added by one of our travelling companions, at least adds a bit of perspective.

Back up in the field, my brother-in-law was assembling wood for the campfire. It may have been this that triggered Joshua’s memories of cub camp, and he proceeded to teach the entire family the songs he’d learned, none of which were filthy, unfortunately. Having never attended cub camp myself (I was a Boys’ Brigade man, and even then only for four years and never under canvas) I could remember learning most of them in the course of one evening when the hall in which we held our choir rehearsals experienced a power cut, rendering the reading of sheet music all but impossible. We passed the time singing part songs while we waited for them to fix the lights. There was one song I’d learned that night which Joshua evidently hadn’t, and I taught it to him now:

“To stop the train in cases of emergency
Pull on the chain
Pull on the chain
Penalty for improper use: fifty pounds.”

I think the original was ‘five pounds’, but our choirmaster was allowing for inflation.

It wasn’t long before we were adapting this:

“To stop the TARDIS in cases of emergency
Pull on the brake
Pull on the brake
Penalty for improper use: THE ENTIRE OBLITERATION OF THE UNIVERSE.”

One of my in-laws’ favourite family songs is called ‘Goodbye Horse’ (nothing to do with the Q Lazarus song), which goes “Goodbye horse / Goodbye horse / I was saying goodbye to my horse / And as I was saying goodbye to my horse, I was saying goodbye to my horse”. You then repeat the song in all manner of silly voices, including (on this occasion, and entirely for my benefit) an agitated Dalek. I then discovered that you can actually sing ‘Goodbye Horse’ to the Doctor Who theme. Go on, try it. What do you mean you’re reading this at work?

Having a campfire is all well and good when the weather’s fine, but when the wind comes in over Newgale it blows the tent quite fiercely, at least in that upper field – it’s the price we pay for the view. As the rain set in and Emily rushed round outside securing the guy ropes (which she usually does herself, not so much out of choice, but more because I’m really not very good at it) I was left inside with Edward, who was watching the tent billow and flap with wide eyes. Rain inside a tent is loud, and you sometimes have to shout to be heard. The more musically astute amongst you will recall the scene in The Sound of Music where Julie Andrews comforts the Von Trapp children during a particularly nasty thunderstorm by singing about brown paper packages and apple strudels. But if you’re going to sing ‘My Favourite Things’ on a camping trip three weeks before a new Doctor is set to take off in the TARDIS, you probably ought to change the words.

“Autons and Zygons and Drashigs and Mara
Zoe and Leela and Peri and Clara
Bubblewrap aliens tied up with strings
These are a few of my favourite things

Cliffhanger endings with crap resolutions
Violence and carnage and phallic protrusions
Not-dead companions married to kings
These are a few of my favourite things

Comic Sontarans, bisexual Harkness
Peter is taking us off into darkness
That sense of doom when the cloister bell rings
These are a few of my favourite things

When the Beeb strikes, when the fans whinge
When the scripts are bad
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so sad!”

Artistic license, of course – I really don’t like Strax, and I daresay lots of people don’t like the ending of ‘The Ultimate Foe’, but at least it scans, just about.

The whole thing is very silly, but it’s become something of a family joke. I’m relatively easy to buy gifts for: if you stick a Doctor Who logo on it, I’ll be happy. And yes, it is an obsession these days, and chances are if you wandered in here not knowing much about the show, having Googled for the ‘My Favourite Things’ lyrics, you’ll probably wonder what on earth my wife thinks about all this. The answer is she tolerates it, because she loves me, and because it’s the one thing I can actually profess to know a fair bit about without having to bluff. I’ve spent years as a jack of many trades and master of none, and if my writing topics these days have streamlined quite a bit, I do at least get to write about something I enjoy and can actually deconstruct without inadvertently toppling the tower and getting in a complete muddle. And if you can avoid keeping everything in-universe, you stay healthy. Doctor Who is often at its best when it’s an allegory for something, and it’s always fun to see how it relates to the real world, which sometimes isn’t so different.

I was reflecting on all this one evening, and called to mind a passage in Earthworld, which I’d just finished.

‘Even sky-blue pink?’ Anji asked. The Doctor looked quizzical. ‘It’s a sort of joke. A thing kids say. A mythical colour, because it can’t exist. If something’s pink, it can’t be sky-blue.’

The Doctor smiled. ‘But sometimes the blue sky can be flushed with pink. It can be quite beautiful. Maybe that’s what it means. Not everything’s black and white, you know. Although the sky can be black or white, of course.’

And of course, it can.

Pembs_6

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Suitcase

If you haven’t seen the Classic Whovian Problems tumblr page, it is (like much of the content on tumblr) an amusing time-waster.

