Posts Tagged With: daleks

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.

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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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Paint the whole world

I’m working on something, and you get to see it soon, but to tide you over in the meantime, this is something Thomas made. No prompting from me whatsoever, although he was quite happy for me to share it via social media.

 

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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.

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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:

 

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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?

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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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Creative Thinking

I’m in Cambridge with no access to my files, so God is in the Detail will have to wait until next week. Instead, I bring you this leftover from the Orient Express episode.

 

Thomas had a school garden project to complete before half term. If you’ve been here a while you may recall that Joshua had something similar a couple of years back, and that we did it with Lego, and then had the Cybermen trash the place. This time, Emily produced a quite wonderful winter-themed garden in about five minutes flat (winter’s always popular; I blame Frozen) rendered in cotton wool and filled with stuff they’d found out the back, to add a touch of authenticity.

Then I undid all the authenticity by adding a TARDIS.

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I’m no good with cotton wool, but I manage in other ways. The week before, Edward and I had gone to the local children’s centre for our weekly play session. On this occasion they’d got out the Stickle Bricks – toys I remember from my childhood and never really liked. The meshing system never works symmetrically, because the interlocking fingers never quite match up, so that if you try and jam a selection of bricks together it just looks uneven (this is impossible to explain, but if you’ve ever done it you’ll know exactly what I mean). What’s more, the gaps between the fingers get filthy, like the teeth of a comb, gripped by small hands who haven’t washed, and eventually they break off completely, leaving ugly edges that don’t stick together nearly as well as they do in the commercials, where bright and shiny children with perfect teeth produce immaculate, intricate models that wouldn’t look out of place in a modern art gallery.

Anyway, we made the best of things, and on this particular morning we built a stickle brick Ice Warrior, and also a Dalek. As you do.

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