I can’t remember the exact circumstances under which Gareth and I were talking about Ico. Our conversations tend to take these spirally twists and turns through one thing or another, by degrees of separation. For the most part we will steer clear of politics and personal stuff, concentrating on film and TV and gaming, or a mixture of all three. We both love anything by Tolkien, although he is far less keen on the cinematic incarnations than I am. He knows a ridiculous amount about Doctor Who. I, on the other hand, can quote extensive passages from A.A. Milne, whom he has never read, so it all balances out.
If you haven’t experienced Ico, by the way, I recommend you stop reading this right now and go and find a PS2 or 3 and play through it. The whole thing is ridiculously good. On its release it was described by Official Playstation Magazine as being “the gaming equivalent of a Ken Loach film” – elegiac, slow and calm. Trapped in a windswept castle on a cliff overlooking the ocean, your only means of escape is a delicate, timid young girl who can open locked doors, but who must be protected at various points from apparitions that will attack her, while seemingly ignoring you.
As you can see at 1:30, the creatures that pounce on Yorda take the form of smoke monsters, and it was this recollection that prompted me to theorise that J.J. Abrams looked to Ico as a source of inspiration when he was writing Lost. Smoke monsters are nothing new under the sun, of course, but we might as well cite the PlayStation as a source of inspiration, seeing as they seemed to be drawing as many different ideologies and themes as they possibly could during the show’s run. So I mentioned this possibility to Gareth, and we went from there:
I heard about Lost, and the premise sounded interesting at first. But then I decided that it was going to be a series with no actual planned conclusion, and which was going to wander drearily along until they threw some disappointing nonsense together, so didn’t bother watching it. (Did I turn out to be right?)
[He did, of course, and I told him so.]
Something-doing-something-that-something-else-did reminds me. I recently listened to a Big Finish Who story from a couple of years ago. And it was one of the Lost Stories, in this case one of the Sylvester McCoy stories that would have happened in his next season, had it happened. In it, we had the Doctor being “taunted to death” by being told how he uses others to do his dirty work, doesn’t care about them, etc. Lots of phrases that were quite familiar from recent Who. And the same story had a sentient planet, and to communicate one of the humans gets taken over and acts as the mouthpiece. Only it needs to be a female, because … well, for exactly the reason in the recent Christmas Who.
I do remember reading The Writer’s Tale, in which Davies goes through the process for writing ‘Journey’s End’ (and particularly that excruciating beach scene). Nowhere at all does he mention BF as a source of inspiration. But you wonder; is he just looking at the stuff people are chatting about on the internet and writing about that? Look at it this way – at some point in our online group discussion, during the first season of Torchwood, someone (I forget who) said “What’s the betting on Jack turning out to be The Face of Boe?”. And while I know that’s not exactly concrete, a few months later – when ‘Last of the Time Lords’ was broadcast - we thought “Ooh, uncanny perception!”. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe other people were saying the same thing elsewhere and RTD and Moffat just nicked all the ideas.
There was some fuss with Babylon 5 and someone suggesting a plot idea that JMS was already planning, or so I vaguely recall. Being the US, he then shelved the plot for a while and went through legal wranglings with the poster so that he could use it without being sued. (Not that the poster would really have done so – but to cover themselves.)
[Later that evening....]
Spooky. Earlier, I was listening to a Now Show from 2007. (I have lots of News Quiz, Now Show, etc, and listen to them while falling asleep.)
Anyway, this one was talking about Tony Blair’s departure. They talked about his conversion to Catholicism, and explained it as him believing he would become a saint, describing various miracles he had performed. And they also mocked his “legacy” world tour, dragging his departure out for months as he went to visit everyone famous he’d ever known.
Then I thought, hang on – his replacement (not counting Gordon Brown) was someone disturbingly young, with a strangely spongy face and not enough eyebrows.
So, hmm, we were talking about where RTD gets his ideas from…