Tag Archives: telly

Is Into The Dalek a shot-for-shot remake of Placebo’s Special K video?

Many of us noticed there was an obvious inspiration for this week’s Doctor Who, in which a miniaturised vessel made a fantastic voyage on an emergency medical mission – yes, Placebo’s 2001 video for their song Special K of course. Let’s take a look at the similarities…

We establish the base where all the exciting thrills & spills will take place

Our elegant, ambiguous hero strides through gleaming corridors on the way to his mission

Going down!

Mandatory dramatic plummeting…

…and someone’s always got to end up in the gloop.

How did THIS get in here?! And now I can’t seem to delete it!! Bloody WordPress!!!

where

Anyway, I bet Vod likes a bit of Placebo.

brain

The brain’s a bit pinky

eye

Hush hush, eye to eye

danny pink

Oops!

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Deep Breath

“Destroy us if you will, they’re still going to close your restaurant”

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I don’t know about you lot, but in the long gaps between seasons of Masterchef I don’t mind watching a bit of Doctor Who. So what a relief that this one was based around a restaurant. The villain of the piece was a steely-eyed meatsmith, reminiscent in his dogmatic hostility of Marcus Wareing, and the showpiece finale where the establishment was floated past St Paul’s from a balloon made of human skin would do for any desperate semi-finalist. And with “airs” replacing sauces, gravies and even the recent innovation of “foams” these days, it was good to see Clara standing up for tradition by refusing to release her own.

“Jenny and I are married, yet for appearances’ sake…”

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I see a fair bit of cynicism around the internet whenever Doctor Who has a Big Gay Moment, mostly from people who think society’s so advanced in its acceptance these days that we don’t need to make a song and dance about being queer. Well I think we do, and I applaud seeing a bit of inter-species Beth-and-Margareting in close-up on a primetime family show. This excellent article about Sam Smith and the gay phenomenon of “covering” has been on my mind this week and I recommend it if this turn of thought interests you.

“Needy game-player”

the-book-group_625x352

I was excited when I heard Michelle Gomez was going to be in Doctor Who but I need scraping off the walls now it looks like she’s going to be this year’s Big Thing. I never got into Green Wing, which I know a lot of people know her from; it’s her majestically funny and complex performance as proud, demented Janice in The Book Group that I worship. From one brief scene it looks like she’s going for stylised camp glory in her Doctor Who appearances and I’m fully on board. 

“Don’t look in that mirror, it’s absolutely furious”

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Since Doctor Who came back nine years ago series openers have tended to be big, brash and emotionally exciting. Deep Breath was all of that of course, but over and above it it was quiet and thoughtful. The Doctor’s new face and his and Clara’s concerns about it worked its way through the whole episode, with everyone adopting a succession of veils, masks and identities, the intensely-charged scene between Vastra and Clara being especially good in this regard. Capaldi even held forth on the classic philosophers’ dilemma regarding replacing parts of a broom (the Sugababes dilemma as I tend to think of it these days). Thematic resonance in the slot between Tumble and Casualty? Only Doctor Who could carry this off in a shower of spontaneously combusting dinosaurs, and that’s why it’s the most magical tv programme in the world.

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

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

The Project Manager’s guide to Doctor Who: The Mark Of The Rani

forest face

“I doubt the Rani ever does ANYTHING at random,” says the Doctor. But is her project management sense really as strong as her fashion sense? Let’s find out.

1. SET A CLEAR GOAL

Manic miners

In The Mark of the Rani we see a classic example of a fix-up project. A larger strategic project has gone wrong – in this instance, the Rani’s experiments on her planet Miasimiah Goria have heightened her slaves’ awareness as planned, but lowered their ability to sleep – and an offshoot tactical recovery project is initiated. Wisely, the Rani stages her subsidiary project offsite in Victorian England, where her activities will cause no disruption to the mother portfolio. Her metrical objective is to collect enough brain fluid to restore the balance at home, and from everything we see of her I’m confident in assuming she’s planned out her milestones and set a clear endpoint. A great start.

