Posts Tagged With: john hurt

Conversations I’ve had on Facebook this week

 

Grumpy Australasian: JOHN HURT HAS BEEN AIRBRUSHED FROM DOCTOR WHO HISTORY!

Me and several others: No he hasn’t.

GA: No one talks about him.

Me: They really do.

GA: No, check the mass media.

Me: I have. I’m afraid I just don’t see what you see.

GA: Oh, I’m sorry, Scully. This all a bit Loch Ness Monster, is it?

Me: Um.

Third party: That episode ought to have featured McGann or Eccleston.

GA: They wouldn’t fit.

Me: McGann would have fit. They were building to that in the Dark Eyes series. They just didn’t do it. Hurt fits the War Doctor narrative, but only because it was written around him.

GA: He’s still airbrushed from the media.

Me: I still can’t understand why you think that when there’s been so much coverage.

GA: I’m finding you an example.

Me: You’re finding me an example of where someone doesn’t talk about something, when I could just as easily find you several where the reverse applies?

GA: [Hits block button]

And not long after the trailer for ‘Twice Upon A Time’ had landed:

Fan: Is that the Brigadier???

Me: No.

Fan: But it might be.

Me: No, because they probably wouldn’t recast like that.

Fan: But he has a moustache.

Me:

Fan: I’m just saying, it could be him.

Me: It’s completely the wrong characterisation. And the story is set during the First World War.

Fan: Yes, but…wibbly wobbly timey wimey…

Me: [smashes monitor]

I swear. Fandom.

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Remastered: Whistle and I’ll Come To You, Explained

In the darkness, something stirs. There’s a scratching at the door. John Hurt lies on an old bed, fingering a ring he found on the beach with almost Hobbit-like intimacy. There are noises. We never find out what’s causing the disturbance. There is an ending, but as with the best horror stories, it makes comparatively little sense.

It terrified me. It terrified both of us, as I remember: the heightened emotions of Yule and the thrill of a ghostly tale told beneath a darkened, wintry sky; the sight of a suddenly lucid Gemma Jones sitting on the bed, staring directly at the camera. The moment it finished I turned on all the lights. Neither of us slept well.

“There were just lots of noises,” Emily said, when I asked her why it had affected her so much. “And nasty things happening. And I couldn’t understand it!”. This, I suppose, is the whole point: we fear what we do not understand, and the nature of the haunting that the ageing professor was experiencing was never fully explained. In the meantime I managed to spook my wife by scratching on the side of the bed, and crawling across it towards her, bellowing “I’M STILL HERE!”

I accept – without reservation – that the original is better, despite never having seen it; one set of wandering blankets is enough, thank you very much. And I wouldn’t say that the video that followed – which I completed a few weeks later, at the dawn of 2011 – was therapy. But perhaps in a way it was. Perhaps the best way to defuse the tension is to kill it with a joke. This was my favourite episode of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and it was such an obvious fit. It pairs Frank Spencer with the War Doctor. The end result jars, which is partly the type of film used and partly the aspect ratio. But the story works.

If you’ve been following this blog more or less since its inception – or if you’ve had the dedication to go back and read through all the archives, for which I thank you profusely – you’ll remember that this video is the first one I did, and the first one I wrote about here. Deciding to revisit it again this autumn (purely for the purposes of uploading it to Facebook) meant a host of mostly cosmetic changes. I fixed a couple of rough edits and took care of a couple of sound issues that I was never quite happy with. The actual structure is more or less unaltered, because it works as is. I got my fair share of negative feedback, given that it doesn’t really give the concrete answer that people might have expected from the title. It’s an explanation, but a comedic one. I honestly think people expect to be spoon-fed.

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But I do recall another night not long after we’d seen Whistle, lying in bed, cuddled, the electric moon candles I gave her for Christmas the only light in the room.

“I looked it up, and there seem to be a couple of theories,” I was telling her. “One is that the whole thing was psychosomatic. The other is that she was haunting him because he believed she was nothing more than an Alzheimer’s-ridden shell. But I don’t know.
“Something strange, though. You remember the ugly bust they had in the bedroom? Apparently Neil Cross, the writer, was staying in a hotel in Devon, probably for research or something. And that same bust was in his room and he remembered it looking inappropriately creepy for hotel decor and that probably fuelled the creative process. Later on, when they were assembling the set in the Surrey mansion they were using, he realised it would look good in John Hurt’s room so he contacted the hotel, and asked if they could borrow it. And apparently…it never existed. He showed them photos, and they said yes, it’s our hotel and it’s our room, but this bust was never here.”

