Posts Tagged With: the name of the doctor

The Figures Mash (part 1)

There is a book on my shelf that makes the list of Brilliant Charity Shop Finds of 2017. Entitled Figure Fantasy, it celebrates the work of Daniel Picard, who has turned the careful posing of costumed action figures into what is quite literally an art form. Here’s the Man of Steel etching “BRUCE WAYNE IS BATMAN” onto a wall with his heat vision. Here’s the Hulk bending a tree. Here’s Darth Vader propped up at a urinal, the toilet walls lined by stormtroopers anxiously trying to incline their heads in the opposited direction. Look him up; the guy’s a genius.

I do not have Picard’s photographic skills, swanky lighting or creativity. I also don’t have the time or the patience. I have trouble enough getting the ruddy things to stand upright on concrete without wobbling in a summer breeze. However, I do have a decent-sized garden and the occasional good idea. Which has meant that as the children have got older, and the tendency to re-enact the finale of ‘Blink’ recedes somewhat, our playtime sessions have been replaced by impromptu photos in the garden. “Give me a Capaldi,” I’ll say in the manner of a concentrating surgeon or experienced mechanic, not taking my eyes from the scene I’m semi-meticulously assembling. “Dalek. Cybermen. Damn, we’ve got a wobble. Blu-tac, quick! CAN I GET SOME HELP IN HERE PLEASE?!”

Look, Doctor Who toys deserve to come out of their plastic packaging, all right? I can’t understand – truly I can’t – the mentality of people who buy them simply to have them, in order to build up a collection that does nothing except gather dust, a factory line of plastic David Tennants that sit permanently bubbled in cellophane, their tiny arms and legs bound with those irritating little cable things. Oh, they’re worth more, are they? What’s worth? How do you measure that?

So one of my Angels is missing a wing and Morbius’s leg has a tendency to drop out of its socket unannounced, but at least they get used. And such is the extent to which I have neglected this blog this year that we have a whole stack of unposted pictures, enough for a small exhibition, all hastily composed and all equally ludicrous. So this week and next, while you’re all drumming your fingers waiting for ‘The Halloween Apocalypse’, I’ll stick them all out here.

We’ll start with this one.

“Oh great. We’re back on Trenzalore.”

Unused Fourth Doctor stories.

“Right. I don’t want to panic anyone, but there’s a leek in the boat.”

“Interesting look, Frobisher.”

Now showing on Britbox: Doctor Who and the Revenge of the Killer Tomatoes.

“Hello, old friend. And here we are, you and me, on the last page.”

“Seriously. You’ve been out for like a month and a half. Don’t you think you can stop doing that now?”

“When this baby hits eighty-eight miles an hour, you’re – GREAT SCOTT!”

“I’m sure you’ll get the…point, Doctor. He. He he he he.”

The Doctor and Graham get caught up in a game of Tetris.

“Hey, anybody seen a – you know what, never mind.”

“So. We meet again, Great Intelligence.”

“Uh…she did it.”

More of the same next time! Enjoy your week.

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Have I Got Whos For You (series 12 edition, part one)

Halloo! There will be fresh a conspiracy theory roundup very soon – of course there will – but to tide you over until then, here’s the first bi-weekly edition of memes from this year’s Doctor Who series, along with topical stuff that simply couldn’t wait. I am tapping this while waiting for the shopping to arrive, and Tesco do have a tendency to be early, so let’s crack on, shall we?

‘Spyfall’ first: and, in a joke that is probably going to appeal to a maximum of three people, there’s a major upset when the Doctor tries to decode the Kasaavin signal.

In the year 200,000 there’s much hilarity on Twitter when Billie Piper botches an easy question.

Taking refuge during a Kansas cyclone, young Dorothy Gale gets a nasty shock when she looks out of the window.

And fresh from his appearance in a Japanese TV trailer, Baby Sonic dashes from the Green Hill Zone to the fields of Provence to give his flower to a very special painter.

In a Trenzalore cemetery, a whispered conversation reveals the truth behind the controversy around last year’s Christmas blockbuster.

And stranded on Earth and forced to live through most of the twentieth century, the Master takes a job at the BBC.

“Do you know any sci-fi?”

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Have I Got Whos For You (February Made Me Shiver Edition)

This week in Whoville, there’s trouble in paradise.

This is from a film, right? They walk around wearing blindfolds for some reason. Is it like that bit in ‘Flesh and Stone’ where Amy has to navigate the Angels? Can someone enlighten me seeing as I can’t be bothered to Google this afternoon?

Elsewhere, it snowed, so obviously.

I was chatting to Christian Cawley on Twitter. “Having just finished PD’s memoirs,” he said, “Davison, Troughton and Pertwee pushing the snow onto Tom Baker might be more apt.”

“There were so many combinations,” I told him. “It was almost the Brigadier and Jo pushing the snow onto an unsuspecting Pertwee. I like the idea of Capaldi being caught out, but the real reason Baker and Pertwee are up there are simply because they’re the only ones who would balance.”

Still, you can’t keep a good Time Lord down. Not when there’s a big game on.

In case you were wondering, most of them are Falcon players. I went for the ones that were already transparent, as I couldn’t be bothered to do any cutting out. I have no idea if this makes any sort of statement on the quality of the game or the people that play it. I don’t even know what I’m looking at. I played an early John Madden game on the Sega Mega Drive but I never really got to grips with it; the whole thing seemed awfully stop-and-start. You will notice the Doctor is the only one not wearing any padding, and there’s a hint of sneering culture wars at play here: my feelings on American Football (or, as they call it, Football) aren’t exactly well-documented, except to say that over here we call it rugby. And we don’t use helmets.

But by the time you read this, of course, the Super Bowl will be a distant memory, because it’s all about Chinese New Year. Only with the Doctor, of course, it never goes to plan.

Gung hay fat choy…

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Have I Got Whos For You (series 11 edition, part 4)

And….we’re back from commercial. Right, did everybody enjoy Thanksgiving? ‘Cos the Doctor’s got the turkey on.

(Mr Bean did it first, of course, and to arguably better effect.)

Thanksgiving is typically more about spending time with your family than it is about exchanging gifts – but there have been scores of references to packaging all over the internet after ‘Kerblam’, and not in a good way.

Elsewhere in the Whoniverse this week there was consternation when an Amazon Prime scheduling cockup meant that American subscribers to their streaming video service got to watch episode eight before they’d seen episode seven.

As for me, I’ve been tinkering with grainy, near-unusuable shots from ‘Kerblam!’ (do I have to type out the exclamation mark every time? It’s incredibly tedious) in order to produce more obscure connections to CBeebies programmes, although feedback for this one does suggest I’m not alone.

But I did find time to get hold of this exclusive preview shot from next week’s Holby City.

Hoopy Froobs!

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God is in the detail (xi)

Goodness, it’s been a while.

Revisiting ‘The Name of the Doctor’ took things in an unexpected, food-related direction. It is said that oranges are not the only fruit, and we’ll reaffirm that sentiment tonight. Without further ado, then, here’s my list of SEEMINGLY INSIGNIFICANT THINGS in the seventh series finale that are going to be OF VITAL IMPORTANCE in ‘The Day of the Doctor’, or its seasonal successor, the swansong of Smith. (Aha! Alliteration…)

Early on, we’re greeted with a nice establishing shot of the sky over Glasgow.

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Simple, right? Wrong. Look at the placement of that chimney. It’s sandwiched neatly (all right, not terribly neatly) between the ‘L’ and the ‘A’ of Glasgow. We’re clearly supposed to look at that. LA, of course, is short for Los Angeles. In other words, chimneys in Los Angeles. Well, that’s a needle in a haystack. What do we do with that?

But wait! Disney have their main studio at Burbank, Los Angeles county. And in May to September 1963 (fifty years ago – I repeat, FIFTY YEARS AGO) they were filming a now little-known musical they called Mary Poppins, after the book on which it was (somewhat loosely) based. And, of course, a notable sequence in said film involves two children traveling up and down a chimney with a magical, other-worldly guardian who has a fondness for hats, umbrellas and bow ties, and who carries a bag that’s much bigger on the inside. But I didn’t need another excuse to show this.


The chimney sweep of the film, of course, was played by Dick Van Dyke, who became famous in later years for playing Dr Mark Sloan, which in its full form, rearranged, becomes ‘Doctor Ark Man Sol’. This is a clear reference to ‘The Ark In Space’, in which Tom Baker comes across a ship containing the cryogenically frozen remnants of humanity orbiting the Earth. Oh, and where does Dick Van Dyke live? Malibu, which – like Burbank – is part of Los Angeles County. But you knew that, didn’t you?

Onwards. Here’s the Doctor wearing an impromptu blindfold.

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With blue diamonds. You know, sort of like this opening shot from ‘Midnight’.


CLEARLY and UNAMBIGUOUSLY a reference to whatever life form crept along the surface of that planet. And to the Tenth Doctor, who starred. And also to David Troughton, who will ALMOST DEFINITELY appear in ‘Day of the Doctor’ playing the human child of the Second Doctor, now working at UNIT and godfather to Kate Stewart’s daughter.

Now, here’s a shot at the end of the episode, when Clara lands on the ground in the middle of the ruins of …ooh, somewhere in the Doctor’s head, where she’s saved by the Eleventh Doctor. But notice the pattern the branches make.

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It’s a bow and arrow, isn’t it? And those of you who know your New Who will recall David Tennant carrying a bow at the end of ‘Blink’.


“Got to dash,” he tells Sally Sparrow. “Things happening. Well, four things. Well, four things and a lizard.” We’re led to assume that the hatching to which Martha refers is somehow connected with the lizard. But what if it’s not? In fact, I’m fairly certain that it’s not. I’m fairly certain that the lizard is Madame Vastra, and that the use of birds (Sparrow, Nightingale) was a cryptic reference back to Jenny, whose surname – I’d be willing to bet – was Wren. See? SEE? Moffat knew what he was doing even back in 2007.

Now: you will recall this image.

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Ignore the lovely lighting. Stand on your head. Actually, don’t, because it might be easier if I just do this.

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Here, the Strax / Jenny / Vastra have clearly formed a letter F. Which refers to Dorium’s earlier prophecy about ‘The Fall of the Eleventh’ – a fall unconnected, it is now apparent, with any sort of physical downwards pull, or even a bit of appalling wordplay on the part of the chief writer. Instead, the Fall of the Eleventh is happening around us, right now, because we’re in the middle of autumn – or, as it’s named on the other side of the pond, the fall. With me? It’s the first time we’ve seen the Eleventh Doctor on screen like this in the autumn, so THIS IS THE FALL OF THE ELEVENTH.

I’ve saved the best until last. Have a look at Clara’s bedroom.

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Under her bedsheet? Well, that’s a yellow duvet and pillow set, isn’t it? Well, no. It’s a banana.

Which means I get to do this:

It’s definitely a banana. There’s no getting away from it. Bananas are synonymous throughout Doctor Who – they even have their own page in the TARDIS Wikia. We could, for example, refer to images from ‘Ghost Light’.


Or the conversation between the Doctor and Jack in ‘The Doctor Dances’ (written by Moffat).


Or David Tennant’s embarrassing faux-drunk routine in ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ (also written by Moffat).


Or the image of Alex Kingston threatening the Doctor with a banana in ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ (you’re sensing a theme here).


Or we could even go to the most convoluted explanation for any riddle in TV history, courtesy of Adam West and Burt Ward:

Batman [reading]: One: “What has yellow skin and writes?”
Robin: A ballpoint banana.
Batman: Right! Two: “What people are always in a hurry?”
Robin: Rushing people? Russians!
Batman: Right again! Now, what would you say they mean?
Robin: Banana… Russian… I’ve got it! Someone Russian is gonna slip on a banana peel and break their neck!
Batman: Precisely, Robin! The only possible meaning!

But if you need any proof that this is somehow connected with New Who, and what’s about to happen, here’s a picture of John Hurt eating a banana.




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Doctor Hurt

It’s been far too long since we had a video, and today I bring you not one, but two.

There’s a catch, of course. They’re two different versions of the same piece, presented in two different forms for reasons I will shortly divulge. But the lesson you need to take from this today is that less is sometimes more. There’s a reason why ‘Midnight’ is one of my favourite episodes of series four, and the first instalment of ‘The Ark in Space’ is one of the best twenty minutes of 1970s television. Budget problems have cursed Doctor Who for decades, but doing things on the cheap does allow for inspired bouts of creativity in the right hands.

Anyway. That John Hurt chap. Who is he, and does anyone really care? Well, I don’t, because whatever they do with him he will be chronically underused. Hiring big names and giving them nothing to do seems to be the hallmark of series seven (cf. Richard E. Grant, David Warner, Diana Rigg) and already there is a shedload of speculation about whether John Hurt is playing the Ninth Doctor, an aged version of the Eighth, the Valeyard or even the very First Doctor, mostly in the form of lazy, semi-coherent YouTube vlogs recorded on badly-positioned webcams. Cue a hundred comments underneath, most of which involve poor spelling and a smattering of bad language, and that’s just the ones that bother talking about the show.

The short answer is we don’t know, and it’ll probably be disappointing – so instead of looking forward, I looked backward. Because it occurred to me, almost as soon as the episode aired, that Mr Hurt’s tied to certain visual images, at least in my head. One of them is the shot of him sitting in a car with Jason Priestley in the poster for Love and Death on Long Island. Another is the time he lampooned his role in Alien by giving birth to a singing extra-terrestrial baby, in a scene which parodies both Ridley Scott and Michigan J. Frog. And the third? Well, that would be Whistle and I’ll Come To You.

Those of you who’ve followed my video posts from the outset will recall that I’ve talked about Whistle and I’ll Come To You before. It was, indeed, the very programme that kick-started this little hobby, and revisiting it in the last week or two seemed oddly circular. If you haven’t seen it, you really should, largely because it’s utterly terrifying: there is no CGI, no overwrought score, and only a bare bones cast, with Andy De Emmony favouring slow buildups and long, dialogue-free passages where Hurt sits brooding in his hotel room or imagines he’s seen a ghost on the beach. It is apparently vastly inferior to the 1968 version, which I really should get round to seeing, but as a ghost story in its own right it’s minimalist and thoroughly successful, largely as a result of leaving so many questions unanswered come the closing credits.

This basically came about because of ‘The God Complex’, a similarly creepy episode of New Who, which manages to tease out the suspense by keeping the minotaur largely hidden for most of the story (it’s only in the closing minutes, with the final deconstruction of the hotel and the tacked-on epilogue, that the episode is in danger of unravelling). No one ever found out what was in the Doctor’s room, but for me the answer was apparent more or less the moment that John Hurt turned round at the end of series seven. It just seemed an obvious gag. Then I tried to turn it into a video, and all hell broke loose.

In the first instance, this was suffering from lack of clear direction. If you could use Whistle… as a basis for that hotel scene, why not stop there? Why not stick in footage from more of Hurt’s performances? And so I thumbed through the DVD collection to see what I could find. I’d envisaged him landing on LV-426 in his space suit and encountering David Tennant in ‘The Satan Pit’, or Matt Smith in ‘Hide’. Then I remembered that Fox are notoriously picky about what they allow online (YouTube footage from Alien, in particular, seems to be pretty sparse). Or I’d thought of him running into Daleks during his death scene in Hellboy, except that this sequence is compiled chiefly from over-the-shoulder angles that make it obvious he’s being interrogated by Karel Roden. There is an earlier scene which showed promise, but at this point I was bored with the idea.

Then there’s Harry Potter. Specifically there’s the bit  in Deathly Hallows Part II when Harry interrogates Ollivander in the upstairs bedroom of Shell Cottage. Which is fine, if you can find something suitable with which to match it. But all I wound up doing was wrecking emotionally laden scenes from ‘Blink’ and ‘Vincent and the Doctor’. So I gave up, and concentrated exclusively on Whistle…, which features various bedroom scenes (and that sounds far more kinky than it actually is, unless you’re mysteriously turned on by vanishing rugs and hammering on the door, which indicates you have a bedroom farce fetish). There are also a couple of beach sequences, which lent themselves to obvious throwbacks to – well, you’ve seen it now, so there’s no need to elaborate.

Except. Except! Our poor Mr Hurt spends half his time running away from ghosts when he’s on that beach. And I immediately thought of the pterodactyls-that-aren’t-really-pterodactyls in ‘Dinosaurs’. So I stuck that in as well, and then found that the lighting was completely off key, suggesting that they filmed that scene in the middle of winter. What you can see in the video at the bottom of this post is footage that’s had the brightness cranked up and the colour saturated, and even then it doesn’t look great. But I ran with it, because it basically hung together, by the skin of its teeth. The beach and hotel room scenes didn’t seem quite enough, at least not where the rule of three was concerned, so I added a bit where Hurt climbs the stairs and comes face to face with a Weeping Angel.

And it doesn’t really work. I mean, it sort of does. But I don’t have a clue what it’s doing there. Really, it should have been Hurt coming face to face with another Doctor, who stared back – a silent Mexican standoff. Or perhaps Gabriel Woolf in a gorilla mask. The whole thing felt rather flabby, and Gareth said so when I let him see the preview. “It would work better without the Angel,” he said (and I’m paraphrasing), “because I don’t see the point of it. And it’s confusing having the two Doctors stepping out of the TARDIS, and then seeing the Eleventh turn up. And there’s a jarring contrast in lighting between the dinosaur scenes and the John Hurt scenes.”

And he’s right, of course. So I uploaded a leaner version, and that’s probably what I’ll wind up using in emails and other plugs. Nonetheless, the original stays, and is accessible below, because it gives an idea of what I was trying to do – an experiment that didn’t quite work. Paradoxically Gareth and I were talking just last week about some of the extras on the 2 Entertain Doctor Who DVDs, and how some of them contain single jokes that are stretched to breaking point (a notable example of this being The Elusive David Agnew). And that’s something I could have done with remembering here. Sometimes if you scale things back, they’re far more effective.

Still. Dinosaurs. On a beach!

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What’s in a name?

Well, now you know.


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Review: ‘The Name of the Doctor’ (spoilers)

I was teasing the boys on Saturday. “Of course, the Doctor might regenerate,” I said, knowing he wouldn’t. “We might see the Twelfth Doctor.” Thomas then proceeded to ask what he looked like, and of course I didn’t know. After lunch, he fetched the customisable sonic screwdriver set that Emily got me for Christmas and assembled his own version, calling it “the Twelfth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, and I’m the Twelfth Doctor”. I nodded and smiled and took his photo, whilst working out what I’d say to him when it got to the end of the evening with no sign of a new Doctor.

Then we saw the episode.

The appearance of John Hurt – who, I confess, I’d entirely forgotten was going to appear – threw in a complete curveball at the very end. It wasn’t so much a cliffhanger as a game-changer, a reassessment of who the Doctor was and how we got here. It was also a shameless bit of stunt-casting. It was the First Doctor before he took on the appearance of Hartnell. It was an obvious reference to the Time War. It was the Other before he threw himself into the Looms. It was the final Doctor, who will not live to regenerate. It was brilliant. It was terrible. It was all of the above and none of the above, depending on what you read and what you want to believe. I think we’re beyond the stage now where it matters. This has either been the worst series since the revival or a dazzling return to form, and if you’re on one side then nothing the other can say is going to influence you. Perhaps we should stop arguing about it, stop polluting the pages of the web with our ramblings, and accept that we see things differently.

But this will fall on deaf ears. The enigma of Hurt’s Doctor and who he is will be shoved back and forth across blogs, Facebook groups, sycophantic Dan Martin Guardian columns, bitch-fests from Lawrence Miles and rambling fan videos from incoherent YouTube pundits, and it will long outlast its expected sell-by date. We’re all going to be horribly sick of it by November, and it’ll lead to a glorious anti-climax where you’ll be told something crushingly disappointing. Because ultimately, that’s what Moffat does. He asks you to guess what he’s thinking, but these days it’s seldom interesting or satisfying.

If nothing else, the “bit with Doctor Hurt” (as Thomas referred to it) puts an older actor in the role – something I’ve longed for, and something we’ve not had since Pertwee, who took over the role at 51. Of course, Pertwee embodied a dynamic, action-driven side to the Doctor, gleefully bringing down foes with skilfully choreographed martial arts courtesy of the stunt directors. It was something capitalised on by the relatively youthful Baker when he adopted the role some four years later, to the extent that the dashing sidekick who’d been brought in to do all the stunts was written out after several stories, having been used mostly to provide bumbling comic relief with occasional moments of brilliance. Still, the physical, action-orientated stance of the new incarnation of the programme has prevented the BBC from casting anyone who’s likely to get a heart attack from running along a corridor in a disused steelworks being chased by a monster that isn’t there.

This has meant a spate of younger Doctors; a trend that looks set to continue. Because let’s be clear on this: Hurt’s casting is atypical in that whoever it is, it is not a Doctor who is going to stay the course. He hasn’t said more than two dozen words yet and already we have established that he is a Doctor who either should not exist, a wibbly wobbly anomaly, or an incarnation who has been assigned to a crumbly CG-generated hell (filmed on location in urban Glasgow) because he did or will do something terrible. He is the Doctor’s dirty little secret, along with his secret stash of Sontaran pornography and what he and River really get up to with those handcuffs. (I suspect these two things probably aren’t mutually exclusive. There, that’s put images in your head, hasn’t it?)

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It’s a shame that in establishing this fact, Moffat resorted to the laziest, lamest trick in the writer’s book, which is to end an episode (and indeed a series) with that episode’s title. Some weeks ago, Gareth suggested to me that there would be a feint of some sort and that you’d have a bunch of characters charging into battle, dying in slow motion, bellowing “IN THE NAME OF THE DOCTOR!”. He was joking, but that’s only slightly more silly than what actually happened. I was so busy reeling from this that I didn’t even notice that Moffat also fulfilled Dorium’s “Fall of the Eleventh” prophecy by having the Doctor say “We don’t jump; we fall”.

I mean, honestly. This isn’t a clever reversal. It’s just bad writing. Confounding the expectations of your audience by deflating the balloon because it’s the last thing they were expecting is inexcusable. Making a joke out of a foreshadowing comment that is supposed to allude to the Doctor’s death doesn’t make you look clever or a master of your craft. It makes you look like a smug drama student. It’s like Bilbo Baggins getting Gollum to guess what’s in his pocket – a riddle he asked by accident and then exploited to get out of a life-or-death situation, but to the best of my knowledge no one is approaching Moffat across a slimy rock, threatening to eat him if he can’t guess what’s alive without breath and cold as death.

I remember being eight years old, and sitting at the side of the school field playing I Spy with a couple of friends. They tried, for a good two or three minutes, to guess the ‘B’ I said I’d seen, and eventually gave up, pronouncing me the winner. “Bus,” I said. “I saw one go past a while ago.” It’s cheating, and it’s unfair. But it was technically accurate. And thus it was a plot twist in the story of the game, one that eerily echoed the style of our current chief writer. Which is why the endless praise and shouts of “brilliant” baffle me.

“Yesterday,” said Gareth, “I gave a brief summary of the bits I knew of the episode. Try it, and about halfway through you’ll find yourself thinking ‘This is just really bad fanfic – if anyone had written it last year it would have been ridiculed’.” And he’s right. It reads like bad fanfiction and Moffat gets away with it because we still know him as the writer of ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ and we cannot quite wrench ourselves away from that image, or from the fact that a man capable of brilliance simply isn’t suited to a role like this.

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Of course, the question of who the Doctor is turned out fairly early on to be fundamentally unimportant, when the words “It is discovered” turned out not to allude to the Doctor’s name at all, but rather the location of his grave. This needn’t mean that the end of the show is in sight. An eventual death does not mean an imminent death, and there was no sign of any corpse inside the Trenzelore TARDIS. One could, perhaps, nitpick over the fact that the interior echoes the current design, but in the grand scheme of things I think there are other aspects upon which I could waste my time. Like the rotten dialogue, or the fact that the design of the Whispermen was strangely familiar.

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Certainly there were good things this week. When the Doctor is informed that his friends have been taken to Trenzelore, his reaction is to sit down on the sofa and burst into tears. It’s a mesmerising performance from Smith, so easy to forget in the blustery of what follows, but it’s arguably the most upset we’ve seen the Doctor since the revival of the show – a frail, fragile moment, and I wish we’d had a little more of that, and less of the angst-ridden silliness that followed.

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In all seriousness, this was good.

Performances aside, Saul Metzstein directed this as well as he’s directed any of his other episodes, with the darkness of Trenzelore effectively realised in the few shots we saw of it. This seemed to be a finale that dealt with metaphysics as much as anything else, and as such sets were almost theatrically abstract, with atmospheric, moody lighting standing in for actual detail. This was an episode of dread, and Metzstein (and cinematographer Neville Kidd) evoked this by juxtaposing tight, claustrophobic shots with wide, angled ones, as if someone were being observed from not far off.

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Similarly, the opening montage showed a certain visual panache, particularly if you didn’t know it was coming – as I didn’t. It was rough around the edges, for sure. The limitations of the BBC’s effects budget showed when Jenna-Louise Coleman was digitally pasted into old footage, standing looking confused in a park while someone who looks absolutely nothing like Patrick Troughton runs past her. But elsewhere, it worked. The tints and grains came out again as Clara jumped through different eras and went through costume changes at a rate that rivalled that of Madonna in Evita. This included a questionable CG-driven appearance from Jon Pertwee, and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it encounters with the Eighth and Ninth. Davison was seen lying on a floor, presumably spouting dialogue from what I thought was ‘The Caves of Androzani’ (but which Gareth insists is probably from the beginning of his run), and Clara appeared to linger in the same corridor they used in ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ as a tall man in the Sixth Doctor’s frock coat and a blonde wig wanders past. (Presumably it was Sylvester McCoy.)

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The fans’ reaction to this opening, I’m told, has been split: a mixture of yah-boo-sucks directed at the naysayers, while the cynical amongst us have pointed out that it was mostly a lot of smoke and mirrors. Still, it looked reasonably impressive, and there was one moment of apparent importance, with an eyebrow-raising encounter back on Gallifrey. Fans of ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ will recall that the Doctor did not steal the TARDIS; the TARDIS stole him. This always felt like unnecessary anthropomorphism to me – the sort of thing that people say about their cats when it simply isn’t true – but it was in this singular scene that the police box’s apparent love-hate relationship with Clara was reconciled: through Clara, the TARDIS is able to reach out to the Doctor and influence him. Clara thus becomes the equivalent of a surrogate, with all the complications that that relationship entails. And it’s still silly, because it doesn’t seem to fit. (“I thought from what I read,” said Gareth, “that her meeting the Doctor was trying to save him from the Great Intelligence’s interference somehow. Was the GI whispering ‘go on, take this TARDIS – it comes with its own baby dinosaur’?”.)

While we’re on that, it’s also worth bearing in mind, of course, that the entire falling through time sequence was built on a colossal and quite unnecessarily complicated plotline: that of (the again under-used) Richard E Grant entering the Doctor’s time stream and changing everything he’s ever done. I know that time is supposed to be a non-linear ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff (I have left out the pause, but it was there) – nonetheless, wouldn’t it have made more sense for Grant to go back and kill the Doctor outright before he stole the TARDIS, while he was a frail and feeble old man, and save himself the trouble of having to dimension hop for millennia? But that would have been far too simple, and instead we’re faced with the supposedly Great Intelligence jumping through time, changing history for the worse, with Clara in hot pursuit, striving to put right what once went wrong. It’s like watching five series of Quantum Leap over the course of a few seconds, and we didn’t even get to see Dean Stockwell in a red suit.

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And while I’m complaining, I would like to point out that River Song’s appearance in this was nothing short of a disaster. It’s not that Moffat can’t write love stories. He proved that he could with ‘Blink’ and ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, both of whom have touching, unresolved matters of the heart at their core. But the love scenes with River are turgid and unconvincing and riddled with shocking dialogue (I feel a top ten coming on, but I’ll leave that for another day when I don’t feel quite so cross). See for example:

River: There has to be another way. Use the TARDIS. Use something! Save her, yes, but for God’s sake, be sensible! [She goes to slap him and he catches her wrist] How are you even doing that? I’m not really here.

The Doctor: You’re always here to me. And I always listen. And I can always see you.

River: Then why didn’t you speak to me?

The Doctor: Because I thought it would hurt too much.

River: I believe I could have coped.

The Doctor: No. I thought it would hurt me. And I was right.

How, exactly, are we supposed to cope when confronted with this drivel? It doesn’t help that there’s no chemistry at all between Smith and Kingston, but even Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton couldn’t polish a turd. Still, we can’t just blame the dialogue – it’s the whole setup. The other part of the problem, you see, is the nature of the Doctor having any sort of lover, simply because it sexualises him and calls to mind the question of what he’s like in bed. It’s an elephant in the room, but that’s what you were all thinking about during that kiss, wasn’t it?

But there was, again, that feeling of smoke and mirrors during the finale: the sense of a beginning, and not an ending. Moffat has a tendency to open up a new mystery just as he’s resolving an older one, and while we now understand the mystery of Clara and no longer care about the identity of the Doctor, another enigma has cropped up to take its place. I wouldn’t mind this, except that some three years later, I’m still not entirely clear on how or why the TARDIS exploded.

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This feels very much like the chief writer stretching out his run on the show to breaking point, and serving up mystery after mystery purely as a guarantee that they will extend his contract, until he can resolve that story arc and start up a new one at the end of the series. Seldom is there any real closure, the way there was even under Davies’ reign, because there is always a new puzzle to be debated and blogged. It’s a trick used in 24, which got away with it (just) on the grounds of being a show that was outlandishly silly. But Doctor Who is not supposed to be silly. It frequently is, and occasionally on purpose, but I seriously doubt that they sit down at tone meetings and say “Right: zany, off-the-wall looniness for that Dalek story, then”. It’s supposed to be a flagship of British family entertainment. It is a show that contains amusing moments and the occasional subtle fracturing of the fourth wall (mostly through a mockery of writer’s conventions that I will grant is done quite well), but it’s taken very seriously by everyone who produces it. Every episode is supposedly lovingly crafted to respect what has gone before and then build upon it for the future.

And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we expect the show to look too much to the past. Perhaps Davies’ first series in charge was overlooked. For better or worse, he rewrote the rule book and appeared to have little, if any consideration for what had happened before, inventing new monsters galore and cutting all ties with the Time Lords and Gallifrey with a view to building up a new fanbase from the ground up. At the time, we called this disrespectful. We called it dumbing down, and not mindful of the legacy of the programme and its perennial viewers. And then everything changed. Some eight years later, we have a show that is so steeped in its own sense of history and self-importance it has become its own Episode 1: tired, humourless, and far too pompous to actually achieve its aims. Doctor Who is struggling with the millstone of history that is affixed round its neck – racing back and forth through its own history, too concerned with continuity to think about story. It has become the Doctor himself, in that final sequence, submerged and suffocated and seemingly entrapped within his own timeline. We wanted more respect for tradition, and we got it, but the price tag was heavy – and if we may take anything from Saturday evening, and this series in general, it’s that you should be careful what you wish for.

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Categories: New Who, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

The Doctor’s Name – Revealed

I’m holed up in Shropshire and unable to watch ‘Nightmare in Silver’ until – ooh, Monday, but never mind that for now. I have something far more interesting.

Forget Merlin.

Forget The Other.

Forget Chrístõdavõreendiamondhærtmallõupdracœfiredelúnmiancuimhne de Lœngbærrow.

Here’s the real answer to the First (and thoroughly tedious) Question.

The chief writer is insistent – absolutely insistent – that no one has the answer about Clara yet. This strikes me as the sort of arrogance that is typical of Moffat. What he should have said, perhaps, was that no theory he had read had the right answer (and that may in fact have been what he said, but I’m in a Moffat-bashing mood). The internet is a vast and mysterious place and a large amount of what’s actually out there doesn’t filter into Google – so I’d suggest that if you look hard enough, and search for long enough, the odds are you’re going to find someone who has got a decent approximation of what’ll happen in a week or so.

Put another way, if you give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters the collected works of Shakespeare is going to be a long time in coming, but odds are they will, at least, be able to produce a nursery rhyme or two after some effort. That’s unless, of course, Moffat’s theory is so left-field and downright insane that no one out there thinks him stupid enough to do what he’s about to do. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

I’ve given up with the Mystery of Clara thing, and instead Gareth and I are ploughing all our efforts into deciphering the Doctor’s real name, because God knows YOU’RE NOT GOING TO FIND OUT NEXT WEEK. All right? I’m sorry to have to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s just not going to happen. Oh, it’ll be a vital-and-tedious plot point, for certain. That doesn’t mean you’re going to find out. Moffat may have spent the last year or two shedding any respect I may have had for him by the barrel-load, but he’s not stupid. This is just a very long game.

But. But. But! Gareth figured it out. Because it’s there, in plain English. Literally. I shall explain.

Those of you who’ve watched the excrement that was ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ will recall the scene in which Clara wanders into the TARDIS library and discovers a great big book on a lectern in the middle of the room, and just happens to open the book at more or less the exact space where the Doctor’s name is mentioned in one corner. And she can read it. Which suggests that the book is in English, or that the TARDIS is translating Gallifreyan, or that she can read Gallifreyan, and NONE OF THIS IS IMPORTANT, ALL RIGHT? Stop with the memes and conspiracy theories. It’s perfectly feasible that the Time Lords got bored with speaking high Gallifreyan for millions of years and switched to a different language, just for the fun of it. God knows they’ve had nothing else to do since ‘The Invasion of Time’.


Anyway. Here’s what Gareth has to say.

“I haven’t seen the episode – with this big book in the library, do we see anything in it at all? Because I just imagined it like the front page of Clara’s book, with the ages listed and “this book belongs to”.

Maybe that massive tome just says

This book belongs to [name of Doctor], aged





900 (again)


900 (again!)

which is why the book was so big. This might then suggest that the Doctor’s true name is ‘The Time War’ (assuming that it was ‘The Book of the Time War’). [Editor’s note: it was.]

That would certainly be a plausible name for him, and maybe we got our word for ‘war’ from him. (Like Moffat’s previous suggestion that his name is ‘Doctor’ and we got that word from him, and how it means other things on other worlds.)”

Me again. You see? IT ALL FITS. The Doctor is the oncoming storm. He’s the mushroom cloud. John Rambo said “To survive war, you have to become war”, and for the Doctor this is LITERALLY TRUE. And this isn’t a recent concoction. This stretches right back to ‘The Time Warrior’, which was supposedly meant to describe the Sontaran, but was in fact about Jon Pertwee. Specifically, we hear the story from the point of view of one Sarah Jane Smith, who met the Third Doctor for the first time in this story and who was thus introduced to a Time Warrior – no, no, the Time Warrior – who was actually the Doctor himself.

Told you this was coming back later. Didn't we?

Told you this was coming back later. Didn’t we?

Prove us wrong. Go on. We dare you.

Categories: New Who | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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