Wednesday, October 31, 2007

FFS, Gabriel Chase...

That time again, people.

What's latest on the only updatable page - Parallel Universes?

23 November 2008; written by Anthony Coburn, updated by Olaf Poril; CinemaVerity/BBC

According to a leaked BBC memo, plans are well advanced for a colour remake of the very first Doctor Who episode by original producer Verity Lambert's CinemaVerity production company. Bill Nighy has been signed to recreate William Hartnell's pioneering portrayal, with former EastEnders and Holby City bad boy Michael French reviving William Russell's Ian Chesterton character. Completing the line-up in a one-off special scheduled to be screened by BBC4 on the 45th anniversary are Amanda Donohoe as Barbara Wright and Stephanie Leonidas as Susan Foreman. Filming is due to start on 1st April 2008 following the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to William Hartnell, who would have qualified for his telegram from the Queen on 8th January 2008, at the site of the former Lime Grove studios.


Why remake the very first episode? It still exists and is considered in quite high regard. Surely it would be cheaper to colourize it than do it all again. Why not just screen it again? And why has no one else mentioned this MONUMENTAL thingamagig...

Oh, wait.


My god, that's an anagram of APRIL FOOL!


So why put that up on the page in October?!?

I wonder what GC has to say when Peter Davison appears in the show? Will that make it canon? Of course not, Davison is crap, remember?

God damn it, he thinks of everything, doesn't he?

Except to come up with April Fool jokes in April...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Nigel Verkoff Q & A

Some of these questions are asked in The Youth of Australia Annual 2005. But since few reading this blog will have read it, I post it here, unedited, and in full.

1 What do you think has been your most life-changing decision?
Well, it was a while ago now. It was back when I was living with my parents, during the 80s. 1980s. Late 1980s… Ahhh. Yes, well my dad found these videos under Uncle Michael’s bed and was having a blazing row... So, I nicked one when no one was looking, put it into the VCR when no one else was around and watched it. It was a film called Lesbian Spank Inferno Unabridged. I can truthfully say I haven’t been the same since – I was so lame back then! Seriously!

2 Do you have a recurring nightmare?
Well, I have a nightmare that I can’t seem to wake up from. I was in this car, shagging Sarah Michelle-Gellar senseless, when David Boreanez turns up in fangs and a cape. The bastard tries to rip my throat out, and I open my eyes – I’m lying in bed. I roll over, close my eyes – and I’m back in the car being murdered by a vampire! I open my eyes and I’m back in the bedroom and I decide to stay awake. I roll over again and then I find the undead cunt is lying beside me, trying to bite my neck! I roll over again, fall out of bed and I can hear Andrew thumping the wall, telling to keep the noise down. So, er, what was the question again?

3 What is the rudest thing someone has ever said to you?
Oh, it was this hippie chick I met at the Newtown festival. She was wearing body paint and nothing else, so when she asked to ‘feel my aura’ I just said, ‘Yes, please!!!’ And then the stupid bint just waved her hands in my face and said, ‘Nigel, your aura is very dark and turbulent. You’re a very angry man, extremely bitter and ill-tempered person.’ So, I said to her, ‘FUCK OFF!’

4 How many number one singles from the past year can you name?
Ah. Well, er, you see… the thing is… uh, what was the past year?

5 What object would you save first if your house was on fire?
Dude, if my house was on fire, I would be the one who started it. So trust me, anything I wanted to keep would already be safe. Oh, er, I see. Um… I’d have to go with Inflatable Ingrid, my Deluxe Model Plastic Pal.

6 What is your greatest unfulfilled ambition?
To have sex with Bernice, my sister. As we’re adopted, it is perfectly legal. Oh, man, just thinking of her lithe body underrr minen … excuse ne.

7 Have you ever cheated on an exam?
Nope. Honestly! Don’t look at me like that! Check my HSC results if you don’t believe me! I flunked it fair and square! Besides, you know Einstein had shitty grades in school? Well – mine are worse!

8 Who was the last person to send you flowers?
I can’t remember their names for long. But they remember me all right. Oooooh, yeah. Hahah. Sweet, sweet candy…

9 What is the best joke you know?
Andrew Beeblebrox. Or politician John Howard. It’s a close run thing, though.

10 What is the rudest joke you know?
Hah! Oh yeah um, I’m terrible at the joke bit, but the punchline was, ‘You’re sweating like a nigger trying to read’! Haahahahahah! OH, HAHAHAHA! HAHHA! HAH! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! AHAHAH! OOH, DEAR! HAHAHAHAH! HAHAA! OH YES. HAHA! AHAHAHH! Man, that’s fantastic. Whoo. Heh.

11 Do you watch daytime TV?
Oh, some of it. The Bill. Some comedy shows. When I’m allowed near the fucking television that is… I digress.

12 What is the single most money you’ve ever spent on a single luxury?
Uh, $200 and it was for a crate of tinned asparagus. I didn’t actually know what I was buying, just I had the money in my pocket and the guy had a knife. He said he’d cut off my goolies lest I not purchase the crate. Where is that stuff now, I wonder? We never did get round to eating it…

13 Have you ever woken up not knowing where you were?
Well, the bedrooms do start to look similar after a while. But I usually work out where I am by the appearance and number of the women I’m with.

14 What is the most embarrassing thing in your wardrobe?
Some homemade crabapple jam and a decomposing body. Why? I have no idea. I don’t even like jam, and I don’t even know what a crabapple looks like! Crazy times, man, crazy times...

15 Who is your guru?
The character of Cassanova Frankenstien from the movie Mystery Men. The Cat from Red Dwarf. Mike Thecoolperson from The Young Ones.

16 Do you believe in reincarnation?
Yep. And I’m either going to come back as a fur bikini or a giraffe. The giraffe for the obvious opportunity of being above the trees and seeing supermodels taking topless helicopter lessons over the sun-drenched plains of… of… of wherever the hell giraffes come from… The fur bikini… just because I really, really like the idea of a fur bikini…

17 Who is the best James Bond: Sean Connery or Roger Moore?
What? Other people have played James Bond? It isn’t just Pierce Brosnan? Jesus, I had no idea, absolutely no idea…

18 Are you a good kisser?
AM I A GOOD KISSER? Do bears shit in the woods? You know that song by the Doug Anthony All-Stars, The World’s Best Kisser? They wrote it about me. Yeah, even though I wasn’t born until they were splitting up, it was about me. One kiss, I’ll know what you had for lunch. Yesterday. Mmm. Boiled eggs? Am I right or am I right?

19 Have your ever pulled the legs off a spider?
No. Maybe spread them but – HEY! Why do you want to know this?!

20 What is the most ferocious argument you have ever had and who was it with?
Um, Andrew. And pretty much about everything. If I want to do something, chances are, he doesn’t. I’ve just lost track nowadays.

21 Which part of your body would you like to change?
My hair. I wish it would just stay peroxide blonde, goddamn it!

22 In which one of the seven deadly sins do you indulge in most often: anger, sloth, gluttony, covetousness, envy, pride or lust?
I get angry when the women can’t be bothered to get off their arses and come to me, I mean, I only want a thousand or so hand-picked virgins that were mine – ONLY mine, because I hate people who have larger harems than me – and they would be the best girls in the whole world because I am the coolest guy in the entire created omniverse. And I’d screw them all senseless.

23 Would you ever appear nude on TV, film or stage?
Yep and yep, I already have. For TV, it was a very complicated tale that ended up with me running out of an exam hall stark bollock naked into a waiting Channel 9 TV crew who wanted to interview people doing the HSC. There was a stage in the exam hall I draped myself over at one point, and it was all shot on film so, er, damn it I am so cool! I mean, WOW!

24 What is the biggest lie you’ve ever told?
The answer to Question 31.

25 When have you been most scared?
Watching Battlefield: Earth. The fact those fuckwits not only got away with making that shit but actually made a fortune in ticket sales and merchandising to this day fills me with this kind of nameless dread. No, wait, it has a name: John Travolta.