Emily said nothing.

“So they had a replica made, because he could remember what it looked like, but the original just wasn’t there. Creepy stuff, isn’t it? Anyway, goodnight.”
“Shithead.”

Happy Halloween.

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Lots of planets have a North

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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8. KFC Dalek, courtesy of Thomas.

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9. Don’t blink.

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

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

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Romana’s Round-up

This week at Meme Central, anticipation builds towards the latest Pixar release.

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News comes in that Kathryn Bigelow is set to remake a Doctor Who version of The Hurt Locker.

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And in the wake of new truths concerning Captain America, comic fans react angrily to the latest developments in the adventures of the Twelfth Doctor.

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Enjoy your week.

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High on a hill lived a lonely Jedi

If you sang that, then my work is more or less done and I could probably go now. But I dropped in to expand upon this meme that’s been doing the rounds.

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I won’t linger on the Star Wars / Doctor Who thing. We did all that last year, in more ways than one. It’s just that Thomas has been on at me to do something with that final sequence ever since we saw the film back in December; only recently did I actually find decent quality images to do the Photoshopping.

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Because we were all thinking it, right?

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Review: ‘Day of the Doctor’

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Warning: contains a plethora of spoilers.

Picture the scene. It’s October 2012. In an old, oak-panelled tavern in the heart of London, two prominent BBC people are having lunch. One is Nicholas Briggs, best known on television as the voice of the Daleks / Cybermen / any other monster that needs doing. To call him the Frank Welker of Doctor Who is overstating the case, because Welker’s got a variety of voices, whereas Briggs only has the one. But Briggs also writes, and right now he’s working on the anniversary special for Big Finish, called ‘The Light At The End‘.

The other chap is Steven Moffat. And today he’s sharing stories with Briggs.

“So how does it end?”
“Well,” says Briggs, “It’s the TARDIS. Basically the Master is about to erase the Doctor from existence completely. But with a bit of – well, you’d call it wibbly-wobbliness, the Sixth Doctor is able to get all seven of his other selves – that’s all eight – to work in sync to ram the Master’s TARDIS, which saves the day. There’s a bit of technical wizardry involved, but essentially every Doctor turns up at once.”
Moffat looks crestfallen. “You’re kidding.”
“What’s the matter?”
“That’s what I’m planning.”
“Shit.”

There’s a brief, considered pause. Glasses clink in another corner of the pub. The barman wipes surfaces and pretends not to eavesdrop.

Then Moffat says “Well, we could do it anyway.”

‘Day of the Doctor’ is a weirdly schizophrenic beast. It’s an episode that’s steeped in nostalgia, whilst simultaneously pretending it’s not. It’s also a game-changer, not in the sense of redefining who the Doctor is, but what he’s done. Just as Davies pulled the rug out from under the collective feet of John Nathan Turner and every one of his predecessors, so Moffat’s done the same with Davies. How? Well, basically he changes the end of the Time War.

There is a thing in fandom where you airbrush bits and pieces from continuity if you don’t like them. So, for example, the Eighth Doctor’s ‘half human’ remark is frequently ignored by many people, who don’t like its implications and therefore attribute it to rule one. Some fans take it further still, and disregard the 1996 film entirely because of what it did to the Master. With ‘The Day of the Doctor’, Moffat’s working with extremes. The Doctor has been a genocidal warmonger since the day Eccleston took the hand of Piper and told her to run. The implication is that the Doctor has done dreadful things, and today they all got undone.

