Have I Got Whos For You (part 36 and a half)

This week:

1. There is much consternation on Twitter when the Gallifrey Party posts this image of a Time Lord who was supposedly forced to lie down in the aisle because there were no unreserved seats on the shuttle.

Doc_Floor

2. In soaps: I didn’t really like Jemma Redgrave’s Holby Trauma Unit badge, so I have made her a new one.

Holby_Kate

3. In sports: new stills emerge from Mo Farah’s Olympic run.

Mo_Silence

4. And finally: here’s a deleted scene from Saturday night’s X-Factor.

X-Factor_Doc

Happy Sundays!

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“New teeth. That’s weird.”

Oy vey.

Just a matter of days after I wrote about David Tennant’s appearance in The Goblet of Fire, this turns up on Facebook.

Tennant_Potter

I mean, it’s shit, isn’t it? The stupid Rose thing is neither here nor there. It’s just the utter stupidity of the crossover – either it’s a simple joke, which is neither clever nor funny, or it’s some fan’s idea of wish fulfillment, which is…

Well, words fail me.

Look, if you’re going to do this, you might as well go the whole hog – which is exactly what I’ve done, because I can imagine the rest of the conversation going like this…

“But why are you posing as John Lumic’s son?”
“I needed to keep an eye on Brian Williams, Kazran. It’s a big undercover operation. I’m not on my own. I’ve got an art expert waiting in the wings to pose as the next Minister of Magic, and I ran into the caretaker when he was smuggling dinosaurs. The games mistress is a reformed sheet of skin, and Ursula Blake is doing a spot of research in the toilets.”
“You’re not the only Doctor here, either.”
“What?”
“That wandmaker. Knew he looked familiar.”
“What??”
“He’s even got his own sonic wand.”
“WHAT?!?”

Whereupon both universes simultaneously implode from crap fan fiction overload. There, that’s a better ending, don’t you think?

Vold-Doc

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Trigger the Cyberman

I’m a little ambivalent about series two. On the one hand, it has ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’. On the other hand, it also has ‘Tooth and Claw’. It has ‘The Impossible Planet’, one of the most frightening episodes in the canon, let down by its dreary successor. Tennant is brilliant. The scripts are not. The Doctor / Rose thing is mind-numbingly tedious, its eventual denouement embarrassingly overwrought even before its stark finality was undone just a couple of years later.

On the other hand, they brought back the Cybermen. Yes, it was all wrong. The new Cybermen act and feel like robots, divorcing them from the humanity that made them so utterly chilling. They have an unnecessary new catchphrase. The reworked origin story is dull. But it’s the Cybermen. The monsters who killed Adric. The ones who haunted my childhood sleep, rendered flesh (all right, metal) and crashing through the walls of a stately home to threaten the Doctor and his friends. As tedious as I find its resolution, that ‘Rise of the Cybermen’ cliffhanger is a belter.

Then there’s Roger Lloyd-Pack, whose role is to sit in a chair and gloat. Lloyd-Pack delivers his entire performance as John Lumic in the manner of someone who’s trying to pass a kidney stone. It’s bland, although not unnecessarily so: Lumic is a power-hungry despot and he delivers what is expected of the role. It is not as interesting as watching Davros, because Lumic is not as interesting as Davros, irrespective of the similarities between their backstories (and physical appearances). This story is all about Rose and Mickey, which is as it should be. Lumic is just the man pushing the buttons.

It’s a shame, because Lloyd-Pack himself was a talented actor, remembered for his comedic supporting characters but equally at home in serious roles; a theatrical master who did his best stuff with Harold Pinter (Michael Billington – or at least his sub-editor – describes him as ‘the perfect Pinter peformer‘). Nonetheless, his iconic role will always be that of Trigger, the petty criminal with a penchant for sharp suits and apparently possessing a vacuum between his ears (his condition is, thanks to a bit of exposition, blamed on a couple of childhood accidents). It is Trigger who plays the straight man in what is Only Fools and Horses’ most memorable moment – in which Del casually leans against a bar, not realising it’s no longer there – but he was given plenty of other stuff to do. Typically, Trigger is the last person in the room to get a joke and even then doesn’t know why he’s laughing, but it’s his bad boy image that sets him apart from many other dim-witted comic foils; you always get the feeling that he could smash you in the face any time he wanted, and this is precisely what makes him so interesting.

