Monthly Archives: August 2012

Never confuse efficiency with a liver complaint

It was raining, so we went to see Mary Poppins. The screening room was comfortably full of children in t-shirts and discarded waterproofs. The adults sat and steamed for a while. Joshua was rooted to the spot for over two hours; rarely have I seen him so engaged.

“She was wonderful, wasn’t she?” I said afterwards. “But did you notice something?”
“What’s that?”
“She turns up from nowhere, wearing a crazy scarf. She can speak dog. And she takes her companions on magical adventures. And then she disappears again, as if by magic.”
“…”
“Penny in the air?”
“Tell me what you mean.”
“She has a bag that’s much bigger on the inside.”
“Oh!”
“And the penny drops.”
“She’s a Time Lord?”
“Exactly.”

Those of you who have been following for a while will be aware that this is not the first time I mentioned the connection between Doctor Who and Mary Poppins. And, additionally, that I had the idea years before it became popular. Even despite the trappings and props, it’s the whole character: her English eccentricity, her aloofness, her sense of confident, assumed superiority…I have always been of the conviction that a female Doctor is not only unnecessary but would kill the show, but if we had to have one, I mean had to, I’d want it to be Julie Andrews.

“She’s clearly a Time Lord,” said Gareth when I mentioned it. “Her bag is obviously dimensionally transcendental. But since she’s clearly conducting subtle mental experiments on small children, I suspect that she’s an earlier (and slightly less evil) incarnation of the Rani. (I tried making a suitable anagram of MARY POPPINS, but only came up with MOPSY PP RANI, which is presumably how this gentler Rani signs her letters.”

“Maybe she’s like the Valeyard equivalent of the Rani,” I replied, “existing between her twelfth and thirteenth. But because the Rani is fairly sinister (as opposed to outright evil), the Valeyard Rani is fairly nice. This presumably means that somewhere out there is a Valeyard Master, rescuing injured puppies and giving children ice cream.”

Then Gareth found this.

I am frightened.

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Why the Weeping Angels are rubbish

Let’s get this out of the way. ‘Blink’ is my favourite episode of New Who. Moffat achieves more in the forty-odd minutes of that than he’s achieved in two bloated, choppy series as head writer. There have been some wonderful Eleventh Doctor moments, and Matt Smith has been terrific, but – as we feared – the quality of Moffat’s writing has suffered. The time was that everything he did was wondrous. These days, for every ‘Eleventh Hour’ there’s a ‘Beast Below’, and for every ‘Girl in the Fireplace’ there’s a ‘Wedding of River Song’. It’s unclear whether this has happened because Moffat simply no longer has the time to tighten and refine his scripts as before. That would be a normal explanation. What’s more likely, however, is that the habits and conceits that were effective over single episodes simply do not translate well to the season-length arcs for which he is now responsible.

Like Davies before him, Moffat has his recurring themes. The use of technology for emotional impact (across video screens, telephones or voice communicators) is one. The ontological paradox is another. ‘Blink’ was full of them, but a common trend these days is to stretch them over the course of a series or even beyond. (Series five eventually revealed that the cracks were caused by an exploding TARDIS, but even at the end of ‘The Big Bang’ we still had no idea about what ‘Silence will fall’ meant; there are days even now when I’m not entirely sure.)

At this point, you’re either nodding your head in recognition because you agree with me, or (more likely) shaking it in dissent wondering “Where the hell is he coming from, saying our beloved Weeping Angels are rubbish? I’d rather have them than a Dalek any day”. And in a way, you’d be right. Because in ‘Blink’, the Angels are terrific. They’re simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, relatively original and (in that first appearance) utterly terrifying. ‘Blink’ is the cheap episode and it shows, but credit where credit’s due: Moffat takes a shoestring budget and, much like the original production teams in Classic Who, uses his imagination to work wonders.

