Posts Tagged With: thirteenth doctor

God is in the detail (13-01)

The other day, I told you I didn’t do fan theory in my reviews. There’s a simple reason: I save it for the follow-up posts. And oh, have we woven the tangliest of webs in our forays across the strange and inevitable, constant reader! We’ve seen the patterns in the readouts and the drawings in the maps. We’ve delighted upon the hidden significance of strange objects and the cryptic portents of the etchings on a bracelet. Because a lot of people think Chris Chibnall is an idiot, but you and I know better. He’s playing a long game, and everything you saw in ‘The Halloween Apocalypse’ (and I do mean absolutely everything) was placed there for a reason. There is method in madness and marvel in the mundane. And so – because there’s no other choice – I bring you the latest in this series of VERY IMPORTANT CLUES that you definitely missed when you were watching on Sunday evening.

Having examined the archives, I note that the last time I did one of these was when we’d just met the Fugitive Doctor. I don’t know what happened to the rest of that series. Perhaps I burned out. Or perhaps there just weren’t any clues. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. We’ll make up for lost time.

Starting with this…

Blink and you’ll miss it. Seen clutched by the Doctor and Yaz in the opening scene, this seemingly innocent metal bar actually holds a wealth of detail. For a start, think of it as a clock – with a black space between six and eight. Which doesn’t necessarily mean anything, of course. It’s not like there were any references to the McCoy era during that opening sequence. I mean, it’s not as if she was talking about Nitro 9 or anything. Oh, wait. She was. I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks yourself, but please don’t forget that Sophie Aldred wrote a book last year. An upcoming cameo is CLEARLY AND TRANSPARENTLY on the cards.

The other thing about this? Well, orientate it ninety degrees to the left and paint it yellow and you’ve got Pac-Man. First unveiled in 1980, the pill-popping pizza has two birthdays depending on how you count: 22 May, when he was first unveiled, and 10 October, when the game was released in America. It’s this second date that interests us the most, given that it is one day before the broadcast of ‘Meglos’ – specifically episode two, in which the cactus-like shapeshifter assumes the appearance of the Doctor, as played by Tom Baker. While he’s off getting involved in all manner of shenanigans, the real Doctor is trying to get out of a time loop with the help of Romana and K-9.

The other thing about this? Well, orientate it ninety degrees and paint it yellow and you’ve got Pac-Man. First unveiled in 1980, the pill-popping pizza has two birthdays depending on how you count: 22 May, when he was first unveiled, and 10 October, when the game was released in America. It’s this second date that interests us the most, given that it is one day before the broadcast of ‘Meglos’ – specifically episode two, in which the cactus-like shapeshifter assumes the appearance of the Doctor, as played by Tom Baker. While he’s off getting involved in all manner of shenanigans, the real Doctor is trying to get out of a time loop with the help of Romana and K-9.

Can I point out that whether you’re on this side of the pond or the other, 10 October 1980 is written as 10-10-80? Can I further point out that there are two version of the Tenth Doctor running around the multiverse and that only one of them is the genuine article? Did you know that story number 80 in the Doctor Who sequence is ‘Terror of the Zygons’, which deals with duplicates and doppelgangers? While we’re on it, has anyone failed to recall that the last time we saw David Tennant on screen he was fighting off Zygons, and that Tom Baker showed up?

Numbers next. I love numbers.

We were racking our brains in the BoM offices over this one. To what could it possibly refer? Story-and-episode? No, because ‘The Moonbase’ has but four episodes, while ‘Planet of Giants’ has only three. Doctor numbers? No, that’s just grasping at straws, and I don’t mean the useful plastic ones that you can’t get in the pub anymore, but rather those stupid paper models they have in McDonalds which are COMPLETELY USELESS WHEN YOU HAVE A MILKSHAKE. (Not that you can actually get milkshakes at the moment, thanks to bloody Brexit.)

We tried coordinates. And…bingo!

We’re in Tunisia. Tunisia! A matter of miles away from Tataouine, which stood in for its virtual namesake in the first Star Wars movie. How do you spell ‘crossover’? Is now a good time to mention the upcoming Obi-Wan TV show? Might we be seeing a cameo from Matt Smith, whose cancelled role in The Rise of Skywalker is now common knowledge? Can anyone else anticipate a Disney Doctor Who buyout within the next few years?

Also worth mentioning: this grid reference is situated on highway C211, which corresponds DIRECTLY AND UNAMBIGUOUSLY with episode 211 – also known as part two of ‘The Dominators’, in which the Quarks flap their arms a bit, and also story 211, ‘The Lodger’. Because I’d like to point out that Alfie is about nine years old now, which is optimum age for another appointment with the Doctor, assuming James Corden pauses for breath between musicals.

Now take a look at this picture.

It’s a ‘Liverpool’ food bank, except it was filmed in Cardiff. We know this because the sign from the building next door is for Beamrite Aerials, provider of quality cables and satellite equipment, who have their showroom on Broadway. A curious thing happens when you slide over to Street View, given that within the immediate vicinity of the shop you’ll find a Chinese called The Golden Cow, and two businesses – TWO! – that use the word ‘Angels’. You don’t need to be an idiot to see where this is going, but you do have to know your Old Testament to remember that the golden calf was an idol built for the wandering Israelites by their de facto second-in-command, Aaron. Which is where we draw a blank, because sadly there’s no one in Doctor Who by that name.

