Posts Tagged With: deep breath

Have I Got Whos For You (shameful catch-up edition)

Gosh. Has it really been a month? I’m sorry. I’d make the excuse that we were away – that usually works – but we weren’t away that much; I think things have just got on top of me a bit. There are reasons. You don’t get to hear them. Still, it’s time we got back into the swing of things – I have a bunch of new videos to show you, the second half of that Production Myths debacle that landed me in hot water in at least one Facebook group, and…well, who knows? But we’ll talk about something, usually Doctor Who. Come with me, semi-constant reader, as we tread the fine line between social distancing and all-out lockdown that will hopefully take us to Christmas, and a new episode that is bound not to live up to the hype.


First, this.

Cue brief Facebook explosion.



Thorpe Park, and it looks like we’re all screwed.

“Listen, we’re gonna get you out of here. But with the benefit of hindsight, I think you probably shouldn’t have tried to sing Rule Britannia.”

“Gavin? I think I’ve fixed that algorithm.”

Posted without comment.

And finally: we have the Prime Minister to thank for this one. Well, at least he’s good for something.

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Have I Got Whos For You (Coronavirus edition)

Yes, well, I think two weeks of radio silence is long enough. I spent quite a lot of it building a TARDIS-themed virtual art gallery (coming soon to a WordPress feed near you!) and rolling my eyes at people on Facebook who still have no idea who Brendan actually was, or are convinced that Chibnall’s shat all over the legacy of Doctor Who, or who think the Master is lying, or any combination of the above. That’s until we all started talking about getting coughs instead; I’m frightened for my elderly father and the schools are about to shut, but at least the moral outrage over Series 12 is dying down.

Anyway: there are quite a few unrealised blog posts lying around in my drafts folder, and seeing as we’re all going to be stuck at home for the forseeable future you might as well have something to read. But before we get to any of them, we really ought to do a news update.

First, there’s the fallout from Rishi Sunak’s publicity phot, as a certain other high-ranking politician with dodgy scruples asks if you would like the good tea or the bad tea.

Over on the Naismith Estate, Max Von Sydow is upset that he and Timothy Dalton have both turned up at the Time Lords’ New Year’s Eve party wearing the same dress.

And it turns out some members of the public have an unorthodox approach towards celebrating No Smoking day.

Secret recordings reveal the real culprit behind Prince Harry’s prank call from Greta Thunberg.

At the BBC, there are internal complaints that the new sanitisation procedure is borderline excessive.

Donna Noble regrets not packing her own bog roll.

Sometimes washing your hands isn’t quite enough.

And on the streets of Cardiff it seems that not everyone is taking government guidelines seriously.


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Have I Got Whos For You (New Year’s Edition)

Happy New Year folks! Meet David Tennant, the reluctant gardener.

Elsewhere in Whoville, one of Jackie Tyler’s leftover Christmas cracker jokes goes awry.

And finally, here’s the Twelfth Doctor’s confession.

Well, I’m glad we’ve cleared that one up.

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Attack of the Cidermen

Round about the time Peter Capaldi was stepping out of the TARDIS for the first time, making dwarf jokes, I was sitting in a tent in the middle of Northamptonshire, shouting at my children.

This was half by choice. It shouldn’t take a genius to work out which half. We visit Greenbelt every August bank holiday; a vibrant, multicoloured rain-soaked celebration, with logistical problems and mud and the queues for the toilet all forgotten in the light of the afternoon sun as the Proclaimers take to the stage. We’ve been blown away by Bellowhead, dazzled by Courtney Pine and frankly baffled (in the best possible way) by the Polyphonic Spree. One year we almost saw Gil Scott Heron, except he didn’t show up, and then inconsiderately died before they could re-book him.

