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The Project Manager’s guide to Doctor Who: The Web Planet

“The power that’s holding the TARDIS has taken your pen!” – but a great project manager isn’t made on a stationery fetish alone. Has the Animus of Vortis got what it takes?

animus

Bad hair day

1. SET A CLEAR GOAL

The Animus has an admirably simple and measurable target – to engulf all of Vortis through aggressive business expansion. You get an inkling of her growth strategy when she describes herself as a power, absorbing territory, riches, energy, culture and, later, intelligent minds. Vrestin tells Ian that when her Carcinome encircles the whole planet it will be “too late” and this is a clear sign of a well-defined project endpoint.

2. ESTIMATING AND PLANNING

It’s no small undertaking. The Doctor guesses that her web has been growing for between a hundred and two hundred years. And in order to do that, the Animus needs slave gangs constantly heaping vegetation into the acid streams to provide her with raw material. Her main workforce is her mind-controlled Zarbi, and this is later bolstered by captured Menoptera, subdued with the golden wishbones that amplify her psychic power. The Zarbi are plentiful and easily led, while the Menoptera are more skilled but need careful handling. In this way she creates a classic hierarchical organisational structure. And as the clip above shows, the Zarbi are creatures capable of, if not actually breaking the fourth wall, then at least headbutting it.

3. CONTINGENCY

sticky

The Doctor’s ring was powerless against the Animus’s sticky extrusion

I’m appalled to say that the Animus has no risk mitigation protocols in place at all. She’s aware of rebel Menoptera forces massing in space but can’t get an accurate fix on their numbers or position, and so makes no tactical preparations against an invasion. She suffers from over-reliance on her own capabilities and refuses to delegate responsibility. Her powers are impressive enough – she’s strong enough to attract new moons to Vortis, drag down and restrain the TARDIS, fling its doors open and make the console spin around. It’s almost unimaginable. More to the point, she makes Barbara Wright sob, which to all right-thinking readers of this blog will be the worst offence of all. But note how languidly the Zarbi apprehend the Doctor and Ian at the outset. It’s a poor manager who rests on her laurels and fails to take immediate action against a potential project collapse.

The first thing the Menoptera do on meeting Barbara is have a poke at her hair. Well it IS magnificent

The first thing the Menoptera do on meeting Barbara is have a poke at her hair. Well it IS magnificent

4. MANAGING THE TEAM

Regular contact with your team is essential to maintain a well-motivated workforce who’ll keep your project running smoothly. But the Animus lurks in the centre of her web so doggedly that Prapilius says no-one has ever even seen her shape. A manager this distant risks undermining the resilience of her team by failing to be available at potential crisis points. Note too, that having tasked the Doctor with a basic project milestone she then makes it impossible for him to complete it by refusing to suspend the interfering power source that’s blocking his equipment. Her intra-competency rapport is TERRIBLE.

Another indication of her restrictive management style is the importance she places in secrets, demanding to know the secret of the TARDIS’s armour before she will tell the Doctor the secret of the venom grubs’ weaponry and so on. And when secrecy gets a stranglehold on an organisation the flow of information within the operational infrastructure becomes blocked to a degree that no-one can achieve a maximised output efficiency.

5. TRACKING, STATUS REPORTING AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT

Once I get Google Maps reinstalled on here we can upgrade it to iOS6, child!

You should switch back from Apple maps to Google , Doctor!

We’ve established the Animus’s lack of interest in the day-to-day metrics of her project. The impressive alarm system that lights up all the webbing in her headquarters is only further evidence of over-focus on her own security architecture. We get our first look at how she adapts to change when the Doctor’s Astral Map becomes available. It’s an amazing piece of kit which revolutionises the reporting capabilities available to her and she’s right to seize the opportunity as excitedly as she does.

But this is where her lack of hands-on team-building skills prove her undoing; her interpersonal inexperience means the Doctor is able to run rings around her by restricting the information flow and even feigning productivity while actually doing nothing. “Let’s look busy!” he even says to Vicki at one point. It’s a poor manager indeed who lets this sort of attitude pass unnoticed on her team. Her rage upon eventually discovering he’d completed the project segment long before reporting in is all too late – from this point on her defeat is inevitable.

