Posts Tagged With: day of the moon

Have I Got Whos For You (beachcombing edition)

“Right. This is gonna be fun.”

I’m at a loss. The hottest day of the year, and you go to the beach? Not only the beach, but one of the busiest, most popular beaches in the country? What, did you think that no one else was going to have the same idea? Or did you think it was like those voting cartoons where everyone assumes that they’re the only ones who feel this way and so nothing gets done?

I mean, it’s Bournemouth. We don’t go to Bournemouth, even though it’s the nearest place with any sand, at least as far from here. We’ll drive up the road to Southborne. Or Boscombe, which is quite pleasant since they did it up and which has its own police box. (Yes, it’s still there, at least it was last August.) If we’re feeling particularly adventurous we may – emphasis on the may – walk along to Bournemouth city centre (God knows you can’t park there), if it’s the middle of autumn, or a weekday. But in the middle of furlough, in thirty degree heat? Yes, I could have driven my family there, or I could have taken them on a hike through the Danakil Desert instead, which would have been mildly more sensible.

Anyway: it’s Canada Day, so here, for no reason at all, is a picture of Peter Capaldi accompanied by a moose.

My parents went to Canada years ago. They didn’t see any moose, although there was a bear or two. At the beginning of the year, before all this, Emily and I had a spa day at a local hotel – one of those Groupon things – and while we were swimming casual lengths the two of us considered blowing some of my mother’s inheritance on an all-out trip to New York and Canada in the summer. Then there were bats and jokes about coughing and then it all stopped being funny, so we’re glad we’d already postponed it until next year.

Meanwhile, the Eleventh Doctor’s been in lockdown so long, he’s beside himself.

There are many ways to cope. For example, I’ve been going back through Grand Theft Auto 5, doing all the bits I never got round to doing on my first playthrough, a few years back. You can cycle up mount Chilead, learn to fly a plane, get in a few rounds at the golf club – oh, and do yoga. I was perusing Google images on International Yoga Day, just the other week, when I noticed that one of the classes depicted in stock photos seemed to have picked up a stowaway.


Art news now, and in Spain, hidden cameras reveal the culprit in the botched restoration of Murillo’s The Immaculate Conception.

And as the entertainment world mourns the loss of venerated actor Sir Ian Holm, the Doctor introduces Clara to the new version of Handles.

We return briefly to politics, as Matt Hancock, having failed to correctly name Marcus Rashford on Good Morning Britain, drops another clanger outside Downing Street.

Deleted scenes from ‘Daleks In Manhattan’ clearly show the influence on Boris Johnson’s post-lockdown strategy.

And during a crisis at the local hospital, the Doctor inadvertently places the world in jeopardy when he elects to demonstrate his fitness levels to Amy and Rory.

“No, really. I’m fit as a butcher’s dog. I can do loads of press-ups. Hang on, I’ll show you…”

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Have I Got Whos For You (Everybody’s Gone To The Moon Edition)

I’m not gonna talk about Boris; in fact, we’re not gonna talk about Boris at all. We’re gonna keep him out of it.

Let’s talk about the moon landing. But before we do that, let’s talk about a book I read thirty years ago in my first (and second, and third, and fourth) year at secondary school. It was called Arthur C. Clarke’s July 20, 2019 – a date which, at the tender age of eleven, seemed like a distant prospect. Compartmentalised into thematic chapters, taking us through smart houses, healthcare, travel and work on a single day in the then future, it explored a typically optimistic future society where things have mostly gone right, anchored by the celebration of fifty years since the moon landing. I can still quote bits of dialogue but I’m fuzzy on the detail; nonetheless people who still have the book assure me that the results were a bingo card, with some astonishingly accurate predictions and others that either haven’t happened yet or which happened years ago. It was glossy, and the photos were very nice. Sadly the Amazon prices are not, so it’ll have to stay as a memory, which is probably for the best.

Anyway, Armstrong didn’t quite make it to the fiftieth anniversary – but Aldrin did, and he’s still keeping his mouth shut about what really happened.

