Monthly Archives: May 2014

Everybody Hurts: the Gridlock Edition

In the first instance: montages of Doctor Who scored to ‘Everybody Hurts’ are all over the internet. Said videos are usually a composite of Doctor / Rose scenes (heavy on ‘Doomsday’, for obvious reasons) or shots of random characters crying, drenched in pathos, with occasional (mildly tenuous) links to the lyrical content. I say this in utter confidence despite not having actually watched any of them in their entirety, because that’s YouTube in a nutshell.

That’s not a dig, of course. Montages are arranged and sequenced for emotional impact, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve done quite a few myself, at least one of which I’m reasonably proud of. But look, here’s the thing: I’ve always prided myself on trying to do stuff that is relatively fresh, and if someone’s planted the flag first I am hesitant – with certain exceptions – to do a different take on the same source material. And then the idea came, not in a thunderclap or with a light bulb appearing over my head like a cartoon character, but in the process of preparing material for a Sunday evening service, and the realisation that R.E.M’s video for ‘Everybody Hurts’ is set in a traffic jam.

And a hell of a traffic jam it is too. The camera pans and swoops, almost documentary-style, in and out of static vehicles, as the silent occupants find their hidden thoughts broadcast in terminal text across the screen in what is, to be honest, a gross invasion of privacy. They come from all walks of life and at least two ethnicities: some of their issues are transparent, others more subtly rendered. Meanwhile, the rest of the band join the traffic: Michael Stipe, bearing a curious resemblance to either a priest or a Hassidic Jew, takes charge of the situation by walking over the top of the stationery cars, becoming genuinely upset just before the third verse, and then seemingly summoning the upset passengers with the simple power of his voice. Unshackled from their mechanical confines, the crowd silently walk down the highway and then vanish, like something out of the first Left Behind novel.

I’ve always loved ‘Everybody Hurts’, but seeing this video for the first time – back in 2001 or thereabouts, when I bought the DVD – was an incredible experience. It completely changed the song – a song that’s always been said to resonate particularly with teenagers, and which indeed may even have been written for teenagers, but which, accompanied by these visuals, somehow seemed to transcend intended age. It was a video I played to myself in an empty house the day my grandmother died, with a moment in the third verse (you know which, if you’ve watched it) causing me to weep buckets. If that sounds emotionally overwrought, it probably is, but it’s also the sort of sob story that will get you through an X-Factor semi-final, so don’t knock it.

Of course, R.E.M.’s video – amazing as it is – is heavily derived from the opening of Fellini’s 8 1/2, which is included here for posterity.

(One of these days, you know, posterity is going to have to drop me an email – or at least leave a comment – thanking me for all the times I’ve done this for her. Honestly. I go to all this trouble to source links and all I get is silence. Ungrateful cow.)

I put this together over two or three evenings. The first thing to do was to re-watch ‘Gridlock’ in order to trim all the unusable footage. The rule of montage construction is to avoid moving lips where possible, as it distracts from what’s going on in the background, and I wanted lingering close-ups of the characters in their vehicles so that I could drop captions in underneath. This is fine, except that the Doctor Who editing process is designed to cram in as much as is humanly possible within the space of forty-two minutes, so lengthy stares are at a minimum. There were quite a few, but not enough, and that’s why there’s some mirroring / reversing going on, as well as a number of special guests, whom you’ve no doubt encountered by now if you’ve seen the whole thing.

There’s anchoring throughout. If you look, there are waypoints that mirror the original: the Doctor’s descent through the lanes of traffic emulates (or is at least designed to emulate) Stipe’s journey across the cars in the R.E.M. video. I also needed an appropriate ending, and the image of the cars flying up through the roof, as if to heaven, was an obvious choice. Aside from that, it was just a question of digging out the characters and finding out what they might be thinking. It turns out that most of them think in puns. Who knew?

Finally: this is respectfully dedicated to someone who’s having a hell of a week. She knows who she is. And I can’t help thinking that it shaped the second half. Most of the captions were designed to be fairly ridiculous – Martha’s internal pleading for Milo and Cheen to ‘Stop singing. Stop singing. Stop singing’ was essential, but perhaps more interesting was the death of the Face of Boe, which lent itself to inclusion towards the end. The result is a curious hybrid of the straight and the satirical – but I suppose Doctor Who always worked best when it managed to be funny and moving at the same time, and while I’m not saying that this is necessarily either of the above, at least it’s something decent to aspire to.

Emily and I touched on this last night when we were discussing stats and hit counts. “Have you actually watched it yet?” I asked.

“I have,” was the reply. “It got silly, didn’t it?”

