They can't even get their heads to be the same size, I mean, really...
Hornets Nest V: The Hive of Horror
"How very nice to see you at last! We were thinking perhaps we'd come to the party too late - that this was an empty-hive. Is the queen in residence? I saw no flags..."
Onto the finale. The Doctor and "Mike" Asshole "Yates" are trapped in the cellar of Nest Cottage, a place full of ex-living things now animated by very angry alien wasps who ain't gonna take any more of this crapola! But, if nothing else, Asshole should function as a decent human shield - but alas is not needed. While the opening titles play, the Doctor "pacifies" all the animals with his bug-eyed stare, in a cop-out cliffhanger resolution that would have got BBC Wales firebombed if they tried it. Believe me, severed hands, spare TARDIS bits and the monsters suddenly changing their mind are drammatic genius compared to this! I'm just glad I didn't waste any hard-earned cash lest I kicked the CD player apart in utter fury.
Having started off in the worst possible way, things actually don't get better, as Asshole waffles on about "those wasp things" (wow, after twelve hours of talking non-stop about them, you still don't get it, do you?) or "that police box" and basically everyone acts like the last three episodes haven't been written yet and are expositing like their lives depended on it - honest to god, the Doctor needs to explain LIKE HE DOES EVERY WEEK why the TARDIS is out of order and also the ballet shoes Asshole refuses to let go of were one controlled by the hornets (OK, admittedly, we cannot trust Asshole to retain this information, but come on!!). Fuck, this is terrible. You see what happens when you stop making Franklin a cameo? This is utterly awful!
I'll skip to the next least crappy bit.
Well, that was a waste of time. The Doctor decides to wire up the ballet shoes ("ballet slippers indeed!") to some components ("gubbins!") from the TARDIS while he explains for the 750, 982nd time why letting the wasps loose on Earth would be a bad thing because they... want to rule the Earth. "So we're all that stands between mankind and a horrible fate at the hands of insects?" Asshole boggles. "They don't have hands," the Doctor sighs, voice like broken glass. The trouble is the Doctor's anti-wasp device uses the stuff that works the forcefield that keeps the wasps in the cottage, meaning that when they activate it, the hornets will have a chance to escape and go medieval on humanity's ass, so they must time it carefully - and by now we're all in agreement that a talking cabbage would be much better use as a companion than Asshole. I wish I was exaggerating his idiocy, oh God I wish I was, but it's like we're MEANT to find him a sickening waste of DNA.
This is deeply annoying as Asshole takes over narrator duties and the Doctor starts to wire up a stuffed zebra that the Time Lord is unable to hypnotize for some reason... almost like it was a queen in control, maybe? "Very good, Mike! Very good indeed!" the Doctor patronizes as Asshole's brain cells spasm and vomit this conclusion. "WHATEVER ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT ZEBRA?" demands Mrs Wimsey, in something so much more entertaining than anything Franklin's character has to say.
The Doctor uses a dimensional stabilizer to shrink them all so they can confront the queen of the hornets (another idea nicked from Season 15 - why do I get the feeling Margrs only had two stories written and cobbled up the other three at the last second?) while Asshole bitches he's queasy and Wimsey bitches that Asshole is still alive (she at least has a reason to complain). "We're getting smaller!" Asshole realizes, and it was at this point I started to cry.
Asshole narrates as how, even though they were shrinking with explicit purpose to climb inside the head of a stuffed zebra, he STILL had no idea what was going on and the Doctor had to patiently explain it to him (WHY CAN'T I BE MAKING THIS UP?!?). "It was one of the most curious expeditions I've ever been part of," says Asshole grandly in between bitching about the Doctor's "ludicrous" scarf (the same scarf stopping them falling to their deaths, for fuck's sake...) and Mrs. Wimsey being a "complaining civilian". Thank God the old dear's there to rip the hide off Asshole before I put my fist through my monitor, that's all I can say.
