Monthly Archives: August 2015

Doctor Who: Switching Channels

In 1992, John Ritter (Three’s Company, It) and Pam Dawbey (Mork and Mindy) starred in Stay Tuned, in which an unmotivated couch potato and his long-suffering spouse inadvertently make a deal with Satan and wind up stuck inside their TV. There they are forced to escape from a variety of pastiches – The Dukes of Hazzard, Wayne’s World and Star Trek all feature – before winding up in a Salt-N-Pepa video. It is thoroughly silly, and twenty-five years later, it is ripe for a remake.

This is not that remake. But it is as close as I’m ever going to get to it, given my limited editing skills. And it has Muppets.

Switching Channels – as I have called this, even though I’m not entirely sure that’s the right title – started life as something very different. I’d originally envisaged a sweeping, rambling narrative that took in the entire Pond backstory, from encounters in Leadworth to farewells in Manhattan, by way of spaceships and mines and factories. It was going to be called The Ballad of Amy and Rory, and it was going to be epic. The Doctor and Amy would look up at the sky in horror to see a giant Zebedee jumping over the hedge, as in this Goodies episode (I haven’t timestamped the link, but the moment in question is at 7:10, if you were wondering). River’s announcement that “I’m your daughter” would segue into the Eastenders theme, because I always thought that would have made for a better ending. (Actually, the episode really ought to have finished with Amy bellowing “I’m not telling you what to do. I am not your mother!”, before River screams “YES YOU ARE!”.)

Best of all, I was going to juxtapose the Doctor’s tearful farewell to Amy in the New York cemetery with extracts from this.

It would have been fun, and I almost managed it, but in the end I couldn’t find a decent helium-recorded version of ‘Annie’s Song’ that didn’t have dialogue playing underneath it. Someone clever could probably rip it from the foreign language DVD and re-pan the stereo tracks. I even went down that road myself. So maybe another time.

But there was also going to be another segment in the middle that saw Amy and Rory fall into a TV set, and it was during the process of becoming increasingly frustrated with the other bits that I realised that a little streamlining was in order. So out went the other bits, and in came the the metaphysical post-modern silliness that you’ve hopefully just watched, unless you decided to scroll down and read this first (in which case scroll up again. Go on; we’ll wait for you).

The main inspiration for this stems from 1990s children’s television. If those of you who’ve never heard of Tots TV could bear with us a second:


You see what I mean.

Look, I’m aware that some things probably shouldn’t be thrown together. Baileys and Coca-Cola, for example (I know this from experience, having tried it). The happy, carefree, multi-lingual world of the three small puppet children in Ragdoll’s 1990s extravaganza is streets away from the thoroughly twisted sight of Amy the Peg Doll careering through George’s doll’s house in the final act of ‘Night Terrors’. But I refuse to accept that there wasn’t at least a part of the concept design that wasn’t influenced by it, however subconsciously. It was therefore an obvious starting point – and from there, other influences followed. The Scooby Doo / Doctor Who thing, for example, is something I’ve talked about before, but if you don’t fancy reading all that, just have a look here:


And so on and so on.

There are rough spots. The Third Doctor scene isn’t as I’d hoped it would be, because of the non-existence of certain lines that Arthur Darvill never said (and probably never will). I shot the animation over the course of a single hour, and boy does it show. I make no excuses for this except that I was on childcare duty and Edward kept wandering in and jogging the table (which is why the landscape keeps moving around). The lighting is inconsistent and the figure placement even more so, but the animation itself is comparatively smooth by my standards. I’d love to be Oliver Postgate working in his garage, but it’s the middle of the summer and I have to keep breaking up the Minecraft squabbles. Besides, our garage is full of junk; you couldn’t swing a cat in there, let alone a Soup Dragon.

There is a point at which any artist or creator has to stop with the polishing. I’m comparatively scrupulous over my blog posts – even more so when it’s paid work – but I often think that with the videos I draw the ‘stop polishing’ line somewhat prematurely. It’s cost me in the past – I still regret the occasional glitches and random, almost subliminal frames in some of the early stuff that wasn’t trimmed properly – but I’m also at the stage in my life where I care less than perhaps I should. When you have only so much time, and (in my case) only so much technical expertise, it is sometimes better to get something done than to get it perfect. Russell T. Davies knows this, perhaps, better than anyone, as his confessions in The Writer’s Tale only re-affirm.

