Monthly Archives: April 2013

Is this thing on?

Here we go.

I got the idea for this during a conversation with Gareth. We were talking, I think, about the prospect of two Doctors appearing together in the Anniversary Special in November. I cannot believe how many people are still convinced that the Tenth Doctor will actually have to be the Metacrisis Doctor in order for this episode to work. There is nothing in the script – nothing – that says two Doctors can’t cross timelines and meet up once in a while. But two’s never enough for us lot, is it? Why not three? Why not four? Five?

Actually, if we’re talking Doctor numbers, why not Four, Five, Six, Seven and Eight, all of whom are still available? Well, most of them are too old. Sorry, I know that people are upset at their lack of involvement in the BBC special, but I genuinely don’t believe that any of this is posturing on Moffat’s part. Just think about it for a second. Can you really see Tom Baker popping on that wig and scarf and climbing into the TARDIS again at his time of life? I mean honestly? The apparent ageing of the Fifth Doctor was just about forgivable given the explanation provided in ‘Time Crash’. McCoy’s still pretty sprightly (he’d have to be, to drive a chariot pulled by rabbits) and Colin Baker lost about two stone in the jungle, but squeezing them back into those costumes – even if you’re going down the “Ooh, temporal anomaly” route to explain the wrinkles – is beyond the skill of the BBC wardrobe department. I’m not being mean, here, honestly. But when they digitally de-aged Jeff Daniels for Tron: Legacy it just looked creepy. Let Four through Eight handle the Big Finish stuff instead, of which I am assured there is plenty. They can all still do it (the Sixth Doctor, in particular, is a revelation, and not of the Dalek kind) and – let’s be honest – after the mess that was last Saturday’s episode I can’t help thinking that they should stay away from Moffat’s vanity project purely on the grounds of artistic integrity.

That leaves us with Eccleston.

I’ve talked about my conspiracy theories surrounding this quite recently, so we won’t dwell on it now. In any event it occurred to me that if we’re going to have Eccleston show up again in New Who it’s going to be through surviving footage. I’m sure the BBC have something fleeting and anti-climatic planned, so I have beaten them to it and pasted Eccleston in myself. His low episode count meant there wasn’t a lot of appropriate screen material, and I figured the best way to make it work was have three different Doctors in three different locations, all chatting on Skype. And so for the Ninth, his episode-closing confrontation with the Daleks (ooh, I’m getting goosebumps again) was an obvious starting point. Obvious too was the Tenth Doctor’s lengthy to-camera monologue in ‘Blink’, containing as it does all manner of asides and quizzical looks, and no extra-diegetic sound. For the Eleventh, it gets harder – but I remembered thinking last autumn that ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ was top-heavy with people staring at screens for no really good reason, and as it turned out there was quite a bit of usable footage.

I put this together over two evenings. The biggest problem is the inconsistency in sound textures, jumping from the grainy whirr of videotape to synthesised choral chants to Murray Gold’s lush orchestration for parts of ‘Dinosaurs’, but not having access to the original masters that was something I simply couldn’t help. Some of the dialogue I wanted to use was clearly delivered to other parties on screen – for example, when the Ninth Doctor says “I’m coming to get you” we can see the Daleks in the background watching him, and while I could have just used the audio it felt a bit like cheating, so I kept such occurrences to a minimum. Editing, too, took some time, in order to pace things appropriately and make sure it stayed in flow – even now there are ways I’m sure I could improve it to the extent that I’m quite hesitant about watching the thing again. But as a concept I think it works (just) and hangs together (also just). And it was fun finding the common threads and having Ten and Eleven engage in sufficient tomfoolery to wind up the ever-serious Nine, who becomes increasingly annoyed (and my goodness, didn’t Eccleston spend an awful lot of that scene just STARING?).

Gareth has suggested another version with McCoy bellowing “UNLIMITED RICE PUDDING”, and at some point I will go back to ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ and then make that. And throw in a bit of Troughton for good measure. In the meantime, this may be the closest we get to having Eccleston back in Who, at least until he caves in and signs up for Big Finish. Which, of course, would be Fantastic.

Note: the first version of this article, published 29 April 2013, stated that McCoy bellowed “INFINITE RICE PUDDING”, when the actual quote was “UNLIMITED RICE PUDDING!”. This has now been changed.

Categories: Crossovers, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Review: ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’

Things we learned about Doctor Who this week:

1. The TARDIS is about the most indestructible ship in the universe. It’s survived volcanic lava, corrosive acid and the Doctor can fix holes caused by Titanic-shaped spacecraft in three minutes flat. But apparently you can’t fly the thing (or at least Clara can’t) without turning off the shield oscillators, and if you then take a couple of knocks the old police box will basically self-destruct. Nine hundred years of time travel, and the Doctor still hasn’t sorted this out. Presumably it’s just one of those things he hasn’t round to doing yet. You know, like when you forget to pay your gas bill.