But seriously. Look.

tumblr_adric

I mean, I don’t want to sound churlish, but I don’t think this was ever really a problem for anybody…

In other news, Thomas and I have been drawing up cast notes for a Character Building recreation of ‘Time of the Doctor’.

TOTD_Lego

And finally, here’s what we can probably not expect from Big Finish any time soon.

dw_Charley

Off on holiday. See you all in a fortnight!

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The Pitch of Peril

The other day, Gareth was poring over an article I wrote for Metro this week in which I rather flippantly summarised the events of series 1 as follows: “The Ninth Doctor destroys the Mighty Jagrafess in Satellite 5, disabling its hold over humanity, but rather than igniting the renaissance he’d anticipated, the gap in the schedules creates a vacuum that is conveniently filled by Daleks running game shows.”

“It’s surprising how awful that makes those episodes sound,” he said, “even though I already know how awful they were.  I wonder what Terry Nation would have thought.  (Okay, he’d probably have thought ‘yum, lots of lovely royalties’.  So maybe someone else from the 60s.)”

I imagine Hinchcliffe would have had a field day. And I’d have loved to have been in the meeting between Newman and Lambert, had she taken him this pitch (along with a set of concept art).

“Goddammit, Verity, I told you, no bug-eyed monsters!”
“That’s Ann Robinson.”
“Ah.”

dwbadwolf1

But it set me thinking – dreadful story ideas seem to be endemic in New Who. Oh, there are plenty of great ideas. ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ was an interesting (if rather derivative) concept beautifully executed, as was ‘Silence in the Library’. To have the Eleventh Doctor meet a fragile, terminally depressed Van Gogh near the end of his life, work in an invisible turkey and end the episode with the dignity of the show absolutely intact was (if you’ll forgive the pun) a masterstroke. Even ‘Love And Monsters’ tried to do something different, and actually wasn’t as bad as we remember it (although I can no longer watch Peter Kay).

But elsewhere, we’re not so lucky. In some cases, it’s apparent that a promising episode’s absolute failure lies in its direction or script (‘Asylum of the Daleks’, I’m looking at you) rather than anything that didn’t work at the concept stage. Conversely, something like ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ really shouldn’t have worked, but did because it managed to be thoroughly outlandish but with a sense of fun, which the previous episode didn’t have. Similarly ‘The God Complex’ took an age-old idea but made it thoroughly fresh, mostly through some inventive camerawork, fast and innovative cutting and several nods to The Shining.

Doctor-Who-6x11-The-God-Complex-doctor-who-25412820-1280-720

In any case: here is a hastily compiled, hideously incomplete list of New Who episodes that most of us don’t seem to really like that much (with the notable exception of the first one, which remains a guilty pleasure, at least for me), summarised into elevator pitches that – I hope – show them for what they are.

The Rings of Akhaten:
The Doctor and Clara travel to an alien world where a small child is singing a star to sleep. Eventually Clara saves the universe by feeding the star a leaf, which gives it a tummy ache.

Fear Her:
The Doctor and Rose meet a disturbed girl whose drawings come to life. The girl is hiding an alien who has been separated from its family, and at the end the Doctor helps it go home by lighting the Olympic torch.

Boom Town:
The Doctor, Jack and Rose stop at Cardiff to get petrol and Mickey and Rose have an argument while the Doctor goes out for dinner with an obese farting alien. The alien wants to blow up Cardiff but in the end she looks under the bonnet of the TARDIS and turns into an egg.

School Reunion:
The Doctor and Rose visit a school where a race of space bats are feeding the pupils special chips to make them more intelligent. In the end the school gets blown up by a tin dog.

Victory of the Daleks:
The Doctor and Amy meet Winston Churchill, who has a group of Dalek servants testing weapons and making tea. There is a group of colour-coded Daleks hiding behind the moon, but the Doctor defeats them by flying Spitfires into space.

The Snowmen:
The Doctor is hiding in Victorian London when an army of evil snowmen rises up to take control of the city. He is helped by a lesbian lizard woman, her potato-headed butler and a feisty young barmaid whose deathbed tears turn the snow into rain, melting the snowmen.

In order to maintain a sense of balance, I’ll be compiling a similar list of Classic Who stories in due course.

I have a feeling that might be shorter.

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Darkness! No parents!

The key word is ‘Dark’.

Oh, it is. You know what I mean. The Twelfth Doctor is ‘Dark’ to Clara’s ‘Feisty’. His descent into darkness and presumed moral ambiguity (no doubt personified by lingering close-ups accompanied by the low strings from the ever-too-loud Murray Gold) is part of every sodding press conference and interview this side of Gallifrey. In layman’s terms, this is preparing us for another Colin Baker. Which makes ‘Deep Breath’ this year’s ‘Twin Dilemma’, so that’s all good.

That trailer, then.

Trailer_Grab

Dinosaurs in London. Multiple occurrences of Daleks. And oh look, there’s Vastra declaring “Here we go again”.

