You remember this, don’t you? The silliness that comes between stories; those miniature reviews knocked off in cafes and spare moments that evolved, gradually, into skits and songs and random observations. Pack ’em up, parcel ’em off and lo and behold, the editor at The Doctor Who Companion rolls his eyes and pastes them into this week’s communal writeup.
It didn’t start out this way. There was a time when I was trying to do this properly, to give decent opinions that reflected how I actually felt about an episode, all neatly packaged into condensed three-paragraph summaries. Somewhere along the line, I got bored. Or just fed up. Or a combination of both. It’s not easy, being one of the few DWC writers who actually enjoys the show at the moment. You feel like you do in primary school when they ask the class to vote for an end-of-term video, and you stick your hand up for The Famous Five while everyone else votes for Labyrinth. It’s not that you’re wrong, you’re just a minority.
This time around, I elected not to actually share my opinion of the stories, at least not with any transparency. Oh, certain things slip through. You can feel the scorn, particularly when it was something I really didn’t like. But there are advantages to hiding behind a metaphor: you can just tell people that you’re having a laugh, and to take everything with a grain or two of salt. Besides, it’s far more fun being a little creative. “Are we poor?” my children sometimes ask me. “No,” I tell them. “We’re bohemian.”
These are quite long, so I’ve elected to give you the first two today and the rest in a future installment. There are links to the communal write-ups on the DWC website, if you wanted to read something more sensible, or something that affiliates with your own views. But before we do that, we need to drop in on Matt Strevens’ office.
The Halloween Apocalypse
“Right, Chris. What sort of state are we in for the new series?”
“Matt! Matt, I was thinking. Do you think you could ever make a Zygon sexy?”
“I – I don’t – “
“I mean they’re sort of very distinct, aren’t they? They have a peculiar shape. It’s a bit phallic. But I’m just remembering Coneheads, that Saturday Night Live sketch with Dan Aykroyd, and I was wondering, if you got a Zygon to lounge in just the right way – “
“Chris – “
“I’m just remembering the Katy Manning photoshoot, and – “
“Chris! Can we focus?”
“Fine, yes, sorry, yep. Series 13, then.”
“Series 13. What are we planning?”
“Right. I thought in episode one we’d blow up the universe.”
“Okay, so high stakes. Like it. I presume you mean some sort of threat that overshadows the whole series and that the Doctor deals with at the last minute?”
“No, we actually blow it up.”
“…Right, and then?”
“Don’t know. Something.”
“It’s kind of a narrative cul-de-sac, isn’t it?”
“Only a little bit. And besides, we introduce a bunch of other stories and characters first. I’ve got scenes in the Arctic, scenes in Victorian London, scenes in a desolate alien prison that looks like the edge of hell – “
“Where are we planning on filming that?”
“Swindon. Then we’ll bring in all these new people and have them dig tunnels and stuff. And there’s this woman who knows the Doctor but they haven’t met yet.”
“That’s kind of been done to death, Chris.”
“Yes, but she gets touched by an Angel. And then there’s this fella, Dan. He works as a formula one driver.”
“That sounds prohibitively expensive.”
“All right, he works in a food bank.”
“And he’s kidnapped by a six-foot dog. From the North.”
“Yorkshire or Lancashire?”
“Is there a difference?”
“I – never mind. Are you going to explain who all these people are and what they’re doing?”
“No! That’s the brilliant part. We just leave the audience to figure it out.”
“And then fill in the blanks later.”
“If I remember, yeah. The thing is, they’re always complaining I’m too heavy-handed and obvious. This’ll really fox ’em.”
“The thing is, Chris, you’re not exactly good with dialogue.”
“I know! That’s the joy of it! We throw enough ideas at people, they won’t even care. Give ’em the old razzle-dazzle. How can they see with sequins in their eyes?”
“Chris! Sit down. This really isn’t the time for a soft-shoe. And my office isn’t big enough.”
“Anyway. You need to have some dialogue. How are you going to cover for your complete inability to string a sentence together?”
“We turn up Akinola and blame it on poor post-production.”
“I’ll have to smooth things over with the sound editors, but all right.”
“Meanwhile I’ve got this big bad villain who escapes from his cell and dissolves people.”
“Please tell me he doesn’t snap his fingers.”
“No, but I had this idea about a PELVIC THRUST OF ANNIHILATION, and – “
“Right. I’ll redraft. So there’s a bit of a chase and there’s the bit where Dan discovers the TARDIS and Yaz and the Doctor have a bit of banter.”
“And then we blow up the universe.”
“Precisely, Matt. Precisely.”
“I assume we keep this a closely-guarded secret so people’s jaws drop when it happens?”
“No, not at all. I’m planning on telling everyone in all the interviews.”
“Won’t they be disappointed?”
“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
“You’ve obviously never met Lance Armstrong. Fine, I think we’re done here.”
“Brilliant. Are there any Smarties left?”
“No. You ate them all.”
“Really? I hadn’t even noticed.”
War of the Sontarans
From: First Corporal Erskib, Location Scout for 14th Noble Batallion of the Outer Southwest Fringes of the Great and Indomitable Sontaran Empire
To: Brigadier General Prazan, Central Command
Subject: Field Report
I trust this report finds you well and in rude health, and that the war against the Rutans is going swimmingly. I am sure you have awaited this write-up of what the Sontaran Press have already dubbed ‘Wokgate’ with interest and anticipation, and I am hopeful that my thorough investigation of things will shed some light onto exactly what happened during the latest
failed conquest of strategic withdrawal from the planet known as Earth.
Before we go any further, I feel I must apologise for the incident with the cat. I honestly didn’t know it would explode. Had I been aware of this, I would certainly not have inserted the probe until you yourself had moved from splattering distance. No words have actually been said about the matter, but I am of sufficiently sound mind to determine that it was this unfortunate upset that has led to my recent demotion and subsequent reassignment to this backwater hellhole. No matter: I have learned my lesson. Res fiunt, as we say on Sontar – or, as the Judoon might have put it, ‘Ko Blo Ro So Fo Jo No-No’.
Investigating incidents on Earth is, you are aware, fraught with complications. Chief amongst them is the fact that we have been here before, on multiple occasions, and that it has never ended well. There are rumours that one deserter may still be living here in a time period we have yet to identify. We do not know precisely where he is, but there is a trail of confectionary bills. However, on this occasion, the mess was not difficult to spot: Commander Riksaw, for reasons of his own choosing, opted to begin his establishment of Operation: Outpost Earth in 19th Century Europe, supposedly because he had developed an affinity for the local wildlife. We have a word for people like that on Sontar, but sadly the inbuilt censorship filter will not allow me to use it in this missive.
It was all going swimmingly until the irritating human known as the Doctor blundered onto the scene. She used to be a girl, and now she’s a boy. I simply can’t understand how it all works and why things can’t stay as they are. One woman – sorry, one man on his own should not have been able to penetrate our defences, let alone muster enough firepower to blow them up. Where on earth did they get enough dynamite? How did they move it? My investigation has revealed that there was some help at hand: two humans, one of whom has the unenviable job of performing puncture repairs to the skins of wounded humans. Surveillance footage from the black box recording has revealed she has some spunk about her: sadly the human military general that accompanied her was about as interesting as a freshly-plastered wall, and about as two-dimensional.
I have seen the footage of the battle in a Crimean field, and this at least was a glorious day for the might of Sontar. Sadly our excursions some years later seem to have gone rather awry, owing to the antics of a rogue native who managed to knock out half a platoon with a cooking implement. This is the price you get for landing in Merseyside. We should have gone to Tijuana; at least that has a beach. I would also raise questions, Brigadier General, as to how half a dozen troops can empty their magazines from ten feet away without landing a single shot on target. The onboard ship’s computer – a sentient model I have named Angela – recommended a piece of Earth culture entitled Star Wars. After watching this piece of drivel I know more and understand even less.
- Up the border security on the secret military encampments – we’re a clone army; surely they can spare a few people to watch the perimeter
- Mandatory shooting range exercises to be introduced daily for all troops
- Can we please, please get the scientists to do something about the probic vent? Honestly, it’s embarrassing. I can’t even stand at a urinal without having to crane my neck every couple of seconds.
Signing off now, Brigadier General. While I wait for the dropship I am examining a little more of Earth culture, particularly its cuisine. I have learned of a local creature known as a poodle. I hear they’re delicious.
First Corporal Erskib, Mrs.