Oh wait a minute.

(In all seriousness for a moment, a couple of doors along from Beamrite you’ll find a charity called The Rainbow Of Hope, and I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that they’re the food bank in which Dan was seen loitering early in the episode. Either that or it’s just a lockup and they whacked in a few crates. But in any event, they’re probably worth a look, because these places are usually high on costs and low on donations, so you should consider giving them a few quid.)

I’m throwing you another screen now, in Vinder’s cockpit over at Outpost Rose. There was a lot to say about this one, so I stuck with simply annotating it.

Doppelgangers. Doubles. Clones. Omega. We’ve not seen him in a while, have we? I mean he’s scarcely seen himself since he lost his head. But here we have the biggest clue yet that this whole series is somehow about him. Makes a change from the Master, doesn’t it?

Finally:

Cast your minds back a year and a half or so, to ‘Orphan 55’. No, wait, humour me. I know that people generally want to wipe ‘Orphan 55’ from their memory. I get it. Really I do. But it has some lovely moments early on, particularly when Ryan – the son of the aforementioned Aaron, don’t forget – becomes ill after buying crisps from a vending machine. And these, folks, were the crisps he bought. Now, take some deep breaths and suck your thumb. Oh, and watch out for the space bats.

If you were to Google the word ‘Kplap’ you’d throw up some interesting results. Unfortunately most of them aren’t in English, so we’re forced to use the little grey cells. Because I was toying with anagrams and I threw up something very interesting, and that’s this: ‘K’PLAPS CRISPS‘ can easily be rearranged to form ‘RIPS KPS CLASP‘. Which makes no sense at all, at least until you look up KPS and discover that they’re an established company who deliver piping systems for fossil fuels and chemicals. A transparent clue about fossil fuels? In a story about a scorched Earth? Seen here in a story about the end of the universe? Oh, we can see where this is going, sure enough. It’s the strongest sign yet that ‘Orphan 55’ wasn’t a one-off story we’d all like to consign to the list of episodes we don’t discuss. It was part one of a two-part story. And the second part is coming up soon. You heard it here first, folks.

By the way. If you add 5+5, you get Ten. Just saying.

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Review: Flux Part One – The Halloween Apocalypse

Roll up! Roll up! Get your reviews here! Nice and fresh, straight off the rack! Only the best, mind you. None of that speculative dross about ulterior motives or disguised identities. You won’t find no wild theories ‘ere, madam. Here at BoM we like to keep it simple. Classic and timeless, that’s my way of working. Got me this far. [Sighs, looks around messy office, rubs unkempt chin] However far that is.

Look. Writing episode reviews is just no fun anymore. Either you’re doing it to get paid, in which case you find yourself forced to skirt the company line – which usually means reining in your contempt in order to stay in the BBC’s good books (and, more importantly, on their preview list) – or you’re like me, and you’re not getting paid and no one reads it. It’s a single opinion in a fandom that has never been more opinionated or vocal. And never mind what you write: because your opinion doesn’t have the weight of an established publication behind it, it is generally assumed (although seldom acknowledged) that you are a failed writer and that your opinion is bupkis, unless you happen to write something that by some miracle of literary synergy happens to tie in with what other people happen to be thinking. And how can you do that, when their thoughts are so frequently muddled?

Take this evening. I find myself this moment – this very moment – engaged in conversation with a woman I’m going to refer to as Melissa, although this is not her real name. We’re talking about the Swarm, the mysterious partial-faced man who emerges from an interstellar prison early in the episode, looking a little like Arnold Vosloo in The Mummy and sounding rather like a spiky-faced Lord Voldemort. The Swarm clearly has a history with everyone’s second-favourite Time Lord, which is more interesting (just) than the fact he can apparently disintegrate people by touching them. “But who is he?!?” Melissa wants to know. “And how does he know the Doctor?”

“I would assume that’s the overarching mystery,” I tell her, to which Melissa replies “This episode ended with a lot of unanswered questions”.

“Well, yeah,” is my answer. “At the risk of mansplaining, that’s entirely deliberate. It’s a single story and we haven’t got a clue what’s going on yet.”

“I know. It’s gonna drive me nuts.”

Perhaps the biggest mystery here is why Melissa is watching Doctor Who in the first place, but I can’t help thinking I’m being rather snide even thinking this, and so I don’t tell her. I just nod politely and duck out of the conversation. The thing is, I have a degree of sympathy with Melissa, and others like her, because I’m relatively seasoned at this – and certainly not new to the idea of overarching mystery and multiple threads – and I’m still trying to get my head around what I just watched. Was it good? Was it smoke and mirrors? Was it all spectacle and no substance? Yes, yes, and yes. And also no. In that order.

‘The Halloween Apocalypse’ is what happens when you have a brainstorming session that lasts until about three minutes before script deadline, which gives you barely enough time to get a Starbucks refill before the script has to be on the producer’s desk. It’s got that panicked eleventh hour homework vibe that comes when something was seemingly written in an awful hurry because the inbox was filling up with reminder emails. Actually coming up with something that works is out of the question: instead, you turn in the ideas sheet and plonk a little bit of filler at the beginning and the end, a sort of introductory paragraph and half-baked conclusion. There’s even a sheepish post-it attached – in the form of a Tweet on the official account – reading “Will this do?”.