But camping with small children is no picnic. It’s not so bad when it’s warm and they can run around outside. In Kettering it was cold, particularly at night. It’s not long before the silliness sets in and the tent becomes one of those impromptu bouncy castles, the soft walls given a new lease of life in games of tag. We spent an hour getting the damned thing erect, having inexplicably started from the wrong end after years of doing this and discovering, all too late, the optimal, argument-free method for putting it up and getting it down the very week we deem it no longer fit for its intended purpose. Meanwhile the kids are ripping down the sleeping compartment and there is water on the floor from the hole in the roof, despite my other half’s best efforts with the gaffer tape. (She is the seasoned camper with all the knowledge; I help where I can.) Oh, for a portable structure that’s bigger on the inside, like that tent in Harry Potter, or…sorry, there was another example of this, but it escapes me now.

Our regular Greenbelt attendance also means that for two years out of the last four, I’ve missed the opening episode of a Doctor Who series. This year I came close to actually watching that leaked version, realising after a couple of minutes of viewing the black and white footage that it frankly wasn’t worth it. It’s said that good speakers can improve a poor song, or at least mask its inadequacies, but I really didn’t want to experience Capaldi’s debut without all the bells and whistles that would make it bearable.

But the Greenbelt audience has its fair share of Doctor Who fans as well. This (not taken by me) is a good start.


There are assorted TURDIS jokes I could make here, but dedicated fans will appreciate the irony of sticking this on a portaloo, given in 2001’s ‘The One Doctor’ – featuring a false Doctor (Christopher Biggins) who travels through time and space in a toilet. You can guess the materialisation sound.

Back in 2005, Paul Cornell visited. I didn’t see him, plumping instead for Philip Purser-Hallard talking about ‘The Spirituality of Doctor Who’ – the sort of phrase that typically fills me with dread, but he spoke with expertise and panache (“A character significantly named ‘Adam’ is falling from the Doctor’s grace after he gives in to temptation, by a woman, to partake of forbidden knowledge”) and managed to argue, quite convincingly, that the Eccleston series wasn’t nearly as pro-atheist as many believed. It was an informative hour capped by an entertaining Q&A session in which, having listened to all sorts of theories about deus ex machina and liberal Christianity, a young boy stuck up his hand and got a near standing-ovation when he asked “The episode with the children with the gas-masks – what does that have to do with the Bible?”.

One of the highlights of this year’s festival was Folk On, Greenbelt regulars and always well-attended. To save time, think ‘The Wurzels, but funny’. Halfway through their “difficult second album”, this West Country trio perform songs like ‘Dad, I’m In Love With A Morris Dancer’ and ‘Alright’, along with occasional covers like ‘Let One Go’ – and, during last summer’s Daft Punk infatuation, ‘Get Folky’. A single song can take a good six or seven minutes, given their habit of stopping halfway through the third verso in order to speculate on whether what they’re actually singing makes any sense. ‘Ernie the Slug’ is a good example of this –

“Here’s a little song about Ernie
Ernie my little pet slug
We used to go for walks in the garden
And have a nice picnic on the rug”.

In the event of this year’s version being made available, I’ll replace the link above, but it gives you an idea. Anyway, the titular Ernie meets a grisly fate, the severity of which is altered according to audience makeup. This year’s was particularly ferocious, and – mindful, perhaps, of the children in the audience whom he’d just upset, or perhaps it was all just one big gag – lead singer ‘Derek Tinkleberry’ changed gear a bit. “‘S alright!” he reassured the audience. “‘E’s regenerated, ‘asn’t ‘e? Like the Doctor. Look, there ‘e is now. He looks a bit older, but we’ll give ‘im a chance, eh?”