26 What new law would you pass?
Anyone who made it big on the ABC would have to stay there. I don’t particularly like the ABC, I just hate having to get up and change the channel.

27 Were you bullied at school?
Not for long. Let’s just say that a winning smile, a drop of patience and flick-knife can cover a multitude of sins.
28 What is guaranteed to cheer you up?
A blow job. Chocolate. A chocolate blow job. Take your pick.

29 When were you last sick after drinking too much?
Well, it was a competition with Andrew about something. I forget what – the brain cell with that information was lost during the competition. Yes, I drank 80 gin and tonics, had a pint of scotch, another 80 gin and tonics, then I went into this red rattler train and began eating 80 beef vindaloos. Things got a bit weird – I proposed to my current girlfriend. Well, I think it was my current girlfriend. It could have been someone else’s girlfriend. Maybe both of them. Maybe it was a guy? Maybe it was the 161st gin and tonic? Maybe it was one of those 80 policemen who seemed to be standing around me? Well, I dozed off, woke up the next morning next to a policeman and the policeman’s boyfriend on Town Hall station. Anyway, I got on the red rattler home and drank some Alka-Seltzer. Turned out it was mercury so I had to induce vomiting in order to save my life.

30 Is there such a thing as true evil?
Of course. His name is Kerry Packer.

31 Who is the most fanciable person you’ve ever worked with?
Natasha Stotdespoya. Man, that was some work experience.

32 Do you believe in capital punishment?
No, but I used to believe in Santa Claus.

33 Who should play you in a film of your life?
The guy who was in Mastermind and played Connor in Angel. Him, covered in vegemite with bleached blonde hair. With his voice dubbed by the Chef from South Park.

34 Which soap opera character do you most identify with?
Phil Hunter from The Bill. Only much sexier and not as stupid.

35 Have you ever stolen anything?
Just the hearts of a million jailbait girls looking for love and finding something far more… tangible. Oh, and I defrauded Centrelink out of $30, 000.00 but they’re not going to read this – are they?

36 Who should be president of Australia if the country were declared a republic?
John Howard. The one from Seachange and Always Greener, though, not the Mr. Sheen stunt double we have for a prime minister. I saw his audition in The Games and he’s got the bottle to play the part.

37 Have you ever written a letter of complaint?
Yes, actually. I was mucking about at school during Stuvac, and I found the ABC’s Feedback website, so I typed in, ‘You wankers! I put a cap in your ass! Yours sincerely, David Restal.’ Then, I sent in ‘I want more Noddy on TV. Ever since you put Brum on ABC I have been thrown into a mental institution, where I just sit in the corner, straight-jacketed, humming the Noddy theme tune to myself for hours on end. More Brum. All my hate, Dave Restal.’ You know what? The posts never turned up on the site, so I went and typed in, ‘YOU DARE CENSOR ME?!? I KILL YOU ALL!’ Well, then the principal came in to find me looking up Lego Porn sites and, er, let’s just move on, shall we?

38 Did you have a childhood hero?
If you’ve seen the movie Get Crazy, there’s that robotic cowboy who appears and disappears at random throughout the film, providing lots and lots of drugs, spiking the water supply, that sort of thing… Anyway, back on topic, there’s this rock star who gets some of the drugs and suddenly his dick starts telling him how to run his life. The rock star is so impressed he makes his dick his new tour manager. Get Crazy, man. That’s just all I have to say.

39 What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Normally I just check out exactly how many gorgeous young women I’ve picked up the night before, roll over and go back to sleep. Assuming there’s enough room, of course.

40 If you had three wishes, what would they be?
Well, for a start: a bong that never ran out. Two, a sort of ‘Access All Areas’ pass to any woman I wanted and, er, three: a thousand more wishes. Am I cool or what? I mean, I spit ice cubes. You could run a fridge offa my personality!

41 Do you like enemas?
No. And I speak from cold, flushing experience!

42 Do you follow a soap opera?
I tried to understand Night and Day, and went certifiably mad for three days. When the baby was born a hermaphrodite, I just gave up. The big question: what happened to Jane Harper? A bigger question: who fucking cares?

43 Who was your first best friend?
A guy I met at primary school, called Mitchell. We were great friends – we spent all our time together. Mitchell was a great joker. He’d always shout things like ‘FOR GOD’S SAKE, YOU MADMAN, LEAVE – ME – ALONE!’ and hurl live lobsters at me, screeching all the while. Wacky guy, huh? Then I got this note that he had mysteriously been killed in a car accident along with his entire family and that there was no way I could go to the funeral or speak to his family I might as well forget the whole thing. I did notice it wasn’t in any of the papers under Births, Marriages & Deaths. Hmm. Publishers, eh?

44 Who is your best friend now?
Let’s just say I see him on a regular basis – during sexual intercourse and visits to the lavatory. He’s not ‘Little Nigel’, more sort of ‘Nigel’s Column’. I’ve got a plesiosaur for a love truncheon and when ‘Nessie’ is the mood, there’s no knowing when and where we’ll stop.

45 Would your life be different without Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Very probably. For a start: I would have no fucking idea what you were talking about in this question; Sarah Michelle-Gellar would be known solely for her work on Cruel Intentions; a hell of a lot of merchandise wouldn’t be bought and sales of tissue boxes over the last seven years would have dropped dramatically; Angel would never have been made; a lot of in-jokes in Friends and Xena wouldn’t make sense; Peter Berner wouldn’t have anything to think about every five seconds; Anthony Stewart-Head would have stayed in Jonathon Creek; there would have been no hot Tara/Willow action which brings us back to the sales of tissues and paper towels… I could go on.

46 What do you see – a glass half empty or half full?
Sure. One of those options. Definitely.

47 Do you like your own name?
It’s pretty cool. But I prefer it when its being screamed at the ceiling by my latest bitch.

48 Who would you most like to meet?
The tambourinist from The Dandy Warhols.

49 What makes you angry?
Nasty little yeast infections. Especially the crusty ones that need antibiotics.

50 Can you remember your first kiss?
Yes. I was sitting on Granddad’s knee on a warm summer’s afternoon. I looked up into his warm, kind eyes and smiled a secret smile… then Elizabeth came in and I snogged her rotten. She was about five at the time and I gave her something to remember and cherish… until she was put down the next summer by the local vet. I do miss her.

51 When and where were you happiest?
New Year’s Eve, 1997, behind the shed outside our house. That night, I found the will to live, the joy of sex, and an uneaten packet of cinnamon doughnuts.

52 What is the worst place that you have ever stayed the night?
It was when my brother Gavin took me for a joyride with Ryan, Owen and Josephine in a car we stole. I decided to moon this guy coming out of a TAB. Would you believe it: he was a plain-clothed cop! He pulled out this gun and opened fire. Well, we decided it was serious when Owen announced ‘Shit! I’m bleeding!’ and collapsed, so we dumped the car. I climbed down this hill and into a storm water tunnel that lead into the sewer. Believe me, I don’t know how the Turtles managed it, man. It took me two days to get out – and that lead me to the basement of the local police station. But that’s another story…

53 Do you believe it can rain fish?
Who cares? We’re in the middle of a drought, remember? Jesus…

54 If you could swap places with a member of the opposite sex, who would it be?
The girl I’m in bed with at the time. Show her that that ‘foreplay’ crap is just an urban legend. Then, I’d run outside in the rain, getting all wet. Then, I’d go inside and strip. In a room full of mirrors. I LIKE this question.

55 Is Elvis still alive?
WHY DO YOU CARE? I mean, if we reach the year 2096, will we still be asking this question? He would have died of old age by then, wouldn’t he? No? Honestly, why’s he so special? I mean, he’s shit itself compared to John Lennon (about the only thing I agree with Andrew about) and no one is out there saying ‘John is alive, man! Make piece not war!’ Elvis freaks – get a life! It’s an option the King isn’t getting ever again, is it?

