Monthly Archives: February 2015

Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels

Rarely do I post even on successive days, let alone twice in the same day, but I do feel like part of my childhood has died this evening.

Happy trails, Mr Nimoy.


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Doctor in This Dress

I genuinely can’t work out whether this TARDIS is gold, white or blue.


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The Doctor Who Public Information Films: Quarries

So here’s what I was doing last night.

If you’re of the wrong generation for Public Information Films, let’s just say you had a comparatively sheltered childhood. I have a deep envy for anyone who didn’t spend their youth exposed to horrible videos that showcased the dangers of wandering along railway tracks, or fetching frisbees from electrical substations, or playing near dangerous farm equipment. You probably managed to hold on to a sense of innocence that the rest of us lost the first time we saw little Katie get run over by that Volvo Estate, or the moment Julie had a close encounter with a firework. Bonfire night is somehow never quite the same after something like that.

I’ve written about Public Information Films before, and if you require any sort of education you’re welcome to go and have a look (if only to watch ‘Apaches’ again, or at the very least judge for yourselves as to whether or not I got the style right). It’s not the first foray into the sinister realms of 1970s PIFs I’ve attempted, but it’s also fair to say that ‘Don’t Splink‘ is more of a silly thing (Gareth’s silly thing, actually, minus the tacked-on ending), whereas this is a full-on pastiche.

When it came to selecting relevant stories, there was only one choice. ‘The Hand of Fear‘ is never going to be my favourite Fourth Doctor story (that honour goes to ‘Pyramids of Mars’ or ‘The Ribos Operation’, depending on what mood I’m in), but it is just about the only time I can remember the TARDIS landing in a quarry that was actually supposed to be a quarry, rather than a quarry that was supposed to be an alien planet, with varying degrees of effectiveness depending on where they managed to film it. (I have blanked the bad ones from my memory, but see ‘Colony in Space’ for an example of how to do this particularly well.)

But if ‘Hand of Fear’ features a slightly damp squib of a plot, a thoroughly ridiculous fight in a power plant and the silliest costume Elisabeth Sladen ever wore, it does at least have a convincing explosion in that first episode. In the story the Doctor manages to dig Sarah Jane out of the rubble only to find her clutching Eldrad’s hand, and then he takes her to the hospital before all hell breaks loose. In this, things don’t end so well, but that’s all part of the fun.

The voiceover was done by an old friend and former work colleague who we’ll call David, largely because that’s his name. Three facts about David: he hails from the same Kentish town as my mother; he is the only person I’ve ever met who managed to quote the theme from ‘The Littlest Hobo‘ in his leaving speech; he is, at times, in possession of a smashing beard. David and I would often while away the hours at the office talking about this or that, in between dealing with disgruntled authors and laughing at unusual article titles, and when it came to recalling those unpleasant Public Information Films, it must be said that both his memory and his impressions were particularly good. He did a superb job at this as well.

Once I’d got David’s narration, it was simply a question of condensing the narrative – events happen in this more or less in the same order they appear on screen, but a fair bit of editing was needed in order to maintain a decent pace. I had to work with the limitations of the source material, including an occasionally intrusive score, but all things considered it’s fairly punchy. And that slogan at the end? I wrote that. I’m claiming copyright. Don’t even try stealing it.

There will, I hope, be more of these. Keep a look out for Jon Pertwee in the dangers of working with dangerous chemicals, coming soon to a TV screen near you. In the meantime, be careful crossing the road, don’t tamper with electrical connections, don’t wander off, and if a strange man wearing a mac approaches you in the street and asks you to get into a police box with him, for God’s sake, tell a grown-up.

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It’s a shame about Ray

Cheers, Starbucks.


The barista looked a little bemused, but her colleague got the joke. “You’re showing your age, there,” said a friend of mine.

