It's been a year, so I've Wikileaked it.
About Time was originally pitched as the definitive guide to Old School Doctor Who. No, it's all right, we knew it was silly even when we started. So did Lars, our publisher, hence his wise addition of the word "ambitiously" in the strapline. The trouble is that after a while, we (by which I mean, myself and Tat Wood, who were meant to co-navigate through all 26 seasons) started to take the mandate terribly seriously. Why...? Because we hate each other's opinions, that's why.
About Time began with Volume III, since we felt the Pertwee-Faced Era to be the easiest ground for both the writers and the readers. Ooh, that book was thin: basically a Discontinuity Guide with grander things in mind, and yet towards the end of it, we started to realise what we were meant to be doing. We also started to realise that we were going to end up punching each other if we spent too long in each others' company. What we didn't immediately realise was that the two were interrelated. Volumes IV and V are substantially chunkier and better than III, because we were both so determined to make our case for What Doctor Who in This Particular Era Means that we went into sometimes-interesting, sometimes-abominable detail.
In my view, Volumes I and II got it exactly right. In Tat's view, Volumes I and II are atrocities that should be buried in salt and Mandrels' wee. This is why he ended up working alone on Volume VI, and why the second edition of Volume III was his own monstrously bloated geek-baby.
Actually, the new Volume III is rather good, certainly closer to the mass (and I do mean mass) of About Time than its first printing. Its main flaw is that Tat and I both took off our muzzles, so when one of us backed down, the other went further than was strictly speaking necessary. Volume III Redux weighs in at over 500 maxi-sized pages, and if you've held it, then you'll know that it's the ideal material with which to line your spaceship when transporting Tharils. It'd work brilliantly on hypertext, and one day - when paper finally admits defeat - perhaps Tat and I can clash again for t'internet version. But all that aside, and just focusing on what we call the facts... there are still a few flaws, oversights, and assumptions that trouble me. Plus paragraphs clearly written to get on my tits.
Last December, I sent Tat a book report on his new version, concentrating on the things that wouldn't have resulted in fist-fights if we'd been in the same room. I'm now making it public. There's nothing remotely scandalous here, but those of you who have a copy of Volume III Redux might want to think of it as an unofficial appendix. The rest of you might enjoy reading my responses and trying to guess what on Earth made us start hacking each other to bits like this. Basically, the mood here is "two Professor Yaffles, locked in a basement, then told about Fight Club".
This commentry is divided by story (and by the essays attached to each story) rather than by page number, so take a deep and cleansing breath, and let the goodness of Barry Letts sustain your karma as we begin...
"DOCTOR WHO AND THE AUTON INVASION"
(Yes, that's what it's called.)
- Could the new Doctor have survived a decapitation in his first fifteen hours, though? If we take "regeneration" to be in some way similar to what starfish do rather than what urban centres in the North of England do, then growing a new limb is one thing, but severing the brain from the… er… starfishy version of the spinal cord may be another matter. However, I'm going to take the gothic Low Road while you take the scientific High Road, and say: if we had rules on "How to Kill a Time Lord" in much the same way that Hammer movies have given us rules on "How to Kill a Vampire" (there must be fifty ways… "Just cut off his head, Ned / Stake through the heart, Art / Blessed H2O, Joe / And set his soul free"), then beheading would undoubtedly be on the list. Here we recall the speculation in early issues of DWM that the Time Lord method of cheating death suggests something either vampiric or lycanthropic, and Cornell's later hints (beginning with Goth Opera, inevitably) that Rassilon nicked Great Vampire techniques to supply his people with partial im-mm-mortality. Part of me admittedly likes the idea of Tennant proclaiming 'this head is a non-Cockernee head!', but it's unsettling in the context of a guidebook about the Gummidge Doctor.
- There are other reasons that the Brigadier might have hired Liz. One is that she had prior experience of the "outré" - possibly getting mixed up in one of the earlier alien invasion attempts, or a Gary Russellesque one that we've never heard about - and kept her head during the crisis. She doesn't believe in aliens when she arrives at UNIT, so she may not have understood what she was really up against, or (more credibly in the late-'60s, post-WOTAN Doctor Who world) the threat in question may have been man-made. Alternatively, if we don't want to turn her into Liz the War-Machine Slayer, then Dr Shaw might have written a paper on "That Stuff They Found in the London Underground, and Possible Medical Treatments in Case It Turns Up Again". We can probably assume that the events of "The Web of Fear" were explained away as some sort of Cold War murkiness, and anyone publishing an analysis of alien / foreign bio-weapons would attract the attention of the intelligence services even if UNIT didn't exist.
- The other option, of course, is that somebody made her look like the ideal candidate in order to infiltrate UNIT. "Did Liz Work for Torchwood?", now, there's an essay for the third edition.
- Having said that, though... I note that you mention Torchwood more often in the first eight pages of this book than I would've done in the entire volume. ("Cyberwoman" used to be the only object - I won't say "story" - in the Doctor Who universe that I'd never managed to watch all the way through, until the coming of Phil Ford.) Although from the weary "All Right, Then" at the start of the "Sea Devils" essay, I'm assuming you were under duress from the publisher.
- Things That Don't Make Sense: I always assumed that the workers in the plastics factory were Autons, like the shiny-faced secretary. At least it'd avoid union problems. In which case, the "fully-automated" line is a gaffe rather than a mistake. "As you can see, our production-line is fully-automated." "But… there are people working on it." "Errrrr…"
- "We pick that story up in Volume VII." Volume VII's definitely "on", then? This may be the first time in geek-history that a guidebook to a series has been written by someone who doesn't like the stories, thinks the format is a mistake, and has nothing good to say about the lead cast. (Or is it? Given that you've never had any patience with the Pertwee era, have no truck with Innes Lloyd, and loathe almost everything on Nathan-Turner's "watch", you presumably like less than one-third of twentieth-century Doctor Who. Yet you still find yourself in control of About Time, and we're probably over the million-word mark by now. We're a bit like those Christians who justify their belief in the Love and Goodness of God by completely disregarding both the Old Testament and the last thousand years of global history.)
- "It may not have mattered that the person driving Bessie in 'Robot' didn't resemble her owner." Then again, perhaps the Doctor's driving license is slightly psychic. No, you're right, that's cheap.
"DOCTOR WHO AND THE CAVE MONSTERS"
(Yes, that's what it's called.)
- I freely admit to liking the score of "The Silurians". Especially the Silurian Sting (you know the one), which sounds exactly like the kind of musical instrument that might be played by something with a mouth like a squashed doughnut. If Doctor Who monsters really did gather together in Star Wars-style canteenas - as various New Adventures authors seemed to believe - then the Silurians would be the ones with the elaborate wind instruments. Even their lips make them look like jazz musicians from racially-insensitive '40s cartoons. (More on Silurian mouths later.)
- Ruddy Hell, you're the last person I would've expected to find using the word "telegenic". Unless you're suggesting that Eric Laithwaite actually reproduced over long distances, like a hardcore version of Mr Tickle. Now, if you'd said "tellygenic"…
- Oh, Gawd, he's started on George Lucas already. In this case, however, the error's quite straightforward. "The Force" isn't supposed to represent a Vril-like "life energy" (this is why Lucas was so heavy-handed in pushing the "symbiosis" angle in The Phantom Menace); it's supposed to be a metaphor for the-things-that-bind-us-together, the power that connects people rather than the power that's inside people. Ergo, you can't boil individual people down to make Sith Bovril, and we note that the draft scripts of Star Wars described it as "the Force of Others", until Brian De Palma started taking the mirth by referring to it as "the Farts of Others". Mind you, I don't know why I'm bothering to argue with a man who can't even spell "Cthulhu". Did you even go to Evil School?
- Things That Don't Make Sense: why do you have a problem with the idea that only certain humans suffer from Silurian race-memories? If we assume that the memories are somehow encoded in DNA (which is strictly speaking impossible, but still more satisfying than the Sheldrakian alternative, and no dafter than what we're told in "Image of the Fendahl"), then simple genetic difference should guarantee that some people are going to be more prone than others. A personal parallel: like approximately 5% of the population, I've got the gene that makes us sneeze when we look into the sun, a throwback to the days when there was a closer connection between the eyes and the Eustachian canal. In evolutionary terms, this is a disadvantage, but only nineteen-twentieths of humanity has managed to rid itself of the problem. So why shouldn't a tendency to gibber at prehistoric monsters work the same way? We might further assume that those who suffer from this acute Jungian malady are the same people who didn't get really, really excited when we went on school day-trips to the Natural History Museum. And who actually think Jurassic Park is scary.
- Are you absolutely sure that ITV's Timeslip was broadcast on Sunday evenings? Because in October 1970, it was being shown in an after-school slot on a weekday, certainly in the London area. (How do I know this? Funny you should ask. When I wrote Dead Romance, I looked at all the TV guides for the days on which there are protracted characters-sitting-at-home scenes. It turns out that the Horror manifests itself on Earth during an episode of Timeslip: this was pure coincidence, but I didn't mention it in the text in case anyone thought I was trying to be "cult".) And while it's true that different ITV areas showed programmes on different days, I find it odd that a series so obviously designed for the half-past-four audience would find its way into a weekend evening slot.
- Regarding the essay: on the other hand, we could take what the Doctor says at face value (since he's got rather more knowledge of this subject than either ourselves or the Silurians, and knew about the wandering-off of Mondas in "The Tenth Planet") and just accept that the object which threatened the whole of reptilekind was the Moon. After all, part of the mission-statement in other volumes of About Time was to come up with solutions that fit the obsessions of the era, at least wherever possible. As you've pointed out, the idea of the Moon being a wandering planet was hip in the early '70s, and soon found its way into the Von Daniken mythos. There's an obvious connection between the Spaceships of Ezekiel in the epilogue of Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion and Don Wilson's Our Mysterious Spaceship Moon, which not only claimed that the Moon was… well… a mysterious spaceship, but even suggested that footage of Neil Armstrong discovering alien artefacts on the surface was cut out of the "live" TV broadcasts. The fact that the same idea occurs in "Eternity Weeps" is no coincidence: both of Jim Mortimore's Silurian-y novels were meant to follow on from the '70s Target view of the cosmos, which is why he refers to the Young Silurian by name, and why "Eternity" features a subplot about the hunt for Noah's Ark.
Yes, all right, the Moon may have been vital to the development of life in our universe. But our universe doesn't have Mondas or the Fendahl or the Jagaroth in it, as far as we know. Given the nature of Doctor Who - especially in this period - it strikes me that "the Moon-spaceship came along and frightened all the reptile-men away" is actually the simplest and most efficient explanation, without any of this voodoo-science "extinction events happen at regular intervals" business you seem to be suggesting.
