Monthly Archives: February 2022

Doctor Who: Flux – The Executive Summaries (part 2)

I’m writing this in the midst of a gale. The wind is buffeting the hills, saturating the coasts, uprooting trees, downing power lines. None of this is happening outside my window. Outside my window it’s a bit blowy. It’s a bit blowy and all the schools are shut, which is a first world problem. I’m supposed to be on my way to the cafe to work on this book that will never get published, but there is a Danger To Life and in any case the cafe will probably be closed.

Anyway: where did we get to? We imagined a conversation between Chris Chibnall and Matt Strevens. Oh, and we did a field report to High Sontaran Command. Today, things get a little weirder. But then so did Flux, so at least it’s consistent. You will find three episode summaries below: we’re missing one for ‘The Vanquishers’, because that’s the episode I reviewed. I may write a precis at some point in the future, purely for the sake of completeness. But probably not.

By the way, if anyone at CBBC wants to hire me, I am available for interviews.

Once, Upon Time

INT. TARDIS

[Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor wakes up and shakes her head. She gazes in awe at the sight around her: a vintage 1980s TARDIS, all gleaming white walls and round things.]

WHITTAKER: Holy mackerel, you’ve had a factory reset.

[Dan enters the room wearing Melanie Bush’s tracksuit.]

DAN / MEL: Ah. Feeling better, are you?

WHITTAKER: No. What happened?

DAN / MEL: You fell off the exercise bike and regenerated. Don’t you remember? Ooh, you’ve gone all Scottish.

WHITTAKER: Eh? No I haven’t, I –

[There is a flicker and she briefly looks like Sylvester McCoy, and then it’s back to the blonde.]

WHITTAKER: Oh, I see. I’ve fallen into my own timestream and I’m reliving events from my past. And you’re Bonnie Langford.

DAN / MEL: Who else would I be?

WHITTAKER: That explains the outfit. I thought it was a Scouse thing for a moment.

DAN / MEL: At least I’m not a talking dog this time.

WHITTAKER: That’s a matter of opinion.

[Bang! There is an explosion and we cut to – ]

INT. POND’S HOUSE

[Whittaker manifests in the lounge with a Wiimote in her hand.]

WHITTAKER: Oh, hang on, I remember this. It’s the one with the cubes. Trust Chibnall to reference his own stories.

[Yaz appears in the doorway wearing a checked shirt and padded jacket; Vinder follows in a miniskirt.]

YAZ: You’re playing video games again.

VINDER: No one calls them video games.

YAZ: They really do. I mean unless you work for a magazine or something. Then they’re just ‘games’. But still.

VINDER: How can one man in a position of responsibility be so clueless about popular culture?

YAZ: Ask the Commons Secretary.

[A Weeping Angel takes the place of the onscreen tennis player, serving a perfect ace that smashes through the screen in the direction of the startled Doctor.]

WHITTAKER: Oh, bug-

[The screen explodes in front of us and we cut to – ]

INT. HALL OF MIRRORS

[A dingy funfair. The Doctor, now wearing a cricket jumper, is exploring in the company of Bel, who is clicking incessantly on a small screen.]

WHITTAKER: Can’t you put down the bloody Tamagotchi?

BEL: I’m talking to someone who may or may not be you.

WHITTAKER: Does this mean if I pat your stomach we’ll wipe out the universe?

BEL: Again, you mean?

[The Doctor stops in front of a mirror, gazing at its garish reflection.]

WHITTAKER: This one makes me look fat.

COLIN BAKER: I resemble that remark.

[Enter Dan, dressed as Adric; a lone Cyberman is limping in behind him.]

DAN: Aw, this really isn’t fair.

[Bang! And we cut to – ]

EXT. THE ARUNDEL CASTLE

[It’s the set of Frozen. The Doctor is dressed as Princess Anna, and is in the middle of a duet with the White Guardian.]