We were down at the Make and Create tent for an entire day, as Emily made sock monkeys and built bamboo lanterns for a procession that was cancelled. We could think of several names for the Make and Create tent, but there may be minors reading this. Trust my children to pick the most complicated crafts – never mind the fact that none of the crafts were suitable for all but the most dexterous of children (sewing? Really?). Not that I’ve ever enjoyed arts and crafts, as a child or an adult. Give me a box of Lego bricks and I’m happy for hours, but when you have three children with the attention span that ours have, you don’t get beyond the first gluing exercise before the eyes begin to glaze over. You find yourself scouring the room for something sharp enough to punch a hole through a plastic lid, because the scissors are too rounded and in any case the little girl with the purple dress and the pigtails has been hogging them for FIFTEEN MINUTES while she cuts out paper doilies. You’re trying to glue the end of a toilet roll to a cardboard box but it won’t stick, so you switch to sellotape, but that doesn’t work because the end is stringy and won’t unpick because you clipped your nails that morning. The yellow felt tip has run out and the orange is nowhere to be seen, and your children have been drawing on their hands because they’re bored. But you want to see this through, because you’ve started and you’re damn well going to finish. And then it’s not a junk modelling session anymore; it’s a quest, and you don’t care if your kids are now running riot by the Stickle Bricks – you will, darnit, you will finish this robot you’ve started to make, with or without their help.

Having spent four hours (continuously) sewing sock monkeys, Emily decided to make a lantern for Thomas, and she decided to give it a TARDIS shape. This was after realising that one of our completed sock monkeys appeared to be wearing a fez.

Anyway: all this meant that we weren’t here for ‘Deep Breath’, but that’s OK, because that’s why we have catch-up (“And please, just learn to use iPlayer!”). But here’s the funny thing – having showered and unpacked a bit and got the children into bed so we could watch the episode in peace without the barrage of questions we’d be unable to answer because it’s too early in the arc – after all that, ‘Deep Breath’ was in many ways quite similar to the festival we’d just experienced. Because we spent a year waiting for it, and talking about it, and arguing with people online as to whether the big changes were going to mean it would be a success or a disaster. And there were people saying that change had always been a part of it, and that they could remember the days when things were very different, and we should all be grateful that it was still going. But when it actually came to the episode, it took ages to get everything set up, the children got bored, half the time we couldn’t hear what anyone was saying because it was accompanied by deafening music, and while there were moments of beauty and wonder, we realised by the end that we’d had to wallow through a lot of crap to get to them.

And next year, I’m buying a camper van.

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Review: ‘Deep Breath’


I went off the grid for a few days at the tail end of last week, camping in Northamptonshire. More on that another day. It means that as far as Peter Capaldi’s debut is concerned, I’m a little late to the party. But at least I brought wine.

What follows is not actually a review. There are hundreds of them out there and at this comparatively late stage in proceedings I don’t think there’s anything I could say that hasn’t been written already with far more coherence than I could manage at half past one in the morning. Instead – and for one week only, unless for some bizarre reason it proves wildly popular – this is a one-stop hop through the general mess that was ‘Deep Breath’, with stuff that cropped up during a first (continuous) and second (stop and start) viewing, interspersed with random Fireworks images. I make no apology that some of it is puerile and some of it is crap. It’s the sort of stuff I would have tweeted, had I watched the episode live. “This way,” I explained to Gareth, “you’ll be saved the job of actually having to watch it.”

“Gosh,” was the response. “This from the person who encouraged me to give the new season at least two episodes before giving up?”

“I do want you to watch it”, I said, “because you might need a frame of reference for the rest of the series (and all the memes I’m going to do), but it’s an hour and a quarter, and you will be emailing me saying how much you hate it and want to give up watching way before the end. I’m just saving us that conversation.”

You will notice that I do not talk about the conclusion. This is largely because the arcs have become so tedious over the years I’m airbrushing them out of the discussion, except to say that there are two possibilities: either the name ‘Missy’ is a deliberate clue pointing to something that sounds quite horrendous, or it’s a deliberate red herring designed to make the fans think that something’s going to happen, and this sort of tedious tomfoolery is exactly what makes the clue hunt so interminably dull.

In the meantime, let’s have a look at that dinosaur, shall we?


00:12 – OK, so we’ve been here before. More than once.

00:50 – Ah, look, it’s the Three Amigos looking up at the CGI. Vastra’s making veiled references (pun subconsciously intended) to female genitalia. Business as usual, except that Strax hasn’t said a word yet.