2.  You remember that first question? The one hidden in plain sight, the one that must never be answered? The one that’s going to cause the cataclysm to end all cataclysms if its solution is discovered? Well, the answer is written in a book. In the TARDIS library. And not hidden away in an obscure volume at the back of storage, or in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of The Leopard”. It’s an enormous tome called History of the Time War on a reading stand in the middle of the room. Of course, the answer is probably only written once, “tucked away in the corner”, but the book happened to flop open at more or less that page in the same way that my unmarried friend’s mail order catalogues have a tendency to flop open at the lingerie pages. Either this is a tremendous double bluff and the information given there is false, or the Doctor’s real name is in fact the worst-kept secret since the existence of Torchwood.

3.  Speaking of libraries, the Doctor is a fan of Harry Potter. He has corked glass encyclopaedias that speak. I’m guessing he pinched them from Hogwarts, decanted the bottles and refilled them with stuff about his home world.


4. The Doctor is thick. Having been dragged into a gigantic spacecraft by three dodgy-looking geezers running an illegal salvaging scam, he then takes them on board the TARDIS to find Clara by lying through his teeth, promising them a salvage to end all salvages before admitting he didn’t mean it,  and seems genuinely surprised when, rather than cooperating without question, they start nicking stuff. Of course, they’re not all bad. In the spirit of diversity we will recognise that we may classify them accordingly as the Unethical One, the Big, Thick One Who Follows Orders and the Sensitive One. It’s also worth noticing that the Sensitive One has an affinity with the sentient machinery of the TARDIS, being an android himself, unambiguously and with no sign of any ludicrous plot twist that would threaten to undermine this sense of connection.


(And I don’t care how much of this was about him dragging them into things so he could figure out why the one who was apparently an android still needed equipment. It was a stupid command decision.)

5. When you have a few minutes to fill, it’s always a good idea to have people running around the same bit of corridor repeatedly. It’s a good nod to the original series, in which the same bit of corridor shot from another angle was supposed to be a different bit of corridor in another part of the complex. In this episode, it’s the same corridor, because the characters are lost. It worked in ‘The Doctor’s Wife’. Hey, it worked in Matrix Revolutions. Oh, and show us a scene we already saw earlier in the episode, and then have the Doctor say “We’re witnessing the past”. You know, just in case we missed it.

Lots of this, there was.

Lots of this, there was.


6. Clara genuinely doesn’t know anything of her other encounters with the Doctor. He’s only just figured this out, which is bizarre as most of us had cottoned on by the end of ‘The Bells of Saint John’. Oh, and if you have both characters in a crisis point, the best thing to do is take a metaphorical leap of faith into the unknown.


Which is fine, and not at all what Doctor Who did very recently.


7. A note about pleasing all the people all the time: if you’re panicking that all this TARDIS intricacy (which personally doesn’t bother me at all) is too much Rewriting The Show, the best way to satisfy the fanboys is to drop in a bit of radio noise from Classic Who. Susan Foreman’s ‘An Unearthly Child’ explanation should do nicely. That’ll give the conspiracy theorists more ways to connect Clara with the Doctor’s granddaughter. Better drop in a bit of Pertwee as well, though, just to throw them off the scent. Oh, and have a nice picture of the Eye of Harmony, to make things consistent.


8. Apparently, Clara is “feisty”. And even the Doctor now thinks so.


9. Two of the three Eastenders rejects have been complicit in what is possibly the lamest practical joke in history, in that they pretended their third brother was an android simply to pass the time. This consisted of giving him optical implants and a vocoder. This is almost as ridiculous as the episode of Red Dwarf in which a temporal pocket of false reality causes the crew to believe that Lister is an android, for all of five minutes. And this one didn’t even have an interlaced log cabin built from chocolate fingers.

Log-Cabin TARDIS_07

(Note: at some point or other, Moffat must have got wind of this and demanded a rewrite. The ‘joke’ is now justified by sibling rivalry. But sorry. Too little too late.)

10. Finally: if you’re stuck for a monster, a Silent Hill knock-off will do nicely.


There is nothing I could commit to paper that could justify this irredeemable, inexcusable mess for what was once a great show – but if nothing else, the episode does one thing right. The Doctor manages to rewrite history with a metaphorical Big Friendly Button which turns out to be, in fact, an actual Big Friendly Button. It’s your standard reset button approach taken to literal extremes, with the sort of ontological paradox that Moffat loves and that he probably suggested to Stephen Thompson when he got stuck for an ending. But it was Emily who pointed out that this would be a handy gadget to have lying around the home. “Because,” she said, “I’d be able to rewrite time so that I’d never have to watch the bloody thing in the first place”.


To be honest, I can’t argue.

Categories: New Who, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scooby Who?

One of our favourite topics of conversation over dinner is “Doctor Who meets…”. Such discussions are typically instigated by Joshua, who will say something along the lines of “What would happen if the Doctor met Postman Pat / the Ninja Turtles / Bob the Builder?”. And that launches a sea of ideas about the Doctor finding out the Ninja Turtles really are aliens (which would annoy the fans no end) or being attacked by a possessed Spud. It’s derivative, but it stops them from fighting over who gets the ketchup first.