But less is more. And the truth of it is the Angels should have been a one-time appearance, like the Minotaur in ‘The God Complex’, the scarecrows in ‘The Family of Blood’ and the Absorbaloff in ‘Love and Monsters’ (albeit for quite different reasons). They’re unique to the story in that they’re exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to find in an old gothic mansion (all right, a big house) and that makes them all the more effective. If we’d left them there, never to be seen again, I’d have been happy. But Moffat has his favourites, and the Angels have now become the kid in class who’s popular with the sports teacher and is picked to captain all the teams, even those for sports he doesn’t play. And the more you analyse and explore them, the more the inconsistencies and problems come to light. Let me explain.

Blink

What’s The Time, Mr Bad Wolf?

Let’s begin with the central premise. In ‘Blink’, the Doctor describes the Angels as being quantum locked. In other words, they can only move if you’re not looking at them.

I’m not a physicist. I’m an English graduate. And, like me, the Doctor was renowned for being a rubbish student, so perhaps he’s simply out of his depth here. But my very limited understanding on quantum theory suggests that the word ‘observe’ does not mean ‘look’. Wikipedia defines it as “a measurable operator, or gauge, where the property of the system state can be determined by some sequence of physical operations. For example, these operations might involve submitting the system to various electromagnetic fields and eventually reading a value off some gauge”.

In other words, you don’t have to actually be looking at the Angel to freeze it. Touching it is enough. So a blind person in the presence of an Angel can ‘observe’ the Angel by touching it. And once observed, its presence is noted. You’re still aware of it even when you’re not looking at it. (Moffat would solve this problem with the Silence, who are also a bit silly.) Or presumably you could just train a video camera on the Angel or set up a thermal imaging unit or carry something to measure radiation, and you’d be observing the damn thing, and it would be stopped in its tracks forever. I know that not everyone owns portable Geiger counters, but you’d think River Song’s crew would have thought of packing them when they set off for the Byzantine.

Let’s assume – for the sake of the argument – that the ‘quantum locked’ thing is simply inaccurate and that what Moffat really means is “you just have to be looking at it”. I could just about buy this as a theory, except for one crucial element: if, as the Doctor says, the Angels have to be observed by living things in order to freeze into rock, does this mean sentient living things, or will anything with a pulse do? For example:

EXT. MEADOW. DAY

A beautiful sunlit meadow; two Angels are spreading out a picnic blanket. They do not look at each other.

FIRST ANGEL
There’s sand all over this rug. Did you remember to wash it after we went to Swanage?

SECOND ANGEL
I thought you’d done it.

FIRST ANGEL
You wash, I do the ironing, remember? Pass me the wet wipes, I need to give it a scrub. Oh, bugger.

SECOND ANGEL
What?

FIRST ANGEL
Ladybird.

SECOND ANGEL
Where?

FIRST ANGEL
That leaf. Just there. No, COME AROUND ME, DON’T LOOK OVER MY SHOULDER.

SECOND ANGEL
I don’t think it’s seen us yet.

FIRST ANGEL
Of course it hasn’t seen us, you twit. Would we be having this conversation if it had?

SECOND ANGEL
It still has its back to us. Hold on, it’s flying away.

FIRST ANGEL
I told you we should have gone to that abandoned shopping centre. That thing’s airtight.

SECOND ANGEL
We’d still have to watch out for spiders. And you remember the time we found that bee’s nest. We were there for over a month.

There is a sound of buzzing.

FIRST ANGEL
Speaking of winged insects –

A wasp flies past, freezing both Angels into rock. It passes and they unfreeze.

FIRST ANGEL
Well, let’s hope that’s the last we see –

It flies back the other way, lingers round the picnic basket for a second, then vanishes.

