Posts Tagged With: doctor who poetry

Doctor Who and the Collaborative Poem

It’s International Poetry Day
And thus I just popped in to say
That I used to write a lot of it
Before realising it was mostly shit.

Sometimes when you write for an audience you learn a few things about yourself. When I was doing my A-levels I wrote poetry as a way of expressing the angst of a lovesick teenager. Odes to girl-of-the-week (that’s a little harsh; there were only three or four) flowed off the tongue with all the usual mixed metaphors and ill-advised cliches; next week it would be someone else. It was like that Stevie Wonder album where each song is dedicated to a different girl, something The Beautiful South parodied in ‘Song For Whoever’. Rosalind? I have forgot that name, and that name’s woe.

Of the substantial block I wrote over the next four or five years there is only one that I still like; everything else is garbage. The moment I realised this was the moment I started doing performance poetry, and adapting my writing style to suit the ageing beatniks who hung out in the local arts centre; they were a good crowd and one of them is a very talented published writer whom we always knew was destined for greatness. I got on with them, but found the poetry was suffering. It seemed a little more egocentric, more applause-orientated, than the other stuff I’d written – carefully laid-out free verse that was designed to be looked at, rather than heard. So I stopped. Years later I went back and realised the free verse was similarly dreadful. I make no apologies. Sometimes these things are like a bad curry; it’s simply a matter of getting it out of your system.

So I have no idea what’s new in poetry or what people are listening to; I just go back to the old favourites: Duffy, Heaney, Hughes, Hart Crane, and e.e. cummings (a few feet away, on my pine bookshelf, sits his collected poems, the title scandalously capitalised). These days I stick to the prose. I don’t even write songs anymore. A little streamlining never hurt anyone. “You should stick to what you’re good at, and I’m good at being a priest.”

My regular readers (both of you) will recall that a while back I did a crowd-sourced short story that involved people adding a sentence at a time until we had something tangible; I then added a couple of pictures and Brigadier’s your uncle. Today’s exercise is even more bizarre: I had the group submit random numbers. Any number they liked, as long as it came between 1 and 300. The thread swiftly exploded and I managed to get all the data I needed in a matter of minutes.

And then, using a bizarre and convoluted system that only I understand (and will not explain) I mined the transcripts (thanks, Chrissy) and pulled out the corresponding dialogue. And here, for the benefit of the general public, is what may be the world’s first crowd-sourced Doctor Who poem. Also possibly the last.

Here we go…

Wilson’s dead. Inform the Emperor Dalek
it slipped my memory. You see, I’m going for a little trip myself.
Oh, yes, yes, indeed, yes.
Is that you, Yates? Where are you?
So they’re abandoning us. They’re not even going to try

and seal the shaft. Deja Vu.
You’re sure he’s still in bed?
You are interrupting me. There’s nothing to forgive
No doubt, I shall join them.
Just get down here. Come to me.
Where am I? Let me out!

Of course I’m real. Do you know
what I did for a job when they threw me out of school?
Go along and see. Go along and see.

– Well, possibly she’s taking a stroll in the garden.
– What do you mean?
– I mean, I suppose it’s time I should be going.
– Yes, I know, but he was trying to help you.

Hey hey! Mama mia! Bellissima.
All right, I’ll take it. Greyhound
to Trap One. We will survive. We will survive. Now you will help us.

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God is in the detail (part xv)

OK, here’s a shock to the system: there is not a SINGLE visual clue in ‘Listen’. Not one.

I mean, I don’t know how to break it to you gently. It’s not that I haven’t looked. I’ve watched the episode twice (which was more than enough) and scrubbed through the whole thing looking for STUFF THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE IMPORTANT. You could quite feasibly say that I’m losing my touch, except that ‘Time Heist’ has a whole bunch of stuff, which we’ll look at another day.

However…

The clue is in the title. ‘Listen’, says the Doctor as he sits cross-legged on top of the TARDIS. ‘Listen’, reads the word on the blackboard. The rule with scripted television drama is ‘show, don’t tell’, but this week, we’re telling.

Steven Moffat loves his poems. He must sit down with a rhyming dictionary and a pint of Theakstons every series and write them all in batches. Of course, Moffat being Moffat, they’re usually of vital importance to the plot, rather than mere ornamentation. ‘Listen’ was a prime example, with a menacing nursery rhyme that asks What’s that in the mirror, or the corner of your eye?”. (Someone really should ask Paul Cornell.) There’s the wretched ‘Tick tock goes the clock’, which broke new ground by establishing itself as a recurring motif that was actually even more tedious than ‘The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon‘. Oh, and then there’s this.

24277gn

Lousy writing, but the artwork is good. I wouldn’t mind, but Zagreus did all this years ago, to much more convincing effect.

There are, I’m quite sure, blogs / Kindle publications of Doctor Who inspired poetry. I am not going to mock these, because I spent many of my formative teenage years doing that sort of thing, although I do at least have the decency to now admit that everything I ever wrote was rubbish. Besides, even bad poetry has its novelty value, as any fan of Julia A. Moore will tell you. (Vogons? Pah. I laugh in the face of Vogons.)

open-mic-opt

Still, it struck me: what sort of scope is there in ‘Listen’ to find a little message or two from the text? And it’s very simple, because it’s all in the numbers. Basically I took a transcript of the episode and wrote down every twelfth word of dialogue (ignoring stage directions and descriptive language.) I did this for the first twelve minutes. And then I punctuated it, and here’s what we had.

 

We’re there, no? If hide with detect. Clear want. Sorry – time to go straight.
Know…are my days twenty-three? Okay.
The people, seriously. Mention – don’t subject. Wrong. About making well: you mirrors in hide.
Aren’t your it. I free late, my, you.
Not proposition. Single.
If of perhaps have all. You I – same someone. So room you there.
Try. Time. Obvious is you…you under it.
Contact might your of turning on TARDIS should, when we remember,
No, we’re – no. West mid-nineties. Been children’s human. Is was to TARDIS.

We think – what name? No. Going.

 

Oh, it’s ambiguous. It’s about Clara controlling the TARDIS to find the Doctor’s true identity. It’s about waiting, it’s about hiding. Or it’s a load of gibberish. I’ll leave it to the reader. Nonetheless, I should stick in a plug here for Chrissie’s Transcripts Site, which I use for reviews, research and occasionally to check on the specifics of something Gareth has said, and which never gets the credit in here that it deserves. Anyone who’s ever looking for thorough, meticulously accurate Doctor Who scripts online really need look nowhere else. Oh, and she has her own Facebook page.

But the Twelfth Doctor is not actually the Twelfth, is he? He’s the Thirteenth, if we include the War Doctor (and it would be borderline blasphemous to leave out John Hurt, given his performance in Krapp’s Last Tape). So I did the same thing again, but starting at the thirteenth word of dialogue and then counting forward thirteen words each time. And –

 

Alone. Perfect as perfect, you.

Would those? Would do?

Bit – straight, straight. Dessert. Teaching, though.
Couldn’t. Could means was.
I’m full, taken. Mention you can. The is made, making.
Why do? What thought? Bit by it, can’t free.
Phone off.
Probably I yourself, talking single – 

 

I stopped at this point, because it really did seem to be about Danny and Clara, and that’s something I don’t really want to have to think about when I’m about to eat. You finish it.

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