Posts Tagged With: cybermen

What really happened to the Pink Windmill kids

windmill_catrina

Hi. My name’s Catrina…

If something goes viral on the internet it’s usually a combination of market awareness and serendipity. (Occasionally talent is involved as well, but the ludicrous success of Charlie Bit My Finger is ubiquitous proof, as if any were needed, that this isn’t necessarily the case.) Sometimes you just need to get noticed by the right people. And sometimes it’s because it’s the end of an annus horribalis and we could all do with some light relief, which is why everyone spent December watching a bunch of stage school teenagers in leggings cavorting around a TV set.

For many of us, this was like opening up a box in the attic and fishing out a thirty-year-old diary. You forgive yourself for particular habits, but it’s difficult not to cringe. I don’t remember whether I actually thought The Pink Windmill Show was cool, but I watched it every week without fail, so they must have done something right. The clip doing the rounds was new to me, but I must have seen it – it’s just that in the 1980s, out-camping the Village People was standard practice. We didn’t question it because it happened so frequently. No one questions the over-reliance on sob stories in The X-Factor, do they? It’s just what we do now.

Not that it always worked. At the bargain basement end of Rod Hull’s prime time glamour, there was a children’s show called You Should Be So Lucky – a sort of amateur talent competition run by Colin Bennett, supported by a group of sparkly child dancers. Each week you’d have a different group of stage school prodigies (at least half of whom were named Tiffany) taking to the floor to deliver music hall numbers, indulge in a spot of amateur magic – or, worst of all, do a monologue. It ran for twelve episodes. It was trainwreck television: indeed, I can find no footage on the internet save a recording of the theme music, accompanied by a single still of Bennett and his Purettes gathered at the back door of a caravan.

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Listening to that now – and reading some of the comments – I think it’s become apparent that it was a programme I misjudged. I remember being horrified by it, even at the age of ten – and I wonder if Bennett’s saccharine-drenched, prozac-infused host wasn’t playing a caricature, a man who’d watched a promising career go down the tubes and who was as appalled by his current situation as we were. Had the show continued past its first series he would, no doubt, have had some sort of breakdown on stage, in the manner of Michael Caine’s character in Little Voice. As it was we got an impassioned plea to get out and watch some live theatre, before it was too late.

(As an aside, the article I’ve just linked to references the words “Bran Barrel!”, something I do recall them saying quite a lot – but for the life of me I can’t remember why. If there’s someone reading this who does, perhaps you might care to enlighten me.)

But The Pink Windmill Show has survived, even if Rod Hull sadly hasn’t. Falling from the roof of his home while fixing the TV aerial during a football match not long before the millennium turned, Rod had survived a declining career and bankruptcy and was trying to make the best of things at a shepherd’s cottage in Essex. Resentment towards the puppet that had typecast him notwithstanding, he seemed to drift towards his death with a cheery optimism – “Complaining about your life,” he was heard to say (I’m paraphrasing) “is all codswallop”. Which is what makes things even worse. I reflected, when I heard the news, that I hadn’t heard about him for years, which I suppose makes it worse.

Back at the windmill, there’s somebody at the door. Oh look, it’s the screamer.

Sit down, Bonnie. Have a glass of carrot juice.

Even at the age of six or seven, some of those scripted exchanges were frankly awkward. And the formulaic approach nagged and teased at my inner pedant. Why, in the name of sanity, were the kids able to memorise complicated dance routines seemingly off the cuff, but unable to remember that the witch always turns up to kidnap someone in the audience at precisely the same moment? “DON’T ANSWER THE DOOR!” I can remember shouting on more than one occasion. “IT’S ALWAYS GROTBAGS THE SECOND TIME!”

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Grotbags – the creation of the sensational Carole Lee Scott – was, of course, the best thing about The Pink Windmill, whether she was stomping across the studio with a brat under one arm or bickering with her hapless minions, Croc the cringing crocodile, Grovel the sycophantic manservant, and an effeminate mechanical butler called Robert Redford. By the end of it we didn’t care whether the kids she’d abducted had actually won anything – it was more fun watching the banter. The image of Grotbags leering through the fourth wall with her goth-decorated eye makeup and missing teeth – before breaking into a song about UFOs – was something that most of us never really got out of our heads. The 1980s were rather short on iconic children’s TV moments, but this was one of them – and when CBeebies launched their hugely successful soft play pirate show, Swashbuckle, some years later, the influence of Rod and the Windmill was undeniable.