DEBRIEF

  • Goal specificity was adequate if ambitious
  • Project planning was woolly, relying on personal abilities and a bottom-heavy workforce
  • Risk management strategy was unforgivably overlooked
  • An over-distant management style contributed to lack of focus among the project team
  • Basing ultimate project success on a key piece of equipment that only one team member could operate was a fatal flaw
Project FAIL

Project FAIL

An unexpected phone call

It’s Doctor Who’s 49th birthday and I took a few minutes to make a little present.

5 things I learned from The Power of Three

1. The Power of Ninety (miles a second, so it’s reckoned)

The Doctor’s heartfelt speech to Amy offering perspective on ‘one corner of one country in one continent on one planet that’s a corner of the galaxy that’s a corner of the universe that is forever growing… ‘ as they sat looking at the stars reminded me very much of Eric Idle’s lovely song in Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life.

2. The Power of Pertwee

I really liked this story and the way it balanced a vibe reaching back through various Torchwood scenarios to the feel of the global invasions in Russell T Davies’ Doctor Who all the way back to the nostalgic glow of the Pertwee era. Mind you I mean the good Pertwee era of my childhood imagination – the one based on the Target novelisations and what we were told by the guidebooks and magazines, where everything was cosy and action-packed at the same time and it felt like a family – before the videos started coming out and it turned out the Third Doctor was really just a horrible thankless old bully.

3. The Power of other mobile networks are available apart from Three

4. The Power of KIRSty

Implacable cubes make great enemies, from Dungeons & Dragons‘ Gelatinous Cubes to the Borg, the world of the film Cube and those remorseless advancing blocks in the old PlayStation game Kurushi. There’s something about geometric perfection that inspires unease, even when they’re not blaring out The Birdie Song. And I wouldn’t go so far as to ask Is Doctor Who’s The Power of Three a Shot-For-Shot Remake of Hellraiser?, but you know –

There’s this girl who can make the cubes work

And the wall in the hospital turns into a dimensional portal

And the cube reconfigures itself on its own

And who the FUCK’s this?

– and this is all very welcome to me.

5. The Power of Poultry

Could they be alien eggs? asks Brian. Oh Brian. If only they were.

5 things I learned from A Town Called Mercy

1. A town called Topical

How extraordinary that the TARDIS crew should be heading off to Mexico for the Day of the Dead festival, this week of all weeks. Were they on their way to get some ideas for sugar skull tattoo designs?

2. A town called Meh

I don’t know about you, but for me cowboys and the Wild West aren’t interesting enough in themselves that you can just drop the Doctor and a Terminator into the genre and hope for the best. And sure, murky moral quandaries around war criminals can be interesting, but, you know, I’ve already seen all of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And don’t even mention the Bechdel test. No, it wasn’t for me this week. Still it was nice to hear The Stolen Earth‘s Hanging On The Tablaphone rescored for banjo.

3. A town called Dolittle

I am excited though to see we really are running with the idea first introduced a couple of years ago that the Doctor can talk to animals. Always  a much underused ability of Wonder Woman’s in her tv series I felt, and it could make Doctor Who a very different show. Talking transgender horses brings us one step closer to Tom Baker’s talking cabbage companion idea. I’m all for it.

4. A town called Narrative Distancing

Does anyone have any grasp on what Amy and Rory’s Doctor/life balance is any more? Do they go about their normal lives with the Doctor dropping in occasionally as the last two weeks have told us, or are they travelling with him so much that ‘Our friends are going to start noticing that we’re ageing faster than them’ as Amy said this week?  It’s so inconsistent that it makes it difficult to care, and caring about it right now would be good.

(More questions: Did they wave a cathartic goodbye to the ordinary world and leave Earth for good on their wedding night, or were they suddenly living at home again at the start of The Impossible Astronaut? Did the Doctor say goodbye to them so finally in The God Complex that he actively avoided bumping into them in a Colchester department store, or did he go on to pop up in their house every other week since then? All of the above adds up to none of the above, emotionally.)

5. A town called EGG!

Yes, this year’s secret recurring element was back again. Oh it’s all very well Den Of Geek coming up with clever and entirely plausible theories about flickering lightbulbs, my money’s still on the eggs. In my mind we’re now building up to a final confrontation on the Fields of Trenzalore between a horde of Tythonian ambassadors and a cluster of Chimeron babies. My mind, ladies and gentlemen. My mind.

