Waterloo

This week’s news roundup.

In science, noted Professor Eric Stahlman makes a public statement on a controversial drilling procedure.

Fracking

In Doctor Who news, previously unseen footage emerges of 1968 classic ‘The Mind Robber’.

 

DW_Fiction

 

 

And also in entertainment, controversy is running high at the Eurovision offices.

Romana_Eurovision

 

Happy Saturday!

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Every Doctor Who Companion ranked from worst to best

a1963-dw_companions_498px

This week, Doctor Who is all about the companions. There’s the much-discussed reveal of Pearl Mackie as Bill, for example, in a two-minute scene that aired during the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday afternoon. The decision to show it at that point in the day prompted a few complaints from non-football fans I spoke to, who resented having to turn it on, but it did at least give me an excuse to write a little something about the Doctor’s history with sport, so that’s all right.

Also in Metro, Cameron McEwan has produced a list that ranks every Doctor Who companion from worst to best. Said list has drawn the usual criticism from people who think that Rose should be higher and Donna should be lower, who don’t understand why Kylie isn’t there and who cannot understand why he’d choose to include companions they’ve never seen before in the top ten, citing instead a final countdown that exclusively concentrates on post-2005 content.

But the main thing about Cameron’s list is that producing an objective rundown of companions in order of supposed greatness is the wrong way of doing it. Because there’s only one correct way of ranking the companions, although it took me most of Saturday evening to puzzle it out. Hair? Certainly Bill’s hair is an enigma – “not that it’s big,” said Gareth, “but how it stops so abruptly in profile”. It’s looking – along with the Prince t-shirt, which is a little spooky given last week, although I’m assured that the scene was filmed in advance – like an eighties throwback might be the direction they’ve chosen to take for this particular venture, which will undoubtedly lead to heaps of awkward examples of comedic irony and obvious historical anachronisms. Or perhaps Bill’s into cosplay. I can’t really comment on what’s probably a filmed audition script, nor do I want to judge her, but I will address two of the criticisms I’ve heard: she is not Martha’s mum, nor is she ‘not black enough’. I mean, honestly.

Bill

Where were we? Yes, companion rankings. Listen, there’s only one way to rank companions, and that’s their scores on a Scrabble board, which was Gareth’s suggestion. So that’s what we’ve done. The results will surprise and annoy you (particularly when you see who’s at the top) but I think we can all conclude that this is UNAMBIGUOUSLY AND DEFINITIVELY the only way to rank companions correctly.

Important points of note:

  • For the sake of the argument, I’ve stuck to the list that Cameron used. That means no Astrid Peth, no River Song and no Brigadier. (Because if you include the Brigadier you also have to include Benton and Yates and before you know it half of UNIT is sitting around the board drinking cups of tea.)
  • These are vanilla scores only – i.e. the combined letter totals as if they do not cover any double / triple spaces. (In most cases such an instance would be impossible, due to the layout of the board, but it’s the only way to make it fair.)
  • Full names – where they exist – are always used. (Titles are another matter, but we’ll get to that.)
  • The editor’s decision is final.

 

Let’s get this one out of the way first:

DISQUALIFICATION: Romana

Sad to say that Romana’s twenty-letter name covers more than the length / width of the board, and is thus disqualified on the grounds that it exceeds the fifteen-letter limit. Which is a shame for you, Romana, but you’re the one who didn’t want it shortened – unless it was to Fred, which wouldn’t have served you much better. Sorry.

NA_Scrabble_Romana

 

37. K-9 (5 points)

Poor K-9. He was always doomed, given that his name consists of a single letter and a character that had to be employed with a blank tile. This is what happens if you have a number in your name; it just confuses alphabetisation (does ‘7’ come under ‘S’, or before the A’s?) and it makes you look pretentious. It’s a shame, in a way, that the K tile is only worth five points, instead of nine. At least that would have been funny.

05_Scrabble_K9

 

36. Leela (5 points)

Leela’s not really doing much better, is she? This is what happens when your name consists of one-point tiles, although if I’d done this with actor’s names, then Lalla Ward wouldn’t have fared a great deal better. Still, Leela left with K-9, so I can visualise them sitting in their rooms on Gallifrey while Andred’s out on patrol, sobbing over their bad luck in between rounds of Janus Thorn Chess. (I have no idea what that is. I just made it up.)

05_Scrabble_Leela

 

35. Adric (8 points)

Well, Adric’s a douche, so I have no real sympathy for him. He’d presumably start quoting the numbers in binary and use the block transfer computations to alter reality so that Scrabble had never been invented, the impetuous git.

08_Scrabble_Adric

 

34. Polly (10 points)

You see, this is what happens if you swan around the TARDIS refusing to give your real name. And yes, I’m aware that the production notes list her as Polly Wright, but we’re not supposed to know that, largely because it would have confused the viewers (which is a fair point, given many fans’ determination to link absolutely everybody that happens to share an extremely common name, but also demonstrating that as far back as 1966 the production team were prepared to assume that the audience was stupid). And yes, I know she’s established as Polly Wright (later Jackson) in spin-off fiction. Stable door, meet horse.

10_Scrabble_Polly

 

33. Katarina (12 points)

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room, shall we? I KNOW I SPELLED HER NAME WRONG. It doesn’t matter, because the score would have been the same. Still, no wonder I couldn’t find any pictures.

12_Scrabble_Katerina

 

32. Rose Tyler (12 points)

I’m grinning like an idiot at this one, because – ha! – the irritating Rose is dropped to the lower ranks of the top forty, where she belongs. Curiously every letter in her name is worth a single point, with the exception of one – suggesting that it’s the ‘Y’ of Rose Tyler that’s important. But then that put us back into companion-as-jewel-at-the-centre-of-the-universe territory, so let’s not go there. Ever.