Still. Some things are best consigned to the past: audiences don’t know when they’ve had enough. It’s why, when I read that the cast had reunited for a Comic Relief sketch, my heart sank. It’s bad enough that they’re revisiting Love Actually, in order to show us what a bunch of fictional characters we never really cared about in the first place are doing fourteen years after a film that gets far more press attention than it deserves. I know I’m in full-on grumpy old man mode now but I do get a bit fed up with this obsession with nostalgia and revivals; it’s not so much that we’ve run out of ideas, more that an age of anniversary-themed news (something I willingly contribute towards) and ‘Remember when…?’ articles have led to a culture where everyone over the age of twenty-five is prone to excessive navel gazing, convinced that their past was better than your past, and you’d better get used to it.

I’m right about this. Three or four of the Lord of the Rings actors go out for a drink and it’s a fucking reunion? Seriously? People who think televised cast reunions are a good idea should have to shampoo my crotch. It’s like watching foreign tourists go to the Costa del Sol and eat fish and chips and drink English lager. When revivals work (The X-Files) they’re great. When they don’t (also The X-Files) they make for horrible, horrible television. (Twin Peaks, it must be noted, has a get-out-of-jail-free card, because it ended on a massive cliffhanger that was supposedly going to be resolved twenty-five years later, so that’s fine.)

For all my whinging, it must be said that the new version of the Pink Windmill dance is quite fun, and it’s for a good cause. Spencer is notably absent, due to ‘personal commitments’, a euphemism for ‘I work in advertising now and don’t want to make a tit of myself on national television’. But everyone else is present, correct and inevitably a little thicker round the waist, although that could be said of me, so I’m not judging.

Besides, it gave me an idea. “Why don’t you make your own version?” asks Joe at the end. So I did.

Only mine, of course, has Cybermen.

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Conversion. It’s a Bing thing

Today, boys and girls, we’re going to ruin ‘Earthshock’.

A while ago I did a video that combined Wolf Hall with Bing Bunny. Mark Rylance starred in both and it seemed like a natural crossover, partly because it seemed to go against the grain of everything that Bing stood for. Because if you’ve seen it – more to the point if you’re a mother or father who’s seen it – you’ll know that there is nothing to stir feelings of parental inadequacy than that wretched bunny, or more specifically the diminutive guardian who looks after him. Bing’s an emotionally precocious child with the uncanny ability to grasp important concepts more or less at the first time of asking, but his full time carer is saintly to the point of other worldliness. Flop, you feel, is the one who has it down pat – attentive, nurturing, and impeccably responsible. Bing breaks his mobile, chucks it in the bin and then hides under a blanket. Flop doesn’t bat an eyelid. As role models go there is none finer, but there is only room for one up on that pedestal. In an age of right-on hipster parenting, he’s Jesus.

But as a dad who defends his right to shout at the kids while trying to wash up, tidy the lounge and deal with the mother of all headaches, I confess I’m a little sick of all the Facebook memes that encourage me to ‘find my inner Flop’. When I can’t get into Joshua’s room because of the mountain of yoghurt cartons and greasy spoons, when Edward’s broken my laptop again and someone’s pissed all over the toilet seat for the third time that afternoon, the inner Flop is about as far away from my thoughts as Donald Trump is from publishing his tax return. I don’t want to clear up shards of broken glass from the kitchen floor and tell them that it’s no big thing. It damn well is a big thing because we can’t eat the trifle. It will cease to be a big thing only after copious amounts of wine. I’m not a fan of the ‘look at me, I’m a shit parent’ alcohol-quaffing pyjama-wearing chicken nugget-baking slummy mummy brigade (I defend your right to raise your children that way, just stop preaching about it on Facebook) but I’m human, and it’s sometimes a little tedious to be a captive audience for parenting lessons given by a creature that is categorically not.