"Here we are, outside the gateway to the brain," the Doctor announces as they enter the zebra's ear. Oh, you can almost smell the CSO circa 1977. And while Asshole brags how badass he is in defeating alien mind control (which he never was, he was only ever conditioned by human beings, the gullible twat), the trio head into the "hairy cardboard" of the stuffed zebra brain. After about two minutes, Asshole is on the verge of collapse while the Doctor and Mrs. Wimsey stand around impatiently waiting for the geriatric tit to get his act together. "I'm just a little out of training, that's all!" wheezes Asshole pathetically as the old lady points out how utterly useless and pointless this "has-been" is to this ongoing story arc. The Doctor tells her off for being rude, but significantly doesn't disagree with her assessment.
Asshole tries to tell the Doctor that the "aggravating housekeeper" is an ALIEN SPY, but the Doctor is more interested in comparing and contrasting this adventure with The Invisible Enemy. Oh, you can't lampshade THIS one, Margrsy, too late! While the Doctor and Mrs. Wimsey marvel at the paper city the hornets construct out of living brains, Asshole sneaks a swig from his hip flask - but his humiliating alcoholism is spotted and his bluff ("The Brig gave me this flask! It's sentimental value! I didn't know there was whiskey in it! I HATE YOU ALL!") is as convincing as a completely unconvincing thing said justifying Kyle Sandilands' behavior. The Doctor patiently explains the plot YET AGAIN, no longer convinced Asshole is either sober or intelligent enough to remember these points.
But Asshole's "It's too quiet if you ask me! Why should we submit to insects?" stupidity costs them as all the hornets sneak up on our... heroes. Well, heroes and the one played by Richard Franklin, as he rambles on about "smoking out" the alien mind-control insects and yet again tries to sell himself as the poster child for resisting alien mind control. "I'VE BEEN TRAINING MYSELF!" he screams at Mrs. Wimsey, "HONING MY DEFENCES! Following my breakdown," he adds, lamely. "NOTHING CAN INTERFERE WITH MY MIND!" he screams, trying to drown out the mocking laughter of the entire audience. I bet even people who have no idea who Mike Yates is would detect this for the bullshit it is!
Having fully demolished Asshole's delusions of relevance entirely, the Doctor and Mrs. Wimsey actually start talking like grown-ups about what to do when they confront the queen while Asshole has a temper tantrum: "It's just hit me! The way she's talking, jeering at us, bringing down our morale... IT'S THE HORNETS! TALKING THROUGH HER!! SHE'S UNDER THEIR CONTROL!!! IT'S HER! SHE IS THE QUEEN OF THE HIVE!"
"The man's mad," Mrs. Wimsey deadpans.
So Asshole attacks her with his neck-tie, screaming she is under arrest. Somehow, the housekeeper's summary of Mr. Yates' mental condition is undiminished. Even the Doctor can't wrap his mind around what this idiot is up to. "I hope you're not becoming callous and flippant in your mature years!" the Time Lord snaps. "Nonsense, Doctor! There are just some people who can't be rehabilitated!" Asshole foams at the mouth. Oh, the subtext!
But even Asshole the narrator agrees Mr. Yates' geriatric bondage fetish was a bad move, and apologizes profusely for him being such a git, claiming some weird alien force is forcing a "mood of dark bravado". Indeed, "according to the Doctor, my behavior since we had entered the hive had become more and more erratic, with a new, snappish, paranoid demeanour". If you take "entered the hive" to mean "arriving this story", then that's actually quite a good retcon. Asshole's assholedom is a plot point! Or is it? Either way, while Asshole has been ranting, some hornets sneak up on them and attack. It seems that all the wasps are leaving their other homes and entering the hive, Asshole convinced that pulling out a gun and shooting at wasps might somehow help. I tell you, this sure puts Leela in perspective, don't it, Doc?
While the Doctor admires the 1200-year-old queen wasp with an intensity that makes it seen like he gets the director's cut of Aliens as a porno, he simultaneously critiques the architecture of spit, sputum, venom and pulp. Put me off my lunch, I can tell you. "This creature is what has caused this mayhem over years?" gasps quick-on-the-uptake Asshole, causing the Doctor to finally lose his rag and tell Asshole to shut the hell up for once in his miserable life. "You make me sick," Mrs. Wimsey adds. Quite right, too. Finally, even the hornets decide Asshole is too annoying and attack him while the Doctor and his companion flee, leaving the "has-been" to his fate.
"You don't know everything," Mrs. Wimsey points out when the Doctor pooh-poohs the idea of being eaten by the wasps. "That's very true," he agrees, in probably the most Fourth-Doctor-ish exchange of this entire bloody miniseries.
And as the Doctor and Mrs. Wimsey chat in a way that makes it quite clear that she'd be a much better companion that Mike Yates ever could be in this miniseries, the Queen leans forward to chat with Asshole and reveals that they are even MORE badass than all the previous stories suggest and try to bribe our "hero" with the chance to gain the Doctor's indestructible, regenerating body in return for his connections to infiltrate UNIT and take over the world. This is why they tricked the Doctor into sending for him in the first place! Good thing they didn't have the Brigadier for this bit - no way would ANYONE AT ALL fall for it, but as Asshole giggles how "invigorated" he is by this alien business, well, I'm convinced he's a traitor.
But of course Asshole hasn't done that. I know that because the Doctor comes over as narrator and makes it agonizingly clear to all the boys and girls at home that Asshole was just PRETENDING and no one was in any real danger. Margrsy? YOU NEED A SLAP! Back in their cell, the Doctor decides to try what even HE considers an insanely dangerous idea - set fire to the paper city they are in and then try not to burst into flame, when the possessed Asshole arrives and reveals that he's completely and utterly screwed them over in return for being transformed into a Time Lord. "Completely doodally," Mrs. Wimsey sighs. "Madness," the Doctor agrees, believing the soldier's mind has shattered. Um, again.
"All those years I watched you come and go, Doctor, doing as you pleased!" Asshole rants, drawing a gun, "Waltzing in, just when you liked! Saying and doing just the right, most brilliant, thing at precisely the correct moment! Saving the day again and again and AGAIN!! **I** have no amazing flashes of inspiration! I have no extraordinary or arcane knowledge! OR amazing powers! I HAVE NOTHING! I was just plodding along after you and the Brigadier, shooting at things occasionally, blowing them up! I WAS THE BUTT OF YOUR JOKES!"
Be fair, Mike, hardly anyone gave you any thought. Your cameo in The Five Doctors is barely remembered. Even the Yeti got more attention than you!
Anyway, Asshole is still ranting. "YOU don't get old! SHAZAM! A brand new you, JUST AS AGGRAVATING AS THE LAST ONE! Sooner or later, you're going to get YOUNGER! For all I know, you're going to live a whole new life AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN!!"
The Doctor, not wasting his breath, strides up to Asshole and steals the ballet shoe from the idiot's pocket. Asshole wails, "Hey, I'M TALKING TO YOU!!!" and the Time Lord mutters, "No, you're ranting hysterically like every other megalomaniac and I don't have time for it. I don't NEED to hear about your secret resentments - I have NO INTEREST!"
Such full-fisted effort smashes Asshole's spirit and he folds like a house of cards (a very STUPID house of cars who hasn't noticed the city's on fire, but a house of cards nonetheless) and the trio head off to find the source of "her majesty's favorite grog" a special queen jelly: the nursery. The Doctor spikes the jelly with the ballet shoe and Asshole's hip flask. "Of course! Whiskey is inimical to the hornets!" Asshole marvels, "No, actually I just wanted a quick snifter!" the Doctor snaps sarcastically. And so Asshole tries to turn evil again and fails spectacularly. Finally, the livid Queen turns up herself as she realizes that the idiot is not going to work.
Like many giant queen insects, the Swarm heckles the Doctor for his infantacidal tendencies, but it's too late: the Queen has been infected by Asshole's drunkenness and she drinks the spiked jelly, and the Doctor zaps the slipper with the sonic screwdriver and relative-dimensional-stabilizer to shrink the Queen to a subatomic level, effectively cancelling out her hive control and leaving the rest of the hornets braindead morons. "This isn't destruction," the Doctor reprimands when he has to stop Asshole trying to jump on her, "this is just desserts."
Finally remembering the city is on fire, everyone runs out of the zebra skull and zap themselves back to normal size as the stuffed zebra burst into flames. The Doctor zaps the burning zebra, trapping it and all the hornets in a force field once more. "Sealed - if not for life - then at least for Christmas!" the Doctor beams. "Hey, I completely forgot!" Asshole marvels. "It's Christmas Eve!"
...give me strenth...
Well, Asshole is acting a lot more like Mike Yates from the TV - albeit one seemingly suffering Alzhiemer's and with no short-term memory, but he's not an insufferable prick any more. Enjoying Christmas dinner (presumably having watched the SS Titanic fail to demolish Buckingham Palace), the Doctor is nevertheless not remotely interested in chatting about UNIT reunions, parties or nostalgia - he's only hanging around till the TARDIS (and K9) is working again and then he is OUT OF HERE! Mrs. Wimsey can have the cottage, fixtures, fittings, Captain the dog AND the washing up for all he cares. "There's so much more for me to do!" he pleads.
Mike awkwardly tries to say goodbye and note that he DOESN'T consider every moment he spends with the Doctor a hideous lovecraftian hell and all the other horrible insults he's delivered all through the story. "I thought I was too old for these shinanegans of yours," he mumbles. "I'm sorry about..."
"All's well that ends with a glass of something by the fire," the Doctor says cheerfully (though I instinctively believe he's not drinking anything, just giving Yates an excuse to get plastered again). And as Mike and Mrs. Wimsey get ratted, the Doctor wishes everyone Merry Christmas and gives a patented Tom Baker I-am-completely-out-of-my-fucking-mind-you-miserable-mortals life-affirming laugh.
There's some Christmas music before the theme tune crashes in.
Which makes it, presumably, The End.
Well. What to say now? It was a rather weak ending to the plot - even aside the outright rip off of The Invisible Enemy, the denoument is basically the Doctor going "I know, I'll get the queen bee pissed and then zap her with my sonic screwdriver!" which really could have been done at the very start of this tale. With Asshole's characterization put in perspective (it's still atrociously written in parts, with Mike's habit of telling us exactly what the Doctor's just told us up to three seconds previously getting VERY irritating). I suppose it could have been worse, but if that's a good thing something's gone rather wrong.
So, Hornet's Nest as a whole? While getting Tom Baker back is an amazing feat that cannot be undervalued, there's a lot of problems. The overarching plot doesn't merit five parts (the last two have effectively been padding), and the framing narrative was out and out shit in writing and execution. I know they're trying to keep on Baker's good side, but you could get wasted if a drinking game from every very obvious Tom Baker idea shoehorned into the narrative - talking to animals, running through the TARDIS rooms, an old lady as a companion... and it's sad but true that the least of these 'adapted' tales (the one about the evil circus) is the best. Baker also finds it hard to play the Doctor when he's doing the narration, giving a kind of stop-and-start level to his performance - he only really works in the 'script' bits, and seems to take a while in each story to get into the zone. Plus, the reptition in the script is really tedious; even aside of "for those of you who aren't paying attention" style infodumps, do we need to have the Doctor marvel at a wasp-infested individual EVERY SINGLE STORY?! And what about the Doctor being responsible for all the carnage? That was forgotten pretty quickly! And setting the story in 2008 - who's retarded idea was that, given the fact the story is nailed to the 1970s like there was no yesterday?
The ideas aren't bad, the dialogue can - at times - achieve brilliance, but the whole thing feels like it was shoved together at the last second, as if they were loathe to check or edit anything lest Tom Baker get bored and wander off. As a five-part curio, this is actually LESS satisfying than the much scarier Pescatons or the much funnier Time Machine. With Baker's desire for full-cast audios and a rekindled enjoyment for the show (or at least STARRING in said show), we must all pray that he gets snatched up by Big Finish. Paul Margrs can go with him, if he likes, maybe he can also have a twist revelation justifying The Boy Time Forgot ("Nyssa, that geriatric rapist wasn't Adric! It was raddishes inside our brains altering our perceptions! Quick, help me climb the Eiffel Tower using only this model airplane!!!") while he's at it.
The ABC are releasing the discs (complete with such brain blowing extras as sub-Trenchcoat Radio Times extracts, a letter of complaint from Country Time Magazine, an article from The Cromer Courier, a billposter for the Circus of Delights, some rather boring history books and the Doctor's recipe for dates to be done in strict chronological order to prevent temporal paradoxes) for $20 each. Good for them, cause these sure aren't worth more, I regret to say.
All in all?
for nostalgia's sake.