Crossovers

The inevitable Doctor Who / John Lewis thing

buster

It’s a dog. On a trampoline.

I mean, I can’t get too excited about it. I really can’t. They were doing so well. That old man with the telescope was a work of genius, despite being scientifically implausible and mawkishly sentimental. It said something important. It was touching. It made me cry, dammit. This one was tedious. It’s not even funny. Bad Buster. Go to your kennel.

John Lewis’ Christmas advertising always makes the headlines, as people discuss the adverts, the thinking behind them, the music, the emotional fallout, the fact that this is just going to encourage parents to buy trampolines and dogs, the risk of bovine TB…do you ever think that there’s such a thing as internet pollution? I know I do. It’s just so much rubbish, with perhaps a greater emphasis than one might expect from ‘so much’ – a myriad different websites all saying more or less the same thing. It passes the time, but I wonder how much we really stand to gain from saturating the web in this way.

Anyway. This post started life as a simple collection of Photoshopped images – the Man on the Moon image, produced last year, was the first, and the others followed yesterday. But a curious thing happened while I was cutting and pasting and adjusting hues and shadows. The moment of clarity occurred when I stopped to consider the fact that the twisted snowmen who appeared in Doctor Who turned up the same Christmas that John Lewis had their own snowman trekking across the wilderness to find a present for his soon-to-be-a-puddle playmate. This by itself means nothing, until you stop and consider the fact that the developments John Lewis took with their seasonal narratives echo (with uncanny precision) the way that Doctor Who has been written and produced these past few years.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look. (For obvious reasons, these concentrate on the past few years – the period when John Lewis actively started telling stories in their Christmas ads. And for what it’s worth, I tried – I really did – to work in 2011 as well. But it just didn’t fit.)

2012 – The Journey

In the John Lewis Christmas ad: An anthropomorphic snowman embarks on an epic quest to find a scarf.

In Doctor Who: A grumpy Time Lord, fond of scarves, embarks on an epic quest to investigate an anthropomorphic snowman.

jl_dw_03

jl_comp_2012

2013 – The Bear and the Hare

In the John Lewis Christmas ad: A tired, grizzly, world-weary bear is chronologically displaced when his hibernation is rudely interrupted. It turns out to be the best thing that could have happened. Features a hare.

In Doctor Who: A tired, grizzly, world-weary Time Lord is chronologically displaced when his destruction of Gallifrey is rudely interrupted. It turns out to be the best thing that could have happened. Features a rabbit.

jl_dw_01

jl_comp_2013

2014 – Monty the Penguin

In the John Lewis Christmas ad: A young boy spends Christmas with a penguin, whose living, breathing presence turns out to exist only in his imagination. He is observed by a parent, who watches as another imaginary penguin emerges from a box that appears to be bigger on the inside.

In Doctor Who: A young English teacher spends Christmas with her boyfriend, whose living, breathing presence turns out to exist only in his imagination. She is observed by a parental figure, emerging from a box that is bigger on the inside, and who once travelled with a penguin.

jl_dw_02 jl_comp_2014

2015 – Man on the Moon

In the John Lewis Christmas ad: A lonely old man, clearly not of this world, is re-invigorated thanks to the affection of a small child. And a telescope.

In Doctor Who: A lonely old man, clearly not of this world, is re-invigorated thanks to the affection of a bisexual English teacher. And an electric guitar.

Moon-Cybermen

jl_comp_2015

2016 – Buster the Boxer

In the John Lewis Christmas ad: An over-excited girl eagerly awaits the arrival of Christmas morning, only to find that her new present has been invaded by small woodland animals, and she has to wait until the dog has finished jumping on it.

In Doctor Who: A horde of over-excited fans eagerly await the arrival of a new series, only to find that it’s been delayed and that the new assistant looks a little bit like a dog, and they have to wait until the spin-off has finished.

jl_dw_04 jl_comp_2016

Spooky, isn’t it? Next week in Brian of Morbius: the nesting habits of tuna.

Categories: Crossovers | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The inevitable Narnia / Doctor Who / Tolkien thing

Dinopaws_23

It’s May the Fourth, and I was going to try very hard today to not write about You Know What. I mean eeesh. I remember when Star Wars Day was a joke, a reasonably amusing pun. Now it’s gained mass and substance and turned into an excuse for memes and toy sales and huge events. It’s complete overkill. Experiencing it these days is like reading through a dozen of Moffat’s press releases in advance of a ‘heart-rending’ episode: you’re sick of it before it even airs.

I did have an amusing conversation the other week with an American who was convinced that “British people can’t do sci-fi”, citing Star Wars and Star Trek as America’s shining examples of the genre, ably supported by Asimov and Philip K Dick. We were good at fantasy, he conceded, but science fiction was not one of our strong points (you may have gathered that he was not a Doctor Who fan). In holding this assertion he entirely ignored the works of Iain M. Banks, Douglas Adams, Alistair Reynolds, Aldous Huxley, John Wyndham, C.S. Lewis, J.G. Ballard, Nigel Kneale, H.G. Wells and Arthur C. Clarke, and we told him so. “C.S. Lewis wasn’t sci-fi, dumbass,” he said, at which point I directed him towards Out of the Silent Planet.