People got really cross when I did this. “I don’t like the idea of the Doctor being part of this conspiracy,” said one. To which the obvious reply is – well, she isn’t, she’s just landed the TARDIS in Shepperton instead of 240,000 miles up. Listen, I don’t have the monopoly on stuff like this. The X-Files got there first. Actually, I’ve been doing some thought in recent months and have decided that much of the way society is today can be blamed on The X-Files. Because it gave us a world where chemtrails were real, the moon landing was faked and governments were using vaccinations as a ploy to infect us all with viral pathogens, and the heroes were two likeable, intelligent white Americans whose job it was to convince us that this was all really happening. And the opposite of obedient sheep – “Comrade Napoleon is always right” – is abject paranoia, which really isn’t any better. So now no one trusts a thing they’re told by people who frankly know more about this than they do, and before you know it you’ve got people believing the Earth is flat.

Anyway, at least – thanks to the miracles of modern technology – we can finally find out what that Silence was really saying back in 1969.

Finally, to the far side of the moon, where an old enemy is about to run into some old friends.

“Christ. Not you lot again.”


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God is in the detail (11-01)

Ah, Steven Moffat. Now there was a man who loved teasing his audience. It was never enough just to put a twist in; his goal, played out with nigh-on obsessive abandon, was the trail of breadcrumbs. Whether it’s Sherlock surviving his fall from the roof, the true identity of Ms Utterson from Jekyll, or what was really in the Doctor’s room in that creepy hotel, it wasn’t genuine Moffat without a puzzle for everyone to solve. It’s a far cry from the days when Doctor Who was aired once and then had to be revisited via Target novels because no one had a video recorder and in any case the BBC had already wiped the tapes. Repeat viewing is not only encouraged, it’s practically mandatory, along with all the bells and whistles of online discussion, dissection and deconstruction.

Still, Moffat’s gone now, so we can’t do that anymore, right? Wrong!

If you’re new here, you won’t know that I spend much of my time during series broadcasts going back through last week’s episodes searching them for things that will come back to haunt us later. Because as everyone in the Doctor Who production offices knows, there is NO SUCH THING as an accident. Every sign, every prop, every seemingly inconsequential bit of detail – from the shape of buildings to the seemingly random use of filming locations – is a potentially VITAL CLUE that gives us CLEAR AND SIGNIFICANT FORESHADOWING for events later in the series.

And guess what? Chibnall has apparently inherited Moffat’s clue fixation. Because when I went back through ‘The Woman Who Fell To Earth’ I found a whole bunch of stuff – and today, dearest reader, I bring it to you, served up with a salad garnish and a complimentary Americano. Come with us now as we explore a world of signs and wonders that will LITERALLY make your head explode.

We start on a train.

Observe the two numbers by the wall panel – one directly above Jodie Whittaker’s head, one at the upper left of the screen. We’ll get to that one in a moment, but let’s look at 68509 first. It is – as if you hadn’t guessed – a reference to the zip code for Lincoln, Nebraska, where the TARDIS crew are set to land in an episode from Series 12. The Nebraska DHHS is here, which will presumably be a plot point as the Doctor refuses to go anywhere that’s just initials.

Do acronyms count? Because there’s a very prominent one just above – UNIT. And the numbers that follow – 9110, for ease of reference – refer EXPLICITLY AND UNAMBIGUOUSLY to UNIT. Why is this? Well, the first two allude to Marc Platt’s novelisation of ‘Battlefield’, released in print form in July 1991, while the 10 refers to 2010, the year in which The Sarah Jane Adventures broadcast their 2010 crossover episode ‘The Death of the Doctor’, which saw Sarah Jane team up both with the Eleventh Doctor and former member of UNIT staff Jo Grant, as played by Katy Manning. We’ve been asking for another appearance from Jo for years, and it looks like we might finally be about to get our wish.

(As an aside, this is a good time to mention that I finally met Katy Manning last December. She was absolutely lovely, despite me squealing like a fanboy. I have it on good authority that she is like that with everyone.)

But was it a nod to Jo Grant, or was it actually about Matt Smith? Consider this screen grab from Ryan’s YouTube monologue.

