The following commentary, footnotes and opinions are presented for entertainment purposes and do not represent the opinions of the Him, the author or No Complications in general.
This doesn’t mean they aren’t correct.
The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is unchangeable or uncertain.
- John F Kennedy
Let me tell you this. The whole planet’s leaking, everybody’s leaking. You know, everyone’s spewing up their guts onto the internet. Putting up their relationship status and their photos of their (redacted) We’ve come to a point where there are people, millions of people, who are quite happy to trade a kidney in order to go on television. And to show people their knickers, to show people their (redacted), and then complain to OK! Magazine about a breach of privacy. The exchange of private information, that is what drives our economy. But you come after me because you can’t arrest a land mass can you? You can’t, you can’t cuff a country. You might as well go and…
You can’t lynch that guy there, can you? But you decide that you can sit there, you can judge me and you can ogle me like a page three girl. You don’t like it? Well, you don’t like yourself. You don’t like your species and you know what? Neither do I. But, how dare you come and and lay this at my door? How dare you blame me for this?
This is the result of a political class which has given up on morality and simply pursues popularity at all costs.
I am you and you are me.
- Malcolm Tucker, 4th July 2012.1
Junk is the ideal product – the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy. The junk merchant does not sell his product to the consumer; he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies his client.
- William Burroughs
The Him hates spoilers which is a shame as the BBC doesn’t seem to understand how they work. We’ll get back to this.
Somehow, the Him’d heard that Matt Smith was leaving Doctor Who. I probably let it slip by accident – it’s a lot harder to keep up with what’s official and what isn’t at the moment. I rewatched the whole of The Thick of It (including In the Loop) as ‘research’ before typing this up, and I was particularly struck by how the endemic culture of leak and spin reminded me of the bizarre circus that’s been performing throughout this Golden Whoniversary year. We’re supposed to be fun, so I’ll exaggerate certain bits for comedic effect and ignore other ones completely. 3
It’s interesting to see the BBC’s chosen to celebrate this wonderful one-off year by treating it as an excuse to furiously milk fans of the show. If I was really cynical, I’d point out that if you’re using the fact that you produce reversible DVD sleeves - so that when all the purchases are lined up on the customer’s shelf they actually look like a set - as a marketing tool, you’re probably aware that the customer is going to be quite an easy mark to shift product to.6
The main moan about the lack of new Doctor Who in yer actual Whoniversary year can be found elsewhere, in some of the more frightening and cacophonous parts of the Internet. You probably know where I’m talking about, Faithful Reader, or you wouldn’t be reading this. I’m not going to go on and on about the flirting with America – well, not in any great depth – but I am going to mention - you may need to squint - these:
|Why, that’s nearly an armful.|
Seeing as the customer base, as we’ve established, is quite eager to have everything looking nice on a shelf, it seems a trifle unfair to-
Well, that’s the thing. To do what exactly?
I once described Doctor Who Adventures as a weekly stationery set with a free magazine. These box-sets are quite cunningly disguised but can still be described in a similar way. The Regenerations book is in fact, a pre-release vanilla version DVD of The Tenth Planet (the kind of thing that used to fall out of newspapers every weekend throughout 2006) – with free hardback book of (mostly) already published glossy pictures and DVDs of every story that can be linked to a regeneration. Looks nice, but at £50, perhaps a bit steep for the casual buyer – who I’m sure it’s aimed in the general direction of. As mentioned before, I don’t buy things online, so I appreciate that both of these sets can be found cheaper elsewhere. That’s not the point – this is what they’re selling for in real shops.
The Fourth Doctor Time Capsule set makes me froth blood.
Initially introduced as a hashtag, followed by a deliberately provocative vague viral video, this is one of the most cynical milking moves yet to be pulled – we’ll ignore London’s Official London Convention in London. Rush-released so fast that Doctor Who Magazine couldn’t even list it in their upcoming merchandise section (have a look, it’s not there). Limited to 5000 copies worldwide, and retailing (at time of ranting) at £59.99 from the BBC Shop, let’s see what you actually get: a vanilla DVD of Terror of the Zygons (proper release in September) and a yet-to-be-leaked interview with Tom Baker with free print, postcards, CD you’ve already got, book you don’t want, previously unpublished Letter from the Doctor, sonic screwdriver and a Jon Pertwee action figure with the wrong head. There’s no way this is aimed at the casual buyer. And, priced at £80 in real shops, there’s surely no reason other than greed that this monstrosity actually exists.8
So, after a brief pause to wipe away the spittle, let’s continue. Do you want a cloth?
A while ago I started to listen to Doctor Who based podcasts, I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before. Anyway, easily my favourite of these is The Pharos Project. Unfortunately, they’re rather robust and certificated at a higher rating (18) than this blog (12), so we’re operating an honour scheme here – don’t click that link if you aren’t old enough to.