Except they didn’t. Because history probably isn’t changed – it’s just completed, and this was the day we found out. It’s not that Gallifrey was once destroyed and now isn’t; it was never destroyed in the first place. But crucially, come the end of the episode, the Doctor doesn’t know. There is a telling line halfway through when the War Doctor – John Hurt in sparkling, likeable form – talks to Clara. “How many worlds”, he says to her, “has his regret saved?”. And despite the rewriting of history (or, at least, history as we knew it), there’s a bitter irony in Hurt’s realisation that he’s going to forget everything that’s happened, because of contrasting time streams. Tennant’s Doctor, too, is forced to retreat once more into the dark shell he inhabited for much of the latter half of his run. Only Smith’s Doctor is able to escape with his memories seemingly intact, even if he then starts experiencing hallucinations in the middle of the National Gallery, ending the episode convinced he’s seen Tom Baker.

One of the nice things about ‘Day of the Doctor’ is that it doesn’t overstretch itself. Oh, the set pieces are intact, although the episode mirrors The Empire Strikes Back by putting the most impressive stuff in the opening act. Smith dangling from the edge of the TARDIS wasn’t exactly an easy secret to keep, so Moffat places it more or less at the beginning and makes it completely incidental to the plot. Also incidental – but warmly nostalgic – is the fact that Clara is now teaching at Coal Hill School. She’s clearly recovered from her thousand life ordeal, and is happy to pop off in the TARDIS at a moment’s notice.

Unshackled from her previous role as a McGuffin, Clara’s fun to watch, but she has to share the limelight. Jemma Redgrave returns as Kate Stewart, who’s apparently been living with Anne Robinson and raiding her wardrobe. Kate spends a good chunk of the episode arguing with herself from opposites side of a table, before three British character actors stick their hands in the air and all the lights go out. It’s like watching one of Beckett’s television plays.

Less nattily turned out than Redgrave is Billie Piper, who returns as a sentient consciousness that possesses three times as much personality as Rose and at least twice as much charm. If that seems harsh, bear in mind that I still have to undergo local anaesthetic before I can sit through ‘Tooth and Claw’. It’s the first time Piper’s been watchable in Who since 2005, and if she spends most of the episode impersonating Suranne Jones, her scenes are all the better for it. Even the Quantum Leap undertones (an invisible guide that only the War Doctor can see and hear) are somehow unimportant when she’s so downright sparkly, and it’s a telling reminder that our Billie can act when she’s got the right material.

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Tennant’s Doctor doesn’t have to interact with Rose, which makes his presence far more enjoyable. Instead, he’s romancing Joanna Page, playing a Queen Elizabeth who would seem more at home in The History of Tom Jones, one suspects, than at court. There are picnics and countryside frolics, and then the Doctor meets a Zygon horse. And then there’s a fez, thrown repeatedly through a big swirly thing.

The problem with the Zygon story is that it begins as the main storyline but then gets relegated to the sidelines when we realise that this is actually about the Time War, and having apparently run out of steam, Moffat doesn’t know how to resolve things. So he ends with a bunch of characters in a vault brokering a peace deal that we presume was successful, because that’s the last we hear about it. They have a role in the morality play, for certain, and their use of technology is something of a Chekhov’s gun, but overall you get the feeling that Moffat wanted the unavoidably phallic Zygons purely because he wanted the Zygons, and not because he had anything he really wanted to do with them. One of the great, criminally underused monsters of Classic Who is thus relegated to a forgettable storyline that’s been seen by millions of people who probably won’t understand what all the fuss was about.

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But if the Zygons are a disappointment, the interplay between the three Doctors makes up for it. Things start badly, with unnecessary gags about sonic screwdriver length (“Compensating for something?” mutters Tennant at seeing his successor’s longer model). But then they’re joined by an earlier incarnation and the story shifts up a gear. The three exploit their strengths to the full, making the most of every environment they occupy and turning in very different, but still very physical performances. As a result their scenes together are easily the best in the story, even if some of the dialogue is obvious and rather poorly performed (when the Tenth Doctor remarks that he doesn’t like the new TARDIS interior, one suspects that the look of indignation from Smith stems from a knowledge that he managed it better in ‘Closing Time’.)

Still, it works. Hurt’s performance helps tremendously. There was a concern that the War Doctor would be a grumpy, battle scarred veteran or a dark and sinister, almost unrecognisable figure. Instead Hurt plays him like a prospective father-in-law on a stag weekend, with a touch of Midsomer Murders. You could almost visualise him poaching rabbits from a nearby forest before seeing something he shouldn’t and winding up face down in a patch of mud, skewered by one of his own bear traps. His story has a beginning, a middle and an end – an end we finally get to see, even if the regeneration borrows directly from the very first, and is cut slightly short.