Gareth has his own theories about Pat. “Postman Pat is clearly a disguise of the Master’s,” he once told me. “It’s rather blatant if you think about it. His TARDIS blends in well as the van.” I did consider that the only Doctor who was going to be able to integrate himself within the rural community that is Greendale was going to be the Ninth, which was difficult because he’d apparently only travelled with Rose – and that in turn led to our having a discussion about Christopher Eccleston’s hair.

The most popular crossover, however, is the Whoniverse as inhabited by the members of Mystery Inc. Because Scooby Doo, as we’ll discover, is very similar to Doctor Who. It has a gang of adventurers travelling around to a series of interesting and varied locations, tampering with local legends and generally making a nuisance of themselves. There’s always a localised threat by a monster who’s not what he appears to be. And there’s always a lot of running. The differences only really become apparent come the final reel, as this Facebook discovery shows.

Scooby Doo v Dr Who

Scooby Doo’s branched out before, of course – as early as 1972 he was rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Three Stooges and Cass Elliot in The New Scooby Doo Movies. By far the best of these were the episodes with Batman and Robin, if only because the straight-laced dialogue echoes the 1960s TV series. (When Robin becomes momentarily spooked by a sequence of ghostly noises, for example, it’s left to the Caped Crusader to point out that they are “Merely sound effects, Robin, recorded on tape by talented professional thespians”. Oscar-winning material this is not.)

The dog and his upright companions have been much lampooned over the years – Buffy the Vampire Slayer is, to all intents and purposes, Scooby Doo in California, and the fact that the gang refer to themselves as “the Scoobies” (which Xander, on one memorable occasion, not-quite rhymes with ‘boobies’). Just after the millennium turned, Jay and Silent Bob got high with them. But if you want a neat little summary of the show, you could do a lot worse than this.

Sadly, the golden age of Scooby Doo is long-gone. Most die-hard fans will tell you they lost their patience at the introduction of Scrappy Doo in 1979, but while it’s easy to hate the stunted canine it’s also easy to forget that the show was suffering in the ratings department when he was brought in. For me, the turning point was The 13 Ghosts, which featured the gang (well, three of them) battling real ghosts – in the same way that they would in 1998’s Zombie Island – which seemed to somehow undermine the whole point of the show. Mind you, the most recent incarnation of the show featured a scene in which Scooby was being chased by Cthulhu. It was at this point that I realised children’s TV had lost some of its innocence.

Less recently than that, but still within the last decade or so, What’s New Scooby Doo? has tried to emulate the formula and style of the original Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, right down to the songs, and with some success. Unfortunately, far too many of these stories suffer from featuring well-intentioned ‘villains’ who only used monstrous disguises to frighten away seedy developers or avoid ecological disasters. Endings are a question of sorting out the misunderstanding rather than jailing the crook, and the “snooping kids” line barely gets a look in. The writers seem to know that it’s past its prime, as epitomised in an episode when Scooby performs a daring leap on a motorcycle over a pit full of hungry great whites, prompting Velma to comment “I never thought Scooby Doo would jump the shark”.

Still. The thought of Fred and the gang in the TARDIS. The possibilities are endless. You could have Shaggy exclaim “Like, how are you doin’ this?”, and the Doctor could reply “It’s bigger on the inside. You know, sort of like your stomach.” Velma could work with Zoe, and they could argue over which of them was better with a computer. And you could have Scooby Doo hide inside a Dalek, trundling around Skaro, bumping into things, exclaiming “REX-RERMIRATE!”.

Until that script is written, of course (and you can’t use any of the above – they’re mine) the general pattern of things seems to address a different question – not so much “What would happen if the Doctor and his companions met the Scooby gang?”, more “What would happen if the Doctor and his companions were the Scooby gang?”. I’ve already weighed in on this debate, some time back.


But you can extend the metaphor further, and it’s possible to replace every character in Mystery Inc. with a Whovian counterpart if you exercise your grey matter a bit. I was ruminating on this one day last week, when out of the blue and with no prompting whatsoever, Gareth sent me something he found on online.


And then this, which is not as good, but will at least satisfy the newbies who have no idea who Leela was.


See? This is what the internet is for. Not those wretched cat videos. Not making stupid comments on Twitter that you only delete after they’ve been picked up by several national newspapers. It’s the joy of sharing something creative and fun. Now if only I can get DC to pick up my option for Scooby Doo Vs. The Punisher.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: ‘Hide’

Hide (3)


It’s the oldest story in the book. Paranormal investigators with unresolved sexual tension camp out in supposedly haunted house to catch a glimpse of fabled ghost. Boyish time-traveller turns up with his bit of skirt and shows complete lack of social awareness. Lots of flickering candles, sudden noises and something lurking in the shadows. Eventually, time traveller discovers ghost isn’t actually a ghost, and the monster isn’t actually malevolent.

Hide (10)

At first I figured this was going to be the low-budget story. The Doctor demonstrated the concept of a pocket universe with two balloons, for heaven’s sake. The ‘opening gag’ consisted of Jenna-Louise Coleman putting her head round the door carrying an umbrella. It’s something they really need to stop doing. Pop culture references seldom work on Doctor Who, and the Ghostbusters shoe-ins have always been utterly lame.