56 What is the worst song you have ever heard?
The theme tune to Crank Yankers. No, The Eagle Rock. Hah, I always get those two mixed up. I used to like The Eagle Rock – until that bitch-whore Sigrid fucking Thornton sank it in the bath. I was physically ill for three weeks after I saw that episode of Seachange.

57 Were you well-behaved at school?
Definitely. I was very advanced. Very, VERY advanced if you get my drift.

58 What was the last video you bought?
Kath & Kim
. Series 1, Volume 7. I just put the tape in the VCR, turn the volume down and… well, never mind.

59 Have you ever seen a ghost?
Yes, actually. I saw Mitchell after his fatal car accident, shopping for groceries with his wife in Macdonald Town. I thought it must have been someone else, but when I called him by his name he turned around, looked at me, screaming ‘OH, FOR FUCK’S SAKE!’ then ran off into the distance. Or does that count as a zombie sighting?

60 What job would you have liked to have?
As one of the X5s who were forced to sleep with Jessica Alba’s character in Dark Angel every night for seven months. But not the ones she killed, obviously. That would be stupid.

61 What is the most frightening film you ever saw?
Species. The thought that a nymphomaniac blonde was prepared to shag me to the brink and then kill me… I mean, it’s an impossible choice, isn’t it?

62 What is your earliest memory?
It was the whole clan getting together for one of those photos. My parents got me to take the photo and insisted I never let any part of myself appear in it. That and my pre-school teacher calling me a little wanker.

63 Is there life after death?
Only in the party season.

64 Did you ever suck your thumb?
Depended what was on it.

65 What would you do if you won the lottery?
Lets confine ourselves to saying that several adult bookstores throughout the Inner West would soon be re-ordering the vast majority of their stock. I’d also finally get round to getting membership to some, er, exotic web sites. And, if anything was left, I might pay off Centrelink.

66 Where would you most like to have a picnic?
In the girls’ shower room just after a hot, sticky game of netball on a warm summer’s day. Ahhh. Down, boy! Hahaa! Woof! Hahaha! Sweet, sweet candy, sweet, sweet candy…

67 Are things getting better or worse?
Worse. You keep asking me these questions I have to answer, damn it!

68 What is your most treasured possession?
A box of everlasting matches I was sold for $645. Light them and they burn forever. As it’s a no-sparks year, apparently, I can’t demonstrate the matches or even take them out of the box. But when I can, I will. We’ll see who the idiot is then, huh?!

69 What is your favorite item of clothing?
My one-of-a-kind I AM WHAT WOMEN WANT T-shirt, which I got printed on Valentine’s Day. It’s been better company than any human woman on those long, lonely nights...

70 What was your favorite toy as a child?
It was a special edition Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Action Figure. Donatello, he had this shell which swung open on a hinge and you could put all these weapons and cool stuff inside. Me? I kept a couple of condoms, a folded up sketch of nude Kylie Minogue and a cigarette lighter in it.

71 Have you ever asked for an autograph?
Yes. Well, offered an autograph. I just went around railway square, asking all the attractive women I met if I could sign their tits. And one day, I’ll succeed. One day. One day…

72 Have we been visited by aliens yet?
You’ve met Andrew, haven’t you?

73 What’s your favorite meal?
Uh, fresh croissants with a White Magnum – well, any ice cream that is vanilla wrapped in white chocolate. Sweet, sweet candy… Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

74 What items do you always carry with you?
My charisma, my animal magnetism and my sunglasses. They may look prince nez now, but they used to have frames. Anyway, I managed to draw – well, trace – some intensely pornographic images onto the lenses and do a nifty hologram thing, so when I move my head to the left, the turnip is shoved right in… Ooooh, yeah.

75 What book are you reading at the moment?
Peter Benchley’s Jaws. It says on the back, ‘Pick up Jaws before midnight, read the first five pages, and I guarantee you’ll be putting it down, breathless and stunned as dawn is breaking the next day.’ I’ve been going for five months and haven’t quite managed to reach page three. Why? Because it is AWFUL! AWFUL I SAY! WHAT DO I SAY? AWFUL, THAT’S RIGHT! Plus, I think I might be able to sue Pan Books Ltd under the Trades Description Act.

76 What would you like written on your gravestone?
There’s no point in living now, is there?

77 Would you leave everything to travel through time and space with a complete stranger?
Nope. Once was enough. Definitely.

78 How often do you have a haircut?
All depends on fashion, cash flow and whether or not if the hairdresser gives me the horn.

79 Which day of your life would you most like to relive?
Bernice’s hens night. This time I’m absolutely certain I could seduce her and get her to the church on time. Definitely.

80 What was the most memorable thing written about you in a school report?
Ah, yes. It was when I was in primary school, taking Greek and Macedonian lessons. Hmm. Mrs. Haralumbas said on my report, ‘If he says ‘It’s all Greek to me’ one more time, I’ll kill the little runt.’ Mr. Contas said, ‘If he says ‘It’s all Greek to me one more time, I’ll kill him too.’ But deep down, they loved me, deep down.

81 What is the most sensitive part of your body?
Um, if you’re a woman: come over here and find out. If you’re a man: the remorse I feel in my heart after I kill a man for asking stupid questions.

82 What is/are your middle names?
Jay. A lot of people think that’s an initial. It isn’t.

83 What mementos of your life have you kept?
A lock of hair from everyone of my girlfriends. I’ll have enough for a giant calico yeti-outfit in, oh, five seconds?

84 Who or what has been your greatest inspiration?
Jessica Alba. The way she goes ‘into heat’ and needs any man she can find… It just gives all men hope for the future. One day, she’ll be mine. Oh, yes. Mine. What? What do you mean, it was “just a crude plot line”?!? No…

85 What was the best party you went to?
Uulungid Caloovin’s birthday bash. Definitely. A fantastic time. The barbacue failed to light, so Andrew tried to help out and set fire to the outside toilet. There was quite a queue for there, you know, because I was, ahem, ‘locked’ in the proper lavatory for two hours with the most attractive girl at the party. Yes, that was fantastic, there was stoned hippy chatting up a garden gnome, an undercover policeman planting marijuana in everyone’s coat pockets, some idiot running around the house naked shouting ‘Johnny Carson! Johnny Carson!’, and some bastard in the outside toilet with a book and the after-effects of a particularly strong vindaloo. The last thing I remember was reaching for the one hundredth and thirty… thirty-seventh glass of rum punch and the next thing I know I was in a prison cell, with blood on my hands and a baton up my arse. Happy days.

OMFG! It's Nigel Verkoff's Birthday!!

In the late October of 2000, I first wrote an episode of The Youth Of Australia, an episode entitled Sunday, Day of Rest. Not (God, it's worrying how much The Young Ones have influenced me, it really is). The script can be read, mutilated but still recognizable. But in the curious osmotic flux that I had for two days creating the first episode has left me with a creation I can barely control.

Oh, things were so different then. Would this joke be too crude? Was it too intellectual? How 'real' was it supposed to be? The sillyness of the Goodies when the laws of reality can change entirely for a single gag? The insanity of McCallif? The not-quite-perfect world of Lano and Woodley? Should the add breaks go here?

Damian and I had worked out the main characters - a likeable dole bludger typical Australian bloke, a confused directionless teenager, the rich bitch love interest, and the total loser who thought he was a lady's man. We were both utterly, UTTERLY devastated when later that year, a failed English sitcom called Small Potatoes was shown with the exact same format. There was even a video shop, lots of alcohol, high school rejection and video game addiction. It honestly knocked us for six seeing this idea played out almost word for word on screen... and then it flopped. So I've had to alter it ever so slightly, to play with the stereotypes.