But when you’re being trolled, the second-best response is to troll back. “You don’t have Star Wars,” I told him. “It was written and produced by an American and some of the leads are American, but a significant chunk of the cast are British (the ones who can act, anyway) and an awful lot of it was filmed here with British crews.” When he whined that “the creator was American, bitch”, I told him about the obvious plot connections with Lord of the Rings. “Dumb ass,” he said. “Lord of the Rings is ripped off Wagner’s Ring Cycle”. To which my response was “Those connections are arbitrary and coincidental (and unproved). Storywise, LOTR has its roots in King Arthur. Even if you’re right, the roots for LOTR – and, by association, Star Wars – originated here in Europe. You know, the people with the history? Come back in six hundred years, then we’ll talk.” At this point the troll realised he was being played, and disappeared back below the bridge, although I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.

I said I wasn’t going to write about Star Wars, but it does lead rather neatly into Narnia (via the wardrobe in the corner of my attic room). I had cause to revisit Narnia again recently – we’re talking figuratively, of course – when my house group did a Lent course that explored the supposed Christian allegories in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, tying it in with the nature of suffering as explored in ShadowlandsShadowlands, of course, tells the story of C.S. Lewis’s romance with Joy Gresham, who turns his comfortable world upside-down before dying of bone cancer. Various liberties are taken – the film moves Joy’s death to a snowy winter’s evening, rather than summer, and gives you the impression that far less time elapsed than it actually did (in reality, the couple had several years together). I’m also not sure what David Gresham made of it, given that he’s airbrushed from the film entirely. Nonetheless it remains compelling drama, and Anthony Hopkins is magnificent.

Shadowlands

Lewis, of course, argued that The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was not actually an allegory at all. It’s a parallel universe existing concurrently alongside this one. Can we just use the word parallel and be done with it? As Lewis explains, “If Aslan represented the immaterial Deity in the same way in which Giant Despair (Pilgrim’s Progress) represents despair, he would be an allegorical figure. In reality, however, he is an invention giving an imaginary answer to the question, ‘What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia, and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?’ This is not allegory at all.”

But it’s interesting tracing the history of Narnia – a country with its own time stream, where time is compressed and the entire country is formed and destroyed in a span of fifty earth years. The land is breathed into existence by a singing lion and destroyed in much the same way, after an apocalyptic battle and a kerfuffle involving a false prophet (a naive, well-meaning donkey who is duped into wearing a lion skin by a devious and untrustworthy ape). There are stories of arranged marriage and cats (The Horse and His Boy, which owes an awful lot to The Prince and the Pauper), tales of dragons and fallen stars (Voyage of the Dawn Treader) and an enchanted prince strapped to a chair. Some books are better than others, and Lewis’s attitude to women, the working classes and progressive education has raised eyebrows over the years, but that’s not something we have time to unpack. Suffice it to say that I get uncomfortable at the end of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. These children go through puberty twice. Is that something we’re supposed to just gloss over?

What’s also interesting is that while Lewis was writing about satyrs, nymphs and old unmarried men who own wardrobes full of fir coats, one of the other Inklings was polishing off a magnum opus of his own. It’s no secret that Tolkien wrote the first line of The Hobbit on an exam paper during a bored marking session. Middle Earth sprang (supposedly) out of Oxfordshire (Shropshire / Birmingham / Switzerland / France). I don’t know what Lewis and Tolkien discussed on those smoky, ale-soaked afternoons in the Eagle and Child, but I find it inconceivable that one didn’t somehow influence the other. (There is an old story, of course, that when Tolkien got up during one such session to read what would become A Long-Expected Party, Lewis was heard to mutter “Oh, not more fucking elves”.)

Consider something for me. The Elves sail into the West, to the undying lands. The Narnians sail East, toward’s Aslan’s country. Is there no reason why they can’t meet in the middle?

Narnia_MiddleEarth

(If you have to ask why Aslan’s country is banana-shaped, you’ll never know.)

I’ve written about my complex relationship with Lord of the Rings before, and I’m really not the type to draw connections between universes the way that some people insist the Disney films are all interlinked. (Don’t visit that Disney hyperlink. It’s borderline clickbait. I’m just proving a point.) Ultimately, this is all about bridge-building. I mentioned my house group: last Thursday, over an impromptu cheese and wine evening, we got into a discussion about Doctor Who versus Star Wars and Star Trek and the rivalry between them. “It’s all so stupid,” I remember saying. “I like pizza. But I also like lasagne. If I had to pick a favourite it would be pizza, because I’m always in the mood for pizza, but that doesn’t mean I’d ever turn down lasagne. Never would I say ‘I refuse to eat this lasagne because it’s not pizza’.”

Seriously, the people who insist that this is some sort of rivalry, that one is ‘better’ than the other and that you can’t like both? They do exist, and they can shampoo my crotch. If I choose to hold Babylon 5 in contempt (I don’t, I’m just thinking about that scene in Spaced) it’s not because I think Deep Space 9 is better. There’s a difference between picking on something because it’s bad TV and picking on it because it’s lasagne, rather than pizza. That’s the sort of mentality that rival football fans have, and that’s the sort of thing I thought we were above.

So I’ve always liked the idea that Narnia and Middle Earth are like different ways to the same country. It’s a bit multi-cultural, but when you’re exposed to as much intolerant religious hatred as I’ve gone out of my way to see, you find another way to fight it. And somehow I can picture the elderly Gandalf, having hopped off into the West, strolling along the beach by those white shores, chilling with Aslan.

Gandalf_Aslan

(Yes, yes, wrong Gandalf. Best I could do.)

And where, you may be asking, does Doctor Who fit into this? Well, the closest the series actively came to talking about Narnia was the 2011 Christmas special – still the one I hold up as the only one they really got right, ‘Husbands of River Song’ aside). It has sentient tree people, a moonlit wood dripping with snow, and a pointless but amusing cameo from Bill Bailey. What’s lovely about the whole episode is the way it subverts the traditional behaviour in stories like this: the children are hesitant and afraid, while it’s their mother who strides purposefully into the magic wood, accepting everything the Doctor tells her and happily carrying a forest in her head. Moffat isn’t always good at writing women, but on this occasion he got it spot on.

Narnia_Doctor

I haven’t even touched fan fiction, and wasn’t going to, but a quick perusal threw up these, among others:

The Lion, the Doctor and the Cybermen (TARDIS1039) – “The Doctor lands the TARDIS in Narnia and meets Aslan, then he summons Peter,Edmund,Susan and Lucy from England. But the Cybermen begin to invade. So it’s up to The Doctor, The Pevensies, Aslan and the Narnians to stop them.”

The Time lady and the King (TorchwoodFallenAngel) – “They’re the last of their kinds, both lost and stranded on Earth. There, Edmund and Romana wait.”

Songs in the Dark (secooper87) – “The White Witch rules Narnia with an iron fist, fearing only the prophecy which foretells her downfall. But then a Time Lord appears in Narnia. He could be the answer to all her prayers, or he could be the cause of her destruction. Now whumpy!”

The Annual Fantastic Characters Meeting (wholockgoddess97) – “Every year, the Doctor hosts a party in the TARDIS with all his favourite characters. As usual, something has to go wrong – but nothing’s really out of the ordinary, considering the guests. Super mega ultimate crossover!”

Yes. Well.

Aslan

And what about me? This isn’t exactly a part one of two. Still, there are other dots you can join, and I’ve joined them, although not in ways that you might expect. But we’ll deal with that next time…

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

The CBeebies Amalgamation (part two)

First of all, this.

I mean, I have no idea what’s going on here. I assume it’s some sort of satanic ritual before the Japanese airing of Dinopaws (or ダイナパウズ)たいそう, as they call it over there). The shouted names, the manic dancing…it’s obviously supposed to conjure up the spirit of long-dead reptiles. All that’s needed is a vial of incense and a couple of sacrificial chickens. I checked the ‘up next’ suggestions and there are a bunch of these, which I opted not to see because there’s only so much excitement you can take in one day.

Whovians amongst you, of course, will have figured out that the chap on the right does appear for some reason to be wearing the Sixth Doctor’s coat. Cosplay suggestions for his grinning companion are more than welcome; please leave them in the usual place.

Coat

Dinopaws is a programme we talk about quite a bit here at Brian of Morbius, mostly because it’s one of the most endearing and imaginative shows to hit CBeebies in years. It’s earned its share of bad press, of course, largely because of the language component: Gwen and Bob are still playing with the concept of language (Tony appears to have made up his own, and it’s strangely reminiscent of the sacred words held by the Knights Who Say / Who Until Recently Said ‘Ni’.) This leads to all manner of complaints about made-up words and language development delays from parents with nothing much else in their lives. Children learn language from the adults they interact with; anyone who is picking up permanent habits from TV is watching too much of it. To conclude that it’s the BBC’s responsibility to educate our children is to completely pass the parenting buck. Such stupidity also ignores the work of Lewis Carroll, Ogden Nash and Spike Milligan, but let’s not go over all that again.

There’s a darker component to Dinopaws, of course, when it comes to feedback, and that’s the inevitability of the creatures’ eventual demise at the hands of a massive meteor / comet / crashed spaceship containing an impetuous maths prodigy. Cue much doom and gloom across the Twittersphere from parents who find themselves unable to truly enjoy the programme because of the looming threat of a total extinction event. Except that’s not the way it works, because (as we keep saying) Dinopaws isn’t set on Earth. It’s set on another planet, called Marge, with all sorts of other things going on. Not convinced? Look at the sky! The sky is all over the place! That’s not a Pangean sky!

Look, why stop there? There’s a lack of realism all over the shop. Why not discuss the fact that the theme to Topsy and Tim really ought to contain the words “We can be / Anything / But only within the confines of particular gender stereotypes”?. (That one’s mine, so if you use it, copyright Donna Noble.) Or the happy-go-lucky Petal, Dash, Digger and Gobo, who spend their days in the barn in blissfully doomed contentment.

You’re not supposed to tell children about this, of course, which is presumably why a recent episode of Meet The Kittens – in which a mother cat brought back a dead rabbit for her babies – caused such a stir. There’s no blood in the scene, but they do spend a good deal of time filming the dead animal as it’s dragged across the staircase, and when the episode was re-shown this week the CBeebies Facebook page saw more than a few complaints. “Pretty discusted of seeing what i just saw,” wrote one user. “It upset my children as they love rabbits and i think it would upset other children yes show kittens with it mother but not a cat what has caught it prey and taking it to its kittens to feast on i do not want my children watching that kind of stuff on cbeebies i think u need to say sorry on air to all the viewers as that was unexceptable.”

That was one of the less vitriolic remarks. Others got very upset. One person, in particular, saw it as an opportunity to describe every parent who approved as one of the most disgusting people she’d ever met, and when she was called out on this hyperbole she became violently defensive. In the end she opted to leave the conversation because the longer it went on, the more people were not only disagreeing with her but also calling her out for her behaviour and somewhat judgemental tone, which she took very personally. How dare they, she seemed to be suggesting, how dare they have the audacity to tell her she was wrong when she was simply stating what she felt?

Herein lies the problem with most online debate. The moment a remark leaves your head and makes its way to a public forum, it’s no longer your property. It can be retweeted, re-posted, screen-grabbed and ripped to shreds, in a group or on someone’s profile or even in the pages of an online newspaper. There’s a right and a wrong way of doing this. I always make the point of looking at public profiles of anyone I’m about to have an argument with; it enables me to know whether I ought to make allowances or concessions, and it’s worth it even when you get called a ‘weirdo’ or a ‘stalker’. If you want to avoid the potential repercussions for inflammatory viewpoints then for God’s sake keep them private. Facebook is not private. Shouting on a Facebook forum is the metaphorical equivalent of standing up in a Q&A session and talking bollocks; no one will necessarily stop you at first, but you’ll reap what you sow when people start to answer back.

“But it’s MY OPINION,” comes the whiny response from Chantelle or Scott or Claire (or, worst of all, Leanne Logan’smummy). To which my standard response is “So what?”. This so-called right to an opinion is bullshit. It’s something they teach children now before they’re really ready for the responsibility of credible sources and elementary logic (and I know this, having seen it first hand) and we’re now experiencing the fallout on social media. If I told you that the sky was green and that it was my opinion, you’d still tell me I was wrong, and you’d be correct to do so. If I told you that you were a lousy footballer (or, more to the point, a bad parent) and my opinions contained not a shred of credibility you’d argue the toss, and once again you’d be correct. I post all manner of crap on here about Doctor Who and I’m ready to defend every single word of it when challenged. I would expect the same of any rational adult. I’ll routinely tell people this. And if I consider them semi-literate, I’ll point them towards this article here, which sums up my views on things better than I ever could.

tottie1

But listen. Listen carefully. When I was just shy of six years old, I saw an Oliver Postgate programme called Tottie: Story of a Doll’s House. It featured a glacially beautiful, morally twisted doll called March Payne who – in her endeavours to become the sole object of her owner’s affection – started a house fire with paraffin that resulted in the death of one of the other dolls. There was no detail, but it frightened me. And I got over it. When I was four, I saw a public information film in which a young girl ran out into the road and got hit by a car. It terrified me. From that day to this I have been careful when I cross the street, and I keep the gate shut.

Also when I was four, I saw the final episode of ‘Earthshock’, in which Adric dies at the hands of the Cybermen and the credits rolled in silence over a view of his shattered badge. It upset me. When I was seven, I saw an episode of Ulysses 31 in which the characters in suspended animation aged almost to death. It wasn’t the sort of thing that would normally frighten people but it gave me nightmares. When I was eight or nine there was a programme called Knightmare which featured dissolving flesh and cracking skulls. I can still see those images in my head if I concentrate, but it doesn’t matter. When I was nine or ten, there was an ITV show called Wizbit, and don’t get me started on that.

Children bounce back. I bounced back. In our haste to protect our loved ones from the monsters, we’ve forgotten that kid’s TV used to be absolutely horrible. That’s part of being young. You get over it. Memories are short and young minds are durable. That’s why I introduced mine to Doctor Who as soon as I felt they were ready, and why I watch them squirm at the gore with a curious delight. Up to a given point, it builds character. Discussing death builds character. Joshua has never forgotten the face-melting in Raiders of the Lost Ark but it hasn’t warped him psychologically. Part of this, I am convinced, stems from the time he watched our cat die when he was two years old. He accepts it, in a way that Logan-son-of-Leanne never could, because she’d rather wait “until he’s ready”, innit. That’s entirely her choice, but don’t call me out for doing it differently, and don’t accuse the BBC of negligence when you know nothing of its practices. This is a channel that routinely censors fairy tales to suit its intended audience. They’re not beyond reproach, but they know what they’re doing.

Alas, none of this matters when you’re arguing on Facebook. I shouldn’t be surprised. We’re in a world where university courses are censored because of complaints from students who take exception to ‘offensive content’. I’m not opposed to political correctness. I don’t advocate racial or gender stereotyping. I understand why they no longer broadcast It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. But I do wonder when we started to lose our backbone. More to the point, I wonder what these whining grown-ups with too much free time actually want from these emotive, expletive-ridden rants. What would it take to redress the balance? What would it take to make the act of a dead rabbit acceptable?

No, you really didn’t see this. Move along.

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

That Wolf Hall / Bing Transcript

One of the most popular searches on this blog is for Bing Bunny – the Ted Dewan creation who currently has his own CBeebies programme, in which he stumbles through life with the help of Flop, his saintly guardian. It’s a popular show in our house, although my interest in Bing basically peaked when I produced a mashup that replaced Flop’s calm, reassuring dialogue with something altogether darker. If you’ve not read about that, I suggest you nip over to this post and do so. The resulting video was not one I showed my kids, but it was good, and I was proud of it.

And unfortunately, it’s not on YouTube. Aardman cited copyright infringement and a desire to avoid mixing children’s shows with adult material, which in a way is fair enough. Despite my warnings in the item description as well as at the very beginning of the video, I’m sure there are still children watching – and while I don’t advocate unfiltered YouTube access I have to accept the fact that there are many people in the world who are stupid. It’s a sad state of affairs, but there it is. Nor dare I risk it on Vimeo, in case Aardman are monitoring.

So I had to take it offline, but – as I said on the other post – there’s always a transcript, right? And now that series nine has wrapped I actually have time to get this done, and here it is. I won’t pretend that something isn’t lost in the telling, but if you can get someone to perform this with you, as well as someone else to play a lute in the background, you will at least get the general idea. Amateur dramatics: it’s a Bing thing.

For clarification –

  • All Flop’s dialogue is from Wolf Hall
  • For that matter, so is Pando’s (and he has Bernard Hill’s voice)
  • All Gilly’s dialogue is from Father Ted
  • Everything else is from Bing

Oh, and episodes used (in order of first appearance)

  • Goodbye
  • Storytime
  • Mine
  • Giving
  • Hide and Seek
  • Woof
  • Dark

Fade in…

TITLE:
It’s 15:38. Round the corner, not far away…

 

INT. LOUNGE. DAY

[Debbie Wiseman’s mournful score plays. Bing and Flop walk down the stairs; a dejected Sula sits nursing her sodden shoe.]

FLOP: Go on.

BING: I didn’t want to say goodbye.

SULA: But it isn’t a goodbye now. It’s a badbye.

FLOP: She hates you. She despises you. She wants you gone.

BING: Oh! [He runs off, excited]

Bing_Wolf (1)

 

INT. BATHROOM. NIGHT

[A naked Bing, in the bath. Flop is trying desperately to keep a book out of trouble.]

BING: Please, Flop. I really want a story.

FLOP [wrenching the book out of the path of dripping water]: Is that simple enough for your simple tastes?

Bing_Wolf (2)

 

INT. LOUNGE. NIGHT

[Bing, Flop, Pando and Padget, examining shells after a day on the beach. Bing holds one to his ear.]

BING: I can hear the sea!

PANDO: Bollocks.

PADGET [taking the shell and following suit]: Yes! [off Pando’s yawn] Oh, Pando, are you tired?

PANDO: Still bollocks.

Bing_Wolf (3)

 

INT. SHOP. DAY

[Bing plays with a toy truck, while trying to pick out a gift for Sula.]

BING: She likes her fairy wings. They’re sparkly. And she likes dancing. And her magic wand!

FLOP: She does, doesn’t she? I hear she can tell you where your dead relatives are.

Bing_Wolf (4)

 

INT. NURSERY. DAY

[Bing, Sula, Coco and Pando are playing hide and seek.]

COCO: One…two…three…four…

[Bing and Pando each hide in opposite ends of a fabric tunnel; there is not enough room for both of them.]

BING: I was here first, Pando!

PANDO: Oh, Jesus Christ! By the thrice-beshitten shroud of Lazarus. If I had a crossbow, I’d SHOOT YOUR FUCKING HEAD OFF!

EVERYONE ELSE: Oh, Pando!

Bing_Wolf (5)

 

EXT. PARK. DAY

[Bing and Flop are examining an apparently friendly dog.]

FLOP: She’s a fighter.

BING: Oh. But he’s got my ball!

FLOP [to the dog]: I could put my thumbs in your eyes, and you would sing ‘Green Grows The Holly’, if I asked you to.

BING: He’s licking me, Flop!

FLOP: I don’t like the way he looks at me.

Bing_Wolf (6)

 

EXT. GARDEN. NIGHT

[Bing and Flop explore the garden, Bing in his pyjamas, coat and wellies, carrying a torch. It’s like a really crap X-File.]

BING [calling over the fence to someone out of shot]: We’re having a venture! Hoppity’s all on his own, in the dark.

[Cut to window: we can see that the person Bing’s addressing is Pando, bouncing on his bed.]

FLOP: Tell him to let us in before I show his arse my boot.

BING: Night night Pando.

Bing_Wolf (7)

 

INT. BATHROOM. NIGHT

[Bing’s out of the bath, doing comically exaggerated story actions. The book perches precariously on the edge of the tub. Bing is blowing hard; all of a sudden the book plops into the water.]

FLOP: What’s that?

[The two of them lean over.]

BING: There’s my book!

FLOP: A fucking accident?

Bing_Wolf (8)

 

INT. NURSERY. DAY

[Back with hide and seek. Bing has just hidden inside a hamper; Pando is on his way over and clambering in.]

COCO: Five…six…

BING: Oh, get off! I’m here first!

FLOP: You didn’t find the apostles feeling each other’s bollocks, did you?

Bing_Wolf (9)

 

EXT. PARK. DAY

[Bing sits dejectedly next to Flop, while the dog runs over to its approaching owner.]

FLOP: What’s this? Oh, body of Christ. You just have to say some words, that’s all.

BING [crushed]: Oh…but I wanted to keep him.

GILLY: You big bastard.

FLOP: Hello!

GILLY: I’ll stick this effin’ pitchfork up your hole.

BING: I did. And Sunshine loves me!

GILLY: You can’t move for the bastards…

Bing_Wolf (10)

 

INT. NURSERY. DAY

[Coco is creeping around, trying to find her hidden friends. Bing is in the hamper.]

FLOP: For Christ’s sake man, do you think you can crawl out of your hole?

BING: No! I can’t! Coco will see me, and I’ll be finded!

FLOP: Except you won’t. You don’t have the brain of a flea.

[Roll credits.]

Bing_Wolf (11)

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

Watch out for Daleks, Charlie Brown

You’ve seen it, right? Half of you have probably changed your Facebook profile pictures. It’s not as flexible as it might be – there are fewer outfit options than I’d like – but for a web-based bit of fun it’s really rather good. I am, of course, talking about the Peanutizeme tool that enables you to create character likenesses in the Charles Schultz vein and pop them into assorted backgrounds, just in time for the Peanuts movie that’s due in November.

The second thing you do when you get a thing like this – after doing yourself, of course – is to think of a particular passion and try and render it. There are various Doctor Who versions doing the rounds, and most of them are better than mine: still, here are mine. First, the Ninth Doctor and Jack.

The Doctor isn’t too bad, although he has a little too much hair (the other choice was entirely bald, which simply didn’t work). Jack isn’t quite right (that’s supposed to be a vortex manipulator on his wrist, by the way) but that fiendish smile speaks volumes. Still, this one got a retweet from Paul Cornell, so I’m not complaining.

Next: the Tenth Doctor, with Sarah Jane and a rather grumpy-looking Rose, in ‘School Reunion’.

It’s not very fair to Rose, because by this point she’d really outgrown the Jeremy Kyle look, but I remember her being a general pain in this episode, and I have punished her accordingly. The robot Snoopy I found on the internet, and I now want one.

Finally: the Eleventh Doctor, accompanied by Amy and Clara.

I will leave it to you to work out which one is which. (Sadly there was no mullet option for the hair, and the jacket is the wrong colour, but aside from that it’s a reasonable likeness.)

And as for me? Well, yes, I did one. Actually I did the whole family. What’s that? You want to see it? Really?

Oh, go on then.

Peanuts_Portrait

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

Holby City meets Batman

“Sorry,” say many American readers, “What meets Batman?”

Holby City is my one concession to soapdom. I can’t commit to Eastenders. If I want to be depressed for hours at a time I can listen to Joy Division. I don’t need Phil Mitchell and his nails-down-a-blackboard gruffness, or tales of abortion or domestic abuse. Coronation Street isn’t any better these days, particularly since the Duckworths left. Soap operas and me don’t really go together. It’s like an allergic reaction. I had a friend who watched Eldorado (one of Verity Lambert’s rare failures) in the 1990s. I endured fifteen minutes of it on his bedroom TV, and I had a nosebleed.

But Em and I can spare an hour a week, and besides, Holby isn’t miserable. It’s usually downright hysterical, sometimes on purpose. Neither of us have any extensive knowledge of medicine but even I know that accuracy takes a firm second place to dramatic impact. Patients are wheeled into the hospital and receive their operations within hours. There are no major problems with sanitation, apart from the write-the-headlines MRSA scandal that saw the downfall of Michael Beecham in 2005. Most of the orderlies and nurses appear to be English. God, even the food looks reasonable.

Crucially, patients very seldom die. There are near misses on the operating table, of course, usually caused by arrogance or staff who are sleeping together. I would be willing to bet that the unorthodox solutions that invariably save the day would only work on a human body that was wired up completely differently, but this is television, and thus it matters only if you happen to know that. I was at an author’s session in Cholsey last week and got talking to a heart specialist. “You must watch medical soaps and point and laugh,” I said. She broadly agreed.

If you’re a regular viewer, you’ll be aware of the Holby Staples – the things that happen in every episode. In no particular order:

  • A senior doctor will finish an opening conversation with a patient by bombarding a nurse with jargon: “FBCs, U&Es, LFTs and an MRI” (BTW, BBC, this really is all a bit OTT)
  • Character-with-emotional-crisis is paired with patient-with-similar-emotional-crisis; at some point one of them will advise the other and the Holby regular will emerge from the experience a wiser person
  • Problems occur during surgery. The heart monitor (or something) makes a melodic ringing sound to indicate irregular pulse, flatlining or brain death. The maverick surgeon will do something brilliant.
  • There will be a heart-to-heart either on the bench or outside the front door (or, if they’re feeling brave, on the roof)
  • Elliot Hope will be seen shoving a pastry in his mouth.

Oh, and a while ago I made this.

Holby_City_map

Anyway. This week’s episode featured a hostage crisis that grew out of a botched operation (arrogance, this time): an antiques expert spent half the story handcuffed to the chief neurosurgeon, who had his fingers wrapped round a live grenade. An already implausible story was stretched to breaking point when the armed response unit showed up and decided that their first priority was to shoot the unfortunate widower in the head (an action that breaks every rule of hostage negotiation and which would in any case have set off the grenade). In the end, plucky nurse Adrian Fletcher – guilty of several recent mistakes and looking for redemption – managed to get the grenade out of the building in an improbably long seven-second dash up the corridor.

So, Batman. Obviously. I mean, take a look.

(Parenthesis: If you’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises you will recall that precisely the same thing – minus the ducklings – happens in its final act, and that the Caped Crusader once more manages to save the day through an act of apparent self-sacrifice. It is monumentally stupid, but so is the film. And don’t get me started on that cafe scene. Really. Don’t.)

Assembling this was a challenge. I had about four or five seconds of usable footage that had to suffice for four different cycles, and there is thus a lot of mirroring and reversing. The interspersing clips were all found on YouTube, and the final explosion – if you hadn’t worked it out – is from The Dark Knight, which is coincidentally a much better film than its immediate successor. But the 1966 Batman movie is better than both of them.

And Katie Hopkins? Well, doctors and medical staff are supposed to preserve life, where they possibly can. But I think we can probably make an exception here, can’t we?

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

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:

Is_It_Just_Me_3

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:

Is_It_Just_Me_4

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.)

 

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

In the Forest of the Night Garden

Let me tell you why, in the grand scheme of things, I’ll back the BBC to the hilt. It stems from the winter of 2009, when Daniel was quite literally a babe in arms, and on the occasions he had trouble sleeping at night (which was often) we would be beset by a screaming child, thrashing in his bed, at two or three in the morning or any other time of night that suited him. Absolutely nothing would comfort him apart from episodes of In The Night Garden on the BBC iPlayer, which had an inexplicably mesmeric effect. The inconsolable baby would become instantly calm and serene as he stared at the colourful characters and the gentle stories in which they were embroiled. I don’t know how Kay Benbow did it, but after that, I’m willing to forgive the BBC for just about anything.

In The Night Garden burst onto our screens almost a decade ago as the spiritual successor (and, in many ways, direct emulator) of Teletubbies. It featured a beautiful, tranquil forest populated by a cast of happy creatures of varying shapes and sizes. There’s the cave-dwelling Makka Pakka, whose stone-stacking and face-washing borders on obsessive compulsive. There is Upsy Daisy, who has a skirt that flares up, Marilyn Monroe style, when she wants to dance, and a bed that follows her around (which is surely a Dragon’s Den patent in waiting). There are the Tombliboos, who live in a bush in a sort of multi-tiered structure, playing loud music and constantly having to hitch up their trousers. There are the Pontipines – a family of ten, dressed a little like Catholic cardinals, living in a tiny house under a tree – and the Wottingers, their rarely seen, blue-garbed neighbours. Most intriguing of all is Igglepiggle, who doesn’t appear to actually live in the garden, given that he travels there at the beginning of every episode, security blanket in hand. There is thus the speculation that Igglepiggle is some embodiment of the consciousness of the sleeping child seen in the opening credits, perhaps an avatar of some sort. Well, they got the skin colour right.

Garden_avatar

The formulaic approach to In The Night Garden is part of its charm. The star-swept night sky bursts into flowers just as Igglepiggle’s boat ascends into the heavens, and then we’re in the Night Garden itself, where we are told to hang about while the Pinky Ponk catches up, or run in abject fear from the Ninky Nonk (why? Is it some kind of terrifying self-driving truck intent on running over whichever Pontipine gets in its way? Is this Duel, dressed up for the bedtime hour?). The characters have some sort of inconsequential adventure, they may or may not have a dance on the carousel, there’s a peculiar chant from the Tittifers (stop sniggering at the back there) and then we spend ten minutes saying goodbye to everyone. Nonetheless, particular episodes stand out. There’s ‘Sad and Happy Tombliboos’, in which the Tombliboos play free jazz, which makes everyone in the garden miserable. There’s ‘Mind the Haahoos’, an incredible high octane chase through the garden as the Ninky Nonk weaves in and out of the trees, only narrowly missing the giant balloons that inhabit the spaces in between. And then there’s ‘Igglepiggle’s Tiddle’, in which – oh, you figure it out.

BsrrvdkCAAA2aDS

The whole thing is voiced by Derek Jacobi, who does a cracking job, particularly with the singing. In The Night Garden contains the sort of nonsense language that would have made Spike Milligan proud, and those who level criticisms against both the characters’ apparent gibberish and the overall strangeness of the experience have broadly missed the point: this is not for you. It’s for your children, and children love it. They don’t just foist stuff like this upon an unsuspecting audience without checking it over. Kay Benbow knows what she’s doing. The phenomenal success of Teletubbies is testament to that.

“Honestly, though,” said my father, who mostly knows him as Cadfael. “All those ridiculous words. What must Derek Jacobi have made of it? What was he thinking when he recorded it?”

“The money, Dad?” I suggested.

(Side note: how to freak out your children, class 101. You show them the series three episode of Doctor Who in which Jacobi turns out to be the Master. And then you put them to bed with the songs and music from In The Night Garden playing on the iPod. On a loop.)

Anyway: I don’t know why I didn’t think of mashing up In The Night Garden with Frank Cottrell Boyce’s ‘In the Forest of the Night’ when it aired last autumn. Perhaps it was Edward’s recent fascination with the show (that’s In The Night Garden now, not the Doctor Who story, although he does like the tiger). Either way I spent much of Wednesday evening busy with Fireworks (my image manipulator of choice, although at some point I really ought to learn how to use Photoshop). It wasn’t plain sailing: I spent almost an hour getting the one with the Haahoos not quite right, but it is here anyway as an experiment gone wrong, and the rest aren’t too bad. At any rate they made my children laugh. Ultimately, isn’t that why I do this?

 

Categories: Crossovers, New Who | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dark Side of Flop: Bing meets Wolf Hall

IMPORTANT UPDATE: THIS VIDEO IS NO LONGER EMBEDDED.

TO SEE WHY, SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM.

TO SEE IT ON DROPBOX, CLICK HERE.

FOR THE TRANSCRIPT, CLICK HERE.

You know, when I think about it, I’m pretty sure this whole thing started with Mrs Doyle.

I knew about Wolf Hall already, of course, although I’d not seen it. “It’s weird,” they said on the social media pages. “That sinister bloke from that costume drama playing Flop!” Well, yes, but I had no frame of reference. And then there was the day that Bing found the dog in the park, and when her owner arrives to find out where she’s got to, it turns out to be Pauline McLynn.

Father Ted is twenty years old this year, which has led to an abundance of lists – popular quotes, memorable episodes, and a few of those animated GIFs that are so popular on Tumblr. There will be the “small, far away” clip and you can guarantee that at least one person will use the words “Down with this sort of thing” (and that the next comment, in turn, will read “Careful now”). But I know the scene I always think of when I see Pauline McLynn, and it is the one where she swears.

Distressingly, this clip omits Mrs Doyle’s departing remark – but the point is, the moment I heard Pauline voicing Gilly I wanted her to shout “RIDE ME SIDEWAYS, THAT WAS ANOTHER ONE!” at Bing and Flop. And it sort of went from there, really. It went from there primarily because I’m getting a little tired at the constant ‘Find your inner Flop’ mantras that seem to have become a thing. Flop’s a role model in the same way that Jesus was a role model. His approach is totally impractical because he has a limitless supply of patience, of the sort that human beings do not possess. Let’s also not forget that Bing himself, though young, is also an alarmingly obedient child, digesting and dealing with Flop’s advice and reproaches without question, each and every time. Not for Bing the strop in the supermarket or the insistence on having his bed all to himself, even if Pando’s fallen asleep inside it. When Flop tells him ‘no’, he listens, and he listens first time.