Hide (1)

Yeah, they’re just not going to get the joke.

Not long after this the effects started in force, but even so there was something about this episode that felt very old school. It might have been the minimal cast. It might have been the fact that the bulk of it is set in a Victorian mansion with surrounding woodland that could have come straight out of Hinchcliffe’s gothic era. Or it could have been the obvious Scooby Doo links – a recurring theme that we’ll come back to in a few days. I can only be grateful that the Ponds have gone, because if they hadn’t you can guarantee that there would have been at least one scene where Amy was dragged off by the monster while Rory was busy in the kitchen assembling a giant sandwich.

Hide (11)

Another reason to be grateful for the Ponds’ departure is that one fewer companions gives space to Clara, who seems more and more fun as the question of who she is gradually fades into the background. We are given a quiet reassurance by Emma, the Psychic of the Week, who tells us (and the Doctor) that Clara is “a perfectly ordinary girl – very pretty, very clever, more scared than she lets on”. Elsewhere, the tedious question of why the TARDIS “doesn’t like” Clara is ostensibly answered, after she argues with it.

Hide (12)

Yes, fine, it’s all suitably existential and it builds on the idea of multiple versions of the same character, but they missed a trick by not inviting back Suranne Jones, who – I’ve decided – should become the resident TARDIS hologram. It would have solidified the virtual catfight, a catfight that is eventually resolved when the TARDIS starts playing ball and pops into the pocket universe just in time to rescue the Doctor from the monster-that’s-not-a-monster. Of course, this doesn’t stop him going back later.

(Which, by the way, reminded me of this.)

Ah, the joys of Krull. (Don't see it. It's rubbish.)

Ah, the joys of Krull. (Don’t see it. Seriously don’t. It’s rubbish.)

I’m not an idiot – all this apparent resolution is almost certainly to lull us into a false sense of security, and put a stop to the fanboys’ assertions that Clara’s muttered “I don’t think it likes me!” in ‘The Rings of Akhtanen’ actually means anything at all, when the locked TARDIS door thing is far more likely to have been something that they dropped in just to force her character to improvise (and besides, SHE DIDN’T HAVE A KEY). Still, Coleman is far more fun to watch when she’s allowed to be a companion, rather than an enigma. It’s no bad thing that the bulk of her facial acting seems to be done with her eyes, even if she’s obviously drawn inspiration from Kate Warner.


If you’ve seen season two of 24, you will know that she does this a lot.

There are some lovely touches here and there – if the script is dull, some of Coleman’s one-liners are wonderful (when asked for the opposite of bliss, she immediately responds “Carlisle”); moreover, the scene when the Doctor’s about to leave the TARDIS and warns her not to touch anything – and she responds with a single, slightly incredulous thumbs-up – might be my favourite moment of the new series. I’m over-stating my case here, but it’s nice when Clara can just be Clara, without having to be the centre of the universe, and it’s moments like this that encapsulate that part of their relationship. This particular gag takes place within the framework of a TARDIS-based intermezzo where the Doctor is tracking back and forth through time to test out a theory. There are gratuitous nods to Classic Who (the Doctor laments the loss of his umbrella stand) and New Who (the spacesuit is, I think, the same one he wore in ‘The Waters of Mars’) but some of the cinematography is gorgeous.

Hide (8) 

But the Doctor’s jaunt through history has only the barest connection with the plot (in the sense that he could have just explained it), and it all comes to a head when Clara stops to examine the nature of eternity. It’s not the first time in the new series that he’s had this conversation with a companion – as early as ‘The End of the World’, the Doctor allowed Rose to call her mother across the universe in what seemed to be an interesting proponent of San Dimas time. (When she laments that half the conversation took place five billion years ago and that her mother is now dead, the Doctor snorts “Bundle of laughs, you are”.) Meanwhile, back in the TARDIS, Clara watches the Eleventh Doctor at work.

CLARA:  Have we just watched the entire life cycle of Earth, birth to death?


CLARA: And you’re okay with that?


CLARA: How can you be?

DOCTOR: The TARDIS, she’s time. We – wibbly vortex and so on.

CLARA: That’s not what I mean.

DOCTOR: Okay, some help. Context? Cheat sheet? Something?

CLARA: I mean, one minute you’re in 1974 looking for ghosts, but all you have to do is open your eyes and talk to whoever’s standing there. To you, I haven’t been born yet, and to you I’ve been dead one hundred billion years. Is my body out there somewhere, in the ground?

DOCTOR: Yes, I suppose it is.

CLARA: But here we are, talking. So I am a ghost. To you, I’m a ghost. We’re all ghosts to you. We must be nothing.

DOCTOR: No. No. You’re not that.

CLARA: Then what are we? What can we possibly be?

DOCTOR: You are the only mystery worth solving.

Oh, it was all going so well.

