Posts Tagged With: missy

Chase The Shadows Away

It was a Wednesday, they were in London, and the quiet hum of the TARDIS engines was just about to be undercut by the sound of a ringing phone.

Clara made it to the console first. It was a game they played, on those rare occasions when someone called. Her relationship with the Doctor had begun with a phone call – come to think of it, so had his relationship with her, although it was a different phone and different planet. At least she thought it was a different planet; in truth Clara only half-remembered it, and it hadn’t actually happened yet. These things were complicated. He had been younger then, a quite different man in every literal sense of the word.

Now he was old and grey and often grumpy. There were days they saved the universe, and then there were days she felt like a glorified public relations officer. All too often, the days matched.

She lifted the receiver, ignoring the Doctor’s glare. “Hello?”

Clara blinked. “One second.” Handed him the phone. “It’s you.”

Frowning, the Doctor held out his hand. “Who is it?”

“No, I mean you’re – oh, just take it.”

The Doctor lifted the receiver to his ear, and then his eyes widened to an incredulous stare. “How did you get this number? Well, yes, I mean I know it’s mine, but – no, you’re not supposed to be able to call me! It breaks every rule in the – black hole? What black – never mind, don’t tell me, it’ll come out in the wash. Her? That was Clara. You know, Clara. You really don’t remem- how long’s it been?”

He paced back and forth next to the console, free hand darting over his temples. Now it was clawing at his hair. Making a yak-yak gesture, during which he rolled his eyes at Clara. She was goggling, although mostly at the phone cord, which was in serious danger of getting twisted around his neck.

“You want me to go where? Oh, them. Right. But why?…seriously?”

Concluding the call, the Doctor dropped the receiver in its cradle, with a little more force than Clara thought was probably necessary. “God, what an insufferable idiot.”

“That was you.

“Yes, well, I’m my own worst critic. How’s your Swedish?”

* * *

At the precise moment the door to the Stockholm studio burst open, Benny Andersson had been trying to do three things. First, he’d been trying to identify the strange vworp, vworp noise he’d just heard outside. Second, he’d been wondering whether it might be something he could sample and use as an introduction to a song he was working on (an as-yet untitled ditty about a post-apocalyptic wasteland inhabited by sentient snails). And third, his sense of recall was performing a desperate catfish through the rubbish bag that was his subconscious in an attempt to work out precisely where he’d heard it before.

His thought processes were interrupted by the arrival of a silver-haired man who looked to be in his mid-to-late fifties, wearing a purple blazer over a tieless white shirt buttoned to the collar, and the sort of expression that meant business. Benny wasn’t sure whether it was the hey-let’s-do-another-musical sort of business, or the accountants-with-folders sort. The second was not something he savoured. But this man didn’t look much like an accountant; he looked like the world’s dourest conjuror.

“Hello, you two,” said the newcomer. “How’s business?”

It had taken Benny two-and-a-bit paragraphs to remember he was not alone in the room. He glanced over at Bjorn, who had been in the middle of constructing a Lego model of the Big Bang Theory set. Bjorn built Lego sets whenever he was blocked. He also liked to pound a toilet brush against the rail of the balcony while singing the Lithuanian national anthem. This was a closely-guarded secret: there was always the possibility of paparazzi intrusion, but so far they’d been lucky.

Benny regarded the stranger with astonishment. “Who are you, and how did you get past security?”

The man was carrying a notebook; he opened it to a specific page and made a tally mark with a ball point pen. “And that’s…thirty-seven marks for opener number five,” he said. “That’s almost as popular as ‘Halt, you’re an enemy of the Daleks’.”

Benny was reaching for the phone on his desk when the stranger held up a single finger. Just wait. “Melbourne,” he said. “March 5th, 1977. You were trapped in your hotel room and curtain was half past eight. The incident with the mutant sponges.” The stranger leaned over the desk and offered a cheery, if slightly sinister grin. “Do you remember?”

Benny’s jaw dropped like a plummeting lift. He was too transfixed to glance over at Bjorn, but suspected he’d experienced the same reaction.