5 things I learned from Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

1. Stripes on a companion

No couple should ever wear the same pattern. Even if one’s covered it up slightly and they’re not planning to leave the house. Further stripes for Rory came in the form of a Doctor lip-lock. I’d completely forgotten about the old RTD house rule that all companions had to get a snog at some point. Although I think they might have left Adam Mitchell out. Oops!

2. Entire childhood on a SINGLE Saturday night

The dinosaurs looked great. Doctor Who’s got a long history of trying to put them on screen and results have been… variable. It depends how bothered about the quality of special effects you are of course; personally I’m very fond of the Plasticine 1974 ones.

When I think of everything I was obsessed with as a kid I think of robots, dinosaurs, Ancient Egypt, spaceships, spiders… and here they all were in one place! How fitting that Rupert Graves was in it then – the sight of him in a certain scene in 1987’s Maurice was pretty much the point at which my childhood ended.

3. Plot functions on a spreadsheet

But much as the shopping list approach to populating a story set the tone for a decent romp – and I’d happily see Nefertiti back in the show every week – it wore painfully thin towards the end. You see right through the casual ‘Thought we might need a gang!’ shtick when it turns out each new member of the group has a characteristic specifically required as a plot function. It just so happened that to finish the story there needed to be a big game hunter, someone who was related to someone else and a powerful, iconic historical figure. I don’t like it when they show their working.

4. EGGS ON A NEST

EGGS! Did they think we wouldn’t notice? There they were, right out where everyone could see. Nice big ones. Eggs! Say what you like about the ongoing theme of the Doctor’s anonymity or the developing dynamic of his relationship with his companions, clearly eggs are this year’s Bad Wolf/Torchwood/Mr Saxon repeated meme thing. Watch out for the eggs!

5. Passive-aggressive arsehole on the wrong show

Dinosaurs On A Spaceship starts so promisingly – lots of sparkling dialogue and fast-moving fun.  But it all grinds to a crunching halt halfway through as the Doctor enters Solomon’s Chamber of Exposition. I’m reminded of 1983’s Mawdryn Undead, another story in which the Doctor gets stuck on a pre-programmed spaceship with an injured, passive-aggressive bore. And then Solomon goes and makes that comment to Nefertiti about ‘breaking her in’. It’s not every week the Doctor has to stand by and listen to someone announce they’re going to rape one of his friends. I’m not sure it should happen at all. It was a horribly misjudged line, only equalled in tonal dissonance by the Doctor sending Solomon off to be killed at the end while making jokes about it. I’m not sure Chris Chibnall gets the spirit of Doctor Who at all.

I’d like to end this post on a positive note by expressing my love for the Indian Space Agency and the fixtures, fittings, people and uniforms therein

Save the Surprise: Kat Slater and the Hand of Fear

Over in EastEnders, Kat Slater (yes, technically Kat Moon now, but like all soap characters her true name remains the one she had when the public first fell in love with her – you can keep your “Bet Gilroy”s and “Dot Branning”s, thanks) is having an affair.

Affairs are a soap’s bread and butter (check: mixed metaphor?) and so to make this one more memorable it’s been decided we shouldn’t yet find out who the secret shagger is. Instead there have been a series of remarkable scenes in which Kat pouts and drops her knickers for an unseen force. Particularly startling was the one in which it appeared as a silent shadow on the walls of the Queen Vic’s cellar. Even allowing for the ludicrous idea that any of Albert Square’s gobby residents could shut up for more than a couple of seconds, it lent the affair an odd air of telefantasy – like Sapphire and Steel if they’d left boxes of cheese and onion crisps lying around.

Since then we’ve seen her simpering at a disembodied, twitching hand and glancing guiltily at a sinister creeping FOOT from beneath the bedclothes. It’s all very exciting. Or it would be if, as viewers, we had any investment at all in wondering who it is. We’ve been presented with a series of suspects, each of whom keeps smugly fondling their phone whenever Kat composes a saucy text. But the mystery’s meaningless. ‘It’s been an affair that has left EastEnders‘ viewers playing detective,’ wrote the Daily Mail this week in a tedious article that I shan’t link to. Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s no detective game to play because there are no actual clues – each suspect is shown to be as equally likely as the others. Sure, we can guess at who it might be, but our guessing is based on what we think producers’ intentions are, not on anything generated organically from the characters. It’ll be much more interesting once it’s all out in the open and poor Jessie Wallace – an excellent actress who deserves a lot better than this – has someone to play against.