Mr Paul, Mr Chris and Mr Pete offer erudite scatology, intoxicated profundity and – refreshingly – frequently stray off-topic into interesting thickets of genre film and TV. Also, I’d totally forgotten about Sean Connery’s “Fill the schtag!” line from Highlander until Mr Paul unexpectedly quoted it, causing me to utterly disgrace myself all over a packed train carriage. So, yeah, thanks for that. More about them later on.1
Back in the Judge Minty post, I started alluding to a story concerning a payphone at the bottom of the escape stairs. Remember? Anyway, I promised to tell you the story in full when you were older. You aren’t there yet, which is a shame as it involves Neil Gaiman. More about him later on.1
2013 has been a very odd year. You’ll have noticed that our posts have dropped off a lot and become a bit stranger, as well as more sporadic. For personal reasons I’m not going to go massively into why that is, but I am going to highlight some of the really good things that have been stopping me from transcribing our ascent up the difficult North Face of the Trout.
As I keep mentioning, I managed to get published this year (the Him having already had a joke published in an academic Doctor Who related book back in 2011 – the swine). I also managed to beat an addiction to live performance that started back at the top of the escape stairs with a final headline concert in Cardiff, got played (and talked about) on national radio2 and achieved a lifetime goal by releasing a (limited edition) coloured vinyl 7” single and recording a live album. These are some of the diamonds glistening amongst the offal of months making up the butchers window that 2013 has otherwise been.
Obviously, none of that has anything to do with the live Doctor Who related programme that aired worldwide on Sunday, August 4th. Or does it?1
I’d bumped into members of Glasgow Who on several occasions before, including the #dalekmoviedoublebill where we talked long into the night about glass ankles and static electricity. It was ace. More about Glasgow Who later on.1
So, when it was announced/leaked that Matt Smith would be stepping down, the usual arguments cranked up from Phil Space and other newspaper-column-vomiting chums. It’s an area that we aren’t going to go into really – purely because I’ve got conflicts of interest when it comes to both Helen Mirren and Paterson Joseph (to pick two names that get bandied around every time the regeneration word-spew floodgates open) and the Him’s not really bothered as long as the show itself doesn’t become sensorite.4
|Helen Mirren won’t be appearing in this post again (sorry) but we’ll have more about Paterson Joseph later.1|
Basically, you’ve got this gentleman going about his everyday life being filmed from hidden cameras working to a schedule so tight you’d think it’d been drawn up by Douglas Camfield – foiling alien invasions, dodging explosions and going slowly mad with justified paranoia. When I actually had the chance to tell the Scouser in question the Him’s theory, he showed me this:
|Yes, that’s a genuine supporting artist, as seen on TV's Doctor Who. It’s hosting a panel at next year’s Comic-Con.|
Apart from not buying anything online, we don’t watch TV. This presents a bit of an issue when it comes to reviewing a live TV broadcast.
The Him had to be elsewhere but insisted that I got out of the cave and found somewhere showing the show. Glasgow Who were tweeting excitedly as the day went on, inviting people along to theirs for a group watch. There was a kind of anoraky intensity and expectation building throughout the whole day. I suppose something like this is an echo of the fuss around the royal baby. The new Doctor is – like it or not – with us for the rest of our lives, no matter how much we retcon.
Feeling nervous and pretending to wear a The Prisoner t-shirt, I grabbed my Beano notebook and ran for the train. I’m lucky to be alive after the last month and bounding up those stairs could’ve easily done for me. Obviously it didn’t. I was just trying to inject a little excitement into the narrative.
The barman, after reminding me that I’ve always been the caretaker, directed me toward the shouting. Round the corner, two very long tables were laid out and filled with enthusiastic folk. Bottles and pizza were doing the rounds, the conversation was amplified and bouncing – the energy palpable. I recognised a few faces from the Flying Duck and a gentleman who’d been sat just in front of me and the Him at the GFT's '50 Years of Doctor Who' and Whoniversary director reveal. I took a place as far from everyone else as I could and started scribbling, which - looking back on it - probably made me come across in about as bad a way as is possible. Everyone was lovely, so that’s a shame.
By this point I was convinced that the Capaldi rumours must be bunk1 and put my bet square on Aneurin Barnard – if just because it must be time to actually have a Welsh Doctor. The flatscreen TV on the wall was a fair way off, but I could scribble nervous lunacy and still see everything. The only problem was the volume of the normal TV wasn’t augmented by a PA system (well, it wasn’t something important, like a football match, was it?).8
When the World’s Deadliest 60 (Monsters of the Week: a crocodile, a snake and a get-lost whale) had finished, the Countdown Dalek was wheeled out and three things happened:
1) A Horrible Histories advert that seemed to have had an episode of The Muppets in the pod when it went through the transporter, crapped all over the screen.
2) Twitter went into turbo boost.
3) Very polite people tried desperately to get a bunch of hyper (but no less polite) fans to stop talking.
And then we were through the looking glass.
All we knew for sure was that the show was being presented by Zoe Ball, and according to the Socks, Rankin (not that one) had leaked the Doctor’s sex earlier. Which is a sentence I never thought I’d type. Even back when the Big Breakfast was appointment TV.8
The band - the one that’s on that 7” I subtly mentioned earlier - started properly during an intense period living in a mid-Wales studio. In-between writing, we’d amuse ourselves by watching (and ripping samples from) old episodes of Blake(no apostrophe)s 7, More Than Thirty Years in the TARDIS, assorted horror films and, of course, Neverwhere. I’d followed Neil Gaiman’s career with interest ever since I’d received a signed copy of an issue of Redfox that he’d worked on. Weren’t expecting that, were ya?
I’d read Ghastly Beyond Belief, Violent Cases, Black (no relation) Orchid, various Future Shocks and, with Sandman, it was obvious this was a cat going serious places. I wish I could tell you that payphone story – you’ll just have to be patient.
Neverwhere was – therefore – compulsory, if flawed. We nabbed a line from everyone’s favourite character who wasn’t from Aridius - “Of course you can move. Or you can wait there until your legs freeze and you tumble to a rather messy death.” - for the track we were working on.
Later on, when the actor playing the Marquis de Carabas appeared in Equity’s bread-and-butter-rite-of-passage Casualty as Mark Grace, I got a bit fixated and started to put his photo on band posters. Eventually, we wrote a song for him. It went down very well in London’s Covent Garden’s Rock Garden in London - to namedrop an example. Eventually, I plucked up the courage to contact his agent directly – I guess we were hoping to get a voice-over. The agent said his client was flattered and baffled (this was before The Beach) and would we send him a copy of the song in question for his client to listen to?
We did – and that was the end of that particular conversation.
In the end, whilst the song for Paterson Joseph wasn’t played onstage during my penultimate live performance at Newport City Live Arena in 2003, in February 2005, his only performance in Doctor Who was largely recorded there.
None of this means anything.
The live show, meanwhile, has turned into one of those talking-head clip-spasms that always used to feature Paul Ross – it was a tradition, or an old charter or something. Depressingly, it’s not as good as the usual talking-head clip shows on the DVDs and before long before we’re back to rubber-necking a car crash. What exactly was going on with Matt Smith?5
Speaking of slow-motion-car-crash TV, I should probably feel sorry for Rufus Hound’s toe-curling performance, but seeing as he’s been rude about people like me in the past, it’s hard to. Nice to see Wilf again – Glasgow Who agreed and a spontaneous golf clap broke out at his appearance - even if he did seem to be the only guest (apart from the final one) in the correct studio. “I thought ‘Boff’ was a locale.”
The cover to my very first proper fanzine was drawn by the same artist who eventually rendered the comic adaptation of Neverwhere. Kiss my axe, indeed.
Next up, it’s the inner cabal of Gatiss and the Moff and the Moff’s awards – spontaneous booing - but something’s changed. I’m still dreading the next few moments – the Moff seems… different this time.5
We’re back to Zoe Ball and the draw itself. The moment’s milked like a Doctor Who fan before the big reveal finally splashes itself into the bucket of knowledge. God, I’m sweating.
Punk bands, Doctor Who fandom, Glasgow, Neverwhere – none of this means anything.
I always check the front door’s locked before I put the commuting podcast on, just in case I forget. I might line my DVDs up in broadcast order like it matters, but this is a sensible thing to do, rather than early-warning signs of an OCD-based Casualty storyline. When we repeat things enough times our brains just skip the memory allocation required to record the actions – it’s like muscle memory in a way. If you think about how to tie your laces, it instantly becomes twenty-three times harder to do it (Dept. of Made Up Statistics, 2003). By doing this routine I’m able to actually fix in my memory that the door’s locked, because otherwise you do it, don’t remember you did it, and then the day’s spent worrying about whether or not you did the thing that you know you did. I don’t live in Tooting Bec, but I don’t want to come home and find anything murderous and hairy on my loo, thank you very much. Especially if it hasn’t had its shots.
After that I’ll make sure the volume’s set to the right level not to annoy any other commuting livestock in the carriage and walk to the train station. With a Pharos Project podcast that means I’m normally through the introductions and onto the news by the time the train leaves. The journey takes as long as it damn-well pleases, which always makes me wonder how the train company manages to tick all the boxes that need to be ticked in order to be able to function in a follow-through interface type of fashion. You dig?