Seriously, could this be any more Third Doctorish? We’ve already talked about the costume. Vastra has pinched the Brigadier’s final observation at the end of ‘Planet of the Spiders’, which is presumably meant to solidify the Paternoster Gang (“Why did you give them such a silly name?” said Gareth, whereupon I pointed out that I didn’t) as some sort of replacement U.N.I.T. This would make Vastra the new Brigadier, only marginally better looking, while Strax is presumably supposed to be Benton. (Coming soon: Dan Starkey in cabaret: “You say tomay-to and I say tomah-to / You say potay-to, and I say I WILL DESTROY YOU FOR THAT INSULT, WRETCHED HUMAN SCUM!”.)

The U.N.I.T. analogy has absolutely no foundation, but that doesn’t really matter, because the basic point still stands: it’s supposed to mean some sort of continuity across regenerations. It doesn’t really work, of course, given that the first thing the Fourth Doctor did, right after wrapping the scarf around his neck, was bugger off in the TARDIS with Sarah Jane and Harry and run up and down an awful lot of corridors. Nonetheless, Moffat has gone on record (in a newspaper article I can’t find, but trust me, it’s there somewhere) as saying that this Doctor is going to be difficult, at least at first, but that Clara manages to connect with him through Vastra, Jenny and Strax.

More amusing / infuriating, we have Capaldi’s declaration that “I’ve lived for over two thousand years”, which has presumably got the internet in a frenzy as people who gave up watching after ‘The Eleventh Hour’ say “I thought he was only nine hundred and six!”, at which point the others bring up the fact that the Doctor declared himself to be eleven hundred at the beginning of ‘The Impossible Astronaut’, and that a further century has passed by the time of ‘A Town Called Mercy’, and that another three hundred years pass in ‘The Time of the Doctor’ before he’s in his cane-wielding, shuffly Doctor phase. There is then an indeterminate amount of time before he reaches the geriatric, get-off-my-lawn Doctor with Brian May’s haircut and a colostomy bag that’s bigger on the inside.

Old_Doc

The obvious question to ask at this point – apart from “Why the hell hasn’t BBC Worldwide capitalised on this and released two Old Doctor figures, when we got a Bearded Doctor from ‘Day of the Moon’?” – is why such an age jump? I used to believe that it was Big Finish related – the hundreds of years allows for a myriad extra adventures and a multitude of new companions when Nicholas Briggs finally gets the rights to use Matt Smith in a couple of decades. (Predicted: a tough, feisty girl called Jas, a robot called Kleenex, and a gay morris dancer called Cyril.)

But I’m not convinced that Moffat actually cares that much about Big Finish, and instead I think this whole thing is about redefining the character, Simply Because He Can. It would be nice to say that it allowed us to think of an older, more experienced Doctor as is befitting someone of Capaldi’s stature, but really it smacks of egotism on the part of the chief writer. Think about something: the Doctor’s lived for two millennia and over half of that has been spent in his final incarnation. Over half. That’s like saying that Daniel Craig has had more field experience than Sean Connery, which is tantamount to blasphemy. (And yes, I know that those films are supposed to be prequels. Let it go. And you didn’t say that, you sang it.)

Because when you think about it, so much of New Who – particularly in the last three years – has been about redefining everything we thought we knew. Only someone of Moffat’s arrogance would have the flippancy to change an unseen event which has been fundamental to the tone of the show since 2005 and get away with it through the use of the standard memory loss technique that is central to multi-Doctor stories. Only someone with Moffat’s arrogance would have the audacity to reveal the reason why the Doctor stole that particular TARDIS. Only someone with Moffat’s arrogance would have the sheer audacity to bring in an entirely new Doctor that dates from before the period when he had anything to do with the show, and the fact that he gets away with it is in no small part down to the casting of and performance of John Hurt.

Now we’re told that he knows the ending of series 9, or at least the penultimate episode. “Ohh,” he says. “I don’t think you’ll see this coming!”. No, Steven, we never see it coming because IT’S ALWAYS SO BLOODY OBSCURE. What are you going to do? Reveal that the Time Lords have plugged all of humanity into bath tubs and stored them in a huge cavern? Have the entire cast sing an Aimee Mann song just before it rains frogs? Or have Capaldi wake up in bed next to Anna Frobisher, muttering “Darling, you’ll never believe the dream I’ve just had…”?

newhart17a

I’m ranting. And perhaps it’s not fair to turn Moffat into the sole target for this sort of abuse. We might level the same criticism at Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks, who gave the Doctor’s people a name and a voice, or Robert Holmes, who made them a laughing stock (receiving hate mail in the process). But the difference is in the quality of writing. If I were in a particular frame of mind I might call ‘The Ark In Space’ the finest single contained drama ever to grace our TV screens. The anniversary special aside, Steven Moffat hasn’t written a single decent episode of Doctor Who since ‘The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe’.

