Uncategorized

They may be drinkers, Robin, but they’re also human beings

In the first instance, this.

We watched the 2010 version of Green Lantern one Friday a few weeks ago when we had nothing much else to do. I think Emily and I may be among the few people who actually like it. Oh, it’s hokum. It’s poorly acted and thoroughly ridiculous and over-reliant on CGI. On the other hand you’re talking about a flying superhero who can summon up things purely by thinking about them: CGI kind of goes with the territory. Besides, Greeen Lantern has one of the best disguise-penetrating scenes in any superhero film ever. “I’ve known you my whole life!” splutters Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). “I’ve seen you naked! You don’t think I would recognise you because I can’t see your cheekbones?!?”

It’s fun, but we seem to be in a minority. That’s fine. From general consensus, I think we’re also among only a handful of people who loved the 2004 / 2007 Fantastic Four movies. with Ben Grimm and his “Stupid buttons” scene in the phone booth. Both films are ridiculous, but they’re also about superheroes who actually enjoy it, rather than superheroes who are burdened with all that responsibility. That sort of thing doesn’t happen too much these days, presumably out of fear that a less-than-melodramatic script will push you into Batman & Robin territory (more on them in a moment). I’m happy for the Richards family to be given a lighter touch. But I think that’s what happens when you’re not overly attached to the source material – nothing else, I suspect, could explain my love of the Lord of the Rings movies. I’m not a cheerleader for Tolkien: he writes about amazing worlds but his prose is often plodding. And I enjoy the films, as stupid as they are. Sometimes stupid is OK.

The thing with Green Lantern – as I’m sure I’ve written before – is that he’s actually a pretty dreadful superhero, and for this I hand over to my longtime friend, Jonathan Oliver, who was once quizzed about the galactic defender in a panel discussion at a festival I attended some years ago. “He’s basically rubbish,” he said. “You have this incredible ring that can do anything you want, and because they needed a flaw, it has no effect on the colour yellow.”

The panel’s moderator nodded in agreement. “It’s funny when you think that in a straight fight, Laa Laa could have him.”

Too much power is a dangerous thing: that’s why, over in the Whoniverse, they ditched both K-9 (or found ways of keeping him in the TARDIS) and the sonic screwdriver. Not that I lament its return. It is, like the psychic paper, that most convenient of plot devices when you’re trying to tell a story in 45 minutes instead of 96. It’s easy to complain about quick fixes but let’s be honest: having the Doctor and his companions accused of murder or espionage and constantly locked up really was tedious, at least in the 1970s when it happened every week – sometimes you don’t have enough story without a bit of enforced captivity, and the narrative was certainly padded, even if the cells weren’t.

Finding a workable Kryptonite is the sort of thing that doesn’t happen in Batman, because you’re dealing with a costumed character whose only superpower is a seemingly limitless piggy bank. It’s always quite fun to see Batman crack ribs, tear ligaments and generally get the crap beaten out of him. It makes it all the more satisfying when he inevitably triumphs and it serves as a reminder that any of us could theoretically put on the cape and fight crime, given the right investors and a couple of dead parents. I mentioned money as his superpower: perhaps, in all honesty, it’s actually an unquenchable thirst for justice.

Not that we had much brooding back in the sixties, when Batman was a happy-go-lucky caped crusader whose history of orphandom (that’s supposedly not a word, but I’m inventing it) was barely mentioned – if ever – when he was gallivanting round Gotham City in the company of Burt Ward. The Batman TV show was splendid until you got to its third series, when it swiftly jumped the shark (immediately before Adam West sprayed the rubber prop with his Bat Shark Repellant). But as a child I loved it: the cliffhangers were ridiculous and the whole thing was as gay as a daffodil but that’s all part of the charm. It’s why I was absolutely thrilled to find a set of TV show figures on sale in our local branch of TK Maxx some months ago – Batman and Robin and three of the Big Four (Catwoman, Joker, Penguin). Curiously the Riddler is absent; I assume he’s off planting clues in Arkham City.

It’s a far cry from the renaissance the character experienced back in the 80s when Frank Miller did The Dark Knight Returns and everything changed. It’s a horrible (if brilliant) story but even its most grotesque scenes have nothing on All Star Batman and Robin, which is an insult both to the character and the fans, for reasons I can’t be bothered to unpack here. Miller’s one of those writers whom you initially like before realising that not only has his quality of work gone down the tubes, he’s actually keen to live out his worldview: reading Sin City, for example, it swiftly becomes apparent that this is not a nightmarish dystopia, this is actually the way Frank Miller would like the world to be. Oh look, Vicki Vale’s got her tits out. Didn’t see that coming.