01:48 – Jenny: “It’s the TARDIS!”. Just in case we hadn’t spotted that.

02:43 – Oh, it’s Peter. First word: “Shush!”

03:15 – Dwarf jokes? Really? Weren’t the potato ones bad enough?

04:20 – Clara’s hair is amazing. Her role has thus far been to stand and look shocked and devastated, but she does it so well. Presumably she’s just seen the script for the series finale.

05:30 – He’s pissed out!

05:48 – Ah. And we’re back in ‘Planet of the Spiders’ territory. I do miss Nick Courtney.


Oh, this is all wrong. The clocks, the cogs, the roman numerals, the planet alignments. Is this something to do with him travelling through time, by any chance? This is horrible to watch; it’s like they had a brainstorming session for new title sequence ideas and decided to use every post-it note on the flipchart. It looks like something a fan did. Oh, wait.

Murray Gold has done the impossible and managed to produce a theme arrangement that I hate even more than his 2010 edition. The strings are so screechy they make my ears bleed. When will the man learn that less is more?

“I’m going to have to leave the room every time this comes on,” says Emily. I have to agree. It also calls to mind a conversation I had with Gareth a few weeks ago, in which he directed me to a video I didn’t see until a few minutes ago:

Seriously. What sort of idiot applauds a screen graphic with a person’s name on it? “Woooo! It’s a typeface! SICK!”

07:00 – We’re in the bedroom. I don’t know if I’m watching an episode of Doctor Who or a BBC drama about dementia.

07:55 – Peter: “I like to skip ahead to my bit. It saves time.” Congratulations, Doctor, you’ve just described the internet.

08:30 – Smug monkey joke from Vastra, complete with feminist twist to make it acceptable. Also misses the point that the Doctor is a Time Lord. Presumably in there so that the pedants have something to moan about.

…wait a minute.

10:40 – Ah. Dinosaur soliloquy. This is admittedly quite good. The last time Moffat wrote dialogue this eloquent for someone lying in a bed, we were waiting for the rain to stop. Coincidentally that also featured a young woman talking to a would-be boyfriend who’d suddenly aged several decades.

12:13 – Bloody hell, it’s Ali G’s mate Dave! What happened to him, his voice finally break?

13:50 – All right. Clara may as well be wearing a t-shirt that reads “I LOVE MATT SMITH” and running a tumblr page. I can see what Moffat’s trying to do here but this really does come across as a fan lecture.

17:35 – “Oh, look!” says Emily. “It’s Mary Poppins!” Capaldi is bouncing across the roof, a little like Patrick Troughton in ‘The Invasion’, minus the panache. Then the dinosaur explodes, and Vastra demands that Strax free the cabbage, which instantly makes me think of killer plants. This is like watching Second, Third and Fourth Doctor stories all at once.

20:00 – Peter: “Sorry sorry. Sorry. Sorry sorry.” Well, that’s the new catchphrase sorted then.

23:05 – Oh look, it’s the Short Funny One again. Don’t knock her out by throwing the newspaper through the window, Strax. Don’t knock her out by – shit.

26:20 – Gosh, Bill Oddie’s really let himself go.

27:30 – And we’re back to the face. FFS, WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO BE A THING? Did Colin Baker stride around the TARDIS console room saying “I look like Maxil; obviously the Time Lords are about to do something dreadful”?

Oh, wait.

28:40 – Ten years ago, Emily and I were living in a bungalow out in the sticks where the only pizza we could get delivered came courtesy of a bearded, leather jacket wearing chap in his late thirties – think of a short-haired Bill Bailey – who had incredible eyebrows. As he and I traded cash and hot food I noticed that his manner was vivacious and even hyperactive, as if he were watching out for a passing police car, while his eyebrows – two great bushy things – jerked constantly up and down in rapid succession, like two limbo-dancing caterpillars. I tell you all this because it’s frankly more interesting than the Doctor’s rambling monologue about the Independent State of Eyebrows. This is clearly Capaldi’s Ridiculous Chin moment.