- Also, I always took it as read that the Silurian third-eye was an artificial feature, especially considering its ability to burn holes in things. Which is a bit of an evolutionary no-no, really. (Let's not even get into its ability to rebuild walls at a glance. If the Doctor had managed to get Silurians to co-exist with us, then by now they would've filled the same cultural niche as the Polish. "I mean, I don't mind them as long as they pay their taxes. They're such good workers, aren't they? It only took them a couple of hours to do my kitchen extension.") So the "seeing in red" argument doesn't hold water: for all we know, that rose-tinted third-eye effect is a crude visual representation of infra-red vision, or one of those charming alternatives to infra-red that keep popping up in '70s SF series. I swear, the next time I write anything vaguely skiffy, I'm going to include something called "infra-black". If only as a counterpoint to the "ultra-white" we're always being promised in toothpaste ads.
- "Anyway, look at those mouths." Y'know, right up until I saw the video in the early '90s, I thought the Silurian mouth was actually a nose. Hell, maybe it's both. It's not as if we've ever seen them chewing toffees or snorting coke.
"THE AMBASSADORS OF DEATH"
(My favourite thrash-metal band.)
- Regarding the Many Deaths of Private Wyatt (two here, one in the next story): UNIT always recruits identical siblings, so that the Brigadier can file the obituaries in triplicate.
- Things That Don't Make Sense: but does the TARDIS have a panel that squirts people a few seconds into the future? Surely, the Doctor's just programmed the controls to do that in order to test the time-travel function? And I think we can conclude that the Ship is aware enough of its passengers to stop them materialising inside each other, given that it's capable of playing Pictionary with them in "The Edge of Destruction". Nor do I see why the footie match experienced by the astronauts can't be a shared hallucination just because it's got an unexpected result. Unless you're suggesting that you can't be surprised by your own subconscious, in which case I'm assuming you never dream. Or maybe it works like table-turning.
- "Much of this volume only makes sense, in fact, if there's a Torchwood agent going around posing as a char-lady." Actually, I think you'll find that the tea-making duties at UNIT HQ are performed by a nice old widow who's the butt of many jokes among the staff for her rubbery-looking face and comical accent. Nobody can remember her real name, but she calls herself "Mrs Tea".
- Reading the essay, it becomes obvious that the single biggest problem with Volume III Redux is… the amount of material written by me. This whole shebang was originally commissioned by Lars as "Discontinuity Guide Plus" rather than the masterwork it eventually became, and an awful lot of material in the original essays was there to lay down the rules for those who still perceived Doctor Who as an evolutionary step on the way to Stargate. Which meant stating the obvious, quite a lot. But in a version of the About Time project which permits a discussion on cognitive dissonance during a story about space-crabs, this all seems rather unnecessary. "Why Did the 'Sting' Matter?" is a prime example, in which a fascinating history of radiophonic sound is occasionally interrupted by paragraphs in which I shout cock-obvious things like "you see, it's nothing like Star Trek!!!". And if this is bad, then the "Chauvinism" essay is excruciating. Dear God, man, couldn't you have done more editing? What, were you trying to spare my feelings or something?
(Add an exclamation mark, and imagine it as a musical.)
- A story in which a drilling expert called "Sutton" (where the coal comes from) penetrates the tough exterior of a woman called "Petra" (Greek for "rock"... nice Freudian imagery, thanks Don Houghton), while a baddie called Stahlman (German for "Man of Steel") is overruled by a goodie called Gold (who's got a heart of... oh, you get the idea). This script has many layers, although most of them seem to be geological.
- I'm amused by the fact that you've tried to describe what a scotch egg is, just so you can use it as an analogue of the Earth's core. You haven't quite grasped this "simile" idea, have you? Next week: Dr Science explains the quantum substrata of the universe by describing exactly what was so good about the Cresta adverts.
- If the Doctor's calculations have been 'invaluable' to the Inferno project (as Sir Keith says), and there's no Evil Doctor on Evil Earth, then doesn't that explain why the ultra-efficient fascist version is only six hours ahead...?
- I find myself surprised that when asking why the green goo causes the "primitive" Primords to pump up the reactor, you don't mention the obvious possibility: that the force at the centre of the Earth is in some way intelligent, and wilfully guiding their actions. This seemed so instinctive to me that I never even questioned it. It makes sense of the Doctor's 'a planet screaming out its rage' comment (i.e. some Gaean power is so appalled by the crust-rape that it decides to wipe out the pesky humans... do I really have to add a caveat of "look, this was written in 1969"?), and the high-pitched whine that makes the Primords sit up and pay attention looks like the standard adventure-telly way of suggesting mind control rather than psychosis. The irony is that however much you may pooh-pooh the Rassilon's Band-Aid theory, it makes sense of this whole peculiar shebang. Quite simply, something inside the planet wants to get out, and it's mutating the humans on purpose. Which is the idea I was following in "Interference", natch, and what Aaronovitch would've done if he'd actually finished "So Vile a Sin". From my point of view, the really irritating part is that "The Runaway Bride" starts to go down that route - with the core of the planet being a leftover from an era when all the rules were different - then cops out and gives us a spaceship with big spiders in it.
- I see you're still misusing the word "MacGuffin", and this time you haven't even spelt it properly. To reiterate: as Hitchcock defined it, "MacGuffin" doesn't just mean "gimmick", it means "gimmick which draws the audience into a story, but isn't actually important to that story". The black hole in the reanimated Doomwatch, being at the core of the plot, is in no way a MacGuffin. The dinosaur in "Doctor Who and the Silurians", that's a MacGuffin. (Right, that settles it. From now on, let it officially be known as a MacGuffinosaurus.)
- So, do we now know anything else about the conclusions of the real-life Mohole project?
- I think I see the logic of Evil Earth using phonetic spellings in Houghton's original script. We should remember that, as you've already suggested, anyone asked to create a totalitarian dystopia for the BBC would have taken their lead from 1984. And as you'll recall, the degradation of language in Orwell's vision was a much bigger issue for the post-War readership than it seems now (my generation was brought up to believe that Stalinism was bad because it was an affront to consumer choice, so we rather missed the significance of Newspeak). On top of which, those who remembered the War might have seen the gulf between the "psychic health" theory of literacy and the Nazi book-bonfires as a key moral issue. So it's not a big leap between the simplified English of the Outer Party and the notion of spelling wurdz egzakly az thair pronownst. Those who worried about such things must have considered Slade to be a portent of the apocalypse.
- I'm pleased to see that Mungo Jerry was in the charts while this was on air. With sideburns like those, it must have given audiences the impression that one of the Primords had escaped into the Top of the Pops studio.
"TERROR OF THE AUTONS"
("The only one who could ever reach me / Was the son of the Untempered Schism.")
- And what, pray, is so ridiculous about a climax that involves soldiers shooting at a bus? Think of it as UNIT practising for what happened at the Munich Olympics. Now allow me to take a deep breath, as I say…
- Many commentators (and by this I generally mean "gits on the internet", although we'll be generous) have tried to claim that Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been Russell T's model for Doctor Who, especially since we know he's got the complete DVD boxed set. But like Pigbin Josh, it doesn't wash. Given that a twenty-first century version of Doctor Who was unavoidably going to come in 45-minute chunks, and that modern scriptwriting demands a more - ahem - "character-driven" approach than adventure TV in the '60s and '70s, it was inevitable that we were going to see much of the story from the girl assistant's point of view… not that this would have been radical even in 1963. Critically, Davies uses Rose as the character-core of the series, but doesn't make it "about" her: the entire point of Buffy is that everything the characters experience is a reflection of their own teen-angst, whereas Davies is interested in bizarre environments for their own sake. A story like "The End of the World" or "Gridlock" would be unthinkable in Mutant Enemy's scheme of things. But most telling of all, the way Buffy uses its regulars (a constant re-jiggling of relationships between the lead cast, absurdly so in the later years, when it seems that everybody's had sex with everybody else) is wholly different from the way Davies uses the Earthbound supporting cast. With the various Smiths, Joneses and Tylers being employed as either comic relief or hooks for individual stories - not unlike Tegan's family, at times - modern Doctor Who simply isn't aimed in the same direction.
What isn't there may be more significant than what is, though. If Davies had wanted to be deliberately Whedonish, then the 2005 series would have (a) featured a "Mickey episode" and a "Jackie episode", and (b) focused every story on either Rose or the Doctor instead of employing them as a team (only "Rose" and "Father's Day" actually do this, and in the case of "Rose" it's pure expedience). It's notable that the one Davies-penned episode that looks as if it might take the Buffy route, "Boom Town", is the one nobody likes much. In fact, if Davies had seriously wanted to sell it to us that way, then Mickey would inevitably have gone on board the TARDIS as a Xander-substitute instead of staying at home in episode one. In short... those who seriously claim that Davies wanted to make "Billie the Dalek Slayer" are comparable to those who believe that any reference to menstruation in modern fiction has to be inspired by Carrie. (In that case, the assumption is that women never had periods before Stephen King. In this case, the assumption is that teenage heroines didn't exist before Sarah Michelle Gellar.) Buffy influenced neo-Who in much the same way that it's influenced everything from Spooks to Dorian Grey, but it's on the same level as the other 800 nerd-sources that Davies keeps rattling on about. And as the "Countdown to TV Action" essay suggests (see below), he seems to be more influenced by comic-books than any single TV series.
Chris Chibnall, on the other hand, just wants to make a version of Angel where the sex is even more embarrassing.
- "Where Does This Come From?": So, exactly when does Fu Manchu menace Victorian London? Other than in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, obviously. He was invented in the twentieth century, remember...? He didn't even draw in the crowds until after World War One.
- "The Lore": That's unfair. Of course Terrance Dicks doesn't believe that girls are only there to be tied to railway tracks. As you'll know if you've read any of his recent novels, they're also there to be raped by mercenaries.
- "Pertwee had bumped into Manning once before and thought she had the 'right stuff'." I think he actually said that she was an all right bit of stuff. Is Lars still on Libel Alert, then? I mean, who's going to object? Pertwee's dead, and Ms Manning's happy to talk her mouth off about it, sometimes even when sober. Although I'm entertained by the factette on page 111 which claims that the memory of Katie being "whisked off" was preying on Barry Letts' mind.
- The essay: personally, I've never understood what's so wrong about using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. If you don't happen to have a specialised tool available (i.e. nutcrackers), then what better household implement is there? And don't tell me that you're meant to use a door-jamb, 'cos it ruins the paintwork. Oh, and I could run before I could walk, as well.
"THE MIND OF EVIL"
(Known to a generation of fans as "Doctor Who and the Which One Was That, Again?".)
- Thing to Notice, Number 4: yes, all the Pertwee seasons have a clumsy rubber lizard in the second story... assuming you rearrange them into production order instead of broadcast order, then strategically forget where the recording blocks begin and end. Ahhh, your wacky fan-astrology.
- "The tie-in novels have perpetrated many irksome sentimental theories about the Master's true relationship with the Doctor." First time I've heard anyone describe David A. McIntee as "sentimental". However, I'm obliged to make you justify the word "many" by naming more than two.
- "A 'Chinese Dragon', as opposed to the 'Russian Bear' or something representing Cuba." The Cuban Heel of Oppression? The alternative is a giant cigar that goes "raah", which just makes me think of that scene in Father Ted.