12_Scrabble_Rose

 

31. Donna Noble (13 points)

There are better photos of Donna, but this is the one I picked, because it’s the look I suspect she’d have given me. “Number firty-one? FIRTY-ONE? IS THAT ALL YOU FINK I’M WORTH? Wouldna been so bad if you’d said it was me age….”

13_Scrabble_Donna

 

30. Kamelion (15 points)

The Rubbish Robot From The Dawn of Time gets a horrendously bad press, whereas I just like to think of him as a good idea gone wrong (also a neat summary of Torchwood, Wagon Wheels and the plot of Romeo and Juliet). I’d toyed with the idea of having ‘Karma Karma Karma Kamelion’, just for a joke, but there are only two blanks, and we’d have been screwed. Can I just mention at this point that had I gone with my original idea of ranking hairstyles, he would have got the top spot?

14_Scrabble_Kamelion

 

29. Amy Pond (15 points)

For his own reasons (probably space-related) Cameron lists Amy and Rory together, but I have teased them apart for the purposes of this exercise, largely because Amy was a companion for far longer than her husband. You have two roads here that lead to the same destination, as ‘Amelia’ gives the same score as ‘Amy’. ‘Amy Williams’ would have done better than ‘Amy Pond’, of course, but no one calls her that. No one.

15_Scrabble_Amy

 

28. Jo Grant (15 points)

It breaks my heart to put Jo all the way down here, because (behind a certain kilted Scot) she’s far and away my favourite companion, and Katie Manning’s such a sweetheart. But Jo hails from the early seventies, one of those periods of Who where the names companions were given were usually rather mundane, even if the people who owned them were not. Although she’d have done better if I’d spelled her as ‘Josephine’. Dammit, I should have done that. Why didn’t I do that?

15_Scrabble_Jo

 

27. Clara Oswald (17 points)

The impossible girl, languishing in the lower reaches of the top thirty. Of course, if you tot up the scores given to each of her separate fragments, she wins the game outright. But we’re not doing that.

17_Scrabble_Clara

 

26. Susan Foreman (17 points)

Susan – who, from the looks of things, has either tried to scratch her head after handling superglue or has been locked in a room playing a Justin Bieber concert on a loop – doesn’t do too badly, given her comparatively high-scoring surname. (The Gallifreyan equivalent, assuming it exists, would undoubtedly be far more interesting. Please leave your suggestions in the comments box; it all contributes to the blog stats.)

17_Scrabble_Susan

 

25. Ian Chesterton (18 points)

Supposition: if you substitute the other names that the Doctor used when Hartnell fluffed his lines (or when they turned it into a gimmick; I’m never quite sure which is the chicken and which is the egg) then Ian would be higher. Proof: ‘Charterhouse’ would have done quite well. As for me, I’m just wondering if Coal Hill have interviewed for Clara’s replacement yet.

18_Scrabble_Ian

 

24. Melanie Bush (18 points)

I very nearly wrote her as ‘Mel’, just out of spite. But that wouldn’t have been fair. And I’m all about fair. Even when dealing with someone who had a scream that could cut glass. (Here’s a thought: is Peter Harness’s decision to refer to Clara’s Zygon duplicate as ‘Bonnie’ a coincidence, or…oh, who am I kidding, it’s a coincidence.)

18_Scrabble_Mel

 

23. Steven Taylor (18 points)

Steven Taylor is worth 18 points. Peter Purves is also worth 18 points. IS THIS A COINCIDENCE?

(Yes.)

18_Scrabble_Steven

 

22. Ace (19 points)

I came dangerously close to being very hard on Ace, and granting her the solitary five points achieved by her first name. But there’s something grossly unfair about that. Of course, if she’d been happy to call herself Dorothy Gale McShane, she’d have been ranked much higher. Sorry, Ace: you’ve made your bed, now lie in it.

19_Scrabble_Ace

 

21. Sara Kingdom (19 points)

It’s unfortunate that the only decent resolution image I could find of an unaccompanied Sara Kingdom is that of her ageing to death at the end of ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’, but it’s a tribute to the self-sacrifice that defines her character. Too bad her parents were too lazy to stick an ‘H’ on the end of her first name, or she’d have beaten…

19_Scrabble_SaraKingdom

 

20. Dodo Chaplet (20 points)

…this young lady, she of the interesting hats. I did manage to use this in an actual game of Scrabble once, but it caused a minor upset when it disappeared from the board halfway through the game with no explanation.

20_Scrabble_Dodo

 

19. Rory Williams (20 points)

For some reason the board kept getting upset when I was putting down these letters, to the extent that I had to do it seven times. I’m sure there’s some explanation for this. In The Silent Stars Go By, the Doctor refers to Rory as “Rory Williams Pond”, to which the young nurse replies “Totally not my name”. Would that it had been, Rory. Would that it had been.

20_Scrabble_Rory

 

18. Vislor Turlough (21 points)

Turlough does quite well out of having an unusual first name, although if he’d opted for the slightly more European (or perhaps American) spelling of ‘Vizlor’, he’d have been bumped right up the table. Bet Mark Strickson’s kicking himself.

21_Scrabble_Turlough

 

17. Zoe Heriot (21 points)

Ah, Wendy Padbury. One of the nicest bottoms in Doctor Who. Zoe was always last in the register (and always got the dregs when it got to milk time) but she reaps the benefits now. If she were here I daresay she’d work out an algorithm of some sort to generate median scores, all without breaking a sweat.