There are a number of things going on here, in a quite literal sense. Ryan’s thumbs up rating sits at Eleven (capitalisation intentional) while his thumbs down is sitting at two. Leaving aside the question of exactly what sort of callous bastard would rank down a video where you were talking about your dead grandmother, we also need to consider what number you get when you add eleven and two.

I will leave it to you, dear reader, to do the math(s).

Ryan’s view count is nineteen, which is a CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS reference to Paul Hardcastle’s iconic song about the Vietnam War, indicating a likely story arc for Series 12. And his subscriber count is sitting pretty at thirty-seven, which is not a random number and certainly NOT A COINCIDENCE. Thirty-seven, you will recall, is the age of Dennis the political peasant in Monty Python and the Holy Grail – a film that introduced us to the delightful Tim the Enchanter. You see? There was a whopping great clue about the identity of this episode’s villain smack bang in the middle of the opening scene, and not ONE of you noticed. Not one. I’m not angry, folks, I’m just disappointed.

A funeral next, because we need to talk about the balloons.

There are sixteen balloons, which allude to the thirteen canonical Doctors, plus John Hurt, Richard Hurndall and David Bradley: in short, sixteen actors who have played the Doctor onscreen in official BBC stories. (There are probably more; don’t tell me about them because it’ll spoil the pattern.) Note that the Eighth Doctor is directly over Bradley Walsh’s head. Also note that Paul McGann’s Holby City storyline seems to be drawing to a natural close – it may have wrapped up by the time you read this and it may even have wrapped already, as I’m writing it. We’re two episodes behind so please don’t spoil it for me.

Additionally, notice the colour scheme. There are three:

Never mind the subtle but CLEAR-CUT indication that Lalla Ward will soon be back as Romana – has anyone else noticed that there’s one missing? The short, scooter-riding one? The one who shares her name with a famous author?

There are a number of episode titles we could mash here, such as The Tell-Tale Hearts, or The Satan Pit and the Pendulum, or simply The Oblong Box, which doesn’t need any modification. But could the imminent appearance of the great writer himself – a man whom the Doctor has encountered several times before – be any more clear cut? To borrow one of Gareth’s jokes, quoth the raven: “Again again!”

We’ll conclude at the end of the episode, in this scene in the charity shop where the Doctor picks out her outfit.

“But how can you tell it was a charity shop?” some people on Facebook have been whining, to which the answer is “Of course it’s a bloody charity shop”. I mean, look at it. There are books on the shelves and there’s a pile of bric-a-brac near the clothes racks. Yes, the changing room is unusually big. Maybe Cardiff has an obesity problem. Besides, where else are you going to find that sort of mismatched ensemble, other than in the dressing up box at a local children’s centre?

I mentioned this to Emily, who said “Well, of course it’s a charity shop. I can just picture her going through those t-shirts. ‘Ooh, look, this one says Sarah-Jane Smith. That rings a bell’.”

I laughed, and then said “Listen, if Sarah-Jane was still stitching name labels in her clothes in her her mid-twenties, I’m glad the Doctor left her in Aberdeen.”

But I’m sidetracking. Because there’s a reason they went to this particular charity shop (or thrift store, if you’re reading this in the other side of the Atlantic). Where is it? If you’re in Cardiff  you could probably have told me without having to look it up, but I had to do a bit of legwork – a word which in this context means ‘look at Google Maps’. There are plenty of charity shops in Cardiff, but we may narrow it down by using the Domino Pizza emporium on the other side of the street as an anchor.

To cut a long story short, it is this one:


This is loaded with detail. Never mind the fact that there is a phone box RIGHT THERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET, indicating that not only is the much-anticipated Bill & Ted 3 movie finally out of production hell, but that IT WILL BE A DOCTOR WHO CROSSOVER – never mind all that, have you seen the sign just above the housing association window? You know, the one about landlords? Are we heading back to Bristol? Could David Suchet’s Series 10 character be about to make a sudden, unanticipated return? Well, it’s no longer anticipated, is it? We called it, right here. Watch this space.

But wait! There’s more. The address for this particular map reference is 202 Cowbridge Road, and in production history we find that story 202 was ‘The End of Time’, a CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS nod to the IMMINENT RETURN of Rassilon, presumably in the Christmas special. Sadly there’s no word on whether he’ll be played by Donald Sumpter, so we may need to look further afield. Anyone got Jeremy Irons’ phone number?