Far better, instead, that we should concentrate on the good stuff – and The Dark Knight Returns, whatever its flaws and uncomfortable legacy, is a masterpiece, answering empirically the question of who’d win in a fight between Batman and Superman years before Affleck and Cavill squared off in Dawn of Justice. More to the point, it’s actually interesting and fun, in a way that the much-anticipated Dalek / Cybermen face-off in ‘Doomsday’  – the Who equivalent of such a contest – really wasn’t. I’ve always contested that you should be wary of giving the fans what they want, but perhaps if you get Miller to write it, you can make it work.

In any event, here’s what I’ve always thought would happen if he wrote Doctor Who.

“I’m glad,” said someone in a group I frequent, “that you left out the word ‘retarded’.”

“I confess part of me didn’t want to,” I replied. “You know, the puritanical artist part. But that’s the sort of thing that gets you banned.”

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

No, I’ve met cat people

It was a Wednesday, and I was giving Edward a bath, when Emily popped her head round the door and announced she was going to work.

“What time will you be back?” I asked.

“No idea,” she said. “I’ll probably get drawn into something.”

So I have drawn her into this picture of the Tenth Doctor. I rock.

 

In our ongoing Nu Who marathon, we passed ‘Fear Her’ months ago, and the Tenth Doctor has long since regenerated. Indeed, the Eleventh is currently into his ‘new lease of life after Amy and Rory phase’, cavorting around the rings of Akhaten with Clara. (I seem to be the only one who actually likes this episode, or at least I thought I was until a recent reappraisal saw its other fans emerging from the woodwork, like the slaves at the end of Spartacus.) What’s annoying is that he has yet to shed a single tear over any of the deaths, or any of the departures. I know I didn’t either, but it’s hardly the point.

That doesn’t stop Daniel having an appreciation for Classic Who, of course, judging by the scene he played out with the Character Creations set last week: not content with building a wall and casting Peter Davison’s incarnation in the role of Donald Trump, I came in the other day to find the Sixth and the First Doctors emerging in what looked an awful lot like cosplay.

I only wish I could find the Seventh Doctor. Can somebody (hello Gareth) come up with an amusing, series-related suggestion?

Also this week: Daniel told us he had a dream where the Eleventh Doctor was having an adventure with Rose, “only she had an emoji face and she threw Captain Jack from the roof of a building”.

It took me all morning to find the right building, but eventually –

 

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

Inspirational Star Wars Quotes

“I have been giggling at this,” said Sara, “for ten minutes.

impossible-possible

I didn’t even get the reference, which supposedly comes from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, a show I’d never even heard of, let alone seen. But it works, even though it loses points for missing out a full stop in that second frame.

Star Wars spirituality is a very real concept. We’re living in a country where nearly four hundred thousand people put ‘Jedi’ as their religion on the 2001 census, for crying out loud. There’s nothing wrong with that, in and of itself, provided it’s a token protest against atheism and not something you’re actually supposed to take seriously. If that sounds rather too obvious a point for me to need to actually state openly, it’s worth bearing in mind that I’ve spent a week or so reading through status updates on a Facebook group where people genuinely seem to think that the Doctor is really out there flying around in his TARDIS, simply because you’re unable to categorically prove that he isn’t.

So I’m fine with life lessons from Who, and the Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned From Star Trek business model, but you can get too obsessed. And when people delve into these shows as if it’s the only thing that gives their lives meaning, I am torn between the desire to feel sorry for them or openly mock them. Sometimes it’s a simple combination of both.

“Also,” said Sara’s friend Kimberley, “I think a whole series of Star Wars / spiritual memes is in order.”

And she was right. So we spent a pleasant evening doing them, as and when they came to us.

And somewhat predictably, I made a whole set. And here they are.

If Plan A didn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters

If God is all you have you have all you need

Be somebody nobody thought you could be

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience we are spiritual beings having a human experience

Courage is being yourself every day in a world that tells you to be someone else

Don’t let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace

Until you spread your wings you will have no idea how far you can fly

The truth of human freedom lies in the love that breaks down barriers

Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to other people

Embrace the glorious mess that you are

May the Force be with you. “And also with you.”

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pen Pineapple Apple Pen

Sorry.

Actually, I’m not.

doc_pen_1

doc_pen_2

(If you’re still oblivious, this will reveal all. But I should warn you the earworm will burrow deeper than that Ceti eel did into Chekhov’s head.)

 

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

Doctor Who Quotes – Out of Context

Firstly:

I bet you're gonna have a really great year.

There is a Doctor Who Facebook group I frequent where certain patterns of behaviour may be observed. There is person X, who publishes regular links to YouTube videos that are basically him rambling incoherently for twenty minutes at a time with a static image in the background about various missing episode rumours and speculation, and who bristles at all the negative feedback he gets. There is that tendency you get for the same tabloid headline to be posted in several different threads with the same conversations going on in each. There are the regular birthday listings – from people who had substantial roles to people who had a single line of dialogue. And there’s me – usually posting memes or videos or blog articles, some of which go down quite well, while others are completely ignored, but them’s the breaks, kid.