We land when we land. My ticket never works at the exit barrier, so you have to wait to be ushered through by someone who’s also just trying to get through the damn day. When I’ve walked under the corridor that the Him got his photo taken with Lis Sladen in, I’ve got the choice of left or right. If I need lunch, or the train’s landed earlier than expected, I’ll turn right and head up towards obscure Bogie Man reference locations. I’m normally into the main meat of whatever the Projectiles are discussing by now, but not always.
In today’s podcast, Neil Gaiman’s cropped up and the banter’s twisting toward a long forgotten BBC production. Lenny Henry once played the Doctor in a sketch that eventually appeared on a DVD VAM. The only thing worse than The Chase is to be in Earl’s Court. None of this means anything.
I’m walking up a hill that contains a voodoo model of the hill that I’m walking up. The Projectiles are talking faster and suddenly, just as I almost walk into a tall man with a week’s worth of salt and pepper stubble, Islington is mentioned.
For a moment everything stops. My brain tries to connect all these half-forgotten, scrappy, flappy strands that stretch decades behind me and into different countries.
He knows I know who he is and I know that he knows and –
I make an apologetic noise and step out of the Angel’s way.
I want to say that he nods at me before he walks down the hill and into something very like immortality but…
None of this means anything.
And the – uh – the thing about being kind to people – umm - I had a letter around about this time I would think, enclosing a script written by an eleven year old boy. So I sent him some other scripts back and eventually we invited him to come to the studio – and again, Jon was absolutely nice to him and we had lunch together and so on.
And that was Peter Capaldi.
And Peter always says that was one of the reasons why he went on to become a writer and an actor.
- Barry Letts, The Monster of Peladon commentary.
1. Wait until I pull the strands together. You’ll love it.2
2. Going on past form, both of these statements are false.
3. Namely, the publishing of plot points on official (and otherwise – I didn’t know Mitchell and Webb were in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship until I read a preview advertised as being spoiler-free) websites and the covers of official magazines, releasing plot-twists within trailers (which is a touchy subject anyway) for other countries and all of the sordid sensorite4 that cropped up in (The) Private Eye and all the stuff that’s being whispered about the attempted escapes from the BBC Canteen. Between seven and ninety-three at the time of writing5 - not including the second part of The Underwater Menace which has successfully escaped and is still on the run. This is going to make it quite difficult for the BBC to use it as leverage like they did with the third episode of Galaxy 4.8
4. We don’t do that joke anymore.
5. More and more it feels like the unauthorised volume of behind-the-scenes Doctor Who history that’ll eventually be published to chronicle the years following Russell The Davies’ The Writer’s Tale is going to be closer to Miwk’s The Life and Scandalous Times of John Nathan-Turner than is comfortable.8
6. And if I was being really cynical, I’d then point out the fact that when you misprinted one of these sleeves so that it wouldn’t match up (the Vengeance on Varos Second Effort) it was a bit rude to complain about obsessive fans pointing this out to you (cit. needed) – especially as this was the second time you expected them to buy the DVD in question. Still, the customers got a solemn (if a bit sniffy) promise that this wouldn’t happen again (cit. needed). This promise was forgotten about when you repeated the same misprinting error several releases later (The Green Death Second Effort). It’s understandable that mistakes get made, but it’s hard to believe that someone who really, truly cared about Doctor Who would mistakenly Photoshop a monster upside down on official DVD artwork (The Visitation Second Effort). There’s an awful lot of annoying self-congratulation going on – and the same names and faces keep turning up over and over again in Doctor Who Magazine and the DVD VAM5 – yet no-one’s performing rigorous idiot-checks before this stuff goes on sale.7
I suppose I should also differentiate between the BBC in general (which is lovely) and BBC Worldwide/2|Entertain (who are in charge of the relentless milking). Oh well.
7. Which brings us to Metebelis 3. The planet’s name was mispronounced by Matt Smith – I’m going to ignore the fan apologies, this is a serious point about lax quality-control. None of the fans making the show noticed the error until it was too late to change it. Surely there’s time to overdub something whilst the effects are being added? The turnaround’s not that fast, no matter how zippy the shoddy FX in The Rings of Akhaten make it appear. It’s all well and good pointing out mispronunciation in the classic series, but that doesn’t wash anymore. If you can’t get the names right, why mention them in the first place? Make one up instead.
The new show has so much riding on it; the only explanation is that someone, somewhere, has taken their eye off the ball. This is why pirates go missing. And goes some way to explaining what the hell happened with Nightmare in Silver – a story which remains so impossibly awful it creates its own conspiracy theories and flogs them on message boards. You could at least have rolled it in glitter first.8
8. I needed to vent all that. I feel a lot better now.2