5 things I learned from The Name of the Doctor

1. THE NAME OF THE POSTAL DISTRICT

chiswick

I love a season finale. It’s a chance to tie up loose ends and deal with all the nagging unanswered questions from the past year. One thing that was troubling me was where exactly in London Clara lives, that has a row of semi-detacheds overlooking a sweeping view across the City (see: Doctor Who and the Horrible Broadband). So it’s good to find out it’s Donna Noble’s old stomping ground of Chiswick. Hope any fans visiting enjoy those panoramic vistas!!

2. THE NAME OF THE RANDOM OLD TAT

space spectacles

A very long time ago, these two lads were toiling in the Spirograph factory that we always knew must be hidden deep beneath Snowglobe City the Capitol on Gallifrey when suddenly– oh never mind that, look at those honking Space Spectacles! Even Kanye West might draw the line at those. The Time Lords have always had a proud history of filling the place up with cheap tat, though, as a glimpse of 1978 Gallifrey moments later reminded us. You can’t go wrong with that inflatable plastic furniture in the corridors!

inflatable tat

3. THE NAME OF RIVER SONG

river snog

I bloody love River Song, and her final goodbye was the highlight of the episode for me. That might have been the tenderest kiss we’ve ever seen in Doctor Who. River SNOG more like, right lads? Meanwhile in case you thought they’d forgotten about the Gay Agenda, Madame Vastra tricked Clara into her special magic teapot room with a scented candle. I mean, really.

4. THE NAMES OF ALL THE CLARAS

Cushion Clara

Fans have been having fun imagining Clara working her way through all the Doctor’s previous adventures, as this picture shows. But if she’s been reborn thousands of times after setting off “to put right what once went wrong”, by my reckoning there are several dozen of her loose in 1980s England alone. I wonder if they all meet up regularly and swap notes. Perhaps sometimes they have a special guest – Old Welsh Clara, the one who threw the jars of honey at the Bannermen in 1959.

5. THE NAME OF THE ENDING

the naughty doctor

I absolutely hated that ending. Not because it failed to reveal the Doctor’s name, because who cares. But because it was convoluted, anticlimactic and failed to make sense even in its own context. The Doctor’s greatest secret is… that there’s a naughty Doctor? Except he’s not called the Doctor because Matt Smith says so. Except he is, because a big caption flashes up saying that he is. “So he’s the future Doctor?” shrugged my fella, which seems like a reasonable assumption. But apparently completely wrong. Here’s a very helpful blog post explaining what Steven Moffat’s intentions seem to be. But, you know, if you need to read a blog post to make sense of a hugely hyped ending, then it’s failed as mainstream entertainment. And the last time Doctor Who stopped being mainstream entertainment it shrivelled up and died.

5 things I learned from Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

1. JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF DISCO

journey

You might think the title and themes of this episode are based on Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. But think on – there wasn’t a dinosaur or giant mushroom in sight. Donna Summer’s Journey to the Center of Your Heart is a much more relevant text. “Baby, wanna travel ‘cross the borders of your mind!” sang the first lady of disco to a thumping Moroder & Bellotte beat. In an episode featuring another song-based climax it was a shame the salvage vessel wasn’t blasting out Donna instead of whatever horrible old racket that was.

2. JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF UK GARAGE

asher d

And I can hardly believe they went to the trouble of getting an original member of So Solid Crew on board the TARDIS (Ashley Walters, looking as fit as a butcher’s dog, still), setting a big countdown clock running, and AT NO POINT have anyone say there were twenty-one seconds to go. Never mind the pronunciation of obscure planets, this is the sort of thing they should be picking up in production meetings. “Did you see me in the console room? Oh, no! Operate the blue switches? Oh, no!”

3. JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF STAR TREK: VOYAGER

Press here for immediate relief

It was a bold move to take a plot device as roundly and universally mocked as a reset button is, make it into an actual physical button and then have it as the hard-won climax to the episode. Still, this sort of thing isn’t unheard of in TARDIS-based shenanigans. Who can forget 1996’s Temporal Orbit? It was a leading brand of Time Lord chewing gum with magical time-reversing properties.

4. JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF w6

swimming pool

I used to work in Hammersmith in the 90s, in a building called Thames Tower which had previously been the home of British Oxygen and which housed the original TARDIS swimming pool, seen in The Invasion of Time, in its basement. Reader, I used to swim in that pool and I’m very proud. This modern one looks rubbish – what are the changing arrangements? Seems like you have to drop your towel in the vestibule, and there’s no Cup-a-Soup machine either. You can say what you like about the 1978 TARDIS chase, at least the swimming pool had roundels.

5. JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF CARMINE SEEPAGE

straws and stars

Roundels aren’t the only thing missing in the new-fangled TARDIS. We were promised a nostalgic tour through the programme’s history as Clara penetrated deep into the heart of the Ship. But where was Nyssa’s curly straw? Or Adric’s star chart? No sign of Tegan’s lipstick on the walls as that bloody time-cot was dug out of storage either. On a serious note though, never give a teenage boy black sheets. What were they thinking?

5 things I learned from Hide

1. WHOSE 1974

It’s the idea of 1974 that we visit in Hide, rather than the year itself. In the real world Britain was all bombs and death and concrete. But for Doctor Who it’s a time of toggle switches, stolen glances and tweed jackets, and a lovely metatextual jab at the difference between a companion and an assistant. Mind you, on telly, Jon Pertwee was rigging up a psychic to a contraption powered by a blue crystal from Metebelis 3, so not that much has changed.

2. FOR MASH GET SMASH

For mash get Smash

You can’t argue with a nice bit of product placement to set the scene. The BBC props department was in heaven sourcing tins of Carnation milk and bottles of Stone’s ginger wine to recreate that specific period feel. All that was missing was some white dogshit.

3. THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER’s CLIMAX

Is YOUR haunted house a metaphor for your own subconscious fears? Call now! Or is your ghost a symbol for your repressed sexual desires? Our researchers are waiting to speak to YOU!

kyle

Ever since haunted house stories were invented, the best of them have really been about the dark inside spaces of the participants – mental, sexual or otherwise. This one went down all the classic routes and then topped it off with a surprise comedy finish about lovestruck monsters. More of this sort of thing, please. Imagine the tense, earnest finale of, say, The Doctor’s Daughter being lampooned by immediately re-enacting it at comedy speed, with the same shots and everything. It could only be an improvement.

4. YOU PRESS THE BUTTON, WE DO THE REST

Chase me

Speaking of mucking about with structure, the Doctor’s quick trip through all of known history to take some snapshots felt beautifully right. I suppose you couldn’t do it every week but I gawp when I see those beautiful effects shots spunked out to appear for only a couple of seconds.

5. THE CHIMERON OF THE WELL

Look, it wouldn’t be the first (or even the second) time I’ve shoehorned a reference to wildcard 80s story Delta and the Bannermen into one of these chats about modern episodes, but they’re really handing it to me on a plate now. When the lost lady cosmonaut appeared on the slide projector I sat up with a jerk. It’s her! It’s definitely her! (It wasn’t.)

delta

Secret protest: How the OTHER nine songs in the Top Ten are subversive critiques of Margaret Thatcher

Britain is in turmoil! Following Thatcher’s death, a campaign to get Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead from The Wizard of Oz into the charts has been successful, but the BBC say they won’t play it in full on the Chart Show. So on the one hand you might reasonably have concerns about censorship, free speech and your right of dissent, but on the other you’ve got, well, Munchkin fury.

Avon calling

Now, Radio 1 censors songs all the time, generally for swearing or explicit sexual references. The radio edit of Azealia Banks’ 212 sounded like she’d borrowed Norman Collier’s microphone. But to ban a song that you might otherwise hear any Sunday afternoon on Radio 2, because of the motives of the people buying it, is some complicated new level of doublethink.

So if YOU were looking forward to listening to the Top Ten today and enjoying a silent gloat while Dorothy and the Munchkins established that the person in question was not only merely, but really most sincerely dead, what are your options now the BBC have spoiled your fun? What subversive messages are hidden in the rest of the songs in the Top Ten?

“I don’t know about you but I’m feeling 22!” sings Taylor Swift in 22. In a song recorded in 2012 that can only mean one thing – Taylor is positioning herself as the embodiment of the post-Thatcher political scene following the Iron Lady’s resignation in 1990. “We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time… it’s miserable and magical!” Well it’s certainly been a mixed bag.

Thatch

In When I Was Your Man, Bruno Mars blames himself for Thatcher’s fall from grace. “My pride, my ego, my needs and my selfish ways caused a good strong woman like you to walk out my life.” But there’s a double-edged criticism implicit in his dirge. It was Thatcher’s own ideology that encouraged Bruno to selfishly individuate! And now they’re both paying the price.

The Saturdays critique the right-to-buy legislation introduced in Thatcher’s first term in What About Us? – “I’ve been watching and waiting, why don’t you give it or take it?” And Pitbull continues the socio-economic analysis in Feel This Moment – “Ask for money and get advice. Ask for advice, get money twice.” He goes on to tell us how he’s made billions in the free market before delivering the killer blow: “I’m far from cheap, I break down companies with all my peeps” – a clear dig at the Big Idea of denationalisation.

Justin Timberlake addresses the notion of individualism as he sings to his own reflection in Mirrors. “My mirror staring back at me, I couldn’t get any bigger with anyone else beside of me,” he croons in a savage satire of Thatcher’s belief that there’s no such thing as society. And what could be a more pointed attack on capitalist federalism than Nelly‘s Hey Porsche? “I don’t need nobody’s permission” he laughs, in a song that deliberately confuses material pleasure with personal objectification to devastating effect.

trouble at t'pit

Pompeii sees Bastille take the Roman city as a metaphor for the ruined industrial communities of the North. The dark clouds that roll in over the hills in the song are the coal dust of the abandoned pits. “Many days fell away with nothing to show… We were caught up and lost in all of our vices.” We’re warned of the cyclical nature of history too, that Thatcherism hasn’t died with the lady herself – “If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you’ve been here before? How am I gonna be an optimist about this?” Sad. Pink takes a similar view of a nation’s devastated manufacturing base in Just Give Me A Reason but with a more hopeful tone – “Tear ducts and rust, I’ll fix it for us. We’re collecting dust but our love’s enough.”

And so to the song at Number One (according to the midweeks published on 10th April of course, as are all the songs I’ve mentioned – your actual chart experience may vary). Duke Dumont‘s Need U (100%) featuring A*M*E might seem like just another feelgood dance track. But it’s all there in the video. A man visits hospital with a tape recorder – of exactly the sort you could have bought in 1979 when Thatcher came to power – lodged in his stomach. We see him leave without receiving any treatment and learn that the video takes place in America. The implications are obvious – in a country with no NHS, medical help is the privilege of the few. Our hero tries to go about his life regardless, but constant misery ensues as his condition causes everyone around him to suffer potentially fatal choreomania. Eventually, exhausted, we see him undergoing an operation – but at what cost?! If Thatcher’s policies have led inexorably to the current dismantling of a free health service then are we all doomed to dance until we die? Enjoy tonight’s Chart Show!

5 things I learned from The Rings of Akhaten

1. THE ACCESSORIES OF AKHATEN

clara necklace

That necklace that Clara’s had on constantly for the last two weeks looks a lot like the Zoroastrian Faravahar to me. It represents the fravashi, the eternal guardian spirit who sends your soul out into the material world to join the battle between good and evil, and then receives the soul back after death to collect those experiences. I’m sure this has nothing to do with Clara at all.

2. THE MOPEDS OF AKHATEN

mopeds in space

Well here we have this year’s repeated meme. Last week, the Doctor and Clara rode a motorbike around London. This week they straddled a moped across space!! Hopefully in next week’s 80s-set episode, they ride a space hopper round a submarine.

3. THE UNFORTUNATE TIMING OF AKHATEN

clara's mum's grave

According to Wikipedia, the day Clara’s mum died was the same day the first TV trailer for the new series of Doctor Who starring Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper aired. Well it was a shock for all of us.

And speaking of that series…

4. THE “IT’S A NO FROM ME” OF AKHATEN

song of the bee child

“What happened?” asks Rose woozily after the cathartic climax of The Parting of the Ways. “It’s like there was this singing.”

“That’s right,” replies the Doctor. “I sang a song and the Daleks ran away!” It’s a brilliant joke. No-one expected it would be used as an actual plot resolution. I mean there was Delta and the Bannermen, and Steven Moffat just about got away with Katherine Jenkins singing to a shark a couple of years ago – well it was Christmas for one thing, and it was a satisfying, cleverly constructed story for another. But this gloopy hymn on Akhaten had me shouting FUCK OFF at the screen throughout. If I want to see a terrified, charmless kid singing for their life in front of a malformed monster on a podium, well The Voice is on straight after Doctor Who, thanks very much.

5. THE TOURIST BOARD CHALLENGE OF AKHATEN

Lovely sunset, shame it's the last one!

Exciting to learn that the Doctor visited Akhaten long ago with his granddaughter! I use the word exciting advisedly. Presumably on that occasion he DIDN’T overturn the entire society, leaving them without a culture, religion or – oops – a sun. Still I’m sure it’ll be a lovely place to visit next time around.

5 things I learned from The Bells of Saint John

1. The BELLS of GROOMING

clara kiss

When the Doctor’s not busy licking leaves or running around the TARDIS with his Spirograph and a ballpoint pen, he likes to pick up girls. The prequel to the episode reminded me that it’s not exactly the first time that the Doctor’s met someone as a child who, in their later life, he’ll go on to snog.

amy kiss

Not even the second.

river kiss

I blame The Time Traveler’s Wife for all this.

reinette kiss

They’re not even safe in their prams. Especially now we know from Closing Time that the Doctor “speaks baby”.

rose kiss

It was all the other way round with Captain Jack, but there you go.

captain jack kiss

2. The BELLS of EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES CLARA

Of course, companions these days are generally predestined to meet the Doctor anyway, by dint of sending themselves messages from the future, being the future mother of the TARDIS-child or the TARDIS-child herself, and so on. Even lovely, ordinary Donna – who escaped the gallery of shame above – lived under an anvil of cosmic coincidence. And Clara’s story is the most extreme of the lot. The wireless password forming a reverse-engineered mnemonic of her deathbed catchphrase is the sort of contrivance even Jacob from Lost might have thought a step too far.

3. THE BELLS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Kislet's tablet

Regular readers will know I like to analyse classic Doctor Who villains through a prism of businesss jargon, invoking client/agency relationships at every step. How thoughtful of Steven Moffat to save me all the work on this one, with a classic ruthless PM versus terrifying client set-up. The four key qualities that Miss Kislet controls in her employees are Conscience, Paranoia, Obedience and IQ. It’s not exactly The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but then what is? I like that she has a little weather forecast handy on her tablet of terror too.

4. The BELLS of OBSCURE CONTINUITY REFERENCES

At this rate I wouldn’t be surprised if the fact that Clara nannies for a family called “Maitland” turns out to be a link-in to The Sensorites.

5. THE BELLS OF WHAT AMY DID NEXT

summer falls

Exciting to learn that Amy became a writer after leaving the Doctor! What sort of a book IS Summer Falls? From the cover it looks to be a Famous Five sort of adventure – and I wish it had been the little white dog that came to life on the stairs rather than the snooty girl – and yet Chapter 11 will have you crying your eyes out, apparently. Of course, in going from model to children’s author, Amy’s career path is closely following Katie Price’s. Did Amy ghostwrite any of Katie’s books? This Mermaids and Pirates series looks a lot like a better-lit The Curse of the Black Spot.

mermaids and pirates

Adverts Explained: Anglia Ruskin University

I saw this poster on the tube on the other day. It couldn’t help but catch my eye. These are the happiest, most excited and fulfilled people I’ve ever seen! My future starts here, you say? I had to go in for a closer inspection.

ruskin1. Joy: Those beaming faces say more about the results of education than any prospectus ever could. Strength through learning! And the excellent teeth displayed by all the students tell us that the fees at Anglia Ruskin are not so prohibitive you’d have to forget about cosmetic dentistry for three years.

2. I have in my hand a piece of paper: But what does it say? Perhaps these students share a house and have just used university facilities to print out copies of their cleaning rota.  Perhaps they have been photocopying their arses. Perhaps they are applying to go on Deal Or No Deal. We will quite literally never know. Note however that the paper is held in the right hand for women, and the left hand for men.

3. Dress code: Women may wear any shoes at Anglia Ruskin, but otherwise a strict dress code of blue jeans and a scoop neck top should be observed. It’s not clear whether chinos and a checked shirt are as rigid a uniform for men, as we can only see one guy, but it would make good practical sense.

4. Jan 2013 Starts APPLY NOW: The thing is, when you’re buying media space, they’ll offer you all sorts. A free week here, a month’s run-on for half price there… Before you commit to anything, take a good hard look at your ad and ask yourself if anything on it would look silly if it stayed up for a couple of extra months. There.

5. Leaping: Clearly, the higher the leap the greater the joy. There are various levels of elevation on show here, from tentative to fully airborne. The most enthusiastic is the unseen fifth student – ah yes, had you noticed her*? All we see is a foot on one side of the lead student and an arm on the other, like a botched attempt at B*Witched’s Rollercoaster dance routine. Yet this shadowy figure is the one most stimulated by her degree prospects. Who IS she? (*Yes obviously it’s a woman, as the paper is held in the right hand.)

6. YOUR FUTURE STARTS HERE: It’s great to look at a poster and know that your life has changed with immediate effect. Even if you don’t apply to Anglia Ruskin University, your destiny will now take a different course, subtly or otherwise. We’ve all seen Sliding Doors. And look at me. Last week I could never have imagined myself sat here making things up about an out-of-date university poster. No actually I could.

7. Psalm 16: Intriguing. The makers of the poster couldn’t have known that someone would write “Psalm 16″ on it at Upper Holloway, and yet here it is. Authorial intent aside, anyone seeing the poster will, like me, see the addendum too and then find it linked with Anglia Ruskin University in their mind. So what’s the significance of this psalm?

Well it’s a psalm of David, that’s a good start. “Keep me safe my God, for in you I have refuge,” it opens. “You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing.” To be honest that puts a bit of a downer on the rest of the poster. Perhaps you’ve got this far down and are already thinking how happy you’ll be starting, say, a foundation degree in Equine Science with Rehabilitation Therapies. Then Psalm 16 comes along and points out that nothing matters except God – it may as well walk into your house and shit in your bath.

“Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more,” it hectors, clearly singling out the students on the poster as they race down that corridor, hellbound. “You make known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence” – so we can forget everything we’ve just learned about education being the path to joy. It ends “…with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” And we know what that means – a female student with a cleaning rota.