Sunday, September 28, 2008

Blake's 7 Reborn Rebel Retardation

I've blogged at length about my doubts at the prospect of reviving Blake's 7 - quite simply, unless it's a direct continuation, it's completely pointless to reboot the format. At the time of B7 Productions In Association With Sci-Fi Channel's attempts to knock out Earth out of orbit by making Terry Nation spin in his grave to the nth degree, I naively hoped that the reboot that was undoubtedly at hand would be a necessary evil to get back to the show we knew and loved. After the inevitably-horrid pilot, it would get better, right?

I managed, I think, the first three five minute chapters of the first story on a very poor digital audio service before I gave up completely. Now, I shall give it a proper listening, all the way through. Is it really that bad? I had mediocre hopes that Ben Aaronovitch would be in more Remembrance than Battlefield mood, and with the Nation Estate's vice like grip on the bollocks of those who dare try to play with his toys, well, surely this couldn't be so bad? Could it? Paul Darrow himself disowning the product before it began wasn't as ominous as it could have been, right?


CHAPTER ONE: Hard Targets

"In the 23rd century, the Galactic Federation was no longer a beacon of democracy and peace. It had become a corrupt tyrrany, ruled by elite factions who cared nothing for the fate of ordinary people. Freedom and justice are things of the past. One man chose to oppose this..."

Definitely not a good way to start. Why exactly couldn't they use the original theme music, or at least the tune itself? It was written as an uplifting athem of hope and adventure. This just has a mean, military drumming that does and means absolutely nothing. And then we get Avon doing a completely pointless voiceover. Why? I know such voiceovers are used in many shows on SciFi, but usually a brief soundbite over the premise of the show, ala "So, you're wondering why these spacemen are quite clearly looking for a fight?" or "The reason why there's only one human being in this show is because..."

It's not a good bit of prose, especially as it seems to say "Hey, there was this mythical happy fun time land full of shiny happy people whose magical candy dreams all came true - but then it became real life! One man said no!" What bollocks. What utter, utter bollocks. In just one sentence they've completely missed the point of the original show and made Blake bigger than than his cause, which is of course what Blake didn't want - right to the end he insisted that he was as expendable as anyone else in the fight. And if Blake is so freaking important to the new format, why is Avon doing the voiceover? Arguably, Avon was the central character of the show, but does he give any of his cynical cutting comments here? Does he give any sign of emotion or personality whatsoever? Nope.

Colin Salmon as Avon. Known to me (and probably a few others) as the black guy in M15 in the Brosnan James Bond flicks, he didn't strike me as an instant candidate for the role (mind you, I still can't think of anyone who could do it... maybe John Simms?). Certainly I wasn't fussed at Avon suddenly being black. The original series made it quite clear that any prejudice comes from social grading rather than ethnic background, which is why Anglo Saxon Vila is generally treated like dirt and Dark Lady Dayna acts like minor royalty. But it's quickly clear that Salmon is something of a Sylvester McCoy type actor. He works best when you can see his eyes, body language, etc. He is not one who relies solely on his voice which is tragic because, well, hey, this is audio people! In fact, it seems he has been chosen solely because his deep and precise voice is reminiscent of Paul Darrow's. Not that he's actually good. I'll reserve further judgement, since the only role I can really judge him involved him playing a cheerful, friendly, not-at-all-sinister man. Who turned out to be exactly that.

Next rant: 23rd century? Why?! It seems every sci-fi show is set there, from Red Dwarf to Babylon Five to Space: Above and Beyond to Star Trek (maybe... I dunno about stardate translation to the gregorian calendar). Presumably the logic is that 'two hundred years allows huge advancement in technology but not enough to render it incomprehensible to the audience'. Yet this is the same 'world' that achieved peace, freedom, prosperity and democracy and then instantly went downhill. Based on a series set in the far, far, far future where civilization had nuked itself back into the stone age more than once on every planet in the galaxy.

Gosh, I haven't even gone past the opening monologue. This could get tough.

Helicopters and SWAT teams are targeting a specific apartment lead by some guy named Travis who chats on a walkie talkie to his boss, Servalan. Once again, Servalan 2.0 is chosen because of her vocal similarity to Jacqueline Pearce (now the genuine article has abandoned civilization to play with monkeys) rather than bona fide audio talent, but it seems to be something completely different with Travis. He doesn't seem to be a reimagined version of our monocular madman, but just a rather useless young soldier Servalan bullies. Thus "Travis" is a kind of fourth wall gag. Both TV versions could be scary, but this weak, fey sounding soldier seems to be manning the ship while the genuine man in charge pops to the toilet. Oh, did I mention HELICOPTERS?! In the 23rd century?!

No doubt this and many other such anachronisms are to make the story seem more real to contemporary audiences who of course cannot concentrate on anything for more than five minutes at a time. Why not set the whole thing in the here and now, then? Huh? What's B7 Enterprises' explanation for this?

The SWAT team exchanges wannabe tough-sounding military buzzwords as they kick down the door of the apartment and discover... their prey has already left and got past them. But what's this? Our elusive fugitive has dangled a frying pan from the ceiling of his living room with the words "YOU HAVE BEEN BRAINWASHED" carved on it. Why exactly he couldn't use note paper or say, paint this on the walls, escapes me. I might even grant this points for being slightly creepy in a They Live kind of way, but then the apartment explodes. Why did this mysterious rebel blow up his apartment and kill all the law enforcers and put countless others at risk? Why leave such an eccentric note? What's the point? And are we really supposed to sympathize with a man who deliberately murders enemies with booby traps? Servalan didn't have the apartment bombed, so all the possible sympathies are left with the authorities. I may have been brainwashed, but I'll take that over being blown up by a man who leaves frying-pan-o-grams around the place.

The dialogue so far has been functional to say the best with cunning bitch Servalan's lethal wit consisting of "Travis, go there and sort it out" while she complains to Clinician Havant (because, you know, calling him Doctor Havant like the original would be far too dated and audience-unfriendly). Blake has left an abusive vodcast out on the internet where he basically shouts "The Government is corrupt!" with no evidence or clarification. They're just bad, mmkay? Of course, no proper democracy would ever employ a woman like Servalan who appears to be more interested in how much she can move her tongue while speaking than the rights of the working man.

London is placed in lockdown as the really-really-deeply-pathetic "Travis" feebly begs his army to search for "Supervising Engineer Roj Blake" in as drammatic a manner as possible. Because, you know, they always wait until all the armed forces are right outside before explaining any kind of objective. What exactly does Blake's job description have to do with anything? If you're going to recreate Blake as a lethal terrorist with no interest in collatoral damage, why keep his job the same? Make him a schoolteacher like Nation wanted if you really want to get under the skin of the audience... You let this guy near YOUR children. Mr Frying-Pan-O-Gram-Of-Death. As "Travis" continues in his quest to make himself Actor Worse Than Chip Jamison, he reminds us all that Blake is a career terrorist and completely ruthless. Begs the question of why you let him have an apartment block in Shephard's Bush, really, doesn't it?

Servalan is not best pleased that "the most popular opposition leader of the last 100 years" on the loose with all those unexplained nasty memories back in place. How the hell did Roj "Frying Pan of DOOM" Blake get so popular? Do Londoners dig the fact he will kill to get ahead in the game or something? Has everyone taken out insurance on their homes in the hope he can bomb them? Was he just really popular on Ant and Dec? These questions, along with how the hell Federation brainwashing didn't take (or why their society is so anarchic given their ability to rewrite the minds of their citizens) are ignored. Havant has absolutely no idea how Blake regained these still unexplained memories back, but reveals that, on the offchance, the Federation implant homing devices in the little fingers of their subjects. On the offchance the brainwashing fails and they turn into terrorists, you know. Standard procedure. If only they had security cameras everywhere, but this is a world that barely has mobile phones...

Hmm. A man with an imbedded homing beacon on the run from a conspiracy that involved mind-wiping... this is Total Recall! Except Total Recall didn't suck! In fact, it was closer to the original Way Back with Arnie's character being an ordinary Joe whose life is turned upside down when he suddenly realizes he was someone else. Instead, we get all this from the evil authority's point of view. Which of course makes us care a damn about the so-called central character of this. Having seen Derek Riddell in Tooth & Claw and the much-better-as-a-Who-spin-off-than-Torchwood, Shakespeare Retold: Much Ado About Nothing, I have to say he seemed a decent bet as Blake 2.0. However, he definitely suffers McCoy syndrome more than the others. When he confronts one of his followers about their loyalty to the cause, he barely sounds like he cares. On TV, he might have been deliberately being coy, or icy controlled, or maybe just exhausted from his flight from justice. Here, it sounds very much like he's trying to read the script and the newspaper simultaneously.

Having somehow known about the implant, Blake cuts off his own finger, drops in the luggage of some poor schmuck getting on a spaceship, then - bleeding profusely, because he's REALLY thought this through - staggered back to the home of his old pal Ravella. Since this is audio, it's quite possible to leave Blake as a four-fingered man, but no, it seems any decent first aide kit can REGROW limbs with nanites. Coz... 23rd century. They don't use nanites anywhere else, of course, like say in weaponry or security. Blake is completely annoyed at the collapse of the rebel movement after he sent a vodcast telling them to do just that (in one of the first bits of ripped off dialogue, Ravella says "You were very convincing." Right. You saw a youtube vid and didn't suspect your corrupt government had ANYTHING to do with it. You deserve to be oppressed).

Showing the usual consistency of the script so far, Ravella explains that actually, they didn't really abandon the cause of freedom just because of Blake (despite what she said five seconds previous), but they actually all individually sold out to the Federation to save their own lives. What kind of extremists are you!? What the hell did the Federation bother programming Blake instead of just rounding up all the subversives and threatening to kill them all? Why not brainwash the lot of them?

Blake meanwhile shows himself to be as intelligent and cunning as the old Frying Pan gag suggested. After Ravella explains she sold out, and that she's drugged Blake to knock him out so she can call the authorities, he keeps asking her what choice she's made? For fuck's sake, Blakey boy, the fact she's saying she's "so so sorry" as you lose consciousness MIGHT just be construed as a clue...

And so the end of chapter one. Dear God. Gareth Roberts noted that only someone TRULY talented could screw up a part one. How little did he know...

CHAPTER TWO: Enemy of the State

"When one's being crucified, it's always good to know who's banging in the nails..."

Well, we're half way through the plot of The Way Back, and hasn't it been shite so far? This chapter cuts to the robot-run court of law as Blake is put on trial for... child molestation. Did we turn two pages at once? Why does the Federation need this to discredit Blake when he HAS no credit? All his supporters are on their payroll and the man himself is guilty of five deaths, arson, terrorism and perverting the course of justice! Why, if the Federation is so fucking corrupt and evil does it need to give a trial AT ALL?!

Certainly, anyone listening to this anew would be baffled as to where the hell these kiddy fiddling charges have come from, and judging the quite insane behavior of Blake we've seen ("I shall cut off my own finger - you never know, there might be a tracking device in there!"), should we really put such stuff past this "charismatic" psychopath? Simply announcing he's disgusted at the trivial use of this huge narrative concept (well, let's pretend that's what he's disgusted at), Blake fires his lawyer and decides to defend himself. Presumably with frying pans, high explosives and bread knives.

As there's no hint of any kind that Blake's lawyer is bent, this seems remarkably foolish. Nevertheless, the judge decides to let the foolish Blake defend himself because, you know, multiple rapists and child abusers should be indulged, surely? When the prosecution accuses Blake of being an obvious guilty man mocking the judicial system, I can only nod in agreement. So will you as Blake explains that he doesn't expect to get a fair trial and asks for "four years to overthrow the current government".

Oh ha fucking ha.

Actually, to be fair, rubbish fourth-wall breaking aside, that's not a bad joke. I can easily imagine some Little Britain/Fast Show catchphrase character constantly justifying his procrastination on the grounds he has to overthrow the government before going to the laundrette. But this is not a sketch show. This is supposed to be serious science fiction. Or at least drama. Yes, Pizza Supreme. DRAMA!! Blake shows absolutely no interest in the concept of being dubbed a molester of minors, and shows what is generally known of in this solar system as "contempt of court". This is not a smart move, therefore, and begs the questions

a) why should we take this seriously when Blake doesn't?
b) why is the judge so indulgent when she's twice accused of being corrupt?
c) what the hell does Ben Aaronovitch think he's doing using child abuse as COMIC RELIEF?!

Meanwhile, Servalan and Havant watch on in mild disbelief, mainly at the fact this oh-so-corrupt-and-evil regime has allowed Blake to be tried by an independent judge not already under their control and who is indulging a multiple-murderer and accused pedophile. However, clearly everyone on Planet Aaronovitch is unfussed at such hideous acts, as the news reporter on the scene can only deem these charges "pretty serious", and Blake himself forgoes the Traffikanti Defense for the Aaronovitch Defense: "You're all evil and corrupt and I don't have to listen to you, so there!" This, ladies and gentlemens, leave you in no doubt why the A-Man never got a job as a defense attorney.

Now, I myself dabbled in legal studies (out of the sole reason that all my friends were... oh yeah, I was a sheep but at least I was a fashionable sheep), and the fact that the children aren't in court is, as the prosecution notes, completely legal and with precedent. Blake wants to prove that the children aren't just computer sprites by visiting them in person. This would be damned difficult if he was NOT the self-same person accused of sexually abusing them, and yet somehow Blake doesn't seem to think the kids would be brainwashed by the self-same corrupt administration so clearly out to get him. Blake, you aren't just a fool, you're a bloody idiot.

Blake agrees to compromise by getting the judge herself to meet the kids and ascertain whether or not they actually exists, and we learn that not only have the conspirators not put any kind of plan in place for this happening, their contingency consists of trying to intimidate the judge. Who retorts she herself is an ex-soldier and revolutionary. And thus, (legal hat here) not the sort of person to be allowed to judge Blake. It's called in the business a conflict of interest. Aaronovitch is seemingly convinced that judges are literally laws unto themselves and their conduct is controlled only by blackmail - as the judge is willing to let Blake off scot free, despite his very OBVIOUS guilt of other crimes.

So when the big boys come round to intimidate the judge, it is completely unnecessary. I mean, in today's world, she could easily be replaced quite legally. But no, Aaronovitch of the Bailey here wants to play hard ball!

Meanwhile, Servalan turns up to chat with Blake and we discover - rather disappointingly - that this rebooted Bitch in White only got to where she was today by her incredibly rich and powerful family. Not anything to do with her incredible ruthless and double-dealing two-faced evil megalomaniacal genius. And Servalan 2.0 seems to be lacking this something chronic. Since all the signs are that the Federation want this trial to be above board to fool the public, why the hell does the boss of ALL Earth security make a public visit to the prisoner in the dock?! Make your mind up at how corrupt the Federation IS, A-Man, it'll save a lot of time.

Servalan finally reveals (shock!) that the child molestation stuff is totally faked to discredit Blake (cue another gratuitious bit of nicked dialogue). And she has decided to come all the way down here to incriminate herself because... erm... she wants to offer Blake a job. Not that sort, you filthy little monkeys. Servalan agrees that the Federation is on the point of collapse, and the Auronar are just waiting to take over. Yes. The Auronar, those gutless, inane, isolationists who didn't notice two massive space wars involving humanity. This is the equivalent of the "Stuck in the Middle With You" scene from Reservoir Dogs featuring Mother Teresa. Servalan explains that she will threaten the judge's grandchildren to get him convicted, so either he's deported or he works for her.


Let's assume that she's so powerful she can turn up to the jailhouse laughing, "Hah! You are SO innocent because I, Servalan, framed you!" with no comebacks. Let's assume she is devoted to saving humanity from the Auronar. She wants to achieve this by recruiting Frying Pan Blake. Not by brainwashing him, but by blackmailing him. So her best case scenario has mad suicide bomber Blake on her staff. Of the system he idly chats about destroying in public. Why not just shoot him? Clone him if necessary?

Blake chooses deportation over working inside the system he is trying to overthrow (those exact words - what a flair for dialogue old Benny-boy has!). Annoyed, Servalan storms off, clearly forgetting Sherrif Vasey's final word about negotiation: "You don't GIVE them a choice". In order to cap this most completely-missing-the-point sequence of the story so far, Blake decides to quote The Prisoner and says, "Be Seeing You." Why? Because... er... that's what they do in Babylon 5, that's why!

Note: that answer seems to be the mission statement of these audio adventures.

So, the judge has been blackmailed off-screen and we cut to the sentence being carried out as Blake is sentenced to live on a penal planet for the rest of his life. Odd how this corrupt, decadent society doesn't have him taken out the back and shot dead? If a pedophile is sent to a prison planet - let me make this clear, they are sent to ANOTHER planet at the taxpayer's expense - well, what happens to the BIG criminals? Hmmm? Got an answer for that one, Aaronovitch?

All in all, I'm amazed at how Benji turns half an episode into a few scenes and then one scene into a whole episode. Presumably this is the freedom allowed by making all the characters morons and forgetting which century/genre/universe this story is supposed to be set within. And it's pronounced "hay nuss", for the record.

CHAPTER THREE: First Contact

"Good god..."

And so, in less than ten minutes we're now rewriting Space Fall (by the way, great title isn't it? Not planet fall, land fall, but space fall, as in 'arrival in space' of the Liberator). The Beginning managed this in about fifteen minutes cutting from Blake's arrest to sentencing to leaving Earth in a brilliant bit of editing that I never once suspected removed more than the opening titles. Nevertheless, Aaronovitch once again seems to be completely missing the whole raison d'tre of the first four episodes. The reason WHY the alien spaceship doesn't turn up until the last ten minutes allows us to introduce the cast for the episode, their reactions to each other and so on. Without it, not only do you lose the brilliant and edgy state of play (have Vila and Avon ever been as harsh and bereft of hope since?), it causes the whole plot to collapse.

Why do the prison guards send the computer expert, the pilot and the insane rebel - the three people MOST likely to nick the bloody thing - to the spaceship? Because it's killed the important ones. Because those three are the ones in charge of a failed rebellion and who can be sacrificed with less fuss than ever. Because Raiker, Blake and Jenna have a truly nasty love triangle. Take away the first half of the episode, and we have the equivalent of asking vampires to mind the blood bank and when our... main characters, for want of a better term, pinch the motor, you come to the sickening realization that humanity has evolved backwards in the 23rd century. Or maybe just Aaronovitch himself.

The worst bit is, of course, Aaronovitch mindlessly cut and pasting the more memorable dialogue with the same mindless optimism. When Kerr Avon is described as "the number two hacker" we not only have an ugly distortion of the original gag, it comes as a ridiculous joke from a prison warder. Whereas in the original, Vila was making a characteristic dig at Avon while introducing him. It was a good moment of writing. Here, it's like Aaronovitch is grabbing us by the hair and screaming "I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING!"

And it shows. He keeps the idea that it takes months upon months to travel from Earth to Cygnus Alpha, despite the fact that was only done to give time for the characters to interact. Without it, there's no point making the trip so lengthy, so A-Man decides that all the prisoners are placed in suspended animation for the voyage, ala Pitch Black. Actually, this isn't that bad an idea as it clearly saves the ship on food and oxygen, but again, it's an incredible amount of trouble when surely they could just be shot? And why is such steps taken when the ships here work on hyperspace jumps? In Babylon Five, crossing the civilized galaxy takes no more than a few days via hyperspace, traffic permitting...

And surely if we're using cryogenics, you could have been REALLY radical and had Blake be from another century together, a kind of Demolition Man/Adam Adamant character shocked at the downturn society has taken.

Oh, wait. That would require imagination. My mistake.

We get a new character today, or at least one that isn't a Terry Nation character written incredibly badly. It's India Fisher as Mezin. Now, as anyone who can't block out my insane jabberings knows, I got a lot of time for Indie, and she does pretty well here as the bored, depressed and cynical Federation soldier. Any flaws are, therefore, because she's got less well-thought-out motives and characterization than Dainer, that guard in Space Fall who was a good friend of Vila but still mowed down prisoners without flinching. Mezin is ugly - end of story. Check out Indie's performance as Sentris and it shows you she can do wonders with competent material. Hell, the average Charley script by Nick Briggs gives her better stuff to do than this.

It's a curse of every writer under the sun to focus on certain characters because they're more interesting than others. It's just a fact. Rob Holmes did it. Saward did it. Moffat does it too. Sometimes it's because the character is more complex and dynamic than the others, it's the one the writer knew best or because you actually created the character in question. None of this explains exactly what is up with Jenna and Avon this week. Did Aaronovitch not care enough about their characters to get them even vaguely right? Or, more terrifyingly, he gave them all the care and attention he could give?

"Strictly white collar" Avon comes across as much like the character Paul Darrow played as David Tennant does of being a Christopher Eccleston impersonator. No, that's too close a match. Salmon's Dr. Moon character is closer to Avon than this chap. Despite Salmon's vocal similarity to Darrow, his second line of dialogue in the show is be turned on at the idea of auto-erotic-asphyxiation. Not exactly the reserved, upper class aristocrat who has lived this long by being totally inscrutable. Again, Avon 2.0 is not so much a rubbish character, but that he's supposed to be a cooler version of Avon 1. He's not supposed to be auditioning for the role of Nigel Verkoff on heat.

But Avon is just the original in dark glasses compared to Jenna. I was... not REALLY impressed with Carrie Dobro as Dureena in Crusade. But that could be down to the script who makes a compulsive thief, tunnel rat and alien schizophrenic unable to say two words without bursting into Shakespearian monologues of COMPLETELY unnecessary exposition. As Cally, she might have been good. As Jenna, she's a rabid feral Leela type character who at first I assumed had gone insane from cryosleep. But no. How exactly does a nutter like this last as an infamous smuggler and pilot? Again, had it been Cally, I might have bought her desperation, but this leads to a complete change of personality. The only point of her waking up psychotic is to allow Benji to have a girl fight and put Jenna in bondage devices from The Liesure Hive but have been nicked from Babylon Five by mistake. Yay.

Some plot. Blake, Avon and Jenna are defrosted to act as Canaries (in the Red Dwarf sense of the term) to salvage a freaking huge alien derelict from plunging into a star because... well... er. The crew want to salvage it for some reason. As they don't seem to be the inquisitive type, and there's no mention of prize money for salvage, I'm at a loss, especially why they didn't just email Earth to sort it out. And is an alien craft so big a deal when the Auronar are muscling in on human territory? Come to think of it, even if the terrible trio can be trusted not to nick the space ship, it's very unlikely they'll be able to control it anyway, isn't it? Egads, it's like a season one ep of Torchwood as the plot melts like ice cream in the sun...

After some domination kinkyness from Mezin over Jenna (was the A-Man getting a tad frustrated while writing this ep?), she describes her "overwhelming superiority" in terms of space suits, guns and "control collars" until Blake points out that they're wasting the episode with this trash/that they're running out of time to salvage the derelict. With Jenna suddenly transformed into an emotionless ground controller saying things like "good to go", they enter the airlock of the alien.

It's a sad thing I end up wishing that that spooky brain thing that gives you screaming hallucinations and then kills you is waiting for them. It's not a good sign when your Raiker analogue is more interesting, consistent and sympathetic than the three main characters...

CHAPTER FOUR: The Derelict

"Whoever they were, they had an inordinate fondness for robots... there must be hundreds of them!"

While we're on the subject of rewriting... oh, weren't we?... wouldn't it have been better to start with Blake in jail, working as a canary, and then gradually reveal his true nature? Surely it's better than the ADD version we get here, who is compelled to note his innocence to people who don't know/care because, well, A-man has finally twigged that a central character uninterested in being thought of as a child molester is... BAD?!?

Rather than the spooky alien death hive of the original, this episode the A-Man turns to rip off Rendezvous with Rama. Actually, he probably doesn't, it's obviously too much for me to expect plagiarism for something vaguely decent, but it's probably Event Horizon. Our Canary Squad arrives aboard the Liberator and we discover the gobsmacked Blake was... actually talking crap. That cliffhanger has been retconned out of existence and Jenna undergoes another spurious change of personality, as she mistakes "closing an airlock" for "trapping us inside". Christ, woman, have you forgotten you want to get inside?

The interior of the Liberator is not as mindblowing as it's TV equivalent. And that wasn't mindblowing to start with, but still the Flight Deck was a darn sight more impressive than a really, really, REALLY long corridor and the presence of artificial gravity! Wow! Artificial gravity! Uh... didn't you already have that last week? Does ANYONE pay attention to more than one episode in a row? Christ in a blender, this is AWFUL! I can honestly say there are better Sparacus stories out there... perhaps even better LBC stories!

Mezin decides to split up since the flight deck will be at one end of the corridor and the engines at the other (yes, the A-Man's genius at spacecraft design shows through... not), not realizing that Avon and Blake are already conspiring to escape their collars. Unlike, say, Breakdown where they just get a talented lockpick to help them, Avon plans to defeat one of the five million safety features by... I dunno, sending out an EMP or something. It'll all be irrelevent in the next episode anyway, won't it? Meanwhile, Jenna and Mezin find the end of the endless corridor in about three seconds flat and Jenna's former personality resurges as they discover a bucket full of skutter/DRD/repair droids that scuttle around the place for that 'spring-loaded cat' horror film vibe. Exactly why a rebooted Liberator needs repair bots rather than self-regenerating circuitry as it used to(like in Bab 5... what a coincidence!) I dunno. I doubt A-Man knows either. Since this installment has absolutely no connection to the very first episode, they could have started here easily.

The story jumps seven hours into the future, giving us ample time to wonder why Menzin panicked at the sight of the robots and contacted Blake rather than her fellow Federation trooper. Despite all the presence of repair droids who are presumably repairing anything and their complete unfamiliarity with the alien technology, the Liberator is very nearly finished with ninety minutes left to change course before it crashes. Blake and Avon spring their collars and our favorite frying-pan-wielding, self-harming terrorist... decides not to slaughter their guard with hot superglue. Which was an option. Where was that moral superiority before you blew up your flat, Blake, you asshole?

When Mezin rolls her eyes and asks what the hell Blake thinks he's doing, I sigh. Not only is it utterly agonizingly obvious what he is trying to do, it also flags up the sheer ridiculous manner by which he is trying to do it. Basically, A-Man has jammed the theft of the Liberator along with the siege on the London, missing the point that while Blake has the engines, he can't actually control the ship. It's like hiding in the engine of a car and saying you can drive it from within. It don't work like that, Benji!

Mezin points out that threatening Nameless Trooper is not going to help since, duh, they're all ruthless and corrupt, and she can easily use her kinky bondage restraints to choke Jenna to death. Who? Oh right. Her. Like I care. Blake may be up and down like a manic barometer switching from Gandhi to Guerilla and back again, but apart from proving impossible to stay in character, Jenna has done sweet FA to justify her presence in the show this week. She doesn't fancy Blake, she's not got the street cred of Avon, she is superfluous. Blow her head off, Indie. Nova had a better claim to be in this show than Jenna 2.0. Even if they got Peter Davison's daughter to play her, it wouldn't help.

It'd make the kinkyness betwixt her and Indie damned interesting, but it wouldn't help.

Well, while we were all imagining THAT, the trooper has been spouting out Babylon Five episode titles ("The Corps is mother, the Corps is father! No Surrender, No Retreat! Late Delivery from Avallion! And The Rock Cried Out No Hiding Place! Z'hah'dum!"), and Avon finds this completely stupid. He becomes more like Avon.1 as Blake folds like a house of cards and surrenders.

To save the life of a woman he has known less time than it took me to download this.

Why? Because that's kinda what happened in Space Fall, that's why! Except, of course, Blake was traumatized by the deaths of all his comrades in the first episode, had lived with the crims for eight months, and all of them were being sadistically executed by Raiker even though Blake had not tried the similar trick of hostages. In Space Fall, Avon is reluctant but accepts Blake's orders to stand down (he sure as hell didn't have to do what Blake said otherwise), as the situation was impossible. Make no bones, in this situation, Captain Jack woulda told Mezin to waste the bitch...

"There is a point where unwarranted optimism becomes a pathology," Avon sighs as Blake and Jenna take turns in wise cracks and ignoring the whole 'we nearly got away' business. He could be describing the fan base in their adulation of this series. Dear GOD! How could anyone enjoy this when they'd seen the original! I dread to think what these audios might be like if they keep to this standard. No doubt the final shootout on Gauda Prime will have everyone say a self-aware catchphrase as they get shot, with Blake presumably warning Avon that if he shoots the rebel leader will not be struck down but become more powerful than ever before...

"You think we should meekly accept our fate?" Blake sneers, clearly assuming making unfunny 'oh wait, we're tied up' jokes counts as calculated psychological warfare. Again, why didn't Mezin kill them all, exactly? I mean, she ties them up, so the ship is still working. Why are these prisoners still alive? This is supposed to be a world of corruption and tyranny, remember? Aaronovitch? Huh? You WROTE the first three episodes, hello?

However, Avon actually seems to have a brain and has programmed the auto-defense system of the Liberator to kick in, causing an emergency that will force Mezin to free them. I'd be impressed, except there's no explanation how Avon managed this stunt, or why he's surprised when the skutters become psychotic. No cool telepathic electrified blob here. Amazingly enough, Blake is able to just about deduce that maybe Avon had a hand in things as they find themselves surrounded by insane robots. However, Jenna can set her glue-gun to self destruct (me: what the fuck?!) and buy them enough time for Avon to explain he hasn't quite worked out how to stop the insane army of metallic death. "We're so screwed!" wails Mezin, clearly hoping than moaning a catchphrase from Farscape can save their sorry asses...