Of course, such thoughts didn't bother me at the time. But the fact was I had a rough idea to the dynamics of the show - Dave/Doug was ordinary, Andrew/Alex was the weirdo who lived at odds with Norman/Nigel the lothario. So for my first script I faced my terror, and had the main characters get their HSC results in the most rudimentary manner possible, in a sequence I can see was another Young One rip off... But the plot began to spiral. The best way to hit the audience with the import was to have the devil-may-care character fall apart. But then what? He'd come up with a half-hearted attempt to get even. Something so stupid it could never work, but logical enough for him to convince the others to help him.

You've failed the HSC. The solution: bribe your way to get your mark changed. How: well, he's a ladies' man.

And Nigel Verkoff finally stepped out of the shadows, where he had no doubt been fiddling with himself.

Nigel Verkoff comes from so many different sources. The idea is that of the guy who is useless at something, but utterly convinced he's brilliant at it - which I think might be from Inspector Gadget. In several stories, Nigel exists in his own little world, not really understanding what's going on. He's the hapless loser unlucky at love, so that's probably down to Mike Thecoolperson (who only really touched Verkoffian standards in Time, when, while a psychopathic woman tries to smother him with a pillow, shouts "That's it baby, treat me rough!"). He's also that type of person who is not very clever, talented or popular, but acts like he is, to the point he seems totally in denial. Another inspiration would be Blackadder. Nigel is not half as witty, cunning or even charming as Blackadder, but he has that same habit of telling people EXACTLY what he thinks of them, being rude to everyone and still somehow commanding loyalty.

Nigel Verkoff's name is a story all on its own. When I started High School... I was teased. A lot. I'm over it, of course, and at the time I could have either beat up my detractors or weilded Wildean wit... but I couldn't be arsed. One of the insulting names hurled at me was "Norman". Think of that name. Norman. It conjures up images. Normality, dullness, boredom. Someone in spectacles, balding, speaking in a monotone. How could anyone named Norman be in any way interesting? The idea of someone called Norman convinced he was Cassanova seemed ridiculously amusing. Then the concept of 'Nigel' turned up in schoolyard vernacular. Norman was boring, Nigel was pathetic. A loser. Someone who desperately wanted acceptance, and popularity, but that no one liked. To be humiliated or isolated from the crowd was to be 'Nigelated'. A mass seducer called Nigel? The most unromantic name ever? A name you HAVE to sneer just to pronounce?

Verkoff is harder to work out. I immediately worked out that Nigel was from a wealthy family, used to luxury and getting his own way. At the time, I think I just wanted a name that sounded rude, but wasn't. So, Verkoff is very obviously "Jerk Off" or maybe "Fuck Off", but it was also foreign. Interestingly foreign. You can imagine in casual conversation someone asking about his surname. It turns out Verkoff is the name of a character in a Russian play, the type of which you can google yourself. Finally, it would always have started with V, as a reference to Stephen Moffat's unseen character N.V. Gilespie. If you haven't seen that episode, it is about a mysterious supplier of food whose identity is not known. Then, Linda turns up for the interview claiming to be N.V. Gilespie, before Spike does the exact same thing. As they struggle to explain how two N.V. Gilespies can be in the same office at the same time, the real N.V. Gilsepsie turns up... it's funnier if you don't know who N.V. Gilspie actually turns out to be.

Plots began to create themselves. Nigel's truly demented confidence could land him in countless troubles - I immediately came up with a plot where a film crew arrives to use the house for a period doco-drama, and Nigel would immediately try to steal every scene he could, until finally the producer shot him. Not long after, I came up with a plot where Nigel invites a film crew to see him play up at work, and he is immediately fired. His complete lack of morality, coupled with the firm belief there was no problem he couldn't solve by turning up the charm, made him the most enjoyable character to write for. He's so fucking easy to just wind up and set off rolling. It cannot be a coincidence that the episodes I struggle to write are the ones Nigel is not in to a great degree. At the end of 2002, Damian and I had worked out a story arc for a third series of YOA, where Nigel's greed would literally tear the group apart. It would be a bit like The War Games, with Nigel driving away every recurring character, only for fate to leave him peniless, heartbroken and alone. Almost immediately we decided that the fourth series would feature Nigel moving in with Doctor Spoon and Chamber, a lurking presence in the background. Andrew, Dave, Katy, Eve... all could be chucked aside (and I've got the script where that happens, you know). But Nigel?

The final straw came during my HSC art project, where I drew four pages of comic strip about the YOA. It involves them at an art gallery musing over a strange piece of postmodern art, with Andrew giving an impromptu lecture on it before admitting he's talking bullshit. Dave suffers the lecture, while Nigel graffitis famous artworks with his texta.

Damian finally sketched what the characters looked like and my art teacher suggested the colours. And so, Nigel with his beehive-mullet, dark skin and searing yellow hair was created. His T-shirt with I AM WHAT WOMEN WANT, named after the vaguely memorable Mel Gibson film was created. Since then, I drew comic strips, I wrote annual stories, and then when I spoofed Phantasmagoria... the truth hit.

The villain of the story was an egomaniac initials N.V. Coupled with the confused impression I had at the time that the story was only worth listening to for Mark Gattis trying to outdo Henry Gordon Jago, I realized that if I wanted a spoof, the logical thing would be for an egomaniac called NV to steal every scene and hijack the plot... which he probably wrote himself! AND review it!

Nigel Verkoff finally took over my life. And while his evil and far less charismatic double Ben Chatham wreaks havoc on the rest of the universe, I realize that Nigel is about eight years old this week. And so, I repost a quizz I wrote once, where all the characters answered soul searching questions. And so, I just want to state the main differences between Nigel Verkoff and Ben Chatham

  1. When Nigel Verkoff is drunk, which is not often, he is fun to be around
  2. While he hates hard work and loves taking credit, Nigel is hands on and not afraid to fight for what he believes in
  3. Nigel despises bullying and cowardice, so if you disagree with him, he'll respect you for it, but think you are a complete fucking retard for not realizing how good he is
  4. In the unlikely event Nigel would ever have sex, he wouldn't slag them off the next morning
  5. Nigel, being Aboriginal and a very rich Japanese adoptee, does not believe in social classes of any sort, and simply guages people as being 'for him' and 'against him'
  6. Nigel is not sexually confused, and not a homophobe
  7. Nigel is very open-minded when it comes to religion, lifestyle choices, science fiction and life on Mars
  8. Nigel is annoying, whiney, contemptible, rude, selfish, unbelievable stupid, insensitive, maddening, unlikable, crude, sex-obsessed, egregious and a real wanker. He, however, is a comedy character, and not MEANT to be likable our feature presentation... 85 soul searching questions... NEXT

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Those That Can, Do. Those That Can't, Mock.

Guess which category I fall into. Back in 1999, I spoofed a version of the TV Movie and mailed it to Charles Daniels with his compliments. He promptly took out a restraining order on me, and made sure his own parody of the TV movie was not only funnier, but had a biting satirical edge and not once, not at all, did it so much as breathe the same air as my one.

Undeterred, I managed batter out some spoofs of Paul McGann's two audio seasons, which were read and enjoyed by my high school friends... all of whom abandoned me when one smart alec hired out An Unearthly Child and discovered there was no nudity, drug use or orgiastic sex involved. Charles Daniels lied!

Later, on OG, another flock... well, three or four users... were amused by my work, and I managed to thrash out a spoof version of the Eccleston era, as well as more Big Finishes. Finally, I was able to create a website to host these spoofs, only to discover, to my horror, just how much crap Big Finish releases - twelve Doctor Who stories a year, plus DWM specials, plus mini series, plus subscriber only CDs... worse, they were no longer doing previews of them in DWM! That means I'd have to buy the bloody things to find out anything to put in the rumors and facts sections!

Nevertheless in the last three weeks I've managed to upload from scratch spoofs of...