But wait! There’s STILL more. Look across the street.

Let’s ignore the near miss on that sign, shall we? I suspect the owners are very grateful that it’s the U that’s missing, rather than the O. Besides, we’re now in Series 6 territory: Canton referring, of course, to Canton Everett Delaware III, the Doctor’s erstwhile companion during his battle with the Silence, and who has by the present day moved into local radio, producing a couple of hours of disco-themed music on a weekly basis for online radio station NTS, broadcasting from London, Los Angeles, Shanghai and Manchester. Who else saw that coming? I know I didn’t.

But as if this weren’t enough, scroll back up to that first picture again and note the Registered Charity Number on the sign above the Kidney Research window. It’s 252892 – seemingly innocuous, right? Wrong again. Because a curious thing happens if you stick this into the hex box for an RGB colour converter. I know because I did it, and I could scarcely believe the shade that appeared on the display:


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Have I Got Whos For You (Back To School Edition)

I have a book to edit, so let’s keep it brief today, shall we?

In the British press, there is fallout from Donald Trump’s faux pas when meeting the Queen.

Elsewhere, National Beard Day passes without incident, beyond a couple of paradoxes.

In soaps, there is general panic in Holby City when John Gaskell seems about to regenerate.

A leaked still revealing Matt Smith’s role in the new Star Wars film terrorises the internet.

And the absence of any official confirmed Series 11 air date is clearly getting to some of the fans.

And finally: I wanted to test out my new phone camera, and so I did a picture of the Twelfth Doctor and Peri exploring the undergrowth near an abandoned National Trust property, with Spider-Man, the Brigadier and two of the Lord of the Rings fellowship, unaware that they’re about to be attacked by a giant banana riding a space hopper.

You know. As you do.

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Willo the Silent

Come here for a minute. That’s right. Just a little closer. This should probably be whispered, or at least murmured, because I fear it’s not going to make me popular. OK, I’m going to lower my voice a little. Can you still hear me? Good. Well, listen carefully because I won’t be saying it a second time.

I don’t like the Silence.

I mean it. They were billed as this creepy, horrifying Who villain and I found them inexorably dull: lanky aliens in CIA suits who speak in throaty voices, facially resembling a Munsch painting. It’s like Moffat went to the design-your-own-monster website and clicked three buttons at random, or perhaps he and the other writers were playing that game where you write something on a piece of paper and then fold it over and pass it on to the next person in the group. I know what they’re supposed to be, and I sort of like the concept of them having been here for millennia unnoticed because we can’t see them when we’re not looking at them, but the whole hidden-influence-memory-wipe thing was done to death when Men In Black came out. (One of my favourite ways to torture sci-fi buffs is to challenge them to prove that Men In Black didn’t happen. It always provokes a fun argument.)

Perhaps it was the media hype machine that did it. The Silence were, after all, billed as ‘the scariest monsters in the show’s history’ in the heavily-publicised run-up to series six, which proves that while Matt Smith is a damned fine Doctor, he’s obviously never seen ‘Pyramids of Mars’ (or ‘The Empty Child’, come to that). The press releases, the teaser clips, the organised leaks and the fact that they’re mentioned throughout the ENTIRE FIFTH SERIES meant that most of their novelty value had been lost before we even saw them, much like one of those tedious email jokes you get which has pages and pages of blank lines reading “Scroll down…you’re nearly there…wait for it…” before finally arriving at a punch line that really isn’t that funny at all. Conversely, the Weeping Angels were – in ‘Blink’ at least – the most frightening thing to appear on TV since the beginning of the revival, and their success may have been because they weren’t introduced with nearly as much fanfare. (Or perhaps they were, and I was just reading the wrong stuff. The Angels are, in any case, sadly deteriorating into parodies of themselves, largely because every time we see them they seem less effective. I shudder when I think of what Moffat may be planning this autumn.)

