Posts Tagged With: daleks

Have I Got Whos For You (Season Pass Edition)

This week at Brian of Morbius, as news emerges of Elton John’s Grand Farewell Tour That’s Going To Take Three Years, an unexpected guest singalong at one of his concerts prompts concerns over cultural appropriation.

Elsewhere, proceedings at the Superbowl are interrupted by an unexpected pitch invasion.

An exclusive still emerges from a Doctor Who casting session that was mercifully denied the green light of approval.

And elsewhere, in the TARDIS…

SCORCHIO!

 

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Have I Got Whos For You (Blue Monday edition)

This week in Whovania, a deleted scene from ‘The End of Time’ sheds new light on Russell T. Davies’ inspiration.

Elsewhere, this cautionary tale in the London Apple store demonstrates why you should never try and sell an iPhone X to a Headless Monk.

And further evidence emerges that the iconic ‘Lunch Atop A Skyscraper’ photo was in fact an elaborate publicity stunt.

Film at eleven. Here’s Tom with sports.

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Have I Got Whos For You (Halloween special)

Sorry about the radio silence this last week, folks: I’ve been in Cheshire, where there is not much to report.

Over in Whoville, of course, things have been getting busy with the news of an upcoming Doctor Who themed musical from the writers of Les Miserables.

Well, everyone wanted Eddie Redmayne as the Doctor, didn’t they?

Elsewhere, unreleased concept art for ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ drifts to the surface, confirming many of our suspicions about Amy and Rory.

We sure picked a creepy night to land in a pocket universe, Scooby Doo.

And on a quiet street somewhere in Basingstoke, the Doctor frankly didn’t see it coming.

Enjoy your Halloween, and don’t let the bed bugs bite.

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Lots of planets have a North

This blog’s been comparatively quiet over the last week because I’ve been holidaying: fifteen days of travelling around Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland (with a couple of brief trips north of the border sandwiched in between). We stayed in youth hostels, which varied in breakfast quality / facilities / WiFi strength, and saw more castles, museums and ruined priories than I care to count. I drove the van; the kids in turn drove me mad. Emily planned the whole thing and was generally fantastic.

But you don’t want to hear about the bridges at Hartlepool, or the red squirrels outside the dining room at Alston, or the time Josh got stuck in a revolving door on the way out of the Scottish Parliament building. You want the Who-themed stuff, don’t you? This is Brian of Morbius, after all, and finding tenuous Doctor Who-related connections in more or less everything is kind of what we do here. Very well, let’s get on with it.

 

1. Observed in an Edinburgh museum (and pinched from another website as the photo I took wasn’t much good), a rare sighting of Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton.

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2. So I’m wandering through the middle of Carlisle, and…

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3. Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island: there’s a grave marker for a woman named Osgyth, a seventh century English saint from Buckinghamshire. There are all sorts of stories about arranged marriages and the pursuit of holy vows, but personally I can’t help thinking it’s another Clara fragment.

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4. Hang on, when did the War Doctor visit Cragside?

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5. Random charity shop purchases. My bag weighed a ton by the time we drove home.

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6. That is a chair with a panda on it.

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7. Observed in a York museum. It’s not just me, is it? Tell me it’s not just me.

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8. KFC Dalek, courtesy of Thomas.

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9. Don’t blink.

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10. Finally, something non-Who related, but worth sharing: this burger – consumed in a pub in Edinburgh – is 8 oz of Angus beef, topped with haggis. They call it the Highlander. Concordantly, I have removed its head.

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Gareth wanted to know if I had seconds, but of course, there can be only one…

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Dalek campfire singalong

Hello! Look, I really can’t stop today; I’m trying to get this place presentable for tomorrow’s visitors. Here, have a meme to keep you going.

Dalek_Campfire

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MY INHIBITION IS IMPAIRED

Today in Brian of Morbius: Autons get broody.

There is trouble afoot on the set of ‘Logopolis’.

And chaos ensues during the Dalek Star Wars marathon.

Happy Monday!

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This is Bill

I’ll just leave this here.

 

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A magnet hung in a hardware shop

I’ll just leave this here, shall I?

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That centrepiece is a pepper mill, and no, it wasn’t bigger on the inisde. And yes, it’s all gone now. Sorry.

I’m an easy person to buy presents for, because if you stick a Doctor Who logo on it, I’ll lap it up. This year, my parents got me a sweatshirt emblazoned with ‘CLASS OF GALLIFREY 1963’ or something similar. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law gave me a lenticular jigsaw puzzle, and a set of Dalek fridge magnets. And here they are.

