Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Obsession's Second Chance
By EWEN CAMPION-CLARKE and DAMIAN SANCHEZ
It is late at night. Andrew is sitting on the couch, eating out of a bowl of risotto and watching the TV. Nigel sits in the armchair, staring up at the ceiling.
NIGEL: Oh, Anthony, can you just picture it? She's up there, right now, barely twenty metres away from us. Barely 17 years of age, with that long blonde hair, those long legs, that tiny waist...
ANDREW: Mmm. [looks up] Who?
NIGEL: Eve, you hirsuite psychotic! Who do you think I mean! Oh, to have been there when she got the birds-and-the-bees talk from her parents...
ANDREW: Pretty difficult, she hasn't seen her mum since she was seven and her dad's often on the wrong continent.
NIGEL: How do you know that?
ANDREW: Cause I talked to her. I have this amazing gift that allows me to be in the room with her for more than twenty seconds before obsessing over her bra.
NIGEL: She doesn't wear one.
ANDREW: See? Obsessed.
NIGEL: Obsessed? I'm not obsessed. Did I ever tell you about my stalker?
ANDREW: Cate Blanchett has NEVER stalked you, Nigel.
NIGEL: No, not her. Stacey.
ANDREW: Stacey? I don't remember her.
NIGEL: I do, man. Now she was obsessive. You know I can still see her, in my mind's eye, dipping her fingers in jars of honey and smearing the stick sweetness over her bare, budding boobs...
ANDREW: You ever consider psychotherapy?
NIGEL: [not listening] And that wasn't the only place she rubbed honey over... It started back at the start of Year 12, Andrew. Back when Benny moved out and I took out my sexual frustration on the whole year. Give or take. I mean, I had a quality threshold after all, which is why I didn't go anywhere near Phe or January... well, January anyway. I remember it like was yesterday...
Annoyed, Andrew turns up the volume on the TV. Nigel keeps talking, making rather nasty looking mime gestures, but we can't hear him. Eventually, there is the harp music and everything blurs and ripples...
A yellow buffalo skull stares into the distance.
STACEY: [vo] Oh, Nigel! That feels SOOOO good!
We pull out to see the skull is mounted above a door marked SUPPLY CUPBOARD. A few moments later the door opens and Nigel staggers out, straightening his school uniform. A girl called Stacey follows, tugging her dress into shape, breathing hard.
NIGEL: [breathless] Nothing like a... tsunami of sexual current... to start Thursday morning, right? Sorry... didn't catch your name...
STACEY: Stacey. Only just... started here.
NIGEL: Yeah. Didn't think I'd met you before. Sorry, must seem like some wild initiation thing but...
STACEY: Well, apparently you're screwing every girl in your year. I didn't want to be left out.
NIGEL: Didn't you? Oh. Well. Congratulations. You've lost your virginity. Hope you kept the box it came in. Look, I gotta go. Business studies, you know...
STACEY: Can't we just stay and talk?
NIGEL: Not really, no. I did make it clear I'm just taking out my animalistic urges, didn't I? I mean, I'm sure you're a wonderful person, but you've had your multiple orgasm, so let's just call it quits.
STACEY: But... I love you!
NIGEL: Love me? We've known each other for about six minutes longer than we had sex! Didn't any of the other girls warn you about me? Tch, what IS sisterhood coming too...
STACEY: But I'm different, I want you forever!
Nigel puts a consoling hand on her shoulder.
NIGEL: They always say that. Even the lesbians. Mind you, I'm pretty certain the lesbians were just taking the piss.
Nigel starts to walk off.
STACEY: But what if I'm pregnant?
NIGEL: Then you're a dirty slut. Or the Vatican needs to be informed about an immaculate conception. [to himself] The old excuses are the best, Nigella old bean...
Andrew is doing the washing up, listening to an old fashioned walkman.
NIGEL: Needless to say, she didn't get up the duff. Probably inferior genetic material on her part. Anyway, we went out separate ways, classes, social standings. Months went past, I finished my shagathon at the high school, life went on...
Andrew suddenly bursts into song.
ANDREW: So you can colour my world with sunshine yellow each day!
Oh you can colour my world with happiness all the way!
NIGEL: OI! DO YOU MIND?
Andrew flips him a V sign and continues to wash up.
ANDREW: Just take the green from the grass
And the blue from the sky up above!
And if you colour my world
Just paint it with your love!
NIGEL: SHUT UP! So, as I was saying...
ANDREW: Just colour my world!
Nigel groans and face palms. Flashback...
YANG LIVING ROOM
In the flashback, Nigel is fiddling with a stereo sound system. Finally he switches it off and Andrew is silenced. Nigel calms down and turns to see the room is full of his relatives: his parents, Benny and Ari, Akiro, Ryoshi, Owen and a dozen others.
NIGEL: Right. Where was I? Oh, right.
KENJI: Everyone, I want you to meet my girlfriend. This is Stacey.
NIGEL'S MUM: Greetings, Stacey. You are welcome in this household.
STACEY: I didn't want this to be awkward.
NIGEL'S DAD: Why would it be awkward, child?
STACEY: It's just I'm an ex of your other son, Nigel.
KENJI: Are you?
Everyone looks slightly awkward except Nigel, who is helping himself to a glass of champagne. He hands Benny one, deliberately ignoring Ari.
NIGEL: Sorry... Stacey, was it? I don't think we've met before.
STACEY: Yes we have! Remember, how heart-broken you were when I decided our passionate love affair had to end? How you wept, fell on your knees and begged that I give you a break for once in your miserable, lonely life?
NIGEL: [sips champagne] Nope. Doesn't ring a bell.
BENNY: It doesn't sound much like Nigel...
ARI: No, far too dignified.
KENJI: It looks like you must have confused Nigel with someone else, dear heart.
NIGEL: Hah! Congratulations Kenji, you've finally met someone of the same intellectual capacity as yourself - I always thought that statistically unlikely, but what do I now? Good on you, bro.
He playfully punches Kenji on the shoulder. Kenji does likewise and nearly sends Nigel hurtling across the room.
AKIRO: [sighs] Let's hope for your sake she's got better muscle coordination...
Nigel heads into his room to collect some CDs. When he emerges Stacey is waiting for him, a scary gleam in her eye.
STACEY: You can pretend to the others but you can't hide it from me!
Nigel has no idea what she's on about.
NIGEL: OK. I like the Scissor Sisters. My shameful secret. Call the militia!
STACEY: I'm your shameful secret!
NIGEL: Are you? In what way?
STACEY: It's me! Stacey!
NIGEL: Yes. Kenji's girlfriend.
STACEY: No, I'm at your school!
NIGEL: Oh. But Kenji goes to the college on the other side of town, how the hell did you two bump into each other?
STACEY: Because he's your brother! That's why I'm with him! Now you have to watch me with Kenji, knowing that he has me all the time and you must suffer in silence! Can you live with that torment, Nigel? Can you?
Nigel has been idly checking his CDs.
NIGEL: What's wrong with the Scissor Sisters anyway?
STACEY: Aren't you listening?
NIGEL: Hmm? Oh, course I am. You're all tormented. But Kenji has a big heart, and he'll love you with all of it. Just don't expect him to remember any anniversaries or be able to cope with revolving doors unaided and you two will be fine.
STACEY: Why aren't you jealous?
NIGEL: I dunno. Do you mean envious or what?
STACEY: I will ruin your life!
NIGEL: Stacey, cheer up! You've got that big lug out of the house once in a while, I wish you'd hooked up with him years ago. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a demonstration of how awesome "Kiss You Off" is to prepare...
Nigel heads off down the hallway.
STACEY: You bastard!
NIGEL: You say that now, but it's awesome at hen's nights...
NIGEL: But this status quo was to change suddenly and terribly.
Nigel is with Kenji and Stacey.
NIGEL: You want to move into MY room?
STACEY: Yes. Kenji's room isn't big enough for the two of us.
NIGEL: So? There are dozens of rooms you can have, why do you want mine?
STACEY: I just do!
NIGEL: Tough luck, bitch!
KENJI: Nige! Don't talk to my fiance like that!
STACEY: Yes. Kenji and I are getting married.
NIGEL: Aren't you rushing into this?
KENJI: HOW VERY DARE YOU?!
NIGEL: Sorry, big guy, but you only introduced her to us this afternoon.
STACEY: Our love is beyond your comprehension.
NIGEL: Oh, I dunno, I think a decent pully-system could lower you on top of him on the wedding night without you getting crushed beneath his abs.
KENJI: [interested] Oh, really, you think?
NIGEL: Why not? Worked for Robert Maxwell.
STACEY: I want this room!
NIGEL: OK, OK... I was thinking of moving in with Benny anyway.
STACEY: But you've got to stay in the house!
STACEY: Because then I can humiliate him!
KENJI: Owen's the one who likes humiliation, sweetheart.
NIGEL: Yeah, I don't really go in for kinky stuff. Not my bag.
ANDREW: [vo] Not your bag? You moved in with your sister and your sister's boyfriend so you could split them up and commit incest?
NIGEL: [vo] Hey, are you narrating this? No? Well, bog off then!
Nigel pulls out a suitcase and starts to pack.
STACEY: You just wait! I will DESTROY YOU!
Nigel looks at her for the first time.
NIGEL: ...that's nice. Is she always like this, Kenji?
KENJI: Well, I only met her today, but...
STACEY: SHUT UP! [to Nigel] I'll steal all your stuff and give it to charity the moment you're not expecting anything!
NIGEL: Oh, well, that's easily sorted...
OUTSIDE NIGEL'S HOUSE
Workers are piling possessions into a van. Nigel, Jason and Stacey watch on.
NIGEL: There. Everything I own going into storage where you can never find it. Now, you can get on with your life without this vendetta. Honestly, Stace, as if I'd EVER shag you...
Chuckling, he wanders off. Stacey bugs her eyes out, snatches up a cricket bat from the pile of stuff the workers are moving and beats Jason over the head with it over and over again.
OUTSIDE BENNY'S PLACE
Betty and a very-bruised Jason are carrying stuff into Benny's place under her directions. Nigel and Stacey lean on the fence, watching.
STACEY: Ah, I know all your dirty little secrets, Nigel. And I'll them all to Kenji.
NIGEL: Good luck getting him to understand any of them.
STACEY: You know I'm the only one qualified to judge you AND your brother on sexual technique.
NIGEL: No, didn't know that. Mind you, not much to compare is it? When they say Kenji doesn't have enough blood for both ends of his body, it's not some kind of compliment. They're saying his brain is even tinier than his genitalia.
STACEY: Yeah... well...
NIGEL: [sweetly] Yes?
With a frustrated growl she storms off.
NIGEL: [vo] It got worse after that.
Nigel sits in the bath, surrounded by bubbles, with a plastic pillow thing behind his head. Candles burn and a CD player is turned on. Nigel sighs, relaxed, hands behind his head.
CD: Are any of you pot-heads? Or lapsed alcoholics? Or nerds that got fooled into thinking that a tic-tac was really 300 pounds worth of ecstasy and look like a rather ugly lizard? I'm thinking of you, specifically, C'Rizz.
CD: Shut up!
NIGEL: Heheh. I so wrote that.
A face rises, Killroy-style up behind the bathroom window. It is Stacey, grinning scarily.
NIGEL: What in the name of Tythonian buggery are you doing?!
STACEY: Shush, shush! You don't want Kenji to find us like this...
NIGEL: Unless you've got a webcam and an explanation so simple even HE could follow it, I'm not really worried.
STACEY: I know you, Nigel. You're so like me it's like looking in a mirror.
NIGEL: Believe me, it isn't. Unless you've had some truly epic sex-change...
STACEY: Ah-hah, so you do remember me?
NIGEL: Remember you? Course I did. Honestly, Stace, you think you can freak out the Big N! I have subscriptions for ten different bondage websites into fetishes you can't imagine - you think your crude bullying can have any affect on ME?!
STACEY: Forget about the others! I'm the only one who's right for you!
NIGEL: You're a loony. And not even a fun type from Louis Nowra's Cosi.
STACEY: You cannot defeat a woman scorned, Nigel!
NIGEL: Oh, go play with a crucifix, Lynda Blair!
He kicks out with a leg, and Stacey automatically leans back out of the window, only to topple out of view with a long scream and a loud crash. Dogs bark.
NIGEL: Honestly, that girl is so boring...
Nigel is making some toast. Ari and Benny are having breakfast. The phone rings. Nigel, being nearest, picks up.
NIGEL: Good morning?
STACEY: [vo] Nigel. It's me, Stacey. I have kidnapped Benny and will kill her unless you...
NIGEL: Wrong number.
Nigel hangs up. The phone rings again.
STACEY: [vo] Nige, I am telling you...
NIGEL: [calls] Benny? You been kidnapped by Kenji's girlfriend?
BENNY: No! Duh!
NIGEL: [into phone] Well then.
STACEY: [vo] But... hang on, then who did I kidnap...?
Jason can be heard groaning over the phone.
JASON: [vo] What the fuck hit me?
NIGEL: Dear God, woman, if you were any more incompetent you could actually be dangerous!
He hangs up.
A quiet room just off the school library. Jason (now with a patch over his eye and neck brace in addition to his bruises), Betty and Nigel are discussing a play.
NIGEL: I don't believe this. I can't submit my own work? What the hell is the point of doing English for the HSC if I can't refer to the greatest and most sublime piece of theatrical entertainment known to man?
BETTY: Miss Van Gueyusan said "All Snobs Must Die" just won't count. It's a broadway theatre show and not a recognized HSC text.
NIGEL: And what does that palsied harridan know about anything?
A familiar voice comes from the rubber-curtain partition between this study room and the next.
STACEY: [vo] Nigel...
NIGEL: Oh, piss off!
STACEY: [vo] You still don't get it, do you? It's ME who makes the rules! NOTHING IS OVER UNTIL I SAY IT'S OVER!
Betty crosses to a patch of curtain and slams her fist into it. There is a sharp cry and a thud. Betty sighs and turns to Nigel.
BETTY: You should really get a restraining order on her, you know.
NIGEL: I know, I know. It's just she can be so... so endearing in her moronic loyalty. A bit like Jason in that respect, right Jase?
Jason makes pained noises.
NIGEL: Oh yeah. Broken jaw. Sorry, dude. Mind like a sieve, me. Now, where were we?
BETTY: Here. We haven't moved.
NIGEL: See, Bets, that's only funny when I say it.
ANDREW: [vo] No it isn't.
NIGEL: [to ceiling] Shut up, Andrew!
NIGEL'S HOUSE'S BACKYARD
Kenji sits glumly in the garden, head in his hands. Nigel emerges from the house, along with his mum.
NIGEL: What's wrong? Why's Kenji upset? He didn't watch the last episode of David the Gnome again, did he?
NIGEL'S MUM: No, it's not quite that bad, Nigel. It seems that Stacey has killed herself.
NIGEL: ...say what now?
NIGEL'S MUM: Yes, we got her suicide note in the post. She explained she was so upset about how you treated her, she got very drunk, passed out in a bath and drowned.
NIGEL: And then she came back to life long enough to post us the letter?
NIGEL'S MUM: Yes, there is a slight flaw, but no one's been able to explain it to Kenji. Oh, Nigel, what did you do to this girl?
NIGEL: I wish I knew mum. Because whatever it was, it definitely wasn't as nasty as she deserved. [strides over to Kenji] Oi! Big guy! Stacey isn't dead and shout down anyone who says otherwise. She's just dumped you in a ridiculously stupid manner.
KENJI: [sniffs] But why?
NIGEL: I dunno. But the fact she's a crazy delusional bitch could have some significance around this point, what do you think?
KENJI: She said she'd done all she could for me, but she needed some time for her own needs.
NIGEL: ...what the hell does that mean?
KENJI: [weeps] I dunno! Oh, Nige! What am I gonna do without her?
Nigel sighs and puts an arm around his brother.
NIGEL: Ever been to a pole-dancing joint?
Nigel takes out a mobile phone and dials a number.
NIGEL: Jason. This Stacey thing has reached my personal Godzilla Threshold. We are past the point of no return. It's time to google the bitch.
NIGEL: I dunno what her last name is! For god's sake, Jason, do I have to do EVERYTHING?
NIGEL: [vo] Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men tend to turn crap whenever Jason gets involved...
Nigel and Jason are now in handcuffs, standing at the front desk.
NIGEL: An injunction?! Against me?! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!
POLICEMAN: Yes, Mr. Verkoff.
NIGEL: [shrugs] Just checking.
They are shoved into some seats to wait.
NIGEL: Honestly, Jase, I give you one simple task, just one thing to do, cyber-stalk a crazy bitch from school and suddenly we both have restraining orders on us and we're being dragged to court.
NIGEL: What do you mean "all publicity is good publicity"? Haven't you heard of Kyle Sandilands?! God, this is a nightmare! And not even a good one with public nudity and knife-weilding clowns... Oh, that bitch will RUE THE DAY!
He notices the policemen are staring him.
NIGEL: Figure of speech.
NIGEL: No, I am not becoming obsessed, Jase! And even if I were, I would not be playing into her hands. This isn't the A Team!
NIGEL: Yes, I know that's a total non sequitor, but I'm in a foul mood! Oh, Jase, what we are going to do to her will make the Russian Kid incident look like a lesser known Chaser stunt! IT WILL THE DEADLY VENGEANCE OF DEADLY REVENGE!
The police continue to stare at him.
NIGEL: Again. Figure of speech. Stop eavesdropping already!
NIGEL: [vo] But, alas, I once again underestimated the godlike stupidity of Jason Kane.
Nigel and Jason are now straightjacketed. The cell door slams shut.
NIGEL: Only you, Jason. ONLY YOU could be so GODDAMN IDIOTIC! What exactly did you think was going to happen next? That our plan to destroy Stacey would somehow be helped if you emailed our carefully-photoshopped pictures straight to the Detective Inspector looking into her case with the subject "Nigel thinks these'll fool the cops, but I dunno..."?! Just what was going through your apology of a brain? Did you think they WOULDN'T be upset at what we had her doing to those golden retrievers?!
NIGEL: [sighs] No, DEE EYE MacMillan, not Dai MacMillan! Why were you sending it to your Welsh penpals anyway? No, don't answer, it'll only depress me further...
Nigel is still narrating.
NIGEL: Of course, it all sorted itself out inside a week or so. And while I was trapped in that lunatic asylum, Stacey decided to start her own religion. Quite a clever career move, really, since it turns out that she's exempt from most tax laws now she's the Mother Superior of the Sisterhood of Dubious Intentions. You know, the promiscuous nuns in tiny hot pants, bare midriff, and wimples with the erotic drawings on them? I think I should be flattered, I guess. A whole outlook on life changed and they all think I'm some sort of God. Which I don't mind, but their chains DO have the tendency to chaff the wrists...
Andrew has dozed off on the sofa. He blinks awake, and stumbles off to bed. Nigel doesn't actually notice.
NIGEL: OK, so there wasn't a moral to my tale. So what? It's real life! These things never have a clear plot. Some chick annoyed me then buggered off. Not a very good ending, but at least it's tidy, don't you think?
Nigel finally realizes he's alone.
NIGEL: Son of a bitch!
RUN END CREDITS
Saturday, November 6, 2010
ON THE DEATH OF INGRID PITT
"Trying to remember her for anything but ninja-kicking a Myrka"
FROM SEEING HALF OF A YOUTUBE CLIP OF A TRAILER FOR THE NEXT CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
"OH FOR GOD'S SAKE CAN'T THE TWAT EVEN PRETEND TO THINK OF A NEW IDEA? KILL ME NOW... "
DISCUSSING THE STORY ARC OF A SEASON HE REFUSED TO WATCH
"The sun really does shine out of Moffat's crack... "
ON "HIGHBROW" TV DRAMA
"Why should science fiction, in this modern and democractic age, simply be for people who know what 'science' or 'fiction' mean? Or who can read? Why not give yokels the same treatment as the British public?"
ON STEVEN MOFFAT
"After all, Doctor Who itself is controlled by a man who considers sci-fi to be for complete saddoes, and who hasn't read an original SF novel written in the last thirty years because he thinks it might make him look bad in front of girls."
ON JEREMY CLARKSON
"He goes on a license-fee-funded holiday to point at decaying fish in Europe's ports and pretend it's all the fault of Brussels. Then he crushes an Uzbekistani shepherd-boy's head beneath the wheels of his SUV."
ON THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES
"It's demonstrably okay to hate everything that's not exactly like you, because anyone who tries to make friends with you is bound to be a stinking piece of extra-terrestrial garlic-munching Dago-shagging filth disguised as a human being."
ON HIS CONTINUING ABUSE OF MARK GATISS
"It's a pre-emptive strike. Somehow."
ON BRIAN COX ONCE DOING THE VOICE OF AN OOD
"No worse than digging up the corpse of Harry Worth, forcing an octopus onto his face, and dangling him in front of a reflective surface as part of a sit-com."
ON MY FAMILY
"Marginally more offensive" than the above.
"The hulking, tramp-like figure of Russell T. Davies as he mindlessly shambles from production company to production company. He flashes a childlike smile at passers-by on the way, and they instinctively smile back, before realising that they can't remember who he is or what he did that was any good. Ultimately, this worn-out sop of a man has to face the fact that however much he may have cared in his early years, he allowed his one true love to become a version of Merlin that's too scared to go up against X Factor. The consequences are tragic. Especially for the viewers, who are still living through them."
ON A PROPOSED REVIVAL OF DOOMWATCH
"It will speak to the now, the moment, the modern generation. With our new remake, we'll be talking about things that really affect the youth of 2010. Especially if they're a bit dirty, you know? The first episode's about breast implants, and raises the question... are these things justifiable, simply because they make women much more attractive? Or do they expand monstrously, turning girls into incredibly sexy she-demons with 56HH chests that suck the life - note, that's "life", clever metaphor there - out of the lead male characters? Plus, everyone carries mobile 'phones in this version. It says everything about the gap between the so-called establishment and today's urban, hypertext-age kids."
ON THE CLAIMS HE'S GETTING WAY TOO MUCH LIKE SPARACUS
"This show's mainly aimed at Chav-scum. And you know what they're like with spelling."
ON MICROSOFT WORD (BUT ACTUALLY ABOUT STEVEN MOFFAT... AGAIN...)
"The dour Scotsman refuses to use any software provided by Microsoft, on the grounds that "when I were a bairn, we used the Apple Mac of the Clan MacApple". In the haunting conclusion, Word comes to eat out his heart, as it does to us all."
ON KIM NEWMAN'S TV HISTORIAN DOCOS
ON AMERICAN GAMESHOWS
"It involves a pair of prostitutes and a piece of string."
ON THE USE OF CGI
"The modern world decides to piss on Ray Harryhausen's face one last time!"
ON RICHARD HAMMOND
"No one watches his thing."
ON THE TRODS
"What better way to introduce them to the twenty-first century than their own cookery show?"
ON THE FACT THAT GARETH ROBOTS HAS USED TWO MONSTERS THAT VAGUELY RESEMBLE TV COMIC ONES WHEN IT WAS DOWN TO RTD
"He's been 'ironically' ripping off ideas from TV Comic for years, as a way of juxtaposing the optimistic future of the 1960s with a modern age in which people will swallow any old shit if it's got a CGI wasp in it. So as you can imagine, he finds this weirdly hilarious!"
ON ROBERTS HIMSELF
"Pretending that recycled comic-book arse is in some way creative, Roberts is later hailed as "the new Lichtenstein"."
ON DELIA DERBYSHIRE
"The ghost of Delia Derbyshire spits on you. (No, all right, it doesn't. Her ghost is nice.)"
ON STATING THE BLOODY OBVIOUS
"My ghost won't be nice, I'm telling you that right now."
ON MATT SMITH
"The worst one ever Doctor."
ON COLIN BAKER
"He has no soul."
ON HIS OWN EX-FANBASE
ON HIS ONLINE RANTS THAT ARE IMMEDIATELY DELETED OUT OF COWARDICE
"Yeah, you're right, this whole concept is clearly winding down."
HIS SERIES OF SIX APPARENT SUICIDE TWEETS
"There's a thing called light. We can measure it: it's got photons. But there's no such thing as dark. There's just no light. There's a thing called heat. There's energy, and it makes us feel better. But there's no such thing as cold. There's just no heat. There's a thing called good. No: an idea, not a thing. And I'd call it compassion. It's there, like life is there. A structure in flesh. But there's no such thing as evil. There's just no feeling.
I can't feeling anything. Except sadness, and rage, and hatred of myself.
Dear God, what *am* I?"
In tribute to Mad Larry's annoying pop culture ejaculations, I was going to quote the chorus of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well" at this point.
Don't ask me what I think of you
I might not give the answers
That you want me to.
Suffice it to say, as a manic depressive myself I have ABSOLUTELY NO SYMPATHY FOR HIM AT ALL! You're a published author, architect of a whole spin-off and regularly given opportunities to work for Big Finish and others!
YOU UNGRATEFUL, JAMMY LITTLE BASTARD!
Oh, feeling a tad depressed, so he needs to go on TWITTER?! SIX TIMES?! Pretentious, self-pitying WANK! Don't ring the Samaritans, go for a drink of do ANYTHING with your life that might actually make you feel better - and I mean that, he could have gone to a chubby-chasing whorehouse or simply watched a sunset; ANYTHING - no, he starts blathering in a badly-spelt manner of "can't feeling anything". Of course, if he let other people actually communicate with him in more depth than 140 characters at a time, he might not have sunk to such depths - but who's fault is that?
What's that, Larry? It's Steven Moffat's fault? And you're totally absolved of any responsibility of your own actions? And will I stop repeating everything you say?
Sigh. What are you, Lawrence? You're a jerk, that's what you are. And if, by chance, you read this and feel outraged... GOOD! It means you have the vaguest desire to improve yourself. And without that, you might as well be as dead as your cold, serial killer eyes.
See in the place where no shadows fall, you miserable bastard.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Stangeness is without doubt the worst Chathamverse story ever.
True, there are stories that commit worse crimes. Its fractured and incoherent plot is logical compared to Aliens in the Orchid House, Spartha Jones isn't half as horrible as she was in Death in the Cloisters, there was a dumber attempt at a sequel in Day of the Xiaxian, far more offensive racial stereotypes in Chateau of DEATH, a cheaper cop-out ending in New Morning, and more blatant Ben shipping in The Operation: Delta Interviews. Yet, Stangeness commits every last one of this crimes, without respite or innovation. In sheer quanity rather than quality, there seems no escape as every possible half-thought out cliche is jammed in without rhyme or reason. The plot is full of dead ends, meaningless cutaways and a palpable lack of enthusiasm that's worse than any plot hole or spelling mistake. Sparacus actually admitted that he hadn't watched The War Machines, the story Stangeness is supposed to be a sequel to. The blatant attempts to reconcile the plots are word for word taken from sparacus' own attempts to justify such hideous and blatant mistakes.
Stangeness is one of the lowest ebbs in the Chathamverse, bereft of the deranged passion that even dross like Doppelganger possessed. The repeated attempts to drag the Tenth Doctor and Martha into the plot was a tacit admission that Ben Chatham's spin-off adventures simply were not enough to survive on their own, with no attempt to keep on Ben's entourage of characters and even trying to write out Katie. It was no surprise at all when sparacus triggered the First Great Canon Reset in a desperate (and successful) attempt to kick life into the franchise again. The only tragedy is he did it in the middle of the next story, a far more interesting and orginal tale than this worthless and irredeemable garbage.
The very title shows how much thought and effort went into this waste of webspace, a tale the author should be truly ashamed of.
- Stangeness? Surely we mean "Strangeness", right? No, this curious title is no simple mispelling. Sparacus seems to be trying to write "Stange Ness", ala "Loch Ness", showing a lack of any knowledge about Scottish place names or the logic behind them.
Ben drives to Stangeness, a small Scottish fishing village, intending to meet up with his uncle Henry. Katie tags along, intending to visit a seahenge monument discovered on the nearby Western coast.
- In a heavy info dump introduction we learn plenty of new facts - Ben has a new flat in Cambridge he's sharing with Katie (no obvious reason why he moved, unless the fact it kept being the heart of crime scenes put him off), and his hitherto unmentioned uncle has lived for twenty years in an estate just off "a retreat for the smaller gentry in the late nineteenth century and there is a charming mix of colourful old locals and English ex-pats" (rather a severe description for moving to Scotland...). We also discover Ben refused to rejoin the TARDIS crew, even though Rose was gone, and believes that the Doctor and Martha "need some time on their own". Following from the end of Death in the Cloisters, the duo have gone on vacation in Crete as planned.
- Bizarelly, Stageness picks up directly after Cloisters - seemingly ignoring the quadrilogy of holiday specials between the two (for the record it was Witchbone, Firestarter, Crimebuster and Dark Yuletide). Yet, these stories cannot have occured anywhere else, especially as they explain what happened to Charles, Jake, Operation: Delta and also why Ben and Katie are halfway able to put up with each other. This whacking great flaw seems to be the first hint of the massive retcon that will occur in two stories time, rendering everything prior to The Fields of Death null and void...
- Bizarrely, after this lengthy introduction, we go straight to Ben and Katie discussing exactly what was in the introduction!
Caught in storm weather, Ben's car goes off the road and into a ditch, forcing them to walk the rest of the way in the rain.
- Inconsistency over inconsistency! Ben deliberately chose to drive to Scotland over taking the TARDIS, but suddenly finds the whole thing a chore, his car a piece of crap and doesn't have any kind of raincoat or umbrella when going to a part of the world he regularly visits and knows full well is often subject to rainstorms! Is all that absinthe starting to rot his brain? His mood swings (violent even by his own standards) and random memory loss suggest it might be - the next story, the unfinished Harvest of Evil, actually has Ben's mental state questioned more than once...
- "Damn this car!" Ben says of his vehicle that has served him faithfully since Operation: Delta. He seemingly abandons this car and gets a new one in Harvest of Evil, an antique roadster which is defined as the Chathamobile in The Zranti Beast comic strip (registration 1DGREE).
- For those who care, Ben listens to Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express playing on the car stereo.
Katie and Ben make their way down the road through the rain.
- Katie's curiously positive outlook and sensitivity is explained in the epilogue to Deadly Yuletide where Ben, having been dumped by Jake Simmonds, returns to her on New Year's Eve and sleeps with her. Katie is convinced Ben is in love with her, rather than simply Ben needing some quick sex and considering Katie "looks good on his arm". Presumably she later discovers this betrayal, hence her incredibly foul behavior hereafter. Assuming, of course, any of this was canon...
- "This jacket cost £700," Ben fumes. This one-off comment became a recurring character trait for Ben to wear ridiculously expensive and impractical clothing - given his profession involves working in muddy ditches, and his lifestyle means fighting aliens and madmen in random locales, why oh why does he waste all his cash on such clothes? The answer is that, having got (so he believes) sole access to the family fortune, he intends to spend it... and woe betide any family member that gets in his way. Uncle Henry, therefore, should be very worried...
The duo pass a parked car with fogged up windows, and there is the sound of moaning within.
- Katie sensibly deduces that a couple are having sex in the car, and Ben immediately wants "a little surreptitious peep". This voyeurism is thankfully a personality trait sparacus never kept. So Ben likes looking at heterosexuals having sex, does he? Is this some attempt to reassure Katie he is now "straight"? Or is it proof of Katie's later accusations that his "gayness" isn't as genuine as he claims?
Katie notes, "Sounds like she’s getting a right seeing to as well up the you know where". This curiously informal language was because, at the time, sparacus had no real way to distinguish Katie from Spartha Jones, so whenever she was around Katie tended to become a meek, working-class damsel in distress. By the time of New Morning, however, Miss Ryan's staggering personality flaws were so strongly defined this was no longer necessary.
Ben discovers a man and a woman in the car, both of whom have been shot. The woman mumbles about "Stangeness Electronics" before dying.
- In a typically sensitive portrayal of ethnic groups, the Scottish woman's dying word is "Oachhhhh."
- When Katie tries to call for an ambulance, she gets no signal due to poor coverage in the area, leading Ben to shout "Numb nut!" at Katie - traditionally an insult reversed by Spartha Jones for the Doctor. Apparently Ben "told her before they came" about this factor, which hastily explains why Ben didn't ring for Uncle Henry to pick him up.
- Ben earns his fan label of Captain Obvious as, no sooner have the stage directions indicate the couple have "both been shot", Ben tells Katie, "They've been shot." The moment the woman is described as dying, Chatham instantly reveals "She's dead!". Katie, for her part, innocently asks "How do you know?" Ben doesn't give the sensible answer of "I read the script" but deduces that the two people covered in blood with bullet holes in their necks might just be evidence. Mind you, that woman is very talkative for someone shot through the throat, isn't she?
- Ben and Katie make no attempt at all to find out the identity of the murdered couple, or even return the man's corpse into the car for decency's sake. All they've achieved, therefore, is to contaminate a crime scene.
Ben and Katie hurry down the road and enter a deserted pub, The Stag Inn. The unfriendly publican, Angus McGannon, is uninterested in the murders, and since the phone lines are down in the wind, Ben decides to have a drink instead.
- These will be the "really friendly locals" Ben's on such good terms with? Given how unsurprised Angus is of the news, and how close his pub is to the murder scene, a suspicious person might think he had something to do with it and thus taking any drinks from a potential murderer would be a stupid move. But Ben and Katie want single malts and rum and coke more than they want to be alive, apparently.
- Just to give a clear idea of the offensive stereotypes on offer, suffice it to say when Angus hears of two people shot dead his reaction is "Theres bin a muuuurrrrrrda ya say laddie?" and then change the subject to alcohol. For smeg's sake...
Angus warns them that flesh-eating beasts have been seen to emerge from Loch Crag on rainy nights and causing people to disappear.
- Katie whispers to Ben that she thinks Angus is mad. Her very unhelpful and rude whispered asides will ultimately rival her alocholism as her dominant character trait until in The Operation: Delta Interviews she loses any hint of self control and gets a lecture from Ben, who actually has the moral highground for once.
- A Scottish barman named Angus who knows all about hideous amphibuous monsters and urban legends of disappearances? Not a bit like Terror of the Zygons, then? Nice to know that sparacus is picking the creame of media to rip off when it comes to new and innovative plots and characterization.
- So this thriving fishing village is just next to a lake no one fishes at? Give me strength...
Suddenly someone barges into the pub...
- The old "someone's at the door" cliffhanger, a sure sign sparacus has got bored and wants to end the episode.
The intruder is Ben's Uncle Henry, come to the Stag Inn to collect crates of Scotch and finest French absinthe.
- We learn, for some reason, that Henry isn't Ben's uncle. He's actually his "grandfather's brother". So he's Ben's Great Uncle. Why this distinction needed to be made is unclear. He's also apparently dressed as the Third Doctor and clearly based on Uncle Monty from Whitnail & I. Just why he needs to restock his cellar in the middle of the night at a pub five miles away from his place is rather odd, too. He also completely ignores Katie, even when she tries to make conversation with him. It seems misogyny also runs in the Chatham bloodline.
- Henry's vintage car works fine, but more modern cars seem to break down with curious frequency in Stangeness according to Angus. Is someone or something causing this to happen, or is it some crappy horror movie cliche sparacus lacks the wit to subvert?
Uncle Henry gives the pair a lift to his place. On the way there they encounter a group of identical-looking bald figures in pyjamas standing in the rain, blocking the group. A few shouts from Henry cause them to flee.
- Exactly who these odd folk were, or a reason for their behavior, is never given. Perhaps Henry's assumption they're locals on the piss is actually correct for once?
- Ben intends to stay in Stangeness for a few weeks as he needs to "get away for a bit". Get away from what? Since Death in the Cloisters (where he lived as a monk for a few days), he's spent all his time lying around his flat doing absolutely nothing, then gone to his parent's place to do absolutely nothing, then moved flat. Is this his way of trying to get rid of Katie, who is "too clingy" like Rose before her? It seems Ben much prefers men who don't obsess over him over women that do...
The murder and the strange behavior of the group leads Ben to consider calling in the Doctor, but Katie (eager to have Ben all to himself) convinces him not to.
- Ben has a "special contact device" to get in touch with the Doctor. Given that the new series established any super mobile would fulfill that function, sparacus is clearly still got his head jammed in Terror of the Zygons, where psionic beamers were used to send space-time telegraphs to the TARDIS. Given they somehow know where the Doctor is in Crete, and he's in the exact same time zone, why Ben would be carrying this gizmo with him on a trip to Scotland is unclear. Is he just waiting for Martha to leave the TARDIS so he can rejoin?
Arriving at Henry's house, they are introduced to his butler, a young village boy called Jamie.
- Jamie is, in actual fact, the ONLY original character in the Chathamverse not to be Caucasian. Presumably a young Scot in a kilt isn't as much fetish fuel as a young black man in a kilt "showing off his shaply legs".
- Ben orders Katie to drink absinthe, deeply annoyed at the fact she doesn't like it and calls her "finicky". Either Ben enjoys this sadistic abuse relationship he has with Katie, or he's deliberately being so unpleasant she'll leave him alone. Notably, Ben immediately decides to summon the Doctor the moment Katie makes it clear she would rather have a normal holiday with her boyfriend - and, what's more, hides this fact from Katie. Can you believe that no one is willing to stick around in a relationship with this superficial and decietful bully?
No sooner has Ben texted the Doctor, Katie sees a face at the window and screams.
- Another pathetic cliffhanger, with all the readers convinced the resolution would be Ben pointing out that Katie is actually reacting to her own reflection. Mind you, having been forced a potent psychotic drink like pure absinthe, Katie could hardly be blamed for the odd hallucination...
Katie claims she saw one of the bald figures watching through the window, but Ben assumes she's simply overtired.
- Why would one of the locals follow the trio the house and then pull faces through the window? If they meant any harm, why allow the group past them in the rain? We're left with absolutely no evidence that the face wasn't part of Katie's imagination.
- Katie's insistance she "is not some kind of mental case" is ironic as the next story has her sent to an asylum.
The TARDIS materializes and the Doctor and Martha emerge in response to Ben's signal.
- With Uncle Henry taken aback by a police box appearing out of thin air, Ben promises to "explain everything later". This was done with no irony whatsoever.
- Not only does sparacus describe the time machine as a "Tardis", he also describes "the familiar vroom vroom noise". How can an avid DWM reader have forgotten the actual description is "vworp"?!?
- Katie is delighted that the Doctor is present, seemingly having forgotten she wanted him to stay away. Presumably she's frightened from her absinthe-induced hallucinations and rightly guessed Ben is not going to lift a finger to keep her safe.
Ben explains the situation and Martha is far from impressed.
- Spartha Jones makes her second appearance in the Chathamverse. Even though her point (this is a police matter hardly worth interrupting the Doctor and Martha) is entirely valid, one can't take her side. Given they have access to a time machine, they could easily have finished their vacation before replying to the message. Nevertheless, Ben's "adjusting" the truth somewhat, claiming that the place is "swarming" with strange men in white and there are "strange (not "stange"?) goings on" at the new electronics plant (which he just assumes is new, because it wasn't there the last time he visited). He even admits that this is merely "odd", as though he's just looking for an excuse to drag the Doctor and Martha into things. This obsession continues in Harvest of Evil, and following the reset, Ben goes the whole hog and rejoins the TARDIS. Clearly either sparacus or Ben has lost their faith in his ability to sort out even minor problems unaided...
- Uncle Henry notes that the electronics plant (unnamed) was built two years previously, despite objections from the villagers. Um... why? Why build a factory in a coastal Scottish village if the output has no connection to the locale? Now, if it was some kind of processed fish factory, that would make sense, but electronics? In such a wet and miserable place in the middle of nowhere? If they want some kind of privacy, they've gone about it in a rather strange way, upsetting all the locals and not even bothering to get themselves their own name - surely a company called Stangeness Electronics would be homegrown? Yet all the workers are shipped in from Glasgow and they never actually produce any equipment. Financially, "stange" doesn't do this place justice. It should have bankrupted itself long before now.
The Doctor suggests they all retire for the evening.
- Why? He's just been in Crete, so for he and Martha it should be the middle of the day! Just jump ahead six hours if you're worried! This delay will merely give the villains a chance to remove the bodies and the car, and all those chaps in white clothes to run around getting up to mischief. Notably when Martha raises these objections, the Doctor doesn't disagree, but urges her back to the TARDIS. Is he just pretending to be involved, giving him and Martha a change to slip away quietly without putting up with Ben's inevitable temper tantrum?
- The Doctor knows of Uncle Henry's "porcelain (sic) collection from the William Beckford collection at Fonthill", apparently. This is interesting, given Ben never speaks of his family - or indeed of anyone bar himself and Bowie. One can only wonder how the hell that little factoid came up in natural conversation aboard the TARDIS, or why the rather forgetful Tenth Doctor would remember it...
Ben takes a bath and, wearing nought but a white towel, chats with Jamie about their mutual love of Bowie.
- Note that Ben and Katie have rooms apiece. Henry's house seems to lose these rooms later in the story, forcing everyone to bunk up.
- The in depth discussion of music consists entirely of "You like Bowie then?" "Och yeah , especially the early stuff." before Ben "finds himself deeply attracted to the lithe young Scotsman with his dark, mysterious eyes". That makes Ben able to commit to a long-term relationship for less than one story. Mind you, Katie's doing better than Genna Miles, at least...
- So Ben and Jamie are flirting like mad. Is this some kind of porno version of Season 4 (which did, after all, feature companions of the same names sharing a bedroom which the Second Doctor described as "gay"...)? It could be a coincidence and sparacus' inability to come up with new names, but given his later claims that Polly was a slut banging her boss and bearing his child, maybe there IS some horrible agenda at work...
Jamie confides in Ben he is convinced the mysterious happenings in Stangeness only began when the electronics factory was built.
- ...and this is has what to do with David Bowie, exactly? I mean, that's what you were talking about! Where's the segue?! Is Bowie behind the murders or something? After all, it wouldn't be the first time, as StarMan proved...
Katie enters and is annoyed to find her boyfriend "fraternising with the servants".
- Understandably so, it must be said. She goes out of her way for Ben, moves in with him, accompanies him across the country... and he immediately tries to sneak up the kilt of the first fit bloke they come across. "I want to be your girlfriend - proper girlfriend and I think you secretly want it too," she pleads, only for Ben to want to talk about Jamie instead. Katie angrilly rants that Ben must sort himself out lest he become "a obvious sad old poof" - and the antisocial drunkard drooling over houseboys is exactly what Ben becomes as can be seen in The Operation: Delta Interviews.
- Ben furiously shouts that Kate is not allowed to judge as she "knows nothing about him". Well, Ben, who's fault is that? You've been bonking her for months! And you haven't opened up to her in any way emotionally?
- It's sinister in retrospect that shortly after she gives an ultimatum to Ben, Katie ends up declared insane and abandoned in a mental asylum, before Ben giving her up as dead...
There is a crash and a gunshot. Heading downstairs, Ben and Katie are taken prisoner by two gun-weilding men standing over the body of Uncle Henry dead.
- Henry is not confirmed as dead for an episode or so, for some unaccountable reason.
- These men with guns certainly aren't the bald pyjama-ed loonies wandering around the place. But why did they shoot Henry? And why are they happy to kill a man who has been in Stangeness for twenty years and thus a notable member of the community whose death would be noticed, but not kill Ben and Katie (two newcomers only met by the insane landlord Angus)? Furthermore, given their willingness to kill people in cold blood (without silencers) why are they worried about getting Ben to put some clothes on before kidnapping him?
- A close relative of Ben Chatham, spending vast amounts of cash, suddenly dies shortly after Ben meets them. Given his treatment of his sister, and his apparent need for a new car, would Ben murder his great uncle to get his hands on the inheritance? The men with guns never say they were the ones to kill Henry, nor is it ever said he was shot. Given Ben's desire for more money and to get rid of a relative who has already embarrassed him (as Katie notes), is it impossible to think that once the Doctor, Martha and Katie were out of sight, he killed the old man, then went upstairs for a bath to destroy any evidence? Henry's bemoaning of living in such "vulgar moneygrabbing times" in front of Ben might be a fatal mistake. This begs the question of what the two goons were shooting at...
As Ben and Katie are dragged away, Jamie is revealed to have been hiding behind the curtains.
- So, if they were shooting at Jamie, the plot to kill Uncle Henry suddenly makes horrible sense...
The "flunkeys" drive Katie and Ben to Stangeness Electronics where they are greeted by suave-looking Simon Brett, an exhuberant loony.