Then there’s Steve.

Steve isn’t his real name – although it may be, given that the name he uses is a Who-related moniker (which is something I’ve never liked on Facebook; it’s a personal preference but I find it difficult to engage with someone who calls themselves Melody Oswald, or Gillian LogansMummy Bear). Steve occasionally posts on different topics but his favourite activity is the Sad Quote. You know the sort of thing I mean. It’s a picture of Matt Smith on a swing. It’s Capaldi, alone in the TARDIS. Or it’s Tennant standing in the rain. These images are accompanied by the ‘sad’ moments from the show – the Doctor’s farewell after he wipes Donna’s memory, the moment he admits to Rose that death is inevitable, the bit where Amy Pond says “And this is how it ends.” I’m not even going to include them here; you can have this one instead.

I'm burning up a sun just to say goodbye.

(I’m amused by the fact that when I posted this, more than a few people didn’t get the joke.)

I’m not opposed by the fact that people want to wallow in misery over some of Doctor Who’s supposedly melancholy moments. This is watched by angst-ridden teenagers – some of whom, I’m convinced, genuinely believe that the Doctor is really out there somewhere, and that he’ll come and pick them up one day. It’s easy to scoff at this, but I’m not going to. When you’re young and the world overwhelms you, you need some semblance of escapist hope, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But really. It saturates certain portions of the internet. “This is why,” someone said when I brought it up, “I don’t use Tumblr.” And truth be told, I don’t use Tumblr either – I just periodically post stuff there to generate web traffic, as it’s a decent market. But when Tumblr bleeds across into Facebook, we have a problem, in that the epidemic of Doctor / Clara / Rose posts sets my teeth on edge. “Such an upsetting scene,” says someone who from their profile pic is old enough to know better. The ‘sad’ emoticon features in abundance. Cut to Matt Smith, crying on a sofa. Oh, the feels.

Anyway: I propose a solution. Because it struck me – having made a particular random association one morning when I was more bored than you can imagine – that one way to counteract the Sad Meme thing is to decontextualise them. In other words, miserable quotes presented in different scenarios.

And that’s what I’ve done. Enjoy.

There's a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive... wormhole refractors... you know the thing you need most of all? you need a hand to hold

I don't age. I regenerate. But you, you wither and you die. You can spend the rest of your life with me. But I can't spend the rest of mine with you. I have to live on, alone.

before i go, i just wanna tell you, rose tyler, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And you know what? So was I.

I don't wanna go

But then there's other people and you meet them and you think not bad, they're okay, and then you get to know them, and their face sort of becomes them, like their personality's written all over it

Never trust a hug. It's just a way of hiding your face

Sometimes the only choices you have are bad ones, but you still have to choose.

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

Look to your left (part 304)

The other morning, I spotted this story in The Independent, and for reasons that ought to be obvious it reminded me of David Tennant.

obama

I mean, you can see why, can’t you? “Don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…”

Anyway: I posted this in several Facebook groups with the words ‘Americans and Doctor Who fans. They’re not so different’, where it received a generally favourable response, and sparked a couple of interesting conversations about Theresa May. Except in one group (which I will not name), where one user (whom I will also leave anonymous) got quite hot under the collar about the fact that he wanted to talk about Doctor Who, and that we shouldn’t be mentioning politics. When I checked back later, the post was gone: given that I’ve posted other stuff in a similar vein there before, I am assuming that it’s because he complained.

I do try and avoid talking about butthurt in this blog, but this bothered me immensely. It bothers me for the same reason that people complain about religious leaders holding political views (or, for that matter, political leaders holding religious ones) or celebrities espousing particular values. J.K. Rowling is currently mocking supposed fans on Twitter who have seen fit to hold her to account for her views on Trump, suggesting that they might have missed the point of the books. Both holding and expressing political views is a cornerstone of democracy, and you do not forfeit the right to express those views because of a position of privilege. There is a right and a wrong way to do it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s off the agenda. Nor does it mean that political conversation is irrelevant or unwanted. It’s entirely possible to enjoy Doctor Who without having any idea of the allegories therein (my children do it all the time) but this does not in itself mean that a political reading is invalid. Or, as an acquaintance pointed out on Twitter the other day, “subtext clearly goes over people’s heads, but in the case of Harry Potter and Doctor Who, it’s text. It’s explicit!”.

helen_a_fifi

Anyway: here’s my open letter to the group, which explains things a little further.

I’m scratching my head a bit this afternoon.