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So it was fun exploring that darker side of Flop, combining the sinister machinations of Thomas Cromwell with the cute adventures of Bing and his friends. Unfortunately Aardman weren’t very amused, and had it pulled – it was partly copyright, partly the combination of child-friendly material with adult themes. They had a point. It would be nice to think that young people’s YouTube activity is monitored by their parents / guardians / anthropomorphic sack toys, but you and I both know that isn’t the case, and all the advisory warnings in the world count for nothing because people don’t read these things.

So when it came to doing this one I was a little more careful. I’d like to hope it’s harder to find and the likelihood of some unsuspecting child stumbling across it is minimised. The irony is that this is arguably far less adult-themed than The Dark Side of Flop, given that it relies on the premise of a Cyber Leader dubbed over with dialogue from Bing until he’s…well, you’ve watched it by now, you see how he is. He’s a nutcase. Trudging through thirty-five episodes of Bing to find appropriate sound clips was no fun at all, but I had a riot actually matching things up and making them work. My favourite scene is still the bit in the TARDIS, which is the only one I think really works, but everything else just about hangs together.

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Why ‘Earthshock’? It’s David Banks, really. Because when I look back through the history of the Doctor’s encounter with the Cybermen, he’s the one I remember. The problem with Cybermen is that by and large they lack personality, and thus the stories have to be truly frightening in order to have any real impact (which is why everything after ‘The Age of Steel’ is generally a dismal failure). The Cyber Leader in ‘Earthshock’ has personality in spades. It’s tempting to say that this is nothing more than an anomaly, but over the years I’ve been cultivating a theory: that the biggest mistake we can make about the Cybermen is to say that they have no emotions. I no longer believe that’s the case. Written within the confines of a single sentence such an idea sounds patently ludicrous, but I explain it all here. Go and have a read, then we’ll talk.

‘Earthshock’ was the first Doctor Who story I remember from my childhood, did I ever tell you that? It is quietly marvellous: the surprises, for the initiated, come thick and fast, and the ending is still gut-wrenchingly moving, loathing of Adric aside. Even if you know what’s coming, it’s still great – but it’s better still if you don’t. (I had a lovely conversation with someone recently who was watching it for the first time, having no idea at all that the Cybermen were about to show up. I didn’t think that sort of spoiler-free access was possible these days.) Put it this way: I think there’s a reason why that shattered badge and the silent credit crawl is my first memory of the show, and I do wonder if I managed to exercise a few demons this week.

In many respects this is a spiritual successor to Dalek Zippy, and is in fact the middle act in a trilogy, the climax of which is still under construction (with Willo The Silent the embarrassing spin-off that no one really talks about). It was a hard graft but worth it. It made my children laugh and it is their approval, above all others, that I seek. And it keeps me out of mischief and stops me wondering what other dreadful things I can be doing with Bing and Flop and the other inhabitants of their bright and colourful world.

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Oh God, you really didn’t see this. Move along.

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Trigger the Cyberman

I’m a little ambivalent about series two. On the one hand, it has ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’. On the other hand, it also has ‘Tooth and Claw’. It has ‘The Impossible Planet’, one of the most frightening episodes in the canon, let down by its dreary successor. Tennant is brilliant. The scripts are not. The Doctor / Rose thing is mind-numbingly tedious, its eventual denouement embarrassingly overwrought even before its stark finality was undone just a couple of years later.

On the other hand, they brought back the Cybermen. Yes, it was all wrong. The new Cybermen act and feel like robots, divorcing them from the humanity that made them so utterly chilling. They have an unnecessary new catchphrase. The reworked origin story is dull. But it’s the Cybermen. The monsters who killed Adric. The ones who haunted my childhood sleep, rendered flesh (all right, metal) and crashing through the walls of a stately home to threaten the Doctor and his friends. As tedious as I find its resolution, that ‘Rise of the Cybermen’ cliffhanger is a belter.

Then there’s Roger Lloyd-Pack, whose role is to sit in a chair and gloat. Lloyd-Pack delivers his entire performance as John Lumic in the manner of someone who’s trying to pass a kidney stone. It’s bland, although not unnecessarily so: Lumic is a power-hungry despot and he delivers what is expected of the role. It is not as interesting as watching Davros, because Lumic is not as interesting as Davros, irrespective of the similarities between their backstories (and physical appearances). This story is all about Rose and Mickey, which is as it should be. Lumic is just the man pushing the buttons.

