Friday, 27 December 2013

The Time of the Doctor

Eat the present moment and break the dish 
- Egyptian Proverb 


I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’.  So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance. 
- Steven Wright

Me:  I was quite impressed that, as the titles ended, you turned to me and the first thing you said was: “Thoughts?”1 

Him:  It was before you got a chance to say it to me. 

Me:  A hit! 

The Him shakes his head. 

Me:  Not a hit? 

Him:  No. 

Me:  Hurm.  So.  Thoughts? 

The Him stares.  Like a badger scaring a train. 

Him:  If you like. 

Me:  Good Christmas? 

Him:  Yeah.  What did you get? 

Me:  Older and more dyspeptic. 

Him:  What does that mean? 

Me:  I’m glad you asked, it can be difficult keeping up.  Was The Time of the Doctor hard to follow? 

Him:  No.  Why? 

Me:  A fair whack of the internet has been shouting about the collective confusion in its mind.7 

Him:  But… does that part of the internet not always shout as an excuse to shout? 

Me:  You might be onto something there.  Heaven help us if some of these people stumble onto The Wire. 

Him:  The Wire was mentioned in that episode of Have I Got News for You.  One of the contestants said – Stop typing. 

Me:  Eh? 

Him:  Stop typing!  This is just meant to illustrate a point. 

Me:  Oh.  I wanted to mention Victoria Coren.8 

Him:  You can’t.  Ever. 

Me:  Bah.  So… Was it a good final episode for Matt Smith? 

Him:  I don’t know.  Did you think it was?  It didn’t feel very Christmassy. 

Me:  I’ll probably put my thoughts in the footnotes0 so they won’t get in the way.


“Didn’t feel very Christmassy”?  Even with the turkey and being set in, on and during Christmas? 

Him:   No.  Then again, Christmas didn’t feel very Christmassy this year. 

Me:  No, it didn’t.  Another wet Christmas.  Just like the ones you’ll come to know. 

The Him looks like a chimpanzee that’s just had its rifle taken away. 

Me:  Cheer up.  So, word association then? 

Him:  If you like. 

Me:  Handles.7 

Long pause.  Like an otter. 

Him:  I give up. 

Me:  There was something a bit different about the voice.  Made it feel fresh and plausible and pregnant with possibilities.

Him:  You don’t watch The Voice. 

Me:  Handles’ voice! 

Him:  Oh.

Me:  As well you knew. 

Him:  I didn’t actually.  I wasn’t paying attention.  You only thought it was great because it wasn’t Nick Briggs.7

Me:  Wha-?

Him:  And it’ll turn out to have been Nick Briggs7 a bit further down the line. 

Me:  There’s an issue that I avoid talking about at the moment, and that element’s part of it.7 

Him:  You were fine talking about it yesterday. 

Me:  That’s because no-one was listening.  I sing in the shower as well but I‘m not going to record- 

Him:  No you don’t. 

Me:  How would you know? 

Him:  Because you don’t.  You’re a loud singer.  I’d know if you sang in the shower. 

Me:  Maybe I do it sotto voce and the water hides it. 

Him:  You don’t sing sotto voce. 

Me:  I could if I wanted. 

Him:  You don’t though. 

Me:  Tasha Lem.  Almost anagram of Timelash? 

Him:  What…  Do you think they’ll bring back-? 

Me:  The Borad? 

Him:  I don’t know. 

Me:  Well, it’s either the Borad or Avon.  Although, the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre should make a cameo as Bandrils. 

Him:  No. 

Me:  No? 

Him:  I don’t know!  I don’t understand what you said!  I think it was supposed to be funny but it wasn’t. 

Me:  Clara’s Christmas Dinner. 

Him:  Disaster. 

Me:  Yeah, her Dad’s changed a bit.10 

Him:  Has he? 

Me:  Grown a beard, given up leaf-wrangling and moved into Rose’s old digs. 

Him:  What? 

Me:  Clara’s Dad.  He’s grown a beard, given up leaf-wrangling and moved into Rose’s old digs. 

Him:  As in? 

Me:  It’s the Powell Estate.  In Cardiff.  I used to work opposite the building-12 

Him:  Isn’t her Mum dead? 

Me:  Yeah.  Very.  She’s buried next to Sherlock.7 

Him:  She doesn’t look very dead. 

Me:  That’s the evil stepmother.  Every fairy tale needs an evil stepmother.13 

Him:  Ahhhh.  Is that who she is? 

Me:  Yeah.  And the Gran who fell in love with a pigeon is actually Bad Wolf all grown up. 