This is hyperbole, but you get the idea. The general feeling is that of being overwhelmed. From the very outset we’re torpedoed with characters and monsters and more locations than your average David Attenborough documentary, usually accompanied by large white text captions (oh, it’s the Arctic Circle? Great. That’d explain the snow). There are old enemies with new faces, appearing from the woodwork without explanation, and unfamiliar figures appear to be several chapters ahead of both the Doctor and everyone who’s watching. There is a bombardment of ideas and themes and expository dialogue, all wrapped up in technobabble that’s frequently hard to hear above Segun Akinola’s thudding score, although that might just be our TV. It’s like the bit in Cat In The Hat when the cat is balancing the contents of the house’s toy chest on his paws (along with a rake and a goldfish) while bouncing up and down on a ball, and we all know how that ended. Just before the final credits roll the universe blows up, and it’s almost a relief.

Thrown into this maelstrom is the saintly and unsuspecting Dan Lewis (John Bishop), who doesn’t like soup – although he’s right, no one does – and who is first seen leading a tour party through a Liverpool museum, just before he’s thrown out by a one-handed love interest. I don’t know if we were supposed to notice the arm. Something about the camera angle seemed to make it just a little more obvious than it needed to be. Perhaps I’m just jumpy about these things. Dan works in a food bank, although his own cupboards are empty – we are mercifully spared a ponderous lecture about poverty, although there’s presumably time for that in a future episode. Besides, he’s only been in his kitchen five minutes when a six-foot dog busts through the wall and introduces himself as Barf and drops the unsuspecting Scouser into a booby-trapped cage, legging it halfway across the galaxy before you can say ‘down the banks’. Cue the Doctor and Yaz, who only succeed in shrinking his house.

It’s nice to see Yaz again. She’s almost experienced what we might call character development, having cultivated a snippy co-dependence on the Doctor, as well as a competent grasp of technology. I’m still not sure they spark, quite, but the early scenes in which they banter back and forth are at least an improvement on the stilted final moments of ‘Revolution of the Daleks’, although we don’t have long before the two of them are on an alien spacecraft unlocking doors and dodging lasers. As it turns out the supposed abduction wasn’t an abduction at all, but a rather heavy-handed rescue attempt. Earth – nay, the entire universe – is at risk from a cosmic obliteration that is wiping out stars and planets with all the ferocity of a drugged-up Thanos. We’re supposed to be horrified, but the team either didn’t know or didn’t care that Flux is another name for diarrhea. It’s difficult not to snigger when Karvanista describes it as “a hurricane, ripping through the structure of this universe”.

The problem isn’t that Chibnall can’t write. It’s that he can’t really write dialogue. There’s no real feel for the ebb and flow of a conversation, something Davies – for all his flaws – grasped very well. When Davros confronted the Tenth Doctor on board the Crucible, you could feel the electricity, even behind the ham. Chibnall has his lead antagonist stomp across a floodlit quarry towards a terrified soldier. “I waited,” he says, when she asks him what he’s been doing. “I planned. And now…I’m going to execute”, as if it were some ghastly payoff, instead of something you’d read in bad fan fiction. Elsewhere, Dan has an awkward encounter with a man on his doorstep clutching a beer can and a box of eggs. “You’re not even dressed up!” he exclaims, to which the visitor responds “Neither are you”. It simply doesn’t work. Moffat could be similarly pointless at times, but at least he was able to be funny about it.

And ultimately that’s how ‘The Halloween Apocalypse’ plays out: an explosion of ideas and concepts purposely designed to masquerade some absolutely terrible scriptwriting. And I don’t mean ‘terrible’ in terms of story structure; it’s clear that this is carrying on the Timeless Child arc, a narrative I didn’t personally object to, despite the fact that people have been arguing about it for a year and a half. Just as the Doctor isn’t afraid to use a mallet to fix the TARDIS, Chibnall isn’t afraid to use a sledgehammer to crack a gigantic misogynistic nut, and I don’t hold that against him, even if I’ve had to spend eighteen months explaining time and again that no, he didn’t screw with the continuity, the continuity has spent fifty-five years screwing with itself. Things are more interesting and less defined, and I like it that way. There is a long game being played out with these threads and characters and mini-stories, and while I don’t hold out much hope that the rest of Flux is going to tie them up the way the BBC have promised, a few loopholes never hurt anyone. They didn’t ruin Revenge of the Sith; they probably won’t ruin Doctor Who either.

But I can’t help thinking that we can do better than this – less clumsy, less prosaic, less…well, dull, for want of a better word. Can’t we have this story, but with a better, slightly more sophisticated use of Whittaker’s talent? Because this is a kid’s show, but that doesn’t mean it has to be clunky and obvious. We get enough of that on Nova Jones. Would it be too much to ask for the BBC’s flagship programme to display a little more panache? Take the long way round, spice up the banter, give the social commentary a little more window dressing? I’ve been saying for years that Doctor Who has always been basically rubbish, and that once you acknowledge this – even if you choose not to air such views publicly – then you enjoy it a lot more. I made my peace with that a long time ago. I just wish it didn’t have to be so transparently rubbish. If this is the bar they’ve set, then roll on armageddon.

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The Figures Mash (part 2)

Hello! And we’re back with more plastic idiocy, this time taking in classic movies, TV shows and even the odd video game. The Thirteenth Doctor features quite heavily. I make no apologies.

First on the roster: two wizards, taking the baby for a walk.


Yes, I really did take them all the way to London just to do this.


“RUN!”


Time Lord video game sessions.


“Look. If you’re gonna cheat, I’m not playing with you.”


“Special delivery, sir.”


“Yeah, no idea who it’s from.”


No caption needed.


The Twelfth Doctor’s series 11 hair.


“FOR GOD’S SAKE, KEEP HIM AWAY FROM THE CONSOLE!”


Lockdown board games.


Edward set this one up.


“DUGGEE HUG!”


“We should probably dig her out.”
“Eventually.”
“Yeah, when we’re ready.”


More of the same next time!

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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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The Smallerpictures Video Dump (2021, Part Three)

Been a little quiet in here of late, hasn’t it? There will come a day when I get back to posting regular content, but it is not this day. It’s likely to be the beginning of November, when we’re in the thick of Series 13. I used to post memes here regularly, and I may get back to doing that again, but a lot of the time the media interest has come and gone and it feels a bit more like lip service, or obsessive archiving for the simple reason of having done it, and for one reason or another that doesn’t sit right with me any more.

In the meantime I’m doing a little administration for a database website I run, and working on the book, and still creating regularly. As you’ll see…

1. Closing Time: Alternate Ending (August 2021)

My children tell me that my contempt for James Corden is rooted in the observation that he’s fat and successful, whereas I am fat and unsuccessful. There is probably some truth to this. At the same time I can’t help but wonder at the enduring appeal of the man, just as I can’t help but wonder at the enduring appeal of tailgating, or Bette Midler. He’s just so…there, and not in a good way. Rumours of unpleasant offscreen behaviour abound, and I probably wouldn’t mind so much were the man not so omnipresent, propping up musicals, chat shows and reunion specials with an overly familiar sycophancy that borders on excitable mawkishness. Even when he’s acting Corden is seemingly only able to play himself, and when said self is an outright dickhead, it doesn’t make for comfortable viewing.

I mean, he’s all right in Doctor Who. There’s a chemistry of sorts with Smith, who – thanks to Gareth Roberts’ flair for dialogue – bounces off him nicely. But I can’t be the only one who watched the end of ‘Closing Time’ with my teeth gritted. And so I changed it. And I can’t help thinking this new take, juvenile as it may be, is nonetheless slightly more believable than blowing up Cybermen with love. But then I’m fat and unsuccessful. What do I know?


2. Doctor Who, Alan Partridge Style (August 2021)

Confession time: I’ve had this one on the back burner for years. I mean it. At least three. The idea of redubbing K-9 with Steve Coogan’s Presenter From Hell wasn’t entirely mine, but once someone had suggested it I realised that it would need to centre, quite obviously, around him being rude to Adric. So that was a starting point, and what followed was years of procrastination, until This Time came back for a second series and I realised that it was best to just get on and do it before the character falls completely out of favour. So what you’ve got here is material from the first series of I’m Alan Partridge – I’m a stickler for a laugh track – with a promise that there will be a sequel somewhere down the line. He does manage to be summarily rude to Adric: turning the tin dog into a lecherous creep was a side effect, but I largely think it works.


3. Flux Trailer (October 2021)

So everyone was complaining that there was no proper trailer for Series 13, and that we just had the odd few seconds of out-of-context material, looped for about a minute, along with a bit of mugging for the camera. A closed set is seldom a good sign – sure, everyone knows about the Angels and Sontarans but I can’t help thinking that this is going to be six weeks of heavily dissected silliness, and in a way I can’t wait for it to be over so we can all get back to our normal, casual bitching, instead of the high intensity catfights that take place while a series is on.

Still. Flux. That’s…dysentery, surely? Well, we opened with a fart; why not close with one? And a bit of follow-through? Anyway, you lot wanted a proper trailer, so now you’ve got one. Make sure you watch to the end.

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The Smallerpictures Video Dump (2021, Part Two)

‘Allo. Been a while, but nice to see you. More videos you’d be wanting, is it? Righto then, let’s see what we’ve got in stock.

1. Doomsday: Alternate Ending (March 2021)

The more a scene is revered, the more likely it is that I’ll end up mocking it. And they don’t get much more revered than the tearful, overwrought beach farewell that wrapped up series 2; watching Rose puff out her cheeks is still enough to get me giggling. Not enough with adding a laugh track a while ago, I decided – purely for the sake of producing something for the first time this year – to spice it up with another of the Doctor’s famous lines. It’s not one of my better ones, but it gets a laugh.

2. Stay Outside (April 2021)

Now, this one. This one I am proud of. You will remember, last spring, that the first lockdown saw a spate of government advice telling us all to stay in our homes and only leave when absolutely necessary, and don’t forget your physical jerks and we have always been at war with Eurasia. I dealt with some of the cabin fever by accompanying one of the radio announcements with scenes from ‘Heaven Sent’, which worked quite well.

This time around, we’re out of lockdown but we’re still supposed to be cautious – and thus here’s Dr. Hilary Jones (yes, he of This Morning) to tell us all about the things we should and shouldn’t be doing. And here’s Matt Smith, trying to social distance from a group of murderous pensioners in Ledworth. Ain’t life grand?

3. The Masked Singer: Rhino’s Got A Bad Throat (April 2021)

Rhino? Rhino, you say? Well, that’ll be a Judoon reference, then. I had the misfortune of catching a solitary episode of The Masked Singer not long before Covid first hit, and thought it a good idea, poorly executed (a couple of structural changes and you’d have yourself a far more entertaining experience, but what do I know?). Still, it’s going strong in the UK and America – Kermit the Frog, of all people, making a recent appearance when he was eliminated early on – but it was this particular chap (in reality baseball star Barry Zito) who caught my attention, to the extent that I wound up redubbing some of his performances to a throaty rendition of ‘Rapper’s Delight’. I don’t know, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Ko Ro So.

4. The Geoffrey and Bungle Videos (April – June 2021)

Lurking somewhere on Facebook there’s a series called The Same Video of The Same Guys Dancing To A Different Song. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know it (and the varying success to which it works): if you’ve not, you get the idea. Suffice it to say that they’re pushing on towards five hundred of these and whether or not an embedded song fits the two fellas strutting their stuff is dependent on two factors: how well the rhythm fits, and the impact of whatever happens at the thirty second mark when the second guy joins in. The one they did to Cher’s ‘Believe’ was particularly good.

Anyway: I’m not about to try and replicate that particular stunt, but having decided to hook up Geoffrey and Bungle with Peter Howells’ arrangement of the Doctor Who theme a couple of years back, I opted to revisit familiar territory and see how many of these I could make using different songs. It wasn’t difficult – it’s just a question of working out the tempo and Googling to see songs that fit. Some worked better than others, but the ones that didn’t work (‘Livin’ on a Prayer’; ‘Pinball Wizard’) I elected not to upload. The one you can see below enjoyed brief popularity on Twitter, for reasons I have yet to fully discern, but I also recommend you check out Stealer’s Wheel, and probably Hammer. U can’t touch this…

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Have I Got Whos For You (Euro 2020 edition)

You’ll have to have these largely without comment, I’m afraid. I mean we lost. We lost and the fans are thugs. We lost and the fans are thugs and Rashford and Saka got a shedload of abuse, empowered by our corrupt, inept government. The sort of government who goes to Harrods for sofa covering and Poundland for flags.

I mean it started quite well. We made it to the semi-final without conceding a goal. Early on – the day of the first group match, when the leaked lineup caused consternation (too defensive, and WHERE’S GREALISH???) – I’d tweeted suggesting that it was possible, just possible, that Gareth Southgate knew more than we gave him credit for, and that perhaps the #Southgateout abuse was premature. I received a flurry of replies, some of which were supportive, others less so, but I made a point of muting anyone who disagreed, simply because I didn’t feel qualified to argue back. Weeks later all the naysayers were suspiciously quiet, although I stopped short of turning it into a pinned tweet, simply because the final was as far as the team got, and you’d still have a bunch of people telling you that they could have done a better job than Southgate did.

So, you know. Don’t give them the inch they crave. Thank heavens we don’t get this in Doctor Who.

It was those early games that were perhaps the most hotly contested, given that we were doing…well, reasonably, against less than stellar opposition. It was more about the spectacle than the quality of football, given that the much-hyped second group match – the British derby against Scotland – was touted as the epic confrontation between two rivals, with hundreds of years of history behind it. I mean I get that the Scots hate the English, but I don’t think it works the other way round. Not really. We know that Braveheart is made up and we don’t judge you for it. And who doesn’t love a good haggis? In the end, of course, it was a goalless draw, and not a terribly interesting one to boot, with all the bloodlust and hatred north of the border conveniently shelved until the angry tweets after the semi-final, and let’s face it – we all know that’s really just a preamble for the Six Nations.

“Three Ryans on a shirt…”

The semi-final, of course, was where the controversy kicked in – with England thanks to a soft penalty, Kane bouncing in the rebound after Kaspar Schmeichel deflected the ball but failed to catch it. It was a crummy way to win and you did feel sorry for the Danes, who’d nearly reached the end under some very trying circumstances, but to be fair to them England were denied an obvious penalty earlier in the match, so it’s swings and roundabouts. “Sometimes it goes in your favour,” quoth a wise man, “and sometimes it doesn’t. And if you add them all up over the season, they balance out.” Said wise man was Alex Ferguson, who knows a thing or two about football, as well as being Scottish.

Really, the controversy in that semi-final was caused by a laser torch that appeared to be pointed at Schmeichel during the penalty in question, although it supposedly didn’t affect his performance and it was in any case impossible to tell where it was coming from.

It ended in tears, with violence and thuggery following a game played by sportsmen who’d conducted themselves with dignity: the team deserved a win, even if the fans didn’t. Could we say Italy played dirty? Perhaps.

But even if they hadn’t, there were mistakes made and some questionable tactics that I don’t really understand because my area of expertise is dramatic structure, not sport. I do know that I felt a sense of pride – not in my country, as such, but simply in the team, and the manager who’s become the best sort of role model for the young men on the pitch and the children watching at home; eloquent and considered and rational and graced with more dignity and compassion than a hundred political buffoons. I’m mindful of the fact that children my sons’ age look up to sportsmen, and for the first time in a long while that doesn’t worry me. You can lose graciously, which is kind of like winning, even if you don’t get to lift the trophy.

Still, at least we’ve got the Olympics, right? Something else they had to postpone until after lockdown.

Everyone seems to know the score.
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Occupy White Walls Does Doctor Who (part one)

Today, gentle reader, and after a protracted absence – hey, it’s sunny and we’re allowed out now! – we delve deep into the heady realms of art, and how it’s displayed. And yes, there is a definite Doctor Who link, but you’ll have to read on (or casually scroll to the bottom; it’s bad manners but I’ll be none the wiser) to find out exactly what it is.

It’s a strange name for a video game, but then Occupy White Walls is a strange sort of game. That’s if you can call it a game at all. It’s more of a virtual art curator / gallery-building experience. Broadly speaking you’re given a sea of blank space (literally: the game opens on a pleasant oceanic backdrop and an island of floating white floor in the middle of it) and encouraged to build your own gallery. You do this by placing blocks – different floors, different walls, ceilings, lighting, architecture – wherever you want them. You’re free to redesign your space at will, change colours, move and even delete structures entirely: some objects will snap into place, but as a general rule nothing is off limits. When you’re ready, you hang artwork on the walls. Well, it’s a gallery, right?

Said art can be aquired from DAISY, the in-house virtual AI, who lists paintings seemingly at random and then learns over time to filter them according to the sort of stuff you like. This never really seemed to work in practice for me – I’d find renaissance art and dull Victorian portraits all over the place, despite concentrating almost exclusively on modern art and photography – although I gather things have improved since I stopped buying new art. Paintings vary in size and scale, from small photos that you have to squint to examine to the likes of Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement, which is so big it required me to build a new room (well, outside platform) in which to house it. Artists range in scope – traditional landscape painters, religious artworks and surrealist masterpieces are all represented, and anything has the potential to be included provided they’ve either struck a deal or it’s in the public domain (so there is, alas, no Dali as of yet).

Expanding your gallery space costs money – which takes place in the form of virtual currency known simply as ‘cubes’ – and you earn more of these by opening your viewing space to the public in thirty-minute sessions, whereupon it may be visited either by anyone who happens to be logged in, or a collection of bots who phase in and out of the gallery space, nod appreciatively at whatever you happen to have hanging there and perform the occasional backflip. Opening and closing repeatedly is the quickest way to level up, which means there’s a certain amount of grinding early on, but once you reach level 30 you unlock all the assets in the range and things really start to get interesting.

If you want the gist of how the whole thing works, you could do a lot worse than read this, but the biggest selling point of OWW is that it’s got no selling point at all – it’s available at no cost, bar a supplementary soundtrack album (which you are under no compulsion to buy, although I did) and the option to upload your own artwork at $9 a pop. And if it seems a little silly, having your own space on which to buy and hang virtual art, it’s worth bearing in mind that the game came out not long before Covid hit, and given that we spent much of last year stuck indoors, its presence on Steam couldn’t have been any more timely. Certainly the nature of the experience – log on, do a little world-building, casually and graduallly expanding your rooms, changing the sky, re-imagining the floors, filling a room with statues, perhaps adding an extra wing when you’re particularly flush…there’s something vastly therapeutic about it. It’s not a substitute for the Tate, but it’s a good start.

I’ve seen a fair bit in OWW – celestial glass-walled viewing areas looking out onto the wilds of the universe; vast Nordic-themed lakeside galleries; underwater treasure troves; homages to the London underground where Monet and Renoir jostle for space next to the ‘MIND THE GAP’ signs; even a recreation of the space station from 2001, with a door that leads into the hotel room that Keir Dullea reaches at the film’s conclusion. But it doesn’t really do a lot when it’s written down. Walking round a virtual gallery or two really is the best way to fire up your imagination, and it was only when I’d seen what other people had achieved that I started to come up with a creative vision of what I could do with a workspace limited only by funds and my ageing computer’s memory.

Scroll up a bit. That overhead shot you can see? The one with the chess board in the middle? That’s my gallery. Well, a part of it. The waterfront theme didn’t really kick into gear until I built the pier you can see just above. It takes its cue from the one at Boscombe: long and minimalist, and there’s a copy of The Scream hanging on one of the glass walls at the end. From its edge, you can see the corners of the bricked industrial area and the large installation space where I hung a Mondrian and then built an enormous replica out of coloured walls to go alongside it. The whole space grew organically, and owes quite a lot to Frank Lloyd Wright, but I didn’t realise this when I was expanding – it was all about just adding rooms to offset the tedium of lockdown.

But why stop at one gallery? Why just one, when you can do this?

The Highway is perhaps the work I’m most proud of. I’d already made the Chapel – a church interior designed as a place of reflection and remembrance – but wondered what would happen if I built a long, straight road that stretched off into the distance, as far as I could, and just put things alongside it. There is an abandoned, crumbling warehouse and an electrical substation. There is a gaudy sixties bridge and a tunnel that leads to nowhere. Halfway up there is a memorial garden. And there is a vast slab of grey stretching off to the right, all tall oppressive corridors, that opens out into a large open plaza where I built a mosaic on the walls.

But there was another reason to build the Highway, and this, oh faithful reader, is where the Doctor Who connection kicks in. Because if you wander up, you’ll notice that the Angel of the North overlooks a nondescript-looking building that might be just a wee bit familiar.

Designing the interior required a certain amount of improvisation, but after a bit of jiggery pokery I managed to get the counter area more or less the way I wanted it. The seats were trickier, because of what’s available – what you see here is a second draft, and it’s still not quite got the booth feel I really wanted, but it’s not a bad estimate. While it was impossible to recreate all the art they had in the original, I managed to at least capture the feel – and another mosaic on the back wall served as a decent substitute for the stars-and-stripes flag.

But the best bit? There’s a door at the back, and – well…

All right. It’s a disaster. You have no idea how difficult it was to build a convincing hexagonal structure that looked like it might pass for a console. What you can see is a collection of metal desks, awkwardly grouped together into something that looks vaguely right until you get too close. Oh, and there’s a single column of light stretching upwards; it doesn’t move but perhaps we could just say it’s parked? The round things are good, anyway. Even if I don’t know what they’re for.

It wasn’t the only TARDIS I built – but you’ll have to wait until next time to see that one, as it’s a whopper and it’s going to take us some time to walk around it properly. In the meantime, here’s a little post-credit scene. It takes place at Mr Webley’s World of Colour (yes, that is a ‘Nightmare in Silver’ reference). Unlike many of my other creations, this was always envisaged as a definitive place with a beginning and an end – a large, multi-storeyed building in which each room deals with aspects of a different slice of the rainbow, with lighting, decor and artwork to match.

You get the idea. It’s a one-way system (which was disturbingly prophetic) but there is a place of respite halfway along, taking the form of a rooftop garden of which I’m reasonably proud.

In case you’re wondering how I managed black and white, the black is a small dark room with a projector broadcasting looped footage from Un Chien Andalou – something a number of people have done. Although I’m pretty sure none of them have did what I did in the white room.

“And that,” says the First Doctor, “is a chair with a frog on it.”

Coming up next time: swimming pools that are not in the library, and a never-before-seen shot of the TARDIS toilet. Speaking of which, I’ll just leave this here…

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Have I Got Whos For You (edition speciale)

Everybody enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend, then? Sally Sparrow did.


Before we go any further, I am saving the Prince Philip stuff. It’s coming later. In the meantime you will have to put up with pop culture instead, because I’ve gone through what I’ve collected for this morning and that seems to the be the common thread.

We start with Line of Duty – a show I have never watched, never intend to watch and hold absolutely no interest in, but even if you don’t tune in it’s hard to escape the buzz on social media. This last episode seems to have been all about killing off major characters and dropping in monumental cliffhangers about the identity of chief (heretofore unseen) villains, and how they might be related to people we know. I think. I mean I’ve not actually watched the damned thing. All I do know is that Ted Hastings has been trending for the last week, and it’s going to go through the roof if they actually kill him off.


Talking of Doctor Who (because that’s mostly how we roll) there’s a rumbling of intrigue from the fandom as they unveil the new trailer for The Suicide Squad, the upcoming sequel to 2016’s imaginatively titled Suicide Squad. I am trying to work out the logic behind this – it sounds a bit like releasing Empire Strikes Back under the name The Star Wars, as if dropping in a definite article is enough of a distinction. I mean aren’t people going to get confused? I know I already am, and I understand grammar.

Fun trivia: I once spent half an hour at a housewarming party listening to an argument between two roleplaying geeks who couldn’t agree on whether the first Star Wars film is called Star Wars or A New Hope. It was tremendously enjoyable to watch, although I still can’t remember how, or even if they resolved it. At least they weren’t arguing about Star Trek Into Darkness. We’d still be in that lounge.

Anyway, there’s been a fair amount of talk about Capaldi’s hair, or lack thereof, and it does seem that the Twelfth Doctor is imitating his style.

He looks like he’s got half a dozen screwdrivers embedded in his skull, which presumably happened after a particularly ferocious argument with River. Or maybe it’s a fetish thing. You pick. And with speed, please, because I’m now actually thinking about this instead of merely writing it down. Oh god.

Anyway. Speaking of Star Wars, the casting for the Obi Wan Kenobi spin-off looks absolute shit.

(I’d love to say I had a few people who thought this was real, but the sad truth is that they didn’t get it. I guess my sense of humour is just a little too vague sometimes.)

Easter interlude!

You won’t have failed to notice, if you were following international news a while back, that a boat got stuck in the Suez Canal, presumably as a result of a bet as to whether its helmsman could manage a three point turn. It was there for weeks as the authorities tried everything to loosen it, including rubbing a bit of WD-40 on the hull, but without success, as the world and its neighbours all came along to have a look.

“For the sixteenth time, we’re not blowing it up.”

More movie news, and the revelation that a familiar face is to reappear in the upcoming, much anticipated Ghostbusters: Afterlife has prompted Doctor Who fans to scour through old episodes to find out what he’s been doing all these years. And lo and behold.

Anyway. For me, after weeks of kicking around, this is ending on something of a brighter note – because lockdown is more or less done with, kind of. We still can’t stay anywhere, and when we visited Chessington yesterday the Gruffalo ride wasn’t open, but I may actually be able to go back to work soon – and at least I can go out on a Friday and visit somewhere that isn’t B&M. Along with, you know, just about everyone else in the country.

“Listen, I’d love to stay and chat, but Primark’s about to open.”

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Have I Got Whos For You (volume 34)

It’s been a long old year for that abandoned TARDIS, hasn’t it?

Here we are, a year after lockdown began – something that for one reason or another people have decided to actively commemorate on social media this week. It’s a strange state of affairs, the weirdest of all frivolous anniversaries to talk about, particularly given that most of us had all sorts of Shakespearean intentions (hey look, here’s me having failed to learn Mandarin or get that hedge cut!). Why on earth are we still talking about the fact that none of us have written King Lear? And why is it a big deal if we haven’t? Shakespeare – assuming he existed – was a genius. Most of us are not. Why are we living up to such an impossible ideal?

But then there’s a strange tendency to mark the trivial, particularly when we have free time. Gosh, it’s been four years to the day since ‘Heaven Sent’. Michael Craze would have been seventy-six. I suppose it takes our mind off leaked set pictures and expensive (and seemingly needless) parliamentary reconfigurations where the cleaners forgot to finish tidying, but really. It’s so asinine, as I have to point out every November 23rd when people ask why the BBC aren’t marking the 54th / 55th / 56th / 57th birthday of their favourite show with some sort of marathon – “Because,” I explain, with varying degrees of patience, “if they did that for Doctor Who they’d have to do it for everything and nothing else would get done.” Hello Lyn; you’re cheerful considering it’s the first anniversary of your mother’s death.

On the other hand, arguing about pointless birthdays is a welcome distraction – and god knows we could do with a few more of them – from rumour control, specifically when set photos (I thought Chibnall was cracking down on this sort of thing?) lead to the children of time adding two and two and coming up with seven, or jumping to all sorts of ridiculous conclusions because one of the previous companions happens to be pally with one of the new ones, and was in any case in town filming a sitcom.

It breaks down like this.

Doctor Who Fans: I DON’T RECOGNISE THIS SHOW ANYMORE. WHERE ARE ALL THE CLASSIC MONSTERS AND FAN FAVOURITES?

Set Rumours Guy: Hey, here’s Catherine Tate.

DW Fans: WARRRGH CYNICAL RATINGS PLOY

BBC: Yeah, she’s not actually here.

DW FANS: THAT’S JUST WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO THINK

“Hello Sal – what? They want me to do Doctor Who? What’s Doctor Who? I was in it? When?”

You can’t really blame the fans, I suppose. They’re itching for Doctor Who news, and Chibnall runs a closed set. Personally I like it that way – I would rather not be saturated with three hundred word press releases about how this year’s going to be ‘epic’ every five minutes. But if you’ve grown up used to the BBC blowing their own trumpet every five minutes it’s an adjustment period. Even telethons are a missed opportunity: all elegaic pianos and slow motion hugs and that phone number scrolling across the screen every thirty seconds, and very little that’s actually funny.

Last weekend also saw the release of The Lonely Assassins, a brand new PC / mobile game which sees you discover an abandoned phone, full of corrupted data and glitches and a weird angel-type figure that appears to be coming out of the screen. It’s your job to piece the data together, follow the clues and piece together the mystery of the phone’s former owner – one Larry Nightingale, he from ‘Blink’, and played once more by Finlay Robinson, a little older and saggier, but aren’t we all?

Thankfully you’re not alone in your quest, guided as you are by Petronella Osgood. Most of the interaction is SMS-based, although Ingrid Oliver lends her voice to the opening and her physical self for a video sequence that pops up near the end. Osgood is working from a secret UNIT base established after funding was put on hold and which as yet no one knows about. Well, that’d be a first.

After having played through and thoroughly enjoyed The Lonely Assassins I was slightly perturbed to discover that I’d completed only two of the ‘optional’ objectives, most of which seem pertain to archived newspaper cuttings referencing the appearance of an anomalous police box outside one building or another. Presumably investigating these further unlocks some sort of secret ending that offers more closure than the slightly disappointing climax the vanilla ending happens to offer. I’d have happily done this had I not had Osgood shouting (well, texting) in my ear every thirty seconds telling me to get a shift on. At a microcosmic level it’s somewhat reminiscent of the Zelda games, in which the endemic notion of leisurely exploration and discovery is undermined by the regular psychic messages from the titular princess. “Link, if you don’t reassemble the fragments / defeat the guardians / find all the scrolls, then ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WILL HAPPEN!”

I’m running out of time, now, because I have to get this music track mixed (that’s my lockdown skill), so we’ll deal with the rest of the news in brief. On ITV, an ex-Eastender took great offence at the caption used by Good Morning Britain during a Zoom interview.

Revelations at the identity of Snail on the US version of The Masked Singer called to mind this planned (but sadly abandoned) reveal for the beginning of ‘The Eleventh Hour’.

Millions sat down to fill out government forms about the occupants of their households, or risk a fine.

Oh, and the Sixth Doctor finally found the time to have a Covid test.

It’s a nice outfit. I know I mock it, and with good reason, but it was a decent reflection of his personality. I mean look at the example we have to follow in government. Rees Mogg is always immaculate, presumably because he’s other going to or coming from a gentleman’s club of one sort or another, but Dominic Cummings doesn’t seem to own a single tie. And we’re graced with a Prime Minister who looks like he just stumbled out of bed after a night on the razz, and who has a pathological aversion to combs, but that’s fine as long as we can stick a few Union Jacks in the background to deflect attention from incompetent idiocy, right?

“Flag shagger.”

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