Hide (6)

There’s a lot that ‘Hide’ doesn’t get quite right. The scientific explanation for the Chrononaut’s presence is inadequate, and two days after watching the episode I’m still trying to work out how she managed to write ‘HELP ME’ on the walls of the mansion. Jessica Raine is competent in an episode that requires her to do little other than look emotionally distraught, but Dougray Scott is clearly there just to cash his paycheque. The ending, too, is hopelessly off-base, from the Doctor’s muttered forest-bound monologue on the nature of fear to the sudden reversal in the closing scenes (although the device he rigs up is very Doctorish, and Clara’s gag about how sharks make babies is priceless). Every cliché in the horror book is mined, and Murray Gold’s score is once more intrusive – heavens above, can’t they just turn it down?

Hide (2)

For all that, it was fun. Most of the time. There were moments that scared me, and I haven’t been able to say that about a single Doctor Who story since ‘Blink’ (with the possible exception of ‘The God Complex’, depending on what mood I’m in). But then I read the reviews and the comments beneath, and I wonder if my standards have lapsed. These days, you see, we watch Doctor Who on the fly – I’m no longer playing catch up with the boys, and instead we all sit down together and have family viewing sessions, the way it’s meant to be. And I measure the success of an episode by how much my children enjoy it, and after this one was over I had to sit in a darkened bedroom with Josh so that he’d be able to go to sleep. Whatever the inadequacies of ‘Hide’, it got him back behind the sofa. And behind the sofa is, in an ideal world, the place where any Doctor Who viewer – eight to eighty – truly belongs.

Hide (9)

Categories: New Who, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fish finger interlude

A review of ‘Hide’ will follow when I get round to watching it. In the meantime, here’s something Thomas produced over dinner.


“Look, Daddy!” he exclaimed. “It’s K-9!” And, of course, it was.


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

God is in the detail (vii)

After my rant of yesterday, I think we all need a bit of light relief. But you’ll have to wait a few days for that. First of all, here is the next exciting installment of SEEMINGLY TRIVIAL THINGS THAT WILL TURN OUT TO BE TERRIBLY IMPORTANT. This one, of course, relates to last Saturday’s ‘Cold War’.

First and foremost, have a look at this.


Yes, it’s a depth gauge. OR IS IT?!? You see, after painstaking research I’ve discovered that the acronym METEPC actually stands for ‘Many Electron Theory, Experimental Physics Center’. The Many Electron Theory was put forth by Oktay Sinanoglu in 1961, the year that saw the births of Matthew Waterhouse and Steven Moffat, neither of which can be a coincidence. The letters of Oktay Sinanoglu, in turn, can be rearranged to form ‘Yak’s Loin Nougat’. Hence, the Doctor is going to ride a Yak (called Vivian, and he asks that you respect his lifestyle choices) through the Experimental Physics Center. And then offer nougat in lieu of jelly babies.

(The Experimental Physics Center, by the way, is in Beijing. Have you ever been? It’s lovely.)

Now. Here’s some apparently random blood smearing a photo wallet.


Except it’s not blood at all, it’s the wings of a phoenix. And Phoenix, as everyone in the Whoniverse knows, is a short story in which the Eighth Doctor defeats the concotions of a magical book. Conclusions? Paul McGann is returning. Watch the skies.

Here’s the Eleventh Doctor’s bow tie.


Eleven clearly visible dots. ON EACH SIDE. That means TWO ELEVENTH DOCTORS. Two Doctors, one here and ONE IN A PARALLEL UNIVERSE. Separated by a barrier. Like this.


Or this.


Or this.



Moving on, let’s have a look at David Warner, because that’s always fun.


Notice his Walkman. Specifically notice that it is yellow, but that in this particular shot it looks orange. Now think back to this.

And, courtesy of deviantart, we can break these down like this:


Orange? Scientist? ORANGE? SCIENTIST? This cannot be a coincidence. Be warned, Professor, your cards are marked. YES-WE-KNOW-WHO-YOU-ARE.

(If that’s not proof enough, the ‘Professor’ also sings ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ during the episode – leaving aside the obvious Bad Wolf connotations, consider these lyrics:

” Dark in the city night is a wire
Steam in the subway earth is afire”

A clearer reference to ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ I never saw. Seriously, Moffat and Gatiss couldn’t have made this more obvious if they’d had him grow an eye stalk mid-episode.)

That submarine captain. Notice the insignia on the (stage) right hand side of his jacket.


It’s a bird of some sort, right? WRONG. It’s clearly the beeping line of a heart monitor. And why would there be a heart on the right hand side of his jacket unless it was a BLATANT CLUE that he has two of them??? Search the man. Go on, check his pockets. I’ll bet my unopened Magnus Greel action figure that he’s carrying a fob watch that’s never worked.

Speaking of naval personnel, look at this, from three episodes back.

The Snowmen_0.21.13.21

And now look at this.


Told you it was coming. TOLD YOU.

Categories: God is in the Detail, New Who | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ignorance is bliss (with possible spoilers)

Oh, for heaven’s sake. OK, here’s the Daily Mail headline.


The entire story (which, by the way, features a colossal spoiler in one of its photos regarding the return of a particular character, so be careful) basically details the shoot of the 50th anniversary special, which features David Tennant playing some form or other of the Tenth Doctor. “It’s unclear how bosses will explain the presence of two Doctors on set,” opines the writer, “given they play the same person”.