- It's hard not to visualize Brett as being played by Ken Dodd: "Welcome friends! I’m Simon Brett and I trust your journey here wasn’t too unpleasant!" "Yes it damn well was!" Katie retorts. "Oh come now dear Lady, I’m sure we can overcome the initial impressions and reach a sense of understanding!" Even Ben needs a double-take, helplessly asking "Are you for real?"
- Brett notably is surprised at the accusation it was his men that killed Uncle Henry...
Brett explains that Stangeness Electronics is creating "new models" of human beings, but these are prone to making mistakes - such as their botched execution of two reporters that Ben stumbled across. He reveals that SE is actually run by WOTAN - a huge computer with screens showing cold Germanic features.
- ...sigh. Yes. WOTAN (pronounced Vow-targn because otherwise the Wagner connection isn't so blindingly obvious). The Will-Operating Thought Anologue was a free-standing computer bank at the top of the Post Office Tower, an early attempt to create the Internet in 1966's C-Day in the William Hartnell story The War Machines. As predicted by four separate characters in the story before the end of the first episode, WOTAN decided to conquer the entire world and ignored any pesky things like logic and strategy. Having somehow got a nifty "brainwash humans" feature built in, WOTAN decided the best way to conquer the world was to prank-call various scientists, brainwash them over the phone, make them resign their jobs, go to a warehouse in Covent Garden and then build wannabe-Daleks entirely from scratch - inside 12 hours. Amazingly, WOTAN somehow managed it given the amazing inability to even speak coherent words. The real blinder was the computer thought the best time to pull this stunt was BEFORE it had been linked up to every single computer in Britain, while its servants were so stupid they had to be told not to murder passers by and dump their bodies directly outside the front door. Twice. Finally, it turned out that WOTAN's stupidity was catching as war machines either tried to kill everyone or just got bored and went to sleep. The Doctor decided he was completely bloody sick of this, prodded one war machine with a screwdriver and sent it up in a lift to the Post Office Tower where it promptly smashed WOTAN to pieces, killing as many innocent brainwashed victims as possible. And sparacus decided this story merited a sequel.
- Except... he hadn't actually seen The War Machines. In fact, he had next to no idea what actually happened and instead is basing all his material on The Green Death - what a surprise... - as can be told by the incredibly camp and self aware behavior of a computer that likes being called "boss". Following the First Great Canon Reset, sparacus attempted to do this properly with a straight sequel. Thus, Cyborg featured the shocking truth that BOSS (not WOTAN) was the one running the sinister and mysterious chemical plants that were popping up in Middle England with the aide of the Time Meddler.
Back at the house, the Doctor and Martha discover Henry dead and the others missing.
- A baffling goof as the Doctor and Martha "search the house for Ben and Martha". But not Katie or Jamie?
- Martha is suddenly determined not to sleep in the TARDIS, obsessed with being polite and making use of "this big house full of rooms". She insists he is "a gentlemen", yet in the previous episode she dubbed him "half-baked" and wanted to get as far away from him as possible.
The Doctor and Martha decide to use the TARDIS to home in on Ben via the communicator he has.
- The Doctor thinks it "fortunate" the TARDIS can do this, as if it is lucky a device specifically designed for the TARDIS to home in on it can actually do what it's supposed to! Any fortune should be that despite being held at gunpoint Ben was somehow able to collect the device without anyone noticing (yet didn't text "HELP ME" or anything during the long car journey there).
- "At least you get some things right," Martha sneers. When, exactly, has he got anything wrong?
At Stangeness Electronics, WOTAN outlines its plans for world domination.
- ...and here is when it all falls apart. The "first Professor Brett" (that's Simon Brett's father, not that Simon has actually been called a Professor) "designed a prototype" apparently. "What his father started out of curiosity the son continued out of love." Now, this is baffling given that Brett senior survived the events of The War Machines and would be the first to know how utterly dangerous WOTAN (which was not a prototype at all). Between Brett, Sir Charles and the British army, it beggars belief that anyone could build WOTAN II without suspecting it might just overthrow humanity... especially after the creation of BOSS by Global Chemicals in The Green Death.
- There's also the question that of where Brett's son came from, given he's clearly a confirmed bachelor on screen. Sparacus fobbed this off as Brett having an affair with his secretary and Simon being the lovechild. Given that Brett's secretary was Polly Wright, companion of the First and Second Doctors (and manifestly niether had a lovechild during her time aboard the TARDIS and definitely had no interest in Brett), this epic fail of the whovianologist lead to him being "pwned" by all the readers and three weeks passing before the next installment.
- WOTAN intends to become the "future government" because it is "perfectly rational" unlike organic and inefficient human beings. OK. But it wants to stop mankind polluting, fighting and over-populating by replacing them with "enhanced human augmented replacement units"? Why not just let mankind destroy itself? WOTAN I was determined that machines inherit the Earth, and since computers does not require clean air, water or such to survive, it could easily wipe out mankind altogether. Brett, after all, rants about wiping out the filth of humanity in the final episode. So why go to all the trouble of turning them into cyborgs? And if the MIBs are cyborgs... who are the bald loonies in pyjamas?!
WOTAN then hypnotizes Ben and Katie.
- So... why go round shooting people if you can hypnotize them so easily? Surely those brainwashed reporters would be more useful alive and assuring their superiors that all is well than being bloody heaps in a broken down car? It's ironic the lines are down and no one can get a signal in Stangeness, because otherwise WOTAN could take control of everyone over the phone network... but that's probably a coincidence rather than any wit on the author's part.
- Ben's chanting of "I will serve you, WOTAN!" is actually a clue that he's not actually hypnotized but only pretending. (Katie, who is hypnotized, stays silent). Exactly how Ben was able to effortlessly resist this brainwashing is unclear (the Doctor was barely able to manage it in The War Machines, and he's got the mind of a Time Lord!), but presumably the vast amount of absinthe he's imbibed, his brain no longer functions correctly enough to be taken over?
At the house, the Doctor and Martha find Jamie and the corpse of Henry...
- Another sign of the incipient retcon as the entire scene of the Doctor and Martha going to Ben's rescue is undone and rewritten. Instead of waffling on about being polite and sleeping in the bedrooms provided, the Doctor is determined to drink himself to sleep since "the night is young". Not only does sparacus repeatedly ignore the TV Doctor's dislike for alcohol, he also seems to ignore the fact that the TARDIS contains plenty of booze (as established in The Ark in Space). Are we to assume the Doctor has drunk it all? Well, he has been forced to endure Spartha Jones for weeks on end...
- "Your behaviour is frankly irresponsible!" Martha complains of the Doctor drinking, odd given her own first story had her knocking back red wine and refusing to help out with a murder mystery. It doesn't stop her being right once again though.
- More evidence Ben is a killer: when asked what happened to Uncle Henry, Jamie doesn't know - despite being in the room when the shot was fired. So clearly Henry was dead already...
Jamie explains Ben and Katie were kidnapped and taken to SE, so the trio head for the rescue in the TARDIS.
- So, the whole plot of Ben having a little communication device was completely pointless then?
At SE, Ben and Katie are sent to work.
- That "work" being to "move some large crates into the back of a lorry in the yard". So WOTAN doesn't have access to a fork-lift truck? Why get the humans to do the hard work when they're all inefficient and organic? So much for WOTAN's claims to be rational and logical...
- "The people they are working with are clearly humans under WOTAN’s influence rather than cyborgs as they are plain in looks and some are obese." My god?! FAT PEOPLE?!? Who AREN'T beautiful?!?
Ben discovers to his horror that Katie is genuinely hypnotized and runs for it.
- A touch of poetic justice as Katie gets her own back by humiliating and tormenting Ben instead of the other way round - pity she's not aware of it. Certainly her announcement of "You are disingenuous. You are an enemy." applies as much to their relationship as Ben simply turning against WOTAN.
- The cyborgs with their augmented senses and machine guns prove no match for an unarmed alcoholic who runs past them, takes a long time climbing a fence, then gets tangled on the barbed wire and cut his hand open, before falling over the other side, staggering to his feet and limping off into the night. Were they just having much more fun looking at Ben's deeply pathetic gymnastics to stop him? Was that why WOTAN didn't simply electrify the fence?
- Ben's "muscular arms rippling as the moonlight shimmers" - so where has the endless rainstorm and the Scotch mist gone? And did Ben take off his shirt just so he could shift some boxes?
Moments later, the TARDIS materializes inside the compound and the Doctor, Martha and Jamie emerge.
- There's irony for you. If Ben had just kept his mouth shut he'd be rescued...
- In The War Machines, WOTAN was sensitive enough to detect any unauthorized moment and sense the Doctor's brain. It fails to do either here.
- "This is not a game. Ben and Katie could be dead for all we know," Martha chastizes the Doctor. "Right little beacon of hope aren’t you?" the Doctor retorts, finally snapping after thirteen episodes of the whinging bitch. Her response: "Grow up."
- Martha berates the Doctor for not taking this rescue mission seriously, and then starts complaining about the clinical look of the building. "Its typical of such modern buildings. Its totally irresponsible of planners to allow such developments in the Scottish countryside!" Her obsession with architecture continues into the next episode, and seemingly becomes the Tenth Doctor's bugbear as well. Critiquing architecture is far more interesting than travelling in time and space in the Chathamverse.
On the run, Ben passes the shore of Loch Crag when suddenly two hideous scaly monsters rise out of the water and advance on him...
- Again, sparacus seemed a lot more interested in remaking Terror of the Zygons than sequeling The War Machines.
- Angus the landlord was certain these monsters only went on the prowl during rainstorms, but the weather is totally clear. Has Ben's "young flesh" (or maybe the gaping wound in his hand) attracted them?
- For some unaccountable reason, this episode is done in sparacus usual prose style instead of the script style every other part of the story is written in.
Ben runs away from the monsters.
- Despite being exhausted, drunk and losing a lot of blood, Ben is still as "swift as the greyhound".
- So what are these blobby sea monsters that clearly have absolutely nothing to do with the plot at all? Well, in a moment of inexplicable insight, Ben "realises that they must be the results of Brett’s genetic experiments designed to augment the numan (sic) race combined with cybernetics". So an electronics firm conducts genetic experiments? What evidence are that these not-really-Zygons have any cybernetic implants? They can't even chase Ben without grunting and wheezing, so there are no augmentations to their lungs or limbs... it's clear that, like the bald folk, this a plot thread that sparacus couldn't care less about and resolved simply due to the high volume of reader complaints.
At SE, the TARDIS crew watch Katie and the other enslaved humans moving crates of humanoid robots onto a lorry.
- Typically, the inefficient humans drop the crates, cracking them open and needing to repackaging it all over again. How very efficient...
- Is this an electronics factory, firm or plant? Sparacus can't make his mind up.
The Doctor realizes androids are being built here to be distributed across the country as part of a takeover bid.
- A clever deduction, especially given there was never any mention by WOTAN this was going to happen. It seems to be an attempt to copy The War Machines slightly closer than precious episodes, with the brainwashed servants building robotic death machines.
Jamie knocks Katie unconscious and they drag her back to the TARDIS.
- “Well done that man!" the Doctor beams. Nothing like violence against women to cheer up characters in the Chathamverse.
Reaching a road, Ben catches a lift from Hamish Campbell, a friend of Ben's uncle.
- Significantly, "Ben doesn’t have the heart to tell him that Harry is dead", even though saying "Stangeness Electronics murdered my uncle and we need to do something about it!" could possibly help him, especially with bald loonies and not-Zygons lumbering around the place. More proof he murdered his grandfather's brother.
- “When the mist comes down across the loch things can happen round here. Strange, sinister things,” Hamish notes. Ben doesn't confirm this, even though that sort of information could be somewhat useful to the natives. Perhaps it was because there's no mist at all when the strange sinister things happened at the loch?
- Hamish doesn't notice the fact his friend's great nephew was wandering around in the middle of the night, topless and bleeding. Ben also seems to have forgotten he's badly injured too.
Hamish drops Ben off at Henry's house, and cops a feel off the smoothe one.
- God damn it! Is there anyone heterosexual in this village?!
- Bizarrely Ben is "unnerved" at Hamish's advances, and doesn't have the bravery to tell the old lech to back off. Katie's argument that he's not as gay as he claims gets more and more credible, doesn't it?
- Why doesn't Hamish go in to see Henry? They're good friends, after all, and surely the only reason that he's in the area this late at night is to enjoy the intake of booze Uncle Henry went to so much trouble to collect at the start of the story.
Ben enters the house, just as the TARDIS arrives with the Doctor, Martha, Jamie and the brainwashed Katie.
- Hah! Ben's bad luck continues - surely this has to be karma for murdering his relative?
- In The War Machines, the Doctor's companion Dodo required extensive hypnotic de-programming to be free of WOTAN (followed by a rest in the country) and those that were released from its thrall were left dazed, confused and almost total amnesiacs. Despite numerous demonstrations of telepathy, the Tenth Doctor makes no effort to stop Katie muttering "must obey WOTAN" and simply has Martha slap her until she loses consciousness. And sparacus wonders why people think he has a problem when it comes to women...
Over drinks, the group discuss the situation.
- Some very crude retconning occurs as sparacus makes a half-assed attempt to reconcile the plot. Apparently WOTAN II is a "far more dangerous" version of the computer (despite still being completely immobile, insane, stupid and relying on inefficient and incompetent slaves) and is conducting "genetic and cyborg experiments with a view to producing a new species of human race devoid of all that the machine considers to be imperfections". And why would the "half-baked" (Martha's favorite term for people she hasn't met) Simon Brett do such a stupid thing? Well, it turns out he IS half-baked! "Somewhere in his disturbed mind he has the desire to inflict on himself what his father suffered. He needs to do this to feel closer to his father,” the Doctor rationalizes, yet has never met the man or heard anything beyond the biased testimony of an incoherent drunk suffering bloodloss. Long distance diagnosis treated as gospel fact? Only in the world of Ben Chatham.
- The Doctor "suspects compassion and emotion" will not be kept by the neo-humans, yet WOTAN and Brett made Graham Norton look sober and anodyne in comparison.
Ben orders everyone to go to bed as it's late and, after getting Jamie drunk on brandy, drags him to Ben's bedroom...
- A tedious cliffhanger by any standards, as everyone decides to call it a night despite being surrounded by danger and the threat of the world in balance. Even Ben doesn't seem to care about events, as he's not working on raw lust to seduce Jamie. In keeping with the mood of the story, everyone seems totally bored.
- Katie is left dumped on the sofa, rather than anyone putting her to bed that might give her a good night's sleep or anything theraputic like that. Taking its cue from The War Machines, it seems any woman brainwashed has a miniature nervous breakdown and needs to be written out of the series to recuperate. The next story, the aborted Harvest of Evil, would have Katie falling prey to the Limes Clinic off-screen and then mysteriously disappearing, before being declared dead by the Doctor. Ben for his part, doesn't care if she's alive or dead, just as long as her family don't pester him... but whatever her fate, she would seemingly be lost in the First Great Canon Reset, ultimately being reintroduced as a colleague of Ben in The Zombie Kids of Death (aka Quatermass and the Skins), and the palsied harridan never left him alone since...
The Doctor and Martha retire to Uncle Henry's room.
- Apparently they want to "respect the fact that they are guests in someone's house". They do this by taking the room of the dead owner. How exactly does this show more respect than crashing in the TARDIS like they did earlier.
- Martha is not remotely concerned that she's taking the bed of a man not dead six hours, far more determined to criticize the unimpressive decor. "This could be a really nice room if someone altered the colourscheme and removed those awful pictures of naked Greeks." So... a devoted medical student like Martha is offended by images of naked human beings? And, given her disgust when it comes to anything male, is this supposed to make us being that Spartha J is actually some psychotic lesbian? This would make her the only gay woman in the Chathamverse...
The Doctor tries to seduce Martha, but fails spectacularly.
- Yes. You read that right. It seems sparacus was "inspired" by the news that the Doctor and Martha would share a bed in the new series - an understandable hyping of a scene from The Shakespeare Code being taken completely out of context. There, the Doctor and Martha retire (fully-clothed) in a double bedroom provided at the White Elephant Inn, where the Time Lord is completely unaware of any sexual subtext his companion might be finding in the situation... and then kills the mood entirely by talking shop, digressing onto Rose, and going to sleep...
- Here, however, the Doctor immediately "removes his outer clothes", prompting Martha (and the entire audience) to cry out "Hang on, what the hell are you doing?" and reminding the Time Lord: "You and I stay purely platonic!" Just in case you think Martha's got the wrong end of the stick, the Doctor immediately protests at this lack of the mummy-and-daddy-dance, and storms off in a sulk (prompting Martha to give the famous Spartha J catchphrase "grow up!"). This is not the first time the Tenth Doctor has tried it on with the Jones woman - he spends all of Death in the Cloisters trying to loosen her up, and in (the thankfully-lost) Return to the Orchid House finally gave up trying to get her attentions and sold her to the Blandische family as a sex slave so he could watch her being repeatedly raped.
- Nevertheless, Martha's not exactly being kind - her plan was to force the Doctor to sleep on the floor with a pillow (but not a blanket), even prior to any hint of nookie. Is this showing respect to the late lamented Henry Chatham? Why is there such a shortage of bedrooms in this place?!
Brett and some cyborgs drive through the mist towards the house.
- These augmented creatures can't run particularly fast, it appears. Nor navigate through fog. How, exactly, are they supposed to be an improvement on ordinary homo sapiens?
In Ben's room, Ben is seducing Jamie by playing his late uncle's bagpipes.
- Despite Henry being "fascinated" in Scottish history, and buying a set of pipes ostensibly owned by the Duke of Buckingham from King James, he never showed these precious items to his boyfriend, or even mentioned their presence? The Chatham line clearly prefer their concubines kept ignorant!
- Speaking of which, this is the last appearance of Jamie in the story. In the following tale, The Harvest of Evil, Ben wants Jamie to move in with him in Cambridge (bullying him into giving up his whole life for Ben seems to be the acid test for a relationship as far as Ben is concerned, yet he never shows interest in those that actually do go through with it, like Katie...). The story was never completed so we never found out Jamie's decision, but it was clear that Ben didn't care as within the hour he was already trying to seduce a complete stranger, and Jamie was completely forgotten.
- Ben can play Flowers of the Forest on the bagpipes, a skill never before hinted at despite his stated love for them. This goes with the numerous other musical instruments Ben has mastered (ostensibly due to his father's musical background), never used before or since. Obviously Ben never went into the music business because he wanted to get drunk with groupies before all that tedious playing music to chavs bit...
- Ben's chest is described as "firm", rather than smoothe.
The music of the bagpipes causes the Brett and the attackers to scream in agony before they can storm the house.
- The Doctor deduces that the frequency of the pipes is "interfering with the frequency of WOTAN's mind-control waves". Why on Earth would a computer use sonic waves to control augmented humans? Especially waves of so normal a frequency they could be interrupted so easily by wind instruments! This is Scotland, more specifically sparacus' idea of Scotland where no man dare walk alone without a haggis, a kilt and a beard! Surely they would have discovered such a weakness a bit earlier! Apart from anything else, in The War Machines, WOTAN brainwashed followers in a single go. Here it needs to continually control its members by radio signals? Mechanized evolution, my arse!
The Doctor urges Ben to keep playing, causing all the cyborgs to die of cerebral haemorraging.
- So... not only does the Doctor cheerfully request Ben to slaughter people, it seems he's forgotten that he's got a sonic screwdriver. Which works with sound waves and on numerable occasions is used to interfere with mind-control signals and the like (off the top of my head, just in Rose). So, an enemy the Doctor could defeat with a single blast of his molenski univarious... and he needs Ben to do it for him. With bagpipes.
Brett pulls a gun on Ben.
- Despite screaming in agony like all the others when he heard the pipes, Brett is now "unharmed". Maybe Ben's just really, really bad at playing the pipes...
- Brett now wants the planet to be "cleansed of the filth of humanity". Even though he, himself, is human. And he was quite happy to just rule the planet an episode ago. No wonder Martha dubs him "unhinged", as sparacus clearly can't be bothered to keep a track on motivations.
The Doctor grabs a vase and smashes it over Brett's head, killing him.
- Sparacus does so enjoy the Doctor killing people with his bare hands and encouraging violence over communication. The Tenth Doctor's cold-blooded slaughter of a mad man (and his delight at it) was first hinted at in the original Season 2 pitch where the Doctor took sadistic glee in slaughtering innocents "for the greater good", be they space pirates, hippies, mental patients or... most famously... a domestic gerbil Jackie Tyler was looking after. All of this makes it ironic that LBC, sparacus' temporary successor, was so besotted with The Doctor's Daughter that emphasized the Time Lord's pacifistic stance to an incredible degree.
- So, knowing all about Henry's collection of vases... the Doctor decides to smash them up to commit murder. That's treating the place with respect, isn't it?
Suddenly, UNIT forces arrive in respond to Ben's call and Brigadier Ashton enters the house to speak with the Doctor and Ben.
- And Brigadier Harry Ashton returns! What do you mean, you have no idea who he is? Well, it transpires that Ashton is a recurring character in the Chathamverse from its earliest days: a clear Lethbridge-Stewart replacement this "brisk man in his forties" (a rather unimgatinative choice compared to the likes of Bambera in Battlefield or Mugambo in Planet of the Dead), he first appeared in Fire & Judgement where he and Ben teamed up to destroy an entire hospital full of innocent people for the greater good, and seemingly became the reason why UNIT give any credit to a word this hormonal drunk ever says. Promoted to "UNIT Commander", Ashton appeared in EarthSpan to once again solve the ongoing plot with the greatest amount of civilian casualties. Ashton would survive the First Great Canon Reset, returning to his roots as a character by nuking innocents in Reptillian Dawn (reverting to Brigadier once more), before (returning to "UNIT Commander") doing it all over again in The Lindig Valley Mystery, and a nameless mention in Winter of the Lost before making a further appearance in Dark Yuletide II: Deadly Yuletide. By the time of the Third Great Canon Reset, this mass-murdering psychopath still is around the place - not only appearing in the film pitch Day of Deliverence (sic), but even guest-starring in sparacus' own rewrite of The Eleventh Hour (now "James" Ashton). In almost every occasion, his dominant trait (apart from massacring passers-by) is to namedrop his "now retired predecessors", and then fawn over the Doctor and Ben. Considering how extras like Kyle, Barry Tuck and Shakey Jake became regulars, it seems the one thing keeping Brigadier Ashton from such achievements is the fact he's completely utterly forgettable - he has thus escaped the fate of Ben's K9 by being so boring no one notices when he returns...
- What are UNIT doing here? Ben's made "numerous calls" to them, apparently. But when? We never saw him do that and as was established at the start of the story, there is no signal in Stangeness and the lines are down! The only possible answer is that UNIT was already on hand in Stangeness and the "reporters" were actually working for UNIT (much as was seen in The Sontaran Stratagem). Presumably their failure to report in lead to this operation... but why give credit to Ben? Well, Ashton is something of a drooling fanboy when it comes to the smoothe scumbag...
Ashton reveals that his men have stormed the electronics plant and shot WOTAN to pieces, destroying everything with fire.
- So in this age of wireless technology, there was no attempt to stop the computer from, say, downloading itself onto the internet to start again? Or a psychotic follower to rebuild WOTAN and start the whole damn thing all over again? And WOTAN was unable to mesmirise any of the attackers or in any way defend itself? Oh well, it's in character given how bowel-shatteringly moronic it was on television...
- Wait. Hang on a second. So UNIT stormed the electronics firm, destroyed WOTAN, and then rushed to the house? So, WOTAN was already destroyed when Brett and pals arrived? Which is when all the cyborgs dropped dead? This rather suggests that the bagpipes had absolutely nothing to do with defeating the cyborgs at all! It was just an incredibly moronic coincidence!
- Martha deems this "well good". It seems sparacus has got confused and started writing for Ace again, as he often did with Rose.
The Doctor praises Ben for his actions.
- His actions being "defeating Brett" and "persuading UNIT of the severity of the threat". Except it was the Doctor who killed Brett and Ben clearly had nothing to do with UNIT anyway? It seems in the Chathamverse UNIT's remit is niether homeworld defense nor investigating anything odd or unexplained: unless there's concrete evidence of a full scale alien invasion with lots of people dead already, they just won't get out of bed in the morning. Apparently Ben was able to convince the UNIT hotline, but oddly enough this incredible feat was never actually shown, but simply mentioning the Doctor would be enough to do it.
- Ben is embarrassed by being called a "hero". As he should be, but he's clearly too embarrassed to miss a chance to be the centre of attention.
The Doctor and the Brigadier immediately pour themselves scotch to toast the non-augmented human race.
- Sparacus seems to have an obsession with "single malt", given that it is consumed in every single episode.
- Ashton, of course, is quite happy to drink on duty with civilians.
- This is a happy ending, is it? Never mind Uncle Henry being murdered, lives being ruined and monsters prowling Scotland, everyone finds the Doctor's rampant alcoholism incredibly amusing and all is well in the world. I'm sorry, Spartha Jones "laughs"? And then drinks inferior booze in the company of puny men? Sparacus was clearly as sick of the story as everyone else and just wanted it over. Who can blame him?
Next Time: The Lords of Ancrazar
It could have all ended here, and that's the truth. Ben Chatham and his world was never closer to extinction than this story. For a start, Adam Rickitt had fled to New Zealand, seemingly forever, abandoning any career that could concievably get him on Doctor Who. What's more, Chatham threads were becoming more and more trouble than they were worth, with The Ghosts of Weatherfield triggering a flame war that got every single poster on its thread banned - some temporarily, some not-so - and the thread deleted. Chatham popularity was at an all-time low and, with sparacus gripped with justifiable paranoia that his employers were scrutinizing his online life, it was only a matter of time before the stories would be retired.
And so it was decided that the final "special" of the trilogy-in-four-parts would be the last story full stop! For what was intended to be his farewell performance, it can't be denied that sparacus did us proud in this veritable Ben Chatham Greatest Hits Package - there's wild animal attacks, young women and children slaughtered in blood-drenched carnage, a suspicious quasi-religious organization that might as well have "WE'RE CONTROLLED BY ALIENS!" on a flashing neon sign outside their front door, negative portrayals of the lower classes, women, and religion, the Doctor happily working with Torchwood and of course the head of NuWho rammed up the arse of the Pertwee era in an ill-thought-out sequel to a story that wasn't particularly good the first time.
And yet... sparacus finally gives something approaching what the fans actually ask for. The Doctor, Donna and Torchwood are halfway recognizable for once, and they even get their own (far more interesting and exciting) adventure away from all the tedious soap and boozing that remains the exclusive provence of Chatham and pals. Kyle, an ensemble darkhouse and most popular character after only five non consecutive tales, gets more detailed background and characterization in this story than Katie Ryan has in the six years of Chathamverse tales. Mary Sue Do-No-Wrong Ben's nasty secret is revealed and for once there's no attempt to make us think Ben is the victim, and is painted as a nasty and unlikeable sod of greater malignance than the smoothe snob we saw before. The cliffhanger ending of the story is borderline genius: it's not a ticking bomb in a room or Ben faced with death. He has the choice to make amends to his sister or continue his old life, now shown as the hollow illusion it always was. It's never seemed a greater distance to that first trip in Little Balcome with devil-shaped aliens randomly killing vicars to a heartbroken Ben being confronted by the boy who's life he'd ruined since before he was born. For once Ben actually has something to cry about, and a valid reason to abandon life aboard the TARDIS, and just for one adventure only Chatham actually is interesting enough to merit our attention.
The only problem is it should have ended here, and it's being going nowhere fast ever since...
- This was credited as "the long-promised first episode of the new Doctor Who adventure", rather interesting as these specials were sold as Ben Chatham stories guest-starring the Doctor. But "long-promised" was right, as Crystal was being bigged-up by sparacus before he'd even finished Winter of the Lost, albeit as an epic story set on an alien planet. The finished product never leaves Earth (indeed, The Sisyphean Planet notwithstanding, there are only five stories that ever do: World on the Edge, The Imperfect, The Sun Goblet of Sacrosan, The Lords of Ancrazar and The Vampire Planet).
- There is a brief cast list for the story, for the first time confirming that Katie Ryan is played by Kate Ryan (an imaginative choice of casting there, given she was previously played by Martine McCutcheon) and Kyle Scott by Rory Jennings (better known as Tommy Connelly in The Idiot's Lantern or a certain Kaled youth in I, Davros: Innocence).
March, 2009. In London Zoo, the tigers suddenly leap out of their cages and attack the crowd.
- The introduction is remarkably florid for sparacus' usual prose, beginning with "as the sun sets and the cold March wind blows straw, dust and empty crisp packets into the air" before focussing on the gorey aspects as "tigers leap upon the crowd, tossing children around like rag dolls and biting deep into flesh".
- The brief life and death of Head Keeper Len Meadows sets a precedent for sparacus occasionally granting obviously deadmanwalking redshirt characters without more background and characterization than the regulars, hitting a peak in New Morning.
- Mad animals slaughtering women and children? A true cliche of the Chathamverse which sparacus has trotted out on numerous occasions - including StarMan, A Time For Love, Web of Lies, Goodbye Is Never Easy (sic), Operation: Delta, Doppelganger, Earthspan, Death in the Cloisters, The Fields of Death, Acorn Man, The Rats of Tenbury, Lair, The Lord of the Reedy River, New Morning, The Day of Deliverence (sic) and Day of the Beasts. It seems as though he was inspired by the infamous Doomwatch episode Tomorrow the Rat, which he plagiarized word for word in The Rats of Tenbury/Lair.
- Enraged animals turning on human beings was often found in the pages of TV Comic, from Kingdom of the Animals to The Castaway, The Arkwood Experiments (which begins with the big cats at a zoo behaving strangely) to The Unheard Voice. All of them are of a higher quality and quantity of plot than appears here.
The next day, the Doctor and Donna use the TARDIS to drop Ben, Katie and Kyle off at the Cedars Private Clinic for rehab patients so Kyle can meet his mother, Sharon Scott, a recovering heroin addict.
- This set up is rather odd. Kyle has apparent recieved a text from his mother asking to see him at Cedars, so he uses an unreliable time machine to get there rather than public transport? Perhaps the Doctor offered as a favor to Kyle, the only character bar Donna he would reasonably like, but why have Ben and Katie tagged along? Is Ben trying to provide moral support for what is rapidly and obliviously becoming his only friend? If so, he could do a favor and ensure Katie did not come along as well, as she spends the whole time telling Kyle off for loving his mother. As she has no like for Kyle or interest in his well-being, she can only be continuing to stalk Ben - yet, all the signs are that she's far better informed about Kyle's life than Ben is...
- Ben and Katie show no suspicion of any sort about the Clinic, bar the fact that Kyle's mother is unlikely to be able to afford it. Clearly, the events of Harvest of Evil (where Katie's stay at the Limes Private Clinic put her in danger of aliens preying on vulnerable humans) have been forgotten due to the First Great Canon Reset.
- The Doctor marvels at the Victorian neo-gothic architecture of the Clinic. Reptillian Dawn "established" that the Tenth Doctor has a passionate love for gothic architecture and even attends two hour lectures on the subject.
- Sparacus once again fails to understand what a "quip" is, believe that “Well here we are then” qualifies.
Bored, the Doctor and Donna leave the squabbling trio, using the TARDIS to investigate the massacre at London Zoo.
- This surprisingly credible act (the Doctor has no interest in domestics) is slightly undermined by the fact he takes over a day of being intrigued by the flying tigers to investigate. Is this the first chance he's got to ditch the lot of them?
- Despite being outspoken, middle class and a friend of Kyle's, Donna doesn't give any support to him when Katie bullies him about his family. In fact, she doesn't say anything at all. Maybe she just doesn't waste her breath on these Chathamverse losers any more?
Entering the clinic, Kyle has Director Lavina Hendridge take them to see his mother.
- Showing her usual psychotic lack of tact, Katie asks Ben: “How the hell can chavboy’s mum afford this? Are they lottery winners?” Apart from being shockingly rude and insensitive, why on Earth does she expect Ben to know the answer? Kyle can't even explain it! Come to think of it, why does Katie care? Is she just massively insecure about her own social standing since Ben started enjoying the company of "chavs" over hideously unlikable sluts like herself?
In a private room, Sharon Scott explains that her latest boyfriend Trevor owns a string of nightclubs and is paying for her treatment. Katie lectures Sharon over her treatement of her son, finally driving Ben to physically drag Katie out of the room for being "bang out of order".
- "What the hell is wrong with you, Katie?" Ben demands quite rightly. Despite being repeatedly told off for insulting Kyle's mother, the first thing she does in Sharon's presence is to mock her for "living off some dodgy London wide boy" and "wasting half her life as an addict" - deeply rich for a woman who's sole purpose in life has been to have sex with strange men and get drunk on wine. Is this because on some level she realizes she is as much a victim as Sharon, perhaps worse as she at least has the love of her son? Her excuse for her behavior is that she "was only saying what Ben was thinking", seemingly missing the fact Ben might just have been shutting up for a very good reason.
- “Some of us gain money via careers rather than on our backs," Katie shouts at Sharon. "It’s a shame you didn’t think more about your son years ago when getting hooked on drugs instead of wasting half your life as an addict.” Um... hang on. The way Katie's going on, it's as though Sharon has been recently trying manipulate Kyle for her own ends, when all she's done is give the guy a hug and not said a word! Is Katie leaping to conclusions or did the author simply forget to include some sudden and suspicious ingraciating behavior?
Upset, Sharon apologizes for her neglectful treatement of Kyle and vows to be clean.
- We learn a lot about Kyle in this single installment, more even than Ben in his first two seasons. At 16, Sharon fell pregnant to a casual boyfriend (who Kyle strongly resembles), who promptly abandoned her. Since then, she became addicted to smack (though she has made several attempts to get clean), and apparently worked as a prostitute, leaving Kyle to fend for himself and understandably end up becoming a street criminal by age 22. Yet this doesn't really connect with Kyle's debut adventure, The Lords of Ancrazar, where Kyle's mother was addicted to cocaine and had a regular boyfriend (both of whom didn't want Kyle around) and Kyle was in regular contact with his sister "when she needs dosh". Kyle's sister is never mentioned here, which, given the events in Crystal, is curiously ironic.
- Ben and Katie wonder if they will encounter "that Amy Whitehouse person or Pete Docherty” in the clinic. Perhaps regrettably, they never do.
Elsewhere in the clinic, four cats abruptly leap through a widnow and gouge the eyeballs out of a young male heroin addict...
- For a cat lover, sparacus has quite a fetish for these furry animals abruptly slaughtering people and having to be killed. Worrying, isn't it?
- From now on, the episodes are divided between events occuring in "LONDON" and "WALES", giving a clue as to the identity of guest stars this week. Does sparacus think that 'London' is the name of a country, or that 'Wales' is the capital of Wales?
Ben and two other patients rush to the rescue, and the cats flee.
- Katie, significantly, doesn't do a damn thing to help the poor guy.
- "The cats sense that they are being overpowered". Presumably being picked up and thrown to the ground was too subtle for them to realize?
After an unsuccessful inquiry at London Zoo, the Doctor and Donna go to a cafe to wait for the others to finish at the clinic.
- This exchange really is golden sparacus material - incredibly poor exposition, a dollop of class snobbery, and chronic inability to believe that anyone might continue to investigate things after a single setback: "Hmmmm now that is annoying.” “What, the fact that those tigers killed five people yesterday after showing no signs of abnormal aggression before?” “Nah. Well yes. But I mean’t the fact that the tigers have been shot and already cremated . I’d have liked to have examined one of them. Anyway, too late now. What do you fancy doing while we wait for the others to visit Kyle’s mum? How about a quick visit to the Tate Modern?” “Not my thing. Lets just find a café.” What's terrifying is that this is the best characterization either the Tenth Doctor or Donna have ever recieved in the Chathamverse...
As the injured junkie is rushed away in an ambulance, Ben returns to the Scotts to inform them of this development. Hendridge pops by to reassure the group and offers some pamphlets about the Welsh branch of the Cedars Clinic.
- “This is fascinating," says Ben of a single leaflet. "A religious retreat to give a new direction to the lives of ex-addicts.” Not remotely like a brainwashing cult, then? Given that Ben has encountered seven such organizations since The Fields of Death alone, surely be must be a tad suspicious? Especially when the branch is based in spitting distance of a time-space rift and run on "Christian principles" just after an alien monster pretending to be Jesus Christ caused a very public massacre in The Lindig Valley Mystery? And Ben doesn't find anything remotely dodgey about this at all? Then again, maybe he does, and is patronizing the creepy Hendridge who seems to believe that a rehab clinic offers absolutely no service at all whatsoever to the mental state of their patients.
- Further evidence that the Cedars staff are up to something when the Director glosses over the fact a litter of deranged cats tore the face off one of the patients. Then again, no one seems particularly surprised or alarmed by this horrible event. Sharon, for her part, is not surprised to discover this animal attack was responsible for the screams instead of a patient suffering violent panic attacks...
At the cafe, the Doctor and Donna hear of wild cows causing a massacre in Laffdiggogg town centre and immediately head off in the TARDIS to investigate.
- Insane homicidal cows returned in Day of the Beasts but lacked any connection to the events of this story. Thankfully. This is also the first hint the evil animal effect is not confined to felines.
- The Doctor once again refuses to wait for Ben and the others. He really is sick of them, isn't he?
- A minor detail: the Doctor drinks coffee and Donna has carrot cake. Presumably because she's a redhead. Or maybe sparacus has got confused and is writing for the carrot-obsessed Melanie Jane Bush instead?
Materializing in Laffdiggogg after the massacre, the Doctor and Donna meet Captain Jack and his Torchwood crew investigating the aftermath.
- Bizarrely, the Doctor immediately recognizes the group, even though he hasn't met them before (Jack has to introduce the team). Prior to the Reset, the Doctor was on good terms with Torchwood, having the organization on speeddial, trusting them over the British government and having Captain Jack and Adam Mitchell join their number in The Shadows of Christmas (which, had it been finished, would have explained how in the name of god's arse this fits into continuity). It is not explained, though, how Jack knows who Donna is - it's possible that he was told of her by Martha following the events of All Things Must Pass, but how can that be if Martha isn't part of Torchwood which she was then?
- The Doctor encountering the Torchwood Team pre-Exit Wounds was almost forgivable at the time, since The Stolen Earth had not been screened when sparacus was penning this story. It seems, though, that sparacus was completely ignorant about the deaths of Toshiko and Owen.
- A baffling typo makes it appears that Ianto introduces himself to people by squeezing his left buttock.
Owen uses an alien device to scan a surviving cow, and discovers it is being affected by an energy emenating from the Welsh branch of the Cedars Clinic...
- Wow. A theraputic retreat turns out to be an evil alien front. Who didn't see that one coming?
- How VERY convenient. There just happens to be a device that measures brain patterns, emotions, awareness and external energy sources, and Owen just happens to have it on a trip where it will completely solve the plot. Ye gods, are we supposed to be surprised that a cow might have "massively heightened emotions and awareness" when it's JUST BEEN SHOT SEVERAL TIMES?!?
- One might assume the bullet-proof cow could be a reference to the Jim Carrey film Me, Myself and Irene where one such bovine takes seventeen bullets to the head and still survives, zombie-like. Or it could just be a coincidence.
The Doctor rings Ben and informs him of the connection between the Cedars and the animal attacks.
- Ben is apparently under some incredible strain. His pedantry fails him spectacularly, as he notes "Me and Katie" rather than "Katie and I" and then decides the best way to stay inconspicious is to pick fights with the nurses just because they are having a "dreary conversation". When Ben bemoans to Katie, "I sometimes think that other people exist just to get in my way,” Katie laughs at him... then realizes he's serious and awkwardly adds “They just don’t appreciate you Ben.” First Katie appeared almost psychotically rude, but now seems back to normal but Ben seems to have been possessed by this force instead...
- Ben's interrogation of the patients goes predictably nowhere, and as punishment for a burnt-out junkie who has neither noticed anything unusual about the staff or taken part in any medical experiments, the smoothe scumbag forces the patient to take a Fox's Glacier Mint upon him. Presumably this knocks him back off the wagon and sets back his recovery by months - and this arbitrary act of hideous cruelty turns out to be a clue as to Ben's true nature...
In order to keep Hendridge occupied and get some information, Kyle pretends to be interested in enrolling Sharon for a trip to a Cedars retreat.
- But, significantly, doesn't have her sent to the Welsh branch, despite Ben's instructions. Clearly, Kyle isn't going to be blindly obedient when it comes to risking his own family - another difference between him and Ben this story will brutally explore.
The group are taken to the "detox for the soul" contemplation sessions in a large and imposing concrete building nearby. Hendridge leaves the group sitting with other patients in silence awaiting inspiration from God.
- Katie, unable to grasp the concept of "contemplation" starts shouting at the other patients, “Er why isn’t anyone saying anything?”, calls their belief nonsense and storms off to find some food. Why, precisely, does anyone want her around?!
In a red-lit chamber beneath the complex, Hendridge meets a giant spider sitting before a large crystal glowing red.
- Yes, the Eight-Legs have returned! The giant spiders from Jon Pertwee's finale, Planet of the Spiders in 1974, are back. Domestic arachnids from the 25th century, mutated into hyper-intelligent psychic-powered giant evil bitches by the blue crystals of Metabelis 3 - all of whom were destroyed by the death throes of their leader, the Great One (first by her telepathic death scream, and then by blowing up the entire mountain all the Eight Legs were living in). Nevertheless, like Daleks, the giant spiders haven't let puny extinction get in their way. In The Eight Doctors by Terrance Dicks, the Seventh Doctor discovers a few surviving members were left as wild scavengers on the blue planet, while Return of the Spiders by Gareth Roberts had another branch defeated by the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K9 (as well as revealing that, no matter how intelligent the Eight-Legs are, they have an uncontrollable love of deep-pan Meat Lover's pizzas). Most memorably of all was The Eight Truths (AKA Worldwide Web) by Eddie Robson, an audio adventure where the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller discover their old foe the Headhunter has allied herself with the spiders and helped them conquer the entire Earth in 2015 with help from a Scientology-like cult and a remote stellar manipulator. The latter in particular explored the more unusual abilities of the spiders, including their trick of vanishing into the astral plane.
Hendridge, a servant of the Queen Spider, explains that she has delivered Ben Chatham and his associates to her.
- This raises a few questions. Why has Hendrige promised to trick Ben into visiting? Come to think of it, how did she do that? Sharon sent for Kyle of her own free will and there was no guarantee Ben would come along. Given that there is someone else in the clinic that would be perfect to lure Ben into a trap (well, in theory), it seems ridiculous that Hendridge didn't use that instead. Did Ben just turn up earlier than expected and Hendridge is taking credit for it?
- Why does Hendridge have to speak to the Queen face to face? The Queen's telepathic! As evidenced by her regular updates from Wales!
- “This is good. And I am informed that the Doctor is in Wales investigating the cow incident," is the sort of dialogue that's wierd coming from anyone, but a gigantic mutant spider with delusions of godhood?
The Queen Spider is confident that once they have retrieved the second of two red crystals, they will be all-powerful.
- You'd have thought the Eight Legs would have sworn off using giant glowing crystals to take over the world, given what happened the last time they tried...
While Katie is making a scene at the refectory, Ben is spotted by a blond woman who recognizes him. He ignores her and refuses to discuss the matter with Katie.
- The refectory is apparently full of organic food and home-baked bread, but Ben can orders some grilled chicken and roast vegetables and a bottle of white wine. They let rehab patients have alcohol?! Doesn't anyone find that just a teeny tiny bit suspicious?
- Ben ("clearly in a foul mood") tells Kyle to "mind your own damn business”. So it's all right for Ben to gatecrash a reunion between Kyle and his mother and put her in the firing line, but Kyle's not allowed the slightest knowledge about Ben? Mounting evidence that Ben's holier-than-thou attitude is not to be trusted, especially as Katie voices her suspicion that "all this pretence of being queer is just a ruse to make yourself seem more intriguing.” Well, I didn't want to be the first to say it...
Finally, Ben is drunk enough to reveal the truth: the woman is his sister. Ben destroyed every letter the "lowbrow slut" sent to her family, and has been claiming to be an only child ever since. Kyle is horrified at his behavior...
- And so should he be! Apparently his sister did "damage" to the family by taking drugs and sleeping around... which is precisely what Ben does... and apparently Ben's father "a very traditional man", couldn't cope. Yet he has been reasonably tolerant that his only son is gay, that his brother Henry had a string of underage boyfriends, and the family is friends with arms dealers selling land mines in Afghanistan. Given Ben's admitted he's been lying to everyone, why should we believe his sister did any of these crimes, let alone was disowned for them?
- Ben notes that any of his sister's attempt to contact him were "probably for drug money". Precisely what he tells Kyle about his own sisters attempts to contact him in The Lords of Ancrazar. It seems Ben has something of a full-blown vendetta when it comes to female siblings. Let's hope Katie's an only child...
The Doctor, Donna and Torchwood approach the Welsh clinic when two white-robed beings emerge and use telekenisis to disarm Owen and Jack. The group are captured.
- Bizarrely, Gwen, Tosh and Ianto are not armed. Even more bizarre, despite the Doctor's "urging caution", the gang decide the best way is to storm into the place guns-blazing... while Jack shouts "We mean you no harm." If they wanted to sneak in, why not use the TARDIS?
- If the robed figures are controlled by the spiders, why use energy-wasting telekinesis instead of zapping the intruders?
In Camden Supersave Market, a pack of wild pitbull terriers attack customers.
- By now we really have to wonder why the spiders are making random and pointless animal attacks in London and Wales? What purpose did blinding a recovering junkie serve, let alone slaughtering visitors to the zoo? Was it to deliberately attract the attention of the authorities? Well, now they're on the case, there's no need. And why do the attacks only affect specific animals? And why, frankly, doesn't anyone defend themselves? "The man behind the fish counter shouts in terror as a pitbull terrier leaps up and bites into him, the blood spattering into the ice keeping the fish cold" but doesn't use any of the knives he must have access to seem to be used. Nor does anyone, say, topple a pyramid of tin cans onto their assailants. Why didn't anyone notice a pack of wild dogs entering anyway? Is it just a random excuse for a cliffhanger? Cause that's sure as hell what it looks like...
Ben has consumed several bottles of wine, despite Katie's protests.
- Ben defends his drinking on the grounds, "I've had a shock" - he thus has no reason to stay sober. Despite the fact the refectory is in a clinic connected to violent animal attacks (one of which happened right in front of him) and the Doctor and Torchwood could well be needing him to save their lives (unlikely, true, but not impossible). This blatant selfishness is unheard of... well, to be completely accurate, it's unheard of for Ben to act like this and have other characters criticize him for it. For once, his laziness and apathy isn't being passed off as sensible maturity. Why the change? Well, maybe Ben's just dropped the "nice guy" act now he's been reminded of what he is really like to those he cares about...
Ben's sister - Nicola "Nikki" Chatham - arrives and Kyle and Katie leave them alone, heading off to continue the investigation.
- Katie's ability to "get the hint" is really out of character.
- Ben jeers at his sister Nicola, for ending up in rehab and gleefully reveals he destroyed all the letters she sent him - even though she sent them to Ben in belief he could be trusted to pass messages to their parents. When Nicola is disgusted by his actions, the drunken Ben complains that he was never appreciated by his parents while she was around, and thus ensured she would never come back.
This huge inferiority complex on Ben's part actually makes a great deal of sense and shows why he continually badmouths Rose Tyler who is, after all, a blond woman more popular than he is. His treatment of Katie Ryan (another blond woman who is better qualified to him and outranks him as an archaeologist) as nothing but a sex toy is also put into a different light as well. It also makes Katie's accusations about his sexuality rather interesting - does he just pretend to be confused to get attention? His treatment of Anselm and others shows he has an uncontrollable desire to be the centre of others' universes and anyone who has a life beyond him is "unworthy of his love". Yet, his compulsion to communicate via text and also his clear reluctance to hang around his family indicates that Ben is, on some level, aware of how messed-up he is (a later story admits Chathams have a strong history of clinical depression) and doesn't want face-to-face contact. He is desperate not to wreck the illusion about how famous and loved he is, and needs to get completely pissed (even by his own standards) before he can confess the truth... and that's to the one person no one is likely to believe, a recovering longterm junkie. Who, rather conveniently, ends up dead before the story is over...
- In Day of the Beasts it's hinted that part of the reason his parents had so little interest in Ben was because his father had sired a bastard son with a French whore called Giselle, about the time of Nikki's departure. Losing a daughter and gaining an illegitimate son at the same time would be unlikely to make a bible-bashing musician like Sir Alistair Chatham suddenly focus on Ben - who's "discovery" of his sexuality not long after becomes even more suspect, especially as he only revealed it to his parents a) after he'd been abandoned by the TARDIS crew and b) as emotional blackmail on his new boyfriend.
- Nikki's choice of the Cedars clinic makes sense, given how Christian her family are - no doubt such an organization's clean bill of health would convince her parents of her reforming.
In the Welsh Cedars retreat, the Doctor and Donna are brought before Dalton Mayne.
- Just where have Torchwood gone?! Are they still outside? Locked in a cell?
Mayne who explains that the Earth is in the Last Days before the Rapture - where all true believers are taken up to Heaven, leaving the ungodly to face the apocalypse.
- ...which is no explanation why wild animals should suddenly be killing people now, before the Rapture. No wonder the Doctor dubs him "Barking."
The Doctor realizes Mayne and the others are wealthy, American-funded fundamentalists who 'save' true believers by killing them, but doesn't understand how they could have gained access to the technology that can control animals. Mayne offers to show them the solution.
- Disturbingly, the Doctor notes the only problem with this cult is its anachronistic technology. So the Doctor doesn't care about this Heaven's Gate style suicidal organization at all? The automatic assumption that any hardline Christians must be American is rather nasty as well...
Meanwhile, Nikki apologizes for making Ben feel so neglected.
- A truly big move from the Chatham girl there. Notably Ben takes a lot of prompting before he is apologizes... for destroying the letters. Although he admits to deliberately driving a wedge between his parents and his sister out of sheer spite. Maybe Nikki is trying to calm down the drunk psycho before he does any damage, since after all, she'll need his help to get back with his parents and then the truth can come out. Again, oddly enough, she conveniently dies before this can happen.
- Nicola has suddenly become "Nikki" without any explanation. Before she was simply Nicola.
Nikki explains she left home because she fell pregnant to her boyfriend Kevin, who left her to raise their son, Craig, for the next fifteen years.
- Yet another irresponsible young man, ignorant of contraception and a woman refusing to have an abortion (though being a "devout Christian", Nikki might have been against it). It seems Cedars clinic specialize in single teen mums who turn to drugs.
Upon realizing he has not only ruined his sister's life, but also his nephew's, Ben starts drinking even more than before.
- Ben's sobered enough to start blatantly lying again. "I despise shallow celebrity culture," he insists, ignoring all the times he's expected to be worshipped by the intelligence services and the way he reveres David Bowie...
- Ben is disgusted Nikki slept with a man named Kevin. Given his backlog of ex's include Corrinne, Charles, Katie, Carl, Kyle, this just ads to his hypocrisy. In fact, he seems to be basing his whole social life on what his sister got up to, like some nasty stalker obsessive...
The Doctor and Donna are presented with the Lord's Crystal, which the Doctor finds "dangerously" familiar.
- "Hmmmm. This is more serious than I'd imagined," the Doctor observes. So the deaths of all those innocent people and animals hasn't been really important before now?
- "This looks dangerously like the blue crystals of Metebelis 3. But red? RED?" the Doctor splutters. Quite right too. The idea of anything red on Metabelis III is odd, given how the Doctor goes on at length at how blue everything is on the famous "blue planet" of the Acteon Group. Blue flowers, butterflies, birds, unicorns, mountains, soldier ants, fish, giant eagles, trees, snakes, lightning, rain, mud and much much more. The only reason the spiders aren't blue is because they're not natives. So how did such a precious element end up not only on Earth but red? (And wouldn't it be considered a purple crystal in the blue sunlight, anway?)
A panel slides back in the wall and a giant spider enters.
- Hardly surprising, really, especially as the Doctor's just mentioned a planet known for its giant spiders...
The spider introduces itself as the Queen.
- So what's she doing in Wales when she should be in London. Did she teleport across?
- The Queen refers to Donna as a "female human" rather than a "two-legs". Tch. What a lack of research from the author.
- Another reasonably successful attempt to capture the regulars: after staring in stunned silence at the giant spider, Donna nudges the Doctor. “Well say something!” she hisses. “Er like what? I’m rather stuck for words at the mo,” the Doctor confesses, letting Donna do all the talking.
The Queen reveals the spiders have planned the "great deliverance" using the red crystals.
- Interesting, sparacus can spell deliverance here, but not later, when he uses it in story titles. Twice.
- “How did you survive the death of the Great One? Without her you cannot exist, or so I thought?” the Doctor asks (so clearly spara's ignoring the other times they've met). Even aside the fact the Third Doctor was dying of radiation and hardly giving much thought to the less-giant spiders, the question is a good one... just a pity that Donna (and by extension, the audience) have no idea what the Doctor's on about. The explanation isn't up to much either: the lesser spiders used the red crystals to gain "insight and independence" beyond their ruler (flatly contradicted by the scene where the spiders dare not risk taking the blue crystal from the Third Doctor for fear of angering the Great One) which allowed them to escape to Earth (though they needed a chanting bunch of trainee Bhuddists to get just one of them there). With all these problems, the fact we see all the spiders dying on screen seems almost academic.
- It's tempting to assume that the reason the spiders were dormant for over thirty years was to recover from the shock of the Great One's death, but why should we have to do all the hard work? That's the author's job!
- In Planet of the Spiders, while the Great One intended to conquer the universe, her subjects intended to conquer the Earth and enslave humanity (they, like Ben, have something of an inferiority complex) using them as servants, hosts and food. Here the spiders want to "enlighten and free every animal on this planet" - a very generous attitude from a race that indulges in social cannibalism (Planet shows that the coronation of a new queen involves eating the old one). They also want to remove the "human infestation", which is odd as humans are the only race they find intelligent enough to be useful.
- The Doctor protests that he will not allow the spiders to wipe out humanity because it's "tampering with nature". Again, he seems not that fussed about the fullscale genocide of his favorite species, especially given when he first met Donna - you know, the companion in the same room with him, who also dislikes giant creepy-crawlies that jump on people's backs (cf Turn Left) - he wiped out another race of giant omnivorous spiders who pointed out it was entirely natural for them to wipe out mankind. It seems just as Ben has his morality challenged, the Doctor loses his entirely. Um, genocide is bad full stop! Remember?
- The Time Lord sides with humanity because we have "evolved naturally to be the most intelligent life form" on Earth. "Evolved naturally"?! The Jaggeroth, Fendahl, Daemons, Rassilon and several Silurians would argue with that. Besides, define "intelligent" - dolphins don't have hatecrimes, do they?
Bored, the Queen uses the red crystals to stun the Doctor and Donna.
- Rather than, say, jumping on the Doctor's back and taking control of the Last of the Time Lords. That wouldn't remotely interest anyone, would it?
In London, Ben gets a call from Anselm and is irritated when Nikki is unsurprised he's gay.
- Ben in a nutshell. The moment his sexuality is mentioned he grows uncomfortable and expects his sister to be shocked at the truth... and when she isn't he's irritated. Given he still regularly sleeps with women (for the highly ethical reason they "look good on his arm"), surely he must be counted as bissexual? Or is he using "gay" as some kind of insult? A subconscious criticism of what a diseased tool he really is?
- Ben and Anselm's relationship continues to be chaotic in every sense. Since Wolf, Anselm was offered a job in Canada but Ben emotionally blackmailed him into turning it down, whereupon Anselm immediately ignored all Ben's texts. Anselm now wants to "pick up where they left off". What is wrong with this guy? One can only assume he's bored, horny and is only using Ben for sex. Not that Ben can complain as he shouts over the phone, "You needed some space? I haven’t had sex for three weeks because of this and I need it now!" In front of his sister. In a clinic he knows is a dangerous place linked to mass slaughter. I know Ben's pissed out of his skull, but come on... Worse, the moment Anselm agrees to a shag, Ben is suddenly blowing him kisses and calling him "darling", the superficial little slut.
Hendridge and five orderlies capture Ben, Nikki, Kyle and Katie.
- And none of them make any attempt to escape. Why does Hendridge only capture them now? Why not the moment they arrived and weren't ready for trouble? Why didn't she use Nikki to lure Ben there? Why is suddenly talking like a cheap gangster instead of her long, formal speech patterns of earlier? HUH?!?!
They are thrown into a pitch dark cellar where strange whispering voices taunt them.
- Strong, independent and fiesty Katie immediately has a panic attack in a dark room. Typically, she begs Ben to remedy the situation. Even more typically, it is Kyle that does so. He then intelligently tries to pick the lock while Ben is unable to do much more but be "concerned" and tell everyone to stay calm - though, given the amount he's drunk, it's impressive he's even able to talk.
- Why are the spiders whispering “Come, come, come to ussss…. Fly fly fly to usssss”? It's almost as though sparacus has gotten confused and is writing for the Faire Folk from Torchwood: Small Worlds. Speaking of Torchwood, where are they again?
Through the darkness, spiders attack Ben and Nikki, clawing at their faces...
- Curiously enough leaving Kyle and Katie alone entirely. Are they somehow hunting Chatham DNA? Why are they biting Nikki's face but only clawing at Ben? Their behavior for Eight-Legs is rather odd - normally they'd just zap the humans and then attack them, especially now they've got these bitching red crystals all of a sudden. They do, however, perfectly follow the behavior of the giant spiders in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Consequences, even doing to the face-hugging. It wouldn't be the first time sparacus would turn to that particular franchise for inspiration...
- Given the intention this would be the last Chatham story, the cliffhanger had more weight at the time, especially thought it could be the last time Ben's "pale, smooth cheeks" were discussed in such detail.
- The next installment has said cheeks "silky"... were the spiders cocooning him?
Ben throws the spider off and the group escape.
- Ben's first priority is to get out a mirror and checks his face for scratches, leading to Katie to "put her arm on his shoulder" (belt some sense into him?) and assure him he's still beautiful. But what about Nikki? She got bitten on the face! And Ben's not even asked about her! In fact, the lack of reference to her would make one think that they'd left her locked in the room with the spiders...
- So the all powerful teleporting laser-shooting mind-controlling spiders don't follow them? And there are no guards left to make sure Ben and pals don't escape?
In a nearby room, Hendridge is basking in a red glow as the "final liberation" begins...
- It's hard not to notice the intense detail of the opening episodes has degenerated somewhat... as has the dialogue: “It is happening. The final liberation is at hand. Soon my mistress will rule the world, ha ha ha ha ha………”
- Is the final liberation the same thing or different to the great deliverance? And why doesn't Hendridge refer to her leader as the "Queen"? Especially given what we discover in the final episode...
Mayne revives the Doctor and Donna to watch a plasma tv screen showing the red crystals "freeing" animals across the globe.
- So the Queen knocks the duo unconscious just so they can be woken up again? And can't a psychic genius come up with something a tad more impressive than some CCTV footage? And wasn't there supposed to be two crystals that needed to be found for the plan to work? Yet, that doesn't seem to be a problem any more. Did sparacus forget all about them, or did he decide against another tedious 'hunt-the-crystal' plot that was already too similar to Planet of the Spiders for comfort?
- The "final liberation" consists of packs of dogs in urban streets, farm animals in market towns, a swarm of bees storming a supermarket and a horse kicking a woman to death. Very impessive. And what happens when humanity uses guns, gas or other such nastiness against these 'enlightened' animals? That horse, for example, is not going to aid the cause when all it needs is to be shot in the leg, the bees won't be impressive in a cloud of pesticide, and the packs of dogs aren't going to stop a tank. All the Spiders are doing is prompting mankind to slaughter the other animals of the planet - but is this the plan? Are they going to offer their services to humanity to help fight the battle, gain their trust and then betray them?
- Mayne laughs cruelly at Donna and calls her a "vulgar mare". Why does he think she's vulgar? And calling her a mare when horses are now kicking people to death, is that supposed to be a compliment or what? What does vulgarity and sexism have to do with a suicidal doomsday cult? It's almost as though spara lost control and needed someone - anyone! - to insult Donna for being working-class and a woman!
Ben, Katie, Nikki, Kyle and Sharon Scott sneak out of the Cedars clinic.
- Katie rants it was stupid "letting" Kyle go back for his mother because it risked "compromising" their escape. But, given that all the guards were hiding in a cupboard with the Director laughing stupidly at a red light, how could Kyle compromise the escape without actually finding them and surrendering to them? The telepathic spiders should be able to chase them anyway! And is Katie so stupid that, after this whole story, she'd think Kyle would actually listen to Ben?
Ben contacts UNIT for help and they escape with Anselm to wait in a nearby pub.
- Clearly, Ben is unaware about the animal revolt across the planet which might, just might have already got the organization's attention? Why didn't they contact UNIT right away given the Doctor was already teaming up with Torchwood (remember them?) - all right, Ben was off his face. What was Katie and Kyle's excuse?
- By curious coincidence, Anselm just happens to be passing the Cedars clinic wanting to see Ben but hasn't been at all inconvenienced by the armies of vicious animals attacking everything in their path.
- This features the first appearance of Anselm since Wolf and he's effectively a brand new character. Anselm was previously a day-dreaming, criminally naive religious gayboy with, it seemed, no fear of the cold and quite happy to bonk a complete stranger in a river at night on Christmas Eve. This Anselm seems to be an official from Inter Minor with the most pretentious dialogue the Chathamverse has ever seen before or since: “Look, one is sorry for some of what one said, not all of it mind you.” (this is directly after saying "Ben, look I just had to see you after our talk on the phone." Did he just have a stroke in the middle of his sentence or something?)
- Hiding in a pub is not exactly the worst plan given the circumstances (especially given it's Ben's idea - hey, stick with what works). But choosing the pub nearest to the Clinic, surrounded by violent animals, in easy reach of religious maniacs and evil spiders? Oh well, at least they've all done the full Shaun of the Dead and armed themselves ready to repel any attackers... oh, wait. They haven't.
- Ben, clearly wracked with remorse, actually buys the drinks for once. Truly a sign of the apocalypse.
- Ben promises to keep in touch with Nikki. Not to make amends from tricking her family into abandoning her and forcing her to live below the poverty line with a child to support because of his infantile vendetta. Just keep in touch. This is almost as ludicrous as Anselm demanding he and Ben discuss their relationship in private... even though Ben was screaming about it on a mobile phone in the middle of a rehab clinic canteen. Idiot.
Hendridge and armed men burst into the pub and confront the group.
- Rather than using the crystal powers to cause a psychic telekinetic storm that kills everyone in the pub. Or teleporting everyone in the pub into the cellar. This red crystal seems to be the opposite of the blue one in that, rather than expanding the minds of the users, makes them so stupid they lower the IQ points of the whole street every time they speak. Don't believe me?
“You will come with us. I can see that it was a mistake not to simply shoot you. That will be rectified,” announces Hendridge...
- So do you want them to come with you or just shoot them? Why was it a mistake not to shoot them when they were going to feed them to the spiders? And if you're so determined to kill them with bullets (rather than, say, directing the wild animals to storming the pub) why not simply go in guns blazing?!
- Sparacus is quite fond this cliffhanger as he uses it wholesale in New Morning, except with added Russians and less credible dialogue.
- The cliffhanger is retconned so Ben and the others are being lead out of the pub instead of being shot. None of the other customers nor bar staff lift a finger to help.
A fleet of UNIT vehicles arrive, and Hendrige hastily seizes control of the pub and takes all the customers hostage.
- Rather odd, given there's no suggestion anyone in UNIT has even noticed this event. Did Ben tell UNIT specifically to meet him at the pub instead of heading straight to the Cedars Clinic? And have the animal revolutionaries fallen through the same narrative cracks as the Torchwood team?
- “So Ben Chatham, you called for reinforcements," Hendridge announces. "Well I suggest that you get onto your phone and call them off or we will shoot two of these customers every half-hour." Um... what? You have telepathic, teleporting spiders and armies of animals? Why get into an armed seige? Why does Ben need to ring them? Can't Hendridge shout out the door to the troopers surrounding them? Why threaten them every half-hour? Why not threaten Ben's friends first? That red crystal can really screw with your mind.
To prove her intent, Hendridge executes a customer, but in the confusion the customers fight back and easily overpower the guards.
- So easily, in fact, it boggles the mind. Presumably the red crystal has dimmed every possible faculty the guards possess.
- The sight of an elderly man's "blood and brains splattering over the bar" from a shot in the head prompts his "shocked son" to fight back, leading the locals. Ben and Kyle pitch in, yet Anselm, Katie, Nikki and Sharon do not. Surely Katie has combat skills by now! Yet Ben, who should be utterly paralytic after three bottles of wine plus a round of drinks, is somehow able to leap into the fray...
Hendridge transforms into a giant spider: “The red crystals grant the power of disguise. And now you will die.”
- This is rather baffling. Why not simply have a spider on Hendridge's back? Has sparacus actually watched Planet of the Spiders? He seems to have next to no idea what happened in it, which is very odd given it's a sequel (mind you, he did worse in Stangeness...) yet moments later he has the spider leap onto Kyle's back but not possess him.
The spider attacks Kyle, and when Ben tries to intervene it spits acid at Ben's face.
- Rather than the psychic blasts used on television. How do spiders spit acid anyway?
- Ben is the only one concerned about Kyle. Particularly damning as his own mother is supposed to be invovled...
At the last second Ben turns so only his £900 jacket is damaged by the acid.
- Even for Ben, whining about his moronically expensive clothes when his friend is wrestling a giant spider is dumb. Almost as dumb as ordering everyone in the pub to run outside into streets filled with psychotic animals and trigger-happy UNIT troops...
The customers flee the pub, but one of Hendridge's goons fires at Anselm.
- Another attempt to alarm the audience, with our heroes being shot at randomly by bullets and acid.
The shot misses, and the goon fires at Ben, and Nikki is the one shot instead.
- Wow. Someone Ben has a clear motive to get rid of just happens to get killed. Exactly why did a weak, pale recovering junkie get into a fight anyway? And how convenient that she happened to be directly in the line of fire, and ended up as a human sheild for Ben (who, of course, was far too busy complaining about his jacket to get his head down in a shootout). If Ben isn't as drunk as he appears - and given how much he's drunk he should be completely paralytic - then it's very worrying that he idly gets Nikki killed before his parents can find out the truth of his actions, within hours of meeting her. Did he engineer her death? The story has demonstrated he has the motive, opportunity and the sheer nastiness to do so. Given the rather impenetrable prose and Ben's capability for denial, this is all highly credible...
In Wales, the Doctor and Donna break free and escape with the crystal.
- With this being the last episode, it seems sparacus might have hit the bottle. Things turn decidedly surreal from this point onwards, as first the Doctor and Mayne decide to chat about a plasma screen instead of the images it shows of the animal apocalypse. “I must say that’s a nice screen.” “Oh yes, its high definition with surround sound. The DVD player is built in and plays Blu-Ray.” “Wise choice, it becomes the standard format by 2015. Mind you, its still not a patch on the audio-visual technology I have within my TARDIS.” So, Mayne, an insane cult leader, is actually a real geek when it comes to the technology he intends to destroy? And isn't a bit suspicious that the Doctor knows humanity and plasma screens exist in 2015, rather undermining the attempts to destroy all civilization in 2009?
- Things then get wierd. Donna "boots" one of the cultists "in the testicles", leading one of this American fundamentalist zealots to exclaim “Ow me bollocks” as Donna, now in some kind of blood frenzy, "punches the other in the teeth". So, violence, anger and lies defeats the spiders, which represent selfishness, cruelty and ego. Rather than letting the spiders defeat themselves, which was the whole point of Planet of the Spiders?
- Still think the author is sober? The Doctor now "grabs the spider by its spindly legs and before it can squirt any acid he spins it round and round above his head then lets it go so it flies off and smacks into the wall". Because a super-intelligent psychic spider is about as dangerous as beanbag, apparently...
The Doctor promptly takes the crystal from Donna and throws it against the wall, where it shatters.
- What subtlety. It seems these crystals are shockingly fragile.
- Presumably the Doctor's "cricket-ball-style bowl" is a reference to Human Nature.
- Why not just stamp on the bloody thing?
With the crystal gone, all the giant spiders shrivel up and die.
- What happens to all the goons and cultists? The effect from Metabelis crystals is permanent, so shouldn't all the animals be killing people still?
The Torchwood team arrive and Captain Jack thanks the Doctor.
- ...for what? Where the hell have they been? Were they locked up and only now escaped? Did they escape capture the first time and been helping fight the insane cows? If it weren't for Donna, they wouldn't have escaped at all, let alone got the crystal. All the Doctor's done is smash it with pointless ceremony (meaning there are a few more seconds of chaos that cause more people to die!) and Donna hasn't got any credit at all!
- This is the first time any Chathamverse story has had an epilogue; a special feature since this was intended to be the very final story.
A week after Nikki's funeral, Ben is drinking heavily and wracked with guilt, despite Kyle and Katie's attempts to snap him out of it.
- Her funeral would surely be one of countless others across the globe, yet no one reminds Ben he's not alone in losing a loved one. It's also never mentioned that Ben's parents actually found out about their daughter's funeral. It's quite possible Ben's never told them, thus ensuring he remains the most important member of the offspring.
- “I should have kept in touch with her. I should never have destroyed those letters. Mum and dad will never forgive me. She’s gone Kyle.” rambles Ben inconsolably. Odd how he only feels guilty now his sister isn't around to reproach her. Given his psychotic behavior to Nikki in the past, is Ben really upset, or just play-acting to get sympathy? Ben, after all, will milk any misfortune for all its worth to get people to feel sorry for him - he's treating the murder of his sister with exactly the same self-control as he has not getting texts from his boyfriends or Barry Tuck insulting him in a wine bar...
- Katie's attempts to console Ben consist of barging into his room and screaming at him to "pull himself together" as "it's not as if you'd seen the silly cow for years!" We might be generous and assume Katie was much more subtle in the aftermath of Nikki's death, but no one can take seriously her cry of "This isn't like you, Ben!" Um, lying on the sofa knocking back absinthe and wallowing in self-pity? If anything he's completely back to normal.
- Kyle's attempt involves fixing Ben up "some snap", which doesn't seem to interest him. "Snap"?
Unable to face what's happened, Ben decides to abandon his work or travelling in time.
- What exactly is this "work" of Ben's? Since last returning to Earth in All Things Must Pass, Ben has lectured once at a university and done absolutely no other work at archaeological digs or anything else! Indeed, almost all the stories involved him lying about the place getting dragged into wierdness!
- Ben is adamant about "no more trips with the Doctor in the TARDIS", but less certain about any more "investigations". That doesn't make much sense, given the Doctor could take Ben to other worlds and times by way of distraction, but hanging around in Cambridge 2009 is going to continually confront Ben with the horror of what he's done. Is this some kind of self-punishment from Ben? Did they just leave right away, as they had been doing to Ben throughout the story? Or, perhaps more likely, the Doctor and Donna were so disgusted by Ben's treatment of his sister they refused to let him back aboard the TARDIS and abandoned him and Ben's just lying to save face? It is, after all, what he did to Rose Tyler...
- In fairness to Ben, there is a possibility he's genuinely upset. He does, after all tell Kyle, "Look, I’m sorry I’ve never really appreciated you much, but I’ll make it up to you.” Though exactly how he does this is never made clear (mind you, this was intended to be the last story, so such wild promises could easily be made).
A 15-year-old boy arrives at the apartment - this is Craig Chatham, who has chosen to stay with his uncle rather than be sent back into care.
- And so, a major addition to the Chathamverse appears in its (seemingly) final moments in the form of Ben's nauseating adolescent nephew Craig. Of course, Craig's true personality was fashioned by Joshua Wynne as a self-harming, miserable emo loser with a fanatical devotion to My Chemical Romance, none of which has happened yet. Here Craig is a seemingly intelligent, normal kid albeit determined not to be stuck in a children's home. He also appears to have tracked down Ben entirely on his own, since Nikki could hardly have contacted him to let him know they were once again on speaking terms.
- "Is this some kind of twisted joke?” the drunken Ben boggles. "You can’t be a Chatham you’ve got black hair!” Given such lack of variety in the gene pool, it seems a fair bit of evidence that the Chathams are fantastically inbred...
- Ben initially tries to get Craig gone by handing over £100 ("the price of a b&b and your train fare back”), on the grounds it is in Craig's best interests to be cared fror by paid professionals. "What do I know?" he sobs. Certainly he has absolutely no skill with dealing with other people, let alone emotionally vulnerable teenagers. Even aside from his dangerous trouble magnet lifestyle, Ben treats Craig appallingly in future stories: refusing to spend any money on the boy, deliberately tormenting him in his relationship with his girlfriend, bullying him over his musical tastes, and on numerous occasions acting with such neglect he seems to be trying to kill Craig. It was ultimately revealed that taking Craig into his care was not out of family loyalty or even guilt: Ben didn't want his parents to discover Craig for fear the boy would get a cut of Ben's inheritance. This, coupled with the fate of Nikki and Uncle Henry (and later his fury at discovering a half-brother James), paints Ben as something of a near serial killer bumping off his relatives to keep all the cash for himself...
Pouring himself another drink, Ben stares into the camera and announces “With all this going on, I’ve made the right decision in taking a rest from travels with the Doctor. How long for….. I just don’t know…….”
- This cliffhanger is almost identical to that of Goodbye is Never Easy in 2005. There, after Jackie Tyler is killed after eating a GM apple, the heartbroken Rose tells Ben she must stay on Earth with her friends and family to sort her head out. Just as then, this decision is completely forgotten about - just as the next story had Rose travelling with the Doctor and Ben as if nothing had happened, it would be but two stories before Ben was back on board the TARDIS.
- And on this note the adventures of Ben Chatham came to an end... or so it seemed. Within a week, the ferociously ardent supporter of the Chathamverse LemonBloodyCola decided to take over the reigns of the franchise and carry on sparacus' work. His first story The Claws of Time, picked up from this very scene and concentrated not only on Craig but his girlfriend Isobel, a character to be played by Hannah Murray... a name fandom would soon know just as well as Adam Rickitt. But all this is another story...