Project Twilight
The One Doctor
The Dark Flame
Project Lazarus I & II
The Wormery
Arrangements for War
The Roof of the World
Medicinal Purposes
The Juggernauts
The Game
Catch-1782 (guest starring Nigel Verkoff to parody a very obvious character if you've heard it)
Three's A Crowd
Thicker Than Water
Memory Lane

as well as half-finishing Unregenerate! and starting on The Reaping now Jared's plotted it out.

According to my calculations, I should have less than thirty left to do before I catch up with Big Finish. Plus the webcasts. And the BBC7 audios. And the DWM freebies... GAHHH!

But I post this partially as self congratulation, and partially as some kind of encouragement. I started this completely pointless pass time (Charles Daniels having graciously allowed me to do so after discovering that his magnum opus The Fishmonger, had been done by me a year earlier. Just not as well.).

NOTE: I have done Memory Lane, thanks to response to this post. Yay.

One of the biggest problems I'm having is, oddly enough, Memory Lane, an eighth Doctor story about a bunch of retarded aliens who can warp space and time but have no long term memory - so instead of say, recording something, they just create ever-repeating realities to remind them of stuff. Like most of Big Finish' latest output, it doesn't stay in the memory for long (oh, the fucking irony) and I can't work out the "hook". I mean, for the previous story, Something Inside, it was a crossover with Hellraiser. The story before that Time Works was a spoof of the office I was working at. I can't think of any funny twist of this story at all.

So, I came up with an audacious plan - I would ignore the plot and write out Charley and C'Rizz, who would become media celebrities and instantly ditch the Doctor, with the idea that he would then travel with Lucie, ditch her at the end of the season and meet up with C&C again. I worked out the ending and everything!

The Doctor sighs and decides to return to the TARDIS and is shocked to discover that Charley and C’Rizz wish to stay – they actually BELIEVE all that crap about being famous even after all they’ve experienced.

"Fame has it’s price," Charley admits. "I know we’ll be hounded by the press on a daily basis for years, and since I’m considered the most sexy woman in the entire created multiverse, the press will constantly try to obtain nude photos of me."

"That shouldn’t be difficult."

"Once, in my misspent youth, it would have," Charley shrugs. "But no more. I am a woman of class and will not pose for such photos unless the proceeds from sales go towards to curing cancer."

"Or bunions," C’Rizz suggests.

"Yes, bunions. Or some other such debilitating diseases."

"Yes, Doctor," the Eutermisan continues, "I know the pressures in the life of a star such as myself are great! Too great to be able to explain them all. But, as such a star, I know that you believe me more than you would your next door neighbor. And my dear Doctor, that's all that matters in this lifetime."

"C’Rizz, you’re doing it again."

"What?" the Eutermisan asks.

"Mistaking me for someone who gives a shit. I’m off."

Charley grabs his arm before he can go and gently whispers, "Shall we have a final shag for old time’s sake?"

The Doctor shakes her loose. "Charley, I’ve got a headache. And will probably have a headache for the next 30 incarnations."

"You always get those headaches – it must be the stress of living with such a star as me, it’s gotten to you. Poor Doctor."

"Yeah," the Doctor calls over his shoulder. "Whatever. Bye."

Bursting into the TARDIS, the Doctor races up to the console and sets the time machine in motion, laughing like Dylan Moran on cheap ecstasy as he abandons Charley and C'Rizz forever.

Then he twigs the blonde teenage girl sitting in the pilot’s chair, listening to the Scissor Sisters on her iPod.

Aghast, the Doctor screams, "What the hell are you doing here?!?"

"What?" calls the girl in a Northern accent, over her music.








The girl shrugs. "What?"

And with a rising sense of préjà vu, the story is to be continued...

Ah! Magnificent... and then I found out that society girl and lizard boy were only going to be in two more stories EVER, and Lucie was staying on, so the companion gymnastics were entirely unnecessary! Worse, they'd be written out in consecutive stories, so my plot that they would marry each other wouldn't work!

Fate - by which I mean Nick Briggs and BF - deals its cards like some missippi boat whore!

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Chaser's War on the Living

He was a painter, quite artistic
He had that suave panache.
A tasteful brown shirt,
A cute toothbrush moustache.

He loved his German Shepherd
And walking by the babbling brook.
And watching blond haired, blue eyed children
Setting fire to their books.

Yet they say he was a monster,
the leader of the Reich...

But Adolf Hitler,
He was my friend.

And he loved to go out dancing,
Really dug the Human League.
And that song by Alice Cooper
"Only Women Bleed".

He was my friend!
A friend!
We can all be friends!
If we just let this little hurt
Between us mend!

So sang Paul McDermott in his London Dead and Alive tour of 1990. The gag is of course a dark twist on all those 'human love' chart toppers of the late 1980s, so utterly confident that humanity can instanly embrace itself and forgive and forget anything. As clever Paul noted, for humanity to put aside it's differences, there can be no exceptions. If you want everyone to be friends, you have to accept everyone includes people that you wouldn't want to be friends with.

But my main reason for quoting it is that, bar the bit about Paul McDermott being good friends with fuhrer, it was true. Adolf Hitler was considered a friendly, popular and likeable person before the more memorable aspects of his military career. He certainly didn't SEEM totally insane, was a warm, family man with a love of trying to capture roses on canvas. That Big Train skit where the Nuremberg Rallys are shown to be just like the Rolling Stones on tour are closer to the truth than we'd like to admit.

Of course, this doesn't excuse a single damn thing he did - but the fact is, simply, he wasn't ALL bad. Because no one is. No one at all. The bad might outweigh the good and visa versa, but if you ignore the fact that Hitler was an incredibly popular and loved man (even before the fascism), you might as well be rewriting history.

This leads logically to Andrew Hansen's latest song. Since he didn't use a stupid voice this weak, I have no hesitation in defending him - though it did bug me that Hansen's great grandfather most likely DIDN'T die recently, and wasn't an excuse to write the song. Chris Taylor did that, and since everyone hates Chris, what sort of reaction were we expecting?

Hansen's song is a parallel to Paul McDermott's. Just as Hitler, Dennis Nielson, Polpott, Pinochet, Charles Manson and even Margaret Thatcher are shown to had have good sides to them and worthy for forgiveness, Hansen reminds us all that Stan Zemenak, Don Bradman and even Princess Diana were not perfect. OK, he's rude about it but no ruder than pretty much anyone else the Chaser has targeted. The clue of the show is in the title - it's a war on Everything.

John Howard's sneer today ("You guys are funnier mocking people who are still alive") would carry some weight if he'd said something similar sooner. Quite simply, if the people in the song were still alive, no one would have batted an eyebrow at the lampooning. Media Watch was slagging off Zemanak to a degree that would have got them banned from OG, but as Andrew notes, the moment you die, rose-tinted specs are applied. Why?

Scientist say that as you grow older, you forget the more unpleasant aspects of life as your brain defrags itself. Is that why no one speaks ill of the dead, in order to allow an idealized version to come to the fore? Is saying that Don Bradmun was a "grump" really that offensive? Are we supposed to believe he was a perfect saintly being? In my brief, brief sojourn at university, I did a media course, the core of which was that Stan Zemanek was a complete and utter arsehole - fact. Does that mean if I handed in that thesis again, I'd get blanked? We all hated the bastard! If we can't admit that after he's dead, isn't that rude? As for Princess Diana - she's been dead for over seven years. And we were sick of her at the time. If she hadn't crashed the car, she'd be getting slagged off to the degree that Hansen's song would be a love ballad.

Is it human nature to decieve ourselves at the nature of those who have passed on? Much as I love my late grandmother and grandfather, the former despised my mother for not being a total Catholic and the latter considered me a smart arse he'd rather not spend time with. They were also incredibly loving, supportive and wonderful people. As my miniture army of aunts and uncles noted, my grandfather "couldn't stand the Dutch - only because people would complain if he couldn't stand the Blacks".