Earlier I posted a photo of Barack Obama – making what I felt was a salient point about Americans who wanted the impossible, and comparing them to Doctor Who fans who also want the impossible. Eventually it was removed.

I am assuming this was because of political discourse: I had one person say “we don’t want this political crap”. That’s the sort of thing I hear quite a lot when I post things that touch on politics, mainstream or otherwise. The idea, supposedly, is that politics are off the agenda, although I can’t find anything within the guidelines to support this.

But here’s the thing: Doctor Who is a political show. It has been since the first Dalek raised its sink plunger back in 1964. It’s not a show that can be interpreted in that way if you want – it is a show that has been overtly political for a long time. It has a long line of left-leaning writers who held strong political views. It is a show that asks awkward questions and we love it precisely because of this. If you want to censor political discussion because it makes you uncomfortable, that’s fine. But you can’t stop there. You also need to ban discussion about The Daleks, The Mutants, The Curse of Peladon, The Green Death, The Silurians, The Sun Makers, The Happiness Patrol, World War Three, The Zygon Invasion / Inversion, Turn Left, The Christmas Invasion, and Kinda. Among others.

I don’t want to start an argument about Trump or Brexit or the alt right, and would dissuade any outright attempts to do so. I post these things without comment: they are there only to make people think, and I am hopeful that the bulk of group members would have the good sense to stop at the thinking part if they can feel an argument brewing. The role of art is to challenge and commentate as well as entertain – it’s been that way since ancient Greece – and this is occasionally done through the use of political satire. Doctor Who is no different in this respect from Yes Minister, or even Harry Potter. It’s not about possible interpretation, it’s about the actual subject matter.

So this is not a rant against the moderators, whose right to run the group the way they see fit I fully respect. But to those of you who complain (regularly) that “This is a Doctor Who group, can’t we leave politics out of it?”, I’d suggest that you’re not watching the show properly.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Don’t Panic

My darling wife has a birthday.

I’m not going to tell you how old she is. But to mark the occasion, I’ve Photoshopped her into scenes from The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

(We really should make tea as well.)

em_hh_1 em_hh_7 em_hh_4 em_hh_6 em_hh_3 em_hh_5 em_hh_2

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Curse of the Shoehorning Titles

timelordletters

I recently finished The Time Lord Letters. One of those tie-ins (this one by Justin Richards) that do quite well for a while and then end up in The Works at £5.99, it revisits a number of stories in the form of imagined correspondence – letters, memos, the occasional post-it – usually revisiting the events of the narrative after the fact. The Tenth Doctor, for example, writes to Harriet Jones after he has a hand in deposing her. His immediate predecessor writes to Charles Dickens just after they’ve fought off ghosts in Cardiff. And the Fourth Doctor writes to the survivors of Storm Mine 4 (not that there are many) just after ‘Robots of Death’, apologising for leaving without waking them (cross-reference under hashtag #sorrynotsorry).

Sometimes the letters anticipate stories rather than reflect upon them: the Eleventh Doctor, for example, writes to a shop in Colchester asking for a job. Others dip into them in the middle of a narrative: there is a nice one from the Second Doctor to the Time Lords asking for help with the War Games. Still others skate around the lake of randomness: there’s one from a very young First Doctor to Borusa complaining about his school report (this is funnier if you’ve actually read said report, which is in another book). And the Twelfth Doctor’s reference for Clara is quite amusing, and very Twelfth Doctor. The whole thing is nicely presented, a variety of different (and usually well-chosen) fonts to illustrate the different Doctors’ handwriting styles, and it contains (a rarity in a New Who book) a pleasing mixture of Classic and Modern.

But there were bits of it that set my teeth on edge.

It’s not that Richards gets the tone wrong. For the most part I could imagine the Doctors (and other characters that occasionally contribute) speaking the words listed with utter conviction. That, in itself, is a big part of the problem. Because – well look, let me give you an example, occurring as it does in the form of the First Doctor’s farewell note to Susan.

susan

At a guess: you read that and then halfway through thought “Hang on, this is what he said inside the TARDIS! Word for word!” And indeed, it is.

Exactly the same thing happens when Martha leaves, as you’ll see when you find yourself quoting her speech.

martha

The implication behind both entries (it’s there in the note at the top) is that this is something the Doctor / Martha wrote down in case they didn’t have time to say it out loud, but it’s fine because they did. Using their exact words. As the Tenth Doctor does in his letter to Sally Sparrow, in which he says “There was a sort of a thing happening. Four things in fact. And a lizard.” Which is amusing when it happens in ‘Blink’, because it’s precisely the sort of improvised, disjointed thing you’d expect him to say in the heat of the moment, and a deliciously open-ended non-sequiteur at the end of an episode bent on being as self-contained as possible. Are we really expected to believe that in the aftermath, when he’d had time to think, the Doctor would have written those exact words? Again?