I submitted a comment – unsurprisingly rejected – which suggested that for someone assigned to write a Doctor Who article, Ms Fitzmaurice was generally ignorant of both the laws of time travel and ‘The Three Doctors’, ‘The Five Doctors’ and ‘The Two Doctors’ (as well as any number of spin-off items). God, even ‘Time Crash’ stood up scientifically (just about), even if it is overrated. The likely alternative (and I pointed this out as well) is that she knows exactly what she’s talking about but has purposely written a dodgy headline precisely to generate comments from self-confessed geeks – such as yours truly – and up the hit count. Neither approach, of course, may be considered responsible journalism.

I’m not the only person to have pointed this out, as the comments show, but the theories are already flying in thick and fast. These remarks appear to revolve principally around Tennant portraying the Human Doctor in the best-left-forgotten ‘Journey’s End’ storyline, and his escape into our universe from the parallel Earth, with Rose in tow. It could be, of course, that this is exactly what Moffat is planning, although I shudder to think what’ll happen if that’s what he does. For one thing it’ll be a bit of a damp squib given that it’s the fiftieth anniversary of the show. For another, I really, really don’t want to see any more of Rose snogging the Doctor. It would mean having to look at Billie Piper’s teeth.

No, seriously, you really didn't see this. Keep scrolling.

No, seriously, you really didn’t see this. Keep scrolling.

Outlandish conspiracy theories are endemic in online discussion, and with good reason: they’re actively encouraged. The problem with Doctor Who these days, you see, is that the fanboy contingent have become the production team. In other words, people who grew up loving the show are now working on it. In principle, I don’t have a problem with this. Tennant was a fan of the show, and he turned out fine, apart from the camera mugging. Douglas Adams had been watching since the first season many years before he took over as script editor. Matthew Waterhouse grew up loving the programme, and he – actually, I’m just going to leave that one dangling…

But here’s the thing. Years ago, they made the now legendary Snakes on a Plane. It was almost ready for release, and then word got out and there was a maelstrom of excitement on the internet, with a myriad twenty-somethings blogging from their parents’ basements about how much they hoped the film would contain X, or how much they hoped Samuel L. Jackson would say or do Y. So great was the buzz that the crew did five days of re-shoots to incorporate the wishes of the public. The resulting film was a disaster: a badly-written, incoherent mess not even worthy of tagging as ‘amassed a cult reputation’ in its future Wikipedia entry. Now, I’m never sure as to whether the input from the fans elevated the film from ‘utterly diabolical’ to only ‘fairly dreadful’, or whether they simply made it worse, but even the most worthy of inclusions was not enough to save Snakes on a Plane from being generally rubbish.

"I am tired of these motherfuckin' FANS rewriting this motherfuckin' MOVIE!"

“I am tired of these motherfuckin’ FANS rewriting this motherfuckin’ MOVIE!”

The moral of this little tale, of course, is that you don’t let the general public work on the scripts. Philip Pullman (I think) said “Writing is not a democracy”, and he was correct. It’s very easy for us to say what we want to have in the show. That’s exactly how ‘Doomsday’ got written: it was a fanboy’s wet dream, written by a fanboy. It was also dire. The question posed in the story is ‘What would happen if the Daleks met the Cybermen?’ and the answer, at least as far as Davies is concerned, is that they’d stand on opposite sides of a warehouse bellowing “EXTERMINATE!” and “DELETE!” (terminology which, by the way, has become the Cybermen’s new catchphrase despite the fact that it is essentially incompatible with their whole raison d’etre, which in turn is one of many reasons why it was NEVER USED ON THE SHOW BEFORE 2006). The whole sequence was “what the fans wanted”, and it was the televisual equivalent of an Atari 2600 playing Pong with itself, and about as exciting. What do the wishes of the fans matter? We know what we want, but we don’t know what we need. When it comes to what works for the show, we don’t know shit.

I include myself in this little number. I admit that half the reviews I submit to this blog spend much of their word count picking holes in the episode in question, particularly when it comes to New Who. Part of this is a reaction to Moffat’s clever-clever web of complications (in other words, he’s determined to show off, and I’m determined to prove that most of what he does is all flash and sparkle). But I don’t have any excuses for not actually being able to write any better than he does, except that I don’t get paid a five figure sum to show that I can. In other words, the writers are in a position of responsibility and if I can show that what they’ve done is unworthy of the show and its legacy, I’m damn well going to do it.

Because this was silly. It really was.

Because this was silly. It really was.

But this does not mean, in turn, that I can do any better. I consider myself reasonably adept at prose – I wouldn’t write in this way if I didn’t – but I know my limits. I can’t write Who, although that hasn’t stopped me having a go. I’m just not good enough. And if you’re reading this, statistically speaking it’s likely that you’re not good enough either. That’s a harsh truth, but that’s the way it is. By all means attempt it. You’ll never know until you try. You may surprise us all. But the ability to deconstruct an episode does not grant you the ability to restructure it. Put another way, if I showed you a precariously-built Lego tower, wobbly and uneven and full of foundational problems, you’d find it fairly easy to tear it down. But that doesn’t mean that you’d be able to rebuild it any better, at least not with the available bricks.

I don’t mean to discourage you; I really don’t. But I’ve read a great number of blogs and ‘submitted scripts’ and the fact is that relatively few of us have the ability to write successful, compelling television. The fan-fiction I’ve encountered is proof enough of that. Still, our ability to comment blinds us, and allows us to assume that we know better than the writers. Alternative versions of stories and novelisations is one part of it, but nowhere is this arrogance more prevalent than the mind-numbing conspiracy theories concerning what this or that may mean.

The Morbius Doctors is an obvious example. The now-famous sequence of a succession of figures in the Doctor’s head may be previous incarnations of him, but they’re most likely Morbius. There is an ambiguity of sorts – and Philip Hinchliffe himself has admitted that he meant to imply that Hartnell might not be the first – but this was in the days where you could do that sort of thing, and Occam’s Razor applies very strongly here. Despite the subsequent clarification in ‘The Five Doctors’, in which the First Doctor explains “Goodness me, there are five of me now!”, there is still a group of fans who believe that you can count the Morbius Doctors as prior incarnations of the Doctor himself rather than of Morbius. This would make Davison the Thirteenth – the apocryphal limit to which a Doctor can respawn – and that this, in turn, explains his closing remarks in ‘The Caves of Adrozani’, in which he says “I might regenerate…it feels different this time” (along with the subsequent circle of heads and “Die, Doctor!”). Of course, his consumption of a particularly deadly poison, one which caused a difficult and traumatic regeneration, is no explanation at all.


Bringing the series up to date, there were people who genuinely believed that when the Doctor was ostensibly murdered at Lake Silencio, that was it. No more Doctor Who. Moffat was putting a cap on things, the way that Rowling did at the end of The Deathly Hallows by ageing the characters almost twenty years and severely limiting the scope of any subsequent fan-fiction. We’d have two hundred years’ worth of Big Finish productions and that’s your lot. The fact that anyone thought the BBC would let him get away with this treatment of one of their biggest cash cows is frankly flabbergasting. It suggests we know far less about the nature of television than we think.


Someone else I was speaking with the other day has their own ideas as to what’s going on: they posited the idea of three Doctors running around in much the same way as there are two Doctors in parts of series five. Central to this theory is a supposed inconsistency in the Eleventh Doctor’s accent, as well as the fact that he’s being very vague about his age at the moment. I pointed out, in turn, that the Doctor’s age has been ambiguous for years – the Sixth was “900 years old”, the Seventh was “953” and the Eighth Doctor spent a hundred years with amnesia and a further six hundred living on a planet somewhere, although none of that’s canon. The multiple Doctors theory may yet turn out to be accurate, of course, but reaching it from this sort of starting point is an almost unfathomable stretch.


This one, however, is my current favourite.


Bits of it hold water. But then you have Oswin Oswald crash-landing, undergoing surgery and then somehow becoming the Dalek Emperor. Which, I’m sorry, makes about as much sense as the theory that Tinky Winky was a subversive advocate for homosexual behaviour designed to corrupt our children. Never mind the physical side of it, it totally undermines any sense of pathos we might have for Clara. She is utterly and irrevocably corrupted, becoming a genocidal mass murderer. Moffat isn’t going to do that to Clara. I have no idea what he’s planning (I’m still edging towards the Susan Foreman connection, particularly given her birthdate), but I can’t see the Bad Wolf thing playing out – and that’s even bearing in mind my habit of being wrong about this sort of thing.

Ultimately, of course, this discussion is probably harmless. It’s a terrific timewaster, but wild speculation is actively encouraged by Moffat, who leaves clues and red herrings all over the place for the rest of us to follow. Taken to an extreme, the people who spot the inconsistencies in these things are the people who ultimately go on to save the world. But we shouldn’t let that blind us to the truth: when it comes to the grand plan, we know far less than we think we do, and far less about how television is made than we’d like to believe. The internet has turned us all into self-proclaimed experts, and as someone who is relatively enlightened as to his own ignorance (and whose words on here you must never, ever take too seriously, even on those rare occasions that I’m right) I would like to plead for a bit of restraint. Admitting that we know nothing is an essential first step. And ultimately I am sure of nothing but this: that it is probably what the Doctor would have wanted.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“These are small. The ones in the field are far away.”

It was a Saturday morning. I was feeling creative, but conscious of time.


Twenty minutes later, Gareth had done this.

And lest you missed the joke, watch this.

In fact, just watch ‘The Robots of Death’. It’s fantastic. You will be saying “Please do not throw hands at me” for weeks.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: ‘Cold War’

Cold_War (4)

A memo to the Doctor Who production team

1. If you’re going to do The Hunt For Red October, can we have at least one Russian officer – just one – who actually sounds a little bit Russian? Or, if that would have been incongruous, can we have a Russian crew that don’t all sound quite so English? I know questionable accents were a staple of Classic Who – I wince at ‘The Invisible Enemy‘ as much as anyone – but having them address each other as ‘comrade’ when they all sound like they’ve wandered off the set of 633 Squadron is just silly. And don’t even think about blaming it on the ‘TARDIS translation circuits’ bollocks. They didn’t even act Russian. Not even the Captain, whom I confess I rather liked.