30:16 – Oh, you’re married, are you? Thank you for pointing that out.

35:30 – The Doctor and Clara, in a restaurant. These two are sparking off each other wonderfully. It’s back and forth, back and forth, with overlapping sentences and a chemistry that is very different from the one that Coleman had with Smith, but no less effective. It’s like they’ve been working together for years.

38:12 – All right, this just kicked up a notch. Forty minutes of indifferent comedy and I’m suddenly enjoying it thoroughly. Wheatley’s direction is understated but effective and the score is, for a change, unintrusive.

42:45 – And all at once, Capaldi is the Doctor. It’s nothing specific, more a quirky eccentricity that underpins an absolute sense of self-control. It’s halfway between Tennant and Davison. Leaving it until now was a risky gambit, and Moffat’s only got away with it by playing to the strengths of his leading actor, but it works.

45:15 – So. That was Utter Bastard Scene #1, then.

47:10 – “Look!” squeals Emily. “It’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! She’s the music box doll from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!” And of course, she is.

50:02 – Ha! Clara’s just explained the second rule of classroom management: never make a threat unless you’re prepared to carry it out. As a failed teacher, I remember this one well. Moffat wins brownie points for its inclusion, or at least manages to slip back up the negative zone towards zero.

(The first rule of classroom management, in case you’re interested, is anticipate the problem in advance and plan things so that the likelihood of it happening is reduced. In other words, think about the worst things that could happen and develop a workaround that you can implement before it all goes south. Thinking about how bad things could possibly get was basically what got me through ‘Journey To The Centre of The TARDIS’.)

51:33 – Emily again: “Ooh. The Crème brûlées you could make with that torch.”

53:25 – “Rubbish robots from the dawn of time” might just be my quote of the week. And now Capaldi’s raging against mime, which ups the heroism quotient of his Doctor considerably.

54:48 – Jesus, was it really necessary to have Strax repeat Michelangelo’s comedy fall from the 2007 TMNT trailer?


57:30 – So we have a Doctor who kills and drinks. ‘Dark’ is not the word. ‘Lazy’ might be.

59:45 – It’s a shame the controller isn’t nearly as creepy as the waiter was. The waiter sounded like a sinister Speak & Spell. The controller sounds like a shady villain in a BBC Dickens adaptation.

60:54 – I think I caught a Father Ted joke just then, but it’s hard to tell because Capaldi’s mumbling, or the score is too loud, or both. If I wanted to hear an angst-ridden Scot muttering unintelligibly, I’d be watching Gregor Fisher.

61:51 – Broom handles now. If they resurrect Only Fools and Horses, Moffat really should write for it.

63:15 – I don’t have a problem with the lesbian kiss from a moral standpoint. It just seems unnecessary. But I can’t think of a single kiss since 2011 that needed to be in there.

64:50 – Emily and I both just cried out “Ow! It really hurth! I’m going to need thome ithe cream…” Oh, and there it is. The hungover look. Coming soon to a Google image search near you.

67:10 – Give it up, Steven. Please. No more redecorating jokes. Or round thing jokes. In fact, don’t do jokes. Or love scenes.

68:10 – “What do you think?” Well, I think Jon Pertwee wants his jacket back.


Clara: Hello?

Eleventh Doctor [on phone]: Hello.

Clara: You realise this totally undermines your replacement.

Eleventh Doctor: Yes, but the teenage girls are upset. And there are little children fidgeting on the sofa because they don’t accept the grumpy old man.

Clara: Oh, come on. People got used to Colin.

Eleventh Doctor: No they didn’t. The show was suspended for a year and a half and the hiatus spawned the worst novelty single in history.

Clara: Point taken.

Twelfth Doctor: I do feel somewhat upstaged by this.

Eleventh Doctor: Shut it, Malcolm. This doesn’t work out, you have the Musketeers to fall back on. Clara, one last question: am I ginger?