SECOND ANGEL
I bloody hate summer.

octavian-angel

The only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely

“Look, Steven. I know you want to bring back the Angels, and we don’t have a problem with that, except for one thing.”
“What’s the matter, Piers?”
“They’re not particularly evil, are they?”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, they’re scary. I mean, truly scary. The way they jump out of the dark is great. But – well, they don’t really do much, do they? They sort of zap you into the past and live off your energy. Which by the way makes no sense, but let’s not go there just now.”
“Zapping you into the past is pretty evil, you know. Think about it. You have to start over from scratch. You won’t have any friends. The money you’re carrying is going to be worthless. Your family will never see you again. Plus it gave me a chance to write those heart-rending ontological scenes. Don’t you remember I-have-until-the-rain-stops?”
“Yes, I still cry at that. But it’s a one-story gimmick. Can’t you do something else?”
“I could have them try and nick the TARDIS again.”
“Been there, done that. Besides, that scene was silly. Why the hell did they think shaking it was going to open the doors? It’s not a toy fire engine.”
“I wasn’t really thinking straight; I just thought it looked cool.”
“Anyway, Steven. If we’re going to invest in a two-parter can’t you have them be a little bit more vicious?”
“Hmm. I could have them snap your neck when they get close enough.”
“…”
“Too much?”
“No, it’s good, let’s run with it.”
“Do you think we should worry about the continuity?”
“Oh, why start now?”

The main thing, of course, is that people who get zapped into the past always seem to end up in nice places where they manage to survive and thrive – compare this with (for example) Henry from The Time Traveler’s Wife, who always seems to end up naked and cold in the middle of locked museums, back alleys, or shooting ranges. Closer to home, poor Jamie McCrimmon has his memory wiped by the Time Lords in the closing chapters of ‘The War Games’, and is unceremoniously dumped in the middle of a highland battlefield with an angry redcoat swiftly bearing down on him. But in ‘Blink’, the characters all find themselves happy and contented and fulfilled, which leads me to question whether the Angels are really as nasty as they seem. You could almost picture two Angels taking high tea (with their backs to each other), perhaps in Wester Drumlins in its finer days, chatting:

“Now, Algernon, where are this week’s drop-off points?”
“Let me see. Royal Leamington Spa, 1937. The shores of Antigua. Oh, and Disneyland.”
“Splendiferous. You know, it really is a thankless task being an energy-sucking parasite, isn’t it? We spend all our time ensuring our victims are relocated to comfortable places, and we don’t get the tiniest bit of gratitude.”
“Way of the world, my dear. Anyway, I’m off to bed. See you in twenty-five years?”
“No, you won’t.”

carpark-tardis-angels

Against all odds, the Angels have the phone box

“That’s why they cover their eyes. They’re not weeping. They can’t risk looking at each other. Their greatest asset is their greatest curse. They can never be seen. The loneliest creatures in the universe.”

Fine. It was enough to defeat them at the end of ‘Blink’. But seriously, how did they get anything done? Picture, for example, two Angels playing tennis. Go on. Picture it. Now add an umpire. It’d be the slowest game in history. Even Stephen Hawking could have beaten them. How did the Angels manage to carry the TARDIS out of the police station garage without looking at each other? How would two Angels move a sofa? How does Angel chess work? Can Angels talk on Skype? How do they travel? I’m guessing they don’t drive, or if they do they don’t use car pools, because whoever’s in the back seat would freeze the driver into rock, which would result in chaos on the roads. I should imagine they’re okay at punting, but for the most part they presumably walk, largely at night, favouring wide open spaces where they can stroll along side by side.

“If they have quite narrow tunnel-ish vision,” says Gareth, “with not much peripheral vision, then they could walk in side-by-side chain, each going forwards until one of the ones behind sees them, then freezing until the others catch up. Or they could go forward in small groups, circling around, with each taking turns to be the one at the back who can actually move – a bit like cyclists taking it in turns to be the one at the front of the pack.”

And you thought the Silence Olympics was silly. The Doctor posits that the Angels have survived as long as the universe has by evolving “the perfect defence mechanism”. I’d suggest that they’ve survived this long because even a family meal takes over a century.