Perhaps Richards had a deadline and ran out of mojo. Or perhaps it was an authorial decision: the inclusion of great chunks of published dialogue instantly familiarises the audience. Perhaps I’m in a minority but I simply can’t get comfortable with it. Is it really necessary to have the Fifth Doctor write down his precise parting words to the Cranleighs after he leaves the house at the end of ‘Black Orchid’? Even when it’s not full text, there are needless references thrown in. The words ‘Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey’ appear far more than they should. The Twelfth Doctor goes on about tangerines in his letter to Santa (which concludes, amusingly enough, with ‘P.S. – do I really stick this up a chimney now?’). And when writing to Dickens, the Ninth Doctor mentions The Signalman. Again.

It’s a problem that doesn’t dog The Secret History of Twin Peaks – something Emily bought me for Christmas and which I’m enjoying tremendously. The town of Twin Peaks, as it turns out, has a long history stemming back to Lewis and Clark, by way of displaced Native Americans, assorted encounters with the military, and two feuding families. There is rather too much UFO stuff (indeed, the book contains references to pretty much every conspiracy theory known to man, and a few that weren’t) but perhaps this was inevitable after The X-Files, a show that arguably would not have happened without Twin Peaks. What’s interesting is that it explores the history of the town without making explicit references to anything the characters actually said, content instead to flesh it out with imagined press cuttings, meeting transcripts, and journal entries. And I think I’m just getting to the good bit.

twin-peaks

References to source material – cryptic or otherwise – are endemic in this age of digital television. It’s easier than ever to spot the small stuff (I should know; I made an entire series out of it). So when we’re told that there are Torchwood Easter Eggs in Sherlock, it’s not a great surprise. Indeed, the entire script is chock full of references to Conan Doyle’s characters, locations and other stories, whether it’s from a postcard on a fridge or the sign on a receptionist’s desk. It’s borderline saturation and is, in all likelihood, deliberately designed that way. If you spend every waking hour talking about obscure trivia, you barely have time to notice all the plot holes.

Nonetheless there’s a difference between subtle visual clues and the kind of shoehorning that happens in…look, I was going to give Lord of the Rings as an example, but that’s actually what I wanted to talk about, so let’s deal with the elephant in the room for a minute. Because while it’s one thing to have the Tenth Doctor awkwardly refer to himself as “James McCrimmon from the township of Balamory” at the beginning of ‘Tooth and Claw’, or mutter “Brave heart, Clara” as he’s leading her in the direction of a scream halfway through ‘The Crimson Horror’, these are minor transgressions compared to the stuff that happens under Peter Jackson’s watch.

Consider The Hobbit (we’re talking about the book, at least for the moment), and Bilbo’s despair when he and his Dwarvish companions are plunged into yet another bad situation. Tolkien picks up the thread:

“‘Escaping goblins to be caught by wolves!’ he said, and it became a proverb, though we now say ‘out of the frying-pan into the fire’ in the same sort of uncomfortable situations.”

And that, indeed, is the title of the chapter. And presumably Thorin has read the book, which is what prompts him to say “Out of the frying pan,” to which Gandalf adds “And into the fire!”. To be fair to him, Gandalf has form. He it was who languished by the fireside in Bag End, muttering “Riddles in the dark…”, although it is left to the Hobbits to awkwardly shoehorn another chapter title into an early scene (which, by the way, is nothing like it is in the book):

MERRY: That was just a detour. A shortcut.
SAM: A shortcut to what?
PIPPIN: Mushrooms!

Thankfully, that’s when the Nazgul turns up and they’re all too busy avoiding Morgul blades to think of jokes, at least until the Council of Elrond. “Nine companions?” says the sombre Elf. “So be it. You shall be…THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING!”

gandalf_fellowship

Look, calling out chapter names is OK when it’s as bland as, I don’t know, ‘Helm’s Deep’. You wouldn’t have got very far without that. Theoden would have had to say “WE GO TO MY VALLEY CLUBHOUSE!”, which would have been rubbish. Similarly (and steering the conversation back towards Doctor Who), the whole concept of ‘Listen’ revolves around the act of listening – chiefly to oneself – and although it’s never really apparent why the Doctor comes out of his meditation bellowing that single word, except that it looks creepy on a blackboard, it more or less works. Less effective is having Rita say “That’s quite a God complex you have there” while the Doctor’s being all self-important, but if anything that’s because of the title of the episode, rather than anything in it. And yet the title works because of its multiple layers. Which is the chicken here, and which the egg?