Cold_War (8)

2. Just between you and me, I’m well aware that the whole point of having the Doctor and Clara ostensibly en route to Las Vegas was so that you could film Clara in something skimpy, get her instantly soaked when the submarine floods and thus fulfil every fanboy’s / lesbian fangirl’s wet dream. But next time, could you make it a bit less obvious?

You're not fooling anyone with your feisty, empowered woman shit, you know.

You’re not fooling anyone with your feisty, empowered woman shit, you know.

3. Speaking of obvious, when were you going to admit that Mark Gatiss basically wanted to write Alien in a submarine and then chucked in the Ice Warriors as an afterthought? Or was it that he wanted to bring them back, against Moffat’s better judgement, and that they compromised by having an Ice Warrior that would behave like its normal lumbering self for half the episode, and then turn into something out of a Giger design? It’s a shame, because you had an interesting, claustrophobic story going with that.

Cold_War (5)

But then it’s all dangerous Ice Warriors that lurk in the shadows and crawl through the ventilation ducts. I was half expecting the Doctor to open a cupboard and find a cat. And I do hope you paid the copyright fees on those Alien sound effects you licensed.

Cold_War (9)

Oh, and those eyes in the dark? Total rip-off.

Cold_War (11)

4. I get the Nordic / Russian implications in naming your chief villain Skaldak. And yes, it’s very Ice Warrior. But next time, would it be too much to ask to have a villain with a normal, English-sounding name? Something a bit less prickly; something that doesn’t sound like you shoved six random letters into the anagram generator? Something like, I don’t know, Nigel the Ice Warrior? Rodney the Zygon? Kevin the Sontaran?

Cold_War (6)

5. I meant to mention that you did a lot of good by deliberately showing us as little of the unsheathed alien as possible. The hands from the ceiling were a nice touch.

But then you went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid like I love you actually having Skaldak remove his helmet. It was bad enough when Stallone did it in Judge Dredd. Personally, I thought it would have made for a far more effective scene if the Doctor had had seen what was underneath with the rest of us following suit. But when you did go for the reveal, I couldn’t work out if I was in the Whoniverse or the DC / Marvel one.


6. I love David Warner. I really do. I have done since he lost his head in The Omen. He’s the only reason I managed to make it through Wing Commander. But treat him with some dignity next time you have a bonding scene. Look at this dialogue. I mean, look at it.

Grisenko: Clara? What is it?

Clara: I was doing OK. I mean, I went in there, and then I did the scary stuff, didn’t I? I went in there with the Ice Warrior and it went OK. Actually, it went about as bad as it could have been, but that wasn’t my fault.

Grisenko: Not at all.

Clara: So I’m happy about that.

Grisenko: Yes.

Clara: Sure.

Grisenko: And so you should be. So what’s the matter?

Clara: Seeing those bodies back there. It’s all got very…real. Are we gonna make it?

Grisenko: Yes, of course.

Warner’s as dignified as they come, but even he can’t polish a turd.

Cold_War (10)

7. For future reference, Ice Warriors sound like this.

They do not – repeat, do not – sound like this.

I know Nick Briggs has a monopoly on the new voices (and the best Big Finish stories), but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If you must revamp, at least try and do something silly.

(Yes, I’m plugging one of my videos. Bite me.)

8. If you’re somehow going to conjure a half-decent (the first half) script from Mark “second-worst Dalek story of New Who” Gatiss, please don’t let him finish it by having Jenna-Louise Coleman save the world through the healing power of Duran Duran. It sucked. It sucked donkeys.

Cold_War (16)

I mean, honestly. You have this as your moment of truth and then you put this episode right next to the one where singing saves the universe? And I thought the scheduling in series six was off.

9. Finally: make sure you give your secondary characters at least some motivation, because “Life’s too short” is never – under any circumstances – a decent reason to thaw out a frozen Ice Warrior.

Cold_War (1)

Look, Steven, if I’m a little grumpy about this it’s because I was up until half past two in the morning playing Bioshock Infinite, got four hours’ sleep, then did a three-hour round car journey to pick up Thomas, and then came back and finished cleaning the house for Daniel’s birthday party tomorrow. The floors are mopped and vacuumed but I think it’s fair to say I’m a little antsy. Thing is, you missed the boat with this one. It was all going so well, and you could have had a great story on your hands if you’d stuck to your guns in those early scenes. We know you think the Ice Warriors represent everything you dislike about Old Who. But some of us like them. Bringing them back in an admittedly faithful physical depiction doesn’t cut it if you’re going to use them in an episode where they simply don’t fit. It’s like dressing the Doctor like an English academic and then have him behave like a horny teenager. But then that’s what you do. Isn’t it?

Categories: New Who, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ways to amuse yourself in the local Italian when you’re waiting for a calzone, #1

Are you my mummy?


Categories: New Who | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: