Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Doctor changed his profile picture

Sorry.

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“No sir! I didn’t see you playing with your dolls again!”

I found them together like this.

Martha_Mickey

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I have the power

Because sometimes, you just have to share a silly picture.

Skeletor_Cat

The sharing of which led to someone else sharing this with me. You reap what you sow…

Lego_Dalek_2

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Hedgehogs and donkeys

It’s a Sonic Screwdriver.

Thomas and I are halfway through series 4 (“Hey! Who turned out the lights?”). In re-examining the warm chemistry of the Tennant / Tate pairing, I am reminded of the time we were camping and my second son appeared through a flap in the tent, like this:

Thomas_Tent

And boldly declaring “Donna Noble has left the library. Donna Noble has been saved.” Oh, I was so proud.

Anyway, the other week they tackled the Good Samaritan at school. He understood the story, but didn’t fully understand the significance of the Samaritan’s decision to stop and help the Jew, because the animosity between them hadn’t been explained. Parables are funny like that. The Prodigal Son, for example, is laced with all sorts of detail that escapes a modern audience. The son’s request for his half of the money was akin to wishing his father dead. Working with pigs would have been beneath contempt for any Jewish man. And when he’s on the way home his father runs along the road to meet him – and never mind the fact that he was filthy and smelled of bacon, running in public was something that no respectable landowner would ever be seen doing. All these details would have been familiar to Jesus’ audience and would have emphasised the point of the story, but over the years a lot of this has been lost.

So I explained to Thomas that the Samaritan’s decision to stop and help the injured Jew was rather like the Doctor and Amy stopping to help a battle-damaged Dalek. Which satisfied him, although my friends were less sure. One asked if the Doctor could turn water into wine, while my brother-in-law said “Was it more like a Dalek stopping to help?” Someone else concurred. “You expect the Doctor to help, but you wouldn’t expect a Dalek to.”

I had thought about doing it that way round. Still, it’s always been my understanding that the Samaritan / Jew disdain was stronger on the Jewish side. Which would mean in turn that the hatred the Daleks have for the Doctor is stronger than any he might have for them – and therefore it makes sense to have the Doctor rescue the Dalek. This does then put you in the unfortunate position of a Jew / Dalek paradigm, which is ironic (and somewhat inappropriate) given the Nazi imagery of ‘Genesis of the Daleks’.

Emily got the last word. “I think,” she said, “that it was less about the hatred between the two characters in the story and more about who the audience would identify with. In which case it would be better to have the Dalek help, as that would be the last thing we would expect. Daleks / Samaritans = horrible begins who never do anything nice => shocking story.”

Which reminds me of this.

My friend Rachel pointed out that “A Dalek would have trouble getting the Doctor onto a donkey”. Still, that didn’t stop someone else producing this lovely piece of artwork:

Dalek Samaritan

In any event, it seems like Doctor Who has an answer for everything. But I think we already knew that.

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The Enemy of the World of the Doctor

We have yet to see the artwork for the upcoming Troughton release. So here’s my contribution. (Thanks to Gareth for the caption idea.)

Categories: Day of the Doctor | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Thomas and Emily did on strike day

Doctor Who and board games make for strange bedfellows. How can you possibly distil the excitement, the complexity and the sheer variety of the institution into six plastic playing pieces moving over cardboard? How can it possibly translate?

It doesn’t, is the short answer. At least not really. There’s a good reason why charity shops are full of Doctor Who board games but not action figures (just as they’re full of New Who DVDs but rarely the Classic Who adventures). They get given away quite a lot, and one of the great mysteries of the world is why we haven’t yet done this. The Time Lord-related board games in our house are clogging the shelves beneath the intellectual (Scrabble) and the not-so-intellectual (Mouse Trap). They sit unplayed, on display but gathering dust, like those classic books that everyone owns but refuses to read.

The first one I got was coincidentally the first post-revival Doctor Who board game produced.

Board_Game_3

This is the only image I could find, and thus it tells you very little, but suffice to say it’s a derivative of Ludo. You play the Doctor, Martha, K-9 or Jack, and have the objective of getting all four of your pieces home by travelling round the board. The Dalek patrols the inner, shorter route, and players who would choose a faster alternative to the long haul risk it catching up with them. It’s simple enough to play, although not very interesting. Still, the synthetic playing pieces of Martha possess more screen presence than the character herself ever did, as well as being far less irritating, while the prospect of multiple Doctors would presumably have Jack salivating, or worse. And it is at least quite fun.

Then there’s these two.

Board_Game_2 Board_Game_1

Both are available from Amazon. I can’t tell you an awful lot about them because we’ve never finished a game of either. They were just too dull, not to mention complicated, with collectible cards and all sorts of back-and-forth trading and giving cards away and getting them back and then pressing the button on top of the TARDIS to get it to make noises. That’s the obvious hook, designed to mask the fact that the game consists of a lot of repetition designed to eke out its length. It’s like a review I read of Aragorn’s Quest, which stated that the developers boasted twenty-odd hours of gameplay, but that eighteen of those would be spent walking from one side of the Shire to the other, carrying mushrooms.

A quick Google tells me that there are alternatives available: derivatives of Risk and Monopoly and Operation (with a Dalek) – presumably Cluedo is on the way (The Professor, in the cavern, with the umbrella). And there’s always chess, a game which always ended well whenever the Doctor played it.

Joshua has recently discovered chess, which I see as an opportunity: it would be nice to get a really good Doctor Who set with wooden or metal pieces, the sort you see in glass cases at Hamleys, expensive but not unaffordable, perhaps with the Master playing the black king and Davros as one of the rooks. But as it stands, the only one available that isn’t a handmade collector’s item is this one.

Board_Game_4

I’m not even going to link to it. I mean, look at it. It’s rubbish. Insofar as Who-related chess experiences go, it’s the ‘Nightmare in Silver’ edition. Is the provision of a proper, moulded edition too much to ask? Or is it destined to remain on the wishlist of Never Gonna Happen, along with the Abba reunion, the fourth Back To The Future film or the uncut DVD release of Fire Walk With Me?

Anyway, there there is a point to this little ramble, and we shall come to that now. Thomas was off school yesterday because industrial action had closed his classroom for the day. Emily was at a loss for what to do with him, but we found a voluntary homework assignment in his book bag. The task was to use some pre-supplied materials to produce a question-based board game.

“There’s only one topic of choice, really, isn’t there?” said Em to me. And of course, she was right.

So when I got home on Thursday lunchtime, I found they’d done this.

Game_1 Game_2

His handwriting’s not bad, but I’ll translate: the rectangular drawings are TARDISes (Or TARDISS, or TARDIS – but let’s not get into that here), and if you land on one you go forward two. The triangles are Daleks, and if you land on one of those you move back two. Land on a Smiler (one is visible to the right of the orange Dalek) and you miss a turn. And then there are the questions, which included but were not limited to these –

Game_3

And yes, I know the marital status of the Eleventh Doctor is disputed, and the Cybermen aren’t just made of metal. Stop nitpicking. He came up all these himself, you know, along with the general concept. And all this time I assumed that the encyclopaedic accumulation of Doctor Who-related knowledge (not to mention the endless questions) was just for the fun of it. We may not be quite ready for Hasbro, but it passed a morning. I’d call that a win.

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Those Day of the Doctor images re-examined

Who_New

If you’re reading this in America, chances are you won’t know of Metro, a free newspaper they give out at railway stations in London and the south east (and possibly beyond, athough I’ve never bothered to look). Metro is a tabloid publication that fills its columns with assorted celebrity gossip, mundane entertainment news and the occasional article of interest, and it’s generally read on the train or bus and then discarded for someone else to read and abandon. I look at it online because it’s usually fairly on the ball with respect to picking up Doctor Who stories, and if there’s a story development or casting change I’ll often read about it in Metro before I see it in the Guardian (who have bigger, Daily Mail-shaped fish to fry).

It was while browsing through Metro yesterday that I discovered the BBC’s newly released publicity stills from ‘Day of the Doctor’. A trailer is still forthcoming, of course, and as far as I’m concerned it can be forthcoming until the 23rd November, because I already know more about the special than I’d like (which is entirely my own fault) and, as I’ve always maintained, Doctor Who was better in the old days when there was less courting of the press. The announcements and teasers are necessary, of course, because social media (and the internet in general) has created a culture of leaks, but it was more fun when we genuinely didn’t know what was coming.

Still. To be fair to the Beeb, the new stills don’t show us anything of any real interest. There are no monsters, and the only recognisable location outside the TARDIS is the National Gallery, in a scene that was already widely publicised when it was filmed earlier this year. The sheer mundanity of most of the images begs the question of why on earth they were released, but (in the absence of the aforementioned trailer) I suppose the BBC impresarios felt they had to do something to keep up the momentum, now that the hype from the rediscovered Troughton is dying down.

So for the most part these images are impossible to really examine in any depth, although that didn’t stop certain people trying. In a Metro blog entry entitled ‘What do the new The Day of the Doctor photos reveal about the 50th anniversary special?’ (to which the standard answer is surely ‘Not a great deal’), a chap called Dan Wilson – who describes himself as a “Whovian, Blue Peter Badge winner, barfly and flaneur” – adds to his impressive list of writings with an examination of the stills. Except he’s not able to come up with anything substantial, so he either points out the obvious or makes it up. “His hair looks good,” he says of Matt Smith. “Let’s hope the Christmas wig looks as glorious.”

It doesn’t get better: Wilson points out that Tennant is piloting his coral TARDIS, before rather hilariously describing it as “vintage”. This is like describing Downton Abbey as “iconic” (and this is, coincidentally, exactly what the Independent did the other week). He then goes on to talk about Hurt’s “beaten leather jacket” and “general demeanour”, before later remarking “goodness me ten and eleven (if that’s what we should be calling them now) don’t look that glad to see him”, failing to note that all three of them (well, two and a half) appear to be looking with some concern at something off-camera. Perhaps it’s Billie Piper’s dental records.

I’m not going to blame Dan for all this: he writes well enough, and the fact that he’s grasping at straws here is a safe bet that this was a commission from the powers that be, rather than anything he actually wanted to do himself. But honestly. The fact of the matter is that these images are designed to get everyone filling in holes – although to be fair to Mr Wilson, he is very good at spotting Hurt’s red sonic screwdriver, the colour of which clearly indicates that he is engaging in some dubious moral practices. (Gareth once pointed out to me that the end of Return of the Jedi could have been greatly improved if, when Darth Vader had told his son to turn to the Dark Side, Luke had examined his green lightsaber and said “Are you absolutely sure? It does mean changing the bulb“.)

Anyway, if you want these images to say anything, you need to make them talk. So I did.

The last one will mean nothing to you if you’ve not seen ‘The Three Doctors’, but that’s your own fault. You really should watch it. Go on! Skedaddle. It’ll give you something to do while we’re waiting for that trailer.

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Godel, Escher, Dalek

Thirteen years ago, an old friend – a programmer, musician and one of the smartest people I know – introduced me to the fabulous romp through logic that was Gödel, Escher, Bach.

I don’t pretend to understand any of what I read of it. Jon once told me that he couldn’t function in a world where he wasn’t allowed to express logic, and I, conversely, couldn’t function in a world where I am forced to do so. Logic works for me as a concept, but I have a lot of difficulty engaging with it. I have a copy of the book on my shelf these days, having finally bought it a couple of years ago, but it’s still in immaculate condition because I’ve only dipped into it a few times since then, attempting a serious read once or twice but never making it past the introduction. Nonetheless, it is on my list of desert island books, along with Ulysses and Don DeLillo’s Underworld – all books that I’d be happy to take to a desert island because there, bereft of social media and old Doctor Who, I’d have no excuse not to finish them

Back in a landlocked county, I fear it may be a while before I get through the damned thing. Still, I’ve toyed with it, and some parts resonate, and I have carried them with me for years. This is down to a marriage of form and content: Hofstadter’s turn of phrase is wonderful, and the ideas he generates are mindbending. The works of Lewis Carroll are a recurring theme, and in one sequence, he includes a translation of Jabberwocky in French and German. (Hofstadter wasn’t the first to do this, of course, but the verse-by-verse layout allows for an in-depth comparison.) Perhaps it’s because of the poem’s suspected origin, or perhaps it’s because of some of the language in the original, but it works much better in German. Consider these three opening verses:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”

“Il brilgue: les tôves lubricilleux
Se gyrent en vrillant dans le guave.
Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux
Et le mômerade horsgrave.”

“Es brillig war. Die schlichten Toven
Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben;
Und aller-mümsige Burggoven
Die mohmen Räth’ ausgraben.”

You see what I mean.

But it was the crab canon that always got me: the concept of a conversation that plays forwards and then backwards, where each line of dialogue acquires new meaning when then preceded by a line that initially followed it. This all sounds rather complicated, so here’s how Hofstadter does it.

[Achilles and the Tortoise happen upon each other in the park one day while strolling.]

Tortoise: Good day, Mr. A.
Achilles: Why, same to you.
Tortoise: So nice to run into you.
Achilles: That echoes my thoughts.
Tortoise: And it’s a perfect day for a walk. I think I’ll be walking home soon.
Achilles: Oh, really? I guess there’s nothing better for you than walking.
Tortoise: Incidentally, you’re looking in fine fettle these days, I must say.
Achilles: Thank you very much.
Tortoise: Not at all. Here, care for one of my cigars?
Achilles: Oh, you are such a philistine. In this area, the Dutch contributions are of markedly inferior taste, don’t you think?
Tortoise: I disagree, in this case. But speaking of taste, I finally saw that Crab Canon by your favorite artist, M.C. Escher, in a gallery the other day, and I fully appreciate the beauty and ingenuity with which he made one single theme mesh with itself going both backwards and forwards. But I am afraid I will always feel Bach is superior to Escher.
Achilles: I don’t know. But one thing for certain is that I don’t worry about arguments of taste. De gustibus non est disputandum.
Tortoise: Tell me, what’s it like to be your age? Is it true that one has no worries at all?
Achilles: To be precise one has no frets.
Tortoise: Oh, well, it’s all the same to me.
Achilles: Fiddle. It makes a big difference, you know.
Tortoise: Say, don’t you play the guitar?
Achilles: That’s my good friend. He often plays, the fool. But I myself wouldn’t touch a guitar with a ten-foot pole.

[Suddenly the Crab, appearing from out of nowhere, wanders up excitedly, pointing to a rather prominent black eye.]

Crab: Hallo! Hullo! What’s up? What’s new? You see this bump, this from Warsaw – a collosal bear of a man – playing a lute. He was three meters tall, if I’m a day. I mosey on up to the chap, reach skyward and manage to tap him on the knee, saying, “Pardon me, sir, but you are Pole-luting our park with your mazurkas.” But WOW! he had no sense of humor – not a bit, not a wit – and POW! – he lets loose and belts me one, smack in the eye! Were it in my nature, I would crab up a storm, but in the time-honored tradition of my species, I backed off. After all, when we walk forwards, we move backwards. It’s in our genes, you know, turning round and round. That reminds me – I’ve always wondered, “which came first – the Crab or the Gene?” That is to say, “Which came last – the Gene, or the Crab?” I’m always turning things round and round, you know. It’s in our genes, after all. When we walk backwards we move forwards. Ah me, oh my! I must lope along on my merry way – so off I go on such a fine day. Sing “ho!” for the life of a Crab! TATA! Ole!

[And he disappears as suddenly as he arrived.]

Tortoise: That’s my good friend. He often plays, the fool. But I myself wouldn’t touch a ten-foot Pole with a guitar.
Achilles: Say, don’t you play the guitar?
Tortoise: Fiddle. It makes a big difference, you know.
Achilles: Oh, well, it’s all the same to me.
Tortoise: To be precise one has no frets.
Achilles: Tell me, what’s it like to be your age? Is it true that one has no worries at all?
Tortoise: I don’t know. But one thing for certain is that I don’t worry about arguments of taste. Disputandum non est de gustibus.
Achilles: I disagree, in this case. But speaking of taste, I finally heard that Crab Canon by your favorite composer, J.S. Bach, in a concert the other day, and I fully appreciate the beauty and ingenuity with which he made one single theme mesh with itself going both backwards and forwards. But I am afraid I will always feel Escher is superior to Bach.
Tortoise: Oh, you are such a philistine. In this area, the Dutch contributions are of markedly inferior taste, don’t you think?
Achilles: Not at all. Here, care for one of my cigars?
Tortoise: Thank you very much.
Achilles: Incidentally, you’re looking in fine fettle these days, I must say.
Tortoise: Oh, really? I guess there’s nothing better for you than walking.
Achilles: And it’s a perfect day for a walk. I think I’ll be walking home soon.
Tortoise: That echoes my thoughts.
Achilles: So nice to run into you.
Tortoise: Why, same to you.
Achilles: Good day, Mr. A.

The bit with the crab reads like Beckett, presumably on purpose, but the whole thing is brilliantly written, and I marvel upon it today just as I did over a decade ago.

“What does this have to do with anything?” you’re asking. Well, in the first instance, yesterday morning I stuck this on my Facebook wall timeline.

The end of top posting!

> What do we want?

Now!

> When do we want it?

Some among you will recognise this, of course, as an adaptation of an old joke:

A. Top posters.

Q. What’s the most annoying thing about usenet forums?

Later that morning, Gareth said “I wonder what Douglas Hofstadter thinks of top-posting, and what he could do with it.”

I replied:

“Curiously I had similar thoughts, although they mostly ran along the lines of ‘This reminds me of a passage in underground classic Gödel, Escher, Bach, a book I really should read again.’

Or, to put it another way:

A book I really should read again: Gödel, Escher, Bach, in a classic underground passage. Although they mostly ran along the lines. Curiously, I had similar thoughts.”

(Which works, up to a point, if by ‘underground’ you mean this.)

I then wondered about Doctor Who – a show which, in its most recent form, has become as obsessed with time travel as a form of narrative as, for example, certain episodes of Red Dwarf. Loops and holes and time-lagged conversations are all part-and-parcel of Moffat’s array of tricks and techniques. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. The across-the-years conversation in ‘Blink’, for example, as Sally fills in the gaps in the Doctor’s transcript, is absolutely breathtaking. His overuse of ‘Run, you clever boy, and remember’, on the other hand, is a disaster (not least because it’s a recurring phrase that’s different every time we hear it). You have to know when to stop, and Moffat seemingly doesn’t. But that’s OK, because he’s going to bring back the [spoiler] and then the [spoiler], and then [spoiler] will visit [spoiler] and [spoiler]. And that’s just the yellow ones.

But is there a way, perhaps, of making some Doctor Who scenes palindromic? In other words, could we tell them forwards and then backwards and have them make sense? One sequence in particular, from ‘Utopia’ (an episode I’ve watched recently) stood out, largely because the greeting between the Doctor and Jack Harkness could be interpreted as a greeting or a parting. For example, here’s how the scene reads forwards:

JACK: Doctor.

DOCTOR: Captain.

JACK: Good to see you.

DOCTOR: And you. Same as ever. Although, have you had work done?

JACK: You can talk.

DOCTOR: Oh yes, the face. Regeneration. How did you know this was me?

JACK: The police box kind of gives it away. I’ve been following you for a long time. You abandoned me.

DOCTOR: Did I? Busy life. Moving on.

JACK: Just got to ask. The Battle of Canary Wharf. I saw the list of the dead. It said Rose Tyler.

DOCTOR: Oh, no! Sorry, she’s alive.

JACK: You’re kidding.

DOCTOR: Parallel world, safe and sound. And Mickey, and her mother.

JACK: Oh, yes!

MARTHA: Good old Rose.

And backwards:

MARTHA: Good old Rose.

JACK: Oh, yes!

DOCTOR: Parallel world, safe and sound. And Mickey, and her mother.

JACK: You’re kidding.

DOCTOR: Oh, no! Sorry, she’s alive.

JACK: Just got to ask. The Battle of Canary Wharf. I saw the list of the dead. It said Rose Tyler.

DOCTOR: Did I? Busy life. Moving on.

JACK: The police box kind of gives it away. I’ve been following you for a long time. You abandoned me.

DOCTOR: Oh yes, the face. Regeneration. How did you know this was me?

JACK: You can talk.

DOCTOR: And you. Same as ever. Although, have you had work done?

JACK: Good to see you.

DOCTOR: Captain.

JACK: Doctor.

Which works surprisingly well. And, of course, it means that Martha is a crab, which I don’t think anyone would necessarily dispute.

“That’s all very well, James,” I can hear you not really asking. “But it would be better still if we could actually see it.”

Oh, go on then.

It’s as near-as-dammit a recreation as I could manage. Part of the problem is that certain lines of dialogue end on a shot of someone’s head, and it is to that same head that we cut when I paste in the previous line – resulting in an unfortunate twitch as the expression or position of their face changes from one frame to the next. I got round this by interposing shots of Martha, whose role is to stand there silently and look doe-eyed at the Doctor, but there are only so many times you can do that.

Still. The idea has potential. This could feasibly be the first in a series. There are other scenes that will work. Probably. I’ll find them, if I read through every transcript. Which I’ll probably do. But at some point I really should finish reading the Hofstadter.

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Be careful what you wish for

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that I may have altered the URL of my last entry after I’d sent it out, which may well have rendered it inaccessible. So if you missed out on Dalek Caan talking like Johnny the painter from The Fast Show, here’s the updated link.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (waiting for Tom Baker to come and look at you) for the past few days, you’ll know all about the BBC’s recent announcement that they’ve found most of ‘The Web of Fear’ and ‘The Enemy of the World’, two lost gems from the lost archives of the Second Doctor. This rumour has been circulating all year, of course, although the actual size of the haul has decreased from 105 episodes down to about 9 over the months, while the location of discovery has shifted from Ethopia to Nigeria. It would be easy to suggest, rather cynically, that the discovery occurred at the end of winter, the negotiations finished in spring and that the BBC drafted the press release before the summer solstice, and then held off on the announcement until mere weeks before the anniversary story in order to ensure maximum publicity. But I am not going to do that. Honest.

One of the most amusing comments I read came courtesy of an Independent reader, who quipped:

Dear Sir,
I am the nephew of a deceased Nigerian general and have discovered a vast cache of vintage film classics among his possessions. They could be worth several billion pounds if they can be sold to international media distributors. However, I need a reliable person in the UK with a legitimate bank account…

Elsewhere, there are the usual grumblings from fans who are complaining about the iTunes release plan. “Some were saying that if lots of people buy those then the BBC might not bother releasing DVDs because no-one will want to buy them twice,” said Gareth. “Others were saying that if too few buy the iTunes (e.g., because they’re waiting for the DVDs) then the BBC might not bother releasing DVDs because there’s clearly no interest.  Silly!” Of course, the DVDs of both adventures are due – in November and February – and they will be well received, because you can never have too much of Patrick Troughton.

I had an idea a while back for a Doctor Who story in which the Tenth Doctor and Martha are asked by a wise and learned people to travel back in time and recover some sacred scrolls that are vital to their future. The Doctor does this, only to find that the scrolls contain a secret so terrible it must never be revealed, and he takes it upon himself to see it’s destroyed. I know I just said you can never have too much of Patrick Troughton, but I can’t help wondering whether some of these episodes should stay buried. In any event, this whole thing makes me wonder what’ll happen when we eventually stop collecting physical media just consign everything to the cloud. I know that DVDs and Blu Rays don’t last forever, and I know that the servers are hidden in bomb-proof hangars underneath international airports (meaning that in the event of a nuclear apocalypse and the collapse of the global infrastructure, we’ll still be able to watch Doctor Who), but what happens when the terrorists work out a way to wipe out the internet and hold us all to ransom? Would we really be willing to sacrifice our freedom so that the likes of lolcatz can survive? I’m not sure I would, although I might make an exception for rathergood.com, particularly this one.

Of course, if we’re being futurist and cynical at the same time, we might end up with something like this.

 

Using one crap episode to exploit another is a bit self-referential, of course, but that’s the story of my life.

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“I think we’d better be going home now, dear…”

Today’s entry starts with an If-Then statement, that occurs as a result of this question: Are you, dear reader, familiar with The Fast Show?

To some of you that’s going to seem like a dumb question, because you know every Ted and Ralph gag and have been impersonating Jazz Club’s Louis Balfour for nearly two decades. But I’m aware that there’s a whole new generation growing up online who’ve never seen it – and I’m never sure how well it did in America (where it was in any case known as Brilliant). Anyway, if the answer is yes, then you may skip the first of the embedded clips I’ve posted here (unless, of course, you’d like a quick reminder of how funny that lot could be with the right material). If the answer is no, then I strongly recommend you watch both, in order, because otherwise you’re going to get very confused.

 

Done? Right.

I can’t work out why no one’s thought to do this one already. It seems like such an obvious joke. Actually, it is an obvious joke, because we were making it back in 2008. As soon as ‘The Stolen Earth’ had aired, complete with its view of the multi-tentacled, one-eyed ‘insane’ Dalek Caan (resembling the lovechild of Cthulhu and TMNT’s Krang), the internet forums were on fire trying to work out whether the Tenth Doctor might actually be regenerating next week. But sandwiched between all the remarks about Billie Piper’s teeth and whether David Morissey’s Christmas role was going to get an early showing, there was another thread of discussion doing the rounds – doesn’t Dalek Caan sound incredibly like Johny, the manic-depressed artist?

Higson and Whitehouse’s oft-imitated sketch show always was a little patchy, of course. On the one hand, it gave us the likes of Denzil Dexter, Ted and Ralph, the Offroaders, Jesse the country bumpkin and Rowley Birkin QC. On the other hand, Chris the Crafty Cockney was irritating to a point, and that Suit You gag wore out its welcome in episode two. It was also far too reliant on catchphrase humour, and spawned a wave of paler imitations. Without The Fast Show there would arguably be no Little Britain, and the world would be a nicer place.

But Johnny the Nice Painter was one of my favourites. The payoff to his trigger word – the cry of “Black! Black! Black like a SOUL!” – was wonderful even when you knew it was coming (and in later episodes his wife Katie apparently did, and it was always fun trying to watch her desperately circumnavigate). Higson times his rants to perfection, and Arabella Weir is always nicely understated. We live in sensitive times as far as portrayals of mental health are concerned – recent headlines are testament to that – and it would be interesting to see whether something like this would get the green light today, but even bearing that in mind, Johnny’s condition is too ambiguous to really cause offence.

I put this together over three or four evenings – time I really should have spent tidying the house, but if it took longer than usual it’s because I was experimenting a bit. The first thing you’ll note is the ring modulator on Johnny’s voice. It didn’t really work without it, the artist’s tones being slightly too squeaky to really compete with the other layers of sound. Results (thanks to Audacity and a bit of help online) were reasonable, although the modulated laugh track sounded ghastly, so – with unavoidable exceptions – I’ve kept its use to a minimum, splicing in the equivalent spots from the unaltered original. Then I worked with some isolated audio tracks, which enabled me to dip in and out of the dialogue from Davros, the Doctor and the Supreme Dalek without having to worry about score – which I added in later, using cues from earlier series. The result is one of the cleanest edits I’ve produced in a while, certainly the cleanest from anything in the New Who canon.

Structuring the thing was a bit of a bind. I still worry that it starts too slowly, but the expository conversation between Davros and the Supreme Dalek felt like the only logical point at which to begin. You needed to have the other characters interjecting, so I isolated as many instances of ‘Dalek Caan’ as I could and then spliced them between Higson’s rambling. I then had no idea of how to finish the thing, so I blew them all up, because that usually seems to work.

When I showed it to Emily, she said “So, now you have these audio tracks, are you going to be going back through the other stuff you’ve made and redoing them?”

I looked around at the cluttered hallway, the unhoovered carpet and the pile of ironing.

“I might,” I said, “but today is not that day.”

Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.

Categories: Crossovers, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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