“Not at all,” I said. “Just my sense of natural taste.” Emily was going to be Romana, which is a better fit, given that Romana is smarter, prettier and a better driver. I just didn’t trust them to spell it properly.

We were en route to Minehead, where we spent the week at Butlins – a holiday camp, if you’re across the pond and have no frame of reference. Butlins has long surpassed its fifties reputation of knobbly knees competitions and compulsory ‘fun’ activities in dingy chalets, even though the dingy chalets remain. These days it’s all soft play and go-karting and indoor splash pools. In previous years we’ve seen live productions of LazyTown and Sesame Street, both of which filled me with some horror, not least at the colossal size of Elmo (six-foot Muppets dancing around a stage to disco music? It seems grotesque). It’s not the notion of a puppet having a bottom half. It’s when they look like they’ve had their faces glued on to fully-sized humans in some freakish lobotomy, which is exactly what happened to the likes of Ziggy and Stingy. You half expect Matt Smith to emerge from the pyrotechnics, bellowing “I’VE STILL GOT LEGS!”.

This year it was Mister Maker and the Scooby Doo gang – although the funniest thing we saw all week was Cirque du Hilarious, a team of magicians, acrobats and leggy dancers, interspersed with a cacophony of toilet humour, courtesy of the father and son team that is Clive Webb and Danny Adams. There were enough fat / bald jokes to make me a little uncomfortable, but also some lovely moments, particularly the scene where one of the cast emerged to sing ‘Save Your Love‘, dressed both as Renee and Renato. Most of the time, however, I couldn’t really get away from the fact that Danny was dressed rather like the Sixth Doctor.


(I couldn’t get a decent photo of Danny from where we were sitting, so I shamelessly pinched this one from tiredmummyoftwo. I do hope she doesn’t mind.)

The Doctor’s visited Butlins before, of course, except that it was 1959, and it was called Shangri-La. The Doctor and Mel win a holiday to Disneyland, only they have a collision with a satellite and end up in Wales. Things get worse when the sinister Gavrok turns up with his army of thugs, with the intention of wiping out the last of the Chimerons, the eponymous Delta, who is hiding out among a group of (non-terrestrial) holidaymakers.

This particular story was called ‘Delta and the Bannermen’, and to anyone with a basic knowledge of 1980s music and the NATO phonetic alphabet, it’s easy to join the dots.


I’ll confess that I originally did this as a joke, until Gareth pointed out that it was absolutely intentional. It’s hardly a surprise – just the sort of pop culture reference you’d expect from 1980s Who – but also the sort of thing that might easily be missed. I asked him if the Chimerons (pronounced Shimmerons, if you were wondering) were supposed to resemble those green army men that we all had as kids. “If so, it wasn’t mentioned,” he said, although “it might explain why they fell over so easily.”


Even as a nine-year-old I remember ‘Delta and the Bannerman’ being thoroughly mediocre, and in order to test the theory we re-watched it at the weekend. I was right. It’s got very little actually going for it. There are stupid soldiers (“Ooh, they’re obviously still in the farm; the radio’s on. Shoot it to smithereens”). There are tedious Americans. There’s a lot of waffle about bees, some of which is at least relevant to the plot. There is one frankly shocking (and almost incongruous) act of terrorism. There is Don Henderson, playing a nasty villain in charge of a bunch of idiots, and who eventually falls on his own sword. There is also Ken Dodd, who acquits himself well, although I will admit that with a certain reluctance (stunt casting in Who goes back to the sixties, but I always get cross when the likes of JNT sacrifice artistic value in the name of press space, even when it works).


Ken’s brief appearance works (just about), but any sense of plausibility is undermined by the incredibly accommodating attitude displayed by some of the characters – particularly Billy, the dashing mechanic / singer of Shangri-La. Completely unfazed by the sight of a wrinkly green baby that ages at tremendous speeds, he abandons life in Wales without a second thought, dashing off with Delta in a stolen spacecraft in order to repopulate new planets. He’s shallow and dull, and if ‘Delta’ has very little going for it, then Billy has absolutely nothing going for him – and the story’s denouement (“Let’s make this baby fly!”) is, given a surface reading, the worst kind of neatly resolved slush.