Sometimes it does seem that Doctor Who is mocking the Jackson fetish for awkward insertions (and yes, I know he’s not the only culprit, but these films have been sycophantically fawned over for years and it really is time we talked about how rubbish they are in places). Having the Doctor bellow “Dinosaurs…ON A SPACESHIP!” is both self-indulgent and brilliant, and in an episode that was less ridiculous it would have stuck out like a sore thumb – in this case, it’s all just part of the fun. Having Mels shout “OK, LET’S KILL HITLER!” is somewhat less successful, but again the story gets away with it because of sheer silliness. (You will note that every episode I’ve mentioned here was broadcast within the last seven years – if there’s one thing Russell T Davies seldom had a problem with, it was titles.)

Listen_02

There is, at least, one sin of which the Lord of the Rings films are not guilty, and that’s to end on a title. Their last words are generally fairly profound, or laced with hidden profundity as the characters gaze out at a beautiful / dismal / dazzling / foreboding skyline, wind machine optional. Ending on a title is just about the worst thing an author can do, apart from conclude a story with “…and then I woke up”. It’s the literary equivalent of concluding your drama class sketch with “That’s it”. It isn’t wrong, but we Just Don’t Do It. (Sue Townsend did, of course, and I still haven’t quite forgiven her.)

And yet authors do. It was endemic within the sort of dreadful novels my mother used to enjoy – the Domestic Sagas, light and easy to read, covers emblazoned with soft-focus pictures of impassioned romantic couples or resilient single parents. Examples that spring immediately to mind are Elizabeth Murphy’s A Nest of Singing Birds and a book called As The Crow Flies which could have been written by anyone, given the popularity of its title (and no, it was not the Damien Boyd one and it probably wasn’t the Jeffrey Archer one either). But the greats aren’t immune – Bill Bryson finished Neither Here Nor There, his great European travelling memoir, in exactly this fashion, and no, I don’t care that it’s a pun. It’s colossally lazy. If you must, just use a different title. Titles are easy. It’s endings that are hard.

Thank goodness Doctor Who never does this. Right?

endquotes

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Trumpmas Carol

scrooge

You know what’s great about Christmas? Ghost stories.

I had a story I’d planned to share with you – it stars the Third Doctor and a familiar-looking Santa Claus creating havoc at a Christmas party – but I haven’t had time to finish it. Still, that’s OK, because Josh has stepped into the breach. His school project this term was to produce something in the Dickens vein – a stage adaptation, a graphic novel, a contemporary retelling, or a fact file about the man himself. After a brief family discussion, he opted to retell A Christmas Carol (chiefly because it is, as you may expect of a boy of eleven, the only one he really knows well) starring you-know-who.

It’s been done before. But this is his version, and he’s proud of it, and I felt it warranted sharing. I get the feeling that this is the only year I’d get away with printing this here – while Donald Trump is, as we go to press, still President Elect instead of President. I wonder if, a year down the line, it might be something we no longer want to talk about – or perhaps the miracle will happen and there’ll be no need. In any event you will forgive the inevitably unrefined political views therein, coming as they do from a first-year secondary schoolboy (who is, nonetheless, rather wiser than his years, and I suspect wiser than many of the electorate). It was done with minimal help from us – a few creative nudges aside, the ideas and the story are by and large entirely his own. I cleaned up the grammar and punctuation a little but didn’t touch anything else, restricting myself instead to the Photoshopping (with the exception of that image at the top, which I nabbed – and you can tell, because it’s the only one that’s wholly successful).

Take it away, Josh. And incidentally, a Happy Christmas to all of you at home.

A Trumpmas Carol

The day Donald Trump was elected great cheers erupted from his supporters. He grinned and made his speech: “Fellow Americans, to celebrate my victory I will start building this great wall to stop Mexicans entering our homeland, our country, our city!” More cheers. “I will start building it on Christmas morning, 8:00 AM to be to exact, also all Mexicans who happen to live in here will be thrown out back into Mexico!” At that exact point every Mexican in America sighed dismally but the ones who sighed the most were the Gonzalez family as they sat in a house the size of a shoe box right next to the Whitehouse.

Months passed as Trump got his blueprints ready for the wall and on Christmas Eve he had just arrived home to check the blueprints and as he was looking at them they shifted around to form Margaret Thatcher’s face. Donald Trump suddenly dropped the blueprints into the fire. They burst into flame but Margaret T was not done yet. From out of the smoke arose her ghost and she said in a grave, gravelly voice “Donald Trump, you will be visited by three Mexicans at midnight!” before drifting off into the night air…

trump_thatcher

Donald Trump could not sleep, every time his eyes closed fear and anxiety twisted his insides violently, forcing him to stay awake. All was silent excluding the large grandfather, “Tick Tock Tick Tock!” it screamed. “Oh great,” he muttered. Tiredly he walked towards the door but the door slammed shut before he got to it. The clock chimed midnight. The room went cold. Very very cold. Very very very cold.