Clara: …Not exactly.

Eleventh Doctor: Bollocks. [Hangs up]

Clara: Want to help me rebuild the Fourth Wall, Peter?

Twelfth Doctor: I’m pretty sure that ship has sailed.

Clara: Where are we, anyway?

Twelfth Doctor: Glasgow.

Clara: Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s Cardiff.

Twelfth Doctor: Close enough.


Next week: we travel inside a Dalek, and find several eggs, a repository of lint, and all those lost pens you thought were down the back of the armchair.

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Cabbages and Kings

So I take a week-long holiday in Shropshire, and this is what I find when I get home.

I tell you this. If they use that line about redecorating one more time, I will break into the BBC props department, steal Capaldi’s screwdriver and ram it so far up the backside of the chief writer his throat will light up every time he opens his mouth. It’s not even that it’s no longer funny. It wasn’t funny back in November, when the Tenth Doctor used it.

Let’s be clear: the “You’ve redecorated – I don’t like it” line is not a recurring gag. It’s something that Troughton said twice. His delivery was impeccable on both occasions, as Troughton’s invariably was, even when he fluffed his lines (mostly because his Doctor was exactly the sort of person who might be appearing to fluff his lines in order to lull you into a false sense of superiority before he reveals his hand).


Then Matt Smith does it in ‘Closing Time’, and it’s quite funny then, partly because Smith’s delivery is quite different, and James Corden’s look of outrage is plain silly. And it is, as Gareth said, “a little homage-y thing.” But then Tennant used it, and now it’s being ground into a catchphrase, in the same way that the fish fingers thing became a meme and the question “Doctor Who?” became a highly important plot line. (I will leave that dangling there for a moment, just so you can take in how ridiculous it sounds.)

Actually, I was looking at a video of the ‘redecorated’ stuff on YouTube, in between deciding whether or not it was worth Photoshopping Clara into Dulux catalogue images or screengrabs from DIY SOS, with speech bubbles reading “I don’t like it” (I decided it wasn’t worth it). And I found this:


Sheesh, some of these fans are intense. I’m so glad I don’t engage in pointless debate like this.

“I wonder,” says Gareth of this latest insertion, “if the intention is so that it can be flipped around later, with hilarious effect? Maybe someone will say ‘Oh, I just love what you’ve done with the place!'”

Gareth also likens this whole thing to Clara’s observation (in ‘The Snowmen’) that the TARDIS thing is “smaller on the outside” – which, as he points out, “doesn’t make sense at all. (On the outside, it was the size that it was. You now see the inside and this is what you should comment on. It would work if you started in the TARDIS and then went outside.)”


It’s a simple example of a scene being written to fit a joke. They wanted a pan inside the TARDIS, because that was new. But Moffat also wanted that joke, presumably because it makes Clara ‘different’. It’s a thinly disguised attempt at characterisation, but it doesn’t work with the moment that precedes it. But what does that matter to the tumblr feeds?

(Two of the greatest reactions to the TARDIS, incidentally, come not from full-time companions but from the supporting cast. In 1973, Benton – acting as a substitute for the unavailable Frazer Hines – is asked by a slightly put-out Doctor whether he’s going to mention that the TARDIS is bigger on the inside, because “everybody else does”. An incredulous Benton replies “It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?” Thirty-five years and seven / eight Doctors later, depending on how you count, Bernard Cribbins is faced with the spaceship’s vast interior, only to remark that “I thought it’d be cleaner.”)

“Also,” says Gareth of the trailer, “why does the Silurian woman shout ‘free the carrots, now!’..? Maybe we’re getting a crossover with one of the silliest episodes of Lost In Space.”


“It’s clearly ‘cabbage’, not ‘carrots’,” I said.

“It was more sort of ‘cabbots’,” said Gareth, “and I thought that freeing carrots sounded more plausible.”

“Find me a picture of a space cabbage,” I said, “and we have a blog entry.”

So he did. And we do.


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