It also doesn’t help that the first time we see any of the Silence it’s in a scene that features Ruby Wax’s irritating younger sister. (The offending moment is at 26:17.) Just watch it again. I have nothing against them casting Americans in Doctor Who but they could at least cast Americans who don’t sound like British people doing bad American accents, which is exactly what Nancy Baldwin does here. The dialogue doesn’t do her any favours, but you’re frankly relieved when the lightning comes out and she explodes. I always felt that one of the chief failures of xXx (that third-rate Vin Diesel action flick) was that you wound up siding and empathising with the terrorists, and the same applies here. We want Joy to meet a sticky end, not in the conventional sense of being shocked and appalled (“Hurrah, here comes the villain and they’re going to do something dreadful”) but simply because she’s an annoying cow.

Another problem I have with the Silence is that they really don’t seem to be that malevolent. Aside from their tendency to kill anyone who gets in their way (and annoying women in toilets bathrooms) what proof do we have that their interference in humanity’s development and progression (a sort of subversive 2001 monolith, without the monolith) has been negative? If they’ve always been here, one would assume that they’ve helped us with the wheel, the development of tools, the invention of currency and the industrial revolution, all so they can – what – get us to design a space suit? So they have the technology to fly to Earth and blend in unnoticed for millennia, but they need us to do the suit? Of course, it later transpires that they’re all part of the tedious plot to destroy the Doctor, but by then they’ve already lost what credibility they’ve had, so the damage has been done.

One would assume that the Silence can remember each other even when they’re looking the other way. It would be awfully inconvenient if they couldn’t. Gareth pointed out that a Silence Olympics would, for example, be farcical, because whoever dashed into the lead would instantly forget that there was anyone behind him, and he’d then wonder “Why am I running?”, and then stop and let everyone else overtake him, and then the whole cycle would begin again with someone else. (I’d also have thought that the Angels were similarly hampered, simply because they can’t ever look at each other. Weeping Angel tennis matches must be short.)

It was Lawrence Miles who came up with one of the funniest deconstructions of ‘Day of the Moon’ I read – more overstating his case, but we laughed a lot. My own response was to make this video. I can’t remember the exact moment I thought that the Silence were due for a redubbing. Redubbing monsters with static mouths is, as I’ve said before, very easy, and there’s lots of footage, so perhaps it was inevitable. I was probably in the kitchen. I get lots of ideas in the kitchen. Something about being surrounded by food gets the creative juices flowing.

Why Willo the Wisp? Blame the multitalented Kenneth Williams. One show, one voice, but so many characters. It struck me that if the Silence were to have comedy voices we’d have to have a little variety, so it was this or The Goon Show. (I may eventually produce one with the Goons, if only because it would be lovely to have one of them shout “YOU ROTTEN SWINE, YOU!” as River blasts him at the end of ‘Day of the Moon’.) But Willo the Wisp recently turned thirty and is thus ripe for a revival. Listening to it again brought back a sea of childhood memories, and I laughed out loud every time the Moog showed up. A live action film must be on the way at some point.

Willo the Wisp is also almost devoid of incidental music, aside from the occasional sting whenever Evil Edna appears, which made this very easy to rip. I assembled the rough cut in an evening, although it was a late one. There was an inspired moment when I realised that Mavis Cruet spends quite a lot of time addressing the caterpillar by name with a melodramatic “Oh ARTHUR!”, which led to a couple of very obvious gags. After that it was a simple matter of papering over the rough spots, which occurred mostly in ‘Day of the Moon’ when I had to re-insert the score in the moments when I was dubbing over the Silence, not always very cleanly. It more or less hangs together, though, and I was particularly pleased with the credits.

I am currently contesting BBC Worldwide’s copyright stance – I have argued for fair use on the grounds that a redubbed, parodic video really isn’t going to hurt their ability to shift copies of season six – but there’s a fair chance this will be lifted from YouTube at some point. In the meantime, enjoy it. And then keep it on your screen and then look away so you forget what you were doing, and then turn back and watch it again. It all helps with the hit count.

Update: A few days after my post, on Friday 20 April, BBC Worldwide released its copyright claim and sanctioned my fair use argument. Which is a great result all round. The Beeb gets a lot of bad press, and most of it’s utterly unfair. God bless ’em.

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