So I’m happy with this being rough. The Beatles’ first album was notoriously rough, and everyone loves that. Besides, being ‘rough’ means that it’s finished. And I’m glad it’s finished, because now I can go and do something else. That tribute to ‘Logopolis’, for example, or the Withnail and I mashup I’ve been tinkering with for months. I have more ideas than capacity to implement them successfully, but this isn’t a career; this is a bit of fun. And I’m happy for it to be fun, and nothing else.

Still, I wish I’d managed to fix ‘Annie’s Song’.

(Incidentally, if you were wondering about the significance of the blocks in the background during the animated bit, they’re there for a reason. But I’m not going to tell you. It really ought to be obvious.)


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Dinopaws Revisited

You’ll have to wait a few more days for the more substantial post I have planned; it’ll go up when I’m not thinking about packing for festivals. In the meantime, Dinopaws. Because Dinopaws is great, and it’s been a while.



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Look to your left

An opening: if you’ve been following the UK news this last week you won’t have failed to notice the DWP scandal that saw the Government release leaflets about benefit sanctions that featured false testimonials. Said leaflets were awash with remorseful tales from chagrined claimants who’d been shown the error of their ways by a wise, thoughtful ‘work coach’ who is absolutely not disillusioned, incompetent or under desperate pressure to fulfill sanction targets. Unfortunately the testimonials were fake, and the photos of ‘Zac’ and ‘Sarah’ were stock. “They have now been removed,” the DWP assures us, “to avoid confusion”.

In recent days, and as a damage control exercise, events have taken a more bizarre turn.

This isn’t the place for debate about the DWP – suffice to say I spent a few years working for them and saw for myself how the organisation recruits from the bottom of the barrel and how it is dispirited, overly bureaucratic and afraid of its own shadow, and that was before we elected a Tory government. In any event the Left is loving this, if only because it gets to dump on Iain Duncan Smith, and also because it diverts attention away from the political in-fighting that’s going on during its election campaign. (The Labour party is hardly unique in this regard – Louise Mensch’s aborted smear campaign is proof enough – but it is amusing watching Andy Burnham threaten to challenge the result only to get smacked down by Harriet Harman.)

The last time they had a leadership campaign, of course, we wound up with Ed “Don’t call me Dave” Miliband, whom I’ve always contested looks rather like Richard David-Caine from Swashbuckle – sentiments only re-affirmed since he recently grew a beard.


Here’s the thing. Miliband is ideologically very different to Tony Blair, his most recent-but-one predecessor, but one thing that strikes you when you look at the body language and the rhetoric is how much he’s obviously been groomed in the same manner by the party’s spin doctors. In fact, you could say that spinning him in this manner was part of his political undoing: Labour under-performed in the last election, particularly considering the exit poll, the result costing Miliband his leadership of the party.

Bringing the conversation back to Doctor Who, we may thus infer from this that Ed Miliband is Anthony Ainley to Tony Blair’s Roger Delgado. However good Ainley was, he will always be remembered as “someone who was told to play it like Delgado”, and this is to his detriment as a performer. There are some great Master moments during the 1980s, but half the time Ainley comes across as a rather camp Delgado impersonator, rather than someone who was allowed to develop the character in his own right. (This also makes Geoffrey Beevers Gordon Brown, which sort of works if you see him without makeup.)

The one to watch in this campaign, of course, is Jeremy Corbyn, who is in favour of nationalisation and higher taxes for the one per cent. People wiser about these sorts of things than I am tell me that his election would potentially obliterate the Labour party, “because people don’t want a socialist government”. I really don’t have a clue how true this is, and it’s for this reason that I don’t usually talk about politics on this blog. I leave that for people with greater interest and less cynicism, such as the friend of a friend who wrote this:

“He is eccentric and beardy, with distinctive slightly retro dress sense. He has traveled alone for a long time though is now looking for a companion. They say he’s going to take us back to 1983 with him, but he’s actually more interested in taking us to the future. He’s stood alone as a fighter for his beliefs and dropped from view during the nineties but has had a massive resurgence in popularity in recent times. He’s been pictured with people the world sees as villains but would prefer to talk to them rather than fight them. He believes that speaking honestly can be effective even to those robotic types who want to take over the world. His position on jelly babies is unclear but apart from that, Jeremy Corbyn is basically the Doctor.”

It’s a good argument, although it stumbles at the first hurdle with the mention of beards, because (‘Leisure Hive’ / ‘Day of the Moon’ / ‘Wedding of River Song’ aside) the Doctor himself is not beardy, with the exception of John Hurt, who plays someone who does not refer to himself as the Doctor. So I’m still on my Master analogy, although Gareth – when pressed – said that he looked a bit like Rorvik from ‘Warrior’s Gate’.