WHITTAKER / GUARDIAN:

All this story’s been a series of doors out of place
And some changes in the TARDIS crew
And some dogs turned up and kidnapped the whole human race
And the Angels nicked the phone box and now we’re all screwed

But I think
Yeah I think I finally get it
Though I think it fell short of its ambition –

Love is the only mission!
Love is the only mission!
Love is the only –

[Something explodes offscreen, and the two of them are buried in a landslide. Roll credits.]

DWC write-up

Village of the Angels

DIVISION ENTRY EXAMINATION: PAPER ONE

Time allowed: 6 episodes. (A period of extra time will be allocated in the event that plot strands do not fully resolve themselves.)

Please answer all questions on a separate sheet. Use the black ink of an Andulasian octopus, or crayon.

There is no penalty for spelling or grammatical errors, but we will dock a ton of marks if you dare use the phrase ‘Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey’.

QUESTIONS

  1. Tanya is a Weeping Angel. She has been working with the Division for six months. List the pros and cons of trying to engage with Tanya on a Zoom call.     (7 marks)
  2. Determine, to the nearest parameter, the probability that Bel is the Doctor’s mother. Calculate the ratio of disgruntlement within the fandom.     (8 marks)
  3. The Flame Angel and Scribble Angel are two new derivatives that have recently been launched by the Creativity Department. Design a new type of Angel to complement them. Your drawing should include a comprehensive nomenclature, suggestions for marketing, and size notes for B&M.     (12 marks)
  4. Examine the comparative influences of either: a) George Romero, or b) Peppa Pig upon this story.    (6 marks)
  5. Boris is giving a speech at a conference. He loses his place for 36 seconds. Given that an unobserved Angel travels a distance of five and a half metres a second, what is the furthest distance an Angel could be standing away from Boris in order to zap him before he finds the right piece of paper?    (3 marks)
  6. Count the number of times the Doctor called the Angels ‘Weeping Angels’ in the last episode. Discuss whether this was awkward and clumsy or just mildly irritating.     (10 marks)
  7. List some of the reasons vicars never come out well in Doctor Who stories.   (4 marks)
  8. Using your knowledge of space-time and temporal ripples, determine Ruth’s exact place within the Doctor’s timeline. Prove your hypothesis. You will find a TARDIS under your seat.    (60 marks)

Bonus question: Given that God is infinite, and that the universe is also infinite, would you like a toasted te– THIS QUESTION HAS BEEN REMOVED FOR BREACH OF COPYRIGHT.

DWC write-up

Survivors of the Flux

SPEC SCRIPT: THE DUMPING GROUND, SERIES 9, EPISODE 1

‘SECOND CHANCES’

INT. ASHDENE RIDGE – JODIE’S BEDROOM. DAY

[We’re in a functional-but-brightly-coloured bedroom at the local children’s home. JODIE, a sullen blonde teenager in a t-shirt and jeans, is standing in front of a mirror, holding up a variety of outfits to her chest.]

JODIE: No… not this one… nope… oh, it’s no good. I’m never gonna find an outfit that works.

[Enter JO, Jodie’s African roommate.]

JO: Still looking?

JODIE: Still looking. Ooh. What about this one?

[She holds up a pair of incredibly baggy trousers, hung by a set of braces.]

JO: You have got to be kidding. You look like Mork from Ork.

[Jodie sticks out her tongue, and leaves.]

JO: Oh. Mike wants to see you!

INT. LOUNGE. DAY

[Jodie passes by MONK and SACHA, two boys of about 12 or 13, both ensconced in a video game.]

JODIE: God. Don’t you two ever do anything except sit in front of that thing?

MONK: We’re grounded. Ever since the incident with the toaster.

SACHA: Which was your fault.

MONK: You were the one who switched it on! During an official visit!

SACHA: How was I supposed to know it’d explode?

[Enter MIKE, the long-suffering lead carer. An anxious-looking MAY-LI follows in his wake.]