As any Harry Potter fan will tell you, the Cybermen two-parter isn’t the first time Tennant and Lloyd-Pack appeared on screen together, with Tennant playing Barty Crouch Jr. to Lloyd-Pack’s Sr. in a flashback halfway through Goblet of Fire. (Barty Jr. is then not seen again until the climax of the film, in which Brendan Gleeson morphs onscreen into him; I’m always slightly disappointed that Tennant’s first line isn’t “Hmm. New teeth. That’s weird.”) Production aficionados will be aware, of course, that Lloyd-Pack doesn’t actually meet Tennant in the flesh at all, conversions or not: that’s Paul Kasey in the suit, miming to Lumic’s (presumably pre-recorded) dialogue.

This video had its inception in January 2014 when Lloyd-Pack died at the age of sixty-nine (thus forming a club whose ranks would later be swelled by Harold Ramis, David Bowie and Alan Rickman; sixty-nine, it seems, is the new twenty-seven). For whatever reason it took me two and a half years and a sudden, burning need to create something to actually get it done. Part of my procrastination stems from the fact that there’s actually far less usable material than you’d think – besides the obvious ‘Dave’ jokes, Trigger doesn’t really say very much, often letting his incredulous silence do the talking. There were a few gags that I dearly wanted to use – “You got a hat now, Dave?” springs to mind – but had to abandon on the cutting room floor because they simply didn’t fit. Less is more.

Anyway, it hangs together, just about. I did think about using the broom handles bit – a scene which takes its cue from a similar exchange in Open All Hours and which is referenced, bizarrely, in ‘Deep Breath’ – but what I had was quite long enough. It took two and a half years, but we got there in the end. Or as Trigger would say ‘Triffic…’

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In the woods there grew a tree

Here’s today’s media round-up. In television, it’s discovered that the Master spent the years following ‘Frontier in Space’ on a remote Scottish island catching up with some old friends.

Master_Wicker

 

Wallace and Gromit’s new musical direction is unveiled.

Hounds

 

And finally, in the wake of new rules, it’s revealed that the BBC are prepared to take drastic steps in order to ensure you pay your license fee.

WIFI_Who

I’m off to Wales. See you in a week.

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Lots of planets have a North

This blog’s been comparatively quiet over the last week because I’ve been holidaying: fifteen days of travelling around Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland (with a couple of brief trips north of the border sandwiched in between). We stayed in youth hostels, which varied in breakfast quality / facilities / WiFi strength, and saw more castles, museums and ruined priories than I care to count. I drove the van; the kids in turn drove me mad. Emily planned the whole thing and was generally fantastic.

But you don’t want to hear about the bridges at Hartlepool, or the red squirrels outside the dining room at Alston, or the time Josh got stuck in a revolving door on the way out of the Scottish Parliament building. You want the Who-themed stuff, don’t you? This is Brian of Morbius, after all, and finding tenuous Doctor Who-related connections in more or less everything is kind of what we do here. Very well, let’s get on with it.

 

1. Observed in an Edinburgh museum (and pinched from another website as the photo I took wasn’t much good), a rare sighting of Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton.

Edin_Museum

2. So I’m wandering through the middle of Carlisle, and…

Holiday_2016 (1)

3. Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island: there’s a grave marker for a woman named Osgyth, a seventh century English saint from Buckinghamshire. There are all sorts of stories about arranged marriages and the pursuit of holy vows, but personally I can’t help thinking it’s another Clara fragment.

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4. Hang on, when did the War Doctor visit Cragside?

Holiday_2016 (2)

5. Random charity shop purchases. My bag weighed a ton by the time we drove home.

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6. That is a chair with a panda on it.

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7. Observed in a York museum. It’s not just me, is it? Tell me it’s not just me.

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8. KFC Dalek, courtesy of Thomas.

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9. Don’t blink.

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10. Finally, something non-Who related, but worth sharing: this burger – consumed in a pub in Edinburgh – is 8 oz of Angus beef, topped with haggis. They call it the Highlander. Concordantly, I have removed its head.

Holiday_2016 (6)

Gareth wanted to know if I had seconds, but of course, there can be only one…

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The Twelfth Doctor Regenerates

All13

It’s kind of hard to miss those eyebrows, isn’t it? They’re all over the top of this blog (unless, of course, you’re reading this a couple of years from now and I’ve changed it, to Idris Elba’s sideburns or Ben Wishaw’s navel, or whatever). For the meantime that shot is borderline iconic: the first glimpse of a Doctor who’s never quite had the scripts he deserves, but who was awaited, thanks to this single scene-within-a-scene, with an almost insane amount of antici…….pation.

