Posts Tagged With: sixth doctor

God is in the detail (10-06)

Sorry I’m a bit late on my rounds this week, folks. I’ve not been at all well and it’s too hot to really focus. But the truth must out, and thus I have struggled through sickness to bring you this important list of VITAL CLUES AND SIGNS from last week’s episode, ‘Extremis’. Let us make haste. Enlightenment lies within.

We start in Bill’s flat.

Look on the table, next to the open book. You see the multi-coloured thing? Now look over to the work surface and look at the blue pot.

Now look at this.

The hen alludes to Peri – specifically her fear of birds, as explored in ‘Vengeance on Varos’. But things get more complicated when we examine Bill’s jacket, and the patterns on its arms: a deliberate allusion to American rock duo The White Stripes, specifically their sixth album. Actually, their sixth track on their sixth album, ‘Prickly Thorn, but Sweetly Worn’, an allusion to Leela, and therefore a CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS HINT that Leela is due to star in a series of adventures alongside Colin Baker: just not on television. If you need any more clues, consider: Bill has a BIG essay due, and she is endeavouring to FINISH it.

I’ll just leave that there for a moment. Take your time. You’ll get there.

Note also that the right-hand cupboard – above which the chicken is located – is slightly ajar, and that the right-hand socket on the wall is empty. In other words, we’re talking about empty jars, specifically this sort of Empty Jar. To those of you who’ve been campaigning for a Yu-Gi-Oh / Who crossover (and I know you are many and vocal, dear friends), rejoice: your prayers have been answered.

Next have a look at that open laptop in the Vatican’s library.

For ease of reference, the names on that list are:

Stefan Anchorage
Michael Finch
Nicia Russo
Peter Dukes
Bill Pullman
Albertina Ricci
Keven Paters
Christina Tom
Francis Esposito
Phil Bond
Daryn Mcloughlan
Abramo Tognaccini

Bill Pullman? BILL PULLMAN???

But there’s more. Pullman isn’t just on that list, he’s the focus – or rather one of former his co-stars is. Observe the sixth and eighth names on the list (highlighted) and take the surname from one and the forename from the other: Christina Ricci, you will observe, co-starred in Casper with Pullman, along with Eric Idle, WHOSE NAME CAN BE FORMED BY REARRANGING THE OTHER HIGHLIGHTED LETTERS IN THIS LIST.

Eric Idle’s never done Doctor Who, has he? Well, that’s all gonna change, folks. Just saying.

Now, to the cafeteria.

You remember this scene. It’s the one with the numbers. There’s something about large groups speaking in perfect synchronisation that’s a little creepy, as both Greek theatre and Children of Earth proved in abundance. Needless to say that’s not all that’s going on here. We’re actually going to count the wine glasses, but we’ll get to that.

It’s the specific numbers we need to look at first, though, and here they are:

36
17
9
48
103
1000000
7000007
67
905
20
460
12
4
87
702

(I am, as ever, indebted to Chrissy’s Transcripts.)

Added together this makes 8002477 – coincidentally the EXACT SAME NUMBER as the Yakima Road Trip 80002477 RV Trailer bike rack, available from RackWarehouse, Vermont. And Rackwarehouse Vermont is an anagram of ‘A charmer’s even workout’, a CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS reference to this particular scene from ‘Terror of the Vervoids’, in which THE SIXTH DOCTOR CAN BE SEEN ON AN EXERCISE BIKE.

However! It’s not just about the Sixth Doctor, even though the six visible wine bottles give this clue an even greater sense of gravitas. We also need to look at the clock – reading 5:11, or in other words the IMPENDING CROSSOVER between the Fifth Doctor and the Eleventh. This works on two levels: Fifth and Eleventh Doctors and also the Eleventh Doctor’s fifth episde, ‘Flesh and Stone’, in which the Doctor and Amy encounter the Weeping Angels. Remember that, because we’re coming back to it.

Finally, look at where the scientist is positioned: deliberately in front of the N, partially blocking its view so that ‘CERN’ effectively becomes ‘CERI’. And ‘CERI’ is, as you’re fully aware, a village in Powys, on the A489 – SPECIFICALLY, THE YEAR DOCTOR WHO WAS CANCELLED AND THE NUMBER OF STORIES IN ITS FINAL SERIES.

It’s clear what this is leading to, and that’s another multi-Doctor story, starring Davison and Colin Baker with a cameo from Sylvester McCoy – and we get a clearer picture of this when we examine the Pentagon.

There’s a reason why Moffat chose this particular building – and, indeed, this particular shot of this particular building, in the first instance, look at the complex itself. It may be pentagonal in shape, but there are ten interlocking sections making up the five sides, each section comprising three separate buildings, implying the presence of three Doctors (i.e. Five, Six and Seven) in a single, Weeping Angel-themed story.

Note also the single red car down in the bottom left segment of the screen, a CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS reference to the Angels. Why, do you ask? Because it’s on the left, and one must look to one’s left, and red is predominantly associated with the colour red, which can only mean that JEREMY CORBYN IS SLATED TO BE THE NEXT DOCTOR following his inevitable defeat in the General Election in just a few weeks’ time.

But that’s misdirection, dear reader. Also note the three sets of tall windows making up the sides: they look like Roman numerals, and you will see four sets of three visible in the shot, placed equidistantly around the edge of the building. Assuming that each ‘window’ corresponds to a single canonical Doctor, and disregards John Hurt, that’s 12 canonical Doctors. What’s more, the closest as the crow flies to the red car is the fifth one in the sequence – in other words, the Fifth Doctor.

Gee. It’s a shame the Fifth Doctor’s never met the Weeping Angels, isn’t it?

Mind. Blown. Here’s the mop. Make sure you clean up after yourself.

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The Kasterborous Archives, #4: Slap in the Face – Why Doctor Who’s Domestic Violence Has To Stop

Author’s notes:

Tackling this sort of subject matter is always going to be tricky. In the process of doing so I encountered a few people who thought I was overreacting and one or two feminists who felt it trivialised male-on-female violence. I contend that neither statement is true and that I’m making a valid point – but I would add that this was written before series 9, which seemed to fix many of the problems we’d had. Whether that was down to a general lightening of the Doctor’s character, a shift in tone, or perhaps a growing realisation that casual slapping was both dramatically lazy and downright irresponsible, I’ll never know. The third option is somehow unlikely.

Thinking back, I wonder if I shouldn’t have used the words ‘domestic violence’. But I stand by the content, so I trust you’ll forgive the occasional lapse into sensationalism.

Slap in the face: Why Doctor Who’s domestic violence has to stop

Published: 19 August 2015

Picture the scene. The TARDIS’s lights glow eerily. Up at the console, the Doctor flicks switches, pulls a couple of levers in quiet desperation. Finally, with an anguished sigh, he gives up. “It’s gone,” he tells Clara. “Gallifrey. Completely gone. I’ll never see it again.”

Clara, who is feeling particularly mean this afternoon, gives a nonchalant shrug. “You were the one who lost it in the first place. Can’t leave you alone with anything, can they?” Whereupon the Doctor turns from the console, striding across the floor of the TARDIS and slapping her savagely across the face.

The inclusion of a moment like this is more or less unthinkable. Even if you could write the characters this way, the OFCOM fallout would be potentially catastrophic. The tabloids would have a field day. The Mail’s headline would be a smug “BBC GOES TOO FAR”. The forums would be clogged with debates about whether the Doctor has become irredeemably dark, irreversibly unpleasant, and whether we need to see violence against women represented at this scale – counter-balanced against the views of those who simply see it as a natural progression, a chance for the show to journey into uncharted waters.

You’ve probably already seen where I’m going with this, but just in case it needs pointing out, when the reverse happens – as it does, with increasing frequency – the net result is a string of animated GIFs and YouTube compilations and the sound of much laughter. Because slapping in Doctor Who is something that they seem to do a lot, and while it’s undoubtedly a source of much hilarity to most of the Tumblr brigade, I’m not one of them. And every time it happens, I get very uncomfortable.

There’s certainly been a history of Doctor-companion violence. Perhaps one of the most notable early stories was The Edge of Destruction, with its strangulation cliffhanger and the notorious scene where Susan attacks Barbara with a pair of scissors. It was a stage in the production history where they were still working out tone and it’s almost inconceivable that it would have happened even, say, a year later. Meanwhile, strangulation rears its ugly head again in The Twin Dilemma, as a paranoid, post-regeneration Doctor shouts poetry at Peri before trying to throttle her. I’ve had dates like this, but it’s a nasty scene in a largely ridiculous story, and we will not dwell on it.

Besides, such things seem to be anomalies in twenty-five years of comparatively chaste television, in which the relationship the companion has with their Doctor is seldom discussed openly. For better or worse, a companion-based intensity is central to the dynamic of New Who, and generally you either love it or hate it. The Ninth Doctor famously tells Rose that he doesn’t “do domestic”, but that almost feels like Eccleston himself protesting against the tide of relationship issues that clogged the show both during and after his stint in the leather jacket.

That’s a different debate, of course, but it has fallout. The Doctor is slapped by Jackie Tyler for taking away his daughter. Francine Jones slaps him because she believe he’s a threat. A bolshy, pre-enlightened Donna Noble slaps him because she thinks she’s been kidnapped (and then again when she thinks he’s making light of a serious situation). Martha slaps the Doctor to bring him out of his self-induced fugue.

Some of these are understandable within the context of the narrative, even if we could question the writers’ decision to subsequently make light of them (the Doctor and Rose share a joke about Jackie on a rooftop, while a reeling Tennant remarks “Always the mothers” while he’s getting up). But that’s television. The comedy value of a good slap in the face is, apparently, worth its weight in gold, whether it’s Tasha Lem in Time of the Doctor, or Clara’s assault on the Cyberplanner Doctor in Nightmare in Silver. It would be churlish to single out Doctor Who for this sort of thing. It happened practically every week in Friends. It goes back to the golden age of television and beyond. Every short film Leon Errol ever made would end when his wife hit him over the head with a vase.

Perhaps comedy slapping has its place, given the right characters and context. But there’s been a shift over the years from a literal slapstick – the Eleventh Doctor hitting himself for his own stupidity – towards a darker, violence-as-reaction ethos, and perhaps that’s what makes me uncomfortable. I’ve mentioned the mothers, but the rot truly sets in when Matt Smith enters his second series: River’s reaction upon seeing an apparently resurrected (but actually two hundred years younger) Doctor is to slap him. She does it again when he fixes her broken wrist. Clara’s about the most violent of the lot, particularly when she’s working with Capaldi: thoughtless behaviour is punished with physical abuse in both Last Christmas and Into the Dalek, while she threatens, in Kill the Moon, to “smack you so hard you’ll regenerate”.

“But surely,” I can hear people arguing, “It’s OK, because the Doctor’s an alien?” And yes, the Doctor’s not human. He’s already demonstrated amazing resistance to injuries. He’s probably got a healing factor. He’s like an abrasive, declawed Wolverine, so that makes it OK. Besides, thumping non-human life forms isn’t a problem: if Han Solo’s response to being captured by the Ewoks had been to punch one of them in the face, I’m sure that would have been entirely acceptable to most children. It’s a poor analogy, but it illustrates that the line’s very hard to draw. To what extent do we disavow the actions of a character on the grounds that the humanoid patriarch they’ve thumped has two hearts instead of just one?

“Or,” the argument continues, “he deserves it, right?” Well, yes, of course he does. The Twelfth Doctor’s an alienating (in a quite literal sense of the word), clinically detached sociopath, at least in his worst moments. He says the horrible things we’re all thinking, only the little switch inside his head that stops you saying them out loud doesn’t seem to be working. That’s a perfectly justifiable reason for casual domestic violence. He deserves it in the same way that provocatively dressed women presumably deserve to be raped.
Why even question the motives of the one doing the slapping, when the one being slapped is so obviously asking for it?

I watch quite a lot of Jeremy Kyle on the weekday mornings I’m folding laundry instead of writing, and a couple of months ago one particular guest recounted the time he was locked in his flat by a girlfriend who supposedly beat him. The authenticity of his narrative was ultimately disputed, of course, but long before that happened Kyle had taken the audience to task for laughing. “If this was the other way around,” he said, “and if a woman was sat here and a bloke had locked her in a flat and she’d been forced to jump out and injure herself you would not be laughing. You would be saying he is a complete nightmare, he should be locked up and that’s disgraceful, but somehow if it happens to a bloke that’s funny. That’s not funny.”

If I could say that the show were making a valid point about this sort of thing, I’d probably be more tolerant. But it doesn’t: moral debate is sandwiched into inappropriate contexts where it is dealt with poorly and rapidly (Kill The Moon again) or, more often, sidestepped entirely. So by turns we’re supposed to laugh, or shake our heads in dismay and mutter “Well, he was asking for it”. We laugh because it’s a powerful Time Lord being brought down off his pedestal by a weak and feeble human. And we shouldn’t, because when it’s supposed to be funny, it usually isn’t, and when it’s supposed to be angst-ridden, it just comes across as nasty. Besides, it’s not just the Doctor. In Asylum of the Daleks, Amy slaps Rory twice. At least that’s consistent. Amy spends most of that story being an absolute bitch, whether it’s the arrogant smugness that pervades the early scenes, or the tirade of fury directed at her ex-husband for considering himself the wronged party (“Plastic man standing outside in the rain for two millennia? Pah. I THREW YOU OUT OF THE HOUSE BECAUSE I CAN’T HAVE YOUR BABIES!”).

I’m not advocating a reduction of violence. I approach many of these situations – inevitably and unavoidably – from the perspective of a parent, but that doesn’t mean I think the show is too unpleasant. I recently showed The Deadly Assassin, arguably the peak of 1970s unpleasantness, to my eight-year-old (and was thrilled when, just last week, he remembered an obscure detail while forming an analogy). The most sensible response to stories that cross your own particular line of acceptable viewing is to simply not watch them.

But I am worried about the show I’m watching. Perhaps Series 8 was Capaldi’s Twin Dilemma moment, borne out across twelve weeks, and the lighter touch hinted at in Series 9 will mean Clara no longer needs to react in anger. Or perhaps not. Perhaps this is the way Moffat and the producers choose to do things; a sort of counterbalance to the sexism charges thrown his way last year. But I know we live in a world where The Sun spearheads a campaign to highlight battered women with one hand and dismisses a marital assault charge against its (female) editor as “a silly argument” with the other. I know it’s a world where domestic violence against men is granted less credence than its (admittedly more common) antipode. Once again, that’s another debate for another day. But above all I know this: it’s not the sort of thing I want to see in Doctor Who.

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No, I’ve met cat people

It was a Wednesday, and I was giving Edward a bath, when Emily popped her head round the door and announced she was going to work.

“What time will you be back?” I asked.

“No idea,” she said. “I’ll probably get drawn into something.”

So I have drawn her into this picture of the Tenth Doctor. I rock.

 

In our ongoing Nu Who marathon, we passed ‘Fear Her’ months ago, and the Tenth Doctor has long since regenerated. Indeed, the Eleventh is currently into his ‘new lease of life after Amy and Rory phase’, cavorting around the rings of Akhaten with Clara. (I seem to be the only one who actually likes this episode, or at least I thought I was until a recent reappraisal saw its other fans emerging from the woodwork, like the slaves at the end of Spartacus.) What’s annoying is that he has yet to shed a single tear over any of the deaths, or any of the departures. I know I didn’t either, but it’s hardly the point.

That doesn’t stop Daniel having an appreciation for Classic Who, of course, judging by the scene he played out with the Character Creations set last week: not content with building a wall and casting Peter Davison’s incarnation in the role of Donald Trump, I came in the other day to find the Sixth and the First Doctors emerging in what looked an awful lot like cosplay.

I only wish I could find the Seventh Doctor. Can somebody (hello Gareth) come up with an amusing, series-related suggestion?

Also this week: Daniel told us he had a dream where the Eleventh Doctor was having an adventure with Rose, “only she had an emoji face and she threw Captain Jack from the roof of a building”.

It took me all morning to find the right building, but eventually –

 

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God is in the detail (10-X)

klf

It’s a good week for conspiracy theories. Nibiru is supposed to be returning. And the KLF – those enlightened Illuminati-conncted tricksters – have announced they’re planning something. Sort of. They’re not calling themselves the KLF these days, nor indeed was this anything other than a five-minute fad when viewed within the context of a thirty-year career. Still, they’re back, and thus there is much rejoicing.

But never mind that. We’re here to talk about ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’.

Christmas specials may be accessible, but that doesn’t mean they have to be simple. As is customary under Moffat’s reign, the latest episode of Doctor Who is in fact positively crammed full of IMPORTANT SIGNS AND CLUES that will be HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT later on. The problem is that most casual fans lack the time and the ability to decode them. Luckily you have me. So let’s unpack this treasure trove of layered meaning and find out what’s really going to happen in series 10, shall we?

I’ll start here.

mysterio_detail_1

There are precisely 24 columns of jars in this image – each column containing three jars, totalling 72. You’ll be aware by now if you’ve been following this series that these numbers are never just a coincidence – and in this case it all points to the Seventh Doctor.

How may we infer that from this image? The use of 24 columns is a big giveaway, given that season 24 is the Seventh Doctor’s first. Moreover, 72 refers to the 72nd story in the canon, ‘Death To The Daleks’ – which, despite being a Third Doctor story, eerily foreshadows the Seventh Doctor’s destruction of Skaro in ‘Remembrance’, some 14 years later. (Tangentially, if we substract 14 from 24 we are left with 10, and we may thus infer that this will all be connected with a returning appearance from David Tennant – but we’ll come back to that when we explore one of the other images.)

The C-shape this forms is actually a whopping great red herring, because what you actually need to do is turn it on its side.

mysterio_detail_1a

Viewed from this angle it is obviously a horseshoe. Horses were ridden by the Cheetah People in the last televised Doctor Who story of the 1980s, which (not so coincidentally) starred the Seventh Doctor.

It is also worth noting that in order to acquire this particular viewpoint it is necessary to tilt your head on one side. THIS IS NOT A COINCIDENCE. The other recent villain known to adopt this perspective is the Family of Blood. Which, by the way, featured in a Tenth Doctor story.

cheetah-family

How many jars are featured in each column in that first image? Three. And what do you get if you subtract Seven from Ten? I’ll just leave the colossal implications of that dangling there for a moment, because we must speak of them in hushed tones. THEY ARE NOT TRIVIALITIES.

We’ll come back to the Tenth Doctor later but in the meantime let’s have a look at this.

mysterio_detail_4

There’s that number again: 24. Specifically story 4 in series 2, ‘Dragonfire’, which introduced Sophie Aldred, WHO ALSO RODE A HORSE IN ‘SURVIVAL’ AND HELPED THE DALEKS BLOW UP SKARO AND WHO APPEARED IN TREE-FU TOM OPPOSITE DAVID TENNANT.

I know. Mind blown, right?

The column of green lights on the right of the screen ought to be self-explanatory, referring as they do to the twelve canonical Doctors (and omitting John Hurt) and leaving room for a further nine, making the BBC’s long term plan for Doctor Who as transparent as if they’d organised for it to be leaked by one of those ‘sources close to the show’. But what are we to make of the mysterious ‘tx’? Could it refer to the TX witnessed in the third Terminator film? The postal code for Texas, indicating a possible Doctor Who / Preacher crossover?

Now, that I’d watch. The truth, sadly, is far less spectacular, although it is still highly significant: it refers, instead, to the Tsukuba Express, the Japanese railway line linking Tokyo and Tsukuba. Launched in 2005 – the same year Doctor Who returned, which is not a coincidence – the route follows twenty stations, but it’s the name itself which causes most intrigue. Because the words ‘Akihabara and Tsukuba Station’ may also be reformed to make ‘AA! AA! AA! SKITTISH ABBOT UNDRUNK!’, which is an indication that PHILIP MORRIS HAS BEEN LYING TO US AND THEY HAVE ALREADY FOUND ‘THE MASSACRE OF ST BARTHOLOMEW’S EVE’.

sushi

We also might point out that ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’ directly foreshadows this early in the episode when we observe the Doctor eating sushi (seen above). Although we might also conclude that its sudden disappearance when he’s walking down the stairs indicates the return of the Crack In Time. But that would be silly, and as everyone who reads this column is aware, I don’t do silly.

Now, take a look at Lucy’s kitchen.

mysterio_detail_3

It’s those mugs on the counter you want to be examining. Note the striking multi-coloured design (favouring red) on the left and the plaid on the right. And you’d be forgiven, at first glance, for assuming that this was a reference to ‘The Two Doctors’. I mean, it’s obvious.

twodocs

But as is traditional with these multi-layered shots, the true meaning is hidden until you look closer. Note the proximity of that red mug to the toaster. Note also that the mug can be seen reflected in the surface of the toaster, and that THE SEVENTH DOCTOR LOATHES BURNT TOAST. Conclusion? We are going to revisit the Sixth Doctor’s regeneration story, only this time it will be televised in the form of a flashback experienced by the Twelfth. How do I know this? Consider the spoon dipped into the Sixth Doctor’s mug – the Twelfth Doctor’s weapon of choice, and the Seventh’s favoured musical instrument.

The other mug confirms this theory, given that it contains a cryptic reference to Spaceballs.

spaceballs-plaid

The Doctor Who connection ought to be transparent: it’s Bill Pullman, last seen in series four of Torchwood. And any fan will tell you that this was also the last time we saw Jack – apart from The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, in which John Barrowman drives the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors from London to Cardiff. In doing so, he evicts David Tennant’s daughter from the car. From this we may IRREVOCABLY AND UNAMBIGUOUSLY CONCLUDE that next year’s Christmas special will feature a cameo by the Tenth Doctor, in the company of Jack.

Finally, this.

mysterio_detail_5

Oh, there’s so much to unpack in here we barely have time. The most transparent of references is the Third Doctor story that’s playing at the cinema on the left hand side. (You will note also the proximity of the American flag, sticking out of the wall like the entrance to an embassy, and that ambassadors played a crucial role in this story.)

The references to ‘The Mind of Evil’ are reflected in the pizzeria across the street – owned and presumably operated by someone named Joe, a direct reference to the Third Doctor’s companion, both in ‘Mind’ and a great many others. But it’s the club in the middle that caught my eye, given that ‘The Missing’ is a CLEAR AND DIRECT reference to ‘The Lost’, the final episode of Class. If you’ve seen that, you’ll be aware that a familiar face pops up, and we may thus conclude that even if Class doesn’t get a second series they will continue that story here, using New York (or possibly the moon, which is prominently featured) as a location.

But it’s the pink that got me. Could it refer to Danny Pink, perhaps, who played a small but important role in ‘Kill The Moon’? Is it a reference to the Pink Ladies from Grease, indicating that there will at some point be a scientology episode, with John Travolta starring? We can only hope. But the answer, when it hit me, was like a bolt from the purple. Because I suddenly remembered where I’d seen a pink TARDIS.

happiness_patrol_pink_tardis

Oh, lucky Seven. It always comes back to you.

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The CBeebies Amalgamation (part two)

First of all, this.

I mean, I have no idea what’s going on here. I assume it’s some sort of satanic ritual before the Japanese airing of Dinopaws (or ダイナパウズ)たいそう, as they call it over there). The shouted names, the manic dancing…it’s obviously supposed to conjure up the spirit of long-dead reptiles. All that’s needed is a vial of incense and a couple of sacrificial chickens. I checked the ‘up next’ suggestions and there are a bunch of these, which I opted not to see because there’s only so much excitement you can take in one day.

Whovians amongst you, of course, will have figured out that the chap on the right does appear for some reason to be wearing the Sixth Doctor’s coat. Cosplay suggestions for his grinning companion are more than welcome; please leave them in the usual place.

Coat

Dinopaws is a programme we talk about quite a bit here at Brian of Morbius, mostly because it’s one of the most endearing and imaginative shows to hit CBeebies in years. It’s earned its share of bad press, of course, largely because of the language component: Gwen and Bob are still playing with the concept of language (Tony appears to have made up his own, and it’s strangely reminiscent of the sacred words held by the Knights Who Say / Who Until Recently Said ‘Ni’.) This leads to all manner of complaints about made-up words and language development delays from parents with nothing much else in their lives. Children learn language from the adults they interact with; anyone who is picking up permanent habits from TV is watching too much of it. To conclude that it’s the BBC’s responsibility to educate our children is to completely pass the parenting buck. Such stupidity also ignores the work of Lewis Carroll, Ogden Nash and Spike Milligan, but let’s not go over all that again.

There’s a darker component to Dinopaws, of course, when it comes to feedback, and that’s the inevitability of the creatures’ eventual demise at the hands of a massive meteor / comet / crashed spaceship containing an impetuous maths prodigy. Cue much doom and gloom across the Twittersphere from parents who find themselves unable to truly enjoy the programme because of the looming threat of a total extinction event. Except that’s not the way it works, because (as we keep saying) Dinopaws isn’t set on Earth. It’s set on another planet, called Marge, with all sorts of other things going on. Not convinced? Look at the sky! The sky is all over the place! That’s not a Pangean sky!

Look, why stop there? There’s a lack of realism all over the shop. Why not discuss the fact that the theme to Topsy and Tim really ought to contain the words “We can be / Anything / But only within the confines of particular gender stereotypes”?. (That one’s mine, so if you use it, copyright Donna Noble.) Or the happy-go-lucky Petal, Dash, Digger and Gobo, who spend their days in the barn in blissfully doomed contentment.

You’re not supposed to tell children about this, of course, which is presumably why a recent episode of Meet The Kittens – in which a mother cat brought back a dead rabbit for her babies – caused such a stir. There’s no blood in the scene, but they do spend a good deal of time filming the dead animal as it’s dragged across the staircase, and when the episode was re-shown this week the CBeebies Facebook page saw more than a few complaints. “Pretty discusted of seeing what i just saw,” wrote one user. “It upset my children as they love rabbits and i think it would upset other children yes show kittens with it mother but not a cat what has caught it prey and taking it to its kittens to feast on i do not want my children watching that kind of stuff on cbeebies i think u need to say sorry on air to all the viewers as that was unexceptable.”

That was one of the less vitriolic remarks. Others got very upset. One person, in particular, saw it as an opportunity to describe every parent who approved as one of the most disgusting people she’d ever met, and when she was called out on this hyperbole she became violently defensive. In the end she opted to leave the conversation because the longer it went on, the more people were not only disagreeing with her but also calling her out for her behaviour and somewhat judgemental tone, which she took very personally. How dare they, she seemed to be suggesting, how dare they have the audacity to tell her she was wrong when she was simply stating what she felt?

Herein lies the problem with most online debate. The moment a remark leaves your head and makes its way to a public forum, it’s no longer your property. It can be retweeted, re-posted, screen-grabbed and ripped to shreds, in a group or on someone’s profile or even in the pages of an online newspaper. There’s a right and a wrong way of doing this. I always make the point of looking at public profiles of anyone I’m about to have an argument with; it enables me to know whether I ought to make allowances or concessions, and it’s worth it even when you get called a ‘weirdo’ or a ‘stalker’. If you want to avoid the potential repercussions for inflammatory viewpoints then for God’s sake keep them private. Facebook is not private. Shouting on a Facebook forum is the metaphorical equivalent of standing up in a Q&A session and talking bollocks; no one will necessarily stop you at first, but you’ll reap what you sow when people start to answer back.

“But it’s MY OPINION,” comes the whiny response from Chantelle or Scott or Claire (or, worst of all, Leanne Logan’smummy). To which my standard response is “So what?”. This so-called right to an opinion is bullshit. It’s something they teach children now before they’re really ready for the responsibility of credible sources and elementary logic (and I know this, having seen it first hand) and we’re now experiencing the fallout on social media. If I told you that the sky was green and that it was my opinion, you’d still tell me I was wrong, and you’d be correct to do so. If I told you that you were a lousy footballer (or, more to the point, a bad parent) and my opinions contained not a shred of credibility you’d argue the toss, and once again you’d be correct. I post all manner of crap on here about Doctor Who and I’m ready to defend every single word of it when challenged. I would expect the same of any rational adult. I’ll routinely tell people this. And if I consider them semi-literate, I’ll point them towards this article here, which sums up my views on things better than I ever could.

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But listen. Listen carefully. When I was just shy of six years old, I saw an Oliver Postgate programme called Tottie: Story of a Doll’s House. It featured a glacially beautiful, morally twisted doll called March Payne who – in her endeavours to become the sole object of her owner’s affection – started a house fire with paraffin that resulted in the death of one of the other dolls. There was no detail, but it frightened me. And I got over it. When I was four, I saw a public information film in which a young girl ran out into the road and got hit by a car. It terrified me. From that day to this I have been careful when I cross the street, and I keep the gate shut.

Also when I was four, I saw the final episode of ‘Earthshock’, in which Adric dies at the hands of the Cybermen and the credits rolled in silence over a view of his shattered badge. It upset me. When I was seven, I saw an episode of Ulysses 31 in which the characters in suspended animation aged almost to death. It wasn’t the sort of thing that would normally frighten people but it gave me nightmares. When I was eight or nine there was a programme called Knightmare which featured dissolving flesh and cracking skulls. I can still see those images in my head if I concentrate, but it doesn’t matter. When I was nine or ten, there was an ITV show called Wizbit, and don’t get me started on that.

Children bounce back. I bounced back. In our haste to protect our loved ones from the monsters, we’ve forgotten that kid’s TV used to be absolutely horrible. That’s part of being young. You get over it. Memories are short and young minds are durable. That’s why I introduced mine to Doctor Who as soon as I felt they were ready, and why I watch them squirm at the gore with a curious delight. Up to a given point, it builds character. Discussing death builds character. Joshua has never forgotten the face-melting in Raiders of the Lost Ark but it hasn’t warped him psychologically. Part of this, I am convinced, stems from the time he watched our cat die when he was two years old. He accepts it, in a way that Logan-son-of-Leanne never could, because she’d rather wait “until he’s ready”, innit. That’s entirely her choice, but don’t call me out for doing it differently, and don’t accuse the BBC of negligence when you know nothing of its practices. This is a channel that routinely censors fairy tales to suit its intended audience. They’re not beyond reproach, but they know what they’re doing.

Alas, none of this matters when you’re arguing on Facebook. I shouldn’t be surprised. We’re in a world where university courses are censored because of complaints from students who take exception to ‘offensive content’. I’m not opposed to political correctness. I don’t advocate racial or gender stereotyping. I understand why they no longer broadcast It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. But I do wonder when we started to lose our backbone. More to the point, I wonder what these whining grown-ups with too much free time actually want from these emotive, expletive-ridden rants. What would it take to redress the balance? What would it take to make the act of a dead rabbit acceptable?

No, you really didn’t see this. Move along.

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

Doctor Who and the Misplaced Consonants (Part One)

We were talking just the other day about the Biblical creation story, and this reminded me of something that happened a few weeks ago: a Facebook discussion I was reading included a comment from a pastor who said he’d once heard someone read (by mistake, one assumes) about “the spirit of God hoovering over the surface of the waters.”

“You make the jokes,” I said, “and I’ll do the pictures.”

 

Graham Rawle,” said another friend of mine, “is twitching in his armchair, and preparing to lawyer up”. To which I responded “Look, I don’t take any credit for the gag, just its visual execution…”

Anyway, it occurred to me that Doctor Who is full of similar silliness, if you have a list of story titles and a good dictionary to hand. This entire blog was built on a pun – I’ve talked before about possible alternatives for its title, and remain convinced that a good deal of the weary travellers who stumble in here (welcome to you, weary traveller; mind the dog poo) are those who have been searching for ‘Brain of Morbius’ and just got their litters in a twest. Meanwhile, those of you with a few minutes to kill could do worse than check out the Unused Monsters entries. (If anything is liable to provoke the oft-heard and generally loathed remark that I have too much free time, it’s stuff like that.)

But today on Brian of Morbius we launch a new series, which shall be updated as I do them. (There is already a queue, and I haven’t even touched the post-2005 episodes yet.) Rules are simple: the addition of one (and only one) letter to a given word. This is the exact opposite of Graham Rawle’s series, of course, but that’s partly the point. Suggestions are welcome, although I am not short of them for the time being.

 

1. Pyramids of Marks

 

2. The Leisure Chive

 

3. The Wedge of Destruction

 

4. The Twine Dilemma

I sent the last one to Colin Baker, who tweeted back “Pedant alert – misplaced vowel?”

“Indeed it is,” I said. “It’s just that calling the series Misplaced Vowels made it sound like a set of medical blunders…”

Categories: Lost Consonants | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ice Bucket Warriors, and other matters

I spend a lot of time pouring cold water on things here, so it was only a matter of time before we referenced ALS.

“I nominate…Mickey Smith, Davros, and Count Grendel. Geronimo!”

 

Also in the news this week: The Great British Bake Off hits murky waters when it transpires that one of its contestants left the show after his Baked Alaska was ostensibly sabotaged by a fellow baking rival (and Women’s Institute member). Cue outrage on social media (all grouped under the when-oh-when-will-they-stop-flogging-these-dead-horses hashtag bingate), and an awful lot of people calling for the head of Diana Beard (who, like ZZ Top’s Frank Beard, doesn’t have one). In a further twist we’ve now learned that Diana herself quit shortly afterwards because of ‘illness’ and that her actions were supposedly edited to make it appear that the ice cream had been out of the freezer for a long time. It’s kind of nice that people have a sense of natural justice, and I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between – but I do remember that dodgy editing plagued Highlander 2Quantum of Solace and ‘Nightmare in Silver’.

Anyway, I tried to mix this in with a Rani story, or something similar, but there are no Doctor Who stories about Baked Alaska, and comparatively few of them about the real Alaska. I asked Gareth for a pun, and while you really have to know your Sixth Doctor, this one does work rather well.

And now I want an Arctic roll. Can you still get Arctic roll?

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Review: ‘…ish’

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I generally don’t do audio story reviews, and this is going to sail completely over the heads of anyone who’s not listened to it, but I am posting it in the vain hope that there may be two or three people out there who get the joke. Here we go, then:

Ish.

Ish, ish ish ish. Ish. Ish ish. Ish!

Ish…

“Sausage? SAUSAGE?!?!”

(Malkovich)

Ish. Ish ish Ish.

All in all, a triumph from Big Fin—.

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You and whose Rani?

There’s trouble at t’mine.

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For the uninitiated, the photo you can see above shows Blists Hill Victorian Town, part of the Ironbridge experience. Ironbridge is situated in the eastern half of Emily’s native Shropshire, on the banks of the Severn; the eponymous bridge spans the river like an enormous version of one of the Meccano structures it doubtless inspired. The town’s claim to be the “Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution” is a little sketchy, but there is a lot to see and do – and Blists Hill, with its blacksmiths and wood turner and foundry and schoolroom, all surrounded by woodland and back-to-back with an impressive incline railway system – is a great day out.

It’s also where they filmed ‘Mark of the Rani’. Oh, and it was all going so well.

Part of my problem with the story is the Rani herself. Despite her Dynasty associations, as far as I’m concerned, Kate O’Mara will always be Laura Wilde in Howards’ Way, and I simply can’t take her seriously in black leather sneering at Anthony Ainley over an operating table. Gareth rightly points out that she has potential. The Master is a rogue Time Lord who wants to take over the universe simply because it looks like a bit of a laugh. The Rani doesn’t share his immoral principles – indeed, she’s the amoral scientist personified, likening her disdain for humans to that of the humans’ own use and abuse of livestock. “What harm have the animals in the fields done them?” she says to the Doctor when the two first meet. “The rabbits they snare, the sheep they nourish to slaughter. Do they worry about the lesser species when they sink their teeth into a lamb chop?”

It’s a valid point, but Emmy material this is not, and no better are the angry ramblings of the sleep-deprived Luddites, whose role is chiefly to cart the Doctor from one place to another, usually on a hospital trolley. This also leads to the first episode’s cliffhanger, set up as it is on the pretext that the Doctor asks Peri to push him away from the approaching Rani, only for her to get it spectacularly wrong and send him barrelling off down a steep path. At the beginning of part two, he’s saved by George Stephenson. Then things get silly.

Gareth Roberts says (and I paraphrase) that “What’s great about ‘Mark of the Rani’ is that the Rani is a character who just doesn’t want to be in Doctor Who. There’s these two clowns gallivanting around and plotting against each other, and she turns her nose up at the whole thing and just wants to get on with her work. The next time we see her? Wigs? Dressing up as Bonnie Langford? She’s probably watched all the episodes in the interim. I bet she has them all on videotape, stacked on her shelf, all very neatly labelled.”

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Whatever my misgivings about both the Rani’s adventures – not to mention the telethon special where she’s outdone by an Eastenders actress – it’s a location, and we were in that neck of the woods, and even though we’ve been before it was the first time I could actually show Thomas the set, and so the first thing we did was wander around the town and draw a depressing blank when we tried to work out where the bathhouse was. Indeed, the most tangible and memorable exterior location in the place is the overgrown exit to the mine where Colin Baker runs beats a hasty retreat with Peri at the story’s climax.

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Not too far from here is the path that leads off to the forest, in which the Rani is conducting some particularly gruesome experiments. First she forces the Doctor to take part in a crappy circus skills workshop.

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What’s worse, he’s missed out on the chance to cop a feel of Peri, so instead the honour falls to a semi-anthropomorphic tree.

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I am not going to bother explaining this; it’s (literally) monstrous. Suffice to say that there is an amusing denouement in the Rani’s TARDIS featuring a baby dinosaur, and then it’s off to sunny Spain for ‘The Two Doctors’. The photo below features no reference to the path or forest whatsoever, but I include it because I rather like the lighting.

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We left not long after and headed for Enginuity, a hands-on exhibition about ten minutes’ drive from the Victorian town. It has robots and ecological-themed experiments and you get to learn about water and electricity and wind power. It is fantastic and the boys love it. But it’s set in the middle of a large collection of old buildings that make up the slate museums and monuments that showcase the heritage of the town and its industrial past, and it’s a little disconcerting when you walk out of the high-ceilinged, air-conditioned hall full of rolling video and hi-tech wizardry, and this is what you see.

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“I can’t help thinking,” I said to Thomas, “that this would have made a great place for a UNIT shootout or something in a 1970s Doctor Who story. You know, with someone falling off the stairs and the Brigadier down in the yard on the front line.”

“You could always make one,” he said.

So I did.

Categories: Classic Who, On Location | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Baywatch, starring The Doctor

You will recall that I spent most of yesterday Photoshopping David Hasselhoff’s head onto the Doctor’s body, with mixed (but hopefully amusing) results.

When I showed it to Emily, she said “What want to see is the Doctor’s head, superimposed over David Hasselhoff’s body. You know, in scenes from Knight Rider and Baywatch.”

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, so here we go. But be careful what you wish for.

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

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