It is by this point in the story – and the subsequent scene with Baker – that you should have realised Moffat’s not taking himself too seriously. And it’s when he’s doing that that he’s at his best. Hence there is some dreadful but ultimately forgivable shoehorning. Classic lines are dumped in with as much abandon as they were in An Adventure in Time and Space, but here they work precisely because ‘Day of the Doctor’ is ultimately all about demolishing that fourth wall. As a result, the silliness all feels like part of the fun – the sort of sketches you might have at a Christmas party, and this is after all a fifty-year anniversary. I was even able to smile when Tennant discusses Trenzelore with Smith as if it’s a prospective holiday location. “We need a new destination,” he remarks as he enters his TARDIS at the end of the episode. “‘Cause I don’t wanna go”. Whereupon Smith turns to Coleman and quips “He always says that.”

It’s a story with all eleven Doctors, however briefly they may appear (and however unconvincing those cardboard cutouts / wax models they used at the end – I don’t think it was coincidental that the National Gallery is only a couple of miles from Madame Tussauds). We cried for a glimpse of Eccleston, and we got him, and somehow it didn’t matter that it was old footage with dialogue borrowed from ‘The Parting of the Ways’. Even Capaldi put in a brief appearance, albeit in an extreme close-up (the kind that would have made Wayne Campbell proud) in a scene that was most likely borrowed from The Thick of It. And the inevitable arguments that are going to follow about whether Hurt counts as Eight or Nine are entirely missing the point – although if we must, let’s call him 8a and leave it at that.

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So, too, must we ignore any sense of significance at Baker’s appearance. The scarf foreshadowed it, for certain, but his cryptic remarks about who he really was can be put down to Moffat having a joke. If the rediscovery of Gallifrey shifts the narrative focus and gives Capaldi something to do for the next couple of years, then so be it – but whatever Moffat’s posturing about “the terrible old man” and “the children he becomes”, you get the feeling that he was looking at ‘The Five Doctors’ – which Gareth describes as “more of a romp” – for inspiration. And for all the lingering over the big red button there was a sense of joy about this episode, both in its unlikely happy ending and in the final shot where the Doctor joins his previous incarnations looking up at the night sky. And what we were left with, when the extended credits had rolled, was a story about the Doctor as he was, and is, and should be, and sort of never won’t be…sort of thing. A story of importance, and one that satisfies on a narrative level, but one that was delivered with a consistent knowing wink to the audience, and a reminder that this is, after all, a television programme, and should be enjoyed as such. From Steven Moffat. Who knew?

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God is in the detail (xi)

Goodness, it’s been a while.

Revisiting ‘The Name of the Doctor’ took things in an unexpected, food-related direction. It is said that oranges are not the only fruit, and we’ll reaffirm that sentiment tonight. Without further ado, then, here’s my list of SEEMINGLY INSIGNIFICANT THINGS in the seventh series finale that are going to be OF VITAL IMPORTANCE in ‘The Day of the Doctor’, or its seasonal successor, the swansong of Smith. (Aha! Alliteration…)

Early on, we’re greeted with a nice establishing shot of the sky over Glasgow.

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Simple, right? Wrong. Look at the placement of that chimney. It’s sandwiched neatly (all right, not terribly neatly) between the ‘L’ and the ‘A’ of Glasgow. We’re clearly supposed to look at that. LA, of course, is short for Los Angeles. In other words, chimneys in Los Angeles. Well, that’s a needle in a haystack. What do we do with that?

But wait! Disney have their main studio at Burbank, Los Angeles county. And in May to September 1963 (fifty years ago – I repeat, FIFTY YEARS AGO) they were filming a now little-known musical they called Mary Poppins, after the book on which it was (somewhat loosely) based. And, of course, a notable sequence in said film involves two children traveling up and down a chimney with a magical, other-worldly guardian who has a fondness for hats, umbrellas and bow ties, and who carries a bag that’s much bigger on the inside. But I didn’t need another excuse to show this.

