Monday, March 31, 2008
David Tennant: People will say, ‘[adopts a Welsh accent] Where’s your scarf then?’
Peter Davison: Why in a Welsh accent?
David Tennant: Well . . . no . . . I mean, they’re not all Welsh!
In last issue's Space-Time Telegraph, DWM speculated that you and Christopher Eccleston will be challenging each other to water-pistol fights on stage at Doctor Who conventions in the year 2027.
I saw that! Yes, with a charmingly imagined picture of myself—I thought looked rather good for 60 or whatever. If that’s a genuine glimpse of the future, I’m quite pleased.
David Tennant: Your celery wasn’t real?!
Peter Davison: No, it was material.
David Tennant: I’m devastated.
Andrew Orton: Can I have your coat when you’re finished with it?
David Tennant: No.
--“You Ask David,” DWM #390
Sue Heal: Do you realize how sexy you are in the brown pinstripe suit?
David Tennant: Sexy in the pinstripe? . . . Well, I have nothing to say about my bum. Anything I say will condemn me to . . well, believe me, I didn’t . . . there was no . . . oh, I don’t know what to say.
Kim Fox: Do you find it strange that there are a lot of people out there thinking of questions such as these to ask you?
David Tennant: I find it slightly impossible. It’s very lovely, and I’ve enjoyed doing it, but it’s odd to relate any of this to oneself. There is an element of madness to being in Doctor Who. Perhaps on a slightly more serious note . . . My mother died earlier in the year, and people on the internet started raising money for the hospice that she died in, without any prompting, without me saying anything, just because of a job I do. I love what I do, and I try to do it absolutely to the best of my ability at all times, but that’s my job. The fact that it obviously means so much to people, and that they want to do something like that for somebody that they’ve never met, is very humbling and terribly, terribly moving. It meant such a lot, and was quite sort of breathtaking for myself and the whole family.
Silly Doctor Who Tips from the Official BBC homepage:
--Mobile phone owning Who fans: create your own fantastic 70's incidental music ringtone by randomly pressing keys in your phone's composer menu.
--Watch all your favourite 60's episodes in glorious technicolour by simply pasting Quality Street wrappers to your glasses.
--Obtain a realistic Sea Devil face by watching too many Bonnie Langford episodes.
--Pretend Doctor Who repeats are being shown again by taping or glueing pictures from your copy of DWM onto your television screen.
--Feeling poor? Borrow a TARDIS, go back to the 1960s and videotape all of the lost episodes. On your return to the present, you'll make your fortune.
When one has lived a long time alone,
one wants to live again among men and women,
to return to that place where one’s ties with the human
broke, where the disquiet of death and now also
of history glimmers its firelight on faces,
where the gaze of the new baby looks past the gaze
of the great granny, and where lovers speak,
on lips blowsy from kissing, that language
the same in each mouth, and like birds at daybreak
blether the song that is both earth’s and heaven’s,
until the sun has risen, and they stand
in the daylight of being made one: kingdom come,
when one has lived a long time alone.
--Galway Kinnell, “When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone”
Life is short and you are hot.
--Billy Shipton (Steven Moffat, “Blink”)
The dead don’t die on schedule.
--Charles Dickens (Mark Gatiss, “The Unquiet Dead”)
For 40 years, the Doctor’s been one of my best friends. He’s a tough old bird. Against all odds—both alien and executive—originality, imagination and a lot of love always win through.
--Marc Platt (writer of “Ghost Light”)
The fourth humanoid had short reddish-brown cranial fur and the differently constructed thorax that according to the Sontaran Recognition Manual Know Your Alien marked humanoid females.
(Terrance Dicks, The Eight Doctors)
Following the spat, Peri dives into the sea. Just as she’s about to drown, Turlough kicks off his shorts and dives in to save her. “Now Turlough’s getting his kit off, too!” says Peter. “I only hope the Doctor stays decent.”
--The Time Team review of “Planet of Fire” from Doctor Who Magazine #386
Few things are so exhilarating as being shot at without result!
--Winston Churchill, Players
When I got the script, there was the word TARDIS, and I didn’t know what it meant. I looked it up in the dictionary, couldn’t find it, phoned my agent and said, ‘What’s a TARDIS?’ He laughed so hard, he put the phone down on me.
--Naoko Mori, on being cast in “Aliens of London” (2005)
Mr Saxon: So America is completely in charge?
President Winters: Since Britain elected an ass, yes.
(Russell T Davies, “The Sound of Drums”)
He wears yellow trousers and a vulgarly coloured coat, but tread carefully—he's treacherous.
--The Master, of the Doctor (Pip and Jane Baker, “The Mark of the Rani”)
The plays still refer to you as wearing your frock coat and cravat from the 1996 TV movie. Are you wearing the same terrible wig, too?
I think I am, yeah. I’ve got the spirit glue all over my bonce, even on the audios! That’s not my choice, it’s theirs.
You should put your foot down. You shouldn’t have to wear rubbish wigs on audio.
Listen, that’s irrefutable logic, but this is a franchise, man. I’ve got to wear what they say. No, I’m stuck with it.
The Ninth Doctor
You lot. You spend all your time thinking about dying, like you're going to get killed by eggs, or beef, or global warming, or asteroids. But you never take time to imagine the impossible. Like maybe you survive. (Russell T Davies, “The End of the World”)
[to a Dalek] If you can’t kill, what are you good for? (Robert Shearman, “Dalek”)
Everything’s important. (Russell T Davies, “World War Three”)
“...Dishonoured. My appearance was changed, so that I would fit in.”
“Know the feeling,” the Doctor said quietly.
(Justin Richards, The Clockwise Man)
I’ll hug anyone. (Russell T Davies, “The Long Game”)
Rose: So the world revolves around you?
The Doctor: Sort of. Yeah.
(Russell T Davies, “Rose”)
Rose: Why is it always the great-looking ones who do that [leave]?
The Doctor: I’m making an effort not to be insulted.
Rose: I mean—men.
The Doctor: Thanks, that really helped.
(Steven Moffat, “The Doctor Dances”)
The Doctor: It’s never easy being the only one left out in the cold.
Nancy: I suppose you would know.
The Doctor: I would, yes. (Steven Moffat, “The Empty Child”)
Rose: Doesn’t the universe implode or something if you dance?
The Doctor: Well, I’ve got the moves, but I don’t want to boast. (“The Doctor Dances”)
“Well, it's that or let them slip back to barbarity. Take the United States, fr’instance.”
“Barbarous,” the Doctor agreed with a smile.(The Clockwise Man)
Doctor Constantine: Are you a doctor?
The Doctor: I have my moments.(“The Empty Child”)
I am so impressive! (“The End of the World”)
Do you mind not farting while I’m saving the world? (“Aliens of London”)
I like bananas—bananas are good. (“The Doctor Dances”)
[saying goodbye to Rose] I just want to say, before I go, that you were fantastic. And you know what? So was I. (Russell T Davies, “Parting of the Ways”)
[The Doctor] gets very frustrated with [human] cruelty and negativity . . . [he’s got] a sadness, that he’s got no home . . . “I’m lonely, I want somebody to come with me”. . . he’s lonely, and she’s [Rose] bored.
The Tenth Doctor
Run and hide, ‘cause the monsters are coming. (Russell T Davies, “The Christmas Invasion”)
They [the Daleks] always survive, when I lose everything! (Helen Raynor, “Daleks in Manhattan”)
He was in what might have been a very fashionable suit if you were what Mum called a bit of a waster. (Paul Cornell, “The Hopes and Fears of All the Years”)
Sometimes I think you [humans] like it! Not having to think for yourselves. (Tom McRae, “Age of Steel”)
The Doctor: Just a nightmare, Reinette—even monsters have nightmares.
Reinette: What do monsters have nightmares about?
The Doctor: Me.
(Steven Moffat, “The Girl in the Fireplace”)
Tommy: What are you going to do?
The Doctor: Go shopping!!
(Mark Gatiss, “The Idiot’s Lantern”)
The Doctor remembered something in that moment: if there was one thing he had to fix immediately, it was four-year-olds looking sad. (Paul Cornell, “Deep and Dreamless Sleep”)
Reinette: This is my lover, the King of France.
The Doctor: Oh yeah? Well, I’m the Lord of Time.
(“The Girl in the Fireplace”)
That’s why I keep traveling—to be proved wrong. (Matt Jones, “The Satan Pit”)
I like impossible. (Russell T Davies, “New Earth”)
Rose: They’ve got guns.
The Doctor: I haven’t. Which makes me better.
Rose: But they’ll shoot you.
The Doctor: The moral high ground is mine.
(Russell T Davies, “Army of Ghosts”)
Martha! No, no, no! Hate what some of them do, hate some individuals if you must, hate intolerance and injustice and slaughter and man’s inhumanity to man but never, never hate people. (Jacqueline Rayner, The Last Dodo)
“Ah. No. Father Christmas, me and him, we’re like that.” The Doctor crossed his fingers. “By which I mean I’ve fought evil doubles of him. Couple of times. But I’m not, actually, him, no. He’ll be along in a minute, I should think.” (“Deep and Dreamless Sleep”)
Shakespeare: How can a man have eyes so old when you look so young?
The Doctor: I do a lot of reading.
(Gareth Roberts, “The Shakespeare Code”)
Living forever may disappoint you. In the end you just get tired. The only certainty is that you’ll end up alone.
(Stephen Greenhorn, “The Lazarus Experiment”)
Nobody fights for planets or races or people. They fight for one person, one family, one friend. Their own. If you have nothing in your life worth fighting for, Jack, then you are no use to them. And they need you. (Jovalien, A Torchwood Christmas Carol)
The Doctor stayed, and actually danced, doing an awkward sort of boogie to Duran Duran that made the kids collapse in embarrassment. (“The Hopes and Fears of All the Years”)
The final act of the Time War was life. (“Utopia”)
All my love to long ago. (to the Fifth Doctor, “Time Crash”)
There’s more to see than can ever be seen. More to do than—wait, that’s The Lion King. (“The Christmas Invasion”)
On his way out of the door one Christmas, 1955, Alice stopped the Doctor. She put a hand on his arm.
“We've got a spare room,” she said. “You saved my husband's life. I don't care if you're magic or what, when you visit here, you never have to go back out into the cold.”
The Doctor looked at her, and Tom thought he had the saddest look on his face, just for a moment. There was something like a fierce, distant love there. A love for things that had been gone a long time. And for what was in front of him at that moment. But there was also still something guarded, like he was waiting for the punchline to be on him. (“The Hopes and Fears of All the Years”)
Being apart from your own kind forever—that’s quite a burden to bear, you know. . . . However much you’re loved. (The Last Dodo)
The most ordinary person can change the world. (“Age of Steel”)
During the latter two years of high school, as year-end projects, I participated in a number of theatrical productions which were written by and starring myself and my group members. There was Moby Dick the Musical, in which I played Ishmael and sang “I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Taste” about Queequeg. At the end of my senior year we did a Durbeyfield TV Telethon in which I was Hamlet (another musical, set to Offenbach and involving me doing the Can Can), Tess of the d’Urbervilles (with a truly bad West Country accent), and in a commercial for Out Damned Spot cleaner from Macbeth. The reason I mention all this is because, along with my Doctor Who the Musical parodies, it’s work of this vein that CwoWS (abridged) brings to mind.
I hadn’t realized I’d seen the show before (albeit, with a touring company that may have been the original cast) until we got to the very end, where the audience participates in bringing out Ophelia’s subtext. For the three actors who play a) themselves, b) personas of themselves written by the three original playwrights, c) all the characters Shakespeare ever wrote, it’s a demanding show, physically and otherwise. We saw them at their last performance, so perhaps they were at their most hyper. While I laughed and found parts very clever, the show seems to have been written in the same frame of mind as DW The Musical, simply because in that I don’t limit myself at all: anything goes, no matter how insulting, crass, or insane (which is odd, since I am in real life quite a gentle person)—which is what goes on here. Except instead of from the mind of a girl, it’s from the minds of three men. The distinction is crucial.
So am I saying that if this can get produced, DW the Musical should be? Well, perhaps, but I guess my main point is that I can see why a friend of mine walked out. The first ten minutes are not that funny and perhaps not what anyone expects—there’s an aura of strain, of that painfully earnest Acting you see in high school productions. Once the adaptations start, however, the play picks up speed. Obviously, it’s personal preference as to which interpretations amuse you the most.
My personal favorite was Titus Andronicus as a cooking show in which chefs with stumps for hands bake a human head at “350∙!” This was both an arch rendering of a play written during Shakespeare’s “Tarentino” phase and silly, ridiculous fun. Macbeth was shouted with unintelligible Scottish accents (and included a painful, but good, joke about abortion). The brief Julius Caesar was highlighted by Caesar screaming, “What the hell is that [the Ides of March]?” before being stabbed; Mark Antony exclaimed, “Friends, Romans, countrymen . . . I come to bury Caesar—so let’s get on to my much better play, Antony and Cleopatra!” (Which consisted of Scott Bryan wearing a giant snake and pretending to vomit into the audience—“Scott”’s idea of death throes. It was then calmly explained to him that Shakespeare’s heroines did not meet their ends with vomiting.)
Romeo and Juliet was, with the exception of Hamlet, the play most paid attention to. I’m not sure why, other than because a lot of the speeches just sound nice and it’s an easy in road into the plays since there’s love, violence, and a recognizable plot. My favorite part of this was the end, where the Chorus is supposed to say the Epilogue but was interrupted by kazoo music and a tiny guitar. The Comedies were all, disappointingly, lumped into one play, (point taken, they’re somewhat formulaic) which I couldn’t hear very well. Othello, which was done as a white-boy rap, was also practically unintelligible; it may have been very funny but I couldn’t hear it. Likewise the Histories (and King Lear) were part of a football game of tossing the crown, which was amusing, but I wanted more Richard III.
I enjoyed a discussion of “Chernobyl Kinsmen” and Timon of Athens, as a footnote and interpretative dance involving an inflatable T-Rex and a penguin toy. I liked the jibes at Tricklock Theatre and Rio Rancho. (Hmmm, this is beginning to sound like panto.) Scott running off in horror at the prospect of performing Hamlet was a slight copout of an intermission, though obviously the actors were probably about to collapse by that point, so a necessary copout. (And hey, if it included Ryan Jason Cook, who played Christian in Cyrano, taking off his shirt, it couldn’t be all bad, could it?)
Hamlet is my favorite play, however unimaginative that preference may be, and the fifteen-, five-, and one-minute Hamlets are classic. The characterization of Hamlet’s “north-northwest” madness was as good as any legitimate rendering I’ve seen, and Scott (once again) as Gertrude was hilarious. The ending—I did a paper on “The rest is silence”—was almost done straight and was even a bit moving.
Despite the irreverent attitude taken here, it is my belief that “imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, parody the second most sincere.” There is definitely a genuine respect for the Bard running underneath all this chicanery, and I think in some ways it gets back to the very roots of Shakespeare’s age of drama. The physical humor—which the actors did really, really well—is the essence of crowd-pleasing theatre. At the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, there was balking over Romeo (Ryan) and Juliet (Scott) kissing. (“I don’t wanna kiss you, Ryan!” “It’s in the script!” And after they did, an unfortunate child toward the front said, “Ewww,” to which Ryan gave the surprisinglky caustic and certainly ad-libbed, “Oh, grow up.”) This is surely a nod to the fact women weren’t allowed on the stage for a long time. Though Dan’s character claimed to be an expert on Shakespeare, having read two books about him, the writers are a bit more familiar with the canon than they pretend.
Last performance-enthusiasm must have been infectious, as I left feeling both exhausted and exhilarated. Isn’t that how Shakespeare should make you feel?
 It also struck a chord since in Nunsense, the only actual show I ever acted in, there was a cooking scene where the nuns try to sell cookbooks.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Uh...It's mainly me that I'll be bringing [to the role of the Doctor]. You have to find out who I am really and it's very difficult to talk about who I am because if I knew who I was I wouldn't be an actor. Because people who really know themselves, they don't do anything 'cause they're quite satisfied. But those that don't can rush around saying, “well maybe I'm him...maybe I'm Richard the Third...” Or...someone...
Right, let’s cut to the big issues: have you always been able to roll your r’s?
Well, yes. It’s part of the way Scots speak. They roll their r’s. The English, they’re very lazy with that. It’s a genetic thing. R-r-r-r-r-r!
Yeah, I can’t do it. I’ve really tried.
[Guffaws] You put your tongue up to the palate of your mouth. R-r-r-r-r-r! You must be able to learn it, cos we’re all the same as babies, only I was born in Scotland, where they roll their r’s, and you were born in England, where they don’t. You’re not even tr-r-r-r-r-ying!
I’ll have to give a master class. Part of my Doctor Who was to r-r-r-r-roll his r’s.
I did suggest that I use the umbrella [as my costume in the Doctor Who movie] and they said no. But they wanted the hat, which I thought was great, because I went to the original Doctor Who audition for John-Nathan Turner wearing my hat, and that was why I got the job. . . . it was great that I got shot wearing it at the end. It went with me from the beginning to the end of my journey through Doctor Who.
I’m incapable of saying no. That’s why my life has been as it is. I believe in the philosophy of yes. I’ve always said yes. I can’t say no. Good job I wasn’t a girl.
Or a bank manager.
[asked if he would like to return to Doctor Who the TV series] I would obviously not do any of my stunts now. I’d just like to sit down in a chair and let someone else fall off a building. Especially with running down corridors—let someone else run.
You were wrong to get rid of it [Doctor Who].
The Eighth Doctor
I love humans. Always seeing patterns that aren’t there. (Matthew Jacobs, The Doctor Who Movie aka The Enemy Within)
I make my own luck. (Jonathan Morris, Anachrophobia)
“I too have traveled,” the man replied, meeting Nepath’s gaze. “Extensively, I expect.” “You don’t seem very certain,” Nepath said.
“Only scientists are certain. Those of us who have traveled, explored, discovered, who have been to places undreamed of, seen sights that science cannot and never will explain, we keep an open mind.”
(Justin Richards, The Burning)
“Is your plan wise, Doctor?” asked Romana, the doubt evident in her voice.
“Are they ever?” said Fitz to himself.
“Trust me,” he replied. “I’m the Doctor.”
(Peter Anghelides and Stephen Cole, The Ancestor Cell)
“People like you will always try to stand in the way of progress.”
“Well, progress would be wonderful if only it would . . . stop.”
. . . “Be reasonable, Doctor.”
“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the universe; it’s the unreasonable who seek to change it.”
(Stephen Cole, To the Slaughter)
Who are you?
I am the Doctor.
What are you the “doctor” of?
Many things. Temporal engineering, metaphysics, archeology, history, quantum mechanics, astronomy, medicine . . . the things one must know.
I have a PhD. in physics, and I have never heard of temporal engineering . . .
It hasn’t been invented yet.
Can you “engineer” time?
Let’s just say that I’m a tinkerer.
--the First Draft of Doctor Who by John Leekley, 24 August 1994 (Doctor Who: Regeneration)
“That’s quite all right, Doctor,” Betty said. “It’s the thought that counts.”
“I know, I know,” the Doctor assured her. “And thoughts are so much more difficult than gifts.”
I’m not entirely sure how many times I’ve saved the universe now. You stop counting after the first two or three. (Jacqueline Rayner, Short Trips: Seven Deadly Sins)
“Some mercury would be nice too.”
“Perhaps you could go to hell.”
“If hell is other people, I’ve a suspicion I’m already there.”
(To the Slaughter)
“No!” blazed the Doctor. “I will not captain a vessel of war, Compassion. I will not allow you to destroy any more lives. It’s evil.”
“It is necessary,” she replied.
“I don’t believe that. I don’t believe there can ever be a necessary evil. Or the lesser of two evils. It’s always evil.”
(Peter Anghelides and Stephen Cole, The Ancestor Cell)
I have never given up walking onwards, forcing myself to take one step after another, however rocky the road. (Jacqueline Rayner, Short Trips: Seven Deadly Sins)
“Who are you?” Stobbold asked. . . .
“That is something,” he eventually replied, “that I must find out for myself.”
“Is it . . . is it something you really want to know?”
“Yes. Yes it is.”
Rachel: Are you reading my mind?
The Doctor: No. Would you like me to?
(Lance Parkin, The Gallifrey Chronicles)
Odd business, time. Those rocks have endured for billions of years. To me, that makes them precious. Whereas human lives are over in a blink of an eye . . . And that makes them more precious than anything else. Anything. (To the Slaughter)
Friday, March 28, 2008
I had wanted to watch this because it was Victoria’s first episode and because it was another topic in the someday-‘twill-be-written essay about Doctor Who and the Victorian and/or the Gothic. I was very excited when I found the soundtrack at the public library, though obviously disappointed that the film had not survived (I hadn’t realized that before). Unfortunately, public library copies are not known for their niceness, so I missed most of the ending. However, aside from that, I found this quite intriguing for a Dalek episode, an outing with Patrick Troughton almost comparable to Tom Baker’s in “Genesis of the Daleks,” and with enough story for seven episodes.
I admit the first episode is bearable only because of Jamie (who is one of my favorite companions) and the Doctor (I love Troughton). The setting, in Gatwick Airport in 1966, unconsciously seems to anticipate “Time-Flight,” but overall it’s so bland; why would you want to see either of these time travelers in Gatwick?! (At least it’s not Stansted.) The TARDIS being stolen is natural enough but kind of weirded me out seeing as how I’d just written a similar scene in my First Doctor story. At last things begin to pick up, with the Doctor executing a rather too-Sherlock-Holmes-ish deduction. I would cry foul, but in villain Kennedy’s discussion with Bob Hall, we find that it’s all an elaborate (extremely so!) trap for the Doctor and Jamie. I found that their listening to the Beatles in a café was a bit . . . odd.
The scenes in Edward Waterfield’s Victorian antique shop are quite interesting. If I hadn’t known already that Waterfield was Victoria’s father and by default not from 1966, I would have been most puzzled by his “good as new” antiques from the nineteenth century. I love his reactions to assistant Keith Perry’s “okay” and other anachronisms. Speaking of Perry, hasn’t he got the PONCIEST accent you’ve ever heard? An impressive cliffhanger as Kennedy is about to be offed by a shadowy Dalek.
Jamie and the Doctor are dragged by Waterfield into the Daleks’ time machine and sent back to 1866. I think Waterfield is taking the whole 1966 thing pretty well, but then again, if a Daleks were holding your helplessly Victorian daughter Victoria hostage, you might be able to face up to anything. In a Victorian household setting similar, in my mind, to the one in “Ghost Light,” Jamie and the Doctor are told by Molly the maid they had one rough night. (I rather like Molly. She should have had more to do.) Things get a bit redundant as Jamie is kidnapped from the house by a big lug named Toby (!) and then has a very weird run-in with Arthur Terrall. (I never figured out: is he being controlled by the Daleks? Or is he a vampire? What’s going on?)
Arthur Terrall is a Crimean War veteran and that, I assume, is the justification for using the character of Kemel, a mute Turkish strong-man (whose tongue has been presumably cut out)—what cheek, then, to introduce a similar character in Toberman in “Tomb of the Cybermen,” which follows! Despite a lot of running around, the next few episodes manage to keep one’s interest. I’m especially impressed by, shall we say, the “Victorian factor.” Theodore Maxtible, the Faust-like figure who has sold his soul to the Daleks for alchemical secrets, seems convincingly Victorian in all aspects. (Though again, what I remember of “Ghost Light” seems to be an echo of the story in that way.) With Waterfield, he has taken ideas from Michael Faraday and attempted to construct a time machine using static electricity and mirrors. How apt! How utterly believable. Maxtible is also a devotee of hypnotism (which he seems to distinguish from mesmerism). Victoria, too, is all that her era should suppose her to be. Like Johanna in the Tim Burton Sweeney Todd, she has a sweet musical theme to convey her innocence and purity—but spends most of the story helpless and exercising control the only way she knows how: by trying to starve herself in order to thwart the Daleks.
Jamie is a great companion because he can serve two roles: the “oh, Doctor, what is this?” companion who has to be explained to all the time, in part because he’s an eighteenth-century Scottish hick; he is also capable of taking care of himself and is always pummeling his way through fights like a less sophisticated Captain Jack. In particular here, he’s got a great swordfight with Terrall. The Daleks expect the Doctor to give him up as a lab rat, and poor Jamie, the Doctor is able to manipulate his reactions in an uncannily predictive manner; one might think him the Seventh Doctor without his genuinely tender impulses.
There is at least some cross-century, cross-cultural bonding between Jamie and Kemel after the latter fails, despite Maxtible’s instructions, to kill the former. Both seem to agree that Victoria is hot stuff, and one of Jamie’s most charming qualities is his crush throughout the series on the oblivious (or perhaps disgusted) Victoria. In rescuing her, he does indeed come off as a conventional Prince Charming, though perhaps more from the Shrek mold. His reactions to what he thinks is the Doctor’s betrayal are so human: “Anyone would think that it’s a little game, and it’s not. People have died. The Daleks are all over, fit to murder the lot of us, and all you can say is that you've had a good night’s work. Well, I’m telling you this, we’re finished. You’re just too callous for me. Anything goes by the board, anything at all. You don’t give that much for a living soul except yourself. Just whose side are you on?” What a pity Jamie was returned to his own time and place without a memory of his experiences with the Doctor. I must also confess the Doctor and Jamie are a triumphantly funny pair.
Anyone familiar with Helen Raynor’s Dalek story will think, perhaps, less of her creativity once having heard “Evil of the Daleks.” Her Daleks have almost died out and need human creativity to survive but later change their plans into planting Dalek DNA in humans. These Daleks ostensibly seek the Human Factor (not the X-Factor, mind you) to gain tactical advantage, but in reality the rather effete-looking Emperor Dalek wished the Doctor to separate the Dalek Factor so that Daleks could convert all humans across time (with help from the Doctor’s TARDIS) into Daleks. Of course the plan does not succeed, and I think one place in which the serial as an audio fails to capture the excitement of the TV show is when everyone finds themselves on Skaro. I really can’t visualize it at all. The original “human” Daleks, given names (not Sec, Jast, and Caan, mind you) by the Doctor, are playful and apparently push the Doctor around in a chair. (I’d love to see this.) His intent—to cause all Daleks to have this sense of humor and human morality—is much the same result that the Tenth Doctor’s DNA-imbued Dalek-humans are given in the Helen Raynor story. The talk of conversion arches and Dalek xenophobia all shows up in the Tenth Doctor’s era, too.
Frazer Hines reads the linking narration here very well; I got confused at points and thought it was Paul McGann reading! While I’m sorry I wasn’t able to really hear episode seven due to really bad skipping on the CD, I think this is a serial well-worth hearing, though perhaps not as suited to audio play format as “Reign of Terror.”
I’ve never been one to regard a small part as a small part. So this guy Maxil struck me as the most important person on the show . . . John Nathan-Turner said to me, “Yes, that’s fine, but . . . This isn’t about Maxil the guard, it’s about the Doctor.” And I replied, “Is it really? Good heavens, I didn’t realise that. I thought it was called The Maxil Show.”
After [The Caves of Androzani], I went home, got out of my car, opened my front door, walked into where my wife was sitting watching television, and stood there and said, “I am the Doctor.” She looked at me and said, “Oh yes? Could you take the rubbish out please.”
If you want to be an actor you want people to see your work. The more people who see your work, the better you’re doing your job. The other side of that is that people are going to want you to sign bits of paper for them. If it makes them happy, why the hell not?
. . . As long as nobody says, “This is the only Doctor,” and all the rest of it. That’s silly, because they’ve all brought something to the part.
So we used to play jokes on poor old Patrick [Troughton]. For example, setting him off in his wheelchair. I don’t mean that Patrick himself actually had a wheelchair, but there were scenes in the show where he was strapped into a wheelchair, and as soon as he was strapped into it he became very vulnerable. So we used to play chariot races with poor Patrick.
My costume was wonderful on the radio—it was a shame you couldn’t see it!
What it turned out had happened was that I had been walking through the foyer, seen [a fan] standing there wearing a huge Tom Baker scarf and said something along the lines of “Get rid of that scarf at once! How dare you wear that in my presence?”
I don’t think the world is ready for Doctor number six and Perpugilliam Brown and hanky panky! The rule is that there should be absolutely no possibility of any kind of love interest between the Doctor and his companion. The companion is there for the viewer to identify with, so young people, children, can imagine what it’s like for them to be flying in the TARDIS with the Doctor. The one thing we don’t want them imagining is . . . well . . . It’s the way the show is structured; that’s the way it is and always has been. Mind you . . . I could make an exception for Leela!
He [Patrick Troughton] calls me Miss Piggy at the moment (a reference to my weight); I call him Gonzo (which is a reference to his physical appearance)!
The first thing I think of doing when something cataclysmic happens, like I fall down the stairs, is crack a joke about it.
Do you often fall down the stairs?
Not often, no.
The Governor, played by Martin Jarvis, on screen: We must act!
Colin Baker: Too late, Martin.
--The DVD commentary to “Vengeance on Varos”
Hamlet talked about plays being “tragical-comical-historical-pastoral,” well if you add “scientifical,” you’ve got Doctor Who.
The Seventh Doctor
Time and tide melts the snowman! (Pip and Jane Baker, “Time and the Rani”)
Love has never been known for its rationality. (Malcolm Kohll, “Delta and the Bannermen”)
Josiah: You're so smug and self-satisfied, Doctor.
Doctor: I try.
(Marc Platt, “Ghost Light”)
Ace: How long have I been away?
The Doctor: You’ve been away as long as you think you have.
(Rona Munro, “Survival”)
Crush the lesser races! Conquer the galaxy! Incredible power, unlimited rice pudding, et
cetera, et cetera. (Ben Aaronovitch, “Remembrance of the Daleks”)
The Rani, pretending to be Mel: I thought you were a genius.
The Doctor: Oh yes, I remember that. (Pip and Jane Baker, “Time and the Rani”)
Oh, Ace—it’s only a trap. (Ben Aaronovitch, “Battlefield”)
Ace: People don’t just vanish.
The Doctor: You did. (“Survival”)
Think about me when you're living your life, one day after another, all in a neat pattern. Think about the homeless traveler in his old police box, his days like crazy paving. (Ian Briggs, “Dragonfire”)
There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream, people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice and somewhere else the tea is getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do. (“Survival”)
Thursday, March 27, 2008
The universe is an awfully big place. (Johnny Byrne, “Arc of Infinity”)
An apple a day keeps the... oh, never mind. (Christopher Bailey, “Kinda”)
Curiosity’s always been my downfall. (Robert Holmes, “The Caves of Androzani”)
Hampden: You must stop them!
The Doctor: Yes, I know.
(Eric Pringle, “The Awakening”)
The last thing I need is some skinny idiot ranting in my face about everything he happens to see!! (of the Tenth Doctor, Steven Moffat, “Time Crash”)
Oh marvelous, you’re going to kill me. (Christopher H. Bidmead, “Frontios”)
Soldier: How do we find it [a Dalek]?
The Doctor: The moment you find it, it’ll try and kill you.
(Eric Saward, “Resurrection of the Daleks”)
Adric: Do you know where it is?
The Doctor: Yes. That’s exactly why I’m looking for it.
(Eric Saward, “The Visitation”)
Dreams are important... never underestimate them. (Christopher Bailey, “Snakedance”)
Panna: Is he an idiot?
The Doctor: Well, I suppose I must be.
You’ve changed the desktop, haven’t you? (Of the TARDIS, to the Tenth Doctor) (“Time Crash”)
Brave heart, Tegan. (Eric Saward, “Earthshock”)
Oh God, we’re questioning the logic of the script now. We’re turning into Colin Baker!
On the nine o’clock news that night, the first story was that Ronald Reagan had been elected President of the United States, and the final story was that Tom Baker was going to regenerate into me! Friends who’d been watching with the sound turned down assumed, when my picture flashed up on the screen, that I must have died!
And next year, David [Tennant], you’re playing Hamlet with the RSC . . .
There’s not much difference between Hamlet and Spamalot, really!
Now, a few years back, Colin Baker did a musical episode.
Did he?! What, for this lot?
Yes, it was called Doctor Who and the Pirates, and used the music of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Oh my God! [Explodes with laughter] Good for Colin!
So do you fancy . ..
A musical episode? I wouldn’t have thought so, no.
The Sixth Doctor
Well, look at me. I'm old, lacking in vigor, my mind's in a turmoil. I no longer know if I'm coming, have gone, or even been. I'm falling to pieces; I no longer even have any clothes-sense. Self-pity is all I have left. (Anthony Stevens, “The Twin Dilemma”)
In the middle of his tirade, he had simply stopped, and looked at [Peri], and said, “I really don’t regret it, you know. Losing my other life for you. Never think that.”
[. . . ]
“You always have a choice,” he said. “You can’t ever make the excuse that events pushed you along. It’s precisely how you act when events don’t give you time to think, that’s the ultimate test. When a light goes out it leaves us all just a little closer to the dark. And the simple fact is that a universe with your brightness in it is infinitely preferable to a universe without.” (Dave Stone, Burning Heart)
“I’ll drive,” said the Doctor.
Aylmer stared at him. “You can drive one of these things?”
“I can drive anything,” said the Doctor simply.
(Terrance Dicks, Players)
If you’d been locked in as many dungeons as I have you’d recognize one when you see one. (Robert Holmes, “The Two Doctors”)
“Let’s do this the traditional way, shall we, Doctor?” said the Valeyard gloatingly. “Can I offer you a blindfold or a last cigarette? Though I’m sure you don’t smoke, it’s so terribly bad for the health.”
“So is blaster-fire,” said the Doctor.
(Terrance Dicks, The Eight Doctors)
I’m not a preacher—well, I don’t do it for a living anyway. (Jacqueline Rayner, Doctor Who and the Pirates)
There’s nothing particularly masculine about throwing your life away. (“Timelash”)
It’s like I told Socrates, stick to your guns. Of course, he didn’t know what guns were . . .
(Jacqueline Rayner, The Marian Conspiracy)
The TARDIS, when working properly, is capable of many amazing things. Rather like myself. (Paula Moore, “Attack of the Cybermen”)
The Rani: (to Peri) You’re worthless!
The Doctor: Not to me, she isn’t.
(“The Mark of the Rani”)
Well, excuse me for not killing people for fun! (Doctor Who and the Pirates)
I never get into trouble. (The Marian Conspiracy)
I am interested in everything. (“The Two Doctors”)
“Frankly, sir, I suspect your intelligence [information] is most dubious.”
“Your own is practically non-existent!” the Doctor countered furiously. “Sir!” (The Shadow in the Glass)
Violence is never the answer. (The Marian Conspiracy)
Planets come and go. Stars perish. Matter disperses, coalesces, forms into other patterns, other worlds. Nothing can be eternal. (Robert Holmes, “Trial of a Timelord”)
Rumford: But I still don't understand about hyperspace.
Doctor: Well, who does?
K9: I do.
Doctor: Shut up, K9!
(“The Stones of Blood”)
Sarah Jane: Wouldn’t it be better if—?
The Doctor: No, it wouldn’t!
(“Pyramids of Mars”)
It may be irrational of me, but human beings are quite my favorite species. (Robert Holmes, “The Ark in Space”)
(asked what he does for a living)
I save planets, mostly. (Douglas Adams, “The Pirate Planet”)
Oh, look: rocks! (“Destiny of the Daleks”)
The Brigadier: Naturally enough, the only country that could be trusted with such a role was Great Britain.
The Doctor: Naturally. I mean, the rest were all foreigners. (“Robot”)
Sarah Jane: Where are we going?
The Doctor: Ah . . . forward.
(“Genesis of the Daleks”)
Dr. Carter: Man didn’t exist in Jurassic times.
The Doctor: Yes, that’s true.
(“The Hand of Fear”)
The Doctor: Do I have the right? Simply touch one wire against the other and that's it. The Daleks cease to exist. Hundreds of millions of people, thousands of generations can live without fear... in peace, and never even know the word "Dalek.”
Sarah Jane: Then why wait? If it was a disease or some sort of bacteria you were destroying, you wouldn't hesitate.
The Doctor: But if I kill. Wipe out a whole intelligent life form, then I become like them. I'd be no better than the Daleks.
(Terry Nation, “Genesis of the Daleks”)
The Doctor: Would you like a jelly baby?
Leela: It's true then! They say the Evil One eats babies.
The Doctor: You mustn't believe all they say. (“The Face of Evil”)
Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only been a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenseless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts. And now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable... indomitable. (“The Ark in Space”)
Excuse me, can you help me? I’m a spy. (“Genesis of the Daleks”)
Keep an open mind, that’s the secret. (Louis Marks, “Masque of the Mandragora”)
Sarah Jane: Don't forget me.
Doctor: Oh, Sarah... don't you forget me.
(Dave Martin, “The Hand of Fear”)
The Doctor: You want me to volunteer, is that it? And if I don't?
White Guardian: Nothing.
The Doctor: You mean nothing'll happen to me?
White Guardian: Nothing at all. Ever.
(Robert Holmes, “The Ribos Operation”)
It would have been nice to have someone amazed at the way I was dressed, or so impressed by my helping them that they all dressed like me. I could have had an army all dressed like me, and I could have drilled them—all tripping over their scarves . . .!
I think the biggest bores in the hero business are James Bond . . . footballers. They're non-people who do nothing but kick other people. One wouldn't want to have them round for tea. The Doctor doesn't shoot anybody, drink, beat up women, but somehow he has a heroic appeal to children.
He’s rather like a tall light bulb, isn’t he? (of Jon Pertwee, 1977)
It’s a bit like being at your own wake. (of regenerating into Peter Davison, 2006)
Interviewer: Does this bring back any memories? [hands a piece of the Key to Time to Tom]
Tom: What on earth is it?
Interviewer: Remember, the episodes where you had to go round with Mary Tamm and collect these up. You did the DVD commentaries for them a while back, for BBC America.
Tom: Of course, when I was with Mary Tamm, all I could think about were her bosoms. I kept looking at her wonderful lips and then her bosoms and having all sorts of. . . I often used to forget the words.
People kept marvelling and saying, "Christ, are you still alive?" I said, "I am, I am," and then a big crowd got round me and somebody said," what’s going on?" and someone [else] said "Look, it’s Jon Pertwee!" So I’m mistaken for the dead. (2002)
Well darling, not only am I ready to jump in [to my grave], but some people are already putting flowers on it. I saw a man recently putting some forget-me-nots on my grave, and then he came and saw me there and said, "I’ve just been putting some flowers on your grave," and I said "thank you," and thought, "here’s a nice one."
He said, “It’s very moving when I kneel there,” - he was saying a prayer. It didn’t seem to occur to him that I was there, looking very corporeal.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
If William Hartnell’s Doctor was the old ratbag, and Patrick Troughton’s was the clown, then my Doctor was the Dandy!
I thought it was best to let people assume that I was a genius and not go on about it.
In a technical show like Doctor Who, things can frequently go wrong during a recording, whereupon I would usually stop immediately. But I remember one marvelous scene from "The Mind of Evil" when Roger Delgado pulled a gun on me and, in the struggle that followed, we accidentally knocked a jug of water on to the studio floor. It practically turned into a sheet of ice. Roger and I both fell over. Neither of us could stay perpendicular and we kept scrambling for the gun. I was about to stop then I imagined the producer up in the box saying "Go on! Don't stop!" So we carried on, and apparently the whole scene looked superb.
I much preferred the threat coming to Earth. I think it’s infinitely more frightening to find a Yeti sitting in your loo in Tooting Bec, or the Daleks streaming over Westminster Bridge than it is to find them on an alien planet.
I hate them [the Daleks] and they don’t scare me one bit!
The Fourth Doctor
“Who are you exactly?”
“I’m flattered,” the Doctor said, “that you would think I could answer such a question.” (Chris Boucher, Psi-ence Fiction)
There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes. (Terrance Dicks, “Robot”)
The Doctor: Humans have got such limited little minds. I don't know why I like you so much.
Sarah Jane Smith: Because you have such good taste.
Doctor: That’s true. That's very true.
(Louis Marks, “Masque of the Mandragora”)
I’m the Doctor, the definite article you might say. (“Robot”)
Dr. Raj: Wonderful thing, pain. Without it, no species would survive.
The Doctor: Yes, I’m aware of that.
(“The Hand of Fear”)
Romana: I thought you said external appearances weren’t important.
The Doctor: Ah, but it’s nice to get them right, though, isn’t it?
(Terry Nation, “Destiny of the Daleks”)
Countess Scarlioni: Oh, Doctor, I'm quite convinced you’re perfectly mad.
The Doctor: Only at my worst. Nobody's perfect.
(Douglas Adams, “City of Death”)
Time is my business. (Robert Holmes, “The Pyramids of Mars”)
Andred: You have access to the greatest source of knowledge in the universe.
The Doctor: Well, I do talk to myself sometimes.
(David Agnew, “The Invasion of Time”)
Gods don’t use transceivers. (Chris Boucher, “The Face of Evil”)
Progress is a very flexible word. It can mean whatever you want it to mean. (Robert Holmes, “The Power of Kroll”)
The Doctor: Never cared much for the word “impregnable.” Sounds a bit too much like “unsinkable.”
Harry: What's wrong with “unsinkable”?
The Doctor: Nothing. As the iceberg said to the Titanic.
The Doctor: Gloop, gloop, gloop, gloop, gloop, gloop, gloop.
Why can’t people be nice to one another? I’m an alien and you don’t want to drag me into a swamp. You do. (“Full Circle”)
You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that need altering. (“Face of Evil”)
Women can be monsters too, you know. (Jacqueline Rayner, Wolfsbane)
Amelia Rumford: Can I ask you a personal question?
The Doctor: Well, I don't see how I can stop you asking.
Rumford: Are you from outer space?
The Doctor: No, I'm more from what you would call inner time. (David Fisher, “Stones of Blood”)
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Jamie suspected the Doctor needed reassuring. “Och, nobody can know everything.”
“No, and it’s an awful nuisance, isn’t it?” (David A. McIntee, The Dark Path)
There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things that act against everything we believe in. They must be fought. (Greggrey Orme, “The Moonbase”)
Jamie: Have you thought up some clever plan, Doctor?
The Doctor: Yes, Jamie, I believe I have.
Jamie: What are you going to do?
The Doctor: Bung a rock at it.
(Mervyn Haisman, “The Abominable Snowman”)
“Would you care for a cup of coffee?” she found herself asking him.
The man smiled and looked a little apologetic. “I don’t suppose you have tea?” he asked with a shy smile. (Colin Brake, The Colony of Lies)
Benton: What do we do now?
The Doctor: Keep it confused. Feed it with useless information. I wonder if I have a television set handy? (“The Three Doctors”)
“When you go in and out of the TARDIS, you step between the real world and the TARDIS’s relative dimension. This is just the same thing, but on a different scale, so we take lots of steps to get through it.”
“Does that make sense?”
“Well, it does to me, Jamie.”
(The Dark Path)
Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority. (Bob Baker, “The Three Doctors”)
Jamie: Why are we going in the back way?
The Doctor: To avoid the crowds. They’ll all be scrambling around wanting my autograph. (Robert Holmes, “The Two Doctors”)
“Well, really,” the Doctor tutted. “What’s the point of crossing your timeline like that if you’re just going to be cryptic?” (The Colony of Lies)
“I know, the firing squad.” The Doctor sighed. “It’s quite astonishing how many people have that reaction to me!” (Terrance Dicks, Players)
All these evils I have fought, while you have done nothing but observe! True, I am guilty of interference. Just as you are guilty of failing to use your great powers to help those in need! (Terrance Dicks, “The War Games)
Our lives are different than anybody else’s. That's the exciting thing. Nobody in the universe can do what we're doing. (Kit Pedler, “Tomb of the Cybermen”)
Zoe: Will we ever meet again?
The Doctor: Now, Zoe, you and I know that time is relative, isn't it?
(Terrance Dicks, “The War Games”)
Together with the Astronomer Royal, I fully believe that there is life all over the universe, and it’s man’s greatest conceit to imagine not just that we are alone, but that we are the most important form of life there is.
It [Doctor Who] also gave me great pleasure coming into contact with children, for if I had not been an actor I would quite liked to have been a teacher. Children keep one young.
The Third Doctor
Masters: May I ask who you are?
The Doctor: You may ask!
(Malcolm Hulke, “Doctor Who and the Silurians”)
President: Who employed you?
The Doctor: I can assure you, Madam, that I have never been employed in my life.
(Malcolm Hulke, “Frontier in Space”)
There’s good in everyone, Jo. (“Frontier in Space”)
A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting. (Robert Holmes, “The Time Warrior”)
The Doctor: Now that’s stealing.
Cross: That’s what I’m in for. Trouble-maker, eh?
The Doctor: That’s what I’m in for.
(“Frontier in Space”)
The Master: One must rule or serve. That is the basic law of life. Why do you hesitate? Surely it’s not loyalty to the Time Lords, who exiled you to one insignificant planet?
The Doctor: You'll never understand. I want to see the universe, not to rule it.
(Malcolm Hulke, “Colony in Space”)
I had to face my fear. That was more important than just going on living. (Robert Sloman, “Planet of the Spiders”)
Courage isn't just a matter of not being frightened, you know. It's being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway. (Terry Nation, “Planet of the Daleks”)
Monday, March 24, 2008
The Wit of the Universe:
Doctor Who Quotes
What's the use of a good quotation if you can't change it?
(The Sixth Doctor, “Revelation of the Daleks”)
The First Doctor
Fear makes companions of us all. (Anthony Coburn, “An Unearthly Child”)
As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves. (David Whitaker, “Inside the Spaceship”)
I won’t allow myself to be frightened out of my wits by mere shadows. (“An Unearthly Child”)
The mind will always triumph. (Terry Nation, “The Daleks”)
Rash action is worse than no action at all. (“Inside the Spaceship”)
Design is completely immaterial. (Dennis Spooner, “The Time Meddler”)
Barbara: Why do you think everyone and everything is less important than yourself?
The Doctor: You think you operate on logic and reason? Well, I don’t share your views.
(“An Unearthly Child”)
That is the dematerializing control, and that over yonder is the horizontal hold; up there is the scanner, those are the doors, and that is a chair with a panda on it. Sheer poetry, dear boy. Now please stop bothering me. (“The Time Meddler”)
“You screwed up, right?” The Doctor blinked at her. “Me, no,” he said, sternly. “I never ‘screw up.’” (Simon Guerrier, The Time Travellers)
Steven: This is a real Viking helmet? It’s a prop.
The Doctor: What else would it be? A space helmet for a cow?
(“The Time Meddler”)
Always search for truth. Mine is in the stars. (“The Daleks”)
The Doctor: Fear always lives with us. Like that other quality your companion mentioned.
Barbara: What’s that?
The Doctor: Hope. (“An Unearthly Child”)
I shall be back, yes I shall be back. Until then, there must be no tears, no fears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. (Terry Nation, “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”)
Before the part came along I'd been playing a bunch of crooks, sergeants, prison warders and detectives.
Perhaps the greatest of many lines mangled by William Hartnell: “You’ll end up a couple of burnt cinders floating around in Spain—in space!”
It may seem like hindsight now, but I just knew that Doctor Who was going to be an enormous success. Don’t ask me how. Not everybody thought as I did. I was universally scoffed at for my initial faith in the series, but I believed in it. It was magical.
Friday, March 21, 2008
A bit in the fashion of Sarah Waters and perhaps our own RTD, Perry loves to draw the homosexual subtext in—both Cater Street and Hyde Park involve such “sordid” liaisons. Interestingly, while Pitt is quite sympathetic to two men lovers and calls them that, “lovers,” his superior calls them sodomites. This linguistic gray area brings to mind some of what Matthew Sweet had to say in Inventing the Victorians. Pitt’s colleague Tellman reminds me of Sergeant Havers in the Inspector Lynley Mysteries: He despised those he considered passengers in society. Privilege stirred in him a raw, bitter anger that stretched far back into his childhood memories of hunger, cold, and endless weariness and anxiety, a father beaten by circumstances till he had no pride left, a mother who worked till she was too tired to talk to her children or laugh with them. Pitt’s superior Farnsworth reminds me a bit of those Stahlmanns of Doctor Who, there just to exacerbate the situation. One has to give Perry credit, however, as she does take us (convincingly, I find) from drawing room to the lives of pimps, prostitutes, and servants. There’s a requisite scene in a madhouse, serving no purpose other than for the reader to think How Bad the Victorians Were.
Charlotte’s sister Emily, who has married well (twice) where Charlotte has not, is often plain annoying but occasionally has bursts of wit and guts, particularly when she bounds into an acquaintance by baldly pretending to confuse a stranger with a well-known friend—the equivalent of: “Oh, hello, Mrs. Waters!” “Sorry, I’m not Mrs. Waters.” “Oh dear. Well, she is shorter and much older than you are . . . It is just that she also has that wonderful coloring.” Gilbert and Sullivan make a brief and rather useless appearance at a memorial service, but like the constant references to Jack the Ripper, they help to date the story.
The crimes themselves bring to mind Tim Burton. Without giving too much away, Perry made something of a mess of it by rushing her ending and making part of the discovery too ridiculous to be believable. Plus, by monkeying with the notion of “serial” killer, the reader feels like she’s had the carpet pulled out from under her. I’m not very good at detecting culprits in these kinds of things, but I still felt the final results coming a bit out of the blue. Entertaining fluff, I find, but not nearly a memorable as the first book in the series. That doesn’t mean I won’t backtrack and read the eleven intervening books.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
As a pure historical, like “The Aztecs” (and later, The Marian Conspiracy), this story is set in 1794 during one of my favorite periods, the French Revolution. One is immediately struck by the coldness, the selfishness, in short the alien-ness of the Doctor, whose race hasn’t even been named yet. The beginning of the story sees the TARDIS land in what the Doctor claims is 1963 Earth. The Doctor’s bossiness and gruffness as he almost refuses to see Barbara and Ian safely to their destination is almost shocking; if I was Ian, I’m not sure I would have put up with it. Finally the Doctor accedes to “have a drink” with them, and they walk practically into an émigré safe house (prompting me to wonder if anyone’s ever written something where the Doctor conducts on the Underground Railroad).
It isn’t long before they realize they’re in France, and taking a moment for everyone but the Doctor to get dressed in period attire (how convenient) the excitement begins. There’s a lot of violence in this story (a violent period), with two harmless dissenters getting shot in the first episode by the National Guard and leaving Susan, Barbara, and Ian to face the firing squad. There were dozens of good moments for cliffhangers, but the episode finally ends with the National Guard setting fire to the safe house with the Doctor unconscious in an upstairs room! How will he ever make it?!
Barbara and Susan are separated from Ian in the Conciergerie, and Susan proves to be a wimp (the first of many times) by not really helping Barbara to try to escape. I’m impressed at Barbara’s fortitude and can-do attitude; she and Ian really are matched. In his cell he also contemplates escape, while the Fool-like Jailer demonstrates his Somerset accent (indeed, all the characters had English accents, no one tried to impersonate a French accent, though I can’t say whether I’m disappointed or not). Susan and Barbara are put in a tumbril headed for Madame Guillotine (!)—I kept waiting for the Scarlet Pimpernel to rescue them as he did Marguerite in the Richard E. Grant movie—and even then Susan doesn’t seem too inclined to escape! Why do they get the guillotine and Ian doesn’t? They are rescued and taken to another safe house.
The Doctor, meanwhile, gets magically rescued from the burning building by a boy (a bit like Evelyn getting rescued by Jem in Doctor Who and the Pirates) and is on his merry way to Paris (would he have stayed, I wonder, if Susan had not been taken as well? Would he have left Ian and Barbara behind?). He stops to get into an argument with a chain gang guard (!) in what’s got to be filler. An English royalist named Webster dies in Ian’s cell, leaving him in charge of an important message (fortunate he gave it to Ian rather than Turlough or someone who wouldn’t have bothered to see it through) while the dastardly Republican official LeMaître makes himself as un-likeable as possible. Ian escapes to join Barbara and Susan at the safe house. Their cohorts, Jules, Jean, Leon, and Colbert seem to be ready any moment to burst into “Into the Fire.” It seems, though, Colbert has a crush on Barbara and that Barbara has a crush on Leon! Susan is too busy being ill, an Important Plot Point, though I suggested to my mom she’d gotten Mono somewhere along the way. I think I’ll have to write a story on that.
The coup de grace in terms of the Doctor, however, who has been walking to Paris this whole time, is when he enters a tailor’s shop and basically bluffs his way into securing the costume of a Provincial Deputy. Because there’s a still of it on the cover, we know he looks resplendent in tri-color and cockade. It’s also quite funny to hear him defending his “very unusual” normal outfit. He sweeps into the Conciergerie only to find his companions have already escaped, and dastardly LeMaître wants him to go before Robespierre. While I think it would be very funny to see the Tenth Doctor interacting with this most bloodthirsty of revolutionaries, it’s highly satisfying for the First Doctor to make himself quite a favorite. (For some reason during these scenes I reminded of the two regional waxworks museums I’d seen in France, one in Brittany and one in Provence, which both featured Revolutionary tableaux.) Spooner’s depiction of Robespierre is accurate enough, though a bit bland. There’s a great cliffhanger as the tailor reports to LeMaître that he has clothes belonging to a traitor passing himself off as a Provincial Deputy.
Susan and Barbara are betrayed by the Physician—so-called I imagine to distinguish him from the Doctor—and re-arrested. Susan spends most of the rest of the story in prison. Ian gets to be prey to somebody’s idea of S/M after Leon and Colbert reveal themselves to be spies for the Republican government. (Though it’s a cool setting—an abandoned church.) Barbara is freed by the Doctor and the bumbling Jailer, LeMaître confronts the Doctor and forces him to reveal the safe house. And reveals himself to be . . . the Scarlet Pimpernel! Actually not, he’s the Englishman James Sterling to whom Webster was trying to get a message. It’s a bit like Yana being the Master—I so should have seen it coming, and I suppose I did at the back of my mind. Barbara gives a rather wonderful speech about the now-dead Leon and Colbert fighting for what was right in their minds.
The sixth part seems to have been tacked on merely to be clever—involving another very-Scarlet Pimpernel-esque divertissement near Calais where Barbara and Ian meet Napoleon—but I guess if you want to teach children history, that’s the way to do it. Robespierre ends the way he did in real life, Susan is rescued, and Sterling asks Barbara where the hell they came from. Barbara is coy. “It seems to me,” he says to Jules, “they don’t even know where they’re going. Then again, do any of us?”
Overall I find nothing lacking in the story. The score is very interesting, using “La Marseillaise” as a musical motif, and getting to separate three companions and the Doctor was hardly done better. Susan, as Carole Ann Ford points out, doesn’t get much to do, and the Doctor goes “hmmm?” a lot. I do love the idea of him being vain at the tailor’s, though.
Friday, March 7, 2008
I wish I had stumbled onto a job in Britain like Bryson did in 1973, even if the job was at an outrageous sanatorium (you can almost see the characters from Life on Mars there) like his was. Then he somehow managed to land a bunch of copyediting jobs until there he was, working for The Times, living in the Yorkshire Dales, and in 1994-ish about to leave the country where he’d lived for twenty years in order to give his children a taste of America. (Encouragingly he managed to find the love of his life—he doesn’t say as much, he just calls her his wife—in Britain.) You can see why I heave a sigh of envy.
But the beauty of the book is that it works on two parallel storylines—the “present” (1994-ish) when Bryson is bidding goodbye to his adopted country, and 1973-on, his arrival and all the curiosities that coming to a new country always affords. He begins the book brilliantly by poking fun at the following inescapable truth: The fact is that the British have a totally private sense of distance. I encountered this myself and continue to encounter it, which is at times quaint and frustrating but believably natural. Bryson also uses this hook to introduce his dead-on comic parody of British place names. “Nice little pub,” someone will interject—usually, for some reason, a guy in a bulky cardigan. “They do a decent pint of old Toejam.”
Bryson landed first in Dover in 1973, having hitchhiked across Belgium and coming over from France. His first experiences in Britain, revolving around a memorable stay at a house owned by a formidable, demanding landlady, need little exaggeration for comic effect. Unfortunately, when he returns to Dover twenty years later, The whole town center seemed uncomfortably squeezed by busy, wide relief roads . . . there was now a big tourist edifice called the White Cliffs Experience, where, I presume from the name, you can discover what it feels like to be 800-million-year-old chalk. (All the more entertaining if you have come across descriptions of the White Cliffs Experience in guide books.) Certainly, as you see, Bryson is full of strong opinions, especially about town planning and historical preservation, and can even be surprisingly rude sometimes in expressing them.
Bryson’s journey back through Britain is not exhaustive by any means; he travels by foot, rail, and bus (which he says is much harder than years ago, though I have nothing but admiration for the huge majority of British public transportation I’ve experienced). His stay in London is surprisingly short, confined to an arrival in Victoria Station with which I can entirely sympathize—On my way out, three separate people inquired whether I had any spare change—“No, but thank you for asking!” –and staying in William Hazlitt’s house. Hazlitt (sp?), William (?), English (poss. Scottish?), essayist. Lived: Before 1900. Most famous work: Don’t know. Quips, epigrams, bons mots: Don’t know. Other useful information: His house is now a hotel. He has London cab drivers nailed, though my personal experience with them is limited to having once been driven by one and once been almost run over by one.
Other destinations of Bryson’s include seaside resorts like Blackpool. Though I’ve never been there—no, not even to see the Doctor Who exhibition—I have never quite understood the reason for its existence. Bryson’s opinion is much the same—It all seemed tacky and inadequate on a rather grand scale, like Blackpool itself. It’s at seaside resorts that Bryson comes upon another inescapable truth: And the British are so easy to please. . . . They actually like their pleasures small. I have found this to be the case and often charmingly so. I, too, am all about the joy of cream cakes and a cup of tea. Sigh. There is also an excellent section on Stonehenge. In trying to get a bus there, he is told, “I believe you’ll find the local taxi services will take you to Stonehenge, wait for you there, and bring you back for about 20 pounds,” he suggested. “A lot of our American visitors find this very satisfactory.” Perhaps even more stunningly, he sums up the whole Stonehenge experience exactly as it played out for me: Impressive as Stonehenge is, there comes a moment somewhere about 11 minutes after your arrival when you realize your fascination has peaked, and you spend another 40 minutes walking around the perimeter rope looking at it only out of a combination of politeness, reluctance at being the first from your bus to leave, and a desire to get £2.80 worth of exposure from the experience.
Having been to Stonehenge twice in the same year (on a busload with other North American students from Swansea the first time, with a coachload of North American and Australian tourists the second time), I can only speculate that the value of staring at a bunch of rocks must be diminished by the fact they can be accessed only by walking around a track. However, at the same time, I understand why access to them is designed that way and can’t think of a better way to leave the view virtually unobstructed and yet safe. In February, Stonehenge is dreadfully cold, but less crowded and more atmospheric.
Having never been to Oxford, I have no idea if Bryson’s dismissiveness of it is justified or not. In Cambridgeshire, he waxes poetic on the idea of really old hedgerows: without them, it would just be Indiana with steeples. Though Bryson seems much less interested in museums and galleries than I am, some of his must-sees would go on the list for me as well. Such as the house of the fifth Duke of Portland, who was an obsessive recluse, and visiting the set of Coronation Street in Granada Studios in Manchester. I am always pleased to relate that the first time I saw Coronation Street (a repeat, it must be said) was on BBC World in Spain and how disappointed I was! I infrequently caught it on TV last year, but like Bryson I had no idea what was going on, of course, but I found myself strangely absorbed by it. It’s less annoying than The Archers, in any case.
I of course took a personal interest in Bryson’s experiences in Wales, which I found to be slight indeed. There is a meeting with a steam train maniac on a train to Llandudno, but then he gets it utterly, utterly right in summarizing Pobol y Cwm: Occasionally, I was interested to note, they dropped in English words—“hi ya,” “right then,” “OK”—presumably because—a Welsh equivalent didn’t exist, and in one memorable encounter a character said something like, “Wlch ylch aargh ybsy cwm dirty weekend, look you,” which I just loved. A Welsh person might find this a trifle patronizing, but the beauty of Pobol y Cwm is that you can watch it with no Welsh vocabulary—besides bore da, tê, and diolch, obviously—and still enjoy it. At least I could.
However, Bryson is quick to suggest that Scotland is more of its own country than Wales is. Having not visited much of Scotland, I can’t really say, but I think that’s bollocks. While Scotland—and indeed Ireland and Wales!—has an enormous “rollcall of worthies” for its size, I find myself nodding at Bryson’s ambivalence about Edinburgh. While he finds it charming and picturesque by late afternoon light and a bit commonplace and ick by morning light, I found the inversion to be true! He does relate a rather hilarious anecdote about backstreet Glasgow: “D’ye nae hae in May?” the man went on. “If ye dinna dock ma donny.” “Doon in Troon they croon in June,” said his mate, then added, “wi’ a spoon.” (Shades of “Smith and Jones” there, I think.) Geordie is the accent I have trouble with, though I won’t pretend thick Scottish brogue hasn’t given me occasional head-scratching.
Despite setbacks of all kinds, Bryson relates his real understanding and affection for Britain and the British people. On weather: I like knowing that so long as I do not go walking up Mount Snowdon in carpet slippers in February, I will almost certainly never perish from the elements in this soft and gentle country. On politeness, and this I can honestly say is true because with the possible exception of London suburbs, I was met with politeness, helpfulness and a seemingly genuine interest in my well-being wherever I went in Britain (and a minimum of chavs and yobs). This is in contrast to Chambéry in France where I lived for a semester; while not exactly unkind, there is definitely a certain reserve and “take-care-of-yourself” attitude in France. Somewhat amazingly, however, is that in both countries I managed to avoid the anti-American attitude that everyone says you will find Europe: . . . a well-worn rant about the shortcomings of Americans. I never understand what people are thinking when they do this. Do they think I’ll appreciate their candor, or have they simply forgotten that I am one of the species myself?
One of the last ideas Bryson conveys in the books is his affection for the people of the Yorkshire Dales. He says of the American Midwest, there are people who move house every six months just to get the pies. This pie-giving, welcome-to-the-neighborhood approach (which, believe me, does not happen in Albuquerque!) would not happen in Yorkshire, but nevertheless he paints them as friendly and polite. With a final assertion that he will be back, Bryson gives us a really great glossary with some of my favorite British slang words like berk, naff, and twee (which I still use here, to much consternation from my American friends) and ponders the impossibilities of why a truck is called a lorry and why it’s a milk float when it doesn’t float. The whole book, when not making me shake with laughter, makes me nostalgic for chocolate digestives, fish and chips, and I hope I, like Bryson, will be back. And soon.