Capaldi’s future in the show is still under discussion, of course. I had – actually, I managed not to have – a number of conversations the other week with people who genuinely thought that Matt Smith was going to come back to the show full time. I’m not a futurist (I was wrong about Missy) but I believe we may sensibly discount this, and I sort of explain why here, albeit in an article that’s aimed at casual fans. I’m not ruling out an appearance – a ‘Deep Breath’ style cameo, or even a full-on episode share. But bringing him back permanently? Honestly, no. You could do it, of course, but that doesn’t mean that the BBC will, or that it’s a sensible decision. It’s tabloid speculation stretched to saturation point. There’s a pattern: Moffat says something vague and teaseworthy, while elsewhere in the entertainment section a notable actor (preferably one with a history with the show, the tighter the better) expresses their desire to return. And bang, you’ve got yourself a headline. Catherine Tate’s a good example. And all this is fine – goodness knows it fills in the gaps between series – except when stupid people assume that it has any credibility. But this is what happens when you have a show in which characters can be switched in and out at the drop of a fez, never dying, changing and then changing back. That doesn’t mean it would be a sensib-

Actually, who am I kidding? It’s exactly the sort of thing Moffat would do.

moffat-5

But I was thinking the other week about that first time we saw Capaldi – no, not the first time we saw him properly, but that first thrilled, unanticipated glimpse in November 2013. And it occurs to me that it’s a scene we haven’t actually seen yet. And I know that it’s one Moffat’s been running over in his head, because not long after Capaldi turned up he told Doctor Who Magazine that “At some point, the Twelfth Doctor’s going to get a phone call”.

And whether or not this turns out to be Capaldi’s last year, I have a feeling we’re heading back to that scene. And when I raised the issue in a Facebook group, someone else mentioned that it would be even more likely to occur right at the end of his timeline: in other words, the determined Doctor we glimpse in ‘Day of the Doctor’ is one who is just about to regenerate. Presumably the eyebrows will darken in colour (and probably become a little thinner). That would be a very Moffat thing to do, somehow. It seems nicely circular, the way that the crack appeared in ‘The Eleventh Hour’ and was then explained just before Smith took off his bow tie for the last time. It closes the loop, and if there’s one thing I’ll say about the chief writer, it’s that he loves closing his loops, even if some of them have to be fastened with sticky tape.

And then I thought: seeing as we don’t know yet, there’s no harm in imagining how such a scene might play out. And the more I thought about it, the more it crystallised into something tangible. And so I made this. And I hope you enjoy it. Not that I’m arrogant enough to assume that this is what the BBC might do when they eventually do the regeneration. But it’ll be interesting to find out. And in the meantime I’ve produced something that works dramatically (if you ignore the changing TARDIS interiors and continuity errors), however off-base the idea turns out to be.

Tell you what, Steven – when you do write it, Copyright Donna Noble. OK?

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Gotta catch ’em all

That Pokemon Go, eh? Everyone’s at it.

Doct_Pokemon

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All your TARDIS are belong to us

“So what’s Paper Mario like, then?”
“It’s great,” said Jon, as he gunned the engine and drove the battered old Nissan through the Friday evening traffic. “There’s this bit where you face off against a boss and he shouts ‘SNACK ON MY WRATH, FINK RATS!!!'”.

Do you know Jon? He’s one of Stack Overflow’s biggest celebrities, apparently. People even stop him in the street. His wife, Holly, is a respected children’s author, and also Thomas’s godmother. But I knew them as the people who opened their doors on Fridays (and Saturdays. And Sundays, and often during the week) and gave me a second home back when the millennium turned. Those Friday evenings consisted of cinema visits, followed by Holly’s pasta and wine accompanied by long games of Siedler or Super Smash Bros – usually in the company of our friend Douglas – and the four of us would talk until the stars came out.

I haven’t seen them for years, although we still keep in touch. I miss those Fridays, not least because we liked the same things but had different experiences of them, which always made conversation interesting. Jon was a big Resident Evil fan back in the day, and we loved the creepiness of those early instalments, before it became gung ho and ridiculous. But over the years I’ve managed to remove the rose tints from my glasses. It’s hard to suspend your disbelief when you are faced with such ridiculous dialogue. “Jill?” says Barry Burton, early in the first game. “Here’s a lockpick. It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you.”

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I still giggle about this, even though it’s fairly typical of the style. I can never work out whether these things are badly translated or simply badly written. In this instance I suspect it’s the latter, and there’s a part of me that laments the fact that designers have obviously poured their collective hearts and souls into refining a project’s gameplay, soundtrack and visual flair, only to stumble at the first hurdle when it came to finding a decent script. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Devil May Cry but it is hard not to stare at the screen and mutter “Whu…..?” when Dante cradles his (supposedly) dead girlfriend in his arms and sobs “I should have been the one to fill your dark soul with LIGHT!!!”.

On the other hand, House of the Dead 2 – or Typing of the Dead, as we came to know it – had pedestrian dialogue, very badly performed, but it doesn’t matter. Gratuitous over-acting is par for the course in many bigger titles, whether it’s Harry Mason’s B-movie schlock in the first Silent Hill, or Roy Campbell’s angst-ridden cries of “SNAAAAAAAAAAAAKKKKE!!!!” in Metal Gear Solid. That’s actually OK. Sometimes the acting suits the mood. And House of the Dead is unquestionably brilliant.

Anyway. When I was a teenager, there was a game called Zero Wing. I’m told it was a reasonable success in the arcades, but I only ever knew it on the Sega Megadrive (or Genesis, if you’re reading in the U.S.). It is a generic side-scrolling shooter with nothing in particular to single it out from all the other side-scrollers that were endemic in late 1980s culture, save its intro. Because said intro has passed into legend as being one of the worst translations in video game history, to the extent that “ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US” was a meme even before memes were officially invented. There is even a Bohemian Rhapsody version, if you are so inclined. It is not great – stretching a joke to snapping point seldom is – but it deserves brownie points for trying.

The irony is that the original Japanese dialogue – when tralsated properly – is actually not too bad at all. Observe:

TITLE CARD:
In A.D. 2101
The battle began

Captain: What happened!?
Mechanic: Someone detonated bombs all around us!
Operator: Captain! Incoming transmission!
Captain: What!?
Operator: Image coming through on the main monitor.
Captain: You… you are…!!
CATS: You appear to be preoccupied, gentlemen. Thanks to the cooperation of the UN forces, all of your bases now belong to CATS. Your ship too, shall soon be destroyed.
Captain: Im.. Impossible! (or F.. Foolishness!)
CATS: We thank you for your cooperation. Enjoy the remaining moments of your lives….Hahahahaha ….
Operator: Captain!?
Captain: Launch all ZIG fighters! All we can do is entrust it to them…Give us hope for our future…We’re counting on you, ZIG!!

With this:

TITLE CARD:
In A.D. 2101
War was beginning

Captain: What happen?
Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.
Operator: We get signal.
Captain: What !
Operator: Main screen turn on.
Captain: It’s you!!
CATS: How are you gentlemen!! All your base are belong to us. You are on the way to destruction.
Captain: What you say !!
CATS: You have no chance to survive make your time. Ha ha ha ha…
Operator: Captain !!
Captain: Take off every ‘ZIG’!! You know what you doing. Move ZIG. For great justice.

Anyway.

I can’t remember the exact moment I thought a Doctor Who rendition of this would be a good idea, but I finally got round to doing it last week. I will spare you the technical details, except that I used different software in order to get the font the way I wanted it, and said software (which I will not name) proved to be more trouble than it was worth, but we got there eventually. Footage is all New Who based because it saved fiddling with aspect ratios (and besides, the ‘Cat’ substitute actually works pretty well). If it looks somewhat grainy, that’s all part of the fun. This whole experience has kind of put me off doing intros for a while, but when I eventually take it up again I really ought to work in that line from Paper Mario, simply because it’s great. It’s just a question of figuring out how to do it.

Jon would know. Maybe I’ll email him.

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Politik

#1. The Chilcot.

Chilcot_Slitheen

 

#2. The Jeremy Hunt.

Hunt

 

#3. The Nicky Morgan.

Morgan_Doctor

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Time flies by when I’m the driver of a train

Murray

The first time I really became aware of television was the early 1980s. There were four channels filled with light entertainment, grainy video-shot soaps and the slightly creepy atonal horn motif that denoted the Open University programmes. The thought of an entire station dedicated to children’s broadcasts – let alone four or five – was a distant novelty. We had to put up with the odd half an hour of cartoons in the mornings (mostly The Pink Panther) and half an hour after lunch, and that’s your lot.

I’m a sucker for details when it comes to things like this. There are various programmes I remember, many of which subsequently passed into obscurity and which my friends and colleagues would categorically deny existed until – oh, sweet rapture! – the arrival of YouTube, and decent quality, ready-to-stream video that proved (once and for all) that I was right all along. Oh, it’s easy when it’s something like Chock-a-Block – the antics of Fred and Carol and their electric cars were familiar talking points around many a primary school water fountain – but when I talked about Wattoo Wattoo Super Bird I got met with a sea of blank looks. And then it was on YouTube and the rest was history. I dearly wish I could find a version of that in English, but at least I can now prove I wasn’t making this shit up.