He does, sort of, although Rorvik’s a slave-driving (in a quite literal sense) despot, hopeless to the last, so perhaps that’s why I’m still not sure about the analogy – the Master may be despicable, but at least he’s got a winning personality. “Actually,” said Emily, “Jeremy Corbyn looks like a whole bunch of middle-aged men with short beards”.


They’re both right.

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Pictures at an Exhibition

Right. Month of self-imposed blogging exile over. I’ve not been entirely idle; in fact I’ve been making waves over at Kasterborous this week, complaining about the slapping in Doctor Who – a point of view which has caused much ire among a community that is getting hot under the collar about a supposed overreaction, while still avoiding the issue.

Anyway. What were we doing in Aylesbury? Well, the two eldest had gone horse riding –  one of these summer activity things – which left us with time to kill and a museum to visit. Said museum is the Buckinghamshire County Museum, an interesting collection of artifacts and hands-on activities. (A word of advice: this is not in the County Hall, and do not ask anyone in the County Hall for directions; they are useless.) There is a mock-up Tudor house, a fairly impressive taxidermy collection and a wall-sized photo of a man with a nose piercing that freaked out Daniel, to the extent that he had to enter the room backwards in order to avoid its gaze.

There is also – at least for the next few weeks – a pop-up Doctor Who exhibition, consisting of fan-donated memorabilia. The room in which it is housed is reasonably sized and the collection – while understandably not exactly vast – is free to view and refreshingly eclectic. There are signed posters (the collector’s name is Susan, which caused much amusement) and there are books ancient and modern and there is even a copy of Dalek Attack, the 1992 Amiga game that I’ve never played, although there’s plenty of YouTube footage of the Doctor running through London streets zapping Ogrons and being most un-Doctorish (‘Day of the Daleks’ aside, anyway). But the first thing that hits you – thankfully not literally – is the fan-made Dalek opposite the door.



The Aylesbury branch of Oxfam has a collection of the Target novels, for the princely sum of £3.99 each, if you’re so inclined. I confess I am not, but fine if you have that sort of cash.

You can’t see it very well but the action figures at the bottom of this case really are the pits. I’d call them a low point in the history of toy manufacturing but I think we reached that particular nadir when Character Options released their first five-inch figure collection last year, and we’ve already done all that.


And in the middle of it – oh, frabjous day! It’s the ‘State of Decay’ audiobook recording I had when I was a kid. For all I know it’s the very same copy, which as far as I’m aware was given away by my parents years ago. But it probably isn’t.


Yes, it is a TARDIS Easter Egg, and for a change we’re not talking about a scene of the Doctor having half a conversation while Martha whines about how the dinner’s on the table (and can we, at some point, please deal with the fact that every time we see Martha in 1969 she’s still wearing the same leather jacket and jeans, despite having lived there for months?). These TARDISes / TARDISi (you pick) dominate the right hand wall, and seem to lead the way naturally down to a full size one in the far corner.


Directly opposite, we have the Russian dolls. I’m still not sure whether ordering Doctors 1-6 in this fashion is the right way round, or the wrong way round, or a combination of both.



The TARDIS sits next to the dressing up box. In a rare break from tradition (at least for this new, non-anonymous version of the blog), I’m even including a picture of Edward.


It was round about this time I got chatting to a visiting party, one of whom was picking ‘favourite Doctors’ from one of Susan’s signed wall charts. She’d tied Pertwee and Baker (I) for first, with Colin Baker coming second. I was telling her how nice it was to meet someone who likes the man’s TV work when Edward starting attacking the displays, so we made a run for it.

Upstairs there is a drawer unit full of bug specimens and a display on beekeeping. “They could do a Doctor Who bee story,” Emily mused. “You know, something about the bees going home, but actually doing something with it. And the monsters are beekeepers with nothing under their hoods.” Which is sort of back in ‘Three Doctors’ territory, but (if you’ll forgive the obvious pun) I think it has wings. Certainly Daniel was hiding behind me when we got up here, although he has recently seen E.T., which may not have helped.


I was still mulling this over in my head as we wandered back out into Aylesbury. The town centre itself is the usual collection of charity shops, pedestrianised precincts and indoor centres, but it does have a few decent-looking pubs to its name. It was market day, and the traders were out in force, peddling phone cases and mangoes and plastic toys. “Who’s that, Daddy?” asked Daniel as we passed by a statue overlooking the square.

I looked on the plinth and explained that it was Benjamin Disraeli, a former chancellor and, eventually, Prime Minister.

“It looks kind of like Jon Pertwee,” he said.

And you know what? It does.



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