Which it does! As Mezin finally twigs to this brilliant plan, Blake reveals that he always knew who Avon was because of some missing scene where he read up on who he was being cryogenically frozen with. As you do. Meanwhile, Mr. Raiker notes that the nine hours are up and the Liberator is going to crash, so they haul ass out of here and leave the prisoners and Mezin (I assume the other guy got eaten by the robots) to certain death.

All I can think of is... why can't you come up with proper character names, Benji? Why? What have I done to deserve this??

CHAPTER FIVE: No Surrender

"A pedophile, a thief and a smuggler! Some choice..."

I'm still trying to understand the cliffhanger to the previous installment. Yes, it's clear that our "heroes" are trapped on a doomed spaceship as their flight home (finally and casually named London) hurtles off to safety, in a neat inversion of Space Fall - there, the Liberator was the one that hurtled off leaving the evil Federation psycho to plunge to into infity. Here, the Liberator stays where it is. I might be able to appreciate this divergence better if I was actually sure what Ben Aaronovitch was attempting with this reboot.

My point is, the Liberator seemed to be in perfect working order, so why didn't they switch on the breaks instead of running for the London? Why did Mezin leave it so long to give up? Yes, I know about the robot attacks and the prisoner revolts, but if she'd knocked off early, they'd all be safe! And it's not as if everyone doesn't know how they're going to get out of this mess, is it?

What's that, skip? They'll fix the Liberator and fly away? Wow!

"Helloooo, guys, planet crash ship burn we die!" Jenna drawls after Avon, Blake and Mezin get into a tedious argument of the government lying and generally being evil and corrupt. I'm honestly not sure which is worse, but Jenna is certainly more embarrassing to listen to. Jenna.1 would have ignored them and worked out a plan, what with her being a brilliant, cutthroat pilot and experienced smuggler. And not sounding like the bastard lovechild of Sandi Griffin and Chip Jamison (yeah, I know, but seriously Chip, your talent would honestly be wasted in crap like this. Keep up the good work, fellah).

Blake's plan is "to switch on the engines and escape in the nick of time". Avon considers this distastefully simple, yet clearly hadn't thought of it. Or anything else. Come on, man, throw yourself out to airlock and try to free fall it! It's what the Real Avon tried to do in this sort of situation. Meanwhile, Mezin rings up the London to ask for some free information on trajectories. Not to bitch that her so called comrades ditched her. Just trajectory stuff. The sort of thing I thought Jenna would have a gut instinct for. Raiker is certain that the Liberator is too big to provide the huge amount of thrust required to escape... yeah, because a ship that gigantic can only provide the momentum of a flatulent flea. It'd be stupid to expect otherwise.

But, get this, it does! And Raiker tapes the whole thing so he can put it on youtube.

"I've been driving ships since I was twelve years old, Ay-varn!" Jenna shouts after the Hacker By Appointment asks her if it might be a good idea for her to use the flight computer rather than positive thinking to fly a giantic alien spacecraft out of a gravity well. "JAZZ TERN THER DAM THENGS ARN, AY-VARN!!" she adds as Avon realizes that maybe if they reactivate the self-repair systems, they might self-repair the ship, despite Blake's cunning objection it will also wake up all the robots Avon drove insane.

But it doesn't. For some reason. Presumably the same reason that both the London and the Liberator have their reactors set to 'idle' when the pilots want to park. Has the A-Man forgotten which bleeding species built this ship? AGAIN? Meanwhile, Jenna has to remind Mezin that her crew abandoned her to die and suggests that together they junior bird man their way to freedom. Avon suggests they blow her head off if she doesn't and Mezin sighs, "You guys... I know I'm going to regret this!" like she's some frat girl making mischief. And not a career soldier throwing her life away with a bunch of idiots with wandering personalities.

You're gonna regret this, Indie? I already am!

Back on Earth, Servalan has been promoted to the "grandiose title" of Supreme Commander. Except, I SWEAR she was already that in episode one. Maybe those with ADHD aren't meant to be the audience, but the author? Why has she been promoted? For letting a terrorist blow up half of London, call the Federation into question and then nobble the judge? If so, how did she get promoted - no one's supposed to know! She then goes to flirt with Guisborne, sorry, Travis, who sulking and broody and his fiance is giving him the hard shoulder. Hang on, this IS Gizzy! With a truly palpable sense of depression, Gizzy explains to Servalan that he's seen a youtube video that Blake's escaped in a huge alien warship. Servalan insists that everything will be fine and they should get into the caviar niblets and the champagne as the most charismatic and insane opposition leader with an alien death machine of unknown origins isn't their problem.

*the reviewer bursts into tears and falls over the keyboard, sobbing uncontrollably*

To Be Continued!

Other Points of View

I sent this out to a competition back in 2005, the prize being for it to be performed on stage. The other entry I sent was a cheap skit based on Tom Baker driving a producer to try to kill him. Niether was accepted. So it's their loss, obviously. Screw the lot of them. If I remembered who they were, I'd name them and damn the consequences. You got off lightly this time, generic drama competition. My dyspraxia won't always be there to save you...

Enlightenment (AKA "Give Me Strength")

[Two men, DAVE and ANDREW stand around a pool table in the middle of a game. Two beers rest on a nearby table next to two stools. The air is that of a late night at the local pub. After striking the balls, ANDREW looks up off stage while DAVE shoots the cue.]

ANDREW: That’s the third time today Johnson’s been to the toilet.

DAVE: You think it’s significant?

ANDREW: Maybe. Maybe he’s meeting someone.

DAVE: In the gents?

ANDREW: Wouldn’t surprise me. That guy gives me the creeps.

DAVE: [ROLLS EYES] So that automatically means he’s gay?

ANDREW: Could be.

DAVE: Sometimes I think you’re homophobic.

ANDREW: Do you?

DAVE: Yeah.

ANDREW: Maybe.

[A thoughtful pause. They sip their drinks and play pool for a moment.]

ANDREW: I mean, it’s not an entirely bad thing, is it?

DAVE: Yes it is!

ANDREW: Hey, I’m not saying it’s an entirely good thing, just saying there is a silver lining.

DAVE: What kind of silver lining is there to being a bigot?

ANDREW: Oh, I dunno...

[ANDREW looks around the stage at invisible clientelle.]

ANDREW: Let’s say for example that that bloke over there...

[DAVE turns to look in the indicated direction.]

ANDREW: [QUICKLY] Don’t look!!

[DAVE turns back to face ANDREW.]

ANDREW: [CONTINUING], in fact, an axe-wielding homicidal maniac. Who just happens to be gay. Now, if you were homophobic, you’d be glancing at him all the time, certain he’s up to something. He’s picking up that pint glass... Is he going to throw it? No? No, he’s just drinking from it... But he might have thrown it... In a queer fashion.

DAVE: You’re talking crap.

ANDREW: Am I? The point is, this hypothetical homophobe is so riddled with paranoia he’s ready for the first sign of trouble. So when our homosexual axe-murder makes his move, the homophobe knows what to do.

DAVE: And what’s that?

ANDREW: Run away. Scream. Duck. Depends on the situation, really.

[ANDREW makes another move in the pool game.]

DAVE: Utter, utter crap. Homosexuals don’t go round killing people, Andrew.

ANDREW: Oh, typical. It’s just us straight people who are axe-wielding homicidal maniacs! How prejudiced can you get!

DAVE: OK, OK, but not all homosexuals are killers. Some, maybe, I suppose – statistical probability and all that. But the chances are that this gay bloke or woman is just a gay bloke or woman and is not preparing to run around wielding axes and killing people.

ANDREW: You try telling that to a homophobe.

DAVE: [MOVES TO SHOOT] I just did. [PAUSE] I think.

ANDREW: I admit that, 9 times out of 10 this homophobe on the look out for gay psychotics will be wrong and he’s leaping to the wrong conclusion. But that means that at least 1 time out of 10 he’s going to be right and that axe is aimed right for your neck!

DAVE: And that’s a good thing?

ANDREW: Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be wrong and embarrassed than accurate and dead. Rather have a whole pub turn on you for your backward, intolerant phobia than being PC and beheaded.

DAVE: So, you’re saying we should all be homophobes and live a life of bigotry and hatred just on the off-chance there happens to be a serial killer sitting at the next table?


DAVE: Why not?

ANDREW: Yeah, I mean, it’s nothing personal. We’re on the look out for psychopaths who just happen to be gay, not all gay people. I dare say a heterophobe would come in handy as well in that line of work.

DAVE: Finding straight people who are murders?

ANDREW: Makes sense, Dave.

DAVE: [SHAKES HEAD] You have got big problems, you know that.

ANDREW: Problem shared, problem doubled Dave. No, wait, I got that bit wrong...

DAVE: Besides, you wouldn’t be a true homophobic would you? You’d be a psycho-phobic or something like that.

ANDREW: Yeah, that wouldn’t be very practical now you come to mention it.

DAVE: [CONFUSED] Not very practical??

ANDREW: Unless I was in a gay club or something, there’s a good chance some of the clientelle are straight. If I’m busy checking the gays for any signs of murderous intent, that’ll leave me open to the straight murderers. And if I concentrate on the straights, the gays will be after me.

DAVE: Can’t you concentrate on all of them?

ANDREW: [EXASPERATED] Try to take this seriously, Dave!

[He guides DAVE to stand facing one half of the audience.]

ANDREW: Look, I’ll be the hypothetical homophobe looking for hypothetical gay murderers and you be the hypothetical heterophobe looking for hypothetical straight murderers.

DAVE: Why do I have to be the heterophobe?

ANDREW: Because it's either that or be the homophobe. And you sort of gave the impression that I rather suited that role.

DAVE: [SIGHS LOUDLY] Fine. I’m the heterophobe.

[ANDREW moves to stand opposite DAVE.]


DAVE: Wouldn’t work.

ANDREW: Why not?

DAVE: Well, that means I’d be checking you out all the time and you me. You’re the straight guy and I’m not. We can’t rely on each other to watch our own backs.

ANDREW: You can trust me to keep an eye on you, you possibly-homicidal poofter!

DAVE: Yeah, but can I trust you not to stab me in the back?

ANDREW: What? You think I’m some kind of nutter?


ANDREW: All right, forget the role-playing for now.

DAVE: Who said I was role-playing?

ANDREW: Look, I’m just trying to see the positive aspects of homophobia.

DAVE: But it’s not true homophobia, is it?

ANDREW: Isn’t it?

DAVE: No. It’s homosexual-psychopathic-killer-phobia.

ANDREW: Oh. A sort of homo-psycho-phobia.

DAVE: Yes.

ANDREW: What if he’s not a psychopath?

DAVE: What?

ANDREW: What if he’s not a psychopath?

DAVE: He’s trying to attack you with an axe. Don’t you think he’s a psychopath?

ANDREW: Could be a sociopath.

DAVE: All right. Homo-psycho-socio-phobia.

ANDREW: And what if he’s a straight sociopath? It’d be homo-hetero-psycho-socio-phobia.

DAVE: [DRYLY] And what if he’s a zombie?!

ANDREW: Well, it’s be homo-hetero-psycho-socio-necro-phobia.

DAVE: So, you think that a fear of bisexual, axe-wielding corpses is a reasonable thing to have?

ANDREW: Makes sense to me.

DAVE: Garbage. Utter garbage.

ANDREW: So, you’re a bit of a homo-hetero-psycho-socio-necro-skeptic, then?

DAVE: Yes. And there’s nothing I’d rather be.

[DAVE returns to playing the pool game, but pauses when he spots someone and draws ANDREW’S attention towards them.]

DAVE: Hey, Andrew, look. See that lady by the dart board? Does she honestly look like an undead, murderous, sexually amoral killing machine? Seriously?

[ANDREW thinks about this for a worryingly long time.]

ANDREW: ...No.


ANDREW: But then it’s always hard to tell with Asians.

DAVE: Oh, give me strength.

[DAVE shakes his head and walks out. ANDREW is surprised.]

ANDREW: Hey! Dave! You forgot your beer!

[ANDREW hurries after him.]

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nobody understands - BUSINESS IS BUSINESS!! quote the Usurian Collector in The Sun-Makers. A quote which seems to have been at forefront of many a mind during the making of Big Finish's The Ultimate Adventure - that's the fourth "ultimate" the Sixth Doctor had faced so far by my reckoning.

The thing about the Doctor Who stageplays is of course the same as the missing episodes. We want to experience them, but can't, and can only get audio recordings of a palpably visual experience. Oh, how I dined out on the photos and the like in DWM when I was a child - the Third Doctor, the Sixth Doctor, Zog, Daleks, the Cybermen, the Bar Galactica, Crystal being kidnapped by winged demons... the fact it all seemed set in that hanger from Silver Nemesis just made it look cooler. Yet for many years I hadn't the faintest idea what the whole bloody thing was about! What the fuck was Margaret Thatcher doing in it? Why was everyone singing? Why was the David Banks Doctor dressed like Frank N Further with leather and mesh and eyeliner? Who was the little furry dude that was obviously evil? Why was the TARDIS rubbish? And Cybermen being the bitches of the Emperor Dalek - who the hell thought that idea up?! From a starting point, at least Doomsday has the brains to realize that the Cybermen and Daleks would be natural enemies - one wants to recruit every living thing, the other wants to blow them up.

But Big Finish have finally grabbed the script, Colin Baker and David Banks and put it all together.

Of course it was going to be disappointing - apart from anything else, it's by Terrance Dicks. Actually, that's a bit unfair. He doesn't completely screw up everything or hammer in War Games fanwank this time, and the only real trouble is him seemingly unable to go for ten minutes without dropping in quotes like "Earth being a burnt cinder hanging in space" or "they were once men" speech or the "it MEANS it's bigger on the inside" scenes. There's also a rather dodgy running gag of the Doctor speaking alien languages the audience doesn't understand. OK, the screeching like a buzzard in pain might work... but the scene where the Doctor and the Mercenary talks is clearly their conversation played backwards! How dumb do you think I am, Big Finish?!

Speaking of dumb, check out that cover:

Rubbish or what? The original poster was better!

Still, at least for once Nick Briggs has been persuaded to do 80s Cyber-voices instead of New Series ones. It's a shame Banksy refused to play the Cyberleader, though, instead preferring to play the surprisingly-old sounding mercenary Karl, whose main role seems to be 'calm brains of the outfit' as the Daleks and Cybermen have punch-ups. Presumably on stage this allowed the audience 100% certainty of following the plot. On audio, it just makes both alien races look like idiots. If you're going to have 1980s 'emotional' Cybermen, have them show a bit of welly rather come across as Upgraded Arnold Rimmers constantly passing the buck. For some reason Briggsy is doing the Dalek Emperor different as well - a more menacing, growling voice rather than "That's MR God of All Daleks to You, Bitch" voice he normally uses.

The story begins with the Sixth Doctor and his companion Nigel Verkoff... sorry, Jason. Well, he's an oversexed teenager with a ridiculous French accent, I got confused. They have been summoned to Earth via psionic beam text message to visit Number 10. However, proving how unhip and ungroovy they are, the Doctor and Jason arrive at the Prime Minister's house and not the funkadelic nightclub they were supposed to. Margaret Thatcher in Doctor Who might have been cutting edge in 1988, but now it feels like some confused attempt to date the UNIT era. She's certainly not the repressed decrepit psychopath of British Alternative Comedy, so when the Sixth Doctor (the SIXTH Doctor) explains he's scared of her, it just feels stupid. Why? Because she's THATCHER, Vyvyan, that's why!

It transpires that the US Envoy Nicholas Briggs - the one man that all nations trust enough to end the Cold War (cue unsubtle Pertweeesque moralizing from the SIXTH Doctor) - is going to a strip club what with all his funky diplomatic immunity. However, Thatcher has extremely vague and unreliable word that someone intends to kill the Envoy and that someone may not be human. Thus, the world has turned to the Doctor to help. Somehow. Rather than, say, putting the Envoy under house arrest or something. The Doctor and Jason decide to head to the Other Number 10 via TARDIS.

This of course means that by the time they get there, Karl and his mercenaries and Cybermen have been and gone. No doubt, seeing Cybermen storming the stage and nuking people might balance out the fact that they're quite superfluous to the plot, but you have to wonder WHY this evil scheme needs Cybermen AND evil galactic "scum of the galaxyTM" mercenaries? Inexplicably, the one person in the firing line at all times is Crystal. She starts off as an endearingly nervous nightclub singer before going all Starship Trooper on everyone and then turning into Tegan/Peri/Lucie/Donna/annoying unwilling "I don't believe this is a time machine" bint.

Seriously, did we need her whole song? The song where she goes on about how she loves travelling in time and space? Was it an ironic counterpoint to the underlying metaphor that she's actually an annoying cow who doesn't actually like leaving Earth?

Arriving just too late, the Doctor and Jason decide to use the TARDIS "space radar" to seek and locate Karl and his handful of Cyber extras, not realizing that the Dalek Emperor had made them leave a false trail so the Doctor will follow it straight into an ambush - cunning bastard. Alas, Crystal falls on the dematerialization lever in the middle of her skeptical rant, and so the trio turn up on Altair 3 as the Doctor screams at Jason for getting his cheap whores into a time machine. Emerging from the TARDIS, Crystal is immediately mugged by the flying goblin people... for some reason. The Doctor explains the goblin people are actually rather nice and after a few squawked arguments, realize their prey has been and gone.

The Cybermen turn up, so the Altair goblin people beat the shit out of them. The Cybermen return to base and blame everyone else for being crap. Karl, seemingly the only villain with a consistent level of intelligence, points out that the fact he is a galactic mercenary automatically means that the Doctor will head to Delilah's Bar Galactic where every single "scum of the galaxyTM" mercenary works to look for clues.

By jingo, by crikey, he's absolutely right.

We then meet Madam Delilah, who seems to run her soldier for hire business by advertising with showtunes, including Business is Business. There are such wonderful verses as:

They're highly trained, they're highly skilled
Those monster men of mine!
When they attack, your force will be unable to resist 'em!
The more you pay, the more they'll kill
That's the beauty of the system!

Business is business, we always maim to please
Business is business, throughout the galaxies
Come to Bar Galactica, for all-star mercenaries

No job is too large, no job is too small
We'll roll up our sleeves, and we'll tackle them all
From a quick assassination to universal domination
We'll cause constant consternation throughout your constellation...

...over three minutes of this stuff, people.

Yes. You hire out mercenaries. I get it. I dunno, maybe this works better if you can SEE the dancing Vervoids and Draconians?

The Doctor and his companions turn up in their cunning disguises (the Doctor wears a spiky German helmet, Jason wears a silly hat and Crystal a combat jacket), making naughty growling noises as they pretend to be hardened mercenaries themselves. Whatever. This then leads to the kind of exposition Phillip Martin gets regularly beaten up for:

CRYSTAL: A club's a club wherever you go. Long bar, little stage, chairs and tables - looks like a Wild West Saloon with a few extra trimmings.
JASON: What about the customers? I've never seen a more villanous gang of cutthroats in my life!
DOCTOR: They'd be flattered.
CRYSTAL: The opulent looking lady in the low-cut ballgown, queening it in that raised booth over there, I take it that's--
DOCTOR: That's Madam Delilah in person.

Sweet GOD! They've just put the set description in past tense and tried to pass it off as dialogue! Dialogue that points out that this alien Mos Eisley wannabe is exactly the same as Number 10! WHAT?!?! It just gets worse and worse, as the Doctor saves small, cute Bounty Hamster thing Zog from Evil Mercenary Nicholas Briggs. "Look out, Doctor! He's got a dagger!" No shit, Jason. "He's thrown him over the bar! That seems to have impressed Madam Delilah!" ... shut up, Crystal... SHUT UP!!! Have Big Finish forgotten every last damn thing they learned since, oh, I dunno, 1984?! That's FOUR YEARS before Terrance Dicks WROTE this!!! I know they're trying to keep to the script as much as possible, but come on!!

Let's just say that the exposition in this is worse than... actually, I've never known worse! Even Ron "LOG FASTER DOGS!" Mallet understood the audio medium than this. Oh, for the subtlety of Chip Jamison. They even do the "gun in my right hand" stuff.

After trying and failing to get Crystal drunk and attracted to him, Jason tries to look dead hard by picking a fight with a pirate... and Crystal needs to save him. Meanwhile, Delilah tries to get inside the Doctor's pants, a scene incredibly disturbing, especially as the Doctor seems quite up on the idea. "But I'm not free," the Time Lord says sadly, making me wonder if the Doctor has become a prostitute...

Karl stumbles in, more pissed than Jack Sparrow, and shouts that the Doctor is actually the same one on all the wanted posters, turning the entire clientelle psychotic. Oh no, it seems Karl's intelligence has fluctuated as well as all the other mercenaries start trying to fight. The Doctor, now hunted by everyone, decides that shouting "Back to the TARDIS!" is a good move. Zog runs in and tries to be sickeningly cute, what with the only one to understand his furry language is the Doctor. No wonder everyone thinks Zog is really an evil alien with his own agenda. I begin to wonder if Crystal is just as bad, I mean, she's almost psychotic to the level of Dara Hamilton.

But the whole point of Zog is for a cute teddy bear to join the TARDIS crew. Yet, we can't see him. And he can't talk. And everything he does needs to be narrated - very badly - by Crystal. Dear God. You seeing my problems with this? Since Terrance Dicks is on hand, couldn't they get him to fix this? Or... scary thought... maybe he DID. Maybe, yet again, no one has the balls to tell him he's gone insane and no longer has an iota of realistic prose inside his gargantuan body.

Anyway, after a completely stupid scene where Jason and Crystal insist that it is a race against time to get the Envoy back (um... time machine?), the Daleks somehow summon the TARDIS to their space ship and start shouting for the Doctor to come out and die like a man. When he doesn't, they just sit there, coming up with more and more extravagant threats. Yeah, sure, I believe you can use sonic waves to kill them all. Whatever. Oh, hang on. They CAN do that. My bad.

The play vaguely hits a good note as the Doctor gives a lengthy, obviously-cut-and-pasted-from-The-Making-of-Doctor-Who description of the evil Daleks, only for Nigel, sorry, Jason to roll his eyes and mutter, "Oh, don't hold back, Doctor, tell us what you really think."

Luckily, a convenient meteor storm strikes the ship, so the TARDIS crew shove the panicking Daleks out a door and leaves Crystal and Jason to pilot the craft through the storm. Good god it is awful. The Doctor is forced to whip out his sonic screwdriver - so... The Nightmare Fair IS canon? - but is too late. The Daleks storm back in, reminding everyone that they're actually armed bastards and threaten to exterminate the Doctor and company. So, what was the freaking point of the dogde-the-asteroids skit?

End of Part One. Intermission.

Part Two. Later that evening. But blogger ate that.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Torchwood - Captain Jack's Big Finish

She's got a heart of gold, she'd never let me down
But you're the woman who always turns me on
You keep me coming round
I know that love is true
But it's so damn easy making love to you

I've got my made up, I need to feel your touch
I'm gonna run to you...

Yeah, I'm gonna run to you!
Coz when the feeling's right
I'm gonna run all night
I'm gonna run to you...

Tomorrow, The Stolen Earth screens on the ABC - completely stuffing up any casual fan yet to see The Sarah-Jane Adventures or Torchwood the Second. When I was reviewing it, I niavely assumed it linked up with their respective season finales, but I was wrong. I admit that now. For a start, all of the junior cast of SJA are out in the countryside away from Dalek Invasions, and Gwen and Ianto are wearing different clothes. I'm not really sharp when it comes to clothes (until I saw The Twin Dilemma, the only problem I had with the Sixth Doctor's outfit was how damn long it took to draw), but no. Apparently much time has passed betwixt Grey's Revenge and the Dalek Dust Device of Death, and this is one of those missing stories.

Putting Torchwood on radio was, in my view, like handing out magnifying glasses to admire the Emperor's New Clothes. For a start, you'll notice how calm and composed Jack is compared to his TV version - mainly because he hasn't run around Camelot twice before each take, so when he's in the middle of a life or death struggle, he doesn't sound like he's even been told to break into sweat. It's the mirror opposite of Sylvester McCoy, who often seems to record whole stories in one take in the middle of a marathon (yet he's so much better in BBV? I wonder why?). The opening scene where he has a (for Torchwood) long philosphical discussion about a Weevil's dress sense with a bouncer case in point. It would have been a touch cleverer if the bouncer had gone "Oh, HIM! He's a regular..." or something like that. Never has Jack's opening monologue seemed more pompous and completely unnecessary, or the theme music so redundant.

I also get a feeling that this story was actually meant to be made for TV. For example, the story opens with Jack getting a mobile call from Martha during a weevil chase as Ianto and Gwen fight in the background, giving such enthusiastic shouts and fights it's like a radio version of Monkey Magic. On TV it could work with Jack on the foreground chattering away on the phone as a Love & Monsters style fight occurs in the background, but on audio it's like Ianto and Gwen are trying to upstage JB.

I'd just like to point out that this episode doesn't seem to have a title or credit, so I had to go to wikipedia to find out it is Lost Souls by Joe Lidster. I'd never have guessed - the story is incredibly linear, and bar some "rough deal about Owen and Tosh huh?" scenes, almost entirely free of emotional introspection. There's also Jack reusing his Nightingale gag about Martha which smacks of DWAD-style parasitic recycling, rather than the bloke who cheerfully kicks logic and continuity in the balls to make a decent twist.

Lost Souls is undoubtedly the most topical and up-to-the-minute-on-the-pulse Torchwood story ever. Nothing else in Doctor Who comes close. This is a good thing and a bad thing. The bad thing is in the week it's taken me to download and listen to, it's old news. The genuine fear and worry it had on offer is now as pointless as Night of the Comet - once Halley's Comet has passed and no one turned to dust, it's kind of hard to get worked up about the film again.

In this case, it is the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, which has been in the news recently - mainly for the terrifying concept they'd accidentally unleash a black hole and destroy the entire Earth. Now, it sounds ridiculous in hindsight, but not so much at the time (ah, the heady days of a week ago). Andrew Denton (admitting live on TV all his knowledge of science is from Doctor Who) brought this possible doomsday scenario to my attention, deliberately drowning out the expert's rather sensible point that any such black hole would barely threaten an atom. Nevertheless, the day of the testing ABC radio went Doomsday-theme. James Valentine found new and ingenious methods to stop working and simply played relevent apocalyptic bits of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, while Richard Glover with his usual brain-donor enthusiasm played REM's song fifteen times and asked people to ring up and guess why he was playing it.

For a few hours, I honestly wondered if this might be the end. I wasn't freaking out - give me a choice between instant spaghettification and Threads, I'll be the one with the T-shirt saying I'm With Omega -->.

But the world didn't end. It didn't tremble. There was a white spot on a TV screen and scientists cheered.

So when Jack gleefully informs Gwen and Ianto that the LHC might trigger the destruction of life on Earth, it sounds really... really stupid. Mainly because is clearly taking the piss at the time. This is why Millennium Shock vaguely works today, since people were vaguely taking it seriously.

Back to the action. The Torchwood Institute is still shown to be the laughing stock of proper anti-alien organizations, and unknown to the populace at large, and Martha Jones even admits she's only contacted Jack and the others because she is really, really super desperate, and is so ashamed of being with them she gives the Torchwood Trio false identities while in Switzerland. This allows Ianto to camp it up like Servalan in drag as the Welsh Ambassador, musing "I know the feeling," when one of the scientists moans about working in an underground base full of technobabble. Gwen meanwhile is horrifically smart and professional, as if Tosh at the point of death downloaded her mind into the unstable lady cop. Jack meanwhile clearly considers chatting to Martha again a higher priority than damn near anything to do with the plot, and is showing the same Alpha Male disrespect of Martha's fiance that he showed Rhys. Odd how an omnisexual like him is acting so... primitive.

People have been vanishing in the underground base, many complaining of headaches beforehand, but only one of them is still around to quizz, but he is struck down by a malaise that Martha J makes it very VERY clear she has NEVER ever SEEN before! So, add that to the BBC Books writer's guidelines, capiche?

I'm not 100% clear what the problem is as, when Torchwood use their special X-ray specs (as shown in the book, Another Life), it causes the victim to glow and turn transparent and mutter strange biblical things. Ianto finds this see-through bloke 'disgusting', despite the fact he was happy enough to see him sans flesh two minutes ago. Is this a sign of an incipient nervous breakdown? Martha certainly is worried that Jack, Gwen and Ianto are going off the deep end without the stabilizing influences of Owen and Tosh (who had a massive funeral service we never actually got to see). Yeah, I laughed at the idea too. Especially when Martha tells Jack not to blame himself for their deaths just because he recruited them... Hello? They died because of his evil brother! Yes Jack is responsible for their deaths! He's also responsible for the massive drop in Cardiff's population thanks to Weevils, atom bombs and salmonella! Whining about Owen and Tosh because they had coffee together seems to be the height of selfishness.

Just as Jack starts to suspect that Martha only invited them around out of sheer pity at their pathetic life (what with her clearly thinking a sonic screwdriver more helpful than most of the cast), he suddenly notices that the glowy transparent skeletal man is dissolving on atomic level! I bet he and Martha were getting chronic deja vu when Davros revealed his evil masterplan that works the exact same way... and that he was stealing planets... gosh, Journey's End was unoriginal, wasn't it? But never mind, Jack remembers one of his Time Agency jaunts (you know, the ones that were mostly erased from his mind over two thousand years ago), of some kind of freaky alien monster that ate people on the subatomic level...

...the QUARKS!

Nah, just joshing, but it makes more sense to call the freakazoid that than the cute boxy robots. During one of the LHC's tests, it allowed a rift to form in the fabric of reality... stop me if you've heard this before... and allowed one of these bastards loose! And the suspiciously normal scientist in charge (who I think is Lisa "Benny Summerfield" Bowerman, but I might be wrong) might be in on it. Jack immediately runs into the room as they're about to start and screams the "21st century is where it all changes" stuff. No one - and I mean no one - is impressed and note that his anti-alien-invasion-spiel is a complete non sequiter since, you know they're very human scientists doing something which has nothing to do with aliens. So they completely and utterly ignore him. Not that this seems to bother Jack much. Meanwhile, Gwen and Ianto are on bicycles riding around a particle accelerator looking for a monster and bored out of their skulls.

Ah. Can you feel the hatred for the TV series? I warm my frosty digits on it...

Finally, the lost souls of the title turn up. As Ianto marvels that his bike has a bell on it (...yes, that IS nice, isn't it, Ianto?) a typically-filtered androgynous voice calls out to him. Is it Visteen Crane? Is it Pandora? Is it the Spirits of the Mountain? Or Samuel Hower? Or the Scourge? Whoever the hell it is, it's not remotely convincing as it puts on a dodgy accent and calls Ianto "coffee boy" or claims to be "Toshie". Finally it does a halfway convincing impression of Lisa, but Ianto doesn't fall for it a moment. In fact, he seems totally bored by the whole thing. Slightly upset, but totally bored. But when the voices Lisa and Gwen shout at him, Ianto goes bonkers with his usual impeccable timing and starts screaming that, on second thoughts, he DOES want to be with the ghosts. Jeez.

Martha finds the rest of the quantum-munched people in a sealed off building and - pausing only to tell Jack to get off his posterior and actually do something about the particle accelerator test which will unleash more monsters upon the Earth - finds that her immediate superior, a UNIT chap called Oliver, is in fact the evil bastard behind all this. A real "I worship aliens who bring back the dead cause they're angels and do incredibly unconvincing impersonations of people yeah I trust them" Guy Crayford sort of gig.

Back at the ranch, Jack actually gets round to telling the chief scientist (who isn't actually Lisa Bowerman. Shame) to switch off the LHC. But chief scientist doesn't know how. Ahah! With sudden, divine insight and no foreshadowing whatsoever, she reveals she will... REVERSE THE POLARITY!

Please don't hit me. I didn't write this.

As Whining Bitch Ianto starts to glow and turn transparent, Gwen desperately contacts Jack for advice. Jack points out that he's a tad busy since he's having an armed siege as Oliver comes in with a shotgun. Nevertheless, like Martha before him, he has the unerring ability to come up with a practical course of action: run away from the alien monsters. Sweet Onion Chutney, were they ALL so utterly stupid or have I only just noticed? I mean... hell! Or was Martha right and they're all on the brink of total psychosis.

Jack tries to explain to Oliver that the particle accelerator isn't actually a doorway to heaven, but it becomes obvious after about twelve seconds he is completely and utterly insane and it gets damn tedious listening to Martha trying to use logic. Once again, why the hell is Jack so fearful of getting shot? Just charge the bastard and show him some REAL supernatural abilities! Chief Scientist reveals that she doesn't believe a single word that anyone in this room has been screaming at each other, but she's going to switch off the machine. Because, er, she wants to waste millions of dollars for something she doesn't believe in... I think Jack's gag that he's making this up as he goes along could be a bit of self-criticism by Lidster. How the hell did they disarm Oliver anyway?

Apparently, the genuine CERN research facility are big fans of Torchwood (wow... they really do go mental down there...), and helped script this story, albeit with a caveat that the CERN isn't invaded by madmen and ghosts, so it's interesting to spot the script cut from hardcore technobabble and usual TW grittyness as they once again fail to save speaking characters and prevent a depressed, miserable downbeat ending. On the other hand, considering the happy ending of Something Borrowed, maybe this is actually a blessing in disguise. The final scene has Ianto and Gwen, rather pissed off, demand to know why the fuck aliens keep trying to invade and what Jack's '21st century' spiel actually means. Jack gives a long confusing philosophical ramble and then asks for some coffee.

The end.

Well, I have to say that... at the end of the day... deep down... I think I might have been better off with my world where Exit Wounds lead directly into The Stolen Earth. After all, a radio story that might as well have been called Unquiet Dead 2: This Time It's The Hex Particle, is already on a backfoot on the "Consider Me Canon" ladder. John Barrowman and Freema Agyeman also show that they're... well, not crap... but certainly not as good acting in a recording booth than osmotically feeding off each other's performances. Robbed of the visual medium, Ianto comes across as ridiculously smug and camp, while I dare say many a listener would wonder why no one mentions that the Welsh Ambassador has a thirteen year old girl for a wife. Seriously, when Gwen has her token 'life sucks' moment, I was worried Martha would take her aside and tell her that when she's grown up it will all make sense.

If Torchwood tries to live in on in audio form, I'm afraid it'll have to be better than this. Getting a writer who isn't completely disenchanted with the series to write ALL of the script might be a good thing too...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I Should Be In Charge of Doctor Who

...aka another of my side-splitting Mad Larry impressions.

Seriously though, Mad Larry had quite a few suggestions to improve/change Doctor Who (the only really bad idea was that he be allowed in it), so I thought, "Since I also have a blogger ID, why shouldn't I also shout my mouth off in the strange belief I have a better idea of how to run a TV show than a highly-respected BAFTA-nominated comedy genius who at no point made me an alcoholic?"

The main difference, of course, is that I am not going to say the silent majority supports me. Or the vocal majority. Or that Moff is an inbred redneck for not listening to me. At least this way, I'll know which ideas they'll be ripping off (anyone else remember those episodes I wrote where the Doctor met Donna over an alien scam involving innocent punters consuming aliens? Or the one where the Doctor meets up with Rose for one last time and gets over her? The one where Donna has to cope in a world when the Doctor's dead? The one where an alien parasite tries to lure her to its bachelor pad and use her as a host? The one with Sontarans?)

So, what would I do now that the show is a success and we can get away with stuff like Journey's End...

The Title Sequence

Change it. It's been around for four and a bit years, and it's getting old. The trailer for season four was a better-made title sequence. I've seen a million and one youtube vids with DT's face forming out of the ungodly horrors of the time vortex, and not one of them is worse than "DAVID TENNANT!" bouncing through infinity.

The Theme Music
Change it. Not too much, I stress. The version done at the Proms or by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (the one that seems to use gun-SFX from B7 in lieu of musical instruments) would work.

Tell me this isn't an improvement...

The Logo
What do you think? Even the idea of "Doctor Who" all on one level, one size, one font, was done better with the ABC adds. It's a stupid taxi-sign with a rubbish font that isn't used ANYWHERE else in the show and has lead to the crime-against-humanity covers for the 10DAs. The time has come for something more imaginative than Doctor growing out of logo over crude CGI picture. It was rubbish when they tried it with the Fifth Doctor in 1983, and it's even worse now, because at least there was a different picture.

Next Time...
Always after the end credits. In case of cliffhangers? Not there at all.

Nice picture, huh?

Pre-Credit Sequence
Only if given material is worth it. Certainly not mandatory. And you damn well know what I'm talking about.

For a start, we can ditch the following pattern adhered to rigidly by RTD...

1. Contemporary, light hearted alien invasion from POV of new companion
2. Historical with B-Movie Monster
3. Cynical Future of Mankind Space Opera
4. Emo-fueled two-parter on contemporary Earth with a very uncomplicated alien invasion
5. Companion rethinks position, returns home, totally irrelevent storyline
6. Lighthearted historical with B-Movie Monsters
7. Heavy two-parter, very dark, with completely new monster and threat
8. Hastily-written cheapo Doc Lite ep foreshadowing season finale
9. Season Finale involving unheard of mass alien invasion, massive cast changes, companion leaves.

Instead of two parters, it'd be better to tackle similarly-themed episodes, like the way Turn Left is standalone, yet vital for the next story. For genuine two parters, niether Steven Moffat or Helen Raynor are to be allowed more than casual character bits. As we have established the series, we can also NOT freak out when we leave the orbit of the Earth or say visit a non-human place. Historicals do not NEED monsters. The Unicorn and the Wasp would NOT have turned to complete crap sans wasp. Would Love & Monsters been irrideemably awful had Victor Kennedy just been a psychopath and didn't turn into a Northern green monster? Apart from anything else, it'd save a few quid.


No more "What? What?! WHAT?!", comprehende?

On no account are the following endings to be on offer:

  • The Doctor and companions are split up but both facing an unstoppable army of zombies with a lethal touch
  • The Daleks appear at the end of the twelfth episode
  • The Doctor looks around with a stunned mullet expression while everyone shouts at him to do something
  • Something totally random bursts into the console room, causing the lone Doctor to freak out.


For example: these guys aren't turning up.

Limit it to one BF-rehash a year. There's also the fact that there is plenty of stuff from the last four years to worry about than the bleeding Macra. The SJAs have done more with the Slitheen than Doctor Who ever managed, despite the fact they were created to stop Daleks being overused. Stuff worth checking out:
  • The Living Plastic Creations of some scientist nutter
  • The origin of the Extrapolator
  • Van Statten - whatever happened to him?
  • Adam (if only to prove beyond doubt he's not Davros - they still think he'll turn out to be the big bad)
  • What happened to Earth post Parting of the Ways?
  • The Werewolf Aliens
  • The Krillitanes (they don't even have to look like bats)
  • The Skasis Paradigm
  • The Second Bountiful Human Empire - what does it do without fuel or Ood? (The return of Ida script would be worth checking out too)
  • The Abzorbaloffs (there's a whole story about them I deduced from watching the ep)
  • The Cyberman Invasion - a historical event the Doctor can get caught up with... in New Zealand
  • The aftermath of Doomsday (since Torchwood did fuck all with it)
  • The Pilot Fish Santa Zombie Roboforms
  • Slabs
  • Elizabeth R
  • The Lazarus Scorpion Monster (an explanation would be nice...)
  • Riley Vashtee
  • The Family of Blood (if only to find out why the Doctor doesn't defeat EVERY villain this way)
  • Sparrow and Nightingale
  • The Toclafane
  • Mr Copper and his Institute
  • Caecillius and his family
  • Colonel Mace
  • The Hath

RTD's Legacy

You suckas mention the Slitheen just ONE MORE TIME...

  • Not every story NEEDS to be rooted in contemporary Earth. Or even take place there.
  • No more Rose. If Billie has time for another episode betwixt whoring and ante-natal classes, sure - as long as it's that story where she's a hallucination. She should not get a mention every week. The Doctor is over her. Any angst should be about Donna, preferably involving a cure.
  • No more Tyler Clan.
  • No more Torchwood. It can get the odd mention (very odd, since it's considered the stupid cousin of all anti-ET organizations). Since Mickey and Martha have thrown their hats into the ring, no more of them either.
  • If Jack reappears, it should be Old Jack During The Two Missing Years.
  • No more Harriet Jones.
  • No more public not believing in aliens. The 21st century has, methinks, fucking changed already.
  • No more Sarah Jane Smith. She has her own show.
  • Cut back on the Time War. We've got it. It was heavy. Let us move on.
  • No more burning bridges. Let monsters/villains/potential companions get out alive.

New Companion

It doesn't have to be an unfulfilled contemporary girl who sees the Doctor as a father substitute/potential lover/demigod or all three. Captain Jack worked, and he's not from round there here parts. They could be from the future. Or the past. Or not even human (though they'd look human, obviously). There can be a well fit girl in the gang, allowing a more interesting older companion like Wilf, Copper or (on good days) Evelyn. Someone who DOESN'T want to be explore the cosmos would be a tad refreshing. Not a Lucie Miller bitch, but someone happy with their life and doesn't need to be improved by time travel. Kinda like Martha in Doctor's Daughter, an unwilling traveller if not an unlikeable one.

Story Arc

Is this man an end-of-season supervillain in the making? A clue...

Something subtler than recent events. No buzzword per story. More like a vibe, or a theme (like season three's 'what it means to be human' repeated meme). The season finale does not have to be Earth of next Tuesday threatened with utter annihilation, and nor does it have to send shockwaves throughout the series so that the Doctor is getting warned about it last year.

I really prefer this design. And since there's as much chance of anyone paying attention to this as actually doing a thing about it, here it is. (It's not mine, BTW).
And my puny and pathetic attempts to map out a season
Based entirely on ideas from Who annuals, comic strips and the odd fan audio (coz I have few ideas left for you bastards to steal)

1. New Assistant

"Well, it was either this or somewhere touristy in London..."

The Doctor lands the TARDIS, talking to someone we do not see, talking about an amazingly exotic and impressive strange world. They leave and find... Cardiff, 2000-whatever. We see the new assistant, blown out of their mind. Flashback for the rest of the story, where the Doctor met new assistant. Yes, it might seem kind of predictable but oddly enough I don't know anyone who watched Rose, Smith and Jones or Partners in Crime complaining that the girl was obviously going to be a new companion. It's freaking obvious, and we can cut to the chase. The main story can be set anywhere that isn't contemporary Earth.

2. Wonder in Ordinary Land

...or "Ordinariness in Wonderland"

Continuing on from the first episode, the Doctor and new assistant wander around contemporary Earth with new eyes. No aliens. No monsters. The sort of stuff that could happen in real life, seen from a different POV. A plot, though, not just wandering about Perivale being bored. Stuff happens, it's just stuff that could happen to anyone in the real world. At first...

3. The Diagrams of Power

The Doctor pilots the TARDIS somewhere totally freaky and mind-expanding. Whole new world, new culture, divorced from what we know as possible. Dave Stone insanity. Clockwork solar systems, alien beings, mind-blowing. The Web Planet on acid. A race of being where cloning got out of hand and broke their genome so they keep mutating into different creatures, or maybe humanity living as downloads or something. The Doctor tries to help, but fails. Assistant twigs that they'll actually be happier like this (coz she's looked at their culture, etc.) Don't think outside the box, throw the box away.

4. Napoleonic Historical Drama

"He wanted me to kiss him, would you believe?"

Swashbuckle, Hornblower, Sharpe, can't change history, get over it. The Doctor and Pals are caught up in this famous sea battle, as well as getting in the middle of an attempt to perfect the first submarine for France to use in the battle. Who is the Emperor's Spy? Dylan Moran as Napoleon Bonaparte.

5. Davros Remake

...well, something like this...

Much as I am loathe to take up a suggestion from Thomas "I Hate Everything" Cookson, this idea has legs. Unlike Davros. But the suit and the chair are there, the actor's brilliant and the basic concept has been used THREE TIMES by Big Finish alone. So, Davros survives the exploding crucible and finds himself alone on a (comparitably) primitive world where an unscrupulous body think they can use his skills for the greater good. Davros agrees and promises not to simply abuse their trust and create a new Dalek army. The Doctor arrives and has to try and defeat the new scientific advisor. The story focusses on Davros as a person, and the assistant is the one privy to his life on Skaro. A line like, "he's managed to do this before" will cover any canon problems. At the end, Davros is killed off-screen. The Doctor, when asked if he thinks Davros is dead, laughs his ass off at the idea, and knows the bastard is still out there... somewhere...

6. Who's Who?

Lighthearted comedy story. UNIT need the Doctor. They call for him... but he doesn't turn up. Then, in Cardiff, egads, they find a doctor called John Smith (David Tennant) working in a neighborhood of creepy alien stuff. Is it the Doctor undercover? John Smith seems to have no idea who UNIT are! The idea becomes floated that the Doctor's used his chameleon arch again and the search is on for the watch... except, he's not the Doctor. Just a bloke who looks like David Tennant. Very awkward. The problem UNIT faces gets worse but at the last minute, the TARDIS lands and... a woman comes out and introduces herself as the Doctor!

7. In Whom We Trust

No, she's not played by Keeley Hawes...

A sequel to the previous. The woman (India Fisher) explains she is the Eleventh Doctor after a nasty regeneration sex change, and starts helping UNIT with the alien menace or whatever. We discover the Tenth Doctor, alive and well and tied up with the assistant in the TARDIS. The woman is in fact part of a plan to let the aliens conquer Earth without resistance by having its Defender surrender on their behalf. No bloodshed, just a lot of lies and strip-mining and the Galactic Police can't do a thing! The Doctor and John Smith team up to defeat the imposter, who escapes and is last seen in a newspaper claiming to be Charlotte Church.

8. From Dusk Till Dawn

Nightfall? Never heard of it...

An alien planet where the sun never sets... is now going dark. Huge panic, chaos, etc. Yeah, it's a rip off of Asimov, give me a chance. The Doctor discovers that during the dark, a whole new civilization sets itself up on the planet while the natives go underground. Turns out the planet is time-shared, literally, with one day being stretched for millennia, and the civilizations swapping ownership. Not that THEY know this...

9. UFO

I love this picture and just needed an excuse...

Doctor Who finally tackles the UFO phenomenon. Alien spaceships, visitations, abductions, all dealt with and the main plot is the Doctor trying to help a crashed ship of friendly aliens get off Earth before the now quite-reasonably-xenophobic humans lynch the poor bastards. Also deals with the curious coincidence of yeti/bigfoot-sightings near flying saucers.

10. Live By The Sword, Die By The Photon Laser

Gosh, it's like The Androids of Tara all over again!

Set in medieval times on another planet. The Doctor and assistants get caught between two warring kingdoms, but one side has found an alien weapon. Lots of castles being stormed, hunts through forests At the heart of it, the Doctor meets an unscrupulous time traveller who has got control of a TARDIS. Cue massive culture shock.

11. Mothman

A story set in 1980s America during the freaky time space chaos and huge owl-monster being rampage. This is the Doctor Lite episode, which means this whole thing is a Blair Witch style doco reconstruction with someone else playing the Doctor. The usual misunderstandings occur in these things, with it not clear if the Doctor is the good guy or the bad one. Everything is seen from a distorted POV so to speak.

12. Operation: Werewolf

I'd make an Allo Allo gag... but I never watched that crap.

That unscrupulous time traveller (must find a name for him) has ended up marooned in World War II and forced to work for the Nazis to build a transmat to aide the war effort. Instead, he builds a crude time machine which leads to the assistant being caught. What will happen if the Nazis find out they have access to time travel? Meanwhile, the Doctor travels back to 1944 to find his assistant, but is in the wrong part of occupied France and finds himself busy trying to help the resistance, leaving the assistant to fend for herself.

13. Unknown (no, that's the proper title)

Generic Unscrupulous Time Traveller. Do NOT Feed.

A distant planet there the air is poisonous and prolonged exposure wipes the mind clear. Our unscrupulous time traveler is drawing spacecraft here, letting the crews turn into zombies and then selling them off as slaves. The TARDIS ends up here and the Doctor and the assistant race against time to find a way to beat it all. The Doctor becomes convinced that some Time Lords have survived the Time War and are in hiding, but his enemy is defeated (or escapes) before he can escape. The build up to the truth doesn't happen, and the series ends with the Doctor vowing to find out once for all. The assistant stays with him.

14. Children In Need Special

This time, Eric Saward is not involved.

Aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor faints and wakes up in a swamp where he is chased by someone who repeatedly taunts him... it is the Valeyard! Eventually, the problem is unwittingly solved by the assistant and the Doctor wakes up before the Valeyard can take him over. (It doesn't HAVE to be the evil learned court prosecutor... just an evil Doctor would do.)

15. Christmas Special

Screw the Zygons.

The Doctor and the assistant discover a hidden army of Daleks on Earth. On December 24th, Davros arrives and attempts to revive them. He manages to get a few, not all, of them working and flees in such a way as to cause a snow storm. Usual Dalek runaround and Davros is using the robo-santas in such a way we finally discover what the hell they really are.


Right. Now that's out of my system, I get on with my life. What's for lunch?