A programme whose existence you never had to contest was Camberwick Green, which – to those of us growing up in the 1970s and 1980s – was as regular in the fixtures as Bagpuss or You and Me. “Here is a box,” announced narrator Brian Cant (omnipresent in more than one sense of the word; was there a BBC children’s programme in 1981 that didn’t involve him in some aspect or other?). “A musical box. Wound up and ready to play.” And thus the box would open – its triangular spikes retracting like some sort of art deco prison – and the character for the day’s episode would rotate upwards through the opening, peering through the deconstructed fourth wall and seemingly not caring that there was a huge head in the sky looming over the set, watching Trumptonshire’s every move like a hawk, or at least a very interested chaffinch.

Camberwick Green was one of those idyllic rural places where nothing much happened, and the nothing much happened very slowly. It was a village (supposedly in Sussex, but who knows?) where millers wore smocks, women gossiped and everyone knew everyone else. The postman danced with his postmistress before delivering the mail. The aforementioned miller rode a tricycle and played chicken with the windmill sails. The local doctor led a protest to stop a destructive piece of urban development that turned out to be a simple misunderstanding. Oh, it was all going on in Camberwick Green. On the outskirts of the village sat Pippin Fort, where six raw but well-intentioned recruits would parade and solve local problems, and then presumably get hopelessly drunk in the village pub (never seen or mentioned, which retrospectively seems a little odd).

Camberwick Green was launched in 1966, some fifty years ago last January, and adventures in Trumpton and Chigley followed a couple of years later. Trumpton was a fully working town in its own right, complete with a carpenter’s workshop, Miss Lovelace’s hat emporium and the much beloved Trumpton Fire Station, whose crew (due to technical limitations) never had to actually put out a fire, leaving plenty of time to rescue lost hats, erect bill posters (or, to be specific, fail to do so) and practice for the daily band concerts, where they would always play the same tune. “There were no fires in the afternoons,” Trumptonshire Web puts it, “but then there were no fires in the mornings either.” Meanwhile, Chigley was a tranquil but industrious hamlet nearby that revolved around a local biscuit factory, owned by the affable Lord Belborough – a dignitary rather too in touch with his inner child, given that he would leave the solitude of Belborough Hall on the slightest whim to travel up and down the local branch line on Bessie the steam engine, ably assisted by his trusty manservant, Brackett.

For people who skipped the 1990s it’s hard to explain just how much these characters permeated popular culture. There was the episode of Whose Line is it Anyway? in which Tony Slattery and Josie Lawrence redubbed a scene from Camberwick Green between Mickey Murphy and local gossip Mrs Honeyman. Years before Life on Mars?, there was the Spitting Image thing. Most of all there was the music, whether it came in the form of Half Man Half Biscuit’s riotous (almost literally) take on ‘Time Flies By’, or the bizarre, done-on-a-shoestring / could-this-be-any-more-1992 acid anthem that was ‘A Trip To Trumpton’.

You see what I mean.

There was an innocence to the whole thing, even in the notorious scene in which Windy Miller gets drunk on his homemade cider (or ‘sleepy’, as Cant puts it). It’s the sort of innocence that came to later define programmes like Balamory – a show about adults who behave a little like children, and solve their problems in much the same way. There was something sweet about a fire crew whose greatest challenge was a stranded cat (did they attend the same training academy as the crew from Pleasantville, by any chance?) and the tortoise and hare encounter that is Windy’s race with Jonathan Bell the farmer. But as with many children’s programmes, the greater the innocence, the more marked the contrast when you undermine that innocence – there are, for instance, assorted urban legends about Gordon Murray’s decision to burn all the puppets in his back garden after completing filming (although he may have kept one or two). It’s the sort of vibe that Radiohead presumably tapped into when they commissioned their video for ‘Burn the Witch’, a stop-motion affair that mashes up Camberwick Green with The Wicker Man – a film whose director, by curious coincidence, also died this week. It’s the sort of thing that really shouldn’t work, but it does.

You can’t call the deaths of Robin Hardy or Gordon Murray in any way tragic, given that Hardy batted for 86 and Murray was just five shy of a century. But it’s difficult not to feel a sense of nostalgia at the passing of Murray (we’ll deal with The Wicker Man another time, but suffice to say that nostalgia wasn’t exactly on the radar yesterday). The success of Trumptonshire owes much to Cant – and also to scriptwriter Alison Prince, whose narratives were always engaging without being complicated, and necessarily formulaic without being repetitive – but ultimately it was Murray’s creation, and we thank him for it: this fabulous county of hedgehogs and fishmongers, of biscuits and six o’clock dances, of parks and bandstands, and of nattily dressed doctors travelling round the countryside in vintage cars.

Mopp_Pertwee

Yes. Well.

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