It’s a shame, because Lloyd-Pack himself was a talented actor, remembered for his comedic supporting characters but equally at home in serious roles; a theatrical master who did his best stuff with Harold Pinter (Michael Billington – or at least his sub-editor – describes him as ‘the perfect Pinter peformer‘). Nonetheless, his iconic role will always be that of Trigger, the petty criminal with a penchant for sharp suits and apparently possessing a vacuum between his ears (his condition is, thanks to a bit of exposition, blamed on a couple of childhood accidents). It is Trigger who plays the straight man in what is Only Fools and Horses’ most memorable moment – in which Del casually leans against a bar, not realising it’s no longer there – but he was given plenty of other stuff to do. Typically, Trigger is the last person in the room to get a joke and even then doesn’t know why he’s laughing, but it’s his bad boy image that sets him apart from many other dim-witted comic foils; you always get the feeling that he could smash you in the face any time he wanted, and this is precisely what makes him so interesting.

As any Harry Potter fan will tell you, the Cybermen two-parter isn’t the first time Tennant and Lloyd-Pack appeared on screen together, with Tennant playing Barty Crouch Jr. to Lloyd-Pack’s Sr. in a flashback halfway through Goblet of Fire. (Barty Jr. is then not seen again until the climax of the film, in which Brendan Gleeson morphs onscreen into him; I’m always slightly disappointed that Tennant’s first line isn’t “Hmm. New teeth. That’s weird.”) Production aficionados will be aware, of course, that Lloyd-Pack doesn’t actually meet Tennant in the flesh at all, conversions or not: that’s Paul Kasey in the suit, miming to Lumic’s (presumably pre-recorded) dialogue.

This video had its inception in January 2014 when Lloyd-Pack died at the age of sixty-nine (thus forming a club whose ranks would later be swelled by Harold Ramis, David Bowie and Alan Rickman; sixty-nine, it seems, is the new twenty-seven). For whatever reason it took me two and a half years and a sudden, burning need to create something to actually get it done. Part of my procrastination stems from the fact that there’s actually far less usable material than you’d think – besides the obvious ‘Dave’ jokes, Trigger doesn’t really say very much, often letting his incredulous silence do the talking. There were a few gags that I dearly wanted to use – “You got a hat now, Dave?” springs to mind – but had to abandon on the cutting room floor because they simply didn’t fit. Less is more.

Anyway, it hangs together, just about. I did think about using the broom handles bit – a scene which takes its cue from a similar exchange in Open All Hours and which is referenced, bizarrely, in ‘Deep Breath’ – but what I had was quite long enough. It took two and a half years, but we got there in the end. Or as Trigger would say ‘Triffic…’

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Romana’s Round-up

This week at Meme Central, anticipation builds towards the latest Pixar release.

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News comes in that Kathryn Bigelow is set to remake a Doctor Who version of The Hurt Locker.

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And in the wake of new truths concerning Captain America, comic fans react angrily to the latest developments in the adventures of the Twelfth Doctor.

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Enjoy your week.

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The inevitable John Lewis / Doctor Who thing

Sorry. It’s just that Christmas ad is everywhere today, and I couldn’t not do it.

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Doctor Who: an overview (part two)

Today: part two of the talk I was doing this week.

Part one is available here.

Talk_22

Companions are great, but it’s the monsters that we remember. I can still recall the moment the Cybermen appeared on the bridge of the space freighter and caused the death of Adric, or the moment that one villain’s face melted when he was exposed to the sun. (Don’t worry, I’m not showing you that.) There have been hundreds of different monsters and villains over the years, and I don’t have time to go through even a fraction of them, but here are just a few of the most memorable.

 

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The Daleks. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re robots, but they’re not – they’re horrible brain-like creatures inside protective metal shells. They look like a cross between a dustbin and a pepper pot – and yes, that is a sink plunger. It’s very useful if you want to unblock a toilet, although you have to tip them upright. Now, the Daleks’ greatest weakness is…what?

[A few people chip in with “stairs'” apart from the chap at the back who shouts “Not any more!”.]

Quite right. It was stairs. And then in 1988, this happened.

That clip’s pushing thirty years old now, and the Daleks have been elevating ever since, of course, but I still remember sitting in my bedroom the night that episode aired, sitting bolt upright and shouting “WHAT? THEY CAN FLY NOW?!?!?”