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The chimney sweep of the film, of course, was played by Dick Van Dyke, who became famous in later years for playing Dr Mark Sloan, which in its full form, rearranged, becomes ‘Doctor Ark Man Sol’. This is a clear reference to ‘The Ark In Space’, in which Tom Baker comes across a ship containing the cryogenically frozen remnants of humanity orbiting the Earth. Oh, and where does Dick Van Dyke live? Malibu, which – like Burbank – is part of Los Angeles County. But you knew that, didn’t you?

Onwards. Here’s the Doctor wearing an impromptu blindfold.

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With blue diamonds. You know, sort of like this opening shot from ‘Midnight’.

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CLEARLY and UNAMBIGUOUSLY a reference to whatever life form crept along the surface of that planet. And to the Tenth Doctor, who starred. And also to David Troughton, who will ALMOST DEFINITELY appear in ‘Day of the Doctor’ playing the human child of the Second Doctor, now working at UNIT and godfather to Kate Stewart’s daughter.

Now, here’s a shot at the end of the episode, when Clara lands on the ground in the middle of the ruins of …ooh, somewhere in the Doctor’s head, where she’s saved by the Eleventh Doctor. But notice the pattern the branches make.

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It’s a bow and arrow, isn’t it? And those of you who know your New Who will recall David Tennant carrying a bow at the end of ‘Blink’.

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“Got to dash,” he tells Sally Sparrow. “Things happening. Well, four things. Well, four things and a lizard.” We’re led to assume that the hatching to which Martha refers is somehow connected with the lizard. But what if it’s not? In fact, I’m fairly certain that it’s not. I’m fairly certain that the lizard is Madame Vastra, and that the use of birds (Sparrow, Nightingale) was a cryptic reference back to Jenny, whose surname – I’d be willing to bet – was Wren. See? SEE? Moffat knew what he was doing even back in 2007.

Now: you will recall this image.

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Ignore the lovely lighting. Stand on your head. Actually, don’t, because it might be easier if I just do this.

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Here, the Strax / Jenny / Vastra have clearly formed a letter F. Which refers to Dorium’s earlier prophecy about ‘The Fall of the Eleventh’ – a fall unconnected, it is now apparent, with any sort of physical downwards pull, or even a bit of appalling wordplay on the part of the chief writer. Instead, the Fall of the Eleventh is happening around us, right now, because we’re in the middle of autumn – or, as it’s named on the other side of the pond, the fall. With me? It’s the first time we’ve seen the Eleventh Doctor on screen like this in the autumn, so THIS IS THE FALL OF THE ELEVENTH.

I’ve saved the best until last. Have a look at Clara’s bedroom.

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Under her bedsheet? Well, that’s a yellow duvet and pillow set, isn’t it? Well, no. It’s a banana.

Which means I get to do this:

It’s definitely a banana. There’s no getting away from it. Bananas are synonymous throughout Doctor Who – they even have their own page in the TARDIS Wikia. We could, for example, refer to images from ‘Ghost Light’.

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Or the conversation between the Doctor and Jack in ‘The Doctor Dances’ (written by Moffat).

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Or David Tennant’s embarrassing faux-drunk routine in ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ (also written by Moffat).

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Or the image of Alex Kingston threatening the Doctor with a banana in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ (you’re sensing a theme here).

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Or we could even go to the most convoluted explanation for any riddle in TV history, courtesy of Adam West and Burt Ward:

Batman [reading]: One: “What has yellow skin and writes?”
Robin: A ballpoint banana.
Batman: Right! Two: “What people are always in a hurry?”
Robin: Rushing people? Russians!
Batman: Right again! Now, what would you say they mean?
Robin: Banana… Russian… I’ve got it! Someone Russian is gonna slip on a banana peel and break their neck!
Batman: Precisely, Robin! The only possible meaning!

But if you need any proof that this is somehow connected with New Who, and what’s about to happen, here’s a picture of John Hurt eating a banana.

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I swear. THEY JUST COME DOWN OUT OF THE ETHER AND I GRAB THEM.