Doctor?” said the astonished Benny, after a moment.

“In the flesh. How’ve you been?”

“My god! That must have been…forty years ago!”

“Well, your maths is still good,” the Doctor mused. “Must be all the fish.”

“You’ve aged,” said Bjorn. “In fact your face is completely different. And you’ve got more…Welsh.”

The Doctor was affronted. “Scottish!”

“Right, right,” said Bjorn, trying his best to look abashed. “I always get those two muddled.”

“I like the jacket, though,” said Benny. “I never really cared much for those pinstripes.”

“So you remember?”

“How could we forget? We still talk about that night. We even did a song about it. The title track on our last album.”

The Doctor regarded him curiously. “I thought The Visitors was about Russian dissidents?”

“Well, you know. You have to code these things,” said Bjorn. “No one would have believed the truth.”

“So what brings you here?” said Benny. “So late in the day?”

“Yeah, do you need money?” This was Bjorn. “Only most of ours is tied up in investments, and – ”

“I need you to make another album,” said the Doctor, simply.

Benny and Bjorn’s jaws dropped almost as far as they had when the Time Lord had announced his identity. The Doctor heard something click in Benny’s face, and winced; he’d feel that in the morning.

It was Bjorn who recovered first. “I’m sorry, what?”

“I need you to record a new album. You and the girls. Well, women. Shouldn’t really call them girls. Clara’s always lecturing me about that.”

“Clara?”

“My friend. She’s gone out sightseeing, but she’d love to meet you both.”

“A new album?” Benny was rubbing his jaw. “Now? After all this – but why?”

“We left that behind a long time ago,” said Bjorn. “There’s a lot of water under that bridge.”

“There’s a lot of water under every bridge. That’s the purpose of bridges. They let the water move. Give you a sense of where it’s going, where it’s been. Bridges are brilliant for offering perspective.” The Doctor was walking around the room, gesticulating with his hands in the manner of an animated lecturer. “Unfortunately they only get you so far. Sometimes you just have to walk off the bridge and go down to the water.”

He was facing them now “Because it’s never too late to start again.”

“But still…why? Why now?”

“Because I’ve a feeling that in a few years, people are going to really need it. Specifically me. But also everyone else. You disbanded, what, thirty-five years ago? What have you done since?”

“We wrote an award-winning musical about chess and had cameos in Mamma Mia,” replied Bjorn, somewhat frostily.

“Yes, well. I mean apart from that. Besides, there’s another record inside you both. Well, all right, the four of you. You need the four of you, otherwise you’d just be ‘BB’.”

Benny regarded him with interest. Then he sighed. “They’ll never agree to it.”

“Then convince them. You’re good at the emotional stuff. And I refuse to believe – ” And now he was once more pacing the room, rummaging through cabinets, leafing through piles of papers, examining DATs – “that you’re not still writing.”

“We-ell…” Benny drew out the syllables like smoke rings. “We did have that one about the computer.”

“Don’t Shut Me Down?” Bjorn scoffed. “That’s going nowhere. The tune’s not bad, but the lyrics are terrible.”

“Our lyrics were always terrible. In any case, we could tweak it. Make it about something different.”

“Good. Good start.” The Doctor – who was now sitting in a chair opposite Bjorn’s desk – clapped his hands, then put his feet up on the table. “What else?”

Bjorn tried to ignore the lack of social grace. “There’s one about a cat witnessing an argument between an alcoholic woman and her husband.”

“Make it a dog. Dogs have compassion. Cats don’t care at all. Plus their claws are annoying.” The Doctor was well into his stride now. “Keep ’em coming.”

“We were playing around with Irish music; that yielded…possibilities. And there’s one called Keep An Eye On Dan – ”

“Dan? Who’s Dan?”

“We don’t know yet.”

“Well, find out.” He jumped up. “I’m not asking for a tour or anything. Just one more album. Go out smiling.”

Despite himself, Benny was smiling now. “You know what?” he said to Bjorn. “I really think we should.”

“All right,” said Bjorn, meaning it. “Let’s.”

The Doctor grinned. “Trust me, people will love it. Well, probably. The ones that matter.”

“We’d better get to work,” Benny said to Bjorn. “Find those lead sheets we did a while back.”

“Oh. There’s one more thing.” The Doctor was already on his way out, but he’d now turned back, Columbo-style, and was fishing a piece of paper out of his jacket. “When you’re done, send a copy to this chap. With a note that says this.”

Nothing about this made any sense to Benny, but that had been the pattern for this afternoon. And as the Doctor hurried out and then hurried back in again with a young, starry-eyed brunette on his arm, Benny sat down at the keyboard and began to play, wondering if this could possibly go anywhere at all.

* * *

Some time later, and in drastically different circumstances, the Doctor stood in the middle of a quaint pastoral scene on a ship where time ran at different speeds depending on where you parked.

It was appropriate, really, given that the passage of his own life was so difficult to measure. How long had it been? Chronologically, a few millennia. Maybe. He didn’t know when Mondas had started its drift. For him, it had been just over a thousand, most of it languishing outside Missy’s makeshift jail, scribbling lecture notes and occasionally assisting the Templars. That was assuming you didn’t count the several billion he had spent punching a wall. He never knew whether he should.

The Doctor stared out at the field and considered its random promises. Before him lay a pleasant rural backdrop, hedge-lined fields rolling away to pastured common land, bordered by forests thick with oak and ash and beech. Somewhere in the lower decks, aided in no uncertain terms by their convenient proximity to an event horizon, the Cybermen were evolving and rebuilding at an unprecedented rate, and it was inevitable that they would make a repeat appearance – almost certainly in a sleeker costume and carrying a far nastier gun. The Doctor had found he could do many things over the centuries, but even he couldn’t stop the passage of time – time, the enemy of us all.

It would likely be a bloodbath.

He’d worry about that later. Right now, he had a point to prove.

Nardole was still sitting outside the farmhouse, face hunched over the laptop, peering at it over the the rim of his glasses. Occasionally he would prod at one of the keys, almost with hesitancy, like a child discovering at the corpse of a woodland animal they’re not sure is dead. The Doctor wondered if he was actually dealing with the Cyber threat or playing Roblox.

He cleared his throat as he approached, and Nardole looked up. “Ah. There you are, sir.”

“How’s it going?”

“There’s still some lag on the payload delivery, but I think we can compensate. Hope we can, anyway. Otherwise it’ll be short and not very sweet.” The Doctor coughed. Nardole looked at him quizzically: the Doctor interpreted it (correctly) as his what-in-the-love-of-heaven-is-he-gonna-ask-me-now look.

“The, um. The thing. There was a thing I asked you to look after. Some time ago. Had it sent to you. Only I don’t know about it until now, which is when I’ll ask you to give it to me.”

Nardole’s eyes were momentarily blank. Then somewhere inside his head a penny dropped: if you listened carefully, you could almost hear the clang. “Oh, that!” he said. “Yeah, been carrying that around with me for months. Bit random, though. Can’t think why you’d want it.”

He fished into his jacket pocket and produced a small flat cardboard sleeve, not quite square. “Had a note attached, said ‘Keep it with you and don’t tell me.’” The Doctor took the sleeve, staring at the cover artwork: the dark brown of space, a star poking over the edge of an unidentifiable planet.

He found himself nodding in approval, which prompted Nardole to say “I take it that this is somehow important?”

“Depends on your perspective.” The Doctor was reading the back of the case. “Either way, thank you. Particularly for keeping it secret.”

“All part of the service.” Nardole resumed tapping at his laptop. “I mean it’s probably pushed something important out of my head, but never mind.”

The Doctor grinned as he walked away. “Have a look down the back of the sofa. Things have a habit of turning up.”

“Back of the sofa,” Nardole muttered to himself, but there was humour in it.

* * *

The Masters – both of them – were leaning against a stile, watching a cow.

“Do you ever wonder,” the bearded one was saying, “about the Matrix?”

“The one on Gallifrey?” said Missy.

“No, that terrible science fiction film.” The Master shifted his stance; the wood was itching. “I saw it, back when I was running for Prime Minister. And it struck me that if you’re going to have some sort of rogue AI conquer the world, you really don’t want to use humans for a battery source.”

“Why not?”

“They’re impetuous. They don’t listen. That’s the whole point of the film; people are never happy with what’s given to them. Whereas if they’d used a cow – ”

“There’d have been no rebellion.” Missy finished the thought. “The cow wakes up immersed in liquid, it’s a bit confused, they plug it back in, it’s none the wiser. It just eats grass all day, perfectly content.”

“Plus,” said the Master, “cows are big. You’d need far fewer of them, which makes administration much easier.”

“Yeah. They could call it the Mootrix.”

“Good title,” offered the Master. He turned his attention to the Doctor, whose boots made soft prints in the evening grass. “Oh, it’s you. Whatever it is, you can lift it yourself.”

“Actually, no.” The Doctor scratched the side of his nose. “I came back to check something. The conversation we had earlier.

“That?” the Master sneered. “Why are we revisiting that?”

“Something you said. I asked you about the odds of beating the Cybermen.”

“And?”

“What’d you say?” The Doctor stood, arms folded, biding his time. “I mean your exact words.”

The Master eyed him contemptuously. “I said it was about as likely as an ABBA reunion.”

“Yeah.” The Doctor fished into his pocket, and then placed the CD into the Master’s outstretched hand. The Master rolled it over. “So? Some kind of bootl – wait.” He was examining the date. “Why didn’t I know about this?”

“They reformed.” The Doctor wore the merest hint of a smile. “New album. Nearly forty years after the last one. Even managed a tour, of sorts.”

“Did they do that song about the gorilla?” Missy was leaning over the Master’s left arm, reading the track list. “I always liked that one.”

The Master glowered at her. “Not helping.” And then, turning back to the Doctor: “This is fake.”

“I’ll think you’ll find it isn’t,” said the Doctor.

“Then why didn’t I know about it?”

“Oh, well, you’re a busy man. Slash woman,” the Doctor added, acknowledging Missy. “You can’t be on top of every temporal anomaly.”

The Master thought this through for a moment, internal cogs whirring in a blaze of tempestuous logic, and then he pointed at the Doctor with an angry finger. “You cheated!”

“That’s one way of looking at it,” the Doctor smirked. “Either way, I get to win this one.”

The Master threw the CD to the ground, and then stomped off. The Doctor dropped to a low squat to pick it up, brushing away the flecks of dirt. “Litterbug.”

“So what was that?” asked Missy, who’d decided that if her counterpart wanted a sulk, he was on his own. “Other than a bit of metaphorical tackle waving.”

The Doctor’s eyebrows shot up. “You can talk.”

“I can, actually,” said Missy, hand on her hip. “But in all seriousness, you did that by contacting your earlier self, right? How’d you even manage it?”

“It’s the black hole,” said the Doctor. “Bends time. Means the phone works. Kind of.”

“And you rang…you.”

“An earlier me. Got him to pop over to Stockholm. Called in a few favours.”

“Then why in God’s name didn’t you get him to help here?” Missy was incandescent with disbelief. “Bring the TARDIS over? Trigger a meltdown? Be a lifeboat? Anything?”

“Because he never did,” the Doctor explained. “Or rather, I never did. I’d have remembered. We can’t cross the timeline, Missy. You know that.”

“So what was the point, then?”

“I don’t know. Fun, maybe? It’s been sorely lacking round here these past few weeks. Maybe there’s nothing actually wrong with spreading a little joy, even if things are rubbish and we’re all about to die horribly. And besides…”

He moved just a little closer, and dropped his voice to that low, measured tone he adopted when he wanted to be serious. “I wanted to show him that even when you’re certain of the outcome, the universe has a way of surprising you. And that people change, even though they don’t always want to.”

For a moment, Missy said nothing. Then she glared at the Doctor. “You think you know me.” And with that, she turned on her heel and stomped off in the direction the Master had taken, in the futile hope that the Doctor hadn’t seen her lip trembling.

He watched her go. Wondered if he could have handled the conversation better, and decided that it didn’t matter. It isn’t about how much water you put on the seeds you plant, he realised. They grow when they’re ready. And sometimes you don’t get to see.

A snatch of remembered melody drifted into his head. Can you hear the drums, Fernando…?

The Doctor walked back across the field. Perhaps Bill was awake.

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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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Have I Got Whos For You (Apocalypse Now Edition)

Excuse the radio silence these last weeks, but I’ve been away. And busy. And now I’m neither. Which is a blessing, but it comes with the realisation that I’m rather behind. So let’s crack on with this week’s meme roundup, shall we?

First and foremost:

I haven’t seen Good Omens yet. Needless to say the interest of the DW community was piqued when someone (it might have been Gaiman, it might have been Tennant) happened to mention that there were some Doctor Who references in there, which instantly led to people freeze-framing number plates and street corners to try and find them. By far the most hysterical conversation I witnessed was an American who was convinced that they’d seen a red TARDIS, which was in fact a telephone box. It’s a cultural misunderstanding, but you know how these things work: even when it’s been explained to you, you don’t want to back down.

Anyway, I was trawling the web, looking for Easter Eggs, and –

[coughs]

In politics this week, a leaked mock-up shows a rather different set of prospective nominees for the backstabbing skirmish that is the Conservative leadership battle.

(It’s going to be Boris, isn’t it? Dear God, it’s going to be Boris.)

Entertainment now. And as the new face of Worzel Gummidge is unveiled, the old one reveals that he doesn’t like it.

I never read the books, but Mackenzie Crook’s appearance is supposedly based on the idea that Worzel was supposed to have a turnip head, as opposed to looking like Jon Pertwee covered in soil. This is fine, and understandable, but he looks like someone who’s been prematurely aged (see: Beetlejuice, The X-Files and various episodes of Doctor Who) and the plant strands that serve for a beard remind me a little bit of Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean. The problem is that irrespective of faithfulness to the source material, Pertwee’s iconic rendition has all but usurped it. Worzel Gummidge is like The Wizard of Oz: everyone remembers how it looked, rather than how it read.

Elsewhere, in gaming: as Forza Horizon 4 unveils its new Lego-themed expansion, the Doctor has a nagging feeling that he should move the TARDIS.

When I posted this, various people were keen to point out that the TARDIS would be fine, since it had extrapolator shields. To which the obvious response is “Yes, but the car doesn’t!”

 

Finally, it’s been – can you believe it – five years since the death of Rik Mayall, which makes me sad that he was never involved in Doctor Who in some way. He was an extremely talented actor – both in straight and comedic roles – with a tremendous screen presence. He even makes Drop Dead Fred semi-interesting – although you’d have to use him carefully. There is no place for the man in a Dalek story. Bottom was – to all intents and purposes – the Waiting for Godot of sitcoms, so it would have to be something ostensibly mundane, where characters are lulled into a false sense of security and mostly just sit around waiting for things to happen.

“IT’S NOT BLOODY DOING ANYTHING!”

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Have I Got Whos For You (Summer Special)

Hello lovely people. And how are we doing?

Things have calmed down here a bit now that I’ve got a two week camping trip in Wales under my belt – along with a children’s holiday club and the first of two festivals. We’re in the eye of the storm just before the second one kicks off, and I’m using a couple of days’ respite to catch up on things I’ve not yet posted – beginning with Sooty, who recently celebrated his seventieth birthday.

“What’s that? You want to play your xylophone?”

For the uninitiated: Sooty is a mute glove puppet who speaks only in inaudible whispers. He’s fond of magic, pranks and general mayhem, and had he been created within the last ten years he’d have his own YouTube channel and be the subject of a dozen tabloid scandals: a picture of a soaking, pie-covered Boris Johnson accompanied by the words “HAS SOOTY GONE TOO FAR?”. Sooty is joined on his adventures by a squeaky-voiced dog and a talking panda, as well as whatever hapless human being happens to be looking after him – for years this was creator Harry Corbett, before his son Matthew took over the role, being responsible for the welfare of the exuberant trio and their cousin Scampy during my childhood. Matthew eventually handed the reins to Richard Cadell, and the titular bear is currently residing at Brean Park in Somerset. (Yes, I’ve been.)

Sooty’s been shown in a variety of situations and a variety of formats – the classic sitcom-in-a-house setup is perhaps the most famous, but Sooty’s also run a junk shop, a holiday camp and a hotel (in which Arthur Darvill once stayed). There was also a dreadful animated series, which failed principally because it gave Sweep the voice he’d always been denied, making him more or less unwatchable, but also because it gave the characters legs. I mean, honestly. It’s not the bloody Muppets. There’s a time and a place for these things. There are certain puppet characters who are doomed to be permanently legless.

Do you know who else is having a birthday this year? WALL-E. He turns ten. And he’s probably trundling around the repopulated Earth somewhere, tidying up the rubbish and watching old movies with EVA. They’re probably still trying to grow that pizza plant. When you think about it, WALL-E is basically a film about a binman who falls in love with a gardener, except they go into space and hang out with a bunch of fat people. Still, there’s something to be said for an animated feature where the villain is a wheel and the hero is a box.

I first saw WALL-E a few months after its release, when it came to the Saturday morning £1 bargain presentations at our local Cineworld. I took Josh, who (at the age of four) probably didn’t have a clue what was going on, although he didn’t say anything. He saved that for Megamind, in which he leaned over to me half an hour from the end and said “Daddy, I don’t understand any of this”. I defy any of you with children to adequately explain the plot of Megamind, with its duplicitous characters and twists and endless use of hologramatic disguises, to a six-year-old in a crowded cinema in a whisper. Go on. Try it. And then come back and tell me exactly what you said so that I can save it for when I eventually watch it with Edward.

Anyway. Let’s move on, shall we? To this, to be exact.

I mean, I don’t know. I thought doing a Civil War re-enactment (you see what I did there) would be fun. I know it makes no sense, but it’s just fun. And people seemed to like it – with one exception, who will be anonymised in the transcript that follows. It’s a closed group (of which she’s no longer a member) and I do have standards, so let’s call her, I don’t know, Haylee. She reminded me of a Haylee for some reason. Oh, and I’ve corrected all her typos, because I’m not totally without mercy.

Haylee: Why is Capaldi on the same side as the master? Is it because of his affection for his frenemy it something else I’m missing? (I didn’t get to see the whole season with Bill).

Me: He came like that, and I just couldn’t be bothered to move him over.

Haylee: Then what’s the point of making the image at all if you’re not going to make it properly representative?

Me: It’s not representative of anything. I just did it for a laugh.

Haylee: if there is no reason for Capaldi to be on the same side as the Masters, you have failed to capture a parody of Avengers Civil War. Parodies include juxtaposed meaning, not just similar imagery.

Me: Strewth. And I thought Star Wars fans overthought things.

Haylee: My comments come from being in the graphic design and theatre world where you need to have reasoning behind visual action. We overthink which shade of blue to use.

Me: Then I suspect you need to switch off a bit.

Haylee: Or you can deal with the true definition of parody and accept someone asking for the reasoning for your artistic choices. Simon [who chipped in with a couple of other semi-helpful interpretations about ‘sides’ that I haven’t bothered to include] did a great job of answering my initial question, giving reason to your art, when you ‘couldn’t be bothered.’ Bye Felicia.

Me: It’s not a parody of anything. I just had the idea for the image and picked the first caption that came into my head. If you want to get all authoritarian about the ‘true meaning’ of parody then that’s entirely up to you. I mean, seriously, you sound like the way I used to be. I have found this whole conversation greatly amusing, in an alarming sort of way, because it confirms just about every stereotype in the Joyless Overthinking Fan Handbook, right down to the ‘Bye Felicia’. I shall bring you a nice cup of tea to perk you up during your gatekeeping.

Haylee:  I give no shits from a fan perspective. I give shits from a visual communication perspective. I asked for clarification of the meaning of your image, and you straight up just said you were too lazy to care about creating a piece that was a good parody. You could have just answered “I didn’t think about that- it was just for fun” and that would have been fine. Instead what I heard in your answer was “I did a half ass job and wanted praise for my delicate male ego- how dare you critique my work.”

Our wonderful friend Simon created a wonderful bit of meaning that I thought the image may have been hinting at, adding greater depth to your image.

We can always do better in our craft and our communication. Being unwilling to hear how we can make a craft better is to nurse a weak ego. Creating images that we say hold a specific meaning or goal (in this case, a parody to Avengers Civil War) and then not putting in enough thought to complete the task encourages further mediocrity. It’s fine to say it’s just for fun. It’s fine to say you didn’t think about it. But to be “hey now, get your panty out of your butt – no one gets to give me critiques” is why I say bye Felicia. Again, thanks Justin for being a deep thinker who sees the multiplicities in the charters of this particular fandom. James, Keep making fun images. Keep making connections. Keep improving, even if it’s just a hobby and just for fun. Be willing to listen to people that aren’t me about how you can make your images have clearer and stronger meaning. It’s the creators that make things fun. It’s the collaborators that bring depth.

Me: I’m always up for constructive criticism where I think it improves things. Give me technical info. How could I sort out the interlacing? How could the structure of this piece be changed so it doesn’t drag? What should that caption actually say as it doesn’t read quite right? And how can I fix that annoying pop on the MP3 samples?

Don’t assume, merely because I scoffed at you, that I’m a rampant egomaniac who hates criticism of his work. I’ve been doing this shit since you were in elementary and I got reasonably competent (for an enthusiastic, part-time amateur) at it largely through listening to others. Or what, you think I’m going to tell you one of those hard graft stories where I take all the credit?

I just felt that in this instance you missed the mark. You wax lyrical about this supposedly definitive concept of ‘true parody’ (which has given my friends quite a titter, by the way) but you miss the point that this is purposely ambiguous, silly and – well, itself bereft of a point. This was never meant to be about Civil War. The image came first – or the idea of it – and the caption was something I tagged on because it sort of looked a bit like it, but I don’t really think it does and I don’t think anyone else does either. You’re trying to bring meaning where there is none, which is something fans do a lot, whether they’ve got a background in graphic design or they flip burgers at McDonald’s.

So please don’t assume that I don’t listen to criticism or take constructive comments on board. I just have a filter. A filter is necessary because otherwise you listen to everyone, which leads to the eradication of ego and the death of creativity. You may object to the criteria under which that filter operates, specifically because in this instance it excluded you, but them’s the breaks, and just because you’ve interpreted it in a particular way it does not mean you know me.

TL:DR – Don’t try and give things more significance than they deserve. I don’t get paid for this. Know when to critique and when not to. That’s a lesson I had to learn myself, and my life is richer for the experience.

Strewth. I don’t know why I bother.

Yes. Yes I do.

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Have I Got Whos For You (part 9 3/4)

Scooby Ood.

 

Scooby Ood

Actually, while we’re on the subject –

You were all thinking it, weren’t you?

And while we’re combining cartoons with that series finale, have a few Peanuts.

See you next time, my Sweet Babboo.

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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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Have I Got Whos For You (part 76)

There is no God Is In The Detail post this week, folks. I’m sorry. I really can’t spare the time.

However, here’s some alternative artwork for episode 11, ‘World Enough And Time’ – and yes, the BBC acknowledged that it was a deliberate homage to ‘Day of the Doctor’, but I wondered what would happen if you combined them:

Elsewhere, this recently discovered deleted scene from ‘Forest of the Dead’ goes a long way towards closing up some narrative loopholes.

Talking of Nardole, the inspiration for that costume, when you look at it, is obvious.

Anyway: while I was doing all this, my eight-year-old removed the front from his Yoda torch, and inadvertently turned it into Alpha Centauri.

Normal business resumes next week.

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