- Things That Don't Make Sense: sorry, why should the authorities ask what happens when the Keller Machine gets full? They presumably just expect the Professor to build another one, since they don't know it's really an alien mind-parasite (and that it's much harder getting parts for these foreign models). "Oh yes, Mr Biro, you may think your disposable pen is terribly clever. But let me ask you this… what happens when the ink runs out, hmm?"
- Strangely, while I have no memories associated with Doctor Who that involve your archetypal tea-time of sausage and mash, baked beans on toast, or lamb cutlets (even if "Day of the Daleks" still gives me the sense of ennui associated with having one's hair cut by one's mother), mention of Take the High Road immediately puts the taste of disinfectant in my mouth. When I was home sick from school - specifically with a sore throat - I was compelled to gargle with TCP, and attempted to liven up the process by gargling along with the theme-tune. I still find myself doing this when infected, although in recent years, chesty coughs make me pretend to be General Grievous. (More of whom later.)
"THE CLAWS OF AXOS"
(Point that thing at me again and I'll snap it off.)
- Something so obvious that neither of us pointed it out in either edition: we didn't explain that an "axon" is the part of the nerve cell which conducts the electrical impulses, and that the name is almost certainly a leftover from the original Troughton submission. Actually, Axos makes a lot more (conceptual) sense if it's meant to be a giant floating brain rather than an unwieldy collection of genitals. (Note from Lawrence in 2010: Yes, it was a great big flying head in the first story outline, written when things were still black-and-white.)
- Things That Don't Make Sense: there are, naturally, about six-gonquillion explanations as to why variable mass isn't impossible in the Doctor Who universe. But as we're talking about a seemingly amorphous giant polyp that can shift itself through time when threatened, the most obvious - and the most consistent with what we see on screen - is that Axos extends into the fourth dimension, and thus transfers portions of its mass / energy backwards and forwards as required. Which would explain why it displays occasional signs of prescience, why it only needs a little push from a reactor to shunt its whole sweaty bulk into the future, and how it manages to snare the Master's TARDIS. Which is what it seems to have done, at least if we take the Master's comments literally, and certainly if we want to see it as the natural heir to other TARDIS-snaggers like the Great Intelligence.
- Hooray, we've got a brand new game to keep us occupied while watching UNIT episodes. It's called "Guess Which Supporting Character in Each Story is Working for Torchwood". As you suggest under "The Sea Devils", I'm thinking it's Chinn rather than Bill Filer here: Torchwood already has Axos in its sights, and could destroy it at any time with one of those handy salvaged death-rays, but the Institute wants to make things difficult in order to test how UNIT and/or the Doctor deal with the situation. This one scenario makes more sense of the Pertwee epoch than the concentrated extract of a hundred Missing Adventures.
- As for the essay... with hindsight, I regret that I didn't take the opportunity to write more about the importance of Doctor Who Weekly in the earlier volumes. Your piece in Volume V only dealt with the consequences of DWM on fandom, but speaking as someone who was seven when WE ACTUALLY GOT A PROPER DOCTOR WHO COMIC IN THE NEWSAGENTS - a comic that was read by my playground peer-group because it was a comic, not because they were fans, put together by the finest up-and-coming writers and artists rather than whatever gits do it now - the early strips had a far greater impact on what happened later, as you've indicated here. 1979 brought us "The Horns of Nimon" and "The Iron Legion". Only one of these stories gave us something exciting, funny, mythic, inventive, and entirely in tune with what the children of the age thought Doctor Who was supposed to be... although obviously, you and I differ on which of those stories it was. As a result, I still have a tendency to use the phrase "my purple light is on" when I want people to know that I'm not busy. More remarkably, some of them actually know what I'm talking about. (Significantly, I gave up on DWM circa 1984, by which point it had become a small-time fanzine on a big-time budget. Everyone else I knew gave up on it when it went monthly, because seven-year-olds just don't think in terms of months.)
We should also note that if you get rid of the '70s-sitcom stereotypes and give the kids iPods, then "Star Beast" is the ideal model for modern-day Earthbound Doctor Who. We might pay special attention to the scene in which Mrs Mopp serves tea and sandwiches to a bunch of hideous police-monsters, which is not only one of the most Doctor Who-ish things ever, but also a cut above what both Williams and Nathan-Turner were doing on the telly. Nothing else made circa 1980 is so successful in putting the fantastical inside the domestic. If only "The Sontaran Stratagem" had been built this way.
- Incidentally, did you ever hear the Nebulous episode "The Lovely Invasion"? Sort of worth mentioning in the notes for this story, I thought. Lead actor notwithstanding.
"COLOSTOMY IN SPACE"
(The BBC's way of suggesting menace: a walnut squints at some felt-tip drawings.)
- Gigantic stock-footage lizards in '30s Flash Gordon serials...? I think you mean '60s productions by Irwin Allen, whose work must surely have been an inspiration here, or at least the reason they thought they could get away with it. The scary thing to consider at this point is that if Lloyd and Davis had stayed on through the late '60s and into the colour era, then Allen's output is exactly what Doctor Who would have been like by 1970.
- Regarding the question of why the Master waited so long before seeking out the Doomsday Weapon (yes, that's what it's called)... it makes sense if we assume he's browsing through the Time Lord files in much the same way that children go through the toy section of the Argos catalogue, and if everything he's tried so far has been the result of an "ooh, that looks good, let's order one and use it against the Doctor" moment. Indeed, if we want to stretch the point and assume that Gallifrey - or just the Master himself - uses English, then the files may even be in alphabetical order. "Autons... Autonomous Evil... Axos... Axxarius...(look, it's as good as any other spelling)... Azal." He gets choosier after he's captured, and cherry-picks the big names like Kronos and the Daleks (and Traken when he's looking for a way to de-omelette himself), but he may be using the same database even in the '80s stories. He probably opened the "X" files - no, don't say anything - just to see whether anything actually started with that letter, hence "Time Flight".
- I think we've established that if the TARDIS lands in the same space as a Thing, then the Thing ends up inside the TARDIS, not the other way around. Consider what happens to the police box in "Logopolis", or the Dalek intruder in "The Parting of the Cheeks".
- Re: Caldwell being apparently irreplaceable as an IMC employee, when there are eleventy-zillion people on Earth. I'm reminded of The Fifth Element, which is keen to establish that the future is overpopulated enough for a "small business" to hire tens of millions of employees, but then presents us with a plot in which people keep accidentally bumping into each other. Since he's the one who's meant to find mineral seams for the IMC, maybe Caldwell's the only member of the team with the mystical "instinct" that Voc robots don't have. And the question of why the IMC thinks it's perfectly reasonable for a twenty-foot lizard to fit through a human-sized door? It makes sense when you remember that Earth has diplomatic relations with the Foamasi during the early imperial era. They're used to reptiles that can squeeze into ludicrously small spaces.
- All right, I'm going to have to swallow hard and speak up in defence of "Colony in Space" (just as I will for "The Time Monster" later). My proposition: in spite of what you've said in the Critique, there's absolutely no reason at all that this story shouldn't work. In theory, it might even be described as a good idea. Grubby space-western, so soon after the heyday of Sergio Leone? Brilliant! Alien planet used as social parable about capitalism and ecology? Groovy! Collapsed civilisation with three different castes of monster instead of Injuns? Top one, sorted! Look at the other scripts Mac Hulke wrote for the series, as well as the things he did in-between, and you realise that he genuinely loves this kind of underground-empire scenario. If it had come off, then all (okay, both) of the good things you've got to say about "Death to the Daleks" would apply here, three years early.
The problem - and it's a single, overriding problem, which haunts almost every scene - is that Hulke hasn't thought how any of this is going to fill a BBC studio or an English quarry. The colony requires a great big central set so that people can have gunfights in it... but then he has characters standing around in the middle of the empty space, holding meandering conversations, so there's no chance of any intimacy between the actors (if I can use the phrase "intimacy between the actors" when discussing the story which allowed two of them to do that in the TARDIS). The natives have a subterranean city, full of Chariots of the Gods pictograms... but cavernous alien ruins need glass-shots instead of physical props (even Star Trek got this right), so we get the Doctor and Jo staring at magic-marker drawings. And the shrivelly little puppet-god might work brilliantly if it were shot on film and lit properly... but Hulke puts it in a control room rather than a cave. This time, it's not even a question of budget, and a single Exxilon-style model-shot of the Uxarean ruins would have given us a different idea of what this story's meant to be. Yet while Hulke's going for claustrophobia (indoors) and epic scale (outdoors), he's written a script that can't possibly deliver either. Even the crassest pieces of dialogue would've been forgivable if he'd thought it through. Can we be surprised that it was so popular with people who'd only read the book?
Oh, and the lack of colour (in the first colour outer-space story) isn't a problem either. Let's not forget, nobody in 1971 knew that "The Curse of Peladon" would soon become this programme's answer to Kirk's Green Woman. Again, think of those spaghetti westerns: nothing but browns, beiges, and other desert tones, yet Once Upon a Time in the West simply wouldn't function in monochrome, just as this story would've been unthinkable in the Troughton years. "Colony in Space" uses colour sensibly rather than gaudily, but... yes, the environment looks all wrong. I still blame the writer rather than Briant.
("When Wurzels Attack.")
- Just in case there's any confusion on this point... yeah, the opening scene of episode one is also a MacGuffin.
- Anal Azal alphabetical action aside, I remain unconvinced that the Master's looking at Time Lord files which specifically relate to '70s Earth. Of all the things he's allied himself with, only the Nestene Consciousness actually had a presence in the Doctor's place of exile, the rest having been shipped here by the ACME Psychic Parasite Company. (The whole of Season Eight makes more sense if you imagine it as a Chuck Jones cartoon. All five stories involve the Wile E. Master finding a shiny new alien weapon to use against the Roadster Runner, then having it rebound on him.) Given that the Doctor wasn't expecting the barrow to be opened circa 1973, I assumed that the whole dig was the Master's idea, or at least that Professor Horner received unexpected funding from an ex-army gentleman named Major Sam (Ret). In which case, the D-for-Daemons file only relates to Earth, not Earth at this specific time. Likewise, the Sea Devils probably wouldn't have woken up if the Master hadn't come along and defrosted them. And all of a sudden, I have a craving for fish fingers.
- "…the industrial revolution, which is potentially the country's greatest contribution to global history, at least to date." Yeah, you just keep on dreamin' that dream.
- I don't understand how, in what purports to be a comprehensive guide to Doctor Who lore, you can mention Blood on Satan's Claw without reference to Wendy Padbury's nipples. And why have you even seen the Nicolas Cage version of The Wicker Man? Nobody's knowledge needs to be that comprehensive.
- Ahhh, yes... the easy option of mocking "The Daemons" for being "the definitive story where science triumphs over magic", even though it comes together in a big mash-up of non-science. You may recall that I had a similar problem with "The Masque of Mandragora", but since you like "The Masque of Mandragora", you insisted that I just didn't understand what it's supposed to be about. To me, however, it looks like this…
EVIL SUPERSTITIOUS ASTROLOGER: Mock not the forces which have wrought this destruction. For Mars is in the House of the Serpent, and the doom of San Martino is written in the stars.
ENLIGHTENED PRINCE: No! No, that can't be true! There must be some rational explanation!
THE DOCTOR: Quite right. In fact, it's a sentient form of counter-magnetising energy wave that manipulates psychic force-fields of sub-thermal ionised plasma.
ENLIGHTENED PRINCE: I instinctively believe you, despite not knowing what any of those words mean.
THE DOCTOR: Now help me to kill it by putting some wires around an altar.
ENLIGHTENED PRINCE: How does that work?
THE DOCTOR: Don't ask questions. It's science.
(Note from Lawrence in 2010: Every single word of technobabble spoken by the Doctor here really is in "Mandragora". Sometimes you don't need satirical exaggeration.)
- Regarding the summing-up in the Critique: it might be worth mentioning that when "The Daemons" was repeated in the early '90s, my friends at the time (most of them at either sixth-form or university, none of them specifically Doctor Who types) rather liked it. They didn't get a nostalgia kick out of it, because they were too young to remember the Glam Years; they didn't have any expectations of it, because they'd never read The Making of Doctor Who. They liked it because it represented a kind of television which they somehow felt should have existed in the early '70s, even if they'd never seen any actual examples of it. And while it was unanimously agreed that the ending was duff, they seemed curiously at ease with it, apparently feeling that it was exactly the sort of duffness you'd expect from a fantasy programme in those days. I find myself remembering that Prisoner episode "The General", and very nearly understanding what they meant. Perhaps the safest conclusion we can draw is that to a modern audience, "The Daemons" is a form of period drama.
- Oh yeah, and the ending of "Mandragora" really isn't any better, by the way. "I'm self-destructing because I'm confused" may be deplorable, but at least it's comprehensible, in a way that "a case of energy squared" simply isn't. You might as well just have the Doctor say "it's all right, I've done something clever". You know. Like Douglas Adams used to.
- Re: What Was in the Charts. Really, "He's Gonna Step on You Again" is far more apt for this story than "Devil's Answer". I don't suppose they re-released it in time for "Robot", did they?
"DAY OF THE DALEKS"
(Guaranteeing that children get "gorillas" and "guerrillas" mixed up for the rest of their lives.)
- Footnote 60. Was Charlie the one who unexpectedly developed telekinetic powers? For my generation (and I've heard this said numerous times by numerous people from numerous parts of the South, so it's not just me), Sons and Daughters only existed for one reason: no matter how far you happened to live from your school, it was a personal challenge to get home before it started. You never actually watched it, of course. You just had to get home before it started.
- Oh yes, Sticky-Backed-Plastic-gate. Now listen here you. It may well be true that the term was originally coined to describe Fabion, I wouldn't know. But what's demonstrably true is that by the mid-'80s, the term was being used by the Blue Peter presenters of the day to describe Sellotape, and it was still going on in the early '90s. Which is, in itself, worth noting. Consider: the '80s was the age in which those who'd grown up watching (or who'd even been involved in) Doctor Who began to mythologise and misremember its history. It may follow that exactly the same thing happened to Blue Peter, and that those who fronted the programme in the largely Fabion-free Thatcher years insisted on using the phrase out of a sense of tradition. Blue Peter fan-fic, if you will. Certainly, the memory of disappointment shared by many of my age - growing up with the belief that Sticky-Backed Plastic was a substance with semi-mystical powers, and then finding out that it was just ordinary tape - is also shared by Mark Curry. Who may safely be considered the Blue Peter equivalent of Colin Baker.
- Oh, get thee behind me! The 1977 Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show certainly isn't "the only one" people remember. Let's begin the counter-assault by pointing out that the sketch you yourself mention elsewhere in this volume, involving Angela Rippon's legs, was from the '76 edition...
"THE CURSE OF PELADON"
(Actually 30% less purple than you remember.)
- Perhaps what you've written here should be a rite-of-passage into fandom for the next generation: having to say "the events of 'The Curse of Peladon' were a pre-emptive strike in the Time War" while keeping a straight face. Then you'll be a man, my son. Still, you and I are both old enough to interpret Alpha Centaurii's outfit as a shower curtain, whereas the youth of today would be more likely to find themselves thinking of a split condom.
- Hmm. From the notes on page 218, is it fair to say that you've never actually studied Keynesian economics...? It's true that Maynard Keynes championed the concept of a World Bank; it's not true that he believed in the "complete restructuring of an entire nation's economy in order to meet loan repayments" (that was the Americans' hobby-horse, and JMK himself thought it was a terrible idea). It's irksome that his name's still associated in the public mind with the IMF, which is on the same level of historical wrongness as "Hitler was a vegetarian" or "Oasis were the archetypal BritPop band".
- Re: The Magic Roundabout. I once again can't help feeling that you'd be more contented in life if, rather than ranting at inferior remakes, you just didn't waste time and money watching inferior remakes. (Note from Lawrence in 2010: Yeah, okay, Clash of the Titans got me. It won't happen twice.)
- Simple proof that Ssorg isn't female, as you suggest: he has no official title. Ergo, he's not royalty. Ergo, had he been a woman, he wouldn't have been allowed into the throneroom of King Peladon. QED.
- Incidentally, my favourite thing about "The Curse of Peladon" is that the strong-arm Ice Warrior is played by someone called Sonny Caldinez, who may well have arrived on Mars via The Sopranos. If I were the sort of person who likes posting things on YouTube, then I'd re-dub this story with dialogue from Goodfellas. I imagine Alpha Centauri saying: 'What, you think I'm here to amuse you...?'
- I wonder whether Russell T. Davies will bother to buy / read this new edition, and if so, then what he's going to make of his work being described as "lachrymose". Which, perhaps appropriately, makes it sound like an artificial sweetener. Regarding footnote 64, though: "The Welsh Series" is rather too reminiscent of "The Scottish Play" for my liking. Besides, it's not as satisfying a brand-name as "Doctor Who Cymru", especially considering the new BBC Wales logo. I generally refer to it as "the twenty-first-century series", but that probably sounds too dynamic and progressive for your liking.
Hang on, I didn't mean it like that. I meant, it makes the series sound more dynamic and progressive than... no, never mind.
- One of my favourite changes to the original text of this book is the description of Barry Letts and his chanting chums as "weekend Buddhists" rather than just "Buddhists". It suggests that although Christianity got the religion franchise for the South of England, the Dalai Lama's London Weekend Buddhism took over at six o'clock every Friday evening.
- "Manning developed a huge crush on him (David Troughton, that is, not Colin Baker)." The most comically misguided attempt at tact I've ever read. Well done! Although you lose marks for footnote 65, which just makes the unfortunate anagram of your name more obvious, and makes anything negative you may have to say about "The Impossible Planet" look like a grudge killing.
- Which brings us to the essay. When it comes to christening people from invented worlds, I'd suggest a fourth (or at least, a third-and-a-halfth) method: devising names according to an aesthetic that suits the form of the story. This isn't as straightforward as it sounds, so I'll give you the most extreme (personal) example I can think of, which ties in with your observation about New Adventures authors using excessive punctuation. When I was writing "Christmas on a Rational Planet", I read an awful lot of eighteenth-century documents, particularly those penned by American movers-'n'-shakers like Jefferson. And as Gore Vidal pointed out in Burr, Jefferson used a ridiculous number of dashes. I therefore found myself - yes - it's true - it must be said - I can't deny it - using an above-average number of dashes in the novel. (It was the first substantial thing I'd ever written, so this habit has stayed with me, which isn't how I planned things.) But a side-effect of this was that when I needed to off-handedly mention an alien deity towards the end of the book, I forsook the then-fashionable Babylon 5 method of using apostrophes and ended up with the name "Trama-Tayn-Ku-Ku-Ro". The syllables have a fairly pleasing shape in themselves, but the bigger point is that this kind of name looks right when it's printed on a page in a book full of two-hundred-year-old punctuation. Is it a reasonable alien name...? We don't know, because we never meet the culture that supposedly came up with it. Realism, however, was never the purpose. Feasibility, yes. But not a sensible sort of feasibility.
Or, a more recent example… I wrote a Bernice audio about pterodactyl-folk struggling to survive after the K/T event ("Bernice Summerfield and the Sky Silurians", essentially). I never used the word in the dialogue, but the script named the starring reptiles as the Chixulub, after the location of the crater that's now thought to be Dinosaur Ground Zero. Since there's a proud Doctor Who tradition of attaching spurious human aesthetics to prehistoric races, I went further down this path by using character-names which suggested a Central American background. As it happens, a name like "Tektekachuan" makes exactly the kind of clacking (or K-KLAK!ing?) sound you'd expect to hear from a pterodactyl's beak, but the starting-point for this - the notion that prehistoric reptiles might have the same sort of language as the human culture which coincidentally develops on the site of the impact crater - is utterly berserk. If Lucas is "haphazard", Tolkien is "linguistic", and le Guin is "poetic", then this approach might be called "resonant".
Come to think of it, though... Lucas' choice of familiar "mythic" names for key characters, as derided by your good self on page 215, is perfectly fitting for a fantasy world that's made up of bits from everybody else's fantasy worlds. That's going for the "resonant" idea as well, although admittedly, the names for the non-humanoid classes sound as if they've all been spoken in tongues by Bjork. On a related matter...
- Yeah, "General Grievous" is such a ludicrous name, isn't it? 'Cos no
warmongering military leader in the real world would ever change his name to make himself sound macho. That would be as silly as... ooh, I don't know... the dictator of an industrially-obsessed one-party state calling himself after the Russian word for "Steel" or something. It'd never happen.
Granted, even I'm not going to attempt a justification of "Yarael Poof".
- You honestly think "Flidor Gold" is a good piece of name-wrangling...? Then again, Nation came up with it before the 1970s, when any name beginning with "flid" would have caused all boys of middle-school age to wee themselves laughing. Likewise any name beginning with "mong", which is yet another reason that the early '80s Flash Gordon seemed rather misjudged. And though it's logical to posit Nation's Welshness as the source of the word "Dalek", the best evidence is surely that the only thing which rhymes with it is "Harlech". "Men in Daleks, play your part in / '60s telly with op-art in / Or just follow John Scott Martin / In a gravel pit."
- Regarding Rambling Sid Rumpo: it's interesting to note that at least one word in his repertoire is now genuinely used to mean something very rude... unless, of course, Barry Took and Marty Feldman used a brand-new, hot-off-the-streets obscenity in the knowledge that the BBC wouldn't notice. My dictionary of slang informs me that "felch" originated in the 1960s, which could either suggest that the latest gay practice was snuck into Kenneth Williams' script (this wouldn't be untypical, of course), or that gay men started using the word because they all listened to Round the Horne and thought it was funny. Which way d'you want it, bottom up or top down? (Pause for audience laughter and arch silence from the straight-man / presenter.)
- "Spunk, Snog, or Shag": one of the most popular shows on Ice Warrior BBC3. Somehow, though, a Martian called "Ibrox" still isn't as hilarious as Shi'ite Muslims. And I can't believe you went through a whole essay about ill-chosen alien names without mentioning the Lead Sea Devil from "Warriors of the Deep", who sounds like a nasty rash in a delicate place. Alternatively, is he just called that because he's got the longest neck of all the Sea Devils (considering the original meaning of the word)? Oh, speak of the Devils…
"THE SEA DEVILS"
("Hey, whatcha doin', Kui-Xing?" "Oh, nothin'. Just passin' the day, sittin' on a turtle's head, overseein' some exams.")
- Right, let's get the "Where Was Torchwood?" essay out of the way first, because extended contemplation of the Welsh Series may rob me of the will to articulate. Aside from the theories mentioned here, there's always the possibility that Torchwood - having become less inclined to hunt down and destroy the Doctor, thanks to prolonged exposure to Captain Jack (yes, all right, "exposure" and "Captain Jack" shouldn't be in the same sentence any more than "intimacy" and "Pertwee") - has decided to let the local Time Lord deal with all the crises facing Southern England and concentrate on matters elsewhere. In effect, Torchwood during the Cold War may be more like MI6 than the Men in Black or the Scooby-Doo gang. We can probably assume that numerous other nations have managed to capture and "re-purpose" alien gadgetry, and it's within the Institute's remit to make sure nobody gets attacked by Autons with "Made in China" stamped on their buttocks. By the same token, Britain doesn't rule the world by the end of the century because our experiments with Silurian radiophonics are sabotaged by Communists, or Bill Filer, or both. We already know that Captain Jack isn't prepared to mess about with the timelines by interfering with Rose before he actually meets her, so he wouldn't go near Pertwee even if the possibilities weren't too hideous for human consideration. On the other hand, he probably cops off with Jo when she isn't anywhere near UNIT HQ. He may even have given her Slightly Telepathic Knickers as a present, which change colour according to what the viewer most wants to see.
- We might also dwell on the possibility that certain things in twentieth-century Doctor Who are directly caused by Torchwood experiments (never mind WOTAN and the British space programme, their backing would even help to explain the 1911 Marconiscope project). You've hinted at this, although if it's true, then their lack of interest in Jewishstereotypegold's Yeti is understandable: without the mojo of the control sphere, it's just a robot in a duffelcoat, and they've already got that kind of technology. We can, at the very least, assume they're watching what Travers does with the brain-ball.
In fact, the only really big question is why they don't take an interest in the Master. But again, Jack may have warned them that getting involved in Time Lord business before 2006 is a bad move, and that the Doctor can safely be left to tie up the loose ends. Since Jack knows all about the Time War from "Bad Wolf" onwards, he must have some idea how high the stakes are. This could also explain why the authorities listen to the Doctor's counsel on what to do with the captured Master after "The Daemons": Torchwood has tipped off the government that this is outside the (pardon me) human league. Note that even though they must have been able to find him before the twenty-first century, the Institute doesn't make a direct move against the Doctor until "Army of Ghosts", almost immediately after Jack's intelligence runs out... and at a time when Torchwood's management finally believes it's time to enter the cosmic First Division by blowing holes in the universe.
- And it's not a pterodactyl. It's a pteranodon, as well you know.
- "Sonic the Hedgehog"? Get with it, grandpa! That's, like, so 1992. The Kids today are into "Bloodsnatch the Smack-Bandit 3: Wetmetal Holocaust".
- As it happens, I read Thomas More's Utopia recently. I was amused to find that he spends the first six pages saying: "Belgians... what a great bunch of blokes!"
- "Manning pushed the wrong button... causing a dozen sailors to fall on top of her." At least, that was her story when the other cast-members walked in. Or is "pushed the wrong button" some kind of groovy euphemism, like the original usage of "turning you on"? (Note from Lawrence in 2010: "Manning pushed the wrong button... causing a dozen sailors to fall on top of her." Regardless of the context, please treasure that as a sentence.)
("The one that's best-remembered as the cover of a Target novelisation.")
- I should just mention that when I was a child, I'd watch literally anything with a laughter track (seriously... I've seen every episode of Jim Davidson's Up the Elephant and Round the Castle, though fortunately it's become a sort of serialised repressed memory), as well as anything which involved spaceships. And yet at the age of seven-ish, even I gave up on Come Back Mrs Noah after a single episode. Nonetheless, no understanding of late-'70s "Star Wars in Disco-Wigs" culture can be complete unless you've compared its title sequence with "The Leisure Hive".
- You know that shot where the laboratory suddenly squashes sideways for no reason? These days, there's a simple way of explaining it to anyone who hasn't seen the episode: without warning, Professor Sondergaard turns into Stewie from Family Guy.
- That's really not what the Satanic Verses passage on "The Mutants" is about, y'know. Perhaps surprisingly, it's not a comment on xenophobia, but on the human desire to abnegate the flesh. It turns up during a meditation on the prospect of becoming a machine, since Rushdie thought the Mutts were supposed to be cyborgs. What, he couldn't have referenced "Day of the Daleks" instead? (Mind you, I have to feel satisfied that advisors to the Ayatollah - possibly even Khomeini himself - were exposed to the work of Bob Baker and Dave Martin in this way.)
- "Shots of Pertwee and Manning getting friendly with a donkey and a llama." Respectively, or was it a swingin' '70s free-for-all?
- The key problem with Murray Gold isn't exactly that he can only write soundtracks for war movies, but that he can only write "anthems". I stand with the majority when it comes to the climax of "Doomsday", but it's one of those moments when we're supposed to be concentrating on the music, and the decision to turn Rose's riff into a slinky bass theme was more inspired than we might like to admit. Ask him to underscore a scene in which people are actually doing peopleish things, however, and he just makes an ugly mess. I still blame the failure of "Fear Her" on Gold more than any other single individual, while the racket that accompanies Rose 'n' Adam's flirting in "Dalek" would be unlistenable even if it weren't mixed so badly that those with stereo speakers literally can't make out the dialogue. (This isn't a small point, either. The breakdown of this scene is the prime reason we never feel we know Adam as a character, however much Davies may blame himself for "The Long Game".)
- Oh look! In the same section, you've found yet another reason to blame George Lucas for everything that went wrong with your teenage years. I could spend hours explaining what's wrong with the claim that the use of Williams' score was "safe" and
"unchallenging", even though nothing else made in the '70s sounds like it, but I'll just pause to chuckle at the magnificent double standard. In the risibly inaccurate "The Nathan-Turner Era: What Went Wrong?" essay from Volume V, you claimed that the decision to use synthesisers instead of Dudley Simpson was a penny-pinching misfire, since everyone was sick of synthesisers by that stage (in itself a statement for the "Hitler was a vegetarian" file, given that Season Nineteen began at a time when the Human League were at number one for a month and only got knocked off by Kraftwerk) and most SF movies had stopped using electronic soundtracks. They'd largely chucked in the synths because of Star Wars, yet now you tell us that the Star Wars music was "backward-looking" and created for audiences "too dumb to know what's going on". So which world are you living in this week? The world where nobody liked synthesiser music in the age of Gary Numan, and Star Wars got it right; the age in which synthesisers were a good idea, and '80s Doctor Who got it right; or the world that everyone alive in the '80s actually remembers, where we felt perfectly capable of picking and choosing from both? It's a bit like your claim that nobody really liked football until the 1980s, even though you keep mentioning its impact on '60s and '70s Britain. You really will say any old codswallop if it gives you a chance for a cheap shot, won't you?
"THE TIME MONSTER"
(Glam Rock and Cretan Jazz.)
- Maybe the Doctor's backwards speech is gibberish when played forwards because it's in his native tongue. The TARDIS is ready to translate for Jo's benefit if there's a chance of her understanding it, but simply can't be bothered when the Master's unkind and rewinds. On the other hand, this might indicate that the Ship also stops translating whenever anyone gets too bored to listen, in which case episodes five and six should be all Greek to us.
- Regarding the first paragraph of the Critique... I'm reminded of Brenda Russell's 1987 single "Kiss Me With Wind". Somebody, possibly Russell herself, wrote that song and passed it on to her producer. The producer hired a vanload of musicians to play on the track, and an arranger to handle the orchestration. The record company knew in advance that Russell was going into the studio to record it, while numerous technical personnel sat in the booth to check the levels and so forth. Yet at no point in this process did anybody say: "Erm… kiss me with what?"
- To buggery with you: I still say that if I'd been born a decade earlier, then this probably would've been my favourite story of the Pertwee years, if only on first broadcast. Because ten-year-olds aren't great at noticing terrible dialogue. Or terrible acting. And see no reason that someone shouldn't be cleaning the windows during a scientific experiment designed to rip open time. Look, in spite of your belief that there's nothing to applaud here, just consider the one thing you haven't mentioned in the summary: the opening sequence of episode one. How bloody great would that have seemed, in 1972? No, don't answer, I won't believe you anyway. My point is that "The Time Monster" attempts to do something with the Doctor which we of the Cymru Age take for granted, something that's not only super-mythic (according to the programme's own mythology, that is, not the Greek version) but directly emotive. And perhaps the later Davies years have proved that this sort of thing isn't a good idea, but even so, I can still award Barry Letts a few bonus points for trying it before it was obvious.
- Footnote 93: and that one isn't even amusing. But then, we've already heard Bill Bailey do the same joke properly.
- I mentioned, I think, that I used to live in the block of flats from which the Hell's Angel falls in Psychomania (right across the road from the Walton Hop, where Jonathan King used to stalk his semi-pubescent prey). So I, more than anyone, find great entertainment value in a film which sees a necromantically-reanimated biker-gang create a living Hell in the suburbs of England by knocking over some bread. That was my local shopping centre, you undead Hovis-rustlers.
- Footnote 95: I concede this one. Although I'd like to ask who "Philip MacDonald" is, or rather, why you've put his name in sarcastic-looking inverted commas. (We really should have a snappier name for inverted commas by now. It's like a pre-War psychiatric term for gay socialists.)
- Meanwhile, "the Spanish Doctor" has the same ring as "the Siberian steppes": it sounds like the world's worst tribute band. And the description of Miss Winters as "a Nazi and a lesbian" just invites a chorus of "Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong".
- And, why the Hell is that second-to-last paragraph (originally by me) still in the "Chauvinism" essay? You've just said all of that! In the previous four pages! Several times!
"THE THREE DOCTORS"
(The one that didn't start with "Doctor Who and…" even in the 1970s.)
- Footnote 98: the most galling thing about Bonekickers was the slogan used to publicise it in the trailers, "the search for the truth is beneath us". After programmes of the Rome oeuvre had conspired to stab historical drama to death on the steps of Broadcasting House, it was almost as if the programme-makers were telling us: "We're pissing on yesterday, and you can't do anything about it. Nyaaah."
- "Enough to blow up New York, but not a whole dimension." And what makes you think that Omega's dimension is bigger than New York? If he's happy to sit in a hole and surround himself with jelly, like a kid who's decided to sulk in the back garden during his own birthday party, then we've got no reason to think he's created anything bigger than a quarry. "Check out my graaavel-piiit…"
- From the essay: ''…which states that everything will eventually become the most probable state, tepid and inert - see 18.7, 'Logopolis'." The double-meaning here (or the back-handed slight, if it was yet another deliberate assault on Chris Bidmead) reminds me of that old Yellow Pages entry: "Boring - see Civil Engineers."
- I could just about have accepted the appearance of the black hole in "The Impossible Planet" - if nothing else in the episode - if the crew had all put on special Black Hole Glasses before looking at it. (Maybe the "windows" on the Sanctuary base have a CGI feature that outlines gravitational anomalies in swirly colours. "The event horizon's bright... the event horizon's orange.") Tragically, the same X-ray-specs idea turns up four episodes too late, at a point where there's absolutely no excuse for it.
- Also, you forgot to cover the black hole in "The Horns of Nimon". Possibly because it's the most tedious example of the phenomenon in all of '70s television, and bear in mind, I've seen the repeats of Space: 1999 on ITV4.
"CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS"
(Or stick with the original title of "Peepshow", and imagine the whole story done with shaky camerawork to suggest the Drashig's point of view, with David Mitchell narrating its thoughts. "Oh, God, this is so embarrassing. I've been following their outward scent, haven't I? They must think I'm a complete idiot. I know... I'll go "graaaaiiiiiii", that'll scare them.")
- Despite your claims to understand child psychology through the ages, I've yet to find anyone of my own age who honestly thought there were little people inside the television when they were young. Actually, I remember a teacher at junior school reading us a "humorous" poem on the subject: she said 'because I'm sure you all thought televisions had little people inside them when you were younger, didn't you?', and the response from the class was even less enthusiastic than when Geoffrey Archer tries to get a round of applause on Question Time. I'd once again like to state that my second-earliest memory is of watching "The Sontaran Experiment" at the age of two; of my granddad saying 'oh look, it's Humpty-Dumpty'; and of thinking, "don't be stupid, it's obviously a spaceman of some kind". If I was aware of (1) the fictional nature of television and (2) the fantastical nature of the programme's content before my third birthday, then I'd like to know when I might have had both the motive and the opportunity to shove Weetabix down the back of the set in order to feed the characters.
- With hindsight, the biggest problem with the Drashigs is the way they move their heads around while keeping their mouths wide open. "With our very special guest star, Mr Jon Pertwee! Yaaaaaaay!"
- And what's so ironic about Stuart Hood describing the BBC as 'too bloody middle class'...? It's no worse than (say) my belief that Chris Moyles is too bloody fat, or your own apparent belief that fandom is too bloody petty.
- The Critique: an awful lot of things "speak volumes" in this volume. I'd watch that tendency if I were you, it's like me and the hyphens.
- The title of the essay, especially in conjunction with your (rightfully) elegiac review of this story, brings to mind Homer Simpson's comment that rock music also achieved perfection at around this time. However, I can see how Everyone's Dad might have reacted to Top of the Pops and Doctor Who in similar ways. I particularly like to imagine him watching Alpha Centauri and saying, "is that a boy or a girl?". Oh, and your argument about the de-Glamming of Doctor Who after 1973 neglects to mention the most obvious evidence... when the Doctor returns to Peladon in 1974, the whole planet is going brown. Two years earlier, the miners would've been wearing silver lamé anti-radiation leotards.
- Personally, I'd hold that Doctor Who remained mainstream until around 1983-84, once again using the schoolroom as a research facility. Even if "The Five Doctors" lost out to The A-Team, there was still a sense that you were either going to watch "The Five Doctors" or The A-Team. (I vividly remember a conversation about "The Five Doctors" in the school canteen, on the day of broadcast. One boy tried to tell me that there'd been six Doctor Whos, and that it was only called "The Five Doctors" because one of them hadn't turned up. When I argued with this, he refused to back down, and it was only then that I realised: I HAVE NO WAY OF EXPRESSING TO HIM THAT MY KNOWLEDGE IS OBVIOUSLY SUPERIOR IN THIS FIELD. Perhaps it was this shock of alienation which caused the wretched and the damned of my generation to invent the whole "Cult" concept, since at that point in time, nobody would've thought to put the word "fan" after Doctor Who. "...is my favourite programme" after Doctor Who, fine. But only pop bands and football clubs had fans.)
"Resurrection of the Daleks" was the last time anybody really seemed to care, and the final Middle School conversation I had about the series was with a girl who'd watched the first episode in a chip shop. After that, nobody even mentioned it until 1987, when everyone agreed how crap "Delta and the Bannermen" was and how much better Doctor Who had been in the old days. In their bizarre chronology, "the old days" turned out to be circa 1980, and it took me a while to realise that the "things coming out of the water" they described was actually "Full Circle". Because THEY HAD NO CONCEPT OF SEA DEVILS.
(Comments are going to get bloodier from now on, but it serves you right for putting mad rants where they don't belong.)
"DOCTOR WHO AND THE TRICK ONIONS"
(Somehow, even this sounds more compelling than "Doctor Who and the Space War". And the note from Lawrence in 2010 says that you'd have to read the book to get it.)
- Do you say "breedmare"? I say "broodmare". No wonder we called the whole thing off.
- Ahem, excuse me? The weapons you find so objectionable in Attack of the Clones are called "seismic charges", not "sonic grenades". They're only ever seen to be deployed in an asteroid field, and work by shattering the rock like an earthquake, thereby sending huge chunks of matter towards the enemy. "Seismic", see? (Incidentally, I have a theory that there's space-sound in Star Wars because we're perceiving the story as a Jedi would, and that those with midichlorian mother's-little-helpers can sense explosions in a way we can only interpret as noise. Likewise, the soundtrack you find so inexcusable is analogous to the way Jedi Knights sense the emotional ebb and flow of any given event. What? No, really, what? If you've heard a funny joke, then maybe you'd like to share it with the rest of the class.)
As for the Master's fear-bleeper working in a vacuum, though... you didn't think to compare this with the is-it-live-or-is-it-telepathy sound in the early episodes of "The Sensorites"?
- Things That Don't Make Sense: did people really "write in" with explanations for the oddities in the first edition of this book, or do you still have a Blue Peter complex after failing to win any design-a-monster competitions, and thus like to imagine a literal postbag?
- Footnote 108: ah, I see you're still going on about Napoleon Dynamite as if we've seen it. More Scotch Egg Geology? On the other hand, footnote 109 is so aimless that it makes me wonder if you're telling the truth when you say you never drink. "You know who I hate? Chas 'n' Dave. Chas 'n' bloody Dave. D'you remember that Cockerel Chorus? Well, that was like Chas 'n'' Dave. What, you don't know Chas 'n' Dave...? Doesn't matter. Let's talk about '70s pop music some more. You're my best mate, you are."
- The comment about Robert Clive made me go back and read the prologue of Doctor Who and the Crusaders, and my conclusion is this: Martian Chess sounds sodding great, even better than Hangman's Cricket in Drowning by Numbers. (I may actually design the whole game, based on the hints Whitaker gives us here. This is the sort of thing that keeps me safe indoors.) However, I'm puzzled as to why the talking stones of Tyron in the Seventeenth Galaxy don't have the same fan-following as venom grubs.
- Splendid essay, though, even if the misplaced "tag" for footnote 114 makes it seem as if jingoism means driving on the wrong side of the road. Well... in a sense, I suppose it does.
"PLANET OF THE DALEKS"
(An allotrope of "The Daleks".)
- (To the tune of "Fascinating Rhythm".) "Ejaculatin' toadstools, you got me on the go, why you're always wanking, I'm all a-quiver." Considering the oddness of life on Spirodon, it's perfectly feasible for big fuzzy purple animals to be at large without anybody noticing. We know that the natives have a tendency to become visible when they die. Therefore, the big fuzzy purple animals might be lumbering around in front of us throughout the whole story, only ending up as (visible) fur coats once they snuff it. This would, if nothing else, explain the nearby humping noises while Taron and Rebec are declaring their love for each other. As you point out in Things That Don't Make Sense, it shouldn't be possible for invisible beings to see unless their retinae remain visible. And what's the only sign of animal life we witness on Spirodon, during the night-time scene at the ring of boulders...? Eyes, that's what. So if we're going to assume that invisibility is a physical process, then perhaps the Purpleoids (look, it's a Terry Nation world, they might actually be called that) are invisible apart from their eyes, which are too reflective to be noticeable in broad daylight. All of which brings us to your Bad Science Countdown…
- First off, you're explaining the problems with invisibility while taking a purely physics-driven view. You don't consider the possibility that the invisible creatures we... um... see in Doctor Who aren't literally bending light, and don't have this magical ability worked into their biomass, but possess some way of causing people not to perceive them. Leaving aside a small amount of Nation technobabble about 'light-ray sickness', the most obvious way for a living being to vanish itself is related to consciousness, either through an inherent mental ability (perhaps full-blown telepathy, perhaps just an instinctive version of the mesmerism practised by the Master) or for quantum reasons (which seems a lot more feasible after "Blink"). This is even semi-credible in evolutionary terms, especially if we assume that the same process can dampen sensory awareness beyond the visual, allowing the Spirodons to hide themselves from the eyes and noses of the native wildlife. The fact that Wester knows something about fungoid relief suggests that the spurt-flowers, lacking complex brains, can detect the natives and will occasionally shoot at them. Like the original Invisible Man, Wester becomes visible only once he's dead, as if the lack of consciousness has caused his talent to switch off. But nooooo, you always have to go for the "molecular" option, don't you?
- Bad Science Countdown, part two. The simplest explanation for the Z-bomb's ability to create a supernova is... oh, what a pleasant surprise... in "Interference": it was a product of the hyper-macho British arms industry, which got a big boost from the Thatcher government in the supposed era of "The Tenth Planet", and which frequently made out-of-proportion claims for its products. In much the same way that the British government of the '50s pretended to have an H-bomb (whereas in fact, it had a very big A-bomb that looked a bit like an H-bomb), the brochure for the Z-bomb made the "supernova" claim in order to impress people who didn't know much about space-science. Like... er... the commander of the Snowcap Tracking Base. Basically, it's the humans in this story that are improbable, not the hardware.
- Bad Science Countdown, part three. The question of how anyone discovered the effects of snorting dead Mandrel seems no more puzzling to me than the question of how anyone started putting weeds into their mouths and setting light to them. And I don't think I have to mention Hoffman's magic bicycle ride. A more interesting line of inquiry, though, is how vraxoin might have been treated by the subculture of the age. In the world of 2116, do badly-informed junkies start breaking into zoos and grinding up the mandrills?