Suddenly through the (locked) window came a small Mexican girl. She grinned and took out a list of her and started reading the list, her eyes scanning down it, “T… T… T… Thomas… Thompson… whoa you Americans have some funny names, aha Trump. Oh my name’s Maria by the way” she said as she pulled him out the (still locked) window.

Whilst in flight Donald Trump spent most of his time picking glass off of his dressing gown while Maria kept apologizing, “listen Donald I’m sorry, okay. I forgot about the mortals can’t fly through windows rule.”
“Whatever, just wondering what’s that big blue light?”

Maria looked off into the distance. “Ladies and gentlemen you reached your destination, please fasten your seat-belts and hold on tight!” then… silence… nothing… they were blasted into an icy cold void.

trump_flying

“Yay, let’s do that again!”
“No let’s not!” Donald Trump had nearly fainted and also dripping wet. While Maria observed the area, “Look Trumpy a fight! Who is against who? Look Trumpy you’re fighting someone!!… soon punches were being delivered by either side. Then with his last burst of strength Donald Trump pounded the other kid to the floor. Then there was a bright flash of white light and the ghost, the school field and the school where he grew up in faded away.

Somewhere in the distance a clock chimed one o’clock.

Donald Trump was back in his bedroom when a cry like thunder shook the room making him jump. “HELLO AMIGO MY NAME’S PABLO!” said a big booming voice…

Donald Trump gaped as a massive bulk of a man came crashing through the roof almost crushing the enormous four-poster bed, which moaned and groaned as he plunked his heavy backside on it. This big bulking figure made Donald Trump look like an ant. In one hand he was holding a mug the size of a barrel full to the brim of beer. In the other hand he was holding a ripped untidy list full of names in scratchy untidy handwriting. He took a sip of beer and burped loudly. Then he grabbed Donald Trump by his shirt collar and lifted him off the ground…

Donald Trump was not aware were they were going nor did he know what travelling by giant was like but he soon found out the answers to both of these questions. First off travelling by giant was absolutely preposterous. He settled down on a comfy spot (as comfy as sweaty matted hair can get) and tried to get some rest but soon discovered it was impossible to rest when head-lice the size of horses are chasing after you.

Answer two: the Gonzales family house. “Why are we here?” asked Donald Trump. “Why won’t you shut up!” shouted the giant. Then he bent over and shook Donald Trump off his head. Even though he was only a couple of metres off the ground when he landed he felt a searing pain in his left leg. Donald Trump looked at the cracked shards of glass that they called a window. The children were tying pine-cones onto some string as they were too poor to afford real baubles.

trump_present

“Santa will love these I hope I’ll get another bag of cheese crisps, they lasted for months,” said the youngest, “mummy do you think Santa will like my decorations?”
“I’ll bet he will Antonio” said Elisabeth Gonzales. “Now why don’t you get to bed and maybe…” There was the sound of church bells chiming and all was still…

There was a looming menace in the air as a ghostly hand drifted through the key hole and ushered him out of his bedroom and towards the graveyard. “Where are we going?” The streets were full of people going around shouting “HE’S DEAD YESSS HE’S REALLY DEAD”. Donald Trump stared at these strange people. “Who’s dead?” The hand said nothing…

The graveyard was an unpleasant place filled with unpleasant corpses in unpleasant and rather ugly graves while he was there he saw one gravestone that caught his eye: RIP the Gonzales family: died of hypothermia. A tear welled up inside his eye as he respected those people, those good good people but there was no time to lose the hand dragged him on to a shallow grave already with a gravestone: RIP Donald John Trump: the nightmare is over then in his own handwriting was written “No, it’s only just beginning”…

Donald Trump was falling… falling… falling… down… down… down… into a bottomless pit falling… falling… Then he landed in hell’s fiery depths. It was so hot in there that I’m rather surprised these pages weren’t scorched to a crisp. But like it said on the gravestone the nightmare was only just beginning. The devil walked up towards him, a permanent sneer was fixed on his face. Then he said two words. “You’re fired!”

Suddenly Donald Trump found himself tied to a large wooden catapult, like the ones they used in the middle ages to catapult rocks at a wall. This was going to be used for a far more grisly use. Before he knew it he was strapped on to this big lumbering beast then was in a room full of speakers. Soon the theme tune for The Apprentice filled the room. Then the wall of speakers directly ahead of him burned and was soon filled with shards of glass then he was catapulted toward them as two words came out of the speakers: his own voice said “You’re fired!” He screamed.

trump_hell

Donald Trump woke up screaming with pain, surprisingly he did not wake up buried alive in a coffin but in his own bed in his own house in his own street in his own city in his own country, yes he was Donald Trump and he ruled the country. He looked over at his alarm clock, 7:30. Unless he wanted to end up in hell’s fiery depths again he would have to change quickly. Donald Trump smiled. Today was going to be a good day.