21_Scrabble_Zoe

 

16. Adam Mitchell (22 points)

Adam is at the tail end of Cameron’s list, and with good reason. I don’t particularly like him being placed so high up here, either. The bastard’s hogged both the M’s. Perhaps we could take him to a beat poetry recital and watch his forehead repeatedly open and close.

22_Scrabble_Adam

 

15. Harry Sullivan (22 points)

Harry. We love Harry. We miss Harry. Good old Harry.

22_Scrabble_Harry

 

14. Liz Shaw (22 points)

Liz ties with Harry and Adam, but I’ve placed her above the two of them because she never really had a chance in Who, being written out after a single series. She does quite well here – of course, Elizabeth Shaw, her villainous doppelganger from ‘Inferno’, would have done even better. (Presumably Scrabble games in that parallel Earth typically end with the loser being shot in the head.)

22_Scrabble_Liz

 

13. Martha Jones (23 points)

Martha Jones. She saved the world. She get herself out of Japan, but she can’t get herself into the top ten. Not that 13th place is bad in the grand scheme of things. Of course, after her adventures in the TARDIS Martha married Mickey, changed her name to Smith, and saw her ranking decrease slightly, which led to marital discord and eventually divorce.

23_Scrabble_Martha

 

12. Nyssa of Traken (23 points)

My decision to refer to Nyssa in this manner (thus granting her a much higher score than she’d otherwise have achieved) is partly guilt; I’ve been rather hard on Sarah Sutton’s acting in the past when the truth is she’s really not that bad (and certainly much better in the Big Finish recordings). Simultaneously it’s a nod to Davison’s tendency to introduce her (in ‘Arc of Infinity’, and a number of audio stories) as ‘Nyssa of Traken’. There’s a bit of a Tolkienesque vibe to this, echoing as it does certain parts of Lord of the Rings in which Aragorn introduces his bromies not as Legolas and Gimli the way normal people do, but as “Legolas Greenleaf of the Woodland Realm, and Gimli son of Gloin”. Or something like that.

23_Scrabble_Nyssa

 

11. Barbara Wright (24 points)

Good old Jacqueline Hill. You could always rely on her, except when she got poisoned in ‘Planet of Giants’ and started being generally stupid. Still, it takes a supreme effort to abandon a name that would have netted you 31 points (the J and the Q take the lion’s share) in order to play a character worth a measly 24. Not that travelling with the Doctor is without its merits: at the end of Hunters of the Burning Stone, Barbara and Ian get married, which (assuming convention applies) makes her Barbara Chesterton (26 points) or Barbara Chesterton-Wright (Twitter meltdown). Well, David Whitaker always thought they should pair up.

24_Scrabble_Barbara

 

10. Jamie McCrimmon (24 points)

Oh, Frazer. I’m so, so sorry. You’d have got another six points if it hadn’t been for the stupid Scrabble set and its criminal lack of M’s. I can’t even talk about this anymore, I’m too upset.

(Edit: it’s just been pointed out to me that I’ve spelled McCrimmon wrong. Oops. In my defence, we were watching The Lion King and it was the wildebeest stampede.)

24_Scrabble_Jamie

 

9. Ben Jackson (25 points)

I’ve been dithering about this. On the one hand I really felt that I ought to have added ‘Able Seaman’, which is Ben’s full title (something that turns up again later). On the other hand I think he’s doing quite well on his own, and it’s not as if Michael Craze (Mayherestinpeace) is here to argue.

25_Scrabble_Ben

 

8. Grace Holloway (25 points)

Single story, multiple points. I’m now dithering as to whether she ought to be ‘Dr Grace Holloway’, which is better, or even ‘Doctor Grace Holloway’, which is better still. You decide. (I’m still not sure that blouse really goes with Daphne Ashbrook’s hair, but perhaps it’s the TARDIS lighting.)

25_Scrabble_Grace

 

7. Vicki Pallister (25 points)

Just try and ignore the fact that Vicki looks like a jester in this photo and the fact that my Scrabble picture is out of focus. And mourn, instead, that she spells her name with an ‘I’ instead of a ‘Y’.

(Edit: Gareth pointed out that, as far as we’re aware, Vicki’s surname is also only ever mentioned in spin-off material, which decreases her score dramatically. Oh well. The poor girl often gets overlooked.)

25_Scrabble_Vicki

 

6. Mickey Smith (27 points)

In the olden days of New Who, Mickey was someone I loved to hate. By the end of ‘Doomsday’, he’d grown almost bearable. When he turned up at the beginning of ‘Journey’s End’, I cheered. I’m almost pleased that he’s ranked as high as he has. Almost, but not quite.

27_Scrabble_Mickey

 

5. Tegan Jovanka (27 points)

Mouth on legs, but very nice legs. Plus she’s nicked the ‘J’ and the ‘K’, which does her nicely. “A broken scoreboard keeps better score than you!” Or something like that.

27_Scrabble_Tegan

 

4. Perpugillliam Brown / Peri (29 points)

Peri (who did not regrow her hair or marry Brian Blessed and who DIED ON THAT OPERATING TABLE) always considered her name something of a millstone, but it’s enough to catapult her all the way up the leaderboard from 27th to 5th. It’s enough to make you want to take your shoes off and throw them in a lake.

29_Scrabble_Peri

 

3. Sarah Jane Smith (29 points)

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love Sarah Jane? Actually it turns out there is, as we found out recently when someone in a Facebook group to which I belong started a thread talking about the fact that they didn’t like Sarah Jane Smith and did anyone else feel the same way? I think you can probably guess the answer to that one. Here she is in a rare moment of non-hypnosis.

29_Scrabble_SarahJane

 

2. Victoria Waterfield (30 points)

I like to picture Victoria, sitting in her cosy home, not exactly repatriated, playing board games and enjoying the quiet life. I don’t think she was ever really comfortable in the TARDIS, which is a shame because she and Jamie are really quite lovely together. Almost lovely enough to grant her the top spot – but not quite, because that goes to…

30_Scrabble_Victoria

 

1. Captain Jack Harkness (38 points)

You’re not happy, are you? Well, tough. He’s Captain Jack Harkness. That’s what we call him, in the absence of an actual name. You can call him the Face of Boe if you want. But I happen to be very fond of Jack, and if his ranking is a little controversial, you’re just going to have to deal with it. Go and stand on a rooftop for a little while; it usually works for him.

38_Scrabble_Jack

 

So there you are. It’s definitive and if you’ve got to the end of this three-thousand word missive without skim-reading then frankly I admire your persistence. We need to stop now. “Enough is enough,” I said to Gareth, when he pointed out (correctly) that Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was far more of a companion than many others on the list. “If I go down this road I’ll be here all evening. Besides, I’ve put the Scrabble board away.”

Whereupon Emily put her head round the door of the study and pointed out that they’d all have been disqualified anyway, as they’re all proper nouns. Bollocks.

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The Inevitable Doctor Who / Ulysses 31 mashup

I’ve talked about Ulysses 31 more than once. It’s a show I’ve loved since the 1980s – ever since the Chronos episode gave me recurring nightmares; ever since I was able to gloat that I’d seen the final episode when Matt Brady had missed it; ever since Philip Schofield did a memorable lipdub in the Children’s BBC Broom Cupboard on an otherwise nondescript Thursday afternoon. When Josh started studying Greek mythology as his school topic I insisted we watch the entire run together, and that’s exactly what we did. Some of the visual effects are rather dated, the characterisation is often paper thin (was any son so sickeningly worthy as Telemachus?) and the Everybody Laughs ending is used with alarming frequency. But by and large it stands up. There is, as yet, no big screen adaptation – but we do have the live action version, which I’m hesitant even to link to, given that it puts my own paltry efforts utterly to shame.

Still, you find stuff. My admiration for the programme – its mythology, its grand design, its fantastic score – is what prompted me to construct a redub of the closing monologue from the much-derided ‘Rings of Akhaten’, scored to ‘Vengeance of the Gods’. It was round about the time I first discovered the unscored audio tracks that lurk around the internet, which make seamless transitions much easier to do. It largely works, although – as I’ve recently had pointed out – you’d struggle to find a scene that wasn’t improved by the inclusion of the Ulysses 31 soundtrack. Some of it’s a little disco, but that’s by no means a bad thing. If it’s good enough for the Bee Gees…

It was while I was sharing this on Facebook, for no reason other than oh-it’s-Thursday-and-I-haven’t-posted-in-a-while, that someone suggested they’d rather see a full title sequence. It was an utterly insane idea and as such it was something I couldn’t really not do. The smallerpictures venture is all about experimenting with the insane to see if it bears fruit. In this case the fruit is lumpy and harbours the occasional worm. It’s organic. Don’t mess with it; you’ll be sorry when the bees are gone. And my goodness, this one was a faff. There are zooms and reverses and all sorts of trickery. Look, anyone can make a title sequence. There’s an art to doing it well, but it’s a fairly trivial endeavour. Far more fun, surely, to try and find existing footage that matches the original? At least that’s a bit quirky. That’s what I did with Magnum P.I., and that got picked up by BBC America, of all things.

So that’s what this is. I’d not expect you to be sufficiently familiar with the original to be aware that this is an attempt at shot-for-shot, which is why I did a comparison, which you can see below. Some parts are more successful than others. I am particularly proud of the ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ footage that pervades the closing moments – you’ll know it when you see it. Gareth said “Do a Classic Who version!” And I might, at some point. But this has wiped me out. Of course, it’s not as good as the live action version. But then, what is?

 

 


Postscript

Episodes used in order of first chronological appearance were:

The Rings of Akhaten
Death in Heaven
The End of Time (part one)
The Waters of Mars
The Runaway Bride
Hide
Curse of the Black Spot
The Big Bang
Smith and Jones
The Girl Who Died
Vincent and the Doctor
The Woman Who Lived
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
Face The Raven
Partners in Crime
Journey’s End
Doomsday
Fear Her
Doctor Who Titles (series 7 part 1 edition)
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
The Poison Sky
Deep Breath
A Good Man Goes To War
Voyage of the Damned
The Zygon Invasion
Parting of the Ways
The Empty Child
The Day of the Doctor
Hell Bent
Rose
The Doctor Dances
Doctor Who Titles – Series 8

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High on a hill lived a lonely Jedi

If you sang that, then my work is more or less done and I could probably go now. But I dropped in to expand upon this meme that’s been doing the rounds.

Luke_Meme

I won’t linger on the Star Wars / Doctor Who thing. We did all that last year, in more ways than one. It’s just that Thomas has been on at me to do something with that final sequence ever since we saw the film back in December; only recently did I actually find decent quality images to do the Photoshopping.

ForceAwake_Hurt

Because we were all thinking it, right?

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Look to your left (part 37)

In today’s news round up: stars of Doctor Who unite to commemorate the birthday of avant garde playwright Samuel Beckett.

Waiting_Dodo

Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron and the Catholic Church both issue joint statements in the wake of the revelations contained in the Panama Papers:

Cameron-Ted

And as preparation continues for J.K. Rowling’s hugely anticipated Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, we can bring you this exclusive production photo of the cast on a break during rehearsals.

Lennon

Enjoy your Thursday.

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Swords of a Thousand Men

“I am the Doctor. And this…is my spoon.”

Did you see that film, The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists? It is fun, although the book (Gideon Defoe, whose real name actually appears to be Gideon Defoe) is inevitably better, focusing as it does on the Church’s reaction to evolution – a plot line that the film tries rather too hard to avoid. On the plus side, the cast (particularly Grant) are wonderful, the set pieces are impressive, and there are lots of ham jokes – by which I mean jokes about ham, as opposed to jokes that are prone to theatrical exaggeration. It even has Brian Blessed as the pirate king, for goodness’ sake. What’s not to like?

This song plays over the end credits – the montage in which the pirates see their reputation restored, before sailing into the sunset – and while I’d heard it before, I think this was probably the moment I decided that it would work rather well with scenes from Doctor Who. Because let’s face it, when you’re dealing with a time-travel themed show that features frequent jaunts into history, it’s more or less a given that at some point someone’s going to whip out a cutlass or a rapier. The Doctor’s sword prowess has varied over the years, but he’s usually game for a laugh, although it’s a shame we never got to see McCoy take down anyone with his umbrella. Certainly it might have made ‘Delta and the Bannermen’ more tolerable.

Tenpole Tudor were / are one of those punk bands that managed to be well-known in their community without ever reaching the household name status ascribed to someone like, say, The Sex Pistols, typically in disapproving tones about how awful the music was. Or perhaps that was my house. I mean, my father dismisses most of my jazz collection as ‘just noise’ (which I refute utterly, although when it comes to Ornette Coleman, he’s got a point). Punk as a movement was designed to be brash and functional in a way that decorative prog rock was not, but to reduce the entire genre to a three chord wall of noise and profanity is to ignore the stylised, occasionally highly intelligent music of people like The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers and Sham 69. But this isn’t a musical discourse, although if I were feeling whiny I might point out the sheer laziness of setting an establishing montage of the capital to ‘London Calling’ – something that TV and film directors do constantly, usually accompanied by at least two or three images of the uniformed police force that the song condemns.

But anyway.

For the purposes of this exercise I limited fights to ones involving the Doctor. There are plenty of other scenes in the show in which Ian, Madame Vastra and even Amy Pond demonstrate some form of prowess with a pointed weapon, and they’re usually fun to watch (even if Amy goes from being entirely competent with a hunter’s rifle in one story to completely useless with a revolver a week later). But it muddies the waters. And why do that, when you have stuff like ‘The Androids of Tara’? I mean, just watch Baker with that sword. Watch him. He fights like a demon. It’s a wonderful conclusion to the second-best story that years (beaten into submission only by ‘The Ribos Operation’, although there are some who would disagree. Missing: the First Doctor taking on his robotic clone in ‘The Chase’, and the bit in ‘The Time Warrior’ where Pertwee prances around a hall in a suit of armour. They just didn’t fit.

There are times when you almost regret starting something, and that might have been the point at which I decided to overlay every single clash and clang for the sake of making a unified video (because otherwise the swordfighting is entirely silent, which somewhat lessens the effect). And it’s not like that took ages. Or that I spent three hours trying to get the damned thing to interlace properly. Not at all. But that’s fine, because eventually it worked. And I was quite pleased with it. And then it occurred to me – in that way that one thing inspires another – that there was plenty of scope for a montage with axe fights.

Yes. Well.

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In the beginning was the curd

First, this.

Doctor_Pun5

I frequent two Facebook Who groups, one of which is devoted exclusively to Classic content (1963-1996, with concessions for Big Finish). It’s a nice, tightly run group with decent moderation and friendly banter, but one thing that occasionally frustrates me is a certain disdain towards negativity. It’s not quite the “everyone’s opinion is equally valid” rubbish that I had to put up with in GCSE RE, but it seems that dumping on the bad stuff is frowned upon. If you mention that Adric was a douche, for example, you’ll frequently get a bunch of people telling you that no, he was good, and it’s wrong to single him out, to which I typically reply that no, he was a douche.

The same thing goes when it comes to discussing individual episodes: a common response is “It was a good story, and I don’t understand the hate”. Frequently these are people who assume that if you dump on stories from 1985 you have a personal vendetta against Colin Baker. It’s as if the concept of quality control is entirely meaningless. I wouldn’t mind, but when this came up the other week the story being discussed was ‘The Twin Dilemma’. After pointing out the disastrous script, the unlikeable Doctor, the narrative-that-goes-nowhere and the dreadful acting from the twins (honestly, my dining table is less wooden), my closing response was “I think there are worse, and these things are always going to be a bit subjective, but if you really can’t understand why so many people hate it so much I might diplomatically suggest you haven’t really watched it properly.”

I mentioned a while back that whenever I’m done watching a Classic story, I’ll email Gareth a list of bullet points. I also mentioned that ‘Warriors of the Deep’ arguably warranted its own entry, and it does, just about. This is not a lengthy discussion – ook, there’s plenty of sensible critique about ‘Warriors’ out on the interweb, and you don’t need another essay from me as to why it’s the worst Silurian story of the lot (and yes, I’m factoring in ‘Cold Blood’). Instead, you may have my bullet points, occasionally embellished with images.

– I love Tegan opening the ‘stuck’ door with no effort at all, particularly as it comes hot on the heels of a documentary I was watching this morning about women in Doctor Who and whether they were portrayed properly. (It features an irritating DW Magazine girl saying “No, I don’t think strong female villains are empowering…”)

– Someone call International Rescue, and tell the Tracy Brothers we’ve found those missing outfits.

Warriors_Costumes

– Stupid guard moment #1: they walk into the chemical lab, purposely looking for intruders, say “Nah, no sign of them here”, and they don’t bother checking behind the shelves. THEY DON’T BOTHER CHECKING BEHIND THE SHELVES.

– When I was a kid I watched an episode of Grange Hill when Jeremy was larking about in the swimming pool, and drowns. There is a reason, I think, why three decades later this is just about the only episode of the programme I can actually remember. The end of episode one of this is a bit like that, without the acne.

– Stupid guard moment #2: two of them, patrolling the perimeter, fail to notice an unconscious crew member left IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CORRIDOR ABOUT SIX FEET AWAY.

– The Manipulator. It’s like one of these:

Adictaball

– Ooh. Stunts. And the Second Doctor’s catchphrase. As long as you ignore the wobbly scenery, this is quite exciting.

– Oh dear God the Myrka.

– “Help! We’re being attacked by a green pantomime horse and I can’t get out from under this polystyrene door!”

– Hang on, did Solow really just try and do kung-fu on the horse? Because I think that’s a contender for ‘most stupid kamikaze move in history’. Almost as silly as attacking a Dalek with a baseball bat.

– They left the TARDIS doors unlocked. They LEFT THE TARDIS DOORS UNLOCKED.

– Unfortunate, really, that the chief sea devil has a name that (in the filtered voice of a Silurian) sounds rather like ‘Cervix’.

When I sent the Davison-does-mail-order image to Gareth, his response was “Surely there should be a Little Miss Moffett somewhere?”

I said “Funny you should mention that…”

LittleMissMoffat

Categories: Classic Who | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Your ears are like rocket fins

So hands up who saw through my subtly rendered and highly convincing April Fool gag, then?

We did manage to convince several people, at least for about a minute and a half. The best April Fool jokes are rooted in reality, and the notion that the serial romances endemic in fan-fiction might find an outlet with an established publisher really isn’t so far fetched. It was Emily’s idea; I rewarded her by naming one of the authors after her. “I’m not so sure about the covers,” she said, after proofreading it. “They looked a bit amateurish. A bit obviously self-published”. So I showed her some actual Mills & Boon covers, and she had to concede I was basically right.

Over at CBeebies, the team decided to show footage of the seven-foot tall TV legend that is Andy Day – “all teeth and curls” – inadvertently losing his ‘wig’ to reveal that, underneath, he was totally bald. Several sleepy parents rubbed their eyes in shock, but most people picked it up straight away. Perhaps that’s the problem with the April Fool season in general: the internet, a medium where one can seldom believe anything one reads, has made its implementation all but impossible. You start the day on edge, checking for signs, indications that something is too far-fetched for words, with the sort of critical eye that really ought to be put to use all the time, particularly when it comes to alternative medicine, stats about immigration, or rumours of that new Breaking Bad series. Or, as a friend of mine put it, “the one day of the year that everyone applies the degree of critical thinking and scepticism to Internet posts that they should be applying the other 364 days of the year.”

It did give me the excuse to do this, anyway.

 

Andy_Bald

Regular readers of this blog will remember that I gave Andy a more-than-considerable mention some time ago, when I pointed out the more-than-considerable passing resemblance to the Eighth Doctor, at least when he was playing Ebeneezer Scrooge. It wasn’t until last week that someone mentioned his astonishing resemblance to Fatima Whitbread (I’m not putting it here. Just Google it), even more so when you consider that he spends a lot of time these days wearing a similar sort of explorer’s outfit to the one that the former Olympian wore in the jungle, when she was a contestant on My Career is DeadFeed Me Bugs! I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!. The series in question is of course Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures, in which Andy cavorts around the Natural History Museum before travelling through time in a grandfather clock that appears to be bigger on the inside.

Andy_Master

In any event, I’ve had enough bald jokes to last a lifetime. So we’ll can them, shall we? It just brings back bad memories of ‘The Time of the Doctor’, most of which I’d rather forget. And I don’t really have the time to go back through those old episodes again; Emily and I are still only halfway across The Bridge, and only recently have I had the chance to watch that final episode of The X-Files.

Anderson_Makeup

Yes. Well.

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Love Means Never Having To Say You’re So, So Sorry

I was in publishing long enough to network, and used my contacts to bag a bit of an exclusive. And while this has been the subject of a press embargo until midnight, I can now reveal – before ANYONE ELSE – that Mills & Boon are going to be publishing a series of Doctor Who romantic novels later in the year.

For more details, head on over to the Doctor Who Companion, which has the full story, but here’s a little cover art to whet your appetite.

Mills_Composite

 

 

Categories: New Who | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Legopolis (part one)

There was a time when you could sort of get Doctor Who Lego, and it was rubbish.

cb-rev-c5

At least some of you had this, right? That cut-price, flimsy, second-rate Lego knock-off that wouldn’t stick together and wouldn’t stay together, with its wobbly platforms and barely-functioning mechanisms (and I ought to know, I spent an entire afternoon trying to build the bloody thing). The Dalek set was no better: poorly designed, tedious to put together, and filled with cheap-looking Daleks. I know that Lego have a patent on their particular brick design and that the plastic they use is generally higher quality, but really. Oh, I have stared into the abyss with you, Character Building, and I have found you wanting.

The figures themselves weren’t bad, of course: I bought a set of all eleven some years back, along with a few of those £2 mystery bags that theoretically contained one of seven or eight different figures but which almost invariably contained the Eleventh Doctor. The boys and I had great fun playing with them, but they occasionally came in useful for other things.

DD_Lego

TOTD_Lego

Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Gallifrey? Despite the abundance of assorted fan creations all over the internet, this was – alas – the nearest we thought we’d get to actual official Lego Doctor Who. Until last year, when this happened.

We’ve been here before, of course. Lego Dimensions was an attempt to cash in on the success of Skylanders and Disney Infinity: collectible toys used to unlock new areas and abilities in an expansive open world video game. Even before launch, the tabloid outrage had started in earnest. It was easy to see why, if you did some elementary mathematics: a starter pack would set you back something between eighty and ninety pounds, while level and team packs cost another thirty. Even the fun packs (containing a single character and a gadget of some sort) were fifteen pounds each. “It’ll cost you £350 if you buy everything!” screamed various media outlets, neglecting to mention the fact that you don’t have to spend anywhere near that amount to get a heap of enjoyment from the game.

There’s a certain sense of moral hand-wringing at work here. How dare you – we seem to be saying – how dare you, Lego, a capitalist venture, try and make money out of us by selling us things we don’t have to buy? Never mind the fact that you’re not the first to go down this road. We thought you were different. We thought you were on our side, rather than the exploiting, money-grabbing bastards at Disney. We thought you were all about the creativity, which is presumably why you’ve been re-releasing the same set of bricks all these years and never making new ones. You see? When you put it like that, the whole argument is ridiculous. The real problem here is peer pressure, and if you’re succumbing to that, you’re just not parenting properly.

In this case, the peer pressure came from me. Our kids have too much screen time and know too many swearwords (all of which they learned in the playground, rather than the house) but we’ve done one thing right: by and large, they don’t whine for stuff. Keeping commercial television at a minimum helps – any exposure to the minefield that is CITV is tempered by the running commentary I keep up through the advertising breaks, pointing out misleading product claims or gender stereotyping, until we got to the point that I didn’t have to do it anymore because the boys were doing it for me. So when it came to actually investing in this, they were all reasonably interested, but I was the one that pushed for it. “Because it’s Lego,” I said, “and because it’s Doctor Who Lego.”

It meant upgrading the Xbox. It was due, anyway – that 360 isn’t going to last forever, and if we were going to invest in the Dimensions set then some sort of futureproofing was in order. I wanted a PS4 (I still do) but the boys’ friends seem to have gone the Microsoft route, and it’s only a matter of time before they start doing online gaming, so the parent in me won out over the gamer.

You wonder why you bother, sometimes. Minecraft was tremendous fun for everyone until Thomas discovered the concept of griefing. Last year I set them off on Lego Star Wars, thinking that it might be a good way to introduce them to the series before we eventually moved on to Dimensions, but had forgotten that this early instalment does not have a split screen co-op mode, which led to great frustration when the experienced player was trapped at the edge of the play area as the camera zoomed ever outwards, waiting for the younger player to catch up. So I installed Viva Pinata instead, thinking that a multiplayer gardening game couldn’t possibly do any harm, only to find that they were far more interested in bashing the in-game A.I. assistant with a shovel.

Pinata

Split screen issues aside, the main problem with the Lego video games – as anyone who has followed the series will tell you – is that they’ve become increasingly complicated. This isn’t an issue if you’re a gaming veteran who’s used to upgrades and abilities and an increasing number of collectible items. Lego Indiana Jones 2 was the first to feature a large, fully interactive hub that made you actually hunt for the next level. Harry Potter featured an obscene number of items to collect, as well as game-breaking bugs that prevented you from doing just that. (Even after all these years, things have sadly not improved.) Lord of the Rings actively splits the gameplay so that in some levels, one character is teleported to an entirely different location and forced to do various things while someone else is having their own story, which rather spoils the effect of co-op.

It’s a far cry from Lego Star Wars – which, eleven years later, still holds up beautifully, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it is surprisingly minimalist. There are ten canisters per level, all used to build different vehicles that sit nicely in the cantina outside the hub. There are seven character types for accessing inaccessible areas (Lego Dimensions has 31). Characters you don’t unlock automatically may be purchased for a reasonable number of studs. There is one secret level, accessible when the main game has been completed, in which you get to stomp all over Princess Leia’s consular ship as Darth Vader. There are no gold or red bricks. Purple studs have yet to make an appearance. There’s not even any building, for heaven’s sake. There is just hours of unadulterated entertainment as you run through swamps and starships, hitting things and occasionally using the Force to move stuff.

Lego_StarWars

Lego Dimensions – as you’ll know if you’ve played it – features gold and red bricks, upgradable vehicles, hidden characters in need of rescuing, stuff to buy, stuff to renovate, minikit canisters, and…I stopped looking. I can’t keep up. The much-coveted 100% goal has eluded me since that second Indiana Jones game and I’m not inclined to try and reach it now. It is the proverbial bunch of grapes dangling tantalisingly out of reach of the hungry wolf’s mouth, and I am inclined to find it sour. There’s just too much: an absolute wealth of Easter Eggs, secret levels and other hidden delights. It’s information overload. The between-levels hub, at least, is pleasantly minimalist, consisting of a single, multi-floored area with a computer that takes you in and out of the different game levels. Shame it’s all so…blue.

I didn’t mention the toy pad and its circular, geometrically intricate hub, which took almost an hour for the kids to build and approximately thirty-five seconds for their two-year-old brother to destroy. The pad serves as an extra layer of gameplay: dropping minifigures on different sections takes them in and out of the world and allows access to new abilities and previously unavailable platforms and rooms, thanks to the puzzle design. If you have extra figures that can access hidden areas, dropping them onto the pad will bring them into the game (and if you haven’t bought them, you can purchase their abilities for thirty seconds at a time using studs you’ve collected). Keeping minifigures attached to the plastic base that functions as an identity chip therefore becomes absolutely vital if you don’t want to become hopelessly confused (although swapping them over is a great way to prank your children). It also necessitates storing them in a safe place, which has only failed to happen once. I wouldn’t mind if we ever got to play the bloody thing, but Traveller’s Tales have an annoying habit of doing this whenever I turn on the Xbox.