MIKE: Jodie? Can we see you in the office, please?

[Jodie sighs, and follows May-Li.]

SACHA: Can we go out, Mike?

MIKE: Absolutely not. You two aren’t going anywhere until all the vice-president’s missing limbs are accounted for. Oh, and your room could do with tidying, while you’re at it.

MONK: We’re building something.

MIKE: I know what you’re building. Look, I’ve told you both. You’ll never get Sebastian to fit inside a Dalek case. He’s got no opposable thumbs, and he’s a Doberman.

[As he leaves, Sacha holds up a laser screwdriver and points it at the screen, whereupon Monk’s character explodes.]

MONK: Sach! You’re such a cheat!

INT. OFFICE. DAY

[Jodie slumps sulkily into a chair. Mike sits opposite; May-Li perches in a corner.]

MIKE: Now. You’re not in trouble. We just want to know what happened.

MAY-LI: What were you thinking, running off like that?

JODIE: [shrugs] Don’t know. Got bored.

MIKE: Do you mean bored like when Rani gets bored? ‘Cos we all know how that goes.

MAY-LI: Actually, where is Rani?

MIKE: Out in the workshop. Scraping up bits of rabbit.

MAY-LI: Jesus, that’s the third this week! Where’s she getting them?

MIKE: She mentioned something about Teletubbies. Can we, you know, focus?

MAY-LI: Right, yeah, sorry.

JODIE: I just wanted to see my mum.

MIKE [sighing]: Your mum. Listen, we told you. She’s a bad influence.

MAY-LI: All that stuff she made you do! Those… outings with the Division! All the stealing, the breaking stuff!

JODIE: She’s still my mum! Not my real mum, but the nearest I’ve got!

MIKE [exchanging a glance with May-Li]: We know that. But she’s proved again that she’s not able to look after you. You’ll have to come back here until she can show us she can be a responsible guardian.

[Close-up on Jodie’s face as we cut to a garish Nick Sharatt animation: Jodie smashing some windows in the company of TECTEUN, who wears a wide-brimmed hat and an evil expression. All of a sudden her sneer vanishes as a gigantic crack blisters its way down the screen and the universe is pulled in half; Tecteun is wrenched into a black hole, away from a screaming Jodie.]

JODIE: So what? You’re gonna wipe my memories again? Send me back to the academy like a good girl?

MIKE: Well… not quite. There’s been a bit of a development.

MAY-LI: Jodie… we found your mum. Your real mum.

JODIE: My – my wha…?

MIKE: She made contact with us about a week ago. Just turned up out of the blue. She never stopped looking.

[The doorbell rings.]

MAY-LI: That’s her now.

INT. HALL. DAY

[Jodie walks up the corridor, heart pounding, as the bell rings again. She turns to look at Mike and May-Li.]

MAY-LI: We’re right here.

[Jodie opens the door on an unseen figure.]

JODIE [stunned]: You?!?!?

[Roll credits.]

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Doctor Who: Flux – The Executive Summaries (part 1)

You remember this, don’t you? The silliness that comes between stories; those miniature reviews knocked off in cafes and spare moments that evolved, gradually, into skits and songs and random observations. Pack ’em up, parcel ’em off and lo and behold, the editor at The Doctor Who Companion rolls his eyes and pastes them into this week’s communal writeup.

It didn’t start out this way. There was a time when I was trying to do this properly, to give decent opinions that reflected how I actually felt about an episode, all neatly packaged into condensed three-paragraph summaries. Somewhere along the line, I got bored. Or just fed up. Or a combination of both. It’s not easy, being one of the few DWC writers who actually enjoys the show at the moment. You feel like you do in primary school when they ask the class to vote for an end-of-term video, and you stick your hand up for The Famous Five while everyone else votes for Labyrinth. It’s not that you’re wrong, you’re just a minority.

This time around, I elected not to actually share my opinion of the stories, at least not with any transparency. Oh, certain things slip through. You can feel the scorn, particularly when it was something I really didn’t like. But there are advantages to hiding behind a metaphor: you can just tell people that you’re having a laugh, and to take everything with a grain or two of salt. Besides, it’s far more fun being a little creative. “Are we poor?” my children sometimes ask me. “No,” I tell them. “We’re bohemian.”

These are quite long, so I’ve elected to give you the first two today and the rest in a future installment. There are links to the communal write-ups on the DWC website, if you wanted to read something more sensible, or something that affiliates with your own views. But before we do that, we need to drop in on Matt Strevens’ office.

The Halloween Apocalypse

“Right, Chris. What sort of state are we in for the new series?”

“Matt! Matt, I was thinking. Do you think you could ever make a Zygon sexy?”

“I – I don’t – “

“I mean they’re sort of very distinct, aren’t they? They have a peculiar shape. It’s a bit phallic. But I’m just remembering Coneheads, that Saturday Night Live sketch with Dan Aykroyd, and I was wondering, if you got a Zygon to lounge in just the right way – “

“Chris – “

“I’m just remembering the Katy Manning photoshoot, and – “

“Chris! Can we focus?”

“Fine, yes, sorry, yep. Series 13, then.”

“Series 13. What are we planning?”

“Right. I thought in episode one we’d blow up the universe.”

“Okay, so high stakes. Like it. I presume you mean some sort of threat that overshadows the whole series and that the Doctor deals with at the last minute?”

“No, we actually blow it up.”

“…Right, and then?”

“Don’t know. Something.”

“It’s kind of a narrative cul-de-sac, isn’t it?”

“Only a little bit. And besides, we introduce a bunch of other stories and characters first. I’ve got scenes in the Arctic, scenes in Victorian London, scenes in a desolate alien prison that looks like the edge of hell – “

“Where are we planning on filming that?”

“Swindon. Then we’ll bring in all these new people and have them dig tunnels and stuff. And there’s this woman who knows the Doctor but they haven’t met yet.”

“That’s kind of been done to death, Chris.”

“Yes, but she gets touched by an Angel. And then there’s this fella, Dan. He works as a formula one driver.”

“That sounds prohibitively expensive.”

“All right, he works in a food bank.”

“Better.”

“And he’s kidnapped by a six-foot dog. From the North.”

“Yorkshire or Lancashire?”

“Is there a difference?”

“I – never mind. Are you going to explain who all these people are and what they’re doing?”

“No! That’s the brilliant part. We just leave the audience to figure it out.”

“And then fill in the blanks later.”

“If I remember, yeah. The thing is, they’re always complaining I’m too heavy-handed and obvious. This’ll really fox ’em.”

“The thing is, Chris, you’re not exactly good with dialogue.”

“I know! That’s the joy of it! We throw enough ideas at people, they won’t even care. Give ’em the old razzle-dazzle. How can they see with sequins in their eyes?”

“Chris! Sit down. This really isn’t the time for a soft-shoe. And my office isn’t big enough.”

“Sorry.”

“Anyway. You need to have some​ dialogue. How are you going to cover for your complete inability to string a sentence together?”

“We turn up Akinola and blame it on poor post-production.”

“I’ll have to smooth things over with the sound editors, but all right.”

“Meanwhile I’ve got this big bad villain who escapes from his cell and dissolves people.”

“Please tell me he doesn’t snap his fingers.”

“No, but I had this idea about a PELVIC THRUST OF ANNIHILATION, and – “

“Chris!”

“Right. I’ll redraft. So there’s a bit of a chase and there’s the bit where Dan discovers the TARDIS and Yaz and the Doctor have a bit of banter.”

“And then we blow up the universe.”

“Precisely, Matt. Precisely.”

“I assume we keep this a closely-guarded secret so people’s jaws drop when it happens?”

“No, not at all. I’m planning on telling everyone in all the interviews.”

“Won’t they be disappointed?”