8:00 AM, that is what it said on the clock. His butler walked in “Excuse me mister president but it’s 8:00 AM,” Donald Trump looked over at the clock. “Yes yes, indeed it is, do you have the blueprints?” The butler nodded. “Here they are Mister President,”

Donald Trump looked at them then ripped them up into tiny little pieces. The butler looked astonished. “Mister President are you feeling oka…” Donald Trump laughed “Yes yes I’m feeling fine,” then he leaped out of bed and made a bolt for the door then he walked slowly back in. “Oh by the way is my car in the garage?”

Mexico was now one of the richest countries in the world now thanks to Donald Trump he told his chauffeur to drive around Mexico’s streets at 300 MPH (so it didn’t take too long). Then he attached bags of money from the wall building profit then a couple of hours later he was back and Mexico was rich as a fruitcake but Donald Trump still had one big bag full to the brim with bars of gold. He scrawled a quick invitation and stuck it on to the bag: Dear the Gonzales family you are invited for a Christmas party in the Whitehouse – Donald Trump…

Donald Trump was now poor, but he was also loved, and that’s what Christmas is all about.

The End

Epilogue

“Hank! I owe you 50$,” shouted Frank towards the vague direction of the kitchen. Hank walked in. “No you don’t.” Frank pointed at the headline. “He didn’t build the wall.” Hank shrugged. “Who cares. It’s Christmas!”

trump_mexico

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

Fireworks

eleven_two

This? This is why you never go shopping with a Time Lord on Black Friday.

Why am I photoshopping pictures of Troughton into shots from ‘Day of the Doctor’? It’s all connected with a piece I wrote for The Doctor Who Companion about how Matt Smith’s Doctor borrowed from Troughton. Highlights include recorders, jumping and Batman – if that’s the sort of thing that interests you, you are welcome to read the whole thing.

It’s partly down to recap. I got the idea because since about June or July Daniel and I have been going through every episode (except ‘The Waters of Mars’, which he requested we skip) from 2005 onwards, in an attempt to watch them all before spring, and series 10. Last week we got to ‘The Eleventh Hour’ – an episode notorious for that opening scene where the Doctor pokes his head out from the wrecked TARDIS, demanding an apple. It would be quite feasible to swap it with the Second Doctor, asking for a sandwich.

eleventh_second

Watching New Who with Daniel has been a fun experience, although I’m not sure how I felt about the fact that he read the 2017 annual over the weekend (a Christmas grotto gift) and now knows what River Song did and, more importantly, who she is. I know I talk about how spoilers are overrated (and how a show dependent upon them is destined to fail); simultaneously, if the only reason to actually put up with River for a third time is to see your child’s jaw drop when she announces “I’m your daughter” at the end of ‘A Good Man Goes To War’, how on earth am I going to cope now that this tantalising prospect has been removed?

Wine may be involved, I suspect. On the upside, it does mean that I no longer have to field a constant barrage of questions about “Who is she? Can you give me a clue? When do we see her again? What’s going on?”. Or that time we took a train into Reading to see the pantomime (Dick Whittington, starring Justin Fletcher, and not too bad at all) and we got into a discussion about which ones he might enjoy.

Me: I think you’d like The Fires of Pompeii, actually.

Daniel: What’s Pompeii?

Joshua: It’s an ancient Roman city. They had a volcano.

Daniel: Oh. I thought it was those crisps.

Me: That’s Pom-Bear.

fires_pombear

The other thing I did recently was to compose an only slightly ridiculous alternate history for Doctor Who, commencing in 2003 when Russell T Davies decided to remake ‘Scream of the Shalka’ and turn it into the first of his New Who stories, casting Richard E. Grant as the Ninth Doctor and sticking Derek Jacobi in the TARDIS as an android Master. If you’ve read The Writer’s Tale, you’ll recall Davies telling Benjamin Cook that the Shalka Doctor was the only component of the expanded franchise he had to knock on the head, purely to avoid confusion. But what if he’d decided not to? What if they’d built on the existing continuity rather than tearing it down? What if they’d never cracked the States?

Writing all this down turned out to be very easy; the hard part was finding decent photos of Grant and Jacobi to make up this composite.

shalka

Grant’s still not quite right. (This was, by the way, a fan-made photoshoot; I just changed the heads. Well, it worked in last year’s Christmas episode.)

Anyway, before you know it, you’ve gone off in all sorts of directions, and Tennant’s a recurring guest actor in all number of roles and you’ve cast Anna Maxwell-Martin as the Doctor.

With Russell Tovey.

And Jane Horrocks as the Master.

horrocks_martin-1024x330

It could happen. It totally could.

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

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: