Saturday, October 3, 2009

Doctor Who Does Dollhouse

(warning: actual story may not be as awesome as tag line suggests)

Still too much Mike Yates on the cover. And that's not rhyming slang, china.When we last left Dr Who he was trapped in the basement of his country cottage under siege not only by a hoarde of extraterrestrial brain-eating wasps, but the homophobic innuendo from Mike Yates' evil twin. To shut the mincing bastard up for a moment, the Doctor decides to explain in stultifyingly unnecessary detail WHERE he got the girly ballet shoes and why he ISN'T automatically a poofter.

Hornets Nest II: The Dead Shoes

"Come on, Ernestina. When you've heard one rant, you've heard them all..."

Kicking off yet again with that ridiculous music, we get a "the story so far" montage that curiously resembles a trailer for the previous story and makes about ten times less sense than is necessary. The episode proper starts with Yates (or Asshole as he is now known) bitching and singularly failing to understand the simple concept that zombie animals don't need regular naps. The Doctor patiently explains YET AGAIN why this is going on, and totally loses his temper when Yates tries to remind everyone of Devil's End. "OH DON'T GO WANDERING OFF DOWN MEMORY LANE!" he roars in disgust. I think this should be used as the universal response to any of Spara's Season 5 suggestions from now on.

Asshole, quite pissed off at not being allowed to reminisce about The Daemons, shuts up for a minute as the Doctor explains that Percy Noggins from the last episode has in fact lived happily ever after - despite his brain being turned into a wasps nest. Oh well. The Doctor reveals he looked up 'unusual insect sightings' in a dusty almanac... rather than, say, use wikipedia cause that would just be stupid for a story set in the 21st Century, wouldn't it?... and discovered the story of a dancer named Stott (hardly a feminine name, and makes me half suspect a prequel to The Nightmare of Eden is about to unfold) who got stung by an unseasonable hornet while down at the seaside at Cromer in the 1930s.

Considering his reaction to Brighton was to fall asleep on the beach, the Doctor's vacation here is of a National Lampoon standard in comparison as our ancient Time Lord... eats fish suppers and hangs around a hotel room doing sweet fuck all. The Doctor defends this on the ground he was relaxing after his incredibly tiring and tedious taxidermy adventure - though doesn't explain how he got to the 1930s since his TARDIS is needed to use the force field to keep the hornet monsters trapped. Wandering around the town, the Doctor checks out a wierd novelty museum and ogles a girl performing the Nutcracker on the pier.

Interestingly, Baker sounds more like the Doctor when actually getting dialogue rather than being the Little Britain narrator he is. No wonder he's gone on record as wanting a proper, full-cast BF-style audio than this cash-starved pretention. On with the plot.

The Doctor meets a withered old lady curator of the museum who just happens to be Mrs Wimsey, his future (in every sense) housekeeper. Wimsey is a miserable old cow who sounds disturbingly like the Headhunter in voice and wit, but the Doctor is rather taken with her. He then gleefully starts pestering the Nutcracker girl, Ernestina Stott (or Tina T as I shall refer to her), who is interested in the museum but not in the scarfed nutter. There are hornets in the air, but this is not surprising as it's summer, and Tina T idly notes she was repeatedly stung by one in a moment that surely has no future relevence. Similarly meaningless I'm sure is Tina T's interest in two severed feet in ballet shoes on display. Which she promptly smashes and grabs, leaving the Doctor to get yelled at by Mrs. Wimsey.

The Doctor runs away and heads off to watch one of Tina T's performances on the pier and her dancing is now "supernaturally brilliant" and can fly. With a bottle of champagne, the Doctor manages to bluff his way into Tina's dressing room as a groupie - but Tina insists she's never met the guy before, nor stole any ballet shoes which might have allowed her amazing ballet skills. The Doctor warns Tina T that the shoes are wanted back by their former owners, and lets himself get escorted off the premises the way you know he would.

Wanting answers, the Doctor decides to press Mrs. Wimsey until the mutha breaks and spills the truth - taking only a moment to take the piss out of his roomie at the hotel, a gormless vicar who isn't fussed at the sudden attacks of hornets, and simply attacks it with a rolled-up newspaper. The Doctor points out the hornet didn't sting anyone and was clearly searching for something and, realizing his pals are just too damn stupid, goes to the TARDIS to chill out. The next morning, he remembers his plan to interrogate Mrs. Wimsey and this time goes ahead.

Mrs. Wimsey finally reveals the truth: removing the severed feet from the shoes will unleash a curse across the town, and particularly herself.

The Doctor gets bored, wanders off and takes the dirty old vicar to perv at Tina T's erotic dancing of Satanic ballet slippers. As you do. We then get to hear the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies... which might have been acceptable on TV if we could see what the hell she's doing, but on audio seems to be almost padding. The hornets turn up and take over Tina T through the ballet shoes and she dances off stage and off into the night like some demented Monty Python sight gag. The Doctor runs after the bewitched ballerina as she dances to the edge of the pier and, after trying a very pathetic "think of all you have to live for" speech, the Doctor cuts the crap and uses his scarf as a lasso to drag Tina T to safety. Baker really goes over the top here, trying to outcamp Keith Allan with every syllable...

The Doctor and the dirty vicar drag the delirious Tina T back to the dressing room and our perverted pastor immediately tries to get the half-insensible woman pissed on brandy while the Time Lord starts taking off the shoes. One can only think in horror of what the vicar THOUGHT was going to happen... Eww. Tina rambles that the hornet and the ghost of the previous shoe owners are sadistic mofos that want her dead, and Mrs. Wimsey is the guardian of the evil bugs!

The Doctor and Tina T hand over the shoes to Mrs. Wimsey who acts like such a bitch not even the Doctor finds her likable any more. She reveals that severed feet belong to a dancer who died a hundred years ago and when Tina T got stung by the hornets, she sensed the evil alien power in the shoes and feet and idly decided to steal them. Thus, this disturbance in the force has woken the hornets from their slumper and they want to take over Tina T and use her as a host to replace the last dancer they possessed, as the hornets want a host in every historical period. Or something. Actually, this makes less sense the more they explain. How did they sting Tina T if she hadn't "revived" them yet? Oh, wait, apparently the "sleeping" hornets sting people in the museum to quietly brainwash them to maintain the status quo and protect the Queen Hornet, who needs a host to live in. Or at least the feet of one.

The Doctor tells Mrs. Wimsey that she and the hornets can go fuck themselves, and the old bat lets out a nasty buzzing that somehow shrinks the Doctor and Tina T down to the size of Character Options action figures. Mrs. Wimsey snatches them up and shows them off to the swarm of hornets before putting the duo in a doll's house where there are stuffed heads of mice on the walls. The Doctor refuses to play 'House' and sulks until Wimsey gets bored and wanders off. Yes, the Doctor fights the monsters by refusing to stick to the script. Shock!

But then things start get even MORE Celestial Toymakery as the other blank-faced dolls in the house start to move and turn on the Doctor and Tina T, chasing the duo through the various rooms of the house like some demented Young Ones plot. Tina T rather lamely suggests they set fire to the house, although that would kill them both and when the Doctor points out that flaw in her cunning plan, Tina T starts bitching it's all the Doctor's fault and she wished she'd killed herself. Which horrifies the Doctor far more than this Shining homage, that's for sure.

Our heroes are backed into a room where a hornet is waiting for them in the inconspicuous form of a baby-shaped China doll. The Doctor decides to stare into its dark eyes and... hang on, this is a word-for-word repeat of that bit where he sees the wasps inside Noggins' head. Speaking through Wimsey's voice, the hornets somehow know who the Doctor is from their past encounter years ago. Well, either these bugs can time travel or else this a wibbly-wobbly-timy-wimy thing and the Doctor is facing hornets in a sequel to an adventure he has yet to have. Oh, how we need another one of those. "I can be a very perplexing fellow so I'm told, but I don't see it myself," the Doctor muses when he learns my theory is right and they will encounter each other again in 1832. "What a wonderful dance! We're performing a foxtrot through time with each other, a temporal tango! I'M WALTZING WITH THE SWARM!"

The Moffat cliches come thick and fast as the hornets beg for spoilers of their own future, but the Doctor takes great relish in reminding the bugs they can't do a damn thing since his mighty Time Lord brain will make them all squeal like pigs in Deliverance if they so much as try to read his mind. But then again, he IS a hundred times smaller than he was the last time he pulled that stunt, which becomes obvious as the hornets shrink the duo even more... but oddly enough doesn't actually help the bugs, who explode out of the china dolls.

Trapped between all the dolls and all the hornets, the Doctor and Tina T flee up to the attic as the enemy closes in just slowly enough for our heroes realize how monumentally screwed they. Tina realizes the Doctor is having great fun in this hellish nightmare, which the Time Lord rather unconvincingly denies. "You don't think this is the worst danger I've ever been in, do you?" he says defensively. "No, I've been in some horrible almighty scrapes in my time - admittedly, as far as monstrous dollhouses go, I've been a little out of the loop..."

Inspiration strucks and, after lustfully noting how utterly brilliant he is, the Doctor uses his raffish fashion statement (or his scarf as someone normal would refer to it as) to sneak out the window and climb down the dollhouse to safety. But the price of saving Tina T's life is her taking off her stockings. Kinky. Nevertheless, the Doctor's neckwear manages to survive the abuse and get the duo to freedom. It feels totally right that the Doctor is determined not to abandon his scarf and prioritizes it above something trivial like returning to their normal size.

The Doctor finally gets sick of Tina T's suicidal despair and explains they AREN'T dealing with black magic - just mind-eating hornets clever enough to buzz in such a way their vibrations altered their atomic structure and shrink them. And since vibrations made them small, it's not exactly an amazing leap that a sonic screwdriver might possibly fix it. The duo decide to confront the now gigantic Mrs Wimsey as she fends off a dirty phone call from the vicar wondering where the Doctor and his tart have gone off to. With the screwdriver, the Doctor zaps the ballet shoes, hacks into the "wasp energy" and returns them to normal - completely scaring the shit out of Wimsey. The Doctor moans that she's a spineless goon who's never bothered to stand up for herself and gets told off that the hornets can totally dominate your mind and once stung you can never be free.

The Doctor is horrified. So he goes off and zaps his scarf back to normal size.

With that in order, he gives a passionate speech that the hornets will never be able to truly conquer any living thing. "Is that a fact?" they retort, unimpressed and take over Wimsey and Tina T, making the latter put on the shoes and start dancing. The Doctor tries to pep talk the pair, and rapidly gets more and more upset as he realizes he can't bluff his way out of this with sheer force of his personality. The hornets laugh as the Doctor runs after the others as they are marched down the beach towards the pier. The hive are going to totally take over Tina T, just out of sheer spite to teach the Doctor a lesson about messing with a 1000-year-old telepathic hornet swarm. So desperate, the Doctor grabs the dirty vicar to get him to help... not that he was ever going to be much help anyway.

Tina T is overwhelmed until she starts to dance so fast she is a blur, but the Doctor and the vicar use the scarf as a trip wire, and manage to pull the shoes off her feet. Disturbingly, the shoes keep dancing so the Doctor shoves the jiggling slippers into his pocket. The hornets' power is diminished temporarily and the Doctor and Mrs. Wimsey scoop up the dolls house and flee in the TARDIS before the bugs can come up with a plan B. Comic relief provided by the gormless vicar as he keeps wondering what the hell is going on like a Welshman in a Torchwood episode.

Tragically, the story returns to the cellar where Asshole does not apologize for his earlier mockery... indeed, he seems to have trouble understanding the fact that the Doctor's housekeeper and the woman in the story were the same person. Dear god. "You're keeping her here like Noggins' stuffed animals," Asshole finally realizes, causing the Doctor to sigh in agony, "Yes. Just like everything else in the hornets' influence."

"That was quite a tale!" Asshole marvels, admitting he assumed that the only time the Doctor ever had any kind of interesting adventures was when he was with Asshole at UNIT and had been living a boring and unfulfilling life ever since. This, as you can imagine, REALLY pisses the Doctor off. Especially when Asshole starts claiming that Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith and the Brigadier hate the Doctor for "bringing purgatory to Earth and inflicting it on them" - frankly, I would have beaten Asshole up if he started talking like that to me. "Don't go raking up the past," the Doctor whispers murderously.

For the first time, Asshole finally shows a sign of intelligence and shuts the hell up. The Doctor icily starts chatting about the continuing adventures he had trying to sort out the mess of River-Song proportions as Asshole starts claiming he's teetotal. Those flagons of whiskey he was knocking back in the last episode don't count, obviously. Asshole meekly turns the conversation off his rampant alcoholism and asks for the next story, and is soon moaning again when the Doctor warns it's not half as happy and cheerful as the one about the ballet shoes. So the Doctor decides to tell Asshole anyway, just to make him more miserable...

Two scenes. Just two scenes "Mike Yates" is in and he manages to be more offensive than Kyle Sandilands doing a tribute to the Chaser's Make A Realistic Wish sketch. Thankfully, it's just two scenes. This story has more of a plot to it than the original, which was just a bunch of anecdotes after dinner, and the chase in the dollhouse is actually quite creepy. Though why, exactly, the hornets never used their mighty shrinking powers earlier/later on or how the TARDIS can work.

It's Pier Pressure done right, basically...


In other news, the first non-reprint entry in the blogosphere archive is up - brand new material to be found in Key 2 Chicken: The Ice Cream of Judgement!


Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Surely Richard Franklin would be wondering why they even bothered to get him for this story, after spending an entire episode camply bitching in a cellar?

Interesting to hear Baker was unimpressed with the format - could he yet be lured to BF proper? Or is the bald bloke in the tux with the toothbrush scaring him off?

I have to say I've got no idea what to make of the story from your review. It definitely sounds Magrs, but I don't know whether it's good or bad Magrs...

Did you want the rest of Dollhouse, btw? I've still got the files on my computer. It's just that after completely losing interest in the show it's passed my mind..

Youth of Australia said...

Surely Richard Franklin would be wondering why they even bothered to get him for this story, after spending an entire episode camply bitching in a cellar?
AFAIK, he simply did one big recording session with TB - they just use varying amounts of it in each story.

Interesting to hear Baker was unimpressed with the format - could he yet be lured to BF proper? Or is the bald bloke in the tux with the toothbrush scaring him off?
Maybe. BF have only approached him twice, and one of those was to do "Shada". Whatever objections he had to doing audio he seems to have got over, so presumably if the scripts are insane enough, he'll do BF.

I have to say I've got no idea what to make of the story from your review. It definitely sounds Magrs, but I don't know whether it's good or bad Magrs...
Well, it was boring or (Yates aside) beyond offensive. About the only problem I could say was the stupid talking book format. The plot worked rather well.

Did you want the rest of Dollhouse, btw? I've still got the files on my computer. It's just that after completely losing interest in the show it's passed my mind..
Um... yeah. Do the lot, coz some of the eps on the first disc corrupted.