Doctor-Who-Time-of-Angels-Next-Time-17

“That which holds the image of an angel becomes itself an angel”

Oh, don’t get me started on this. I don’t deny it was a good scene. It’s creepy and effective – MY GOD, THEY’RE COMING OUT OF THE TV! – until you actually think about it. That would mean, for example, that you could never draw them, because the result would be death. It would be like drawing Mohammed. Time Lord academy art classes would result in carnage. On the other hand, it does explain how they procreate; they just set up a video camera and then leave it running while another Angel walks into shot. It’s certainly more clinical than Gareth’s proposed method, which involved both Angels wearing blindfolds, “with maybe a kinky Angel taking its blindfold off every now and then to taunt its partner”. This, presumably, is the ultimate BDSM, and the Weeping Angels’ favourite book is Fifty Shades of Grey Stone.

The point behind all of this is that the Angels in ‘Blink’ are built on a very shaky house of cards. And the moment you start to put turrets on top, which is what ‘Flesh and Stone’ tried to do, you get cards all over the place. For example, the ending of ‘Flesh and Stone’ – in which a blind Amy is told to advance through a horde of Angels who don’t know she’s blind – doesn’t work because the Angels figure out halfway through the walk that she can’t see them. But they don’t freeze voluntarily, keeping as still as they can like in a particularly nasty game of musical statues; they freeze because someone’s looking at them and they can’t unfreeze until that person is looking away. Concordantly, if Amy was blind they would never have been frozen in the first place, and she wouldn’t have been able to even start the walk. That’s unless, of course, the other-Doctor was there, wandering around before not quite coming into shot, but it’s a stretch (and likely the sort of thing that only gets inserted after the fact, when the fans start complaining).

You see what I mean, anyway. The whole mythology as it was built across the series five episodes made no real sense and just diluted the Angels to the point where they almost became parodies of themselves – a legacy that’s set to continue at Christmas in a series mini-finale that will ensure, as we have been assured by the chief writer, that “not everyone gets out alive”. And if I am weeping, it’s because I can’t bear to look, but for quite different reasons to those of the lonely assassins. The bottom line is that the Angels were one-story villains, and that’s how they should have stayed: frozen, locked in time, staring at each other, never to move again. Giving them voices was just about excusable, giving them a backstory was tenuous, and giving them visible movement was a disaster. And before we can say “Dancing Graham Norton” –

Sometimes you just need to know when to stop.

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Protected: Nottingham Forest of the Dead

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Pyramids of Sodor

—-

Thomas the Tank Engine, or Thomas and Friends as we must now call it, is banned in my house. I should clarify: it is banned in its current form, which is a horrible, sticky mess. If I was going to be puritanical about this I could say that the rot started to set in after the departure of Ringo Starr at the end of the second series, although I profess to a certain admiration for the vocal talents of Michael Angelis. Besides, saying that you only like the first two series simply makes you sound like one of those people who think that Pink Floyd were never as good after Syd Barrett was given his cards. It isn’t wrong, but we just don’t do it.

In truth the first four or five series are quite good. It’s only in the sixth series, which hosts the introduction of a whole new set of characters (a trend that would continue for some years to come, to the extent that on the rare occasions I watch it nowadays I have NO IDEA AT ALL WHO ANY OF THESE ENGINES ARE), that things start to unravel. By the time of the eighth series, which features some drastic character deconstruction for Edward (the equivalent of what they did to Kryten in Red Dwarf VII), I’d stopped watching. Then they made the mouths move. Then they switched to full CGI and ditched the models. Then – oh, horror of horrors – they brought in different voice actors. These days it is an abomination, a holy nightmare, and the apple has fallen very far from the tree, then rolled across the road and down the same embankment that Gordon encountered at the end of ‘Off The Rails’.