Ultimately if you take this stuff too seriously it destroys you. Continuity never used to exist in Doctor Who, and then it did, and it’s impossible to really maintain it properly, but it still matters, and as a result the fans are obsessive about seeing patterns in things that aren’t there. That’s why there are arguments about whether Clara’s grandmother is actually an elderly Amy (despite being too short, the wrong nationality, and about twenty years too young): people are desperate to make connections. Perhaps it’s all about making sense of an increasingly senseless world. Or perhaps we’re just bored these days.

For example, when I Googled ‘The Greatest Show In The Galaxy’ after watching it again with Thomas (verdict: quite fun, but don’t get me started on Whizz Kid), I found that the TARDIS Wikia paints the gods as Great Old Ones (a la Lovecraft), who existed before the time of this universe (and may have aided in the destruction of the old one). It then talks about other Great Old Ones including Fenric, the G.I., and the Celestial Toymaker. The impression you got was that various prose and audio writers have taken several unconnected stories and decided that the antagonists therein are all similar enough to be the same race.

ragnarok

“There’s no need!” was Gareth’s response when I told him about this. “There are often threads on the BF forum suggesting that BF should make stories involving random characters meeting up, or having histories. A recent one had Turlough’s school on Earth actually being a sort of stopping-place for lots of alien children who were orphaned or isolated from their home planets, and most of the pupils were aliens. Bleargh, I say to that.”

But here’s the thing. Moffat’s clearly putting a stamp on the age thing for the sake of doing what he likes with the character – but if you really take your continuity seriously (as it seems, in these days of in-jokes and old references, we must) then the Doctor goes way beyond the two millennia mark. He was over nine hundred when Colin Baker was still stomping around the TARDIS in his technicolor dreamcoat. And Paul McGann? Well, he spent five hundred years (give or take) marooned on Orbis. Then we jump back to Pertwee, the very era that Moffat seems to be aping, whether he wanted to or not. And we get this -

“If I were a scientist? Let me tell you, sir, that I am a scientist, and I have been for several thousand years.”

(‘The Mind of Evil’)

and

“You know, I’m beginning to lose confidence for the first time in my life — and that covers several thousand years.”

(‘Doctor Who and the Silurians’)

But this is generally interpreted, Gareth assures me, “to mean that he has seen things in several different millennia of times on Earth”. To which I say ‘Blibble’.

DW_Old

The canonicity (is that a word? It should be) of Big Finish is debatable, of course – but in the end, it doesn’t matter. The stamp of authority will easily be undone by the next chief writer. I may object to the implications behind such changes, and what they mean for the way the show is produced, but that doesn’t mean I object to the changes themselves, so long as they mean quality television. Suffice to say I bolted into the study when I discovered the trailer was on YouTube (“I’ve never seen you move so fast,” remarked Emily) but if you’d measured my level of excitement you’d see a curve roughly the shape of a very tall and very pointy mountain – up and then immediately down again. Because aside from cryptic remarks from a stately Capaldi (who still looks like he’s nursing a hangover, but whatever floats your boat, Peter) there was relatively little of interest, except for a few monsters that we’ve already seen in publicity shots.

So: yes. We know he’s dark. We know that series eight is going to be dark. We know that there will be painful comic relief and too many “Doctor Who?” jokes. There will be at least one point of view shot through a Dalek’s eyestalk (come back Christopher Barry, your country needs you). And there will be a lot of unnecessary brooding over the past, because if the future is an undiscovered country, the past is an assured cash cow – something that worked before can work again if you change a few things around. And I can’t help cringing when Capaldi says “I’ve made lots of mistakes. Don’t you think it’s time I did something about that?” Because while it’s fun to speculate on what those might be, my overriding answer is “No”. If you’re changing your entire outlook, I’m in, because that might be interesting to watch for a while. If you’re retreading old ground and visiting people that didn’t interest us the first time, this is going to be a long three months. Just move on. The past is the past. Let it go.

(And you sang that as well.)

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The Long Big Game

In the wake of scandal-hit Steven Spielberg and the photo of him posing next to a dead triceratops, I bring you this.

Minotaur

PLEASE circulate this photo. This sort of thing needs to stop.

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Caught by the Fez

Thomas and I have been watching Tommy Cooper this week. Can you tell?

DW_Fez

Then there’s this, which I did for no particular reason.

 

DW_Kinda

 

And finally, just to demonstrate that there really are people in the world that are weirder than me, here’s something Gareth found. I have no idea whether this Japanese version of Doctor Who is authentic, or where it comes from, but it is wonderful.

 

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“Look at me, I’m wearing a vegetable”

That Doctor Who script scandal, explained.

DW_Leak

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