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Those Day of the Doctor images re-examined

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If you’re reading this in America, chances are you won’t know of Metro, a free newspaper they give out at railway stations in London and the south east (and possibly beyond, athough I’ve never bothered to look). Metro is a tabloid publication that fills its columns with assorted celebrity gossip, mundane entertainment news and the occasional article of interest, and it’s generally read on the train or bus and then discarded for someone else to read and abandon. I look at it online because it’s usually fairly on the ball with respect to picking up Doctor Who stories, and if there’s a story development or casting change I’ll often read about it in Metro before I see it in the Guardian (who have bigger, Daily Mail-shaped fish to fry).

It was while browsing through Metro yesterday that I discovered the BBC’s newly released publicity stills from ‘Day of the Doctor’. A trailer is still forthcoming, of course, and as far as I’m concerned it can be forthcoming until the 23rd November, because I already know more about the special than I’d like (which is entirely my own fault) and, as I’ve always maintained, Doctor Who was better in the old days when there was less courting of the press. The announcements and teasers are necessary, of course, because social media (and the internet in general) has created a culture of leaks, but it was more fun when we genuinely didn’t know what was coming.

Still. To be fair to the Beeb, the new stills don’t show us anything of any real interest. There are no monsters, and the only recognisable location outside the TARDIS is the National Gallery, in a scene that was already widely publicised when it was filmed earlier this year. The sheer mundanity of most of the images begs the question of why on earth they were released, but (in the absence of the aforementioned trailer) I suppose the BBC impresarios felt they had to do something to keep up the momentum, now that the hype from the rediscovered Troughton is dying down.

So for the most part these images are impossible to really examine in any depth, although that didn’t stop certain people trying. In a Metro blog entry entitled ‘What do the new The Day of the Doctor photos reveal about the 50th anniversary special?’ (to which the standard answer is surely ‘Not a great deal’), a chap called Dan Wilson – who describes himself as a “Whovian, Blue Peter Badge winner, barfly and flaneur” – adds to his impressive list of writings with an examination of the stills. Except he’s not able to come up with anything substantial, so he either points out the obvious or makes it up. “His hair looks good,” he says of Matt Smith. “Let’s hope the Christmas wig looks as glorious.”

It doesn’t get better: Wilson points out that Tennant is piloting his coral TARDIS, before rather hilariously describing it as “vintage”. This is like describing Downton Abbey as “iconic” (and this is, coincidentally, exactly what the Independent did the other week). He then goes on to talk about Hurt’s “beaten leather jacket” and “general demeanour”, before later remarking “goodness me ten and eleven (if that’s what we should be calling them now) don’t look that glad to see him”, failing to note that all three of them (well, two and a half) appear to be looking with some concern at something off-camera. Perhaps it’s Billie Piper’s dental records.

I’m not going to blame Dan for all this: he writes well enough, and the fact that he’s grasping at straws here is a safe bet that this was a commission from the powers that be, rather than anything he actually wanted to do himself. But honestly. The fact of the matter is that these images are designed to get everyone filling in holes – although to be fair to Mr Wilson, he is very good at spotting Hurt’s red sonic screwdriver, the colour of which clearly indicates that he is engaging in some dubious moral practices. (Gareth once pointed out to me that the end of Return of the Jedi could have been greatly improved if, when Darth Vader had told his son to turn to the Dark Side, Luke had examined his green lightsaber and said “Are you absolutely sure? It does mean changing the bulb“.)

Anyway, if you want these images to say anything, you need to make them talk. So I did.

The last one will mean nothing to you if you’ve not seen ‘The Three Doctors’, but that’s your own fault. You really should watch it. Go on! Skedaddle. It’ll give you something to do while we’re waiting for that trailer.

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Doctor Hurt

It’s been far too long since we had a video, and today I bring you not one, but two.

There’s a catch, of course. They’re two different versions of the same piece, presented in two different forms for reasons I will shortly divulge. But the lesson you need to take from this today is that less is sometimes more. There’s a reason why ‘Midnight’ is one of my favourite episodes of series four, and the first instalment of ‘The Ark in Space’ is one of the best twenty minutes of 1970s television. Budget problems have cursed Doctor Who for decades, but doing things on the cheap does allow for inspired bouts of creativity in the right hands.

Anyway. That John Hurt chap. Who is he, and does anyone really care? Well, I don’t, because whatever they do with him he will be chronically underused. Hiring big names and giving them nothing to do seems to be the hallmark of series seven (cf. Richard E. Grant, David Warner, Diana Rigg) and already there is a shedload of speculation about whether John Hurt is playing the Ninth Doctor, an aged version of the Eighth, the Valeyard or even the very First Doctor, mostly in the form of lazy, semi-coherent YouTube vlogs recorded on badly-positioned webcams. Cue a hundred comments underneath, most of which involve poor spelling and a smattering of bad language, and that’s just the ones that bother talking about the show.

The short answer is we don’t know, and it’ll probably be disappointing – so instead of looking forward, I looked backward. Because it occurred to me, almost as soon as the episode aired, that Mr Hurt’s tied to certain visual images, at least in my head. One of them is the shot of him sitting in a car with Jason Priestley in the poster for Love and Death on Long Island. Another is the time he lampooned his role in Alien by giving birth to a singing extra-terrestrial baby, in a scene which parodies both Ridley Scott and Michigan J. Frog. And the third? Well, that would be Whistle and I’ll Come To You.

Those of you who’ve followed my video posts from the outset will recall that I’ve talked about Whistle and I’ll Come To You before. It was, indeed, the very programme that kick-started this little hobby, and revisiting it in the last week or two seemed oddly circular. If you haven’t seen it, you really should, largely because it’s utterly terrifying: there is no CGI, no overwrought score, and only a bare bones cast, with Andy De Emmony favouring slow buildups and long, dialogue-free passages where Hurt sits brooding in his hotel room or imagines he’s seen a ghost on the beach. It is apparently vastly inferior to the 1968 version, which I really should get round to seeing, but as a ghost story in its own right it’s minimalist and thoroughly successful, largely as a result of leaving so many questions unanswered come the closing credits.

This basically came about because of ‘The God Complex’, a similarly creepy episode of New Who, which manages to tease out the suspense by keeping the minotaur largely hidden for most of the story (it’s only in the closing minutes, with the final deconstruction of the hotel and the tacked-on epilogue, that the episode is in danger of unravelling). No one ever found out what was in the Doctor’s room, but for me the answer was apparent more or less the moment that John Hurt turned round at the end of series seven. It just seemed an obvious gag. Then I tried to turn it into a video, and all hell broke loose.

In the first instance, this was suffering from lack of clear direction. If you could use Whistle… as a basis for that hotel scene, why not stop there? Why not stick in footage from more of Hurt’s performances? And so I thumbed through the DVD collection to see what I could find. I’d envisaged him landing on LV-426 in his space suit and encountering David Tennant in ‘The Satan Pit’, or Matt Smith in ‘Hide’. Then I remembered that Fox are notoriously picky about what they allow online (YouTube footage from Alien, in particular, seems to be pretty sparse). Or I’d thought of him running into Daleks during his death scene in Hellboy, except that this sequence is compiled chiefly from over-the-shoulder angles that make it obvious he’s being interrogated by Karel Roden. There is an earlier scene which showed promise, but at this point I was bored with the idea.

Then there’s Harry Potter. Specifically there’s the bit  in Deathly Hallows Part II when Harry interrogates Ollivander in the upstairs bedroom of Shell Cottage. Which is fine, if you can find something suitable with which to match it. But all I wound up doing was wrecking emotionally laden scenes from ‘Blink’ and ‘Vincent and the Doctor’. So I gave up, and concentrated exclusively on Whistle…, which features various bedroom scenes (and that sounds far more kinky than it actually is, unless you’re mysteriously turned on by vanishing rugs and hammering on the door, which indicates you have a bedroom farce fetish). There are also a couple of beach sequences, which lent themselves to obvious throwbacks to – well, you’ve seen it now, so there’s no need to elaborate.

Except. Except! Our poor Mr Hurt spends half his time running away from ghosts when he’s on that beach. And I immediately thought of the pterodactyls-that-aren’t-really-pterodactyls in ‘Dinosaurs’. So I stuck that in as well, and then found that the lighting was completely off key, suggesting that they filmed that scene in the middle of winter. What you can see in the video at the bottom of this post is footage that’s had the brightness cranked up and the colour saturated, and even then it doesn’t look great. But I ran with it, because it basically hung together, by the skin of its teeth. The beach and hotel room scenes didn’t seem quite enough, at least not where the rule of three was concerned, so I added a bit where Hurt climbs the stairs and comes face to face with a Weeping Angel.