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The lighting isn’t brilliant (despite my best efforts) but there’s Davros, second along, and that’s the weird one from ‘Revelation of the Daleks’ on the top row, sandwiched between the Pertwee Dalek and the Ironside model from ‘Victory of the Daleks’. Bottom row there are a couple of sixties classics, a 2005 contemporary design, the stupid New Paradigm one and – holy smoke, it’s a Dalek with legs.

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Those of you who know your Fourth Doctor will recognise this from ‘Destiny of the Daleks’. The dynamite attached to the exterior is a dead giveaway; it comes from a sequence in which the Daleks wander round a quarry and then explode. It is not a great story, renowned perhaps more for the debut of the second Romana (and that notorious regeneration scene) than it was for anything of any substance. Terry Nation was quite the one for bombs and twisted ankles but he didn’t like to see his creations mocked, and I never did find out what he made of the scene in which the Doctor climbs up into an air vent, before taunting the disgruntled Dalek that’s pursuing him with the words “If you’re supposed to be the superior race in the universe, why don’t you try climbing after us?”.

Small wonder that Douglas Adams (who, as I understand it, did the lion’s share of the rewriting) gets screen credit. ‘Destiny’ is the first story of Adams’ reign as script editor, in a series that also includes ‘City of Death’ and ‘The Horns of Nimon’, about which I blogged extensively a while back. Still. Legs? On a Dalek? What’s going on?

Well.Gareth searched, and found this.

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It looks like the sort of silliness you’d get in a Spike Milligan or Victoria Wood sketch, but it’s definitely a production still. “On rough terrain,” explains a person in a Doctor Who Facebook group I frequent, “this was the only way the people inside could maneuver them, the camera angles tried to hide it.” It’s certainly true: if you watch the story, the moving Daleks are typically shot from one of the quarry’s lower levels, hiding the fact that they’re actually waddling along the sand. Location work is all very evocative, but it’s a pain in the arse if you have wheeled vehicles, which explains why K-9 was always down for maintenance.

That’s all very well, but it doesn’t really explain why it’s featured on a fridge magnet. Was it an in-joke? Someone who put it in because of a secret love for ‘Destiny’, something that’d get the fans talking and people like me blogging? That would be nice, but the truth turns out to be as ridiculous as a simple production error. The owners of The Who Shop (Barking Road, Upton Park), whose integrity is apparently beyond reproach, have this to say: “We pointed it out to the production company when these were released, that it was from a rehearsal shot but ‘since it was from an official BBC source it must be correct’. In short, they couldn’t care less.”

So now you know…

 

 

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Daleks: Lost in Translation

Watch this, and then cast your minds back a few weeks, to ‘The Witch’s Familiar’.

You remember that one, right? It sort of got forgotten, really, in the general melee of confusion that was series nine. There were Zygons and immortals and people hiding beneath bedsheets and eventually there were TIME LORDS, but before all that, we had Daleks. Specifically we had Clara Oswald hiding inside a Dalek in order to sneak into the Skaro citadel to find the Doctor.

Those of you who recall the scene in which she’s strapped in will remember the conversation she tries to have with Missy. “Say ‘I love you'”, says Missy, to which Clara replies “EXTERMINATE!”. Cue comedy scene with Michelle Gomez leading up to a chilling finale in which she eventually convinces the Doctor – after something of a narrow squeak – that she’s Clara, and not a disgusting mutant.

“Well,” says Gareth, “to be fair, no Dalek has ever said anything other than ‘exterminate’ and similar simple phrases. No conversations or speeches or anything. Honest. It’s a bit poor. And doesn’t really make sense – so when the Daleks want to exterminate you, and are threatening to exterminate you, and are preparing to exterminate you, they’re actually saying ‘do stay still, there’s a good chap’, and it just sounds like they’re saying ‘exterminate’?”

That’s entirely possible, of course, although it’s more likely that the Daleks would have been conditioned to say ‘Exterminate’ and that this is something that had been built into the travel unit in case it ever happens to be occupied by a non-Dalek, which makes about as much sense as there actually being room in there for Clara in the first place, but I think we can all agree that ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ stopped making sense the moment the vampire monkeys turned up, so I think we can let it go.

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(Sorry. I’ve given you an earworm now, haven’t I? Both of you.)

Anyway. It was a silly scene but it did give me an idea: an idea that took me an hour to shape into something tangible. This was an easy one to do, as it was simply a case of finding appropriate Dalek-led exchanges and giving them appropriate subtitles. You could probably do this quite effectively with New Who as well, but given that I wanted to include a particular exchange in which a Dalek’s vision is impaired, I stuck exclusively to the 1970s and 80s. Stories used for this, in order of first appearance:

Planet of the Daleks
Destiny of the Daleks
Resurrection of the Daleks

The Doctor appears a couple of times, but this isn’t really about him at all, of course. And please don’t tell him about these problems the Daleks are having with their language filters. It’ll crush him.

By the way, if you’re not up on early 90s UK children’s TV, the blinded Dalek’s wails that he “cannae see!” are probably going to confuse you. In which case this suitably iconic TV moment might provide a little insight. For the rest of us, this is simple nostalgia.

Gosh, they look so young…

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Review: ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’

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Big spoiler alert: don’t read this if you haven’t seen the episode. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“It’s changing. What about you, Doctor?”

I wanted to love this. Really, I did. I have had enough of being grumpy. It’s no fun watching new Doctor Who episodes that you don’t enjoy. I don’t like being one of those people who spend all their time complaining about how the old light bulb was better. I have made a resolution this year to try and find the positive side for each story, and I’ll try and stick with that, but I can’t help it if the same old mistakes are cropping up time and again – and I’m talking about mine, as well as the ones the BBC are making.

The basic problem with ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ is the same one that’s dogged New Who ever since Moffat stepped into the chief writer’s chair. In the old days – and as recently as 2009 – the girl would be strapped to the table three feet from an advancing circular saw (as Terrance Dicks would have put it) and that would be the cliffhanger. Fast forward to 2015 and the cliffhanger is the scene in which she gets sawed in half, while the hero spends the next episode – or, in some cases, an entire series – stitching her back together.

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When this happened in series six, it was at least reasonably interesting, for about five minutes. You knew – of course you did – that the Doctor would manage to walk away from the lake, and that there would be a trick of some sort (although it didn’t stop conversation among several enthusiasts I knew who genuinely believed that this would be the end of the show). This was par for the course on Classic Who as well, albeit at a lower scale (which is part of the problem, but we’ll get to that). ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ – a story referenced both directly and indirectly in ‘Magician’ – features a notorious cliffhanger in which Lis Sladen falls three feet down a rocket silo. It is one of the weakest parts of the narrative, and yet it was somehow more effective than the end of tonight’s episode, if only because a low-key ending seems somehow more manageable (and believable) than dead companions and the prospect of a huge ripple effect from the Doctor’s actions.

The problem when you drop in a wibbly-wobbly bit of trickery like this on such a regular basis, you see, is that life as we know it ceases to have any real value. The first time I witnessed the death of Jean Grey – at the end of X-Men 2, in which she allows herself to be drowned so that the others can escape in the plane – I was genuinely upset. Then I went back to the comics, and discovered that Jean Grey dies every five minutes. Deaths ceased to mean anything in Marvel long ago; Charles Xavier has been reincarnated more often than Optimus Prime, and no one cares when Scott Summers carks it. I mean seriously, the guy’s a nob.

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The other difficulty is that by killing off leads (as the Daleks do tonight, in earnest) you automatically lose your audience’s interest. We know that the TARDIS will be back soon, and that Clara will return, because we’ve seen her in the rest of the series. Moreover, we can take a reasonable stab at how the Doctor’s going to do it, although the actual resolution will be stranger and more unnecessarily complicated than we can imagine. Hence the dramatic appeal lies entirely in the how, rather than the whether. This works on a week-by week basis when the girl is strapped to the table, because it becomes part of the routine, almost a recurring motif or in-joke. It is a transient thing, a means of structuring a story, and it is excusable because it is not ultimately what the story is about. When you repeatedly kill your babies, largely for the sake of getting the Twitter feeds buzzing, the supposedly devastating impact you’re aiming for is lost faster than the top half of Captain Kirk’s uniform. Or, as Clara says in ‘Deep Breath’, “Never start with your final sanction. You’ve got nowhere to go but backwards.”

There were some lovely moments. The monster-of-the-week is a man made of snakes who glides around on Heelys. The opening – in which Thals with bows fight off Kaleds with biplanes (at least I think it was that way round) – was suitably bleak, and the hand mines are one of Moffat’s better inventions, even if (or perhaps because) they evoke the finale of Carrie. Michelle Gomez is back – with no explanation – and still splendid, whether she’s casually blasting UNIT agents outside a cafe (supposedly in Italy, although as Emily pointed out, it was “probably Devon”), or singing opera on the floor of a prison cell. In many respects Missy is no more the Master than Simm was, but in all honesty perhaps our assessment of her is more lenient for her lack of male genitalia. The personality differences and pop culture references seem forgivable, somehow, as she herself is so different – and when she talks about her age-old friendship with the Doctor, you can almost believe it.