And look, here’s the thing – Flop doesn’t have a smartphone.* Perhaps Bing is set in a world thirty years behind ours, or even longer (have there been any stories in which the characters watch, or even want to watch TV? I genuinely don’t remember any). Flop appears to devote twenty-four hours a day to the servitude and care of his charge. Perhaps he’s like Davy Jones in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, cursed to ferry the Flying Dutchman back and forth to and from the land of the dead, or risk being turned into an octopus. (I am now entertaining the notion of a collectible Flop with detachable Cthulhu-like tentacles. It is an amusing, if disturbing thought.)

But I wonder, sometimes. I wonder what he’s really thinking. Someone, somewhere really needs to produce a blog in which Flop recounts the events of an episode of Bing from his own perspective, in which he whines about the rabbit’s stupidity, perhaps referring to him as ‘The little shit’. I would very much like to do this, had I the time, not to mention the inclination to stop-start view all seventy-six episodes of season one – again – so that I can make dialogue notes.

In the absence of that, this will do. Because it’s time we brought the zen-like sock puppet down off his pedestal. He’s been allowed to embarrass decent, flawed parents for too long. He and the other carers in the show are annoyingly, irritatingly perfect. It’s why it’s a shock when this happens in the iPlayer listings:

Bing

It was a mistake, of course, and I pointed it out, only to have the official Bing Bunny page say something random that completely missed the point. “You’re far too young for a Facebook account, Bing,” I remarked. “Does Flop know?”

Anyway, a few technical notes on that video. The longest component of assembling this one was actually watching Wolf Hall, which I did in the space of three or four days, thoroughly enjoying every minute (except when the rented DVD turned out to be scratched). I’ve written about the majesty of the BBC’s Hilary Mantel adaptation elsewhere, so we won’t dwell on Cromwell and his machinations for today. What struck me going through was how little there actually was, in the grand scheme of things – I’d expected Thomas Cromwell to be darker, somehow, forgetting that the whole point to his characterisation is a sense of enigmatic aloofness, with far more revealed in what he doesn’t say – the space between the notes, as Miles Davis used to riff when he was defining music.

Bernard Hill, on the other hand, was a gift from a multi-denominational God. He swears like a trooper. He had to be Pando; there was nothing else for it. The Duke of Norfolk spends much of his time harrumphing and shouting like a child; he has thus rather fittingly become one. There’s no set narrative to this collection, which is instead loosely grouped according to mood – although you’ll see certain scenes are split to keep the pace up. I purposely didn’t use every sound clip I obtained, realising (as I have of late) that less is more. It’s a lesson I could have done with learning on the Red Dwarf / Doctor Who crossover I did last year – one that’s earned its fair share of negative comments, comments which I fear with increasing certainty may be absolutely right.

But if nothing else, this hopefully throws up a subtext to some of Flop’s oh-so-perfect parenting techniques, as well as demonstrating the versatility of the frankly sensational Mark Rylance. Sadly, Pauline McLynn still doesn’t get to say “Ride me sideways”, but you can’t have everything. Maybe I’ll do a sequel next year when they adapt The Light and the Mirror. Patience. It’s a Bing thing. As for the rest of us, we’re all drumming our fingers.

* Edit: it turns out, as I discovered just this week, that Flop does have a smartphone, although it’s left marginally less intelligent when Bing breaks it. I’m still basically right, anyway.

BLOGGER’S ADDENDUM, 14 JULY

I received an email this morning informing me that the video has been taken offline by YouTube, in response to a legal claim from Aardman. This wasn’t one of those indiscriminate web-crawling automated takedowns that I can contest under fair use; this was a manual request. When I queried, the (truncated) response from Aardman was:

“With kids brands, the general rule of thumb is not to mix pre-school with adult comedy, this is the main reason in this case for removing the video, which we have done on behalf of the Bing team.

The secondary reason is your video is also an infringement of copyright associated with the Bing brand.

FYI – Some production companies are stricter than others with regards to copyright breach, some see it as promotion, others see it as property theft, different strokes for different folks basically.”

Under the circumstances, I won’t be contesting. He has a point, and all the parental advisories in the world (and there are at least two) probably won’t stop kids from clicking through. Ted Dewan’s Twitter approval counts for zip; Aardman hold the copyright, they call the shots.

The three most annoying things about this –

1. My copyright standing has been relegated, at least until January, and I have a strike on my account

2. I had to sit through a tedious and patronising ‘Copyright school’ video; the sort of thing I imagine speeding drivers have to go through

3. I dare not even put this on Vimeo, because they’ll probably do it again.

I have, however, made the video available at Dropbox, if you want to see or download it there. Alternatively, you could have a look at this transcript.

 

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

The inevitable Doctor Who / General Election thing

I have no idea which political party the Doctor would plump for. He’d probably spoil his paper, or write ‘THIS IS A FAKE’ on the back. I can be reasonably confident that the UK Independence Party would not get a look in. The Third Doctor was, of course, a big part of the establishment he claimed to despise, namedropping left right and centre (in the political sense). Mind you, he does the same thing with Horatio Nelson, so I don’t suspect that most people paid any attention. (John Lennon presumably had the same problems. It’s difficult to take seriously a man who said “All you need is love” the same year he said “I am the walrus”.)

Anyway. I’d say that the last of these images is only funny if you’ve seen ‘Pyramids of Mars’, but I think you’ll get the general idea even if you haven’t.

 

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: