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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You literally won’t believe what happens next.
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.
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!”.
2. When you witness an argument over whether Paul McGann is ‘Classic’ or not.
3. “There’s only one Doctor, and it’s David Tennant.”
4. “The Doctor’s supposed to be young and handsome. This new one’s too old.”
5. When someone tells you how much they love the Rose / Tenth Doctor love story.
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.”
7. When you saw the Brigadier resurrected as a Cyberman.
8. Fan theory, generally.
9. “And what if Barty Crouch Jr. in that Harry Potter film was ACTUALLY THE TENTH DOCTOR?”
10. When someone paints Michael Grade as ‘the man who killed Doctor Who‘.
11. Oh look, it’s another ‘Bow ties are cool’ meme.
12. “Ha ha! Look at Clara slapping the Doctor! Isn’t that funny?!?”
13.When you meet someone who dismisses ‘Love and Monsters’ as a low point.
14. “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch it.”
(Yes. Yes we do.)
15. “I WILL ACCEPT THIS UNSUBSTANTIATED RUMOUR AS FACT, BECAUSE IT SUITS ME.”
16. God some of these Facebook groups have silly names.
17. “No, but Capaldi MIGHT regenerate into Smith. It could happen.”
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?
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.
They know me rather well, I’d say.
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.
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:
Let’s get this one out of the way first:
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….”
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
23. Steven Taylor (18 points)
Steven Taylor is worth 18 points. Peter Purves is also worth 18 points. IS THIS A COINCIDENCE?
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
15. Harry Sullivan (22 points)
Harry. We love Harry. We miss Harry. Good old 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
I’ve talked about Ulysses 31 more than once. It’s a show I’ve loved since the 1980s – ever since the Chronos episode gave me recurring nightmares; ever since I was able to gloat that I’d seen the final episode when Matt Brady had missed it; ever since Philip Schofield did a memorable lipdub in the Children’s BBC Broom Cupboard on an otherwise nondescript Thursday afternoon. When Josh started studying Greek mythology as his school topic I insisted we watch the entire run together, and that’s exactly what we did. Some of the visual effects are rather dated, the characterisation is often paper thin (was any son so sickeningly worthy as Telemachus?) and the Everybody Laughs ending is used with alarming frequency. But by and large it stands up. There is, as yet, no big screen adaptation – but we do have the live action version, which I’m hesitant even to link to, given that it puts my own paltry efforts utterly to shame.
Still, you find stuff. My admiration for the programme – its mythology, its grand design, its fantastic score – is what prompted me to construct a redub of the closing monologue from the much-derided ‘Rings of Akhaten’, scored to ‘Vengeance of the Gods’. It was round about the time I first discovered the unscored audio tracks that lurk around the internet, which make seamless transitions much easier to do. It largely works, although – as I’ve recently had pointed out – you’d struggle to find a scene that wasn’t improved by the inclusion of the Ulysses 31 soundtrack. Some of it’s a little disco, but that’s by no means a bad thing. If it’s good enough for the Bee Gees…
It was while I was sharing this on Facebook, for no reason other than oh-it’s-Thursday-and-I-haven’t-posted-in-a-while, that someone suggested they’d rather see a full title sequence. It was an utterly insane idea and as such it was something I couldn’t really not do. The smallerpictures venture is all about experimenting with the insane to see if it bears fruit. In this case the fruit is lumpy and harbours the occasional worm. It’s organic. Don’t mess with it; you’ll be sorry when the bees are gone. And my goodness, this one was a faff. There are zooms and reverses and all sorts of trickery. Look, anyone can make a title sequence. There’s an art to doing it well, but it’s a fairly trivial endeavour. Far more fun, surely, to try and find existing footage that matches the original? At least that’s a bit quirky. That’s what I did with Magnum P.I., and that got picked up by BBC America, of all things.
So that’s what this is. I’d not expect you to be sufficiently familiar with the original to be aware that this is an attempt at shot-for-shot, which is why I did a comparison, which you can see below. Some parts are more successful than others. I am particularly proud of the ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ footage that pervades the closing moments – you’ll know it when you see it. Gareth said “Do a Classic Who version!” And I might, at some point. But this has wiped me out. Of course, it’s not as good as the live action version. But then, what is?
Episodes used in order of first chronological appearance were:
The Rings of Akhaten
Death in Heaven
The End of Time (part one)
The Waters of Mars
The Runaway Bride
Curse of the Black Spot
The Big Bang
Smith and Jones
The Girl Who Died
Vincent and the Doctor
The Woman Who Lived
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
Face The Raven
Partners in Crime
Doctor Who Titles (series 7 part 1 edition)
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
The Poison Sky
A Good Man Goes To War
Voyage of the Damned
The Zygon Invasion
Parting of the Ways
The Empty Child
The Day of the Doctor
The Doctor Dances
Doctor Who Titles – Series 8
If you sang that, then my work is more or less done and I could probably go now. But I dropped in to expand upon this meme that’s been doing the rounds.
I won’t linger on the Star Wars / Doctor Who thing. We did all that last year, in more ways than one. It’s just that Thomas has been on at me to do something with that final sequence ever since we saw the film back in December; only recently did I actually find decent quality images to do the Photoshopping.
Because we were all thinking it, right?
There was a time when you could sort of get Doctor Who Lego, and it was rubbish.
At least some of you had this, right? That cut-price, flimsy, second-rate Lego knock-off that wouldn’t stick together and wouldn’t stay together, with its wobbly platforms and barely-functioning mechanisms (and I ought to know, I spent an entire afternoon trying to build the bloody thing). The Dalek set was no better: poorly designed, tedious to put together, and filled with cheap-looking Daleks. I know that Lego have a patent on their particular brick design and that the plastic they use is generally higher quality, but really. Oh, I have stared into the abyss with you, Character Building, and I have found you wanting.
The figures themselves weren’t bad, of course: I bought a set of all eleven some years back, along with a few of those £2 mystery bags that theoretically contained one of seven or eight different figures but which almost invariably contained the Eleventh Doctor. The boys and I had great fun playing with them, but they occasionally came in useful for other things.
Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Gallifrey? Despite the abundance of assorted fan creations all over the internet, this was – alas – the nearest we thought we’d get to actual official Lego Doctor Who. Until last year, when this happened.
We’ve been here before, of course. Lego Dimensions was an attempt to cash in on the success of Skylanders and Disney Infinity: collectible toys used to unlock new areas and abilities in an expansive open world video game. Even before launch, the tabloid outrage had started in earnest. It was easy to see why, if you did some elementary mathematics: a starter pack would set you back something between eighty and ninety pounds, while level and team packs cost another thirty. Even the fun packs (containing a single character and a gadget of some sort) were fifteen pounds each. “It’ll cost you £350 if you buy everything!” screamed various media outlets, neglecting to mention the fact that you don’t have to spend anywhere near that amount to get a heap of enjoyment from the game.
There’s a certain sense of moral hand-wringing at work here. How dare you – we seem to be saying – how dare you, Lego, a capitalist venture, try and make money out of us by selling us things we don’t have to buy? Never mind the fact that you’re not the first to go down this road. We thought you were different. We thought you were on our side, rather than the exploiting, money-grabbing bastards at Disney. We thought you were all about the creativity, which is presumably why you’ve been re-releasing the same set of bricks all these years and never making new ones. You see? When you put it like that, the whole argument is ridiculous. The real problem here is peer pressure, and if you’re succumbing to that, you’re just not parenting properly.
In this case, the peer pressure came from me. Our kids have too much screen time and know too many swearwords (all of which they learned in the playground, rather than the house) but we’ve done one thing right: by and large, they don’t whine for stuff. Keeping commercial television at a minimum helps – any exposure to the minefield that is CITV is tempered by the running commentary I keep up through the advertising breaks, pointing out misleading product claims or gender stereotyping, until we got to the point that I didn’t have to do it anymore because the boys were doing it for me. So when it came to actually investing in this, they were all reasonably interested, but I was the one that pushed for it. “Because it’s Lego,” I said, “and because it’s Doctor Who Lego.”
It meant upgrading the Xbox. It was due, anyway – that 360 isn’t going to last forever, and if we were going to invest in the Dimensions set then some sort of futureproofing was in order. I wanted a PS4 (I still do) but the boys’ friends seem to have gone the Microsoft route, and it’s only a matter of time before they start doing online gaming, so the parent in me won out over the gamer.
You wonder why you bother, sometimes. Minecraft was tremendous fun for everyone until Thomas discovered the concept of griefing. Last year I set them off on Lego Star Wars, thinking that it might be a good way to introduce them to the series before we eventually moved on to Dimensions, but had forgotten that this early instalment does not have a split screen co-op mode, which led to great frustration when the experienced player was trapped at the edge of the play area as the camera zoomed ever outwards, waiting for the younger player to catch up. So I installed Viva Pinata instead, thinking that a multiplayer gardening game couldn’t possibly do any harm, only to find that they were far more interested in bashing the in-game A.I. assistant with a shovel.
Split screen issues aside, the main problem with the Lego video games – as anyone who has followed the series will tell you – is that they’ve become increasingly complicated. This isn’t an issue if you’re a gaming veteran who’s used to upgrades and abilities and an increasing number of collectible items. Lego Indiana Jones 2 was the first to feature a large, fully interactive hub that made you actually hunt for the next level. Harry Potter featured an obscene number of items to collect, as well as game-breaking bugs that prevented you from doing just that. (Even after all these years, things have sadly not improved.) Lord of the Rings actively splits the gameplay so that in some levels, one character is teleported to an entirely different location and forced to do various things while someone else is having their own story, which rather spoils the effect of co-op.
It’s a far cry from Lego Star Wars – which, eleven years later, still holds up beautifully, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it is surprisingly minimalist. There are ten canisters per level, all used to build different vehicles that sit nicely in the cantina outside the hub. There are seven character types for accessing inaccessible areas (Lego Dimensions has 31). Characters you don’t unlock automatically may be purchased for a reasonable number of studs. There is one secret level, accessible when the main game has been completed, in which you get to stomp all over Princess Leia’s consular ship as Darth Vader. There are no gold or red bricks. Purple studs have yet to make an appearance. There’s not even any building, for heaven’s sake. There is just hours of unadulterated entertainment as you run through swamps and starships, hitting things and occasionally using the Force to move stuff.
Lego Dimensions – as you’ll know if you’ve played it – features gold and red bricks, upgradable vehicles, hidden characters in need of rescuing, stuff to buy, stuff to renovate, minikit canisters, and…I stopped looking. I can’t keep up. The much-coveted 100% goal has eluded me since that second Indiana Jones game and I’m not inclined to try and reach it now. It is the proverbial bunch of grapes dangling tantalisingly out of reach of the hungry wolf’s mouth, and I am inclined to find it sour. There’s just too much: an absolute wealth of Easter Eggs, secret levels and other hidden delights. It’s information overload. The between-levels hub, at least, is pleasantly minimalist, consisting of a single, multi-floored area with a computer that takes you in and out of the different game levels. Shame it’s all so…blue.
I didn’t mention the toy pad and its circular, geometrically intricate hub, which took almost an hour for the kids to build and approximately thirty-five seconds for their two-year-old brother to destroy. The pad serves as an extra layer of gameplay: dropping minifigures on different sections takes them in and out of the world and allows access to new abilities and previously unavailable platforms and rooms, thanks to the puzzle design. If you have extra figures that can access hidden areas, dropping them onto the pad will bring them into the game (and if you haven’t bought them, you can purchase their abilities for thirty seconds at a time using studs you’ve collected). Keeping minifigures attached to the plastic base that functions as an identity chip therefore becomes absolutely vital if you don’t want to become hopelessly confused (although swapping them over is a great way to prank your children). It also necessitates storing them in a safe place, which has only failed to happen once. I wouldn’t mind if we ever got to play the bloody thing, but Traveller’s Tales have an annoying habit of doing this whenever I turn on the Xbox.
I appreciate that they want to update things (although I’d appreciate it more if said updates actually fixed the bugs that made us play through that ridiculous Back to the Future Level again) but seriously, can’t they give us a choice? And yes, I’m aware that the always-on setting would allow an automatic update, but our carbon footprint is already through the roof and I’m not inclined to raise it any further. On the plus side, this made me all nostalgic for the days when I’d visit a friend’s house and he’d put the Chase HQ tape in his Spectrum cassette player, and then we’d go off downstairs and get a snack or something while it took ten minutes to load. Of course, these days it only takes two hours.
Lego Dimensions levels vary in quality. There’s the very good (Portal, Scooby Doo, Doctor Who), the good (Ghostbusters, which is curiously satisfying despite a general lack of atmosphere), the passable (The Simpsons) the irritating (Midway Arcade, which emulates Gauntlet very nicely but insists on splitting the screen when there’s more than enough room for two players at once) and the utterly dire (BTTF). The designers’ attempts to vary artistic style are largely successful – the land of Oz hums in glorious Technicolor, while the cel-shading in Scooby Doo is top notch.
And what of the Doctor Who level? Well, those of you who know your video games will be aware that there are two of them: a standalone level pack, ‘The Dalek Extermination of Earth’ – which I’ll write about when I’ve actually got round to playing it – and ‘A Dalektable Adventure’, the Who-themed level in the game’s central campaign. In the latter, Gandalf, Wyldstyle and Batman encounter Cybermen, Daleks and Weeping Angels. ‘Bad Wolf’ is scribbled on the walls, and overhead TV monitors replay the oh-god-it’s-coming-out-of-the-screen moment from ‘The Time of Angels’. The Doctor’s role is brief, although those of you who have played the rest of the campaign will be aware that he takes a much bigger role in the finale.
Some of the best moments in Lego Dimensions are the little moments where you open up a tear in reality in order to pull through an object of use from another dimension (something they shamelessly nicked from Bioshock, although I’m not complaining). It leads to moments like the scene in the Portal level where you clear obstacles with the help of a screaming Homer Simpson, clinging to a wrecking ball. But the game speaks to anyone who has mashed up universes in creative play. In his bedroom, I’ve watched Daniel bash up Uruk-hai with Ninja Turtles and Spider-Man: in Lego Dimensions, GlaDOS has a conversation with HAL from 2001, the Joker stomps all over Springfield, and General Zod appears on the roof of the Ghostbusters’ firehouse. It’s a fanboy’s wet dream, but it’s more than that: it’s a testament to the power of creative thought. It’s also a cynical marketing stunt, of course – Lego have spent years shrugging off criticism that their current sets are too rigid and unimaginative, and eventually decided to fight fire with fire. It started with The Lego Movie, which embraced the concept of hybrid, non-linear thinking, and Lego Dimensions (despite the cataclysm that results when Lord Vortech starts fusing worlds) is a natural extension of that.
None of this would count for zip, of course, if the game wasn’t any good, but thankfully it is, despite the bugs. It encourages teamwork, perseverance and a certain degree of lateral thinking. Em and I enjoyed it very much. And of course, when the boys started playing it, they fought like tigers on heat. I had to referee. And then I had to supervise their sessions, ostensibly to lend a hand when they got stuck and were too busy arguing to work out the solution, although this only made things worse.
Oh, that’s another thing. I didn’t mention this, did I?
It’s brilliant. I always wondered how you’d handle the Angels in a third-person game, and the intermittent power failures fit the bill nicely. What this video doesn’t show you is what happens when you allow them to get too close, which leads to a bunch of close-up shots with gaping mouths, vicious-looking fangs and those soulless white eyes. It would have terrified Daniel, but he was already watching the thing from outside the room anyway, leaving the others to manage without him: not easy when you have to move the figures around the toy pad while you’re trying to move Gandalf around a disintegrating platform.
It came to a head one Sunday afternoon, the boys stuck in the first half of the Doctor Who level. “No, no,” I said. “No, you need to use the earth element on that. Josh, put him on green. No, GREEN. No, hang on, you’ve – Thomas, why did you deactivate the switch?”
“Well, it was on, and now it’s off, and you were standing by it! Turn it on. That’s – no, look, you only need to press it once. Once! Now do it again. Daniel, what are you doing?”
“I’m bashing up the Batmobile.”
“You need the Batmobile to get over that ramp. That’s it. Reverse. Rever- no, look, just turn round. That’s it. Right round. Further! Now, go for- no, you need to slow down or you’re going to – see, you’ve gone over the edge.”
“I can’t do it.”
“You can do it, you just need to aim properly. No, right, right, RIGHT! Oh, look, give me the controller. There. Now, just drive straight over it. Thomas, have you turned the switch back on?”
“Look, if you don’t turn the switch on you won’t be able to clear that swamp and we’re never going to be off this level. Right. Now, aim down at the – NO, NOT AT HIM! NOT AT HIM! LEFT! LEFT!”
From the dining table, Emily looked up from her painting. “You know who you sound like?” she said. “One of those soccer dads.”
I left the room, saturated with self-loathing. She was right, dammit.
But there are times – rare, shining moments – that they work together. Having discovered Clara Oswald stuck in a glass case, it was decided that they should spend fifty thousand of their hard-earned studs in order to hire the hero they needed to rescue her. This is a high-profile and important mission, so the task of actually breaking open the case within the thirty second time limit was entrusted to me, because the likelihood of me screwing it up was minimal.
So I freed Clara. There was much whooping and rejoicing. Then they spent the next five minutes chasing her round the base, kicking the crap out of her.
It’s Easter / Resurrection Sunday, so it seems the perfect time to mention this.
You’re probably aware that I’ve spent much of the last year writing for Kasterborous, the Doctor Who news and features site. For a variety of reasons, the original team from Kasterborous have departed to set up this new venture, leaving Kasterborous itself to an uncertain fate that’s in the hands of its owner. As we go to press all of the old content seems to still be there, although I have no idea how long this will last.
But enough of that. The Doctor Who Companion has set out to be your guide through the crazy world of the Time Lords and the TARDIS, bringing you news, features, reviews and a bunch of other stuff. Oh, and did I mention that I’m joint editor for the Fandom section? That’s where we’ll be looking at “the strange alchemy that occurs when a talented artist, author, cosplayer, theorist, musician or sock puppeteer expresses their love for Doctor Who” – art, video, music, sculpture, and even TARDIS-themed crazy paving if we can find any.
There are two ways you can show your support:
We will, at some point, have a Twitter account, I’m sure.
We’re still in the very early days of producing and adding content, although I am really quite proud of the inaugural article I wrote about Rose – which aired eleven years ago yesterday evening, and if that doesn’t make at least some of you feel at least a little bit old, then you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din. It’s purposely chatty, but I think it reads better for it. The vibe I was aiming for was that press conference in Iron Man – you know, the one where he sits down to chat about the future of his industry, and declares he wants a cheeseburger? (I do not have a cheeseburger in the house, but as I write this the kebab shop is still open, so we could go and get Shawarma or something.)
We’re still responding to feedback about layout, setup and other things, so bear with us in this initial setting-up period, but I think it’s going to be quite special.
And look at the ears.