Posts Tagged With: michelle gomez

The Mary Whitehouse Experience

The main ground floor atrium of the Buffalo Wings Research and Development Centre in East Herefordshire was light, spacious, and currently empty. The rays of the afternoon sun flooded through a generous panel of windows spanning most of the length of the room, which was about half the size of a football pitch and a lot less muddy. Ornate columns of off-white marble stood near the glass staircase that led to the atrium’s upper balcony. It held the sort of acoustics most orchestral conductors only dream of, but besides the hum of an air conditioning unit, the chamber was utterly silent.

This was about to change.

All at once the silence was punctuated by a wheezing, groaning sound. It was a sound of intrigue; it was a sound of excitement and adventure; it was above all a sound of hope. It was emanating from an ageing caretaker whose job it was to make sure the room was empty, once an hour, every hour. He shambled out of his cupboard, limping on wobbly, rheumatic legs, gave a vaguely satisfied grunt, and then wheezed and groaned his way back to the armchair in the darkened corner he’d reserved for snoozing.

He did not see the arrival of the police box, which turned up out of nowhere just a couple of minutes later. The door swung open and a middle-aged grey-haired man stepped out, followed by a woman young enough to be his space daughter. The middle-aged man had taken on a variety of appearances over his uncountable lifespan, and had often been described as having a pleasant, open face, but the one he currently wore was neither pleasant nor open. He usually looked like the Demon Headmaster’s stunt double, unless he smiled, which had the effect of creating the sort of sinister, slightly deranged expression that people usually crossed the street to avoid.

He surveyed the room, and harrumphed.

“Bland. Lifeless.” He sniffed the air. “Thursday. I hate Thursdays.”

“Don’t tell me,” said Clara Oswald, who was gazing around with folded arms and a weary expression. “You never could get the hang of them.”

“Haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about. In any case: Herefordshire!” He threw both arms up to the sky and opened his mouth wide in mock enthusiasm. “The Buffalo Wings R&D Centre, home to the latest scientific enhancements in multimedia.”

“And we’re here because…?”

The Doctor was running his screwdriver across the desk, scanning. “They’ve got some fancy new device that lets you walk around inside your favourite TV shows.”

Clara frowned. “Hang on, you don’t even like TV.”

“Correct! But,” said the Doctor, pocketing the screwdriver, “the tech is years out of date.”

“Ah.” The penny dropped. “This is a nostalgia fetish, isn’t it?”

“No, I mean years the other way. Way, way too advanced for this time period. Which means…” The Doctor was feeling under the desk for something. “There’s something up.”

His hand reached a button, and a door on the first floor landing swung open. “To be precise, it’s up there.”

***

The Doctor couldn’t be quite sure what happened next.

There was a curiously empty room in this even more curiously empty research centre – why, why, why hadn’t he stopped to wonder why it was so quiet? – and then the stand-mounted CRT television had risen out of the floor like the booby-trapped idol rising out of the ground in some terrible adventure flick, and then the Doctor had touched its edge and then the big red button in the middle and the glass partition that dropped from the ceiling had separated him from Clara. And then the black-and-white static on the TV seemed to bulge at the edges, gaining substance, leaking its way out of the glass and swelling like a balloon, and then getting taller and taller and then it was rising around him like a fog and enveloping him completely –

– and then he was falling and falling and flying through a whirlwind of stars and swirls and bits of circuitry, and the wind was howling like a gale, and he could

not feel his own body, and the colours were like that excessively lengthy sequence at the end of that Kubrick film that always bored him to tears, and somewhere in the distance he could hear the sound of crackling, only — no, it wasn’t crackling, it was applause, studio applause, and then he could hear a distorted voice crying “It’s Friday… It’s five to five… It’s CRACKERJACK!”

***

He blinked, and adjusted his eyes. Why couldn’t he see?

No. He could, but for some reason the world had faded to monochrome. The Doctor had no idea why. He also had no idea why he felt so old, all of a sudden, or why his neck felt suddenly both constricted and warm. He looked down at the cravat that dangled from his shirt collar, and examined the wrinkled fingers. Looked down at his feet; noticed the cane propped up against the wall nearby.

Ah. Of course. He was both older and younger, trapped in a previous body. His first. Possibly his first; it was difficult to tell. And apparently he still had his memories, although they were a little fuzzy – rather like the world around him, which seemed to have lost definition. Things looked grainy.

It was a testament to the Doctor’s resilience that he did not immediately freak out. Instead, he got his bearings. The studio was staged and curtained and a live audience of gaggling school children sat watching as a plain-suited gentleman explained how the next game worked. Before the Doctor knew it, he was being handed a variety of prizes, which he was expected to hold, all at once, in an ever-expanding pile. A wooden Dalek-themed jigsaw. A bumper box of sweet cigarettes. A vinyl copy of ‘I’m Gonna Spend My Christmas With A Dalek’. A TARDIS-themed bagatelle game. A doll that was presumably supposed to look like him, although it did not.

His ageing fingers fumbled at the last one and the doll dropped to the ground; there was a chorus of ‘ahhs’ and a bit of laughter, and one of the floor runners emerged from the wings carrying something large and, under normal circumstances, green. A cabbage. The presenter received it with a smirk, and then balanced it on top of the Doctor’s haphazard pile, where it rolled from left to right and back again while the Time Lord tried desperately to steady it.

“I don’t suppose you have any celery?” he asked hopefully.

***

Zap.

There was a moment’s disorientation while the Doctor tried to work out why he was suddenly in the English countryside.

What had happened was this: he had been ripped out of one plane of existence and into another, as if someone had changed the channel. The world was no longer black and white, although the colour didn’t feel quite right to him. He scratched his head, and was alarmed at the sensation.

The Doctor felt the moptop he’d suddenly accumulated, and looked down at the checked trousers.

Ah.

He gazed around him at the scene: the brightly-painted houses lining the edges of an idyllic village square. People milled about, going into and out of buildings, moving with a stiff-legged gait. Most of them were too far away for him to see them clearly, but there was something about them that seemed off.

“This is another fine mess ye’ve gotten us inteh, Doctor.”

He turned to identify the voice, and found himself face to face with Jamie McCrimmon.

“Hello, Jamie,” he said. “Are you really here?”

“I’m as here as you are, Doctor. Wherever here is.”

“Some sort of English pastoral scene, I shouldn’t wonder. But none of it looks quite real.”

It didn’t. The buildings and the shrubberies, while brightly hued, lacked a level of depth. The colours were too vivid, the designs too simple, the flowers all identical and stiff, as if they had been cut from fabric and then glued in place. The people, too, were moving in a slow and almost robotic manner, buying fish and walking dogs and waving at passers by, and doing so in complete silence.

“And look at the locals,” said Jamie, as if reading his thoughts. “They havenae any mouths!”

So that was it. The Doctor wondered why he hadn’t noticed already, but now that he had, it was obvious: aside from the occasional moustache, the beady-

eyed villagers were featureless from the nose down. The effect was uncanny, and not a little unsettling.

“My goodness,” said the Doctor. “It’s extraordinary.”

“It’s creepy, is what it is.” Jamie was tutting. “Are you no gonna tell me what’s goin’ on?”

“I seem to have been forced to relive classic television series from the point of view of my previous selves.”

“What — all of them?”

“Mmm, well, at this stage I simply don’t know. Perhaps just the old favourites. Anyway, I’m hopping through time at the whim of some unknown entity or person, dropping in and out of programmes seemingly at random, accompanied, it would appear, by various friends and companions from my past. There’s no apparent pattern established as yet, so the best I can do is to leap through from programme to programme until I can find a way to escape.”

“That’s a shedload of exposition, Doctor.”

“Yes, Jamie, it was a big one.”

It went dark. Not after-sunset-dark, but partial-eclipse-dark: the sun (which looked, now the Doctor came to regard it, rather like the bulb from an angle-poised lamp) all but disappeared as a colossal head swam into view.

Jamie balked. “Would ye look at the size o’ that thing!”

The head spoke: its voice was booming but also very polite. “Here is Camberwick Green, where everyone is going about their business.”

“What’s that he’s speaking into?” Jamie asked.

“It’s a microphone. I think he’s — ”

The giant head opened its mouth again. “Hello, Doctor!”

“Oh! Oh, I say! Are you — ”

But the head wasn’t addressing him. It was addressing the bearded gentleman in the top hat who was climbing out of a vintage car. The Doctor looked at the car and felt a pang of nostalgia, which was instantly undone as the bearded gentleman walked toward him, brandishing a scalpel.

“Are you busy on your rounds?”

The bearded gentleman stopped, looked up and gave an exaggerated nod.

“Are you going to deal with the outsiders?”

Nod.

“And how are you going to do that?”

The bearded gentleman looked at the Doctor and Jamie with glowing red eyes. He brandished the scalpel.

“Oh,” said Jamie. “Oh, sh-”

***

Zap.

And now he was in a strange, slightly drab suburban house, minimalist and monochromatic, like an unfinished drawing. Cupboards and doors appeared to have been sketched, the lines carelessly contoured. Most annoying of all there was nowhere to sit, and apart from two long tables at chest height the place was all but empty. Some of the paintwork was gay, and a window looked out on a serene garden bathed in artificial light, but it really was the most cheerless room, a wooden box full of toys and a small bookshelf the only concessions to fun.

The Doctor looked down at himself, and nearly fell over the thick scarf he was now wearing, stretching up and around his neck at least twice and trailing out behind him like a multicoloured knitted wedding gown. It had the air of a garment that had been assembled by some elderly lady who’d got too enthused with her task and hadn’t known when to stop. Still, it would be handy in a cold snap, like a summer’s afternoon in Frinton.

The crown of his head felt warm. The Doctor loosened the hat he found up there and a mass of curls sprang out, wiry and unruly. Instinctively, he licked just behind his lips. “Hmm. I know these teeth.”

A door at the end of the room was opened by a young lady wearing a green cashmere jumper, a pleated skirt, and saddle shoes. At least she looked young, and might not have objected to the adjective. The Doctor happened to know she was only a hundred and twenty-six.

“Hello, Romana,” he said, all curls and familiar teeth.

“God,” she said. “This place is like an interior designer’s nightmare!”

“It is rather dull round the edges, isn’t it?” said the Doctor, knocking on the tables for signs of secret compartments, or woodworm. “Have you encountered any other life forms?”

Romana sighed. “Well, actually — ”

Hot on her heels was an impudent teenager dressed in mustard yellow. The Doctor’s heart sank. Here was a complicated and wearisome history he’d hoped never to revisit, even in a possible hallucination.

The teenager was in the middle of a ferocious argument with someone who was apparently not Romana. “For pity’s sake, I only asked if I could borrow it! Just for a moment! I want to work out where we are.”

He looked around, confused, as if having lost something. “Wait — where’d he — ”

An ugly, rugby-ball shaped creature that seemed to be made of felt suddenly popped up behind the table. Its eyes were large and frog-like, and bizarrely it had a many-toothed zip for a mouth.

“Well, you can’t!” it said, in a voice like an unfiltered Dalek. “It’s mine!” And then, as a sort of half-formed postscript, “I don’t like sharing.”

Adric folded his arms and regarded the creature contemptuously. “Well, if you’re going to be selfish about it then no one’s going to want to be your friend.”

“I’ve got lots of friends!” The creature waved the compass in its hand in indignation. “More than you.”

“What on Gallifrey is it, Doctor?” asked Romana. “And how did it just appear like that?”

“Yes,” said Adric. “How did you do that? You were right behind me when we were arguing upstairs.”

“Some sort of teleportation device,” said the Doctor. “Or perhaps it floats. Look.” He peered behind the counter. “It doesn’t have any legs.”

“Or genitals,” remarked Romana.

“Hey!” the zip-like creature said. “Do you mind? That’s private.”

It was at this point that the bear wandered in. He was six foot tall, with black beady eyes behind a mass of shaggy brown fur.

“Zippy?” he began. “Have you seen my — ” and then stopped. “Ooh! Visitors!”

“How’d you do?” said the Doctor, with a congenial smile. “I’m the Doctor, and this is Romana. Oh, and that’s Adric, squabbling with your pet.”

The bear looked momentarily blank; it took no visible effort. “Eh? Oh, Zippy’s not a pet. He lives here. With me, and George, and Geoffrey. They’re out at the dentist. George needs a filling done.”

“Yeah,” said Zippy. “Too many sweets.”

The bear wagged an accusatory finger. “You can talk, greedy-guts!”

“I never eat sweets!” Zippy cried. “I don’t even like them!”

The Doctor knew a lady protesting too much when he saw one, and was already fishing the bag out of his pocket. “Ah,” he said. “I suppose you won’t want a jelly baby, then.”

You would think it impossible for a pair of fabric eyes to light up, but somehow the zip-shaped thing managed it. “Jelly babies? They’re my favourite!” And, grabbing the bag in a three-fingered paw, he stuffed its entire contents into his mouth.

The Doctor regarded him, amused. “Well now, Adric,” he said. “It would seem congratulations are in order. We’ve found someone even more obnoxious and annoying than you.”

Adric rolled his eyes in the manner of an over-acting waif straight out of stage school. “Oh, fuck off, Tom.”

“So it’s just the two of you?” said Romana, anxious to change the subject before things escalated into a full-on brawl. “Here in this house, on your own?”

“Only for a moment,” said Bungle. “We’ve got a babysitter.”

“Yes,” piped up Zippy. “Actually, we’ve got three of them!”

From just outside, there was a chorus of “Hello!” and “Coo-ee!” and at least one “Bollocks, what have I stepped in?” The trio who walked in were all human in appearance, although the woman’s skirt was far too short for daytime children’s

television and the dungarees were the sort of fashion disaster the Doctor hadn’t seen since 1976.

“Seems Eldrad lived after all,” he muttered to himself.

“Hello!” said the bearded man. “We didn’t know you had company.”

“Oh, we’re just passing through,” said Romana, to which the Doctor added “Though we’re glad we stayed. You look to be a cheery threesome.”

The short-skirted woman went red. “Threesome? No, none of that,” she said, far too quickly. “We’re just friends.”

“We’re time travellers,” explained Adric, in the sort of patronising know-it-all voice that always got on the Doctor’s unmentionables. “Only, we got lost.”

“Hey!” the curly-haired young man who looked like he was eyeing up Romana suddenly piped up. “We know a song about getting lost, don’t we?”

“Ooh, yes!” The three of them came round to the front of the table into the big space in the middle of the room. “Shall we sing it to you all?”

“Please don’t,” suggested the Doctor, but of course it was too late.

Mirth-driven, minor-keyed synthesised muzak filled the room like the smell from fish that had been left in the sun for a week, and then Jane’s troubled soprano took up the narrative –

“I was driving to Milton Keynes one day
Saw Tony Blackburn, then drove the other way
But before I knew what was happening to me
I took a wrong turn off the A33

I was lost! Lost! In the English countryside
Found a jolly farmer and he took me for a ride
But we crashed into a haystack, and down on me he went
Couldn’t get him off, and his tractor shaft was bent – ”

“Doctor!” whispered Romana urgently. “You don’t take the A33 to Milton Keynes!”

“Lost! Lost! Oh, what am I to do
I’ve got into an accident, and I can’t find the – ”

Later, the Doctor would wonder where the music was coming from; there had been no sign of any speakers.

***

Zap.

The first thing to note was that he was completely naked. The Doctor scratched his head – which seemed much easier, given that it now had far less hair – and tried to work out whether this had happened before. There was that time in Madrid, of course, after Drax’s stag party, but —

He blinked and sat up. He was in the TARDIS. The console room gleamed like an army of fireflies sitting on the hem of a spangled evening gown in direct sunlight; the Doctor wondered whether he ought to turn down the brightness settings.

He felt his throat. Scottish, again. Shorter. His hand trailed along the floor and brushed against something soft and fluffy lying next to the console: a blonde wig.

From outside, he thought he could discern a jaunty melody; some sort of hornpipe. Then there was a knock on the door. “Five minutes, Mr McCoy!”

The Doctor panicked. There appeared to have been some terrible misunderstanding. Frantically, he looked around for his clothes. Didn’t he wear a v-neck? A v-neck with question marks?

Well, it wasn’t here. Scrambling together what he could, the Doctor headed for the exit just as the TARDIS door opened and a chirpy BBC voice said “the new Doctor Who, Sylvester McCoy!”

The Doctor blinked as he entered the blazing lights of the Blue Peter studio. That was the final straw; as far as the console room was concerned, he was going dark. Or had he already? It was a job to remember when you weren’t quite yourself.

For not the first time in this hallucination, the woman standing outside to greet him looked oddly familiar. She was going on about the Pied Piper.

“And what are you going to be wearing?” she asked him.

“I’m not quite sure yet,” said the Doctor. “It’s a secret.” He looked about, his eyes darting anxiously from left to right, for signs of an exit, or his actual clothes. At least the hat was right.

“And which planet are you going to be visiting first?”

Christ. What was this, Twenty Questions? The dog bounded over, wagging its tail. The Doctor hoped it was house trained.

“Do you want to come with me to my planet?” he asked, half-meaning it, half-wishing he could remember the name of the bloody place.

The interview over, the Doctor popped back inside his TARDIS in search of a stiff drink. There were footsteps — tap shoes on linoleum — from the corridor outside, and in walked a disgruntled redhead, wearing a leotard and a sour expression and picking what appeared to be blue ostrich feathers out of her bushy hair.

“Mel?” said the Doctor. “Where have you been?”

“The Pink Windmill,” was the reply. “Seriously. Don’t ask.”

***

Zap.

The Doctor and Rose — he in a leather coat, she in a crop top — were striding down a hill somewhere on a remote Scottish island.

“All I’m saying is, PC Plum is clearly gay,” Rose was saying. “And so is Archie. And they’ve clearly got eyes for each other. So why doesn’t Miss Hoolie see it?”

“Haven’t a clue,” replied the Doctor, cheerily. “Tangled webs of unrequited love are way out of my comfort zone. I’m more concerned about that signal.”

“That, and Miss Hoolie’s wardrobe.”

“She wears the same clothes. Every day!” The Doctor shook his head and examined the readings on his screwdriver. “I can’t imagine ever doing that.”

Rose fingered the hem of his jacket. “I bet you can’t.”

“Still. Balamory’s a catchy name.” The Doctor put away the screwdriver. “Should commit it to memory. Might come in handy.”

“Oh, when will you ever need — ”

From the bottom of the hill, at what looked like Pocket and Sweet’s, there was a sudden, violent explosion, followed by cries of “EXTERMINATE!”

“Contractual obligation of the Daleks!” The Doctor grinned. “Fan-tas-tic!”

***

Zap.

And now he was walking along the harbour of a fishing village on the Yorkshire coast and there was a man who looked like Wilf chatting to a woman who looked like Martha and a man who looked like the man who’d tried to sacrifice Donna to the queen of the spiders…

***

Zap.

A blank, white space, bright and featureless. A noise that might have been a tuning fork.

“God,” said the Doctor. “This is The Mind Robber again, isn’t it?”

“Not quite,” said a familiar voice.

The Doctor rubbed at his eyes; he could hear the click of heels on a wooden floor. The voice continued as its owner swam into focus. “There’s an old joke. The BBC only has thirty actors and about a dozen sets, all recycled. I’m wondering how many you ran into.”

“Well, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised,” said the Doctor, getting unsteadily to his feet. “Hello, Missy.”

“Hello, dear.” The buttoned jacket was porpoise grey, the boots a dark yellow. “Have a pleasant journey?”

He was himself again; moreover, he was back where he had been, albeit on the other side of the room, away from the TV. “Where’d you get the tech? And where’s Clara?”

“She ate my last wine gum, so I killed her,” said Missy. “As to your first question, I built it myself.”

“You built an immersive television?” said the Doctor. “For what? Is this because they wouldn’t let you on Strictly?”

“Immersive!” Missy expelled a gush of air from the sides of her mouth. “You and your understatement. This is next level, sonny jim. We’re talking full engagement. People who believe they’re actually in the shows I assign them to!”

“Why would you want that?”

“Because it’s criminally expensive, which means the richest and most powerful people on the planet are going to be queuing up to have a go. What else do you buy the man who has everything?” Missy was wandering up and down the chamber, in that curious little dance she often performed. “Rock stars, premier league footballers… politicians.” She gave a wicked smile. “And once they’re in…”

“You’ve got them where you want them.”

“Bing! Gold star for the underperformer from Gallifrey. What you saw was the prototype; I just needed to run a few calibration tests to check the damned thing works. Tweak here, bit of wire twisting there… presto! I can have them say anything I want them to say.”

“So I’m your guinea pig?”

Missy pawed with her hands. “Squeak, squeak.”

The Doctor had been moving across the room, casually circling until he was next to the antique television, which stood in its mounted stand like a museum centrepiece. “The enduring appeal of television. God, talk about using their own weaknesses against them.”

The door at the end burst open; it was Clara with a fire axe. “Doctor! Doctor, I — oh.”

“I’m fine.” The Doctor greeted her with a raised eyebrow. “You look like Jack Nicholson.”

“Very funny.” Clara dropped the axe to the floor, where the blade embedded itself in the wood. “So what’s all this?”

“Never mind ‘what’s all this’; where’ve you been all this time?”

“I was gone for thirty seconds!”

“Ah.” The Doctor nodded. “It’s like Narnia, then. Felt rather longer.”

“I’ve just taken your boyfriend on a little trip,” said Missy, beaming nastily at Clara. “I think it did him good.”

“Bit inconsistent, though,” said the Doctor. “I mean it was — ”

“God!” Missy threw up her hands. “You’re such a fanboy. Always wanting stuff to make sense.”

“I just don’t understand why everything else was BBC, and then you had one, just one from ITV… ”

“Look. I like Rainbow, okay?” Missy leaned on the edge of the TV; she was glaring at him contemptuously. “You know me well enough to know my tastes are eclectic. Or are you losing your memory as well as your looks?”

“Ohh, no,” said the Doctor, taking a step back. “I have a long memory. In fact…”

He dropped a wink at Clara.

“It’s almost as long as yours.”

Hefting the axe, the Doctor threw it handle first at the big red button.

Missy was a foot the wrong side of the glass screen when it slammed to the floor. She hammered on it in a fury. “Let me out!”

“You’ve got a fire axe,” the Doctor pointed out reasonably as the static began to fill the room.

Too late, Missy remembered the axe. She picked it up and began to pound at the toughened glass, but even as the first crack appeared, the widening static enveloped her completely, and she was gone.

“Don’t worry,” said the Doctor to Clara. “We’ll get her out.”

“Yeah,” Clara replied. “In about… ooh, thirty seconds.”

***

Zap.

The Master looked at the forest in which he’d landed. It was impossibly sculpted, like a Capability Brown. Bright paths led here and there, and an ornately coloured bridge stood over a cave big enough for a small bear. The Master looked at the trees, some of the grandest he’d ever seen, and the brightly coloured birds that sang a strange song that sounded almost human.

He checked himself over. Blast! He was old. No matter. Age was no barrier, merely a temporary impairment. He would deal with the Doctor in due time, once he found a way out of these woods.

The Master walked across to the cave, noting the presence of two tiny houses, a large bush with three holes, and what looked very much like a hospital bed. He would deal with the alpha predator first, and then assume command of whatever hellhole he’d been cast into.

“I am usually referred to as the Master,” he announced, at the cave entrance. “Universally.” He stopped to wonder whether this was actually true, realised it wasn’t, and decided it was a matter for another time. “I come in triumph and in conquest, and you will obey me.”

There was a pause, and then a small brown fluffy creature ambled out of the darkness, carrying a sponge.

“Makka Pakka?” it said, and then, with a gentle, loving touch, it began to wash the Master’s face.

The Master sighed. It was going to be a long night.

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Have I Got Whos For You (WE WON THE ELECTION edition)

Well. The new I’m A Celebrity lineup is shit, isn’t it?

I don’t know. They’re all in a castle. Isn’t this a bit of a missed opportunity? Couldn’t they get someone with stilts and a hood to chase them round and burn them? That’d be more entertaining than watching Shane Ritchie eat bugs. I swear, I’ve had dental work that was less painful.

We can, at least, console ourselves with the news that The Vicar of Dibley is making a long-overdue and ostensibly ‘welcome’ return, although it will probably be not terribly funny and there’ll be at least three people on Twitter complaining about fat shaming. Socially distanced Zoom-inspired innovation aside, I can’t help thinking this is something Curtis should have left buried, particularly given that half the cast are dead. Still, the BBC are milking this for all its worth, as evidenced by this publicity photo of Dawn French with co-star Roger Lloyd-Pack.

As I write this, Donald Trump’s legal campaign is still thrashing about in its death throes, determined to somehow gain some traction despite having produced absolutely no evidence. There are recounts and rumours of recounts and legal campaigns that are in and out faster than a priest in a brothel; it’s King Cnut (well, almost) shouting at the tide, although at least he possessed a modicum of self-awareness and was doing the whole thing as a joke. You really can’t say the same for the current POTUS, whose twitter feed is awash with false claims and heavily capitalised rants, as if the only viable route forward is to shout something loud enough until people start believing it.

Already the right-wing media are cutting and running, and Trump’s list of allies seems to be diminishing by the day, as the most powerful man in the world is reduced to muted press conferences from tiny desks. Around this time I would normally start to feel a bit sorry for him – he is human, despite his obvious faults – but I really find it incredibly difficult to muster any sympathy for such a graceless loser. It’s also a sad decline for Rudy Giuliani, who went from being a voice of hope and sanity after 9/11 to shouting his mouth off outside a gloomy-looking building in an industrial park, next door to a sex shop.

“Yeah, I’ve buggered this one up, haven’t I?”

Meanwhile, over in Utah (where of course they all voted red), a days-old mystery is solved when new footage emerges of a malfunctioning chameleon circuit.

There is a sense of irony about the timing. It’s funny that they just found it now, at the end of what has been for many people an annus horribalis; it’s as if some sentient alien race has been watching and waiting and is now playing a colossal joke. It’s curious that the first appearance of the 2001 monolith coincides with a tribe of knuckle-dragging monkeys smashing things up and yelling as loud as they can to assert their dominance. Go figure.

In the UK we’ve been watching all this with interest, because it takes our minds off the Brexit debacle, the arguing about ‘Fairy Tale of New York’, and the state of Amazon’s courier system.

Look, it doesn’t matter what Radio 1 does; no one over twenty listens to it and those that do probably have Spotify playlists, so if they want to censor the damned thing then that’s their prerogative. Better that we simply wait out the lockdown as quietly as possible and take comfort in simple pleasures, like board games. “Is he wearing glasses?”

Last night my feed pinged: the ‘Revolution of the Daleks’ trailer drops on Sunday evening, which means I’ll have something else to write about; you have no idea how difficult it is wringing every ounce of possible humour from such meagre pickings. I mean as a fan I don’t care; I can wait. As a creator, it’s frustrating. Still, as news drips through about the unavoidably delayed, inevitably divisive Series 13, a close-up from Jodie Whittaker’s inaugural season reveals exactly why this new one is going to be a bit shorter than usual.

I honestly don’t know why everyone’s complaining; there’s plenty of other stuff to be going on with. Take The Crown, for example, Netflix’s sumptuous costume drama detailing the history of the Royal Family: lavish as Game of Thrones, sensationalist as a National Enquirer exposé, and about as accurate as a Spanish art restorer. Not content with riding roughshod over Prince Philip’s marital history and fabricating scenes between his eldest son and Lord Mountbatten, they’ve now introduced Gillian Anderson as a fiery, uncannily authentic and disturbingly sexy Margaret Thatcher. I suppose it gives her something to do other than shine torches into dark warehouses.

Coleman is, in this image, the epitome of stern serenity, which is more than you can say for the arts world – which was rocked the other week by the unveiling of a new statue commemorating celebrated author and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Ordinarily this would have made for a joyous afternoon, except she turned out to be about six inches high, and completely naked. It was all a bit miniscope, really. In fact you might even call it a nightmare. In silver.

“PROTECT THE ARTEFACT!”

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Have I Got Whos For You (statuesque edition)

“For god’s sake, Danny, stop urinating on them.”

It’s been a week of (self) righteous anger. The ‘self’ is optional; you can put it on if you like. The world we live in is one in which no sin goes unpunished, no tweet unmocked; a world in which armchair judgement has become second nature. No one is safe: it doesn’t matter if it’s angry protesters throwing statues in the river or multi-millionaire authors throwing their weight around.

It’s dull, and I’m tired of writing about it, so let’s look at this week’s news roundup. There are troublesome scenes in central London when Missy can’t remember where she parked her TARDIS.

And on a routine visit to a parallel Earth, the Doctor and Rose are unsettled when they run into a queue for the re-opening of Primark.

Meanwhile, as fury reigns over the expungement of classic episodes and series from on-demand services, a trawl through the Gallifreyan Matrix reveals that even the Time Lords have grown concerned over sensitive content.

In Surrey, Thorpe Park opens after lockdown as a flurry of punters rush to make the most of the good weather.

And an abandoned concept still from the new Bill and Ted trailer reveals that studio execs were suggesting a very different look for the phone box.

“Dude. They’ve, like, totally redecorated.”

 

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Have I Got Whos For You (Multi-Doctor Special)

I think this’ll be the last batch post for a while. We’ve taken a good chunk out of the meme backlog, and while there are still quite a few to go up, they can stagger in as and when, like drunk students crashing back into halls of residence after a night down the union. At least one of them might involve a traffic cone.

Today’s theme – if you hadn’t guessed – involves images involving more than one Doctor, which is something I do quite a bit when the ideas come. They do seem to come thick and fast these das, which is an indicator that I have more free time than is strictly healthy, but at least one family member appears to be following in my footsteps. This is both encouraging and slightly alarming. A bit like life, really.

We begin with a couple of Doctors celebrating the summer solstice, which should give you an idea just how long some of these have been hanging around.

Meanwhile, in a nearby playground.

Time Lord songwriter’s workshops.

Impromptu lightsaber battles.

Derby walking tours.

Family reunions.

Posted without comment.

“This mirror’s brilliant; I look years younger.”

So there’s this guy I found on Facebook who takes pet photos and one thing sort of led to another.

“Bugger off, David.”

Time Lord mid-air collisions.

Edward set this up. Edward is five. I am worried about Edward.

Finally, in the TARDIS…

“Yeah, I’d give it five minutes.”

 

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Papa Louie Pals Presents: The Companions (Part 1)

Hello! Welcome to Good Burger, home of the good burger; may I take your order?

As you’ll have seen the other week, I spent large parts of August assembling a plethora of Doctors with the help of Flipline Studio’s Papa Louie Pals, which enables you to create your own characters in the vein of the developer’s cutesy, animated consumers and baristas. In other words, you too – in the comfort of your own home – can make the sort of people who wander in to Papa’s Tacoreria and order…well, tacos. Or burritos, or whatever else they sell; I’m sure I don’t know. I haven’t played them, remember?

But give me an app that lets me be a bit creative and it’s like a red rag to a bull, and – having done all the Doctors – I elected to spend a little time creating the companions as well. We start, today, with the New Who brigade: most of the big players are in there, although I’m kicking myself for not including Wilf. Just for good measure, I stuck a couple of villains in as well (all right, one villain in multiple forms, which does rather narrow it down). Oh, and I couldn’t bring myself to do Adam, largely because he’s a twat.

Still. Everyone else is here, just about. And yes, there is a Classic Who companions gallery in the works, at some point when I get round to it. I may even take requests, as long as they’re more imaginative than “Please stop doing this”.

Let’s get cooking…

We’ll get these two out of the way first. There are lots of ways to do Rose; I have gone with her series one look, which is a little more chavvy and a little less refined than the slicker haircut and more revealing outfits she wore in series 2. Donna looks like a slightly younger version of herself, but that’s not a bad thing.

Nardole is…well, he’s a little taller than I’d like, or a little slimmer; pick one. But he looks vageuly Nardole-ish. And I’m quite pleased with Bill; I even remembered to put the bow in her hair.

The Masters, next (yes, there are multiple versions). Simm’s 2007 look is basically a man in a black suit; take away the evil eyes and he could be auditioning for Reservoir Dogs. He’s accompanied here by River Song, sporting her classic vest-and-skirt combination, as worn in ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ and probably other episodes I can’t be bothered to Google.

Two more Masters: the hooded monstrosity from ‘The End of Time’ and the restrained, bearded 2017 Master I always hoped we’d get to see. That’s my favourite contemporary take on the character, and it’s irritating that he really doesn’t work here: the hair is too shaggy, the beard (while being the closest I could manage) is wrong, and the tunic is more chef than rogue Time Lord. he looks like an evil sensei from a Japanese martial arts movie.

Missy, on the other hand, came out a treat, even if she does vaguely resemble a sinister version of Lucy from Peanuts. That’s presumably what Mickey Smith is thinking, unless it’s “Did I leave the iron on?”.

Series 11 now. Graham and Ryan first. Note that Graham’s smile is slightly smaller than the rest: this is deliberate.

And here’s Yas – along with Captain Jack, who is probably staring at her bottom.

The Ponds! They’re wearing matching shirts, which happened because I was feeling a bit lazy that morning, but it’s rather cute.

Lastly, Martha – whose jacket is just about perfect – and Clara. Specifically Oswin, although that dress isn’t quite as figure-hugging as I’d like. Still, she looks pleased with it.

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Review: The Doctor Falls

I’ve written six Metro articles this week and I’m about spent. There have been opinion pieces and video collections. I’ve written one piece praising Moffat’s legacy, and another that tears down the series finale. I’m sorry folks, but I have nothing left to give.

It doesn’t help that watching this week was problematic, thanks to the Preview website buffering every ten seconds, leading to some peculiar moments where Capaldi’s mouth would hang open mid-sentence in awkward comedy poses. Emily and I endured it for half an hour on two laptops and two different browsers before giving up – I would eventually see the rest of it the following morning when the connection was better. We decided to watch this week’s Twin Peaks instead, because at least that was a download. Ten minutes in the phone rang: it was the school. Thomas was inconsolable on his overnight residential and would I please come and pick him up? The next thing you know I’m bombing up the A34 at quarter past ten on a Wednesday evening. Oh, and did I mention the A34 turned out to be shut?

But I remember watching Peter Capaldi’s very first episode – some days after it had aired – and, having missed the review window, deciding to retrospectively liveblog the experience. So that’s what I’m doing here. If you’d really like another sixteen paragraphs of cynical commentary I can provide that, but you have to ask nicely.

In the meantime, here’s ‘The Doctor Falls’, more or less as it happens.

1:23 – Matrons. Matrons with guns. I’m sure that’s the title of a porn movie. Maybe a snuff film. Could we watch it together?

4:50 – We’re on a rooftop. Missy and the Master are dancing and contemplating a snog. This is two shakes away from masturbation. Literally.

6:05 – “Ten years,” Simm confirms. That answers that question, although he also said it in interviews; Ah, and now we have the exposition. They seem to have fixed the drumming; nothing else explains his apparent good humour. Unless he knows how Game of Thrones is going to end.

7:00 – Thought: maybe the Doctor believes that Simm and Coleman had improbably round faces because his is implausibly long. Maybe it’s a perspective thing. “We say the same thing about you.”

8:11 – “This doesn’t make any sense!” This sounds like every Facebook conversation I’ve had this week about why there are two Masters. Seriously, why don’t these people read?

12:27 – And this is where we came in.

13:10 – What’s with the wailing lament with the drone underneath? It’s like bad Morricone. Which would suggest that we’re being set up for bad Leone. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, only I’m having trouble deciding which is which.

14:12 – Ah, I see what’s going on. We’ve been here before. This is a nice way to include Mackie. It also means she’s not coming back next year.

19:36 – Don’t make her angry. You wouldn’t like where she’s – and there goes the wall. She’ll be useful if the Doctor ever needs a knock-through.

21:56 – And the Doctor’s hand is glowing. But this is clearly the Reassuring Wisdom scene. The stick he’s holding is very Gandalf. Say something for the Tumblr feeds, Doctor.

23:45 – “Where there’s tears, there’s hope.” Oh FFS.

24:48 – Can we assume that there’s some sort of formalised English filter in Bill’s headpiece and she’s not really saying “Stand aside?”. Can we assume it’s something like “Move your flamin’ penguin arse”?

24:56 – As the Master asks “Is the future gonna be all girl?”, the Doctor replies “We can only hope.” That’s the BBC’s diversity quotient for the week then.

29:02 – Simm, it must be said, is brilliant in this. It’s like watching Ainley again, but in a good way.

31:54 – Hazran’s just shot Bill in the chest. If they’re going to have a Cyberman wandering round wouldn’t it make sense to giver her some sort of identifying label? Could they not have got her a badge or something? Or a hat?

34:34 – Prediction: at a convention in November, McCoy will be doing this monologue. Possibly better.

36:07 – Josh: “Man, the Master’s a dick.

38:48 – If this is a holodeck, why on earth is it a 1930s farm? Why not, I don’t know, a tropical beach? Or an amusement park? Somewhere with chips? And thicker walls?

44:07 – Ah, so that’s how Simm regenerates.

45:06 – Oh, so Bill’s a lesbian? I wasn’t expecting that. Plot twist central here this week.

47:00 – “We shoot ourselves in the back.” That is, it must be said, a perfect way for these two to bow out.

48:37 – “Telos! The ice tombs! Every single child! FOR SPARTA, FOR FREEDOM TO THE DEATH!”

49:04 – The Doctor is confronting the Cybermen and there is no music. It’s actually quite powerful, although you wonder if that’s because they couldn’t afford any more from Murray Gold’s back catalogue after the BMG acquisition.

51:44 – Nice tracking over the wasteland. This is like post-apocalyptic Nordic Noir. With a sobbing robot. I think I may have just subverted an entire genre, and I’ve not even had wine yet.

53:20 – Oh god oh god oh god THEY’RE NOT FUCKING DOING THIS. I don’t know what’s worse: the flashbacks that remind us of who Heather is, the healing power of tears, the choir, the stupid Watership Down thing…how fucking hard would it have been to let her die, Steven? Couldn’t you just do it once?

56:39 – Coming in 2019:

57:28 – Oh, he doesn’t want to go. I wish he bloody would.

58:46– BAFTAs, May 2018: “And the award goes to…Peter Capaldi!”

59:07– So you can apparently stave off a regeneration by sticking your hands in the snow. Bet Tennant regrets going to Magalouf for that final holiday.

59:10 – “Seriously, if he can do this now, how are they going to write themselves out of this corner next time?”
Emily: “It’s like going to the toilet. If you work at it, you can train your bladder. But you can’t hold it off forever. When you have to go…”

59:51 – Kids: “Who’s that?”
Knew I should have shown them An Adventure In Space And Time. Dammit.

Oh, and it was all going so well.

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Review: World Enough and Time

There are some episodes of Doctor Who that contain unambiguously great stories. ‘Human Nature’ is one of them: its tale of a vulnerable, humanised Doctor is sweeping and simultaneously intimate; a vast tour de force of a man who is not the Doctor, and indeed who has stolen the Doctor’s body, and whom we nonetheless grow to love so much we’re reluctant to let him leave it. ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ is another: a strictly local skirmish that opens a window onto the life of a single, tragic figure, heading irreversibly towards the end of his life, inspired briefly by the encouragement of friends, but ultimately not enough to eclipse the pain. ‘Time Heist’ jumps to the scale’s opposing end, and delivers a tale that is light on characterisation but embroiled in a mystery that is sufficiently interesting to draw you in and keep you guessing.

Other episodes are what we might call Event Stories. ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ (and its immediate follow-up) might be a decent example: ‘The Wedding of River Song’ is another. Monsters and threats are all present and more or less correct, but the McGuffins serve the dramatic purpose of padding out the running time between the twists. Paradoxically these are usually the ones that people remember, because they are the game changers – the ones that kill, that resurrect, that shine a torch onto the identity papers of heretofore mysterious, enigmatic guest stars.

‘World Enough and Time’ is a classic case of an Event Story. This is not an episode that you watch for the meat, because by and large there isn’t any. Oh, there are Things That Happen. Many of the Things That Happen will have the fans talking: one, in particular, will cause the collective dropping of jaws. Simultaneously, the story is essentially a series of sudden peaks amidst periods of comparative inactivity. Much of the point is that time is passing much faster for Bill than it is for the Doctor and the remains of his crew, meaning that the Time Lord is sidelined for at least half the running time, captured in a series of frozen moments, as if in a pocket universe held in a painting (read: TV screen), while for Bill the years tick by. (We do not know, by the way, precisely how many years it is, although there are undoubtedly fans on the internet already doing the maths.)

Essentially what happens in ‘World Enough and Time’ is this: the Doctor begins to regenerate, a flash-forward that serves to tease the finale early. Then Bill is shot dead, the hole in her chest sudden and gaping, with Bill herself seemingly frozen in time in much the same way that her mentor will be later in the story. Five minutes later she is up and about, a synthetic heart installed in the same manner as the reactor that’s kept Tony Stark alive. She lives a sort of half life in a nightmarish, dimly-lit hospital, accompanied only by a heavily-accented janitor, Mr Razor, whose total absence from the cast list ought to be a clue as to his identity.

What’s curious is the manner in which the story actively mirrors ‘Utopia’ but also mimics both Classic Who and the spoiler-obsessed contingent of the viewing audience. There’s a scene in The Phantom Menace which I rather like (now there’s something I never thought I’d say out loud): as Qui-Gonn and Obi-Wan cross the hangar on their way to a fateful meeting with the Trade Federation, Qui-Gonn castigates his charge for failing to concentrate on the gravity of the current situation. “Master Yoda says I should be mindful of the future,” Obi-Wan protests, which prompts the response “But not at the expense of the moment.”

If anything, ‘World Enough’ actively fulfils this prophecy, taking a hammer to the fourth wall and spending much of its running time teasing the fans desperate to jump ahead, by introducing a character who will doubtless irritate many people simply because they’re waiting for the Master to turn up. It would be interesting to see how many people were angrily Tweeting at quarter past seven, annoyed as to why the much-anticipated return hadn’t happened yet, oblivious to the reality. Certainly Simm’s disguise is effective and his acting impeccable, and while many people will undoubtedly see through the ruse immediately there will be a great many more who don’t, even if they were around for ‘The King’s Demons’. This is one of those instances where false memory reigns supreme; watching the episode a second time – as I did, Thursday morning – it is impossible to not see it, and I suspect that there will be plenty of fans ready to lie about the fact that they did.

Certainly it’s not the only time. Missy’s early conversation with Bill and Nardole reeks of fanboy trolling – the morally ambiguous Time Lady, when asked why she’s calling herself Doctor Who, replies “That’s his real name”. It sounds precisely like the arguments I read (and frequently attempt to defuse) on Facebook, and Moffat knows it. Next week’s Tumblr prediction: an image of Missy dabbing, with this caption:

There. I’ve done it so you don’t have to. For reference: it is fine to call him Doctor Who if you want to, and it always has been. Such forms of address have been part of the show since 1963 – if it’s good enough for Peter Capaldi, it ought to be good enough for the rest of us.

For all its structural inadequacies, ‘World Enough’ gets an awful lot right. The hospital in which Bill spends the bulk of her time is dark and frightening, echoing the visual design of Silent Hill (the normal Silent Hill; the ‘other’ version would just be too much to cope with). The only thing that jars during these scenes is the fact that she seems so comfortable: it could be a mild form of Stockholm syndrome, but there is something implausible about her acceptance of the situation in which she finds herself, and something atypically mundane about her conversations with Mr Razor. If anything, the Doctor’s companion is perhaps a little too happy with her lot; perhaps it’s the presence of an artificial heart that’s caused her to basically lose her own.

Then there are the Cybermen: shadowy, shuffling and shambling, emerging from the darkness in cloth-covered stages of gradual exposure until the moment we see one of them up close for the first time (and, of course, it’s Bill). Most pleasing of all, the Speak & Spell voices are back, even at the prototype stage, the partially converted patients tapping away at buttons marked ‘PAIN’ like of those V-Tech laptops or talking phones my children have cluttering up the toy basket. The whole thing is a bit Stephen Hawking, and will undoubtedly alienate those fans who prefer the bland, metallic tones of Nicholas Briggs, but it looks like they’re probably back next week, so at least they won’t be whining for long.

Come the episode’s conclusion, the Master is back in the frame – reunited with what is almost unambiguously purported to be his future self (not that this will be enough to silence the naysayers) and Bill is a newly-converted Cyberman, weeping real tears instead of oil as she advances on the Doctor. It is a mistake that may not be undone, and that in itself is what makes it so terrifying, but it follows thirty-five minutes of meandering, punctuated by occasional flashes of brilliance. There are – once more – conversations about the Doctor’s eyebrows, although their supposed mightiness is thankfully left untapped. This is clearly an episode in which Moffat intended to drop several radical plot twists and decided that he add comparatively little of substance in between. The net result is not bad, in the way that, say, ‘Death In Heaven’ was – just rather disappointing after the character pieces we’ve had for the past few weeks. There is nothing to match the Doctor’s fire in ‘The Eaters of Light’, the fatherly reassurance he offers when Bill ventures into the TARDIS halfway through ‘The Pilot’, or his weary speech about moving on that provided the unexpected high point to ‘Thin Ice’.

I’m assuming all that’s coming. Certainly the trailer for next week indicates a maelstrom of mayhem and explosions and, I daresay, at least one scene where the Doctor stares at Bill and says “I know you’re still in there”. Whether Bill will actually emerge from her shell, perhaps tearing at the bandages like Jack Napier does in Batman, or whether the Doctor will somehow be able to open the armour, or whether the whole thing will simply be retconned somehow remains to be seen. ‘Redemption’ is mentioned as part of the Twelfth’s closing character development: does this mean saving her later? Is it too much to ask that Bill might actually endure the most horrific of fates without its instant undoing at the behest of the chief writer’s handwavium?

Then there’s ‘Spare Parts’. If we had the time we could find a way of making it fit, but it really doesn’t, and we might as well avoid that argument now, along with the whole question of whether or not Big Finish is canon. There will be some for whom the rewritten backstory is nothing short of sacrilege, but that’s the problem with an origin story that was committed to audio before it was televised: do you ignore it, as Moffat has done? Or do you work in a narrative that half the audience won’t have encountered and risk landing in Ian Levine territory? (Paradoxically Ian doesn’t like Big Finish anyway, so I can only assume that he will view tonight’s retcon with the sort of ambivalence that is liable to make your head explode. Well, we can dream.)

The bottom line (he he. ‘Bottom’) is that Moffat really didn’t have a choice, unless he’d told an entirely different tale – and I’m starting to find the whole ‘urinating on the legacy of Doctor Who’ argument fiercely dull, despite being, until recently, one of its most embittered advocates. Because everyone puts their own stamp on Doctor Who: you’re just a little kinder to the stuff that happened before you got the chance to watch it. No one questions the rewritten Time Lords in ‘The Deadly Assassin’, or. the notion that two Doctors can appear together at once. We shouldn’t question this. I just wish it had been within the confines of an actual story, instead of a collection of vignettes and moments, stitched together into a Frankensteinian whole, much like the shambling abominations that haunt the corridors of the Mondasian spacecraft.

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Review: ‘The Witch’s Familiar’

9-2 Witch 9

Well, that was shit.

Warning: Contains Spoilers

Some while ago, I wrote a couple of blog entries that dealt with foolish predictions. It was an exercise in humility, and a good excuse to showcase some of the times I’d got it spectacularly wrong. Matt Smith was covered in some detail. So was Donna Noble. I maintain I was right about ‘The Name of the Doctor’.

But I got it wrong last week. I assumed that the cliffhanger was going to have universe-wide ramifications, and in a way you can’t blame me, because that’s the sort of thing the chief writer does. It was therefore something of a blessed relief when we’d dealt with two of the supposedly destroyed things within the space of a minute and a half, while the third one languished in the background, turning up precisely when it was needed. It meant – in an instant – that the story no longer became a wibbly wobbly mess (well, it did, but only in the last few minutes) and instead became far more straightforward. Straightforward isn’t necessarily good, but at least I don’t have to start drawing the flow diagrams so I can explain this one to the kids.

Those who complain (I haven’t checked, but I’m going to assume that people did) about the inadequate resolutions are entirely missing the point: Doctor Who’s cliffhanger denouements are supposed to be a bit rubbish. Sarah Jane falls three feet instead of thirty. Leela fires on the guards coming up the corridor. And the Doctor channels his regenerative energy into a convenient spare hand (we’re coming back to that later). As outcomes go, I’ve seen worse, although it features gratuitous use of slow motion. You can almost hear the score of The Matrix rising in the background.

The opening scene of this episode – in which Missy discusses said cliffhanger with a restrained, upended Clara (fifty-seven fan fiction writers just punched the air) – mirrored both the third series of Sherlock and, curiously, the opening of the second Monkey Island game; at least it did in my head. We’re going to assume that Missy’s explanation is correct, because otherwise we’ll be here all night and it is, in any case, of no real consequence. What follows is a prison break, of sorts, as the two reluctant allies navigate through the Skaro sewage system (ostensibly an excuse for lots of goo – actually a vital plot point) in search of the Doctor, who is still looking after Davros.

9-2 Witch 6

‘The Witch’s Familiar’ is a story of two halves. The scenes with Missy and Clara are, for the most part, reasonably entertaining, largely because Clara is back in ‘nice’ mode and Gomez remains ambiguous and untrustworthy through to her very last encounter with the metal titans (in which, like Michael Caine, she is suddenly struck by a very good idea). The interdependence between the two is played out through a scene in which Clara hides inside the case of a Dalek – something you really feel she ought to be better at, given how her character was introduced – while Missy spouts off a bunch of stuff we didn’t know we didn’t know. “Emotion fires the gun,” she explains, when Clara comes very close to exterminating her. Speaking of ‘exterminate’, there’s a reason the Daleks say it so often: their translators have an auto-filter, and certain words are blocked, replaced with “I am a Dalek” (again, a vital plot point) and “Exterminate”. “That’s why they keep yelling ‘Exterminate’,” Missy insists. “It’s how they reload.”

This is so utterly lame I don’t even know where to begin, but if the Doctor is half human on his mother’s side, surely we can grant Missy a little headcanon. It jars, but it’s not of fundamental importance: just something to add to my list of gripes. (I don’t know how Missy managed to clear out a space designed for a mutant brain so that there was enough room for a fully-grown human, while still retaining all the essential circuitry, but no one asked that question in ‘The Space Museum’ or ‘Planet of the Daleks’ either, so this is nitpicking.) Thus, Gomez and Coleman go trundling off through walls of dead Dalek, coming to the rescue. While all this is going on, the Doctor has been messing around with dangerous electrical equipment and stealing an amputee’s wheelchair. I don’t know why they bothered.

The problem is that the scenes with Davros are supposed to be an insight into the relationship between the two of them (I was going to use the words ‘eye-opener’ but that really may be a pun too far). Unfortunately they’re built on a colossal lie: Davros intended for the Doctor to heal him, and the Doctor, in turn, seems entirely unsurprised when the regenerative energy wakes up all the organic Dalek matter in the depths of the Dalek city, leading to its apparent destruction. This is two old enemies trying to outdo each other – it’s like ‘Curse of Fatal Death’ without all the boob gags – and any profundity that might have been lurking in their little exchanges is more or less rendered moot. Instead, all we do is shout at the screen in horror that the Doctor’s been taken in so easily, only to discover not long afterwards that he hasn’t.

Other parallels with Sherlock play out over the course of the story. We already witnessed Missy’s return from the dead – mirroring, to an extent, that of Moriarty. This week, it’s glasses: Charles’ Magnussen’s were a colossal red herring, while the Doctor’s sunglasses turn out to be more than just decorative. It leaves Capaldi with both hands free for eyebrow-plucking, I suppose. The Daleks, meanwhile, spend most of the episode in a single room, doing not an awful lot: it would feel like a colossal waste, were it not for the fact that this is almost certainly leading to something else, on another day, and probably evoked in Power Ranger yellow.

9-2 Witch 7

There was good stuff. Missy’s opening explanation was the funniest thing I’ve seen in Doctor Who since the Addams Family gag in ‘Flatline’. Clara is her old likeable self, and the scenes inside the Dalek – while protracted – were fun, and creepily reminiscent of the closing moments of ‘Asylum’. Unfortunately the concept of Daleks infused with Time Lord DNA just doesn’t seem very…Dalek, really, and the convenient reappearance of the TARDIS is poorly done (although once more we are tantalisingly spared a peek at its interior). And someone really needs to have a word with the sound mixer, particularly when Michelle Gomez is speaking. We could hardly hear a thing, and that’s a shame because some of the dialogue really was quite fun.

Still, I’ll say this in closing. Gareth is not watching these episodes, but he just emailed me saying he’d read a ‘review’ which said something like “For God’s sake, Moffat, please can we just have a story with a beginning, a middle and an end?”. For the sake of giving him an easy summary, I have written one:

“In response to the ‘review’ you read: it turned out that all the stuff we saw last week was a red herring, and the Doctor had actually managed to save them both, we just didn’t know it. He did spend half the story thinking Clara was dead. Then he stole Davros’s chair and tried to escape. Meanwhile Missy and Clara, who were not dead, made their way back through the sewers, which are actually walls of dead Dalek (although they’re still awake).

Then Clara hid inside a Dalek. Meanwhile Davros was about to die and asked to see one last sunrise, and couldn’t open his eyes. So the Doctor used some golden sparkly regenerative energy to heal him. Except that Davros is connected to all the other Daleks via some tubes that were ACTUALLY SNAKES, and when the Doctor touched the tubes, they all got Time Lord powers. Except the ones in the sewer were also affected, and they rose up through the floor like big piles of poo and killed all the other Daleks.

Then the Doctor reassembled his TARDIS, using a pair of magic sunglasses.”

Put like that, it really was shit.

S9-02_Witch

 

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