- Bad Science Countdown, part four. "We've looked at the daft idea that the Time Lords somehow 'dented' reality and made all advanced species look like humans." Well, f*** you too. Look, you're just going to have to accept that some of us (to be honest, virtually everyone who's had any creative input into Doctor Who from the mid-'80s onwards... Gareth is probably an exception) would rather like the Time Lords to be the scary ultrapower from the centre of history that we've always been promised, not the tedious, self-indulgently Oxbridge versions we got from 1976 onwards. Even if you do want to see "The Deadly Assassin" as a deliberate undermining of legends, it's a joke that only works once, then renders all their subsequent appearances worthless. And let's face it, you only think the mythicised version is "daft" because - somewhat remarkably, from my perspective - your idea of how to do Time Lords properly is "The Invasion of Time". In which nothing about them makes sense, at all, on any level. Allowing this version to prevail is like letting Ian Hislop run Narnia.
(Note from Lawrence in 2010. I have absolutely no idea what I meant by that. And even if I did, it's still a peculiar way to end an argument. Mind you, I was right about everything else. Ah-hah! Here comes the bit where I get stroppy about minotaurs.)
- Oh, and behold! In the very same paragraph, there's a cheap shot about "computer nerds" hijacking the series in 1980, preceded by an echo of the most ludicrous parts of Volumes IV and V which claims that the makers of Tat's Favourite Era thought everything through properly. I hate to use coarse sarcasm, but since you're already scraping the bottom of the dialectic barrel, I should point out that the sentence "the Nimon is a credible life-form" can only really be spoken in a sing-song voice and followed by a "suuuure". The fact that it was originally conceived as a less-scary sort of alien in a bull-mask is hardly an excuse, partly because what we see on-screen still fires energy-beams from its horns (oh, for...), and partly because the last-minute change saved us from an ending that would've been more like Scooby Doo than anything in Buffy. And even more of an insult to Greek mythology than the banality we eventually got. "Gee, you mean the scary bull-headed monster was really just a Mr Jenkinsoid, a caretaker-race from Fairgroundus 6? He would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for some facile shite about a gravitic anomaliser."
Now, It's not unusual for your selective memory to attribute the worst vices of the late '70s to the early '80s, hence your claim that Chris Bidmead was the one who caused the series to get technobabble'd-up instead of quasi-science-gadget-freak Douglas Adams. Yet here there's a particular irony: although "Full Circle" may not have got evolution "right" (although we'll come back to this later), it did at least provoke children to think about the concept of biological change, whereas the Williams era treated alien biots - and, worse, alien cultures - as if they'd been sculpted out of Play-Doh purely in order for Tom Baker to have something to sneer at. And I do mean Tom Baker, not the Doctor. The Virus of the Swarm, the Vardans, the Ogri (the Ogri…!), Kroll, the Movellans (employed as a Monster Race, if not strictly biological), the Mandrels, and the Nimon are all at least as silly as an invisible species on a jungle planet; the Fendahl works aesthetically and conceptually, but certainly not biologically; and Erato, the only monster of the period that really was thought through properly, is let down (how apt) by the fact that David Fisher forgot to put any of his exhaustive background detail into the actual script.
Just to round off the hilarity, you end the essay by blaming Bidmead for everything that's wrong with a left-over Williams-era story, and by positing him as science's Anti-Pope for dressing up the bizarre plot-points with scientific-sounding terminology. Of course, the programme had been doing exactly the same thing for the previous three years... except that whenever Adams, the '70s version of David Fisher, or the Baker-Martin push-me-pull-you do it, you praise them for at least trying. I could go on, but I'll merely point out that perhaps the worst-ever add-scientific-sounding-words-and-people-will-swallow-this-garbage offender isn't from the late '70s or the early '80s, but from the Hinchliffe period. However, we've already dealt with "The Masque of Mandragora". Which does something far less excusable than shoving tachyons into an early-'80s SF script, by betraying the very ideal of scientific investigation.
- And on a point of accuracy rather than interpretation... what we're actually told in "Full Circle" isn't what you've claimed here. True, it's difficult to understand how the Marshmen and the Stop Borises are supposed to fit together, but - in a break from the Terry Nation version of biological development, and despite your best attempts to misreport it - the natives aren't in any way "destined" to become human. The Marshmen who broke into the Starliner evolved into humanoids because they found themselves living in an environment made for humanoids. In accord with the conventions of skiffy TV, there's a given reason for this happening faster than it would on most worlds (the local life is somehow super-adaptive, as the Doctor points out), yet the real peculiarity is that this is the story which gets the most basic principle of evolution right: it's a case of creatures adapting to their surroundings over generations, not a case of them having a built-in design for the future. The word "adaptation" is specifically used in this regard, so not only is your "the Marshmen evolved into humanoids because everything eventually does so" claim 180-degrees wrong, but you've missed the point of the entire story. I could've understood this if you'd been eight on first broadcast and I'd been seventeen, but honestly.
If there's a problem here, then it's the whiff of Lamarckianism in the Alzarians' super-healing abilities, with no solid line between "adaptation by evolution" and "adaptation of an individual". But with the Doctor stressing that an awful lot of time has to pass for Thing A to become Thing B, and Little Andrew Smith even providing us with a credible reason for Mistfall rather than resorting to the "alien planets just have funny seasons" malarkey of "The Mutants", this is a damn sight closer to proper bio-science than anything made in the '70s. (Q.v. an absolute howler like "Image of the Fendahl", in which evil turns out to be a genetic quantity that was somehow encoded into human DNA by an alien skull which itself looks human for no explicable reason. That's not just badly-thought-out, it's nicked from the pig-ignorant science-hating curmudgeon who wrote Quatermass.) Surely you could have read our notes on the story in Volume V before starting the rant? I mean, the whole point of About Time is that you can check these things without having to watch the episodes all the way through, which I'm sure would be a mercy from your point of view.
Okay, I'll boil this whole lump of congealed silliness down to a simple formula. "Mandragora" claims to be in favour of big-e Enlightenment, yet the "science" it employs is unmitigated bollocks from start to finish. The "science" in "Full Circle" is undisputedly flawed, yet it still provokes the more quizzical members of the audience to ask how things actually work. You were old enough in 1980 to be beyond this sort of prompting, which is why I keep imploring you to shut yer gutter about "computer nerds" (by which you seem to mean "inquisitive children from the generation after mine", myself included). But I still can't help feeling that when you were five years older and experiencing Hinchcliffe's finest hour, Doctor Who taught you a lesson that now seems incredibly banal. When I were an eight-year-old (and it were all fields round 'ere), I found out about adaptation to environment. Whereas when you were a thirteen-year-old (t'appen), you found out that superstitious people are stupid.
And, it seems that "Mandragora" is yet another interesting dictionary-sanctioned word which Microsoft's spell-checker refuses to acknowledge.
- "You want to know the really stupid thing about this? The idea wasn't even Terry Nation's." Now, there's a novelty. On which subject... as I write this, ITV4 is screening a Terry Nation episode of "The Saint". I've just witnessed a scene in which one of the villainous kidnappers (who've abducted the attractive daughter of a thick-headed multimillionaire, as per) complains about some milk being sour, and his partner tells him: 'Who needs milk, when we're about to get hold of a million dollars?' In itself, this is nearly on a level with 'I'm qualified in space medicine' or 'you've been infected by the fungoids', but the funny part is that this isn't an incidental part of the dialogue: the Milk Cutaway is a stand-alone scene, designed to remind us how greedy and one-dimensional the kidnappers are. Incredibly, Alan Stevens is still claiming that people only hate the author because he wouldn't let us play with Daleks.
(Note from Lawrence in 2010: Hi, Alan! As you can see, you've made your point, and it's been noted. You can stop pretending that Terry Nation's any good now. Please don't send me another discourse. No, really. Please don't.)
- Also, Microsoft thinks that the plural of "retina" is "retinas". Gitbastards.
"THE GREEN DEATH"
(Seepage from the chemical pipes makes this the archetypal Welsh story: everything comes down to leaks. Oggy oggy oggy!)
- You always insist on mentioning Sunny Delight when you're dealing with poisonous chemicals and giant insects, don't you (q.v. "Planet of Giants")? On a similarly childish note, my own first experience of Fuzzy Logic in the 1970s was a book owned by my cousin entitled Fuzzy Reasoning and Its Applications. To me, this sounded rather appealingly like Jungle Ted and the Lazy Button-Poppers.
- Since you've mentioned Gerry Davis' Doomwatch episode "The Web of Fear"... last month, the worryingly oft-mentioned ITV4 exposed me to an episode of UFO entitled "Timelash". I was amazed to find that it was even more off its face than "ours", and involved Ed Bishop machine-gunning a villain in a time-travelling go-kart. But you probably knew that. (Note from Lawrence in 2010: The person who's machine-gunned to death in a time-travelling go-kart is Voice-Over Man from The X-Factor. No, really!)
- Reading your notes on the use of the words "middle class", it strikes me that Russell T. Davies has missed a trick here. Given the current obsession with Daily Mail self-absorption in TV comedy, we might reasonably have expected him to give us an invasion story in which the first words spoken by the aliens are: "So, what are the schools like in this galaxy?" As things turned out, the closest we came was the Cabinet meeting in "Torchwood: Slow, Children Exploding".
"THE TIME WARRIOR"
(Robert Holmes gets medieval on yo ass. Praise the Lord, and pass the Sontaran fragmentation grenades.)
- "…the first use of time-travel for humour, Mark Twain's 'A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court'." No, I think you'll find that Johan Wessel beat him to it by 108 years. Although I'll try not to dwell on the knowledge that the idea was first employed by a Norwegian.
- Regarding the alleged appearance of medieval potatoes... given the overuse of the "spud" gag in recent Sontaran outings, we might theorise that if there really are any potato-like growths in Irongron's kitchen, then they may have budded from Lynx himself. Or they may be aborted embryos from his pod's damaged gene-banks, which he surely wouldn't allow to go to waste. For similar reasons, I'd rather date this story to the late 1200s than the 1100s, just so we can do the obvious joke. "Do these potatoes belong to the Sontarans?" "No, they're King Edward's."
- "…the modern-sounding family in 'The Fires of Pompeii' have to be treated as a Flintstones-style joke that backfired." Personally, the thing I find most irritating about "I, Capaldius" is the contrived use of 'ants in honey' to suggest something unthinkable that's no more bizarre to the natives than Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes are to us. Now, when I was growing up in the fabled town of Walton-upon-Thames (we moved away when I was five, in 1977, so I instinctively associate the town with the Hinchcliffe era as well as Psychomania), there was a specialist Age of Aquarius-y food shop down the road which sold chocolate-covered ants as trendy confectionery. That was the '70s. Thirty-odd years ago. And candied insects is the modern Doctor Who author's idea of hilariously unlikely period detail...?