People have good sides and bad sides, and the fact the leader of this entire FUCKING COUNTRY cannot wrap his brain around that idea worries me. No respect for the dead? Ladies and Gentlemen, THEY ARE DEAD! THEY DON'T CARE ANY MORE! Are we really supposed to believe that the ghost of Diana is weeping ectoplasmic tears because one line of one song on an Australian comedy show spoke ill of her? Doesn't this implied pettiness insult her more than the blunt truth she was shagging foreigners?

Look at William Hartnell. There is the wonderful story of him taking time to comfort a coloured tea lady and assure her that she was valued by the ragged and exhausted gang making The Dalek's Master Plan. However, the reason the tea lady was so upset in the first place was when Hartnell coldly blanked her in the first place.

Speaking ill of the dead is only when you're lying about them.

And lying ALSO means saying they were good, when they weren't. Doesn't it?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

How Things Change...

My YOA sites has not been updated in a while... partially due to the trivial matter of a death in the family killing the muse, partially due to the fact the otherwise lovely webpage wouldn't host more than 19 episodes. One of the episodes I was struggling on was Frequent-Flier Points, a road-trip story based on one of the earliest YOA scripts. Originally it lead into a baffling Nigel Finds Religion story, How To Pick Up Girls By Hypnosis, then into a Horror of Fang Rock parody, The Foghorn Formally Known as Nigel.

And so here are two unaltered excerpts from the first (and, technically only) draft which recieved much kudos from my peers at high school when I wrote it all the way back...

The door bell rings again.

DAVE: [SIGHS] Andrew, tell whoever it is, to piss off.

Andrew shrugs and crosses over to the doorway. He stops dead. Eve enters, smiling cruelly. Andrew and the others immediately start to scream in horror. After ten seconds, they stop.

ANDREW: [IN A VERY SCARED, INSECURE VOICE] Boy are we glad to see you.

Eve enters the room and crosses over to the couch. The others leap out of her way. Dave and Andrew desperately try to clear some of the mess up, and Eve sits down.

EVE: Well, boys, how have you been?

NIGEL: Fine, er, miss, fine. Just fine.

DAVE: Fine.

NIGEL: Just fine.

ANDREW: Why have you come here today, miss?

DAVE: [HISSES TO ANDREW] Shut up! Shut up, shut up, shut up!

EVE: [IGNORES THEM] Oh, I just thought I’d pop round, you know.

NIGEL: Yeah, well that’s fine.

ANDREW: Sure, as long as you’re not here about the rent.

EVE: [CONFUSED] Huh? What rent?

DAVE: [HASTILY] Oh, nothing. He’s high on heroin. Ignore him.

NIGEL: Yes, he’s a total smegging lunatic.

EVE: Actually, there was a favor I wanted to ask you.

Dave and Nigel instantly rush over to Eve and prostrate themselves before her, in submissive poses and look up at her adoringly.

DAVE & NIGEL: Yes, yes, whatever, fine, cool...

EVE: Yes, I was hoping that you three could go on a little excursion for me. I’d go myself, but well, I just can’t be bothered. I’ve got better things to do, all things considered.


EVE: None of your business.

ANDREW: [SMILES WARMLY] You stupid bitch. We want to know where you want us to go for you. [CHEERFULLY] Who’s my brain-dead little whore? Eh? Eh?

EVE: Oh, I want you to go to Parliament House.

ANDREW: Parliament house?

EVE: Yes.

ANDREW: The one in Canberra?

EVE: Yes.


EVE: Well, I was invited, but I’ve got a prior engagement.

ANDREW: Where’s that?

EVE: At the beauty spa. I just heard about it.

ANDREW: When did you decide to go?

EVE: A few minutes ago.

ANDREW: So, it’s not a prior engagement, then.

Dave and Nigel watch on in mounting horror and rage.

EVE: Who cares? Are you lot doing it or not?

ANDREW: Fine. A free trip to meet the Prime Minister.

EVE: Like you said. Absolutely free. Minus flights and accommodation, though. You’re on your own!

ANDREW: Hey, you’re the millionairess!

EVE: So? I’m in a positive cash flow situation at the moment!

ANDREW: That means you’ve got more money than before!

EVE: Hey! I have NEEDS, people.

DAVE & NIGEL: Of course you do, of course, yes, obviously, sure...

EVE: Look, I’ve got better things to do than talk to you losers!

ANDREW: What, like go to a Prime Minister’s party?!

EVE: Yeah!

Eve rises and storms out. Andrew looks pleased with himself. Then Dave and Nigel slowly get to their feet. Nigel crosses silently to Andrew and grabs him from behind in a head lock, before raining blows down on Andrew, who screams in pain. Dave’s eyes widen and he grabs Nigel.

DAVE: Nigel! Don’t kill him!

ANDREW: [RELIEVED] Thanks, Dave...

DAVE: Leave some for me!

Dave starts to beat up Andrew.


Eve enters her limousine. Linda and Haley are waiting for her.

EVE: [EVIL LAUGHTER] Hahahahaha! It all went perfectly!

LINDA: Really? It worked.

EVE: [STOPS LAUGHING] What worked?

HALEY: You know, the three guys going to Cranberry or whatever.

EVE: Oh that? Who cares? Let’s move, driver!

The limo shoots away.



Eerie. There is no one around. A tumbleweed blows slowly past us. Dave, Andrew and Nigel emerge from the train. Nigel is doing up his trousers. The train accelerates away at top speed.

NIGEL: So this is Homebush, huh? It’s really gone uphill since the Olympics, don’t you think?

ANDREW: This place is creepy.

DAVE: What? Scared?

ANDREW: No. Just... [SIGHS] scared. I mean, it’s so quiet. No one’s around. It’s like there’s been some kind of horrendous nuclear accident that has wiped out all life, leaving only these ancient buildings and the twisted freaks that survived the disaster.

NIGEL: [LOOKS AT ANDREW] You don’t mean...

ANDREW: Yeah. It’s kinda like High School.

DAVE: [UNNERVED] You’re just trying to freak us out. Big deal. Come on.

Dave heads over to the ticket office. Suddenly, a ragged, terrified-looking man runs out of the shadows.

MAN: Go! Go, get out of here! Run! While you still can!

A tentacle whips out of the shadows, wraps itself around his neck and pulls him into the shadows. There is a hideous scream, then silence. Dave, Nigel and Andrew exchange looks and cross to the ticket booth. A pale, wide-eyed woman stands there, staring into space.

NIGEL: [CHARMING] Why, hello, sweetheart.


NIGEL: Hmm, very sexy. Firm and fruity. Just the way I like them.

ANDREW: [IMPATIENTLY] If you could keep your disgusting libido under control for a moment, can we stick to the point?

DAVE: [TO WOMAN] This is Homebush, isn’t it?

The woman turns and faces something in the booth. This shows off the large scar on the back of her head, which is filled with alien circuitry. There is low, groaning noise. The woman faces Dave.

WOMAN: No...

NIGEL: [NOT LISTENING] Thank you for your assistance, and if I may say so, what a packed bra you’re boasting...

DAVE: WHAT?! Not at Homebush?


DAVE: Then where are we?

WOMAN: Glebe.

ANDREW: Man! And the train’s gone as well!

Andrew turns and moves away from the ticket booth, just as a net falls on the place he was standing. Dave and Nigel remain at the booth.

NIGEL: Excuse me, are you doing anything tonight?

WOMAN: I... am... rounding up the remaining humans... and handing them over to the pod people...

NIGEL: Well, I’m sure you won’t mind if I tag along. I know this wonderful little restaurant in Glebe – it does pork chow mien, and it has the best aquarium I’ve ever seen.

DAVE: Excuse me...

Andrew reaches and overgrown patch of tall reads, and makes out a railway sign underneath. Pushing aside the large green eggs lying there, Andrew sees the sign saying HOMEBUSH – VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, POPULATION 666 AND FALLING, YOU’LL NEVER LEAVE.

NIGEL: [VO] Of course, the manager does get pretty pissed off if I ask for the goldfish and an order of fried rice, and by the way, never, ever try to use a fishing rod...

DAVE: [VO] Excuse me...

NIGEL: [VO] I mean, it’s not as though I meant for the goldfish to end up in that woman’s ear, did I? And how was I to know it was one of a very rare fish with caustic scales and a taste for human eyeballs? Anyway, I’ve spoken to her since, and, well, she was heading for a breakdown anyway...



DAVE: When is the next train coming?

WOMAN: [LISTENS] There... is no other train...

DAVE: Look, are you actually in charge here?

WOMAN: Humans... are now... endangered species...

NIGEL: You need your hearing tested. I like that in a woman.

Andrew joins them. Behind them, one of the eggs hatches and a little monster runs out and across the platform.

ANDREW: This IS Homebush, guys. Come on.

They head for the gate out. We pan back to see that, looming in the ticket booth is an ancient skeleton, covered in dripping green slime. It has clearly been there for some time, and there is no sign of the zombie woman. We hear a peel of mocking laughter.


Meanwhile, the guys move onto the road outside. A taxi is waiting, with a bored driver.

NIGEL: Taxi!

The taxi driver looks up, surprised.


NIGEL: The Honest Holiday Airport, please.

DRIVER: You bet.

The taxi drives off at top speed. The others watch on. Andrew drops his bag in frustration. A claw emerges from the gutter and drags it away.

ANDREW: You could have waited for us, you bastard!

DAVE: [SIGHS] Four words. ‘Shoulda brought the car.’

NIGEL: Four other words. ‘It’s at the mechanic’s.’

ANDREW: Four more words. ‘We better start walking.’

Dave and Nigel sigh and walk away. Andrew pauses for a moment to look for his bag, then gives up and follows the others. Behind them, in the shadows of a tree, two glowing red eyes watch on.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tenth Doc/Rose ballad

It's that time of year when Murray Gold feels the need to come up with a song, about ten seconds of which will appear in a Christmas special, stripped almost entirely of meaning... and the meaning invariably being that Rose is stuck in another dimension. However, rumors circulate that maybe, as the lyrics suggest, the Doctor has decided to say "fuck the universe, I want Billie Piper"...

The Stowaway by Kylie Minogue and the Titanic Blunders

Once I found
A stowaway
Upon my ship
On Christmas Day
I was fair so I gave him a chance...

"You shouldn't be here.
What's your tale?
I ought to throw you
To the whale."
He just smiled and said "Come here, let's dance."

He said, "Borrow or steal,
I'll find a way
To be with my lover
Upon Christmas Day!

And I'll run and I'll roam!
I'll cover the ground!
This Christmas I'll see you,
I'll be around!"

He told me bout
His girl back home
Waiting patient,
All alone
While we danced I shed a little tear

He closed his eyes
All out at sea
I think he danced
With her, not me
I'll just have to wait another year.

He said, "Borrow or steal,
I'll find a way
To be with my lover
Upon Christmas Day!

And I'll run and I'll roam!
I'll cover the ground!
This Christmas I'll see you,
I'll be around!"

I think of him
Now and again,
I wonder how
His journey ends
As I sail by on my lonesome sea

That stranger with
The haunting face
Here, then gone
Without a trace
Lying with his love, that's where he'll be.

"Beg, borrow or steal,
I'll find a way
To be with my lover
Next Christmas Day!

And I'll run and I'll roam!
I'll cover the ground!
Next Christmas I'll see you,
I'll be around!"

"Beg, borrow or steal,
I'll find a way
To be with my lover
Next Christmas Day!

And I'll run and I'll roam!
I'll cover the ground!
Next Christmas I'll see you,
I'll be around!"

"Beg, borrow or steal,
I'll find a way
To be with my lover
Next Christmas Day!

And I'll run and I'll roam!
I'll cover the ground!
Next Christmas I'll see you,
I'll be around!"

"Beg, borrow or steal,
I'll find a way
To be with my lover
Next Christmas Day!

And I'll run and I'll roam!
I'll cover the ground!
Next Christmas I'll see you,
I'll be around..."

from Doctor Who: The Voyage of the Damned

Monday, October 15, 2007

Having Sex With The Headless Corpse Of The Virgin Astonaut

Hah! That got your attention, didn't it?

Since I seem to be in the groove of reviewing flicks of late, I might as well do Xtro.

Now, I first discovered this forgotten sci-fi horror flick when after I visited the Easter Show in 1994, when I watched a video of Kenny Everret's greatest hits. It was one of the trailers at the end of the video, and it shows that no one was really thinking target market. After a laugh out loud collage of slapstick, very bad female impersonators, and the ultimate question of what the hell the old 'two girls in a bath, one says, "Where's the soap?" the other says, "Yes, it does"' gag actually MEANS... well, what seems to be a gore-soaked alien slasher flick clearly meant to remind the audiences of the 1980s that one little alien troglodyte saying "ET phone home" does not a nice universe make.

I later discovered that Xtro had two reasons to be remembered - one, it was banned in Britain as a video nasty and thus became popular for all the wrong reasons (hence the attention-grabbing Young One quote) and 2) it was Kamelion's first acting job. Yes, once I get that DVD of The Awakening I will have Kamelion's entire reportoire!

Many a Doctor Who fan will have watched a movie or a TV show to see one of the actors, but few hopefully will have tuned in to see a prop. But then, Kamelion does blur the line. He was a real robot you know, built specifically to take part in this horror film (though exactly why a genderless silver android would be needed I still am not sure of). OK, it couldn't walk and took three weeks to program, but back in the 1980s he was cutting edge and the kudos of a C3PO without a man inside was serious publicity. Indeed, that's how JNT was sold on using the android in the first place, since they managed to convince him he could get it to walk. (In true Eric Saward fashion, when he realized Kamelion wasn't working out, he tried to retcon the silver fella out of existence, rather than using his imagination. I digress. Frequently).

So, with some spare cash in my pocket and a morbid curiosity to see the film whose trailer had so shaken me in my youth, I bought it.

Stupid, stupid, stupid...

Now, you might think I regret getting the film because it was crap. Which I suppose I do in a way. But I still haven't taken it back to the shop and the reasons I regret are very, very different.

Onwards. Now, a film like this has a fractured storytelling - not surprising considering the production team had seemingly stepped out of a Charles Daniel anecdote of stoned lunatics with no idea what they were doing - to the point where you think they filmed AROUND the stuff in the trailer rather than the other way round, so, let me see if I can explain... and understand... what the hell happened.

Our story starts outside a cottage in rural England in the year 1979 as Sam Phillips (who, like most of the cast looks annoyingly familiar) plays with his his son Tony and their dog. Then, suddenly, day turns to night, there are flashes of light in the suddenly dark sky, and Tony and the dog are left alone when the sun comes back.

Suddenly, it's 1982. The rush of patriotism following the marriage of Charles and Diana has fallen, and after inflicting Time Flight on the general public, not even Doctor Who can save us now. It's grey, cold, damp and lonely. There's nothing good on TV (in fact, no one seems to own a TV), no books worth reading, no games worth playing and generally a dull, boring, lifeless place. This is good, because this mundane little world is going to be ripped apart in a distinctly gross and messy way.

Tony lives in an apartment with his careworn mother Rachel, (whose large, typoid-like eyes rival Sarah Alexander's) and her common law husband (who looks to be the reincarnation of Bob Dylan, or maybe Gordo from Lizzie McGuire). It appears that Rachel has been drinking a cup of denial ever day, and now believes that her faithful, loving husband decided to walk out and leave his son alone in the middle of nowhere - which makes the idea he was kidnapped by some passing alien spacecraft rather credible? Or at least he was murdered by some lunatic in the woods? But no, everyone seems to think Sam hightailed it to Vegas and don't expect to see him again, so Rachel has replaced him with Joe (seemingly just to provide a father figure for Tony, and he's not too rough on the eyes), which she doesn't seem to care about.