And it doesn’t really work. I mean, it sort of does. But I don’t have a clue what it’s doing there. Really, it should have been Hurt coming face to face with another Doctor, who stared back – a silent Mexican standoff. Or perhaps Gabriel Woolf in a gorilla mask. The whole thing felt rather flabby, and Gareth said so when I let him see the preview. “It would work better without the Angel,” he said (and I’m paraphrasing), “because I don’t see the point of it. And it’s confusing having the two Doctors stepping out of the TARDIS, and then seeing the Eleventh turn up. And there’s a jarring contrast in lighting between the dinosaur scenes and the John Hurt scenes.”

And he’s right, of course. So I uploaded a leaner version, and that’s probably what I’ll wind up using in emails and other plugs. Nonetheless, the original stays, and is accessible below, because it gives an idea of what I was trying to do – an experiment that didn’t quite work. Paradoxically Gareth and I were talking just last week about some of the extras on the 2 Entertain Doctor Who DVDs, and how some of them contain single jokes that are stretched to breaking point (a notable example of this being The Elusive David Agnew). And that’s something I could have done with remembering here. Sometimes if you scale things back, they’re far more effective.

Still. Dinosaurs. On a beach!

Categories: Crossovers, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In the darkroom

This time last year, I discovered video editing.

It happened during a screening of Whistle and I’ll Come To You – the 2010 remake, starring John Hurt in the Michael Hordern role. The general consensus is that this adaptation is a pale shadow of the original. Not having seen the original – nor having read the story on which it is based – I’m not in a position to judge. Suffice to say it terrified us: even devoid of half the original characters and, indeed, the eponymous whistle, it was still a chilling ghost story, with compelling narrative ambiguity, slow-burning scares and an ending that gave me nightmares. (There is something in that final sequence that is very reminiscent of Twin Peaks. If you’ve seen it, you’ll see what I mean.)

It was during the aforementioned screening that Emily – who, I think, wanted a respite from the night terrors that seemed to be affecting her even more than they were me – suggested that the noises and bumps that James Parkin could hear weren’t ghosts at all. I’d dabbled with video before when I was transferring our wedding footage to DVD, but doing something like this was a new experience. The resulting mashup can be seen on YouTube, but I’ve embedded it at the bottom of this entry. I won’t give away the surprise.

What was jarring in the first instance was the number of dislikes I was getting – three, at the last count, which isn’t many, but when it’s your first YouTube feedback the effect it has on your morale can be catastrophic. (It’s very easy, I’ve found, to hop online and leave scathing, unconstructive feedback which gives no rationale for your apparent dislike. It’s harder to actually create something.) Looking at it again now, there are things I don’t like about it: the structure is wobbly and uneven and I’m not entirely convinced by some of the editing. But it hangs together, just about, and there are moments of goodness. And it opened a metaphorical floodgate because I suddenly realised that much of my thought process consisted of random mashups and silliness, and this was a way of transforming them into something tangible.

The stuff I do can be subdivided into two main categories: mashups, which are usually quite silly, and montages, which are usually not. The mashups emphasise the quirkier side of my sense of humour, and most of them speak for themselves. Some work better than others. The montages are usually collections of images designed to invoke an emotional response. For example, I was driving home one afternoon listening to Bat For Lashes when I suddenly had a half-formed video come into my head, consisting entirely of images from Matt Smith’s first season in the TARDIS. It just seemed to work. So I put it together. And it worked reasonably well. People heap scorn upon these bastardised creations, citing them as examples of internet laziness where users just nick existing stuff and chop and change it and call it their own. There’s a certain amount of justification in such a viewpoint, but it beats hanging out on Facebook all day, or shouting your mouth off on the Daily Mail forums.

Anyway, I’ve spent the last twelve months building up a reasonable portfolio, and over the next few weeks I’ll showcase them here. The YouTube channel gets its fair share of hits, but a good number of them are actually Doctor Who related, and thematically they fit. In the meantime I shall leave you with the unfortunate Mr Hurt and his unwelcome bedfellows. Switch the lights out when you leave.

Categories: Crossovers, Videos | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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