“Actually,” I said, “I think it got serious.”

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The Lego Movie / Doctor Who connection

If you’ve seen The Lego Movie, you’ll know by now that it’s basically a one-hundred minute pastiche of The Matrix, with bricks. That doesn’t mean the Wachowskis should start calling their lawyers, given that The Matrix is your bog standard quest movie, replete with Arthurian imagery (right down to the closing shot of Matrix Revolutions), but set against the backdrop of the evil genius argument and fashioned for a teenage audience who had grown up on video games. It’s half Excalibur, half Tron. There isn’t a single original thought in there. That it gets away with it is down to the effects, the guns and the always entertaining Hugo Weaving, who is by far the most animated character in the entire trilogy, counterbalancing the fact that he was (Legolas aside) the least animated character in Lord of the Rings.

Of course, there’s an interesting development at the end of the second act of The Lego Movie, in which [COLOSSAL SPOILER]. But the question of reality and authorial intent is a curious one, and of course I immediately started to wonder how we might relate this to the Whoniverse, and the idea of pocket universes, dimension jumps and the act of creation and potential.

In the end, all I could come up with was a bunch of Photoshop hatchet jobs. And here they are. First, the obvious.

 

 

 

Then there’s the character similarities.

 

 

What do you mean, you have no idea who that other chap is? Oh look, go and watch ‘The Pirate Planet’. It’s absolutely magnificent television, and it features one of the most memorable, quotable villains in the history of the show. It was written by Douglas Adams, and it shows.

Then there’s this, which is rough around the edges but my personal favourite.

 

We really have to fix up Benny with the Space Core from Portal 2. (Various people already have, of course.)

Finally, there’s this –

Kragle_Rock

– but I think that’s a euphemism for “We’re running out of ideas”. Still. Muppets. Not nearly as animated when they’re glued. Although it make make Baby Bear less irritating.

 

 

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Happy Towel Day

Well, close enough.

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That Doctor Who Teaser Trailer – Uncut

You’ve seen it, presumably, although there really isn’t much to see.

SJ said that she couldn’t care less that “it showed nothing, it totally did its job”. She’s right about it showing nothing: this is on the cusp of not even being a teaser, given that it shows precisely one shot of someone we only recognise because of media exposure (and ten seconds of 2013 footage) standing in darkness at the top of some stairs. Not that this is new. The first trailer for the 2005 revival showed a dematerialising TARDIS, with one TV spot reserved for a shot of its interior, with a brooding Eccleston and Piper staring at the camera. In a way that was harder to bear, because (largely thanks to the show’s lengthy absence) we had no idea what to expect. At least this time it’s a safe bet there will be wibbly-wobbly predestination idiocy sexual hangups from Clara, dodgy comic relief about grenades from Dan Starkey, and a tedious arc about why the Doctor looks like the chap from ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ (because having the Doctor played by someone who has already appeared on the show is something that’s never been done before, ever).

But the job of the thing is to get the fans talking, and – although I’ve stayed out of it – I’d guess there has already been all sorts of conjecture as to whether that explosion is a major plot point or just post-regenerational TARDIS fallout, and whether we’re going to be faced with another ‘Twin Dilemma’, another ‘Power of the Daleks’ or another ‘Spearhead From Space’ (although it’s fair to say we’ve had that already). But to those of you complaining that “We didn’t see anything”, I’d like to point out that sometimes you’re better off embracing the darkness, rather than simply cursing it.

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The Man in the Orange Suit

Today’s Metro headline: Peter Capaldi spotted in Wales wearing an orange space suit.

I’m amused by the fact that they seriously expect us to believe that Port Talbot could double for Lanzarote. Gareth, meanwhile, says that he likes “how the headline is the ‘matching spacesuits!’ bit, and the implication that maybe astronauts on NASA missions usually each have the own designer spacesuit, in different colours and with different accessories.  (To the pedantic: I’m sure, of course, that real spacesuits are very much individually tailored to each astronaut.  But you know what I mean.)”

Doctor Who location stories are seldom very interesting. Engineered purely for the sake of momentum, they provide talking points for the fans – glimpses of old / new monsters, speculation on plot points, along with excitement at the appearance of the Zygons, and dread at the appearance of Alex Kingston. (Don’t take it personally, Alex. It’s not you, it’s the Mrs Robinson thing. Perhaps it’ll be more convincing with Doctor number 12.)

Of course, if you want to, you can play Location Still Bingo, and look for the following:

1. Shot of lead actor conversing with director; at least one of them must be pointing at something

pub_1

 

2. Shot of lead actor enjoying private joke with co-star between takes

pub_3

 

3. Shot of lead actor standing outside the TARDIS

pub_2

 

4. Shot of lead actor looking mildly disgruntled and trying not to look at press cameras

pub_4

Anyway. The Wales News Service photos really aren’t particularly interesting, so I thought it might be better if we spiced them up a bit. And I didn’t want Peter to get lonely. Happy quarrying.

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The Doctor Does Dallas

Ah, that Bobby Ewing.

Fewer shower scenes outside of the one in Psycho and the one in N.Y.P.D. Blue have become quite so famous. Certainly there are fewer more contentious ways of ending a season than revealing that it’s all been a dream – although that’s a common trait in American TV. Season six of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, for example, explained away bad writing with an episode that suggested that the entire adventure up to that point had been the delusion of an institutionalised Buffy, and while the ending appeared to decry this, it still carried a note of ambiguity that always affected how I saw the rest of the show.

Red Dwarf got there first, of course, with the arguably more successful ‘Back To Reality’ – before revisiting the concept years later with the almost unwatchable ‘Back To Earth’. The it-was-all-a-dream ending was also used to amusing effect on Newhart, which concluded with Bob Newhart waking up in the bedroom he inhabited during his previous sitcom, whereupon we find out that his adventure as an innkeeper was a dream – an ending that directly parodied the bedroom scene in Dallas. Elsewhere, there’s St. Elsewhere, in which the camera pans up from the hospital to reveal [COLOSSAL SPOILER], while the final episode of Roseanne revealed the true fates of the characters in the book that the titular heroine had been writing.

Veterans of Brian of Morbius will remember that a while back I posted a video I’d done of an amended ending to the execrable ‘Wedding of River Song’ – one that shamelessly ripped off Airplane!, and which didn’t quite work the way I’d intended, but one that seemed to fit somehow. Which basically led us here. I’ve long since thought that a better ending to most of the Doctor Who series since the 2005 revival would be for [insert companion name here] to wake up in a hotel room where Sylvester McCoy / Paul McGann / Philip Glenister is stepping out of the shower. It’s thoroughly ridiculous, but arguably no less so than ‘The Big Bang’, in which Amy is able to reboot the universe by wishing really, really hard.

Gareth insists – and he keeps all our emails, so he’s probably right – that we’ve never discussed this. But I know I’ve talked about it with someone. Certainly ‘The Day of the Doctor’ taught us that the way the Doctor has chosen to remember an event that we took very much for granted, and which shaped the way we saw the character, was entirely wrong. It wasn’t so much a retcon as a reveal of new information, but I seriously wonder what Russell T Davies thinks about the whole thing. (Presumably his response would be something along the lines of “Quel Dommage!”).

When it came to putting this together, my options were limited. I didn’t want to just have Character A wake up and find the Doctor in the shower, so I had to fill in the backstory. The waking moment is preceded, as it turns out, by an explosion in J.R.’s office, and the department store in which Rose Tyler worked seemed an obvious choice. But Tennant’s sneaky jaunt through Adipose Industries in ‘Partners in Crime’ seemed much more appropriate than Eccleston’s fight with a plastic arm in a lift, while Jack’s run at the end of ‘Parting of the Ways’ adds a layer. What’s most interesting about this now is that Rose appears to have set off the bomb.

Anyway, here – for the sake of comparison – is the original Dallas footage.

(Start at 2:40 or thereabouts.)

Of course, there’s only one shower scene in the new series, and while I could have gone with Pertwee’s tattoos in ‘Spearhead From Space’, Matt Smith seemed a better fit. That caused problems, in that I had to expand his footage to make it flow better. If you listen carefully, you can hear the joins in the score. But it hangs together, just about, and as an academic exercise it works. And while I’m always going to be biased, I can’t help thinking it’s an improvement on ‘The Big Bang’.

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Photo opportunity

There are, in my experience, two ways to spice up a photo or screen grab.

The first is digitally.

 

There are, I daresay, other opportunities for Harry Potter / Doctor Who location mashups, but that’s all I can think of for the moment.

Sometimes, only the real thing will do. So when Thomas brought home the volcano he’d made at school at the end of last term, I thought it could do with some clarification on perspective.

Volcano

 

And to be fair, this is the sort of prop the BBC were routinely having to build in the 1970s, before CG sucked out a lot of the soul.

(The Fourth and the Eleventh Doctors were there, of course. But they’ve gone to look at rocks.)

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The Frank Spencer / Doctor Who Connection

“Have you ever been in Casualty?”
“Yeah.”
“The TV show Casualty?”
“Well, no.”

 (Extras, 2005)

Here’s a funny thing. We were watching Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em the other night – a third series episode where Frank gets to be a motorcycle courier, with suitably disastrous results when his brakes fail. It’s an episode of two halves: the first is typical slapstick tomfoolery, culminating in a madcap chase through a building site and dockyard which only ends when Frank inadvertently trashes the very office he’s recently left. The second half consists of a lengthy courtroom sequence in which Frank defends himself in the sort of flamboyant, utterly oblivious style Michael Crawford developed in series three, when his character became far more self-confident (and the theme music, as if to underpin this, grew a bassoon part underneath those Morse-emitting flutes.)

But what’s interesting about this episode, at least to someone who watches a large amount of Doctor Who, is that the sinister courier for whom Frank is working is played by none other than Derek Newark. In the first instance, this will mean nothing to you if you haven’t seen ‘Inferno’. It’ll also mean nothing to you if you can’t remember that Derek Newark played Greg Sutton – one of the few characters who was basically honourable and decent in both the real universe and the parallel, totalitarian nightmare into which the Doctor is thrust. It wasn’t his only appearance in Doctor Who, of course – but having watched ‘Inferno’ quite recently with Thomas, it was a surprise for both of us to see a slightly podgier, moustachioed Newark playing such a slimy piece of work.

Newark

The episode is on YouTube if you want to see it, but the story doesn’t end there. Because it wasn’t the first time I’d noticed the crossover. We’d already spotted Neil McCarthy – he did a couple of memorable turns in the Pertwee and Baker era, but to me he’s always going to be…well, you’ll see below. If it sounds a little obscure, it’s worth bearing in mind that as well as having a reasonable eye for spotting guest stars who have been in other things, I also have a personal stake in this – Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em was a big part of my childhood, as it was for pretty much everyone of a certain age, at least in the UK. Playground shouts of “Ooh, Betty!” were as common as the cries of “Exterminate!”. (I was going to do a comparison with whoever the kids are impersonating in the playground now, but it occurs to me that I actually don’t know what they’re watching and who forms the basis of their adolescent party pieces. This is the price you pay for not really using Tumblr.)

So I took the liberty of doing a little research and finding out which British actors have both Doctor Who and Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em on their CVs. And by god there are a lot of them.

The BBC network is part of it. Crossover is inevitable – and I’m not talking about the stunt casting of soap actors appearing as crotchety commanders on space stations, or cameos from news anchors, or the general over-use of the admittedly talented Olivia Coleman. There’s a large pool of actors that the BBC use again and again, and ’twas ever thus. But there does seem to be a strong parallel between Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and the adventures of everyone’s favourite Time Lord, perhaps because Classic Who did a large number of episodes per year that called for no end of extras and guest stars, so pretty much everyone who was required for a walk-on in the chronicles of Frank was also required, at some point or another, to brandish a spear or a laser gun in Who. More often than not, you’ll examine their IMDB profile to find a plethora of work during the 1970s and 80s, then a long gap, and then Doctors. This is because everyone has been in Doctors. Even Lynda Baron has been in it.

But I’m rambling. Having noticed a common trend of Who / Mothers guest stars, I have cherry-picked a few of my favourites, and I include them below.

 

Peter Jeffrey

Peter Jeffrey was a renowned character actor whose career is too vast and varied to explore in any detail here, although I’ll always remember his turn as Cromwell in By The Sword Divided (a series that stays etched in my brain only because it was the first time I saw a corpse swinging from a tree). Still, his Count Grendel is a career highlight – a Machiavellian rogue who you can’t help liking, simply because of Jeffrey’s charm and swagger, and a reminder that he could have been great as the Master. Here he plays Frank Spencer’s driving examiner, a job for which it is impossible to get any life insurance. The ‘start at’ function doesn’t work with WordPress embeds, so I’ve had to upload the whole episode, but jump to 37:30 for the driving test. It does not end well.

 

 

Neil McCarthyCyril Chaps

You get two for the price of one here. As Frank and Betty visit a seaside hotel on a second honeymoon which culminates in broken wardrobes, a collapsed bed and a huge hole in the floor, the already uptight manager reaches new levels of frustration as his business comes (quite literally) crashing down around him. McCarthy’s character here is more like a polite version of his tyrannical Thawn (‘The Power of Kroll’) than the childlike Barnham (‘The Mind of Evil’) but even he can’t cope with Frank’s disastrous attempts at D.I.Y. Playing the timid Kenny is Who veteran Cyril Chaps (‘The Ambassadors of Death’ and ‘The Androids of Tara’, amongst others), in a Norman Wisdom-esque turn that is ever so slightly camp.

 

 

Richard Wilson

This is cheating a little bit, really – Wilson’s role in his only Doctor Who story, ‘The Empty Child’ / ‘The Doctor Dances’, amounts to little more than an extended cameo, and is perhaps most memorable for the moment that a gas mask grows through his face. Still, he’s very good, and he tackles the role of Dr Constantine with the same calm (all right, not so calm) dignity with which he tackled Victor Meldrew and Dr Thorp in Only When I  Laugh, and in any case it gives me the chance to show what is perhaps my favourite moment in the third series. What’s great about this scene is the corpsing that follows Wilson’s sudden descent into the sofa – watch Michele Dotrice’s hand fly to her mouth to hide the fact that she’s laughing, before Crawford’s lip trembles a little as he struggles to maintain his composure, while Wilson himself makes a futile attempt to salvage some dignity, before giving up. Comedy gold.

 

 

Elisabeth Sladen

Sarah Jane Smith wasn’t always an investigative journalist – before falling in with the Third Doctor and U.N.I.T., she helped run the family greengrocers. Here she is trying to serve the hapless Frank on his way to visit Betty in hospital. Despite complaints from Sladen (in her autobiography) about Crawford’s general aloofness, the scene doesn’t suffer for it – Sladen’s increasing irritation is perfectly pitched, and the punch line, while obvious, is still flawless in its execution.

 

Not only but also…

I’ve omitted a great many memorable guest turns here – watch ‘Scottish Dancing’ and ‘R.A.F. Reunion’ for a few particularly interesting appearances from Doctor Who aficionados. For the sake of it, here’s a near-as-dammit-complete list of everyone who’s been in both shows, from the chunkiest guest starring role to the smallest uncredited walk-on, in no particular order, purely in the interests of democracy.

 

Peter Roy

Lee Richards

Mike Mungarvan

Monty Morriss

Brian Moorehead

Steve Ismay

Ridgewell Hawkes

Roy Brent

Eileen Winterton

Jules Walters

Ken Tracey

Bruce Callender

Frederick Wolfe

John Witty

Elaine Williams

Nick Thompson Hill

John Tatum

Rosina Stewart

Eddie Sommer

Richard Sheekey

Joe Santo

Katherine Rosenwink

Arthur Parry

Ricky Newby

Kevin Moran

Raymond Miller

Giles Melville

Emmett Hennessy

Patricia Gordino

Stenson Falke

Martin Clark

Amanda Carlson

Constance Carling

Gordon Black

Sue Bishop

Barbara Bermel

David Bache

Nancy Adams

Kelly Varney

Fulton McKay

Richard McNeff

Ben Aris

Kenneth Watson

David Quilter

Richard Seager

Brian Hawksley

Seymour Green

Graham Ashley

George Baker

Milton Johns

Tenniel Evans

John Ringham

Norman Jones

Glyn Houston

Eric Mason

Mark Allington

Andrew Lane

Norman Hartley

Derek Ware

Renu Setna

Daphne Oxenford

Christopher Holmes

Frederick Jaeger

George Sewell

Jay Neill

Stuart Fell

Eric Francis

George A. Cooper

Ralph Watson

John D. Collins

Cyril Luckham

Jane Hylton

Vernon Dobtcheff

Ken Barker

Royston Tickner

John Harvey

Eric Dodson

Campbell Singer

Bartlett Mullins

John Scott Martin

Harriet Reynolds

Andrew Downie

Peter Greene

Norman Mitchell

Alan Chuntz

John Caesar

 

Frank for the next U.N.I.T. commander, perhaps…?

gettingajob1

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Doctor Who meets the Goodies

The boys have become very interested in the madcap adventures of Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, and that’s reminded me that a while back I had a long-since abandoned project for a Goodies / Doctor Who mashup.

This isn’t it. This is the intro. The video is a work in progress. But if nothing else it shows that showing footage of Tom Baker wrestling in a pond with Bernard Horsfall at double speed, accompanied by jolly singing, is far more successful than it has any right to be.

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The Drinking Games – Tenth Doctor Edition

I have a more substantial post in the works, but need a day or two to finish it. In the meantime, here’s the next installment of the Drinking Games – and today, of course, we’re looking at David Tennant.

“Oh, come on,” said someone when I posted this on Facebook. “If you have ‘Fanwank’ as a category, no one is going to get beyond seven minutes of the first episode.”

Which is quite true, but it also means you don’t have to watch ‘New Earth’. And if for whatever reason you count an ‘episode’ as the start of a series, it means you don’t have to watch ‘Tooth and Claw’. Either way, it’s a win.

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