Posts Tagged With: sci-fi

Notes on the Thirteenth Doctor

Dear Fandom – 

1. Within certain social parameters, the role of Doctor Who is to entertain. The ideal candidate for the Doctor may be black, Asian, Inuit, Native American, gay, bisexual, androgynous, non-binary. Or it may be a thirty-something white male. You will have to deal with that.

2. The fans do not have control over the show. There is a good reason for this.

3. Just because we’ve never had a female Doctor before, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to work.

4. Just because we’ve never had a female Doctor before, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work.

5. New incarnations come and go all the time. Change is part of the show. I cannot believe we’re still having this conversation.

6. “Nurse Who”? Really? That’s the best you can manage?

7. Jodie Whittaker may be brilliant. Or she may be dreadful. You don’t know. Neither do I. But do not fill the gaps with a worst case scenario and think you’ve developed an unshakable prediction.

8. I thought Matt Smith was going to be a trainwreck. Then he opened his mouth, and all was forgiven. “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”

9. The ‘Yeah, it really worked for Ghostbusters’ argument is founded on false logic and we both know it.

10. The notion that you believe your £150 license fee entitles you to any sort of stake in this is frankly laughable.

11. Stop calling Doctor Who a liberal left-wing show. It isn’t.

12. You do not get to say who is a ‘fan’ of the show, whether that person likes a particular Doctor or hates them. They’re just someone with an opinion. That opinion may be worthless, but the bar of acceptable levels of service to a particular programme is not and cannot be set by you. Sorry.

13. Those of you who say you’ll stop watching: we’ll believe it when we see it.

14. Whether you’re left or right wing, your ‘passion’ for the show and the fact that you love and care about it so deeply does not entitle you to be a dick. That’s the same argument Isaac used on Dom in Holby City to justify his emotional and physical abuse. Didn’t work then either.

15. To suggest that Whittaker got the part simply because she’s a woman – whether you’re a sceptic decrying such a move or a feminist celebrating it – is nothing short of insulting. It insults the performer, it insults the writer and producer and it insults the BBC.

16. Memo to the BBC: it doesn’t help my argument when you start talking about ‘a commitment to diversity’. Button it.

17. Women: please stop assuming that everyone who begins a sentence with “I’m not sexist, but…” really is sexist.

18. Men: please stop beginning sentences with “I’m not sexist, but…”. It just isn’t worth the hassle.

19. The fact that Ian Levine has gone on a complete rant about this should tell you all you need to know about how you should be reacting yourselves.

Cordially yours,

Brian

P.S. Please stop using the word ‘Whovian’. It is a silly name for silly people.

Categories: New Who | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

God is in the detail (10-09)

Something a little different today.

Let’s be honest. This week’s Doctor Who was not about the visual stuff. Most of it was caves. There were shots of tea. But there was nothing you might really call substantial. Nothing that gave us the IMPORTANT CLUES AND SIGNS that we’ve become accustomed to.

But something strange and wonderful happens when you examine the script. Specifically, certain portions of the script. Even more specifically, every twelfth word (for reasons that ought to be obvious). In fact, I went through the script and wrote down every twelfth word – that’s spoken dialogue, you understand, not stage directions – and here is the final list, in handy chronological order.

Thanks, Chrissy.

So far, so bewildering. But you can rearrange those words to form…well, have a read. Note that this is not the entire collection: twelve words were kept back as a tithe to appease our Time Lord masters. It should be obvious what’s going on – but if it helps, imagine two battle-weary soldiers, in the still of the night, looking out over battlements under a strange alien sky.

“You do look busy.”
“I wasn’t asleep.”
“OK. Isn’t Alice here?”
“Yes. Sarge is receiving the Vikings.”
Sergeant. Rhino warriors?”
“Human. Trapped in a Sarcophagi under the surface of Mars.”
“Quite a game with mankind. Taking over a British company…”
“A gouged carapace.”
“Swing your board at it.”
“Your will is my command.”
“Please yourself.”
“Got to. This Friday is oh, so long.”
“This is temporary. There’s no life.”
“Isn’t that a thing? This bio-mechanical world…for all God’s riches…tired, dead. No grass.”
“Like you knew.”
“I need a woman.”
“Our little blue monarch. Didn’t you make plans together?”
“Oh, details. This…first question…”
“Don’t speak of it. You show that to be unwise.”
“My pleasure.”
“There’s a service this Friday.”
“Here?”
The execution of the War Doctor. He was here.”
“Doctor Who?”
“Go hang. He hears you. We’re obliged to that poor beggar.”
“They could have asked me for help.”
“Yet you never ask.”
“No can do. I will miss the TARDIS though. I value war but want to stop.”
“You and your patriotic manner.”
“I liked gold. Seems we jump out twice minted. Everybody who is kind gave.”
“And so they sent you down.”
“Dawn. First thing…five.”
“For you take from here.”
“These forms…well, rope is right. This way is ever just. Though we used to…”
“Up to him, son. Been getting him down. Or us.”
“One here, one going. So come.”
“Yes. Hold here.”
“Forgive me. I had forgotten the munificence of the indigenous warriors.”
“It has taken you forward. You really must board the rocket.”
“Ice came to everything…and to us.”
“And a whole new theme in ice. I’ll survive. All things considered, I will survive.”

With calculations primed, as Mars is awoken, the Doctor is going home.

Roll credits.

Categories: God is in the Detail | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Empress of Mars

I was at primary school with a kid called Steve. We all called him Spud, presumably because his head was unfortunately potato-shaped. He didn’t mind. Steve was a polite, if academically disadvantaged young man, and we were good friends. His parents divorced before we’d finished year 6, which was a bigger deal back in 1988 than it is now. He was a latchkey kid with access to the fridge and borderline unsuitable reading material. It was a different world.

One afternoon we were in the kitchen sharing a Diet Coke when I noticed his father was watching the end of something. The two of us looked round the door of the lounge: an actor, stabbed in the chest, staggering across a platform, evidently milking his death scene for all it was worth. He raised his face to the heavens and bellowed the single line of dialogue my brain recalls from that afternoon: “ODIIIIIINNNNN!!!!”

Thirty years on, I still haven’t seen The Vikings. But Bill has – and I’d be willing to bet that Mark Gatiss has as well. And as it turns out, that isn’t a bad thing.

There are writers who strive to forge ahead – for whom the most important thing is to tell new stories, or find new ways of telling those stories. And then there are writers who take their cue from the past. Gatiss has always struck me as one of those: a man whose Who-related work is rooted in the 1970s, in a self-conscious manner that flits between mind-numbingly tedious and tremendously enjoyable, depending on the episode. The criticism he receives is somewhat mystifying, given that a great deal of it seems to come from the very same component of the fanbase who actively petition for David Tennant’s return: a stilted, insular, nostalgia-driven quadrant, for whom the only way to fix a show that’s well past its prime is to make it exactly the same as it was, which misses the point so drastically I don’t have the willpower to unpack it.

I first learned to love Mark Gatiss around the time ‘The Crimson Horror’ first hit: in a pondering, occasionally tedious series (and in the wake of an absolute clanger of an episode) it was a breath of fresh air, a story that wasn’t ashamed of its legacy and that eschewed self-importance in favour of…well, fun. It’s an underrated commodity. Stories like ‘Robot of Sherwood’ seldom make the top ten, but they’re fun. Sometimes we forget that Doctor Who is supposed to be fun, so consumed are we in telling everyone how important and groundbreaking it is. One of my favourite moments in the Harry Potter series occurs at the end of Goblet of Fire, where Harry finds a convenient use for the blood money he’s earned from the Tri-Wizard tournament, by investing in the Weasley twins’ joke shop business venture. “I don’t want it,” he says, “and I don’t need it. But I could do with a few laughs. We could all do with a few laughs. I’ve got a feeling we’re going to need them more than usual before long.”

What to say about ‘Empress’? It’s not profound. It makes no real political point, save the kind of digs at the British Empire you typically see on Horrible Histories (a show in which Gatiss has appeared, along with his League of Gentlemen co-stars). It has a lot of stuff about queen and country, including a pleasing Pauline Collins reference. It has an amusing, if fairly derivative cold open – excuse pun – that is enough to draw your interest, even if it does not quite reach the hyperbolic praise that Moffat ascribes to it (“The best pre-titles idea [he’d] ever heard”, according to Doctor Who Magazine, which rather overstates its supposed brilliance). It has a bunch of gung-ho British soldiers speaking an indecipherable language (‘rhino’ is mentioned; I honestly don’t know whether this is colloquially accurate or whether Gatiss is just making this shit up). And it has a new form of squareness gun: it literally folds people up in a sort of fatal compression, useful for packing suitcases. (Gatiss describes this as “a new way of killing people”, suggesting that he’s never read The Twits.)

More to the point, it has Ice Warriors. The throaty voices from ‘Cold War’ are back, but you don’t hear an awful lot of them: there is but one grunt, a tea-brewing local who is mostly silent, leading you to wonder at first whether we’re back in ‘Doctor’s Wife’ territory. The episode is also graced with a brand new Ice Warrior, the titular Empress, frozen in carbonite and equipped with a distinctive, Predator-style helmet that presumably comes with its own feed of 1980s action movies, beamed straight to the eyepiece. She moves a little like Eldrad and growls like Sarah Parish in ‘The Runaway Bride’, with a similar mindset. Not that Iraxxa is irrevocably genocidal, of course – like the most rounded supporting characters her mind can be swayed, although she only listens to reason when Bill pleads with her to stop the fighting. Do we take this as a feminist-tinged political commentary on current foreign policy? If so, would that make Bill Diane Abbott, Emily Thornberry or Nia Griffith? Is this a conversation I really shouldn’t have started?

While all this is going on, Nardole is stuck on Earth, in a seemingly malfunctioning TARDIS, which has obviously put its brakes on for a reason, whether the forces implementing it turn out to be internal or external. There’s a certain amount of cast-thinning going on here; Mars is crowded enough and it’s no great secret that Nardole’s presence in the episode was somewhat last minute – we’re back in Nyssa and Jamie territory – so the solution Gatiss (or, come to think of it, most likely Moffat) adopts is to temporarily maroon him. The subsequent appearance by Missy is functional but unnerving, suggesting something else is going on, and the episode’s abrupt conclusion indicates another scene that might have been dropped. It doesn’t work, but one suspects that Gatiss’ hand was forced for the state of the arc.

There are film references galore – Bill’s response to strolling around the caverns of Mars is to liken it to the movies she’s seen, which some may seem as irritating but which is really just a reflection of how contemporary culture works. Relatively contemporary culture, anyway – I was going to write that it was a wonder that she didn’t try and Instagram a selfie with Friday, but the truth is that every film on Bill’s list is at over thirty years old, and it is left to the Doctor to drop in a reference to Frozen. This token nod to the millenials aside, the story is, like much of Gatiss’ best work, not so much a product of its time as much as a product of somebody else’s (or, as someone put it on Facebook last night, “Gatiss’ stuff was great when other people wrote it first in the 70s”).

That turns out to work. ‘Empress’ has ‘filler’ stamped all over it, but there is nothing wrong with a decent filler. It doesn’t do anything particularly profound, but it has enough in there to hopefully pique the curiosity of newer fans who have yet to encounter the Ice Warriors properly, without completely destroying anything that was good about the original. Indeed, the appearance of Alpha Centauri, two minutes from the end, was enough to make me jump out of my chair – it is reckless, crowd-pleasing shoehorning, there for no other reason than to appeal to the more experienced fanbase and up the hit counts in the Classic Who groups, but I can live with that, even if most newer fans were probably wondering who on Earth that squeaky-voiced bug-eyed alien was, and why their parents were getting so excited. (At least they have an excuse: the Telegraph, in a review which has subsequently been amended, genuinely thought it was Pauline Collins. I can live with the show being reviewed by non-experts – but seriously, how hard is it to read the credits?)

Some episodes of Doctor Who are destined to set the world alight. Gatiss’ latest will not, but that’s not the end of the world. If its supporting characters could do with a little more depth, that’s a by-product of the forty minute structure (and something which, when Chibnall comes to the table, could do with a serious rethink). The leads acquit themselves more than adequately, even if the Doctor has little to actually do this week except react. And it has Ice Warriors doing Ice Warrior-ish things, in a self-contained narrative that, while popping the odd seam in its bag of containment, manages to just about stay inside it. Profundity can wait: this is fun. Really, what more do you want on a Saturday evening?

Categories: Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Inspirational Star Wars Quotes

“I have been giggling at this,” said Sara, “for ten minutes.

impossible-possible

I didn’t even get the reference, which supposedly comes from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, a show I’d never even heard of, let alone seen. But it works, even though it loses points for missing out a full stop in that second frame.

Star Wars spirituality is a very real concept. We’re living in a country where nearly four hundred thousand people put ‘Jedi’ as their religion on the 2001 census, for crying out loud. There’s nothing wrong with that, in and of itself, provided it’s a token protest against atheism and not something you’re actually supposed to take seriously. If that sounds rather too obvious a point for me to need to actually state openly, it’s worth bearing in mind that I’ve spent a week or so reading through status updates on a Facebook group where people genuinely seem to think that the Doctor is really out there flying around in his TARDIS, simply because you’re unable to categorically prove that he isn’t.

So I’m fine with life lessons from Who, and the Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned From Star Trek business model, but you can get too obsessed. And when people delve into these shows as if it’s the only thing that gives their lives meaning, I am torn between the desire to feel sorry for them or openly mock them. Sometimes it’s a simple combination of both.

“Also,” said Sara’s friend Kimberley, “I think a whole series of Star Wars / spiritual memes is in order.”

And she was right. So we spent a pleasant evening doing them, as and when they came to us.

And somewhat predictably, I made a whole set. And here they are.

If Plan A didn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters

If God is all you have you have all you need

Be somebody nobody thought you could be

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience we are spiritual beings having a human experience

Courage is being yourself every day in a world that tells you to be someone else

Don’t let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace

Until you spread your wings you will have no idea how far you can fly

The truth of human freedom lies in the love that breaks down barriers

Happiness is found when you stop comparing yourself to other people

Embrace the glorious mess that you are

May the Force be with you. “And also with you.”

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Don’t Panic

My darling wife has a birthday.

I’m not going to tell you how old she is. But to mark the occasion, I’ve Photoshopped her into scenes from The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

(We really should make tea as well.)

em_hh_1 em_hh_7 em_hh_4 em_hh_6 em_hh_3 em_hh_5 em_hh_2

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Introducing The Kasterborous Archives

Those of you who visit this page regularly will be familiar with the banner menu at the top, which leads to the external content I stick on the internet – YouTube material, paid journalism and the random things (most of which also appear here) that I post on Tumblr. Well, you’ve got to have something for the kids, right?

If you look today you’ll notice that one of the links is missing – specifically this one.

kast_1

The story of the decline of Kasterborous.com is a sad one, and I think enough water has passed under the bridge for me to be able to tell you some of what happened. It breaks down like this: for a number of years Kasterborous was a lively, entertaining Doctor Who website with a reasonably prolific output. It had a relatively small but very dedicated user base, a decent variety of content and a successful spin-off, The Podkast with a K, which is still going. The team of writers – led by Christian Cawley, the site’s editor – was focussed and dedicated but never took themselves too seriously. We were never going to be Den of Geek, but that was fine.

I started writing for Kasterborous in its twilight years, and it wasn’t long after I joined that Christian jumped ship. (There were a number of reasons for this, which I won’t go into, although it was down to external factors and I’m reasonably confident it had absolutely nothing to do with me.) Administration passed to Phil Bates, and the business of writing carried on as usual, but trouble was brewing below deck: we’d become increasingly concerned about the way in which content was displayed, with articles frequently saturated with adware links in the body text (I’m told this is called Text Enhance). None of us were stupid. We understood the need for advertising revenue to keep a site running. But it was borderline illegible in places – and it made for an uncomfortable, treacherous reading experience, finger hovering precariously over the mouse wheel, terrified of veering just a little too far to the left in case you accidentally pressed the button and navigated to a travel site. Even the picture ads that topped and tailed (and generally surrounded) articles seemed to be advertising porn or clickbait, or a combination of the two.

Eventually, Phil and the others decided they’d had enough. The only response from the site’s owner – whom they’d contacted repeatedly – was a perennial wall of silence. It was like talking to Chief Bromden in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Even their announcement that everyone was leaving was met with unresponsive indifference. We upped sticks and set up a new website, The Doctor Who Companion (more on that in a moment) and left Kasterborous as an online Mary Celeste.

I was going to say “…and we never looked back”, but that simply wouldn’t be true, because I’d left a lot of content on that site and I was curious as to what was going to happen to it. Under Phil’s advice I copied and pasted everything – this turned out to be a good move, for reasons that will become apparent – but while the site didn’t exactly grow, it didn’t suddenly vanish either. Our guess was that it was going to stay there until the owner (whom you’ll note I’ve neglected to name; this is quite deliberate) remembered about it and decided to let the domain renewal elapse. The last I’d heard, he’d sold it to a media outlet.

Then we woke up one morning and saw this.

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As if it weren’t bad enough that the article (which was badly written hack journalism of the lowest order) delved into an area we’d never even have considered exploring when the site was fully functioning, it was in its original form attributed to none other than Christian Cawley. Christian immediately jumped on it and demanded the removal of his name – this eventually happened, although not before a second piece a week later (also supposedly by him) which discussed a multi-Doctor poker game. It was clear where this was going, and Christian was plunged into a writer’s second-worst nightmare, with various theories abounding as to why the owners would want to sully him in this way – spite? Revenge? Or was this some sinister media conglomerate trumping over decent writers, simply because they could?

The truth, as is customary for these things, turned out to be far less sinister. Whether it was the threats of legal action or someone just actually taking a look at what they’d posted, both articles were suddenly attributed to the mysterious ‘Max’. Unfortunately, so was just about everything Christian had ever written. It was clear what had happened: the new writers had taken over the admin account, which presumably had Christian’s name on it, and weren’t clever enough to do a decent retrospective backdate. In short, Kasterborous was now being run by people with no clue as to what they were doing, or no real desire to do it properly. You pick.

It gets worse. Fast forward: some time later, this happens.

 

 

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If you can’t spot what’s going on here, it’s there in that bottom article: this is an old piece (from October 2015) republished as is. There were ten of them, all appearing simultaneously, all referring to long-aired episodes and long-finished conventions. It was like the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind where all the missing pilots suddenly turn up in the mountain as if nothing has happened. The general reaction was one of bemusement or casual anger, but we’d come to expect it. Was this some kind of ploy to keep the site in the search rankings and the revenue coming in when you had nothing to publish – this year’s contractual obligation Dalek story? We’d never know, because no one there was actually willing to talk about it; they just randomly deleted the negative comments.

Last week, the Podkast people visited the site, and this is what their browser said.

kast_2

Curiously the warning appears to have gone now – it pops up again intermittently, although I don’t intend to visit the site again to find out. Certainly it’s still active, although many of the pages appear to be defunct and many links are no-longer functioning. Even if you’re able to navigate through all the sludge the chances are you won’t be able to see what you’d like to see, and there’s a decent chance you’re going to be infected with malware.

So today’s little missive has two purposes. The first is to give another plug to The Doctor Who Companion. You may have visited it not long after its inception but suffice it to say the site has blossomed these last few months: we have themed weeks, regular reviews, and I write for them whenever I can. The formatting does take a little bit of getting used to but there is a wealth of goodness to be found in there. If your sense of devotion is particularly strong you could also head over to our Facebook page – all new visitors and page likes welcome.

DW_Companion_Ad

 

The second is to introduce a new feature here at Brian of Morbius: The Kasterborous archives, in which I’ll be publishing a selection of the stuff I wrote for them – by no means all of it, because some was effectively reblogged from here in the first place, and some has been republished over at the DWC. But it’ll be a way of getting the rest of it back online in a safe, legible format, away from link-saturated web pages bordered by ads for things that will absolutely astound you. (And for the record, I’ve been using the web for over twenty years and I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything that’s genuinely astounded me. Surprised, amused and occasionally amazed, but astounded? Still waiting.)

I had intended to start today, but we’re out of time. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow. As compensation, here’s a sad-looking Cyber Kettle.

ck

You literally won’t believe what happens next.

Categories: The Kasterborous Archives | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

I am the remaster, and you will obey me (part two)

Last week we were talking about old videos that I’d been re-doing. If you haven’t read part one, you can do so here.

Today, set a course for deep space, three million years in the future…

2. The Tenth Doctor Meets Holly

This was the only one of my videos to ever feature in The Daily Mirror. I am still grateful to Danny Walker for picking it up; the effect on traffic was pretty substantial. It’s the one that tends to get the lion’s share of the comments coming in, although they’re not all good. I had a delicious argument with a troll a while back who argued that there was no good British sci-fi. Americans, he contested, had Star Wars and Star Trek and Philip K. Dick. “You guys do fantasy great,” he conceded, but that was it.

“You don’t have Star Wars,” I told him. “It was written and produced by an American and some of the leads are American, but a significant chunk of the cast are British (the ones who can act, anyway) and an awful lot of it was filmed here with British crews.” I then gave him a list of seminal English sci-fi writers and casually insulted him: this was the point at which the troll realised he was being trolled back, whereupon he promptly vanished.

Well, honestly. You have to keep an eye on things. I have a self-imposed ‘never apologise, never explain’ rule to my Metro and Doctor Who Companion work, but when it comes to YouTube, I’m there like a rocket when the abuse comes in. Nine times out of ten you’re more intelligent than the person insulting you, and it can be fun running rings around them, as I did with Mr “Fuck you, I hate you more than my slow phone” last month. I know it’s juvenile. And I know you’re not supposed to feed the troll hater. But there’s a time and a place. If you were running a stand at a convention and someone came up and started being rude to you, you wouldn’t ignore them, you’d tell them to sling their hook. This is a bit like that.

But this video…eesh. The negative comments on this bugged me, because they were right. In its original form, it was far too long. In my quest to include more or less every usable clip I shoehorned in a lot of stuff that didn’t need to be there. For example, there’s a bit where the Doctor and Rose and Mickey are discussing the concept of parallel universes, so I included some speculation from Holly about Ringo Starr (from a series 2 episode called, astonishingly, ‘Parallel Universe’). It wasn’t funny. But in it went. There was an exchange with Harriet Jones that didn’t work. In it went. The ending didn’t work. The opening scene with Tennant works at its beginning and then doesn’t.

“Some of these,” said one user, “I felt were misjudged and kind of fell flat but the ones that were good, were really good.” Others were less kind: “A very nice idea,” somone said, “but very poorly executed”. The most scathing criticism came from Red Whovian, who (despite having a silly name) pointed out that “You’ve got to do more than just insert Holly in between Dr Who clips; a good editor can make the dialogue seem like it’s properly interacting.”

You can imagine at the time that this bugged me tremendously. It’s not much fun when someone takes the trouble to unceremoniously dump on this labour of love that took you hours and for which you didn’t get paid, and which cost them nothing to see. “Take their comments,” suggested a friend, “and look at them constructively. Ask yourself whether they might have a point about any of it. If they don’t, you don’t need to worry.”

When it came to look at this again, less was more. It was a lesson I’d already learned and put into practice when assembling other similar videos. I fixed the ambient sound and managed to re-crop some of the dialogue so that a couple of lines that were previously missing their very beginning (which is like, I don’t know, an MP4 circumcision) were now fully intact. But the most important thing was what was missing: lines were moved from one scene to another (Holly’s “Explain this” exchange now makes a modicum of sense), and whole exchanges were lost. The ending was re-jigged. Peter Jackson’s approach to ‘definitive cuts’ of Lord of the Rings was to add footage he had to remove from the theatrical version. When Ridley Scott went back to Blade Runner, it was all about what he wanted to remove. You can guess which I prefer.

It’s not perfect – still, it is, I hope, something of an improvement. Unless you’re watching on a slow phone, of course. But I can’t do everything.

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

17 faces that will be familiar to every Doctor Who fan

The other day, an old friend of mine stuck a Buzzfeed article on her timeline. It was called ‘24 Faces That Will Be Familiar To Every Feminist‘.

Did I laugh? For sure. Did I empathise? Well, of course not. If this is the way it is for women then fine; I’m not going to argue with that. I try not to get involved in gender politics if I can help it; too often I get accused of Mansplaining (whereas the truth is I have assorted online arguments with men and women and am equally condescending and patronising to both). I bring my children up to be as accommodating and reasonably-minded as they can be; beyond that I’m not sure what else I can do.

But I can turn that list into something a little closer to home, and here it is. And as with Police Academy, another installment is always on the cards.

(The list is entirely mine, but I am indebted to Stupid Faces of Doctor Who for many of the images – not the sort of Tumblr blog I’d normally follow, but these things do come in handy.)

1. When someone insists “HE’S NOT CALLED DOCTOR WHO, HE’S CALLED THE DOCTOR!”.

Faces_01

2. When you witness an argument over whether Paul McGann is ‘Classic’ or not.

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3. “There’s only one Doctor, and it’s David Tennant.”

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4. “The Doctor’s supposed to be young and handsome. This new one’s too old.”

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5. When someone tells you how much they love the Rose / Tenth Doctor love story.

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6. “It’s not real Doctor Who unless it’s Doctors 1-8. This new stuff is rubbish. It’s not proper Doctor Who. I only watched one episode.”

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7. When you saw the Brigadier resurrected as a Cyberman.

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8. Fan theory, generally.

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9. “And what if Barty Crouch Jr. in that Harry Potter film was ACTUALLY THE TENTH DOCTOR?”

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10. When someone paints Michael Grade as ‘the man who killed Doctor Who‘.

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11. Oh look, it’s another ‘Bow ties are cool’ meme.

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12. “Ha ha! Look at Clara slapping the Doctor! Isn’t that funny?!?”

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13.When you meet someone who dismisses ‘Love and Monsters’ as a low point.

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14. “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch it.”

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(Yes. Yes we do.)

15. “I WILL ACCEPT THIS UNSUBSTANTIATED RUMOUR AS FACT, BECAUSE IT SUITS ME.”

Faces_14

16. God some of these Facebook groups have silly names.

Faces_16

17. “No, but Capaldi MIGHT regenerate into Smith. It could happen.”

Faces_17

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Flesh of my flesh

Three seemingly unrelated nuggets:

1. There’s a new Ninja Turtles film out.

2. Over the weekend I met Steve Benham, famous for portraying Heather from Eastenders in Harry Hill’s TV Burp, who starred in this scene.

3. Yesterday was Father’s Day.

Anyway, you can’t unsee this, can you?

Blobby_Parents

Actually, I just popped in to show you the pictures my children did for the card they gave me. Because they’re awesome. And if you squint, it really does look like that bear is wearing a fez.

Father's Day_2016

They know me rather well, I’d say.

 

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Every Doctor Who Companion ranked from worst to best

a1963-dw_companions_498px

This week, Doctor Who is all about the companions. There’s the much-discussed reveal of Pearl Mackie as Bill, for example, in a two-minute scene that aired during the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday afternoon. The decision to show it at that point in the day prompted a few complaints from non-football fans I spoke to, who resented having to turn it on, but it did at least give me an excuse to write a little something about the Doctor’s history with sport, so that’s all right.

Also in Metro, Cameron McEwan has produced a list that ranks every Doctor Who companion from worst to best. Said list has drawn the usual criticism from people who think that Rose should be higher and Donna should be lower, who don’t understand why Kylie isn’t there and who cannot understand why he’d choose to include companions they’ve never seen before in the top ten, citing instead a final countdown that exclusively concentrates on post-2005 content.

But the main thing about Cameron’s list is that producing an objective rundown of companions in order of supposed greatness is the wrong way of doing it. Because there’s only one correct way of ranking the companions, although it took me most of Saturday evening to puzzle it out. Hair? Certainly Bill’s hair is an enigma – “not that it’s big,” said Gareth, “but how it stops so abruptly in profile”. It’s looking – along with the Prince t-shirt, which is a little spooky given last week, although I’m assured that the scene was filmed in advance – like an eighties throwback might be the direction they’ve chosen to take for this particular venture, which will undoubtedly lead to heaps of awkward examples of comedic irony and obvious historical anachronisms. Or perhaps Bill’s into cosplay. I can’t really comment on what’s probably a filmed audition script, nor do I want to judge her, but I will address two of the criticisms I’ve heard: she is not Martha’s mum, nor is she ‘not black enough’. I mean, honestly.

Bill

Where were we? Yes, companion rankings. Listen, there’s only one way to rank companions, and that’s their scores on a Scrabble board, which was Gareth’s suggestion. So that’s what we’ve done. The results will surprise and annoy you (particularly when you see who’s at the top) but I think we can all conclude that this is UNAMBIGUOUSLY AND DEFINITIVELY the only way to rank companions correctly.

Important points of note:

  • For the sake of the argument, I’ve stuck to the list that Cameron used. That means no Astrid Peth, no River Song and no Brigadier. (Because if you include the Brigadier you also have to include Benton and Yates and before you know it half of UNIT is sitting around the board drinking cups of tea.)
  • These are vanilla scores only – i.e. the combined letter totals as if they do not cover any double / triple spaces. (In most cases such an instance would be impossible, due to the layout of the board, but it’s the only way to make it fair.)
  • Full names – where they exist – are always used. (Titles are another matter, but we’ll get to that.)
  • The editor’s decision is final.

 

Let’s get this one out of the way first:

DISQUALIFICATION: Romana

Sad to say that Romana’s twenty-letter name covers more than the length / width of the board, and is thus disqualified on the grounds that it exceeds the fifteen-letter limit. Which is a shame for you, Romana, but you’re the one who didn’t want it shortened – unless it was to Fred, which wouldn’t have served you much better. Sorry.

NA_Scrabble_Romana

 

37. K-9 (5 points)

Poor K-9. He was always doomed, given that his name consists of a single letter and a character that had to be employed with a blank tile. This is what happens if you have a number in your name; it just confuses alphabetisation (does ‘7’ come under ‘S’, or before the A’s?) and it makes you look pretentious. It’s a shame, in a way, that the K tile is only worth five points, instead of nine. At least that would have been funny.

05_Scrabble_K9

 

36. Leela (5 points)

Leela’s not really doing much better, is she? This is what happens when your name consists of one-point tiles, although if I’d done this with actor’s names, then Lalla Ward wouldn’t have fared a great deal better. Still, Leela left with K-9, so I can visualise them sitting in their rooms on Gallifrey while Andred’s out on patrol, sobbing over their bad luck in between rounds of Janus Thorn Chess. (I have no idea what that is. I just made it up.)

05_Scrabble_Leela

 

35. Adric (8 points)

Well, Adric’s a douche, so I have no real sympathy for him. He’d presumably start quoting the numbers in binary and use the block transfer computations to alter reality so that Scrabble had never been invented, the impetuous git.

08_Scrabble_Adric

 

34. Polly (10 points)

You see, this is what happens if you swan around the TARDIS refusing to give your real name. And yes, I’m aware that the production notes list her as Polly Wright, but we’re not supposed to know that, largely because it would have confused the viewers (which is a fair point, given many fans’ determination to link absolutely everybody that happens to share an extremely common name, but also demonstrating that as far back as 1966 the production team were prepared to assume that the audience was stupid). And yes, I know she’s established as Polly Wright (later Jackson) in spin-off fiction. Stable door, meet horse.

10_Scrabble_Polly

 

33. Katarina (12 points)

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room, shall we? I KNOW I SPELLED HER NAME WRONG. It doesn’t matter, because the score would have been the same. Still, no wonder I couldn’t find any pictures.

12_Scrabble_Katerina

 

32. Rose Tyler (12 points)

I’m grinning like an idiot at this one, because – ha! – the irritating Rose is dropped to the lower ranks of the top forty, where she belongs. Curiously every letter in her name is worth a single point, with the exception of one – suggesting that it’s the ‘Y’ of Rose Tyler that’s important. But then that put us back into companion-as-jewel-at-the-centre-of-the-universe territory, so let’s not go there. Ever.

12_Scrabble_Rose

 

31. Donna Noble (13 points)

There are better photos of Donna, but this is the one I picked, because it’s the look I suspect she’d have given me. “Number firty-one? FIRTY-ONE? IS THAT ALL YOU FINK I’M WORTH? Wouldna been so bad if you’d said it was me age….”

13_Scrabble_Donna

 

30. Kamelion (15 points)

The Rubbish Robot From The Dawn of Time gets a horrendously bad press, whereas I just like to think of him as a good idea gone wrong (also a neat summary of Torchwood, Wagon Wheels and the plot of Romeo and Juliet). I’d toyed with the idea of having ‘Karma Karma Karma Kamelion’, just for a joke, but there are only two blanks, and we’d have been screwed. Can I just mention at this point that had I gone with my original idea of ranking hairstyles, he would have got the top spot?

14_Scrabble_Kamelion

 

29. Amy Pond (15 points)

For his own reasons (probably space-related) Cameron lists Amy and Rory together, but I have teased them apart for the purposes of this exercise, largely because Amy was a companion for far longer than her husband. You have two roads here that lead to the same destination, as ‘Amelia’ gives the same score as ‘Amy’. ‘Amy Williams’ would have done better than ‘Amy Pond’, of course, but no one calls her that. No one.

15_Scrabble_Amy

 

28. Jo Grant (15 points)

It breaks my heart to put Jo all the way down here, because (behind a certain kilted Scot) she’s far and away my favourite companion, and Katie Manning’s such a sweetheart. But Jo hails from the early seventies, one of those periods of Who where the names companions were given were usually rather mundane, even if the people who owned them were not. Although she’d have done better if I’d spelled her as ‘Josephine’. Dammit, I should have done that. Why didn’t I do that?

15_Scrabble_Jo

 

27. Clara Oswald (17 points)

The impossible girl, languishing in the lower reaches of the top thirty. Of course, if you tot up the scores given to each of her separate fragments, she wins the game outright. But we’re not doing that.

17_Scrabble_Clara

 

26. Susan Foreman (17 points)

Susan – who, from the looks of things, has either tried to scratch her head after handling superglue or has been locked in a room playing a Justin Bieber concert on a loop – doesn’t do too badly, given her comparatively high-scoring surname. (The Gallifreyan equivalent, assuming it exists, would undoubtedly be far more interesting. Please leave your suggestions in the comments box; it all contributes to the blog stats.)

17_Scrabble_Susan

 

25. Ian Chesterton (18 points)

Supposition: if you substitute the other names that the Doctor used when Hartnell fluffed his lines (or when they turned it into a gimmick; I’m never quite sure which is the chicken and which is the egg) then Ian would be higher. Proof: ‘Charterhouse’ would have done quite well. As for me, I’m just wondering if Coal Hill have interviewed for Clara’s replacement yet.

18_Scrabble_Ian

 

24. Melanie Bush (18 points)

I very nearly wrote her as ‘Mel’, just out of spite. But that wouldn’t have been fair. And I’m all about fair. Even when dealing with someone who had a scream that could cut glass. (Here’s a thought: is Peter Harness’s decision to refer to Clara’s Zygon duplicate as ‘Bonnie’ a coincidence, or…oh, who am I kidding, it’s a coincidence.)

18_Scrabble_Mel

 

23. Steven Taylor (18 points)

Steven Taylor is worth 18 points. Peter Purves is also worth 18 points. IS THIS A COINCIDENCE?

(Yes.)

18_Scrabble_Steven

 

22. Ace (19 points)

I came dangerously close to being very hard on Ace, and granting her the solitary five points achieved by her first name. But there’s something grossly unfair about that. Of course, if she’d been happy to call herself Dorothy Gale McShane, she’d have been ranked much higher. Sorry, Ace: you’ve made your bed, now lie in it.

19_Scrabble_Ace

 

21. Sara Kingdom (19 points)

It’s unfortunate that the only decent resolution image I could find of an unaccompanied Sara Kingdom is that of her ageing to death at the end of ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’, but it’s a tribute to the self-sacrifice that defines her character. Too bad her parents were too lazy to stick an ‘H’ on the end of her first name, or she’d have beaten…

19_Scrabble_SaraKingdom

 

20. Dodo Chaplet (20 points)

…this young lady, she of the interesting hats. I did manage to use this in an actual game of Scrabble once, but it caused a minor upset when it disappeared from the board halfway through the game with no explanation.

20_Scrabble_Dodo

 

19. Rory Williams (20 points)

For some reason the board kept getting upset when I was putting down these letters, to the extent that I had to do it seven times. I’m sure there’s some explanation for this. In The Silent Stars Go By, the Doctor refers to Rory as “Rory Williams Pond”, to which the young nurse replies “Totally not my name”. Would that it had been, Rory. Would that it had been.

20_Scrabble_Rory

 

18. Vislor Turlough (21 points)

Turlough does quite well out of having an unusual first name, although if he’d opted for the slightly more European (or perhaps American) spelling of ‘Vizlor’, he’d have been bumped right up the table. Bet Mark Strickson’s kicking himself.

21_Scrabble_Turlough

 

17. Zoe Heriot (21 points)

Ah, Wendy Padbury. One of the nicest bottoms in Doctor Who. Zoe was always last in the register (and always got the dregs when it got to milk time) but she reaps the benefits now. If she were here I daresay she’d work out an algorithm of some sort to generate median scores, all without breaking a sweat.

21_Scrabble_Zoe

 

16. Adam Mitchell (22 points)

Adam is at the tail end of Cameron’s list, and with good reason. I don’t particularly like him being placed so high up here, either. The bastard’s hogged both the M’s. Perhaps we could take him to a beat poetry recital and watch his forehead repeatedly open and close.

22_Scrabble_Adam

 

15. Harry Sullivan (22 points)

Harry. We love Harry. We miss Harry. Good old Harry.

22_Scrabble_Harry

 

14. Liz Shaw (22 points)

Liz ties with Harry and Adam, but I’ve placed her above the two of them because she never really had a chance in Who, being written out after a single series. She does quite well here – of course, Elizabeth Shaw, her villainous doppelganger from ‘Inferno’, would have done even better. (Presumably Scrabble games in that parallel Earth typically end with the loser being shot in the head.)

22_Scrabble_Liz

 

13. Martha Jones (23 points)

Martha Jones. She saved the world. She get herself out of Japan, but she can’t get herself into the top ten. Not that 13th place is bad in the grand scheme of things. Of course, after her adventures in the TARDIS Martha married Mickey, changed her name to Smith, and saw her ranking decrease slightly, which led to marital discord and eventually divorce.

23_Scrabble_Martha

 

12. Nyssa of Traken (23 points)

My decision to refer to Nyssa in this manner (thus granting her a much higher score than she’d otherwise have achieved) is partly guilt; I’ve been rather hard on Sarah Sutton’s acting in the past when the truth is she’s really not that bad (and certainly much better in the Big Finish recordings). Simultaneously it’s a nod to Davison’s tendency to introduce her (in ‘Arc of Infinity’, and a number of audio stories) as ‘Nyssa of Traken’. There’s a bit of a Tolkienesque vibe to this, echoing as it does certain parts of Lord of the Rings in which Aragorn introduces his bromies not as Legolas and Gimli the way normal people do, but as “Legolas Greenleaf of the Woodland Realm, and Gimli son of Gloin”. Or something like that.

23_Scrabble_Nyssa

 

11. Barbara Wright (24 points)

Good old Jacqueline Hill. You could always rely on her, except when she got poisoned in ‘Planet of Giants’ and started being generally stupid. Still, it takes a supreme effort to abandon a name that would have netted you 31 points (the J and the Q take the lion’s share) in order to play a character worth a measly 24. Not that travelling with the Doctor is without its merits: at the end of Hunters of the Burning Stone, Barbara and Ian get married, which (assuming convention applies) makes her Barbara Chesterton (26 points) or Barbara Chesterton-Wright (Twitter meltdown). Well, David Whitaker always thought they should pair up.

24_Scrabble_Barbara

 

10. Jamie McCrimmon (24 points)

Oh, Frazer. I’m so, so sorry. You’d have got another six points if it hadn’t been for the stupid Scrabble set and its criminal lack of M’s. I can’t even talk about this anymore, I’m too upset.

(Edit: it’s just been pointed out to me that I’ve spelled McCrimmon wrong. Oops. In my defence, we were watching The Lion King and it was the wildebeest stampede.)

24_Scrabble_Jamie

 

9. Ben Jackson (25 points)

I’ve been dithering about this. On the one hand I really felt that I ought to have added ‘Able Seaman’, which is Ben’s full title (something that turns up again later). On the other hand I think he’s doing quite well on his own, and it’s not as if Michael Craze (Mayherestinpeace) is here to argue.

25_Scrabble_Ben

 

8. Grace Holloway (25 points)

Single story, multiple points. I’m now dithering as to whether she ought to be ‘Dr Grace Holloway’, which is better, or even ‘Doctor Grace Holloway’, which is better still. You decide. (I’m still not sure that blouse really goes with Daphne Ashbrook’s hair, but perhaps it’s the TARDIS lighting.)

25_Scrabble_Grace

 

7. Vicki Pallister (25 points)

Just try and ignore the fact that Vicki looks like a jester in this photo and the fact that my Scrabble picture is out of focus. And mourn, instead, that she spells her name with an ‘I’ instead of a ‘Y’.

(Edit: Gareth pointed out that, as far as we’re aware, Vicki’s surname is also only ever mentioned in spin-off material, which decreases her score dramatically. Oh well. The poor girl often gets overlooked.)

25_Scrabble_Vicki

 

6. Mickey Smith (27 points)

In the olden days of New Who, Mickey was someone I loved to hate. By the end of ‘Doomsday’, he’d grown almost bearable. When he turned up at the beginning of ‘Journey’s End’, I cheered. I’m almost pleased that he’s ranked as high as he has. Almost, but not quite.

27_Scrabble_Mickey

 

5. Tegan Jovanka (27 points)

Mouth on legs, but very nice legs. Plus she’s nicked the ‘J’ and the ‘K’, which does her nicely. “A broken scoreboard keeps better score than you!” Or something like that.

27_Scrabble_Tegan

 

4. Perpugillliam Brown / Peri (29 points)

Peri (who did not regrow her hair or marry Brian Blessed and who DIED ON THAT OPERATING TABLE) always considered her name something of a millstone, but it’s enough to catapult her all the way up the leaderboard from 27th to 5th. It’s enough to make you want to take your shoes off and throw them in a lake.

29_Scrabble_Peri

 

3. Sarah Jane Smith (29 points)

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love Sarah Jane? Actually it turns out there is, as we found out recently when someone in a Facebook group to which I belong started a thread talking about the fact that they didn’t like Sarah Jane Smith and did anyone else feel the same way? I think you can probably guess the answer to that one. Here she is in a rare moment of non-hypnosis.

29_Scrabble_SarahJane

 

2. Victoria Waterfield (30 points)

I like to picture Victoria, sitting in her cosy home, not exactly repatriated, playing board games and enjoying the quiet life. I don’t think she was ever really comfortable in the TARDIS, which is a shame because she and Jamie are really quite lovely together. Almost lovely enough to grant her the top spot – but not quite, because that goes to…

30_Scrabble_Victoria

 

1. Captain Jack Harkness (38 points)

You’re not happy, are you? Well, tough. He’s Captain Jack Harkness. That’s what we call him, in the absence of an actual name. You can call him the Face of Boe if you want. But I happen to be very fond of Jack, and if his ranking is a little controversial, you’re just going to have to deal with it. Go and stand on a rooftop for a little while; it usually works for him.

38_Scrabble_Jack

 

So there you are. It’s definitive and if you’ve got to the end of this three-thousand word missive without skim-reading then frankly I admire your persistence. We need to stop now. “Enough is enough,” I said to Gareth, when he pointed out (correctly) that Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was far more of a companion than many others on the list. “If I go down this road I’ll be here all evening. Besides, I’ve put the Scrabble board away.”

Whereupon Emily put her head round the door of the study and pointed out that they’d all have been disqualified anyway, as they’re all proper nouns. Bollocks.

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