- A point not mentioned in the revised "What Caused the Sontaran-Rutan War?" essay, possibly because it was just too irritating, is that the Sontaran point of origin is specifically identified as the planet Sontar in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Which implies, but doesn't prove, a biological origin of some description. Then again, they might just have given that name to their wartime base of operations. The FASA Role-Playing Game, known for its immense quantities of made-up source material and its influence on at least three New Adventures authors, boldly / baldly stated that "Sontar" was the name of the general who led a military coup on his homeworld and began replacing the population with clones of himself. Despite supplying the Doctor Who continuum with yet another Mad Creator origin story, it's perhaps more consistent with Sontaran thinking for a planet to be named after a historical figure than for the species to be named after a planet. At least if you interpret "Sontaran thinking" to involve Maori war-dances and appellations that even Robert E. Howard would have found distressing.
"INVASION OF THE DINOSAURS"
("Lifeless and stinky.")
- Reading your notes on this story's origin, it occurs to me that the entire project would have worked beautifully if someone had walked into an early production meeting and said: "Right. Malcolm? Do the story with the mad environmentalists, but team them up with the Silurians. Barry? You can have one dinosaur in London, and that's it." If you imagine the affair as "Doctor Who and the Cave-Monster Invasion", then you not only replace all those car chases and government conspiracies with a much more complex moral theme (the Silurians want their Golden Age at least as much as the Tom-and-Barbara eco-terrorists, and would have a proper justification for bringing back the Eocene while messing up humanity), but also supply a decent reason for the Madness of Mike Yates (we're led to believe that he was hanging around with UNIT even during Season Seven, so Wenley Moor may have been eating at his conscience). Besides, it would've been the perfect way to lower the curtain on the UNIT era. God! Just thinking about it makes me want to write the story as an ersatz Target novelisation... no, that way lies darkness.
- But as things stand, Whitaker's sorcerous time-reversal process is the best possible candidate for "captured alien technology" during the UNIT years. I'll stop short of suggesting that they really did defrost some Sea Devil temporal specialists, but we might still speculate that the powers-that-be (you know who I'm talking about, I refuse to speak their name again) have been quietly making notes on the activities of both the Doctor and the Master, and that Whitaker's allies have used their government connections to feed him the data. In which case, this whole story is the Doctor's fault after all, just like General Finch claimed.
- Is the 'we looked into this very carefully… I sold my house' line really deserving of a place in the Things That Don't Make Sense section? Surely, the Home Counties pettiness of this (with humanity facing a mass unbirthing and all) is what Hulke was drawing our attention to? In short, the People are the textbook models of Nauseatingly Middle-Class. "So, what are the schools like in this epoch?" I'd also question whether the secret entrances in Whitehall and Moorgate actually necessitate a complex as big as a village, or whether they just indicate a very long tunnel. Which, as I'm sure you know, can be built under London without anybody asking difficult questions. Pleasantly, though, the presence of queer-looking tyrannosaurs in Britain (rather than, say, North America) is a little more convincing after last month's non-hadron-related science headlines.
- It's worth remembering that although non-virtual skills have been somewhat overshadowed by CGI in recent years, the art-cum-science of complex model-building has come on by leaps and bounds in the last three decades. So... since a makeover from The Mill is thankfully out of the question, has the Restoration Team thought of replacing the abysmal dinosaur puppets in this story with good dinosaur puppets? Which wouldn't clash with the half-decent Sleeping Rex footage.
NEWSFLASH: My contact at a well-known supplier of movie props has just informed me that since remote-controlled armatures are twenty times cheaper and more efficient than they were in 1974, they could quite easily build a full-length tyrannosaurus puppet that actually resembles Cliff Culley's close-up model. Gosh, that would be exciting!
- I've also got 1,724 words to say about your incredibly daft arguments in the "Special Effects" essay, but I've laid into you enough already, so I'll leave it for now. If you ever want someone to tell you how your loathing for the twenty-first century is interfering with your logical faculties, then you know where I am.
- Oh, and don't dis At the Earth's Core, or I'll pop a cap in yo Galu ass.
"DEATH TO THE DALEKS"
(An allotrope of shite.)
- Dunno if I've mentioned this before, but: whenever I'm writing a first draft, if I need to leave a space for extra research or an obvious rewrite, I always mark the passage with "xx". Virtually no English words contain these letters in a pair, so it's easy to find the paragraphs that need work using the "search" function. Which was fine... until I had to write about a race called the Exxilons, who live in the City of the Exxilons, on a planet called Exxilon. In story XXX.
- Re: Florana. So what's wrong with floating in fizzy warm milk? Now I'm picturing a version of "The Time Meddler" in which the Monk travels back to ancient Egypt and provides Cleopatra with a Sodastream. On a similar note, "Old Mother Shipton will fossilise your teddy-bear in under a year" reads like a highly specialised advert in a newsagent's window.
- Things That Don't Make Sense: hang on, why do we have to assume that Daleks should be able to float, just because they're powered by psychokinesis this week? Even a complete David Whitaker might instinctively suppose that it takes a greater amount of energy to defy gravity than to roll. I use my hands (rather than my mind) to shift furniture, but the ability to do this doesn't mean that I can throw a sofa two-hundred feet in the air. At best, you'd only expect a Dalek to be able to hop a bit.
- The most entertaining thing about the essay is that without realising it, you've suggested the possibility that Daleks have hereditary mathematicians. The second most entertaining thing is the suggestion that there were actually rewrites for "Journey's End". A possibility you've almost-but-not-quite considered, though: when asking whether Daleks might compete among themselves for status, you're assuming that all Dalek mutants end up in shells. If we take it as read that Davros has a "survival of the fittest" mentality, then it'd make more sense for him to put all the newborns into a big tank and let them rip each other to pieces until there's a suitable number of natural-born killers left alive. This would be an effective way of finding the best candidate for Dalek Supreme, and would explain everything from the superiority complex of Big Red to the species' peculiar liking for both The Weakest Link and Big Brother. (Possibly even What Not to Wear. "Red's back in a big way... it's exciting, it's sexy, and best of all, it makes you invisible to your own subordinates. They can't overthrow you if they can't find you.") We might also note that Davros seems to have used an awful lot of his own cells to produce his army in "The Stolen Earth", as if it isn't quite a one-cell-per-finished-product deal.
"THE MONSTER OF PELADON"
(Altogether now: "YYY, Thaliria… Vega Nexos in the Weetabix.")
- Things That Don't Make Sense: "Eckersley expects a Martian to know what 'argy-bargy' means." And, indeed, hundreds of other English words. But we might simply conclude that Martians, unlike Norwegians, know how to contextualise. And…
- "Equally puzzling is how the Doctor figured out that Aggedor can follow a scent." What, with a schnozz like that? (Aggedor, not Pertwee.) The only surprising thing is that it leads him straight to Eckersley, rather than the nearest supply of truffles.
- Footnote 139: I think you'll find that the hamster's female. And now I'm tempted to put these notes on the internet, just to intrigue and frustrate those people who don't have the book. (Note from Lawrence in 2010: Past-Me is so wise.)
- Interesting fact about the Face of Boe toys you mention in the essay: due to an unprecedented mix-up at Character Options, every single one of them has the features of Julian Glover. For the last time in this volume, though, I have to correct you on your cultural interpretation of Star Wars. As any boy who was six in 1978 will tell you, the cornerstone of the merchandising was the action-figure collection, which genuinely did break new ground by being within pocket-money range. My diabetes resulted in the largest Star Wars army in South London, purely because a Stormtrooper cost less than some kids spent on sugar mice in a single week. Whereas before that point, all "make-an-adventure" toys - including those associated with Planet of the Apes, if you recall - were on the Action Man scale, and could therefore only turn up at Christmas. I won't try to claim that Star Wars democratised space-age merchandising, but it did make a big difference to the way my generation saw toys. And, more interestingly, the way we used those toys to tell stories...
"PLANET OF THE SPIDERS"
(The Great One keeps giving it the Big I Am.)
- "Seeing the Doctor frightened is way more disturbing than watching him die." Oh, riiiiight. But when I make the same broad point about the first two cliffhangers of "The Leisure Hive", suddenly I'm the mad one.
- Look, I've got to ask... have you ever tried to build a Hieronymus Device? Because if you can supposedly make it work with a drawing instead of a proper circuit, then I'm thinking it's hardly going to be a big-budget exercise. (On a slightly grander scale, I've always had a hankering to construct my own orgone chamber according to Reich's blueprints, just to test whether the AMA knew what it was talking about.)
- Where Does This Come From?: I'd just like to mention that when The Prisoner was repeated on Channel 4 in the early '80s, it was one of the first things I regularly taped on the family VCR, and I eventually showed some of the recordings to my bestest friend at school. He was twelve years old and had no background in either telefantasy or pop-Buddhism, yet even he guessed the identity of Number One after the first half-dozen episodes. I mean, who else would it be? Mr Kipling?
- Something I can't believe you didn't point out: when Lupton and friends use their Evil Zen to try to stop Sarah, the "demon" which manifests itself in front of her takes the form of a tractor on a country road. See "The Temptation of Sarah Jane" to find out why this is her idea of the worst thing imaginable (and yes, I know it's been back-engineered that way by Gareth, but even so)...
- Also, an extra Thing That Doesn't Make Sense. Who on Metabelis 3 gives their child a name like "Arak"? At best, it's going to result in a good kicking from all the other kids. At worst, it's going to be seen as presumptuous by the Eight-Legs and get him eaten before his first birthday.
- "Angry Buddhists - if such a thing can be imagined." You may recall the schism in Buddhism at the turn of this century, and the subsequent demonstrations which saw breakaway Buddhists carrying placards that bore slogans like: "Dalai Lama! Stop Oppressing Us, Please." (Note from Lawrence in 2010: Really, that was a genuine placard.)
- Onto the essay. If you saw Russell T. Deus being interviewed on breakfast TV, then you'll know that the "thirteen strikes and you're dead" rule does still apply, but that he believes they can always come up with a 'magic wand' to extend the Doctor's life once the regenerations run out. Given the nature of all four of his Season Finalés, hearing him explicitly use the words 'magic wand' was rather disquieting.
- Meanwhile, the ruminations on the nature of Captain Jack's immortality make me remember Pinter's poem about a cancer being "a cell that's forgotten how to die". This raises the possibility that if Jack's own wrongness is a threat to the health of space-time, as both the Doctor and the TARDIS seem to believe, then it may be capable of spreading. Sure enough, one of Jack's gang in Torchwood "coincidentally" becomes almost-immortal after spending time in his presence, as a result of the most thoroughly pointless story-arc in television history. Therefore, the events of "Exit Wounds" can be thought of as a form of chemotherapy, only less entertaining. And if that's true, then it might be necessary for Time Lords to change - which is to say, to take on a new biological identity when they regenerate rather than rebuilding their bodies according to the old pattern (something which seems to be possible, if we're forced to believe "Journey's End") - in order to avoid having a carcinogenic effect on the universe. Which makes more sense of the 'cheating death' comment, as well as implying that David Tennant has become a liability even in story terms.
With thanks to Lindsay for helping me move this text from a very old computer to t'internet.
Monday, December 13, 2010
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