Next: Cybermen.

 

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These always scared me more than the Daleks, largely because they were human beings who’d had all their limbs replaced and all the emotions drained away. Daleks are alien, but Cybermen are an extension of us – of who we are and who we might become. Now the interesting thing about Cybermen and Daleks is the way the design has changed. Look at this selection of Dalek designs from the last fifty years.

 

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Now look at the Cybermen.

 

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You’ll notice that the design has changed from the fabric masks on the left through the big helmets in the middle, and the more sleek ones of the present day on the right. They used to look like men who happened to be wearing metal masks. Now they just look like robots. It’s gone a bit rubbish, to be honest…

 

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Ice Warriors! Natives of Mars. About eight feet tall, but they spoke in a low hiss. [Does an Ice Warrior hiss, badly.]

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The Empty Child. This is a new one that they came up with a few years ago. The Empty Child walks around London in the middle of the Blitz looking for his mummy. Yes, that is a gas mask. It’s actually fused to his face, and if he touches you, you become just like him.

It took Joshua two goes to sit through that one.

Next:

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The Master. He’s a Time Lord like the Doctor, and he was intended to be a Moriarty to the Doctor’s Sherlock Holmes. He’d usually have other creatures to do his bidding, and he had this rather neat trick of hypnotising you with the words “I am the Master, and you will obey me…”. (It doesn’t work; I’ve tried it.) There have been at least six or seven different Masters – the last one was a woman – but no one played it quite like Roger Delgado, and it’s a tremendous shame that he died in a car accident before they could film his final story.

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Sontarans. Look like enormous potatoes. In battle armour. Only ever had one decent story; the rest is filler.

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Silurians. Now, these are highly intelligent lizards who lived on the earth millions of years ago when mankind was still evolving out of apes. They were in suspended animation deep underground, but eventually they woke up, and there were problems. It’s like living in a house for five years and then getting back from holiday to find out that the original owners never actually left; they were just away for a really long time.

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The Weeping Angels. Now, these are a new creation that take the form of stone statues – the sort you see in graveyards. Cleverly, they can only move when you’re not looking at them, so they zap you when your back is turned or when you’ve got your eyes shut. And if you don’t think that sounds particularly scary, take a look at this.

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Here’s the thing: the Doctor and his companions always managed to defeat the monsters, but offscreen it wasn’t always so easy. Doctor Who‘s had its fair share of scandal over the years, and has had to fight against censorship and budget problems and all sorts of other stuff. So. Here are the real life monsters:

 

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Michael Grade. The BBC executive originally responsible for the programme’s cancellation, basically because he couldn’t stand it. He thought it had become a joke, and in some respects he was right. When it came back years later, he really liked it, largely because Russell T Davies had helped turn it into the programme he always thought it should have been.

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Hilda Ogden. Who knew? When Doctor Who got moved from Saturday evening to a midweek slot it was up against Coronation Street, and every sensible person knows that you can’t fight Coronation Street. So all the kids who wanted to watch Doctor Who had to go upstairs to their bedroom TVs, while their parents watched Coronation Street on the downstairs set – the one that feeds the audience ratings. This is actually a standard trick for killing off a show you don’t like – you move it to a time when no one will watch it, and then say “Well, no one’s watching it, so we won’t make any more.”

But that’s nothing compared to the greatest horror of all.

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Mary Whitehouse! Now, you all remember Mrs Whitehouse, and how she spent her years complaining about anything that she didn’t think was appropriate for family viewing or listening. Doctor Who faced her wrath more than once, usually when it was doing something horrendously violent. She objected to some of the horrors, and one particular scene that involved the Doctor drowning. She famously described it as “tea-time terror for tots”. And to absolutely honest, she might have had a point.

That’s from one story, ‘Terror of the Autons’, way back in 1971. It should be noted that those plastic chairs were very popular at the time, and you could imagine a country full of uneasy households, looking around at their living room furniture. “Is it going to…are we safe here???”