“Billy is the most annoying character, and is completely implausible,” says Gareth. “However, there are theories (according to About Time) which suggest a more sinister thing. Delta is the only female of her race that we see, and the others all die trying to protect her to get her off the planet. The suggestion is that essentially she entraps Billy with pheromones and her squelchy green goo, so that she can take him away, mate with him, then eat him.”


Billy leaves behind the far more interesting Ray, played by Sara Griffiths, a bike-riding, doe-eyed young woman with an unrequited crush on a man who abandons her in order to dye his skin green. Ray was a candidate for the next companion following Bonnie Langford’s departure, until scheduling adjustments meant that the role went to Sophie Aldred instead. The rest, as they say, is history. It’s been said that Ace set something of a precedent for future companions, particularly Rose (even though Ace is clearly middle class trying to do working class, in the same way that Ali G is a pastiche of middle class white people trying to be black). The genesis of Rose arguably owes far more to Charley Pollard, but it would be very interesting to see the direction the show would have taken if Sara, instead of Sophie, had joined the TARDIS crew.

Save one brief appearance in a non-canonical short story, that’s about all we’ve heard about Ray, which is something of a pity. I daresay she’s still out there somewhere, probably in a typing pool in a 1960s accountancy firm, before getting a job at UNIT and managing to eventually encounter the Doctor, only to not recognise him at all, and be similarly bewildered when he doesn’t recognise her. Wibbly wobbly.

Anyway, by sheer coincidence I was thinking about all this – and the post-Doctor lives of companions and not-quite companions – on our way out, as I passed the checking sheet near the funfair toilets.


So now you know.

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Dum. Dum dum. Dum dum dumdumdumda-

I will write about Butlins next time I’m here, but two things happened there that bear a brief mention before I tackle a stack of dirty dishes.

In the first instance, we managed to survive almost the entire holiday without catching a sight of a certain wretched purple monstrosity, and the moment we inevitably didI had an instant idea for a Dinopaws mashup.

The second was that everyone spent the entire week, it seems, talking about the Eastenders live week, whether it was the papers speculating over whether guilt-ridden glances from Ian had unmasked him, or the idiot in the U.S. who genuinely thought the whole thing was a badly scripted / “obviously fake” fly-on-the-wall, with an air of criminal irresponsibility on the part of the producers – “Why didn’t they, like, go to the police?”. (Well, it’s either a genuine moron or a guy playing at being a moron and irritating me in the process. I’d link to it, except it’ll probably be gone by the time you read this.)

The truth was revealed on the Thursday, when it transpired that Lucy’s killer was none other than her younger brother Bobby, discovered in flashback, clutching the music box that delivered the fatal blow (I assume; I’ve not actually watched it). Which made me think about the opening to season 24, and how ‘Time and the Rani’ could have been much better if they’d done this.



Hey, Rani. Barney. It rhymes.

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Doctor Who and the Misplaced Consonants (Part Two)

I’m on holiday at the moment, but to tide you over, here’s a scheduled post. If you don’t know what on earth this is all about, have a look here.


5. The Chaste


6. The Park in Space



7. Furry From the Deep


8. The Steeds of Doom


“Bah,” said Gareth. “Why does ‘The Steeds Of Doom’ not have John Steed?!” Well, maybe next time.


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The Doctor Dances

In the first instance, this may be the silliest thing I’ve ever done.

It all stemmed from a conversation at the tail end of the school run, one afternoon last week. Daniel suggested – as we rounded the corner by the one-day-a-week bookshop and the Indian restaurant where Emily booked a surprise birthday meal back in the summer of 2009 – that ballet was not a boy’s thing, and that only girls did it. I immediately informed him that there was a thriving boy’s ballet scene, and indeed that one of the most famous ballets in the book, Swan Lake, was repackaged in an all-male form some twenty years ago. Ballet, I reassured them, required stamina and as much physical prowess as any sport. Girls could do it, and many did, but there was no reason why boys couldn’t follow suit.

Sadly our children aren’t quite old enough for Billy Elliot. I could show them the T-Rex montage, I suppose, but it really doesn’t carry the same emotional resonance stripped out of its narrative. It’s one reason why I always get twitchy when I see the likes of ‘Memory’ performed at variety shows and revues, for example, because ‘Memory’ doesn’t mean a goddamned thing if you take it out of Cats. Similarly, Clint Eastwood’s “Do I feel lucky?” monologue at the end of Dirty Harry means nothing if you haven’t seen the earlier encounter (with a youthful Danny Glover, no less) in order that the two might be compared for tone, context and eventual outcome. You wouldn’t look up isolated scenes from Doctor Who and watch them on YouTube, would you? You would? Oh well, carry on then.

But amidst the random thoughts and images that were passing through my head that particular afternoon, one got snagged on a stray branch and lingered, and that was my review of ‘Asylum of the Daleks’. It’s a rubbish episode, but it was around that time, as I remembered, that I first really started to notice Matt Smith’s tendency to lapse into dance routines. Oh, I know there’s a lot of dancing in Eleventh-era Doctor Who. There are so many GIFs of that ridiculous ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ wedding scene that you could almost fill a Tumblr page with them. It’s probably got its own weather system. I don’t mean the dancing that is supposed to be dancing. I mean this.


I know even less about ballet than I do about football, so yes, I’m sure the feet are wrong. He’s a Time Lord. They’re probably Gallifreyan steps. There’s probably fan-fiction. No, don’t bother looking it up.

Things are much the same by the time we reach ‘The Rings of Akhaten’, an episode that features an awful lot of cavorting around the console, as only Smith knows how. That console has been the scene for many a merry dance, as multiple prior incarnations of the Doctor leap from switch to valve to dial to lever in the manner of Victor Frankenstein in his laboratory, before proclaiming (as Tennant did, in a sensationally stupid bit of revisionism) that the reason they did this was because the TARDIS is “designed to have six pilots, and I have to do it single handed”. I don’t think anyone actually believes this, any more than they believe River’s assertion that the TARDIS only wheezes because the Doctor leaves the brakes on. The leaping remains. But no one did it with quite as much visual panache as Smith did, and it really did seem to be the right moment to actually document this visually.

Edward wouldn’t sleep Friday night, so he kept me company as we went through every one of the Eleventh Doctor’s episodes looking for appropriate visual material, which is far less tedious (and which took less time) than it sounds. I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert choreographer, but I did at least try and match up the musical cadences with what the Doctor was doing, and I do hope that comes across. Musical choices were obvious – it couldn’t really be anything but ‘Dance of the Reed Flutes’. It’s just so airy.

I went to see the Nutcracker years ago, actually, in Covent Garden, and thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle, even though there wasn’t much of a story (girl meets nutcracker / nutcracker develops sentience and fights off mouse / dancing confectionery). I had been ill the day before and the day after, laid up in bed with a stomach bug, when Emily came in to check how I was feeling.

“I might regenerate,” I managed to murmur between coughs. “I don’t know. It feels different this time…”

There’s still hope for my children, but I think I might be a lost cause.


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The inevitable Doctor Who / Fifty Shades of Grey thing

Warning: today’s post contains adult material.

Yes, yes, all right. I’ll concede there’s nothing inevitable about this. Except to say that my ‘Doctor Who does porn‘ entry has done better, generally speaking, than anything else I’ve written recently, and while the whole https thing means I can no longer see what most of you are tapping into your search engines, I do know that at least a few of you are searching for Doctor and Tegan sex fanfic, you dirty rascals.