Secrecy’s pretty big on the telly this summer. EastEnders have loved a whodunnit since their first and best – the Who Got Michelle Fowler Pregnant? saga, which this current plot harks back to with the phonecalls business – but now it applies to big public events too. The audience at the dress rehearsal for the Olympics opening ceremony were asked to #SaveTheSurprise, and I’m glad they did – the two long hours of contestants proceeding in was sorely in need of the clever and moving pay-off it got with the metal petals. Meanwhile, those who saw the preview screening of Doctor Who‘s season opener were begged not to reveal that new companion Jenna-Louise Coleman appeared in it. I’m not so sure about that one – it’s not like her appearance was a big twist at the end of the episode, like River Song’s in A Good Man Goes To War or Rose’s in Partners In Crime; she was in it right from the start, and knowing that much counts as no more of a spoiler than knowing that the Daleks and their Asylum were too. The real surprise was in the exact nature of her appearance, and a press release along the lines of ‘You’ll meet the Doctor’s new companion too, but maybe not as you’d expect’ (and cue speculation) would cover that.

I don’t know, I think we’re too twitchy about spoilers generally, not that I’d ever deliberately spoil something for someone else if I could avoid it. If something’s worth watching then it can’t hinge solely on its surprises, and it should be just as enjoyable if not more so the second time around. That was true for Asylum of the Daleks, and for the Olympics opening ceremony, but sadly not, I’m afraid, for Kat Slater secretly shagging a silent cellar shadow.

5 things I learned from Asylum of the Daleks

1. PUBLIC TRANSPORT OF THE DALEKS

You know when you get on a bus and everyone’s just stuck with inertia standing around near the front so that you can’t get to the stairs or the seats at the back? Or, worse, when you don’t get on a bus because it doesn’t even stop because of chumps like that blocking the downstairs, even though the upper deck is half empty? It looks like Dalek buses would be a dream. Look how neatly they’ve filed into their little rows, filling them up right to the end so there’s room for everyone. Subtract love and add anger all you like if it makes for smoother bus journeys.

2. NEW DO OF THE DALEKS

Rory’s ‘done a Professor Green’, and very nice too.

3. SKulls of the daleks

What with the Vashta Nerada, last year’s pit of flesh-eating skulls and now these animated skeletons with Dalek eyestalks it looks like Steven Moffat’s got a real boner for bone. It’s a confident series that introduces something so creepy and visually exciting and then has them on screen for less than a minute. Still, toys will be available I’m sure.

4. FETISHwear of the daleks

Seriously, where did the Daleks pick up these strapped-up, dead-eyed fellas from? I think that bus I mentioned earlier was headed to Vauxhall on a Saturday night. In Amy’s lovely Daleks-as-people delirium the collective Dalek consciousness is very vanilla – all dinner suits and little ballerina girls. So it’s interesting to think they dress up their lackeys with a view to vicarious pleasures of a stronger kind.

5. SOUFFLé OF THE DALEKS

I love that the entire dramatic denouement, and presumably Oswin’s year-long compulsive soufflé making, all hinged on a pun on the word ‘eggs’. So if an egg obsession is a sign of potential Dalek invasion from the subconscious, let’s keep a close eye on: the Great British Bake Off contestants, Edith Massey in Pink Flamingos and, er, ahem, anyone writing a blog that seems to feature them just a little too much.

The Project Manager’s guide to Doctor Who: Ghost Light

‘I never knew you had dandruff!’ ‘I don’t!’

1. SET A CLEAR GOAL

For all the notorious complexity of Ghost Light’s plot, Josiah Samuel Smith would seem to have a straightforward, quantifiable task – to catalogue all life on Earth. But the worst thing a project manager can do is accept an open-ended brief like that without questioning its scope and defining constraints. Even allowing for ‘the evolution issue’ that will ultimately scupper the project, Light charges Josiah with carrying out the survey and then goes to sleep for two years. He only wakes up because the Doctor forces it. What timescales did he expect the catalogue to be completed in? It’s not clear. It’s not clear at all.

2. ESTIMATING AND PLANNING

‘I promise if you enquire about the Over 50s Plan no salesman will call!’

So from the brief given, Josiah’s first response should have been to set a realistic timeframe for the completion of the work and plan what resources he would need. He would have had to allow for his own evolution through insectoid and reptilian forms into the planet’s dominant species, showing an increased efficiency curve as he nears the status of a Victorian gentleman. And a full critical path analysis ought to have sorted the dependent sequential tasks from the freestanding parallel ones.

None of this seems to have happened. He’s pitched up at Gabriel Chase, got drunk on power, brainwashed, imprisoned or sent to Java everyone in sight, filled the place floor to ceiling with stuffed animals, and hoped for the best.

3. CONTINGENCY

‘There’s somebody at the door!’

You wouldn’t call him a planner, then, but you can’t fault Josiah’s careful vigilance around the house. There are secret glowing eyes in every room and corridor, which (in a deleted scene on the DVD) we see he monitors through a microscope. Why be so paranoid, though? His project comes with a robust risk impact buffer in the form of Control, her role to act as a balance to Josiah as he evolves according to the needs of the survey.

‘In twenty years this whole thing could evolve into Downton Abbey’

The trouble is, Josiah’s imprisoned Control in their cellar spaceship, jealous of her potential to swap roles with him if required. We all enjoy having complete control of our projects, but there are times when we have to share the glory and the responsibility with colleagues. This is harshly subverted in Josiah and Control’s symbiotic, energy-swapping relationship. Neither of them can thrive unless the other degenerates. Josiah’s desire to keep Control on the bottom rung of the evolutionary ladder means that, in terms of the Leader–Member Exchange Theory popular among 1970s business analysts, he consigns her to his out-group when he should be fostering her dyadic linkages.

4. THE PROJECT GOES LIVE: MANAGING THE TEAM

Josiah assigns roles in the most patriarchal way possible. Lady Pritchard makes for a stern, tireless housekeeper whose hunger to hurt others he’s happy to harness. Wise, primitive Nimrod, released from storage following a previous survey, makes the perfect butler. Gwendoline is kept on mostly for company it seems. The rest of the night staff are compliant to the point of being happy to spend the entire day stood waiting in a bricked cupboard.

There’s a VERY strict chamberpot rota in there

He undertakes some work directly, an extended study on moth colouration within species for instance, and has learned and spoken enough about natural selection for his theories to be noted in academic circles. But you sense his heart isn’t in the project, and his passion is for his sideways ambition to assassinate the Queen and rule Britannia. At least his megalomania is expressed in terms of good PM practice: ‘The British Empire is an anarchic mess. There’s no clear directive from the throne, no discipline. Result? Confusion. Wastage. I can provide a new order.’

5. TRACKING, STATUS REPORTING AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT

Everything in the house runs like clockwork – to the literal point that the night staff start when the clock strikes six, whether or not it’s actually six o’clock. But as we’ve seen, Josiah sits atop this efficient structure doing little but indulge his fancies. He files no updates at all, in fact is so terrified that Light will wake up demanding a progress report that he begs the Doctor not even to touch his chamber.

The escape of Control is Josiah’s first serious problem. His immediate act is to offer the Doctor £5,000 to deal with her. It’s a great bit of speculative contractor recruitment in one sense, as he’s clearly identified the Doctor’s core competencies quickly and shrewdly, but of course he’s misjudged our hero’s motives and morals.

‘Centuries of work wasted!’

And it’s the Doctor who brings Light back into the project environment. Light’s a combination of all the worst clients you’ve ever had – he can kill with a single glance, people have gone mad on meeting him and he’s so stubborn he’d rather cancel the whole project than deal with the implications of all the amendments to the catalogue. I spent many years project managing catalogue production for some well known high street shops and it was a proper trial. The Christmas ones were the worst. The amendments were never ending. I do know how Light feels.

 So, naturally Josiah’s response to the unexpected client visit is to a) run away and b) try to kill him – we’ve all been there. And his treatment of his colleague Control catches up with him; having treated her as a ‘depraved monstrosity’ for so long she’s so desperate for freeness and change that she evolves far quicker than he ever could and takes his place. He’s left, a snivelling wretch on the floor, stripped of all authority and facing a servile future as the project starts anew elsewhere. Wicked.

‘What version of Lotus 1-2-3 is this? Don’t tell me it’s evolved into Excel aready.’

DEBRIEF

  • An unrestricted set of ultimate deliverables left the project vulnerable to scope creep
  • Failure to identify key milestones along the critical path meant that ongoing schedule evaluation was impossible
  • The core team performed well, however the relationship with the Control creature was decisively anti-synergistic
  • The project manager lacked focus and failed to leverage his own time to effectively prioritise the project
  • Client reporting and expectation management were shoddy to the point of opacity. When finally given access to the survey data, the stakeholder was forced to withdraw his buy-in completely
  • The project could only have succeeded if achievable parameters had been negotiated and agreed at the briefing stage

This used to be the future… Fear Her today

The Olympic stadium imagined in 2006 for Doctor Who, and as it actually turned out

Six years ago, Doctor Who broadcast the episode Fear Her. It’s set today, on Friday 27th July 2012 – the Doctor and Rose arrive in London on the day of the Olympic Games opening ceremony. Hi-jinks ensue, naturally, and the whole thing was an exciting glimpse into the future a shoddy and much-derided mess.

But how well did the 2006 production team imagine the world of today?

Shayne Ward had a few hits after winning X Factor in 2005, but mostly disappeared from view after his second album and was finally dropped by Syco last year. There’s no Greatest Hits compilation – Rose would be more likely to see a poster for Rock Of Ages, which he’s been starring in recently.

There’s no sign of a Dame Kelly Holmes Close in London yet either, though it was a reasonable assumption. Dame Kelly has had to make do with a guest appearance on an Absolutely Fabulous Olympic special instead.

Rather than relying on coloured pencils, Chloe Webber would be firing up Draw Something on a Samsung Galaxy Tab. But who could have seen Draw Something coming? Touchscreen phones didn’t take off until after the launch of the iPhone in 2007. This really is the future.

As for the tv coverage, here’s really no need to turn to BBC News 24 for a ‘Countdown To The Games’ as Trish does. No need at all. It’s far harder to find a channel that isn’t breathlessly building up to the event.

Speaking of the news coverage we see, ‘the queues started a week ago’ for the opening ceremony, apparently, which doesn’t seem quite right when everyone’s bought their tickets in advance. Mind you, maybe it was simply people who’d ordered their tickets from CoSport.

Then there’s security. In this story Rose steals a big axe from the back of a council van and starts swinging it wildly in the middle of a residential street. By the time she’s pushed her way brusquely through the crowd on the Torch route, ignored a warning from a police officer, shouted ‘I can stop this from happening!’ and thrown a metal object into the air at the torchbearer, I’m very sorry to say that Rose Tyler has been shot dead by G4S snipers.

And the weather? It’s ‘a wonderful summer’s day’ according to the news. But by nightfall the Doctor senses a storm’s coming. Accurate? We’re about to find out…

The Project Manager’s guide to Doctor Who: The Android Invasion

In this series I’m applying the methodologies of my day job to classic Doctor Who stories. Project management is a subtle profession requiring people skills and precise organisational abilities. Let’s find out if Styggron’s got what it takes.

‘And when I turned round, they were ALL wearing eyepatches!’

1. SET A CLEAR GOAL

The Android Invasion’s the whole reason I started writing this series. Chatting to Dan about it one day I blurted out that from a project management point of view, the Kraals were terrifying – and the seed of looking at Doctor Who stories from this angle was sown. So as I sit down to tear their famously awful, convoluted plan to pieces it would be embarrassing if I had my own personal ‘Oops no sorry look actually my eye was there all the time’ moment, wouldn’t it. I mean, no-one in their right mind thinks this plan makes sense, do they. Do they?

2. ESTIMATING AND PLANNING

No-one could say that the Kraals were under-prepared. They spend a full two years preparing for and rehearsing their invasion. They ransack the contents of their kidnapped astronaut’s brain and create exact plastic copies of Britain’s Space Defence Station and its surroundings on their home planet. Then they populate their rhino Legoland with perfect copies of all the real people in the original area.

The androids were not very frightening

 The standard criticism of this is that it seems pointless, when their actual plan is to wipe out humanity with a virus. Why make androids pose as a ragtag assortment of villagers and test them until they achieve full, terrifying mastery of the art of hanging around in a pub at lunchtime? I say why not. The virus will take three weeks to disseminate, we hear, and it seems that it needs to be added to water and food supplies. So why shouldn’t their androids be copies of publicans, butchers and shopkeepers and practice their daily routines?

Actually no, this one gives me the shits

Resource and timings are the biggest issues facing any project manager at the start of a large campaign. And if it seems that Styggron has gone over the top with his methodology, consider that he’s got, effectively, unlimited resource at his disposal. Compare how casually the fake village is destroyed with a ‘matter dissolving bomb’ with how, the one time we see an android being created, it just appears out of nowhere around a skeletal frame. I think the Kraals have mastered the conservation and recreation of matter, and can spend as much energy fashioning McEwan’s Export bar towels, little boxes of York jelly fruits, copies of the Daily Express and posters with pictures of cheese on them as they like.

The Doctor recognises their enormous technological abilities and ponders – along with everyone watching – why they don’t just take Earth by force with weapons. But considering they’re trying to escape from a radiation-ravaged planet, not ruin an unspoiled one, I think that question answers itself.

3. CONTINGENCY

Leaving aside that the very first thing we see on screen is a wonky android lurching to robo-suicide, Styggron’s got all the details under control. ‘Strategy is formulated upon knowledge,’ he declares when criticised for baiting the Doctor with an android Sarah. ‘It is important to see that our techniques are flawless.’ He even prepares for the unlikely event of an android revolt with the production of a weapon that deactivates them.

Are the dogs androids too? They’ve done the tongues well

As a project manager you rarely get the chance to test your processes before going live. Everything is done on the hoof. Styggron defies this with a constant insistence on testing. Again and again we see him pushing at the limits of the plan to eliminate any weaknesses, immediately eager for instance to factor in a trial run of the virus on a living human organism, a test which only suddenly becomes possible when the TARDIS arrives.

4. MANAGING THE TEAM

Styggron’s an extremely shouty, bullying manager. ‘Do as I say!’ he bellows at a cowering Crayford, unneccessarily adding ‘You SHALL do as I say!’ before unleashing some sort of pain wave. But then it must be stressful when you constantly need to distract your main team member from looking – or even scratching – under his eyepatch. To be honest the further I get into this analysis the more respect for Styggron I’ve got.

Apart from the androids, who obey him without question, the only other person Styggron has to liaise with as chief scientist is Marshall Chedaki. Military credentials on Oseidon are apparently conveyed by a nice chunky bit of gold bling around the neck, and Styggron treats his colleague with the disdain he deserves.

5. TRACKING, STATUS REPORTING AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT

‘There can be no variation in the schedule!’ screams Styggron at one point. All of us project managers feel like that from time to time. But flexible adaptation to the ongoing requirements of the project is the key to success and we can see that he does that alright. For instance his initial wave of androids has already been updated to reflect the latest staff changes at the Space Defence Station – presumably he learned about the Brigadier’s trip to Geneva from Crayford’s recent radio contact with Earth.

The range of phones pictured is available at Tandy’s

As for keeping track of things, he’s always firing up his communicator and shouting ‘Report! Report!’ if he hasn’t heard from his underling enough. The first time we see him he’s immediately noticed that the order for all units to recharge hasn’t been followed and is barking at Crayford about having detected a random unit. He’s clearly keeping a very close eye on progress.

DEBRIEF

  • The project manager was responsible for controlling a complex, large-scale operation with flair and great attention to detail
  • An extensive pre-project testing programme was carried out with unqualified success. The dogs were good
  • Application of the latest scientific techniques was well-deployed and benefit-rich as regards the through-the-line implementation of the plan
  • Management style bordered on the bullish but was thoroughly appropriate to the evolving needs of the process
  • ‘And all brilliantly planned by Styggron!’

Project WIN!

(I mean, if the Doctor hadn’t blundered into things, the Kraals’ plan would have succeeded. Within minutes of Crayford’s rocket touching down on Earth, the commanding officer and the key military staff of the Space Defence Station have all been seamlessly replaced by androids. We’d all have been dead from ginger beer by the 28th July and Blade Runner would never even have been made.)