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The supporting cast are functionally competent, rather than outstanding, but that’s largely because they have comparatively little to do. Likewise, Hettie MacDonald’s direction fails to match the exemplary job she did on ‘Blink’, but this is not entirely her fault: the story (or lack thereof) is partly to blame. The one scene that will make the YouTube playlists for years to come is the Doctor’s triumphant emergence from the smoke on the roof of a tank in a twelfth-century castle in the middle of Essex, open-necked, and doing his best Pete Townshend. It’s a standout moment that is very hard to dislike, for all its cheesiness: here, we are told, is a new, less highly-strung Doctor (excuse the guitar pun), far more like Troughton than Hartnell, with dashes of Tom Baker here and there.

Moffat’s determination to resolve the Mystery of Peter Capaldi’s Face is manifest in several oblique references to the series in which Caecilius appears. The Shadow Proclamation is revisited (they’ve redecorated; we didn’t like it), with Kelly Hunter still in residence as the Architect. The big draw, of course, is a welcome return from Julian Bleach. I’ve long insisted that Bleach’s Davros impersonation is like a wheelchair-bound Emperor Palpatine, and indeed the end-of-episode confrontation between scientist and Time Lord directly mirrored the scene in Return of the Jedi in which Luke comes face to face with the Sith Lord, right down to the cuff release.

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Ethically, this is clearly the Doctor’s Hitler moment. The dilemma from ‘Genesis’ is played out in full, with Capaldi’s Doctor apparently about to pull the trigger. It’s evoked in a way that it wasn’t in series eight, in which ethical debate was unnecessarily shoehorned: the episode here is at least about the lesson, rather than an otherwise entertaining story with a pointless message tacked on, like a 1980s American children’s show. The Doctor steps out of the fog on the battlefield, pointing a Dalek gun at the terrified Davros and bellowing the one word I really hoped he wouldn’t say; it’s a line that perhaps shouldn’t be crossed, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to at least explore the possibility. Otherwise, how do we grow?

The problem is that several corners are cut to get there. Missy seems genuinely surprised when she gets vapourised. The TARDIS – this previously impenetrable shell that kept out the assembled hordes of Genghis Khan and even put up a fight against the Z-neutrino energy at the heart of the Crucible – crumbles in a matter of seconds against a few Dalek lasers. And on the basis of this episode the Doctor himself is pushed to breaking point far too easily. This is the man who would not go back for Adric, would not spare Gallifrey, would not save Pompeii, and yet he’s apparently ready to rip apart the universe for two people: one Moffat’s creation, the other his eunuch. I don’t want to go on about ego again, but it really feels like that’s where we’re going.

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Perhaps the ethical deliberation is coming next week, or later in the series – perhaps this, rather than sorrowful introspection, will be the subject of the Doctor-fixated episode eleven. Herein lies the other difficulty with watching ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’: structurally it’s all over the place, with cameos and references that evoke a series-wide arc rather than the sort of thing that fits a single story. The frozen plane stunt feels like an afterthought, a missed opportunity. Kate Stewart is come and gone in a flash. And crucially, it takes forty-five minutes for not a great deal to happen. But that’s the way it used to be. Nothing happens in the first episode of ‘The Mind Robber’, and yet it’s a masterpiece (Derrick Sherwin’s ability to spin straw into gold helps, of course). The first episode of ‘The Ambassadors of Death’ is mostly a group of scientists staring at a monitor. ‘The Ark in Space’ is one of my favourite stories, but it opens with three people walking around empty corridors for twenty minutes before one of them opens a cupboard. Viewed as part of a composite, they work because the rest of the stories morph around them.

The problem is that this isn’t the way New Who works: we are instead given standalone episodes that will never form part of a cohesive whole because the series dynamic has changed so much. It isn’t enough to say that series four is “dark”. Series four has ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp’, which is about as silly an episode of New Who as you get in Tennant’s run. The story arcs we now endure tend to play out thematically but not stylistically. The buzz around series nine has been that of a return to the multi-episodic stories of the original series – certainly the cliffhangers are back this year, with a vengeance – but the 21st century production process may be more of a hindrance than an assist. Tonal consistency is easy to maintain across a single story that spans several episodes; it’s nigh-on impossible with an entire series with a multitude of writers and directors and approaches. I can see what they’re trying to do but I wonder if we’ve gone too far down the road to ever go back to the way things were, much as I might want to. And that’s the gamble: an episode in which nothing happens may, in the grand scheme of things, be the important preamble to a larger whole. That would be great. But given the way Doctor Who is produced these days, it may simply be remembered as an episode in which nothing happens.

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