Xbox Update

I appreciate that they want to update things (although I’d appreciate it more if said updates actually fixed the bugs that made us play through that ridiculous Back to the Future Level again) but seriously, can’t they give us a choice? And yes, I’m aware that the always-on setting would allow an automatic update, but our carbon footprint is already through the roof and I’m not inclined to raise it any further. On the plus side, this made me all nostalgic for the days when I’d visit a friend’s house and he’d put the Chase HQ tape in his Spectrum cassette player, and then we’d go off downstairs and get a snack or something while it took ten minutes to load. Of course, these days it only takes two hours.

Lego Dimensions levels vary in quality. There’s the very good (Portal, Scooby Doo, Doctor Who), the good (Ghostbusters, which is curiously satisfying despite a general lack of atmosphere), the passable (The Simpsons) the irritating (Midway Arcade, which emulates Gauntlet very nicely but insists on splitting the screen when there’s more than enough room for two players at once) and the utterly dire (BTTF). The designers’ attempts to vary artistic style are largely successful – the land of Oz hums in glorious Technicolor, while the cel-shading in Scooby Doo is top notch.

And what of the Doctor Who level? Well, those of you who know your video games will be aware that there are two of them: a standalone level pack, ‘The Dalek Extermination of Earth’ – which I’ll write about when I’ve actually got round to playing it – and ‘A Dalektable Adventure’, the Who-themed level in the game’s central campaign. In the latter, Gandalf, Wyldstyle and Batman encounter Cybermen, Daleks and Weeping Angels. ‘Bad Wolf’ is scribbled on the walls, and overhead TV monitors replay the oh-god-it’s-coming-out-of-the-screen moment from ‘The Time of Angels’. The Doctor’s role is brief, although those of you who have played the rest of the campaign will be aware that he takes a much bigger role in the finale.

Lego_Doc

Some of the best moments in Lego Dimensions are the little moments where you open up a tear in reality in order to pull through an object of use from another dimension (something they shamelessly nicked from Bioshock, although I’m not complaining). It leads to moments like the scene in the Portal level where you clear obstacles with the help of a screaming Homer Simpson, clinging to a wrecking ball. But the game speaks to anyone who has mashed up universes in creative play. In his bedroom, I’ve watched Daniel bash up Uruk-hai with Ninja Turtles and Spider-Man: in Lego Dimensions, GlaDOS has a conversation with HAL from 2001, the Joker stomps all over Springfield, and General Zod appears on the roof of the Ghostbusters’ firehouse. It’s a fanboy’s wet dream, but it’s more than that: it’s a testament to the power of creative thought. It’s also a cynical marketing stunt, of course – Lego have spent years shrugging off criticism that their current sets are too rigid and unimaginative, and eventually decided to fight fire with fire. It started with The Lego Movie, which embraced the concept of hybrid, non-linear thinking, and Lego Dimensions (despite the cataclysm that results when Lord Vortech starts fusing worlds) is a natural extension of that.

None of this would count for zip, of course, if the game wasn’t any good, but thankfully it is, despite the bugs. It encourages teamwork, perseverance and a certain degree of lateral thinking. Em and I enjoyed it very much. And of course, when the boys started playing it, they fought like tigers on heat. I had to referee. And then I had to supervise their sessions, ostensibly to lend a hand when they got stuck and were too busy arguing to work out the solution, although this only made things worse.

Oh, that’s another thing. I didn’t mention this, did I?

It’s brilliant. I always wondered how you’d handle the Angels in a third-person game, and the intermittent power failures fit the bill nicely. What this video doesn’t show you is what happens when you allow them to get too close, which leads to a bunch of close-up shots with gaping mouths, vicious-looking fangs and those soulless white eyes. It would have terrified Daniel, but he was already watching the thing from outside the room anyway, leaving the others to manage without him: not easy when you have to move the figures around the toy pad while you’re trying to move Gandalf around a disintegrating platform.

It came to a head one Sunday afternoon, the boys stuck in the first half of the Doctor Who level. “No, no,” I said. “No, you need to use the earth element on that. Josh, put him on green. No, GREEN. No, hang on, you’ve – Thomas, why did you deactivate the switch?”
“I didn’t!”
“Well, it was on, and now it’s off, and you were standing by it! Turn it on. That’s – no, look, you only need to press it once. Once! Now do it again. Daniel, what are you doing?”
“I’m bashing up the Batmobile.”
“You need the Batmobile to get over that ramp. That’s it. Reverse. Rever- no, look, just turn round. That’s it. Right round. Further! Now, go for- no, you need to slow down or you’re going to – see, you’ve gone over the edge.”
“I can’t do it.”
“You can do it, you just need to aim properly. No, right, right, RIGHT! Oh, look, give me the controller. There. Now, just drive straight over it. Thomas, have you turned the switch back on?”
“No.”
“Look, if you don’t turn the switch on you won’t be able to clear that swamp and we’re never going to be off this level. Right. Now, aim down at the – NO, NOT AT HIM! NOT AT HIM! LEFT! LEFT!”

From the dining table, Emily looked up from her painting. “You know who you sound like?” she said. “One of those soccer dads.”

I left the room, saturated with self-loathing. She was right, dammit.

But there are times – rare, shining moments – that they work together. Having discovered Clara Oswald stuck in a glass case, it was decided that they should spend fifty thousand of their hard-earned studs in order to hire the hero they needed to rescue her. This is a high-profile and important mission, so the task of actually breaking open the case within the thirty second time limit was entrusted to me, because the likelihood of me screwing it up was minimal.

So I freed Clara. There was much whooping and rejoicing. Then they spent the next five minutes chasing her round the base, kicking the crap out of her.

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