But here’s the funny thing – and here’s where I’m going to borrow shamelessly from an old diary entry I wrote years ago – even in those earlier series, it’s abundantly obvious that Sodor’s railway service is appalling. It’s unreliable and full of whiny self-important engines with tremendous egos. They’re constantly breaking down and having accidents. There were always problems with the railway, and the odd accident, but unless I’m remembering it wrong I’m sure that in the original books the line ran fairly smoothly, largely because of Sir Topham Hatt’s authoritarian stance. “Engines on my railway,” he sternly explained to James, Gordon and Henry (who were on strike), “do as they are told”. This was broadcast on ITV in the days when the spirit of the miner’s unions was slowly being crushed, and even though Awdry had written it forty years previously, the Thatcherite overtones – and, indeed, the Conservative nature of the programme in general – were pretty transparent. There’s a reason that only one of the engines is painted red.

These days, however, there’s less industrial action and more calamity on the line. Part of this, I’m sure, is finance-related. The development of new technology, coupled with a budget that gradually crept up as revenue crept in, means that the technical team can do shedloads (engine shedloads?) of new stunts that they didn’t dare attempt in the earlier series. In 1984 the best you’d get was Gordon lifting very slightly off the rails and into an inch-deep pool of water that was supposed to be a ditch. These days you get engines that go flying off cliffs and into pools of lava (all right, coloured treacle), followed by trucks that explode. They have rock falls and grounded helicopters and goodness knows what else.

Consider this:

Harvey to the Rescue
Some trucks drag Percy down a hill and cause a derailment at Bulgy’s Bridge which blocks the road.

No Sleep for Cranky
Cranky the crane gets so annoyed with Bill & Ben’s constant chatter that he accidentally knocks over a shed, blocking the line.

A Bad Day for Harold the Helicopter
Harold has a chance to prove himself when a broken signal means Percy cannot get through with the mail, and whilst the workmen hastily try to repair it, the mail bags are loaded into Harold’s harness. He is feeling so clever that he decides to take them all at once, but the weight is far too much for him to handle. The mailbags get stuck in a tree and Harold finds himself diving nose-first into a haystack.

The Fogman
A landslide crushes the foghorn, so there is no way to warn the engines of the fallen rocks hidden in the fog. Thomas unfortunately hits the rocks and soon Cyril the fogman arrives to help warn engines he has been derailed.

Jack Jumps In
Jack the front loader ignores the warnings of the other quarry engines, and as a result, he tips over on the road and slides down the hill on his side in a pile of sand.

The World’s Strongest Engine
Diesel pulls so hard on a truck that the coupling breaks, sending him through a pair of buffers and landing on a barge.

Gordon Takes a Tumble
An impatient Gordon is pulling trucks when he is accidentally diverted onto an old branch line the next morning, and lands himself in trouble when the rails can’t take his weight.

Percy’s Chocolate Crunch
Percy is pushed under a coal chute (right as the operator starts pouring the coal), and gusts of wind from Harold the Helicopter’s rotor sends piles of ashes flying…right onto Percy! To help cope with the frustration, Percy takes some sugar vans that must be delivered to the Mr. Jolly’s chocolate factory. He approaches the factory on the sloped tracks that go up to the loading and delivery dock, which are coated with oil from a leaky truck. Percy applies his brakes, but the oil makes him skid past the dock and right into the factory wall. There are a series of gloops and splats from the heart of the factory, and Percy pops out the other end, covered in chocolate.

This is from one season, and these are only the accidents: we’ve also got trucks who cause bedlam, lost and broken whistles, damaged buffers and engines who’d rather sightsee, race buses or search for treasure than deliver the mail (or their passengers). The overall impression you get is one of total chaos, with a dictatorial (if occasionally kind-hearted) bureaucrat who is only just managing to hold the network together. Accidents are never investigated; instead random blame is allocated to whoever is by default the naughtiest engine, leaving hurt passengers and damaged goods and no satisfied customers. The parallels with Railtrack are obvious.