2. ESTIMATING AND PLANNING

bathhouse

Most establishments would charge you extra for this sort of thing

The Doctor’s surprised to see the Rani’s volcano screen-print as he reckons her tastes are sterile. But in fact all the indicators on her balanced scorecard expose her as a fun-lover. Her chosen methodology revolves around milking miners, for a start. And there’s an element of cosplay to the whole thing, with her man-slaves adorned in fetishwear and her own time spent dressed up as an old lady watching rugged Geordies getting naked. (Is the Doctor into that too? “When we went past the bath house that instrument of yours reacted!” squeaks Peri at one point.) She might claim she sees everyone as just “walking bags of chemicals” but I’ve heard better excuses.

Most excitingly for a Doctor Who villain, the Rani actually understands marketing too. We see her sending a child running off to the tavern with a penny and instructions to tell the men there’s still a bit of hot water left if they hurry. Crafting scarcity into your call to action is a time-honoured technique for driving footfall.

So her skillset includes attention to detail AND flair. And on learning she’s been doing this sort of thing undetected on Earth for centuries, even the Doctor has to concede she’s a brilliant tactician.

3. CONTINGENCY

glitter

Peri gets glitterfaced and shafted

Theres a consequence to her removing chemicals from miners’ brains of course.  One minute they’re enjoying a friendly spot of post-bath towel flicking, the next they’re kicking potatoes everywhere and smashing machinery to pieces. But she’s factored for this resultant aggression and keeps well out of the way when the lads are getting lairy.

There’s nothing to suggest the Rani’s project wouldn’t have successfully delivered had she been left to her own devices. But even so, she’s well prepared for any eventuality with a state-of-the-art remote-controlled TARDIS, the insanely camp touch of a glittery pellet bomb built into her bracelets and of course – lying around just in case – mines that turn people into trees! Well you never know.

tree

“Hoist up your skirts, Peri, off we go!”

4. MANAGING THE TEAM

She’s definitely not a team player by choice, and the Rani’s plans are only spoilt when the Master turns up, purely to see what’s going on and what trouble he can cause. He obviously fancies her too – “Anything connected with you would undoubtedly be fascinating!’ he gushes on arrival. Sure, he goes on about some grand plan to upset history but he’s clearly just making it up as he goes along.

So she’s forced to work with someone she hates and who keeps getting in the way of her iterative dependencies. It’s basically an Industrial Revolution Apprentice special, and it’s surprising we don’t get a glimpse of Alan Sugar selling an early version of his difference engine in the town square.

sweetmeat

“Luke, I want you to swallow this very special sweetmeat” – the Master’s repertory of Victorian chat-up lines in full play here

The Master’s the worst kind of team member to be accountable for too, and spends the whole story pissing on the Rani’s baseline – threatening to break her machinery, stealing her hard-won brain fluid and her mind-controlling maggots, and even bringing the Doctor there so she’ll have no choice but to join forces. The Rani’s critical chains are completely disrupted.

5. TRACKING, STATUS REPORTING AND CHANGE MANAGEMENT

dinosaur

The Doctor uncovers the Rani’s sideline as a researcher for the value meat industry

With the Master and the Doctor in town, the Rani MoSCoWs the hell out of the earned value to date, deciding that the only sensible course is to abandon the project entirely and salvage what she can. It’s a brave choice for any project manager, but absolutely the right one. She maintains a cool sense of priorities while prevented from leaving, spying on the Master at every opportunity and commenting acidly on his own lack of business prowess: “What’s he up to now? It’ll be something devious and over-complicated. He’d get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line.”

When the chance comes she’s even able to give him a face-to-face appraisal: “You’re unbalanced – no wonder the Doctor always outwits you.” Such is her own composure that we don’t doubt her. Finally, with her deliverables in tatters thanks to the Master, she takes a well-earned opportunity to knee him in his own deliverables. “I don’t make mistakes,” she’d claimed earlier. And she’s right.

DEBRIEF

  • The project’s measurable goals were well-established
  • The proposed methodology combined creative flair with metrical precision
  • Every contingency was fully risk-managed
  • The project manager was forced under duress to induct additional team members, which enabled catastrophic chaos creep to the scorecard
  • The key deliverables were unsalvageable, and it is recommended that the project manager works entirely in isolation in the future
rani

Project FAIL