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

“You’ve obviously never met Lance Armstrong. Fine, I think we’re done here.”

“Brilliant. Are there any Smarties left?”

“No. You ate them all.”

“Really? I hadn’t even noticed.”

“I had.”

DWC write-up

War of the Sontarans

From: First Corporal Erskib, Location Scout for 14th Noble Batallion of the Outer Southwest Fringes of the Great and Indomitable Sontaran Empire

To: Brigadier General Prazan, Central Command

Subject: Field Report

Brigadier General, 

I trust this report finds you well and in rude health, and that the war against the Rutans is going swimmingly. I am sure you have awaited this write-up of what the Sontaran Press have already dubbed ‘Wokgate’ with interest and anticipation, and I am hopeful that my thorough investigation of things will shed some light onto exactly what happened during the latest failed conquest of strategic withdrawal from the planet known as Earth.

Before we go any further, I feel I must apologise for the incident with the cat. I honestly didn’t know it would explode. Had I been aware of this, I would certainly not have inserted the probe until you yourself had moved from splattering distance. No words have actually been said about the matter, but I am of sufficiently sound mind to determine that it was this unfortunate upset that has led to my recent demotion and subsequent reassignment to this backwater hellhole. No matter: I have learned my lesson. Res fiunt, as we say on Sontar – or, as the Judoon might have put it, ‘Ko Blo Ro So Fo Jo No-No’.

Investigating incidents on Earth is, you are aware, fraught with complications. Chief amongst them is the fact that we have been here before, on multiple occasions, and that it has never ended well. There are rumours that one deserter may still be living here in a time period we have yet to identify. We do not know precisely where he is, but there is a trail of confectionary bills. However, on this occasion, the mess was not difficult to spot: Commander Riksaw, for reasons of his own choosing, opted to begin his establishment of Operation: Outpost Earth in 19th Century Europe, supposedly because he had developed an affinity for the local wildlife. We have a word for people like that on Sontar, but sadly the inbuilt censorship filter will not allow me to use it in this missive.

It was all going swimmingly until the irritating human known as the Doctor blundered onto the scene. She used to be a girl, and now she’s a boy. I simply can’t understand how it all works and why things can’t stay as they are. One woman – sorry, one man on his own should not have been able to penetrate our defences, let alone muster enough firepower to blow them up. Where on earth did they get enough dynamite? How did they move it? My investigation has revealed that there was some help at hand: two humans, one of whom has the unenviable job of performing puncture repairs to the skins of wounded humans. Surveillance footage from the black box recording has revealed she has some spunk about her: sadly the human military general that accompanied her was about as interesting as a freshly-plastered wall, and about as two-dimensional.

I have seen the footage of the battle in a Crimean field, and this at least was a glorious day for the might of Sontar. Sadly our excursions some years later seem to have gone rather awry, owing to the antics of a rogue native who managed to knock out half a platoon with a cooking implement. This is the price you get for landing in Merseyside. We should have gone to Tijuana; at least that has a beach. I would also raise questions, Brigadier General, as to how half a dozen troops can empty their magazines from ten feet away without landing a single shot on target. The onboard ship’s computer – a sentient model I have named Angela – recommended a piece of Earth culture entitled Star Wars. After watching this piece of drivel I know more and understand even less. 

My recommendations:

  • Up the border security on the secret military encampments – we’re a clone army; surely they can spare a few people to watch the perimeter
  • Mandatory shooting range exercises to be introduced daily for all troops
  • Can we please, please get the scientists to do something about the probic vent? Honestly, it’s embarrassing. I can’t even stand at a urinal without having to crane my neck every couple of seconds.

Signing off now, Brigadier General. While I wait for the dropship I am examining a little more of Earth culture, particularly its cuisine. I have learned of a local creature known as a poodle. I hear they’re delicious.

Sontar-HA!

Cordially yours,

First Corporal Erskib, Mrs.

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