Here’s another thing: said crashes / derailments / industrial action are never the fault of the drivers. You can sort of understand the drivers wanting to jump clear when a train is about to crash – it’s the sensible thing to do. But having a sentient engine doesn’t mean that drivers are without blame. We saw the consequences of going off without your driver in ‘Thomas Comes To Breakfast’ (which I found in a charity shop a few years back, and which Josh, in his Thomas-loving days, greatly enjoyed). I’m therefore at a loss as to why, on all the other occasions when engines shunt trucks violently, the drivers are blameless. If I crashed my car, I couldn’t exactly stand there looking at the mangled wreckage by the crushed lamp post and say “Poppy / Suzie / Bertha, you have caused CONFUSION and DELAY!”. They’d think I was mad. On the other hand, if one of the Sodor trains runs on time it’s always the engine that’s praised and never the driver, so it’s swings and roundabouts. The drivers tend to just sit in the cab, unnoticed and unloved – a forgotten statistic, like Corey Feldman.

“You make a very valid point about the railway,” said my brother when I quizzed him about it, “because they have more problems than most lines. If you were stood on the platform at Reading station at 7.30 in the morning and some fat guy came over and said the train was delayed because it have some grief with some troublesome trucks a bit further up the line, quite frankly you wouldn’t buy it. There would be uproar. However, if the line ran smoothly and the engines weren’t self-important, there wouldn’t be much story. If Gordon took the express on time every week I probably wouldn’t bother watching.”

Ah yes, that Fat Controller. He – as you will have guessed by now, even if you haven’t actually watched the video – is the subject of today’s little foray into the world of Thomas. It occurred to me a while back that an authoritarian knight of the realm with a variety of facial expressions and whose mouth didn’t move was a perfect candidate for some sort of re-dubbing. I wracked my brains for weeks before I came up with two candidates on the same day: the other video will follow in a couple of months when I get round to doing it. In the meantime, the ‘abase yourself, insect’ attitude of Sutekh (one of my favourite Who villains) was ideal. You do have to be a bit careful with Sutekh, because he’s already been used for comic relief in this absurd making-of video on the ‘Pyramids of Mars’ DVD, but there was plenty of dialogue from the story I could rip, and all manner of appropriate Thomas clips with which to match it. I had a blast making this: it took a single evening, including all the cleanup and sound effects, and I’m really quite pleased with the end result. And Joshua (who has seen ‘Pyramids of Mars’ quite recently) enjoyed it – and I was really making it for him. At least that’s what I tell myself in the mirror every morning.

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The Faces of Evil

There’s an article in today’s Guardian (or is it ‘on today’s Guardian’? Or ‘on the Guardian website today’? I never know any more) which has made me cringe.

Look. I know these things are subjective. I know that if you asked ten different people to name their favourite villains you’d get ten different answers depending on whether they were my son’s age (Weeping Angels), or my age (1980s Cybermen) or my father’s age (anything with Hartnell, whom he maintains was the best Doctor, even after almost fifty years). And at least there are a couple of nods to Classic Who, althoughI am baffled (if nonetheless thrilled) by the inclusion of the Zygons, who (despite resembling enormous penises) are a firm favourite in our house, but who only appeared in one serial (and their share of audio dramas and novels, which the Guardian usually chooses to ignore). All the same, the whole article smacks of a homework piece that was scribbled down over breakfast on the Monday it’s due in. You can practically see the milk stains.

Let’s start here.

The Master
“First played by Roger Delgado, he debuted in a 1971 episode called Terror of the Autons. Since then, he’s been played by six different actors, his initial suave demeanour eventually collapsing into theatrical insanity when John Simm (pictured here) took on the role between 2007 and 2010.”

The Master appeared in at least twenty of the Classic Who serials in some form or other – about eight as Delgado and eleven or twelve (depending on how you count) as Ainley. And what do you use for a picture? Bloody John Simm in that bloody tracksuit. (And if we’re nitpicking, ‘Terror of the Autons’ is a serial, not an episode.)

The Silence
“Steven Moffat’s most recent addition to Who mythology (thought by some to be too scary for children) are terrifying not only to look at, but psychologically too. With their ability to erase themselves from the memory of anyone who’s seen them, they have been able to control humans from the shadows. The show’s creators have had fun with this idea. For instance: was the thin, faceless form of the Silence inspired by Edvard Munch’s The Scream – or was he, subconsciously, inspired by them? A brilliant, frightening creation… Wait, was I saying something?”

Oh, please. Spare me. The Grauniad’s relentless fawning to the Silence – who were, as I’ve said before, hyped to death – is one of the reasons I find them so tedious. They were derivative (from Moffat’s own work, no less, and self-borrowing in Who is usually pretty dull) and simply not particularly evil. You might as well embed ‘BBC press release’ as a watermark.

The Beast
“Russell T Davies’s tenure as show-runner didn’t exactly blow minds in terms of new villains – the farting farce of the Slitheen, anyone? But 2006 two-parter The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit (written by Matt Jones) changed all that with the introduction of the Beast, an imprisoned demon that claimed to be the basis of the devil as he appeared across all religions. It was a bold idea, and one that dragged the show to much darker places, challenging not only the Doctor’s own faith in logic and reason, but the profound mystery of religious origins in general.”

Which would suggest, perhaps, that you haven’t seen ‘Pyramids of Mars’. Or ‘The Daemons’.

Elsewhere (and again see the comments section) – the Daleks and Davros as separate entries? The Time Lords and the Master? Seriously. Must try harder. See me after physics. (Hmm, physics. Physics. Physics…I hope you’re getting all this down.)

Perhaps lists like this – due to the aforementioned subjectivity – are fundamentally pointless, simply because they’re the opinions of one person (or perhaps a straw poll taken on a Friday afternoon in between games of Angry Birds), rather than a newspaper. And a newspaper’s supposed to give facts or informed opinion from its commentators – but this is just a laundry list, and a rather poor one at that. I know the hype machine needs to keep grinding on with less than a fortnight to go until ‘Asylum of the Daleks’, but perhaps a better use of the Grauniad’s time would be a list of ‘monsters we’d like to see in Doctor Who’. It would at least be fun.

And in which case, you could probably do a lot worse than this…

Enjoy your Sunday.

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“If you’re going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”

Gareth sent me this last night. Aside from my wife and children, I think it may be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

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Don’t panic

In conversation with Gareth about the origins of humanity, which is the sort of thing we talk about. (Our email topics, as I daresay I’ve mentioned, tend to shift by degrees of association. This morning it was:

     The Dark Knight Rises
>> Justice League film by 2015
>> flying cars by 2015 (courtesy of Back to the Future)
>> development of teleport technology as a possible alternative
>> Barclay’s conviction that there were “things” living in the transporter stream in The Next Generation
>> Philip K Dick story about primitive humans living in a ‘tunnel’ between two teleport stations
>> ontological paradoxes about future society being responsible for the development of humanity
>> aliens being responsible for the development of humanity

Cf. Battlestar Galactica, Planet of the Apes…oh, I could go on. And, of course, Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which (in Gareth’s words) “Ford and Arthur arrive on the Golgafrincham ‘B’ Ark, and they crash land on preshistoric Earth.  Arthur tries to educate the primitive creatures there (e.g., playing Scrabble, leading to try to guess the Ultimate Question by drawing tiles, only to get “WHAT DO YOU GET IF YOU MULTIPLY SIX BY NINE”).  Ford suggests that the human race ends up being descended from the Golgafrinchams rather than the intended people”.

“I wonder,” I said. “If ‘Doctor Who?’ is the ultimate (and therefore the first) question, and ’42’ is the answer, how can we make that work?

“Maybe the question got obscured,” replied Gareth. “And it began ‘What’s a really bad episode of’.”

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Mo Farah running away from things

There are loads of these on the Tumblr page, but for obvious reasons this one goes on here.

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Holiday meme

Sometimes, on a beach, you just run out of stuff to do.

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