Anyway: E.L. James and her BDSM juggernaut. I read the first book a couple of years back and confess I enjoyed the story, while wanting to gloss over the frankly excruciating sex scenes. Curiously this is the exact opposite of what you’d normally do in a porn movie, according to a friend of mine. The sex itself was hard to stomach (not the submission thing, I just found it tedious) but I found myself mysteriously compelled towards the character of Christian Grey, wanting to know more about him. Much like the Doctor himself, he’s a man of hidden depths who plays his cards close to his chest. Plus the first time we meet him he’s in a hardware store buying cable ties, which seems a very Doctorish thing to do, even if the intended purposes are probably somewhat different.

There was a thing doing the rounds on Facebook:


I changed it to:


Disappointingly,” said Gareth, “that image contains all 256 shades of grey. I was hoping its creator had been sneaky.”

Anyway. I got busy with Fireworks yesterday and there are two images below. First, for those of you who were wondering what happened to Jack Harkness’s wayward brother after he got out of Torchwood cold storage:

(Let’s just ignore that disastrous neckline, shall we? I had spent ages trying to sync the colours of the only suitable image of Gray so that it didn’t show, and I had shopping to do.)

Meanwhile, in the TARDIS:

Geddit? Shades? Cybershades? Yeah? [tumbleweed]

There are exactly fifty of them, by the way; I counted. Some are hidden behind the heads of Smith and Tennant. And yes, I did find those images by Googling for ‘Doctor Who naked’. And no, you don’t want to see what’s in there. Trust me on this. You really don’t. Really.

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The Nimon be praised

Ah, how do I love thee, ‘Horns of Nimon’? Let me count the ways.

For starters, this is one of the silliest stories in the canon. The premise is fairly sound: it’s Theseus and the Minotaur, half a universe adrift. It has a labyrinth, a bull-like monster and a batch of unnecessary sacrifices. Even Theseus himself makes a token appearance in the form of the partially anagrammed Seth, who has feigned nobility in order to impress girls, and has wound up being hero-worshipped by a Blue Peter presenter. Somewhat disappointingly, this is not Peter Purves.

The Doctor and Romana arrive in the TARDIS – Romana wearing a bright red coat that turns out to be something of a mistake when she’s cornered by the titular bull. There is a lot of running and shouting and some frantic mugging from Baker, who buries his head in K-9’s neck with a gasp of horror when the pair are about to crash into a planet (not long after giving him the kiss of life). It’s partly the excesses of a performer about to enter his twilight, ‘needs to be reigned in’ phase, and partly Kenny McBain’s direction, which allows for moments like this.

(“Simultaneously the best Tom Baker moment,” says YouTube user Cybjon, “and the worst. It’s like the show jumped the shark, got eaten by the shark, only for the show to eat its way out of the shark triumphant. Also, the shark has the face of Graham Crowden on acid.”)

We can’t single out Baker. Lalla Ward is also clearly having fun, whether it’s sparring with the aforementioned Crowden, sneering at the bullying co-pilot (whose role is largely to shout “WEAKLING SCUM!” at his prisoners) or leading an escape attempt by running halfway across the room, crying “GO! GO!”, and throwing her arm over her shoulder in the sort of theatrical manner that you’d expect from a stage school graduate. Indeed, the whole story is borderline pantomime in places, before crossing the border completely and acquiring a visa, and then applying for citizenship. It’s no secret that Anthony Read was less than happy with the interpretation of his script, which is relatively straight-laced until it wound up in the hands of a cast who play it mostly for its comic potential. Small wonder, then, that this story divides fans as much as it does.

But I enjoyed ‘The Horns of Nimon’ so much I watched it twice in the same day. Once by myself, with Edward to keep me company in between clambering up on the table and emptying out the cat food (this is him, you understand, rather than me) and once with Joshua and Daniel, both of whom were thoroughly gripped. We particularly enjoyed Soldeed’s final comeuppance, where the power-crazed fanatic comes to the unmistakable conclusion that he’s been duped:

Somewhere in the creative ether there is a dramatic, serious version of this scene which would make Anthony Read a happy man. I have no interest in seeing it. I confess I love this with a passion. Crowden goes through all five stages of Lear’s madness in the space of a couple of minutes. In contrast, Lalla plays it comparatively seriously, even if she delivers her lines with perhaps more resonance than is strictly necessary. It calls to mind the Doctor / Pirate Captain face-off in ‘The Pirate Planet’, in that you have a normally flippant and detached character being the serious one, because the gravity of the situation calls for it. Crowden hams it up like a loon, building his entire performance to this one moment, but somehow it fits.

There are many ways to skin a cat. But here, exclusive to this blog (because nobody else would be quite so silly) is a line-by-line breakdown with appropriate stage directions, showing how you – yes, YOU! – can reconstruct this scene, as it originally played, within the privacy of your own home / school / club / whatever. (Transcript by; annotations by me.)


[Teka has joined her friends in suspended animation.]

SETH: Teka!

[Romana goes to the controls.]

SOLDEED [out-of-control public schoolteacher]: You…you meddlesome hussy. Do not touch the sacrifices!

ROMANA [curiously straight]: It’s all over, Soldeed. You’re finished.

SOLDEED [evangelical street preacher]: No, the Nimon will fulfil his great promise! The Nimon be praised!

ROMANA [chiding parent]: The Nimon be praised? How many Nimons have you seen today?

SOLDEED [eyes glued open]: Don’t dare blaspheme the Nimon.

ROMANA [mother asking child about biscuit consumption]: How many!

SOLDEED [hand in cookie jar]: Skonnos will-

ROMANA [as above]: How many Nimons?

SOLDEED [King Lear]: Three. I have seen three.

ROMANA [angry committee meeting]: Well, I’ve just seen a whole lot more rampaging down the corridor. Face it, Soldeed, you’re being invaded.

SOLDEED [Billy Bones]: He said he was the only one. The last survivor of his race.

ROMANA [chewing out a drunken teenager]: He told you what you wanted to hear, promised you what you wanted to have.

SOLDEED [Sylvester McCoy, eight years early]: So this is the great journey of life?

ROMANA [“Yes, this was my favourite line”]: They’re parasitic nomads who’ve been feeding off your selfishness and gullibility.

SOLDEED [Johnny the Painter]: My dreams of conquest. [Lairy drunk] You have brought this calamity upon me!

ROMANA [Angry headmistress]: You’ve brought it on yourself!

SOLDEED [Richard III]: You will die for your interference!

[Soldeed runs through to the furnace and pulls the lever.]

ROMANA: Stop him!

[Seth shoots Soldeed as the alarm starts to sound.]

SOLDEED [Private Frazer from Dad’s Army]: You fools. You are all doomed. Doomed.

[Soldeed dies with a manic laugh.]

DISCLAIMER: Please note that Brian of Morbius is by no means liable for death caused by bad exposure to over-acting, or indeed over-exposure to bad acting.

There is also this.

In any event, I was struck throughout that the story’s title is only one letter shy of ‘The Horns of Nimoy’, so –

You pronounce it differently, of course. A closer homophonic parallel is ‘The Horns of Simon’, which automatically made my children think of a certain grumpy millionaire, known for his weekly pantomime theatrics.


(For years now, every time the boys want to dress up, at least one of them will do nothing more than pull their trousers up to the armpit and shout “Hey, I’m Simon Cowell!”.)

I did not produce this image. I will possibly be producing a video mashup of the Nimon making derisive remarks, using MP3s I found on the internet.

But I think that’s for another day, don’t you?

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The Frenemy of my Frenemy is my Frenemy

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Doctor’s Facebook dinner party was basically a train wreck.

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