Doctor Who does contain an awful lot of violence and death – I’ve only skimmed the cream off the top of it this afternoon; there are gun battles and fights and horrible mutated monsters. It’s the sort of thing that terrifies kids, but we don’t need to see that as a bad thing, because – and let’s be honest about this – most kids secretly love being terrified. There’s an old joke about watching Doctor Who from behind the sofa, which I don’t think anyone ever actually did because pretty much every sofa I’ve ever sat on has been up against the wall. But my own children love it, even when it’s scary, and perhaps even because it’s scary.

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And the great thing about Doctor Who is the way it deals with sometimes very complex moral dilemmas. For example, in the story ‘Fires of Pompeii’, the Doctor discovers that not only can he not prevent the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, he actually has to cause it, with catastrophic loss of life, in order to save the entire planet. In ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, up on the top left, the Doctor’s asked by the Time Lords to destroy the Daleks before they’re even created, but he argues that this is effectively playing God. Top right, you’ll see the Tenth Doctor about to commit murder, even though it goes against all his principles, to save the world. And in ‘Day of the Doctor’, a Doctor we didn’t even know about until two years ago has to decide whether to destroy his entire planet in order to protect the rest of the universe. Genocide for the greater good. It’s a big question. But the Doctor doesn’t just walk in shades of grey. If something’s wrong, he’ll tell you.

There are many, many great Tom Baker moments, but I wanted to show you that one because you don’t often get to see his serious side. When he’s genuinely angry, he’s wonderful to watch.

It’s not all doom and gloom and heavyweight issues. There’s a lot of fun. Here’s the Doctor just after he’s regenerated. I should warn you that in this clip he displays quite appalling table manners.

If you’ve read your A.A. Milne, you’ll recognise that, right? Conclusive proof that the Doctor is…

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Tigger on the inside.

Now, Doctor Who is mostly shot on set. These days a lot of it is green screen – where they shoot the actors against a green backdrop and then superimpose whatever image they needed behind them later on – and it looks fantastic, but in the classic series they would usually build what they wanted. Some sets are better than others – there are jokes about wobbly walls and plastic rocks, but the fact of the matter is the team had to do the most amazing stuff on very little money and with hardly any time. A really good director and designer can innovate.

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For example, corridors are very popular, because they enable lots of running. And the best part is, if you change around the scenery and shoot from a different angle, you have a completely different corridor, somewhere else! So this is the same vessel as used in two stories – the same set, just shot from the other end.

Occasionally the confines of the studio weren’t quite enough for what the producers wanted to achieve, so they had to go out and about. Now there are several types of Doctor Who locations, and the most popular is:

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Quarries! Yes, if you wanted a desolate alien landscape in the 1970s, you had to find a decent quarry. Goodness knows there were enough of them. Then there’s:

 

Talk_47

Famous landmarks. Anyone recognise this? It’s the Rollright Stones. They shot ‘The Stones of Blood’ here in 1978. There’s an urban legend about the Rollrights: if you count them, you never get to the same number twice; there seem to be a different number each time. And in this case, the team were moving their own stones in and out of the set, so people trying to count them were getting hopelessly lost because they kept vanishing!

They’ve also been to Stonehenge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Dover Castle and a bunch of other places. But it’s not just the exteriors.

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This is the Temple of Peace, in Cardiff. I’ve never been, but they tend to use it whenever they want anything lofty and grand and slightly futuristic.

The producers also made a habit of visiting English villages whenever the situation called for it. Anyone recognise this?

 

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Yes, it’s East Hagbourne, just up the road, and they filmed here forty years ago for ‘The Android Invasion’. And I don’t know if any of you managed to do the Scarecrow Trail there last week, but if you had, you might have seen this chap up on the war memorial.

 

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I was lucky enough to speak to the owner while we were taking these photos, and she told me that someone had informed her the scarf colours were wrong. I can’t say I noticed, to be honest. But this brings me to an interesting point: fans. Fans are everywhere. We dress up in costumes, we spend hours talking about what this particular story means or which character was the best, they have parties, and they hunt out lost episodes from the depths of Nigerian archive departments. We love and hate the show at the same time – we get cross when it’s not good, and each new story is like an event; even the bad ones.

There is an abundance of stuff you can buy. You’ll have seen the collection I brought with me today – you’re welcome to come and have a play afterwards if you like. My own collection is quite small, compared to what some people have cluttering up their shelves.

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This isn’t mine; it’s the first picture I found on the internet. I’m told that the toys are apparently worth far more if you leave them in the packet and never play with them, but WHAT’S THE POINT IN THAT?!?

As well as books, radio plays, theatrical productions and all sorts of other stuff, the Doctor’s even hit the charts on occasion, sometimes with more success than others. Here’s a selection of just some of the great and not-so-great songs we’ve seen over the years.

Yes. Let’s never speak of this again, shall we?

Talk_53

It’s a programme that’s affected my life on all number of levels. It’s escapism, but it’s also weighty, and there are things you can learn. My whole family love it, even though Daniel still hides in the doorway. People tend to tell me I’m obsessed, and I think that’s probably quite true, but there is so much variety and substance in the best stories – and even in the worst, you can usually find something fun, even if it’s just a bunch of strangely-dressed people running down a corridor away from rubber monsters.

We’re almost at the end now, and I thank you for bearing with me on a hot summer’s day, but just one more thing: in the year 2063, Doctor Who turns a hundred. I don’t know if I’ll still be here by then, but if I am, I’d like to hope that I’ll be in a group like this – perhaps sitting in a church hall on a weekday afternoon while some younger man or woman regales us all with his enthusiasm for the Time Lord and his grand adventures. And perhaps he’ll drag out old clips of the time we first met the Weeping Angels, or the time the Doctor met the minotaur in an old hotel, or the moment the Cybermen crashed through the windows of the Tyler mansion. And I’ll nod, and smile, and say “Yep. I remember that. Still scary.”

 

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“And when I turned round…” (part two)

Those of you who are interested might want to have a look at some of my more recent Metro posts, which include:

A tongue-in-cheek examination of the Paul McGann movie (which has upset at least one person)

Doctor Who characters who’ve cheated death (which arguably worked better over Easter weekend, when it was posted)

Fifteen thoughts every parent has while watching children’s TV (which has nothing to do with this blog, but it touched a nerve)

Today, though: Mary Poppins, revisited.

 

You will feed the birds, or you will become like us.

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“And when I turned round…”

Today’s Katie Hopkins wish fulfillment meme.

 

(The Cyberman, in case you were wondering, is from ‘The Wheel in Space’, and yes, I think that is an accordion.)

I wouldn’t mind, but I don’t even watch her on TV. When an appearance on This Morning or Loose Women is announced, I run in the other direction. I will not waste any more time on the stupid bint than is strictly necessary for a freelance journalist. I know she’s a pantomime villain who thrives on the Twitter hit count she gets from the media headlines (and the cheque from the follow-up interviews) and while I suspect most people get a sense of superiority from detesting her the same way they might have detested the Phelps family, I think it’s a great shame that we live in a world where a woman can say detestable things – most of which, I suspect, she doesn’t actually mean – and make a respectable living from it. It smacks of horribly misplaced priorities and too much free time. Still, for all the ranting about society at large, I do wish she’d shut the fuck up. As someone said last night, “If there were no Katie Hopkins, it would be necessary to – actually no. That would be fine.”

Anyway, by and large I restrict my viewing to Holby and CBeebies, because I don’t have to worry about the sociological ramifications of either of them. Actually, CBeebies was on last night, largely because Emily was trying to entertain a grisly Edward with clips from Boogie Beebies, which hasn’t been on for years.

This is my favourite episode and I warn you that if you listen to that song in its entirety you are going to get a six-week earworm. Even now I can feel it once more burrowing into my brain, to the extent that I may have to go and listen to the theme from Space Pirates to get rid of the damned thing. Part of the appeal of Boogie Beebies lies in Boogie Pete’s ‘TV presenter you wanted to be your best mate’ appeal, in the same vein as Chris Evans (if you’re really, really young or inherently masochistic) and Timmy Mallett. He’s got that chirpy, not-quite London vibe about him. Still, it was Thomas who pointed out that Pete (Pete Hillier, now works for Stagecoach Northampton) was actually a combination of Mister Maker and the Tenth Doctor. Insofar as timings are concerned we’re in chicken and egg territory, but strictly aesthetically he does have a point.

Boogie_Pete

Not that Tennant’s the sort of chap to do frivolous dancing. Not at all.

 

And yes, you can’t unsee that…

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The inevitable Doctor Who / Fifty Shades of Grey thing

Warning: today’s post contains adult material.