Him:  Peter Capaldi looked older. 

Me:  The Doctor ages actors when they play him, but fair play, that was quicker than I was expecting - he looked like a Skeksis with a perm.  Someone woke Murray “Itsame” Gold up after the regeneration and I could hardly hear a thing the Doctor was saying. 

Him:  (In the voice of the Chamberlain)14 “KID KNEEES!” 

Me:  (Also in the voice of the Chamberlain)14 “PLEASE…”  Seeing as I did an illo of William Hartnell as a Podling- 

Him:  I thought it was just a bad picture of William Hartnell. 

Me:  Charming to the last, Imaginary Creature.  Trenzalore. 

Him:  Rhymes.  Bad rhymes. 

Me:  Ancient prophecies I’ve just made up.17 

Him:  Steven Moffat.7 

Me:  See the footnotes.  Amy. 

Him:  Not Amelia. 

Me:  She wasn’t, was she?  How about the grown-up Pond? 

Him:  Wigs!  Wigs all round! 

Me:  Ha!  Regeneration.20 

Him:  Stop playing the game with the words and the associations!  It gets dull. 

Me:  Is there nothing else that you want to say then? 

Him:  No. 

Me:  Okay.21  Final things.  Will you miss Matt Smith? 

Him:  Probably. 

Me:  Was The Time of the Doctor as good as The Day of the Doctor?22 

Him:  I don’t know!  Probably not. 

Me:  Did you like the wooden Cyberman? 

Him:  Didn’t make much sense. 

Me:  We’re supposed to gasp at the audacity.21 

Him:  Can we just end on a cliff-hanger? 

Me:  Only if-

0.  The footnotes.  Rather than keep this coherent, I’m going to split it up into segments according to the chat the Him and I had earlier on.  Is that alright?  Great. 

1.  My first thoughts were slightly confused.  Not because I hadn’t followed the plot, chums.  Nope, I couldn’t understand most of what the Doctor was saying when he was playing Peter Capaldi.2  As tantalising introductions to new Doctors go, this is the weakest of the new series so/by far.3

2.  So, thank whatever’s up there that this wasn’t the real Doctor playing Capaldi introduction.  We either had that last month or back in August, take yer pick. 

3.  It’s a close-run thing though. Pudsey Cutaway isn’t canon.4

4.  And neither’s The Night of the Doctor.  No, it isn’t.5

5.  Which means Big Finish aren’t either.  Sorry, that’s the rules.6

6.  And, when the Doctor starts yelling about how he doesn’t listen to “RUUUUUUUULES!” (shortly before showering gold all over Daleks)7 did anyone else comment on how much of a pain he’d be to play at Monopoly?

7.  This is not.  The time. 

8.  As did Radio Free Skaro.  Victoria Coren’s Dad wrote some books about Arthur9 that I devoured whilst munching my way through a library.  They were fantastic.  For a time there, he also edited the British satirical magazine that isn’t (the) Private Eye.9 

9.  Not that one. 

10.  That poor actor.  It can’t be easy being a glorified Sea Monkey.11

11.  Instant Prized Family Member/Peripheral Emotional Hook: just add 2ltrs of water and leave in direct sunlight after initial read-through.  Stir once a day. 

12.  Since 2005, I’ve had to watch every Doctor Who story twice in order to shake off the “I used to work/live/perform/was born there” disbelief suspension-snapping recognition. 

13.  Fairy tales.  Right, let’s talk fairy tales for a bit.  No, wait – look over here instead.15

14. Michael Kilgariff played the Garthim Master.  He also wrote my favourite-ever joke books.  If only he had some Doctor Who connection that I could tenderly slide into… 

15.  Steven Moffat’s not writing fairy tales any more than he’s writing science-fiction or fantasy or Gatiss was writing biography.  Those are genre labels and like the designation of ‘genius’, you need someone else to announce that’s what you’re emitting.  It's partly because critics add their wide-spanning interpretation to a work that the cataloging, or designation, sticks.  I’m with Public Enemy on this one.  Well, up until someone notices that I’m being critical.16

16.  Personally, I think I’m dancing (like a gorilla) around the architecture. 

17.  I rediscovered Doctor Who the day that I watched The Ark in Space with the Him.  For a moment I had the opportunity to observe through borrowed eyes.  No baggage.

Steven Moffat’s run has been… problematical.  I haven’t changed our psychogeological assessment of it for several reasons, the main ones being distance and trust.  In some ways I feel like a Wein/Wrightson Swamp Thing fan being confronted with the Moore/Bissette/Totleben version.18  

It’s frightening to think that Doctor Who isn’t even being made for Him now. 

18.  This analogy doesn’t really work because Moffat is in a different league.19

19. Unfortunately.7 

20.  Another hemi-semi-demi-bluff.  Matt Smith as played by the Doctor had his final words leaked millions of years ago, so it was a half-surprise to find that Matt Smith was wearing Capaldi’s shoes.  Steven Moffat has to be careful.21  M. Night. Shyamalan’s shown us how this trajectory works.  You have to come up with new tricks or you’re dealing with the old familiarity/contempt/arse/elbow interface. 

21.  So, let’s work on the basis that Moffat’s a genius for now.23

22.  Jenna Coleman and Matt Smith were fantastic in this.  And that’s... part of the problem.7 

23.  It’s not impossible that we’re seeing the most incredible run of television ever here.  Moffat HAS to WIN.  Always. He’s won more awards for Doctor Who scripts than anyone else, raised the series profile worldwide, broken America and… Well. 7 

This had better be the set up.

Monday, 2 December 2013

One Hundred Phoenixes

People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.
- Dale Carnegie

Me:  So, one hundred Phoenixes.

Him:  Yup.

Me:  It’s been quite a ride.

Him:  I suppose so.

Me:  My re-read’s been less successful than yours.  I’m only up to issue 27 at the moment.  I wanted to wait until we had them all before launching in. 

Him:  I’ve done fairly well with the re-reading.  In fact, I’ve read twice as many as you now.

Me:  Ah.  And you read them all when they were still warm.

Him:  Yeah, I read them weekly as well.  Except for the first…  Something.

Me:  We had a bit of a problem starting off, because I couldn’t find it anywhere1 – so I think we were on issue… 6 before we managed to get you a subscription.

Him:  How did you get them before that?

Me:  We didn’t.  Years ago, the Guardian ran an extra section called The Comic, which was excellent and you loved, so naturally it got cancelled in favour of…  I don’t know, something about cooking shoes or how to wear yoghurt.

The Him makes a face.

Him:  I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Me:  Trust me, it’s all true.  Apart from the bits that aren’t.  Anyway, some of the strips that’d been in The Comic3 – along with their creators – cropped up in something called The DFC, which was a marvellous magazine that Philip Pullman was championing.  It sounded fantastic, perfect and wonderful by all accounts.  Exactly the- 

Him:  ‘The Doughnut-Frying Competition’?

Me:  I’m fairly sure that’s what it stood for.  Whatever, it was exactly the sort of thing that I’d been looking for, for you.  A comic.

Him:  Like the ones you had as a kid?

Me:  Exactly!  It’s something that’s lacking in childhood now – which is a reprehensible cultural disaster.  All the comics that are around – well, most of them – just come as free attachments to expensive stationary sets, or stickers or some sort of franchise-expanding merchandise.  They’re all…  Well, I’m being a bit sweeping.  They look great, but they aren’t made with any more love than any other franchised product.  Not really.  In my opinion.4 

Him:  You don’t really get modern comics.  There just aren’t any.

Me:  You’re not into superheroes.

Him:  That’s true.  But then again, neither are you any more.

Me:  No.  That got away from me a bit.  I can’t get you into ancient 2000AD either.

Him:  That’s ‘cause I’m just not interested.

Me:  Why would you be?  That’s my childhood, not yours.  Some of those things’ll grab you, but most of them won’t fill the same gap for you that they did for me. 

Him:  I don’t like many of the same things that you do.

Me:  Of course you don’t.  That’s great.  However…

Him:  My stomach hurts.

Me:  That’s because you’ve turned into an omelette factory.

Him:  Not a very good one.

Me:  I liked them.  Okay.  Bone?

Him:  By Jeff Smith?

Me:  Yeah.  I think you liked that.

Him:  Yeah. 

Me:  Groo.

Him:  Who doesn’t like Groo?

Me:  Mendicants.

Him:  I don’t remember that one…  I don’t mind Calvin and Hobbes.

Me:  Masterpieces.  How about The Far Side?

Him:  Yeah, that’s pretty good as well.

Me:  Scream?

Him:  There’s not much of that.  You’re not proving a point here.  You’re just listing comics.

Me:  So, yeah…  You missed out on The DFC because it was subscription only.

Him:  You always talk about it, but I don’t even remember it existing.

Me:  Well, you never read any.

Him:  I couldn’t.

Me:  When I first heard about The Phoenix, which has definite DFC links - I got properly excited and decided that this was something that you shouldn’t miss out on.

Him:  And I didn’t.

Me:  Well, we missed the first two issues although you got a bulky chunk of – I think – 3 to 7 in one go.  

Him:  I think it was 3 to 8.

Me:  That sounds about right.

Him:  And then we continued to get them weekly.

Me:  Up until the subscription ran out in the early-70s and you missed a couple.  Hang on – it-

Him:  I’ve got them all now.

Me:  Yeah, I’m glad.  The Phoenix set itself a high-quality standard from the outset and stuck to it.  It’s a hugely impressive, brave, beautiful and positive comic – I’m glad it exists.  It should be compulsory for every school in the country to have a copy.

Him:  Schools don’t tend to go for that sort of thing, which is probably why there are less comics nowadays.

Me:  I think telly has to accept a certain share of the blame, along with other distractions.  Schools never understood comics though – well, not in Britain.  They always seemed to feel massively threatened by them. 

Him:  By comics?  I can’t think of any real reason why they should be threatened.

Me:  Fear of the unknown.  And vampires.  Well, that’s what it used to be.  My English teachers would – largely, not all of them – discourage me reading trash like Watchmen.  I’d be arguing that it was literature and they would trot out dusty old worthies that I should have been reading instead.  Never ‘as well as’ – it was always instead of.  I should’ve pointed out that Dickens used to be populist before he was literature…  Nah, that’s a bit unfair.  I had a couple of teachers who still read comics.  I ended up reading a lot of Robert Graves and-  I’ve done it again, haven’t I?4


Him:  Yes.

Me:  Sorry.

Him:  I’m used to it by now.

Me:  Tell us about The Phoenix.

Him:  What do you want me to say?

Me:  Whatever you like.  Favourite stories?

Him:  I like all the stories.

Me:  You really like Star Cat.

Him:  I like that one a bit more than the rest.

Me:  Ha!  Who edits it?

Him:  That sentence doesn’t sound grammatically correct.

Me:  Nice dodge.

Him:  Don’t list stories, because you’ll miss one out. 

Me:  We nearly got Chris Riddell to sign issue 23.

Him:  But we didn’t.

Me:  This is going to make gripping reading.

Him:  I don’t think it will.

Me:  Shall we just say Happy Hundred Phoenixes to The Phoenix?

Him:  Yeah.  That’d probably be for the best.

Me:  The art’s always great. 

Him:  Which story do you like the most?

Me:  Oh!  That’s…  Um…  That’s really hard.  I like Star Cat and Bunny Vs Monkey  I love CorpseTalk.  Corpse Talk, I think.  It’s all excellent though.  There’re so many different styles of story and artwork that you can’t really choose a favourite.  Planet of the Shapes is lovely.  And I’d like a collected volume of everything featuring the Art Monkey.  Everything.

Him:  Alright then.

Me:  Thanks!  Is that for Christmas?

Him:  What?  I’m not making you one!

Me:  Tch.  Worth a shot.  You know that list of things that we both like?

Him:  Umm.  No.

Me:  I forgot to mention Oink.

Him:  Oh, yeah!  I haven’t read much of Oink to be honest.

Me:  And that Doctor Who show.  That’s not bad.

Him:  I suppose.  It’s not the best though.

Me:  What’s the best?

Him:  I don’t know.  I was being sarcastic.

Me:  Right, raise your mango juice.

Him:  I’m all out. 

Me:  Never mind.  Right.  On three. 

Him:  What’re we doing?

Me:  ‘Happy Hundred Phoenixes to The Phoenix’.  One.  Two.  Three.

Us:  Happy Hundred Phoenixes to The Phoenix!

1.  As our long time reader2 will know, I don’t do things online.  Or watch television.

2.  Hiya!

3.  It was basically a pull-out mini-comic – a bit like the Funday Times, but not – with rotating strips, quizzes and articles that didn’t patronise the younger readership.  Seriously, it was ace.

Him:  I wouldn’t mind if you mentioned the Impossiduko when talking about the Funday Times.

Me:  You do it.

Him:  Yeah, you’re probably right.  Let’s mention it some other time.

Me:  It had been printed wrong hadn’t it?

Him:  Yes.

Me:  What was it?  Medium difficulty?

Him:  Easy.  They were all easy.  It was the Funduko.

Me:  Except this was the Impossiduko, because of a misplaced 5.

Him:  7.  It was a 7.

Me:  Does that make a difference?

Him:  Yeah.  I actually remember it really clearly being a 7.

Me:  In the wrong place.

Him:  Yes.

Me:  How long were we doing it for?

Him:  About five minutes.  Then you decided it was impossible and filled in the remaining spaces with question marks.

Me:  I might just be the Riddler.

Him:  You’re just bad at Sudoku.

Me:  It was impossible!

Him:  Ha!

Me:  I hate maths.

4.  Mutter mutter… golden age… mutter… grumble… moan etc. etc.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Just Under a Week After The Day of the Doctor

I actually think that Doctor Who is one of the most important things in our culture.  It’s one of the most rich and interesting things that has ever been made in this country.
- Matthew Sweet, The Culture Show: Me, You and Doctor Who

Me:  It’s been a long, strange week.

Him:  What’s been long and strange about it?

Me:  The hours mostly.  I haven’t managed to do half of what I had planned.

Him:  Which was?

Me:  There’s a couple of things I need to reply to, and an opinion piece that’s been gazumped at least twice by BBC leaks.

The Him plays with his foot.

Me:  Did you feel there was a…  I don’t know.  A bit of a deflating feeling, I suppose.  After the events of last week, the Whoniversary and all that.

Him:  Not really.

Me:  Good.  It hit me, but that’s to be expected.  I’ve watched the BBC3 Aftershow party since-

Him:  Was it great?

Me:  Not…  No.

Him:  What was wrong with it?  Was it that guy you didn’t like?  Called ‘Rick’?

Me:  He didn’t help. 

Him:  Was he your favourite part?  Or was the One Direction bit your favourite part?

Me:  The One Direction bit was lovely.  Just goes to show that the Time-Space Visualiser actually works.

Him:  I’m sorry, I just don’t care.

Me:  It was a bit of a disaster on the whole.  Still, nice to see Jackie Lane.  The Culture Show special was the other end of the entertainment spectrum from the Aftershow party, but you haven’t seen that. 

Him:  It was beautiful.  Can I leave now?

Me:  Soon.  There was a lot that I didn't just agree with, but feel like I've been banging on about for ages.  Those moments left me feeling a bit vindicated.  "Yes!  That's exactly right!"  That sort of thing.  Overall, it was great.  It looked beautiful and managed to carve some new marks into ground that's been trodden into a quagmire over the last half-century.  I tweeted about how I thought the Culture Show special was superb, and then we got a reply from Matthew Sweet, the presenter.  This delighted me so much that I panicked off Twitter, and sat blushing in a corner for the rest of the evening. 

Him:  Maybe he’s just a nice guy and replies to everyone.

Me:  Shush.  I’m special.  Ummm… I think that’s probably about it.  You haven’t seen or heard anything about the Christmas special have you?

Him:  No.

Me:  Right, well we’ll wrap up and I’ll go and write the things that I should have been writing earlier on in the week.  And then I can get back to reading comics and books about comics as 'research'.

Him:  Ok.

Me:  I’ve got some plans for next year.

Him:  I have no idea.

Me:  Well, when the dust’s settled with the missing episode rumours we can remount the Ascent, but there’re also a couple of other things I’d like to have a shot at.

Him:  It’ll never end!

Me:  We’ve got all the stories watched up to The Space Pirates1 – I just need to type up what we said.

The Him grows an arm out of his back.

Me:  And then…  If any of the stories we watched as recons are returned, then I can just recon the write-ups2 and we can do a proper entry for the story itself.

The Him drags himself up the wall with his new arm.  Wings begin to sprout.

Me:  Otherwise, there’s the thing about British horror comics that I’ve been trying to write.  The Doctor got jealous at being ignored and kept flinging stuff at me to make sure I was paying attention, so it's been waiting patiently for the last month and a bit.  I’d like to get back to that in 2014.

Him:  Would you?

The Him’s jaw distends by about six feet as his eyes start to glow a virulent blue.

Me:  Yeah.  And I want us to meet Tom Baker.   

Bones crack - tendons scream - a terrible metamorphosis concludes.

The Him emits a piercing shriek and launches through the window, flapping deftly into the cold November darkness.  Distant screams blow in on the frigid air.

Me:  Born in a barn?


Can I type you saying ‘squawk’?

Him:  No.  No you can’t.

Me:  Fair enough.  Lovely.  G’night.

1.  And we’ve watched every (available) story that isn’t The Ambassadors of Death – most of them before we started this blog – in case I hadn’t mentioned that at some point.

2.  Our recon of The Web of Fear can be found in the Travers Tales set here.  Go and have a look, if you haven’t already, and you’ll see what I’m getting at.  Also, we’re hedging our bets that there’re still goodies yet to escape from the BBC Canteen…