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

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

There was a thing doing the rounds on Facebook:

Grey_1


I changed it to:

Grey_2

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

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

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

Meanwhile, in the TARDIS:

Geddit? Shades? Cybershades? Yeah? [tumbleweed]

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

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Riddles and sheds

So what have I been doing when I’m not either writing reviews, refining satirical conspiracy-laden theories about the arc or convincing the Metro readership that Classic Doctor Who was better?

Well, reading the news. Doing any sort of journalism, however low-key, requires a finger on the pulse. But even if I’d gone dark, it was hard to miss the Apple iPhone 6 Songs of Innocence debacle.

I also spend a lot of time answering email, and summarising plot threads to Gareth, who has yet to watch any of the new series on the grounds that “You aren’t exactly selling it to me, you know”. It’s true that the quality level has been variable: patches of good and patches of appalling, with one entire episode (‘Into the Dalek’) that lies squarely in between. Capaldi is great, but the scripts are not. I more or less accept this as par for the course these days; I can’t help feeling we’re all marking time until Moffat steps down and Gatiss takes over as chief writer – a prospect which, thanks to his recent output, actually no longer appalls me as much as it once did.

When New Who is proving to be a less-than-fulfilling experience, I go back to the old stuff, which isn’t always a good thing. The other week, for example, we watched ‘The Two Doctors’, which is (as Gareth says) “a tremendous waste of Patrick Troughton”. The basic problem is that there is no story: it takes two and a half hours for the Doctor to have two or three one-minute conversations with his past self, visit Seville and tussle with some comically tall Sontarans. The Androgum thing is a good idea that never convinces, because they’re so downright irritating. On the plus side, Colin Baker does manage to take Nicola Bryant on an early tour of the Google server farms.

Two-Google

Google actually figures – in a manner of speaking – in ‘The Ice Warriors’, which I finished this morning, and in which a group of isolated humans have become so reliant on technology that they are incapable of rationalisation or even thinking for themselves, relying exclusively on technology. When it’s suggested that Director Clent forego the I.T. consultation process and actually make a decision, he freezes and panics. In the 1960s the idea of a supercomputer that could answer any question and suggest a course of action for any situation was still buried deep within the realms of science fiction – but as time passes, and dependency on the internet and the cloud increases, I can’t help wondering if we’re breeding a generation who’d rather use a search engine than cultivate a thought process. Why bother finding out what happens when you drop Mentos in Diet Coke when you can just see it on YouTube?

It needn’t go this way, of course. It’s just a question of encouraging independent thought, which is what I try to do when I tell my children not to believe everything they read. We try and bring a little philosophy into the dinner table conversation. Occasionally this backfires. At Beaver camp earlier this year I spent half an hour in a forest clearing trying to explain the door riddle to Thomas, after he’d seen it in ‘Pyramids of Mars’. In the end I found three trees in a line, and took it in turns to be the guards in front of imaginary doorways. The conversation lasted most of the evening, on and off, in between the games of snap and the s’more session round the camp fire. What I should have done, of course, was this.

Anyway.

My parents have just got back from a holiday in Norfolk – a place that forms what may just about be my first memory, besides the one that I wrote about way back in 2011 when I started this blog.

“This,” said my father, “was in a garden just up the road from us.”

DSC04830

(The TARDIS in question is, I’m told, in Stiffkey, near Wells-on-sea.)

“We knocked,” said my father, “but the Doctor was out”. So they didn’t see inside, although if they had, it might have looked like this:

TARDIS_Int

Edward, meanwhile, has developed the annoying habit of pulling any DVDs he can reach off their shelves, spilling them on the floor. This means that the carpet of my study is at this very moment covered with plastic boxes. Unfortunately the only ones he can reach are the Doctor Who discs, because I like to keep them close to hand, and THEY HAVE TO BE IN THE CORRECT ORDER. Thus, in the process of returning them to their rightful places these last weeks I have become highly prolific at the story sequence for Baker through to McCoy, and could probably tell you them by heart.

But here he is, embroiled in our now daily ritual that is the Touching of Peter Capaldi’s Head.

Capaldi

The other day I put on the recon of ‘The Wheel in Space’, and as soon as he heard the theme music, he clapped. I have trained him well.

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