Joe sums up the disenfranchisement of this London. He's passionless about anything, and rarely blinks or talks in anything other than a monotone - and he doesn't even have the psychotic rages that Blowup! made standard for fashion photographers. Bar his announcement that the only way anyone can survive Thatcher's Britain is 'to look British and think Yiddish', he doesn't seem to have any real opinions. He's the least human figure in the film, which is impressive...

Similarly given up all hopes is Analise, the nanny that Rachel has called in to look after Tony in this grey, boring world. Exactly what the mother does for a living, I dunno, but I doubt it's interesting. It's also a pity Tony isn't a few years older or he'd realize he has the hottest nanny in history, a French bombshell vaguely resembling Venus without the clamshell. Analise, unlike seemingly everyone else in the world, has not buried herself in her work but rather bludges the whole time, using the apartment as a shag pad with her boyfriend, the older, goofy-faced Michael (the one person in this bar Kamelion I recognize: most obviously as the second version of Chris the Greek in Birds of a Feather). Cause this is a video nasty, we get to all of Analise, though thankfully not of her in-comparison decrepit boyfriend, as they silently work their way through the Karma Sutra.

Right, that seems to be everyone set up. Time to cut to the alien horror stuff (which flashes back and forth between kitchen sink and Lovecraftian horror with such intensity you start to wonder if you're watching two different films) which is accompanied by music that seems to have been nicked from Doctor Who - very much like the tootles of Snakedance, but just different enough for me to brag.

Back at the countryside, speficially the bit of the first abduction, what seems to be an arrow formation of lights in the sky leads to a massive explosion in the woods (which seemingly no one notices). Is this one of the worst space craft landings in history? Like much of this film, these apparently nonsensical events seem to be very deliberate. At ground zero, something crawls out of the mud - vaguely resembling a cross between a komodo dragon and a shaved cat. This proves to be one of the creepier things of the movie, as while it IS a man in a rubber suit, he is crawling on all floors, but upside down if you get what I mean? The actor's stomach is facing the sky, so his arms and legs now appear to be crooked and alien, and when this thing shuffles through the woods, the wongness of the body language is more unsettling than the strange fanged alien face.

The creature's first contact with humanity is when it scuttles out onto a country road... and is immediately knocked down by a car. When the yuppie at the wheels stops the car to see what it was, the creature seems unharmed to the point you wonder if this was a deliberate trick to catch the yuppie unawares. So, the creature squeals and somehow uses two tentacles to skewer the yuppie through his skull with minimal bloodloss. The creature seems bored with this nifty death trick, and so when it comes across the yuppie girlfriend in the car, settles for biting out her intestines and killing her instantly.

Seemingly settled with its homocidal tendancies, the creature moves towards the cottage Sam was abducted from, now being owned by some blonde Swedish woman who lives their with her small yappy dog, a monster capable of consuming the most disgusting dog food I have ever seen. The small yappy dog detects the fact an inhuman beast is in the woods outside and immediately runs outside to start barking - until the dog seems to realize that a monster who just killed two human beings might not have any inhibitions on caninocide, so it runs back in. The Swedish woman sensibly decides not to investigate but lock all the doors and windows.

This has to be one of the scariest bits in the film, simply because the woman DOESN'T act like a total idiot. She does everything she should logically do - so it's a real pity that she has only succeeded in locking herself in with the creature, which has somehow teleported inside the cottage, specifically under her bed. Leaving the only clue as to its presence the ominous music and a sinister red lighting affect, the creature reaches out and grabs the woman's ankle, knocking her over, climbs on top of her... and a tentacle grows out of the creature's stomach and clamps itself over her mouth, beginning to pump some kind of gunk into her.

Meanwhile, Tony wakes up from a nightmare, drenched in blood. But he's not injured. And the blood's not his. So, the Phillips household do what they do best and completely forget all about this impossible happening. Even though Tony insists that his father has somehow been responsible for this.

The next morning, our Swedish woman wakes up on the floor of the cottage, mouth filled with gunge and generally sore. The only hint to what happened the previous night is the decomposing corpse of the monster itself... which is now being eaten by that yappy dog. The Swedish woman goes to wash her mouth out, literally, but it seems the one thing NOT to do after close encounters of the fourth kind is to eat or drink. The woman goes into convulsions, fall over and then, with a spray of gore is gradually burst apart from within to reveal the dazed, blood-drenched Sam Phillips!

Sam, as dazed as a post-regenerated Eighth Doctor, grabs a hose to wash off the entrails (which that yappy dog decides to eat... isn't it full yet?). Sam wanders off and finds the previous victims of the monster. Suddenly those murders don't seem so random, as Sam now possesses clothes, money and a car. However, he's clearly not firing on all cylinders as he forgets to remove the corpse of the yuppie woman from the passenger seat - and he's not used to his body as an attempt to use a payphone causes him to breathe toxic fumes that melt the reciever. Who was he ringing? Why, his misses of course!

Having returned to the 'B plot' Sam abandons the car (letting some passer by discover the corpse, which leads nowhere, not even a police investigation) picks up Tony from school, leading to a freaky chase scene as Rachel struggles to hunt down her son... and finds Sam with him. Sam claims not to remember anything that's happened over the last three years, and Rachel decides to believe him. Presumably because anything else would mean she'd have to fight the walls of denial she's built up. Of course, she doesn't take Sam to a doctor or anything, no, that would be far too logical - and since we saw what happened to the LAST person to act logically, this might be a good move.

Sam, acting completely convincingly as an amnesiac and showing no strangeness whatsoever, returns home for kitchen sink drama. Joe, showing his usual imagination, immediately deduces that Sam is after money or something, and tells him to piss off despite the fact his mere presence has cheered up Rachel and Tony no end. Sam is annoyed and decides to calm himself down by eating the eggs of his son's pet snake (scaring the snake no end). Tony sees his father chowing down on eggshell and slime and runs for it, and Sam chases him. It appears he's not as amnesiac as he appears - he was abducted by aliens and taken to the strangest of world imaginable, so different his body needed to be changed to survive. Using that unfortunate Swedish chick, he has managed to bring his 'humanity' to the surface, but his alien side still likes snorting propane gas and eating the eggs of a snake. Oh, and he has venom in his teeth that pass on this alien mutagen, but he fails to mention that before biting his son's shoulder and transferring this nastiness...

Of course, when Rachel and Tony notice the father and son have gone missing, they reappear in the living room, safe sound and completely not looking like a bunch of alien mutant freaks. But as Sam explains to his son, he has a few days before the aliens return and Sam only came back to Earth and get his boy - who now has the ability to change the nature of reality (Black Magic, the trailer calls it, and would explain the wacky teleports that these duo seem to manage).

There then follows the most disgusting and revolting scene in the film. I feel quite nauseous just thinking about it. Ok, remember the snake? Well, it's managed to travel into the next apartment where a fussy old woman lives, and accidentally manages to end up in her salad. The old lady, understandably, freaks. However, she KNOWS that the snake belongs to the kid next door, has no venom and is really quite tame.

So she kills it.

With a hammer.

In a close up.

Yeah, I think this scene is the one that got Xtro the nasty reputation, as this horrible cruelty to animals is far nastier than anything else (at least visually) in the movie. What's worse is the old lady gathers up the bloody remains, puts them in a bag, and takes it next door to complain that Tony is a freak for owning snakes.

Since Tony now possesses evil warlock alien powers, this is not the smartest thing for the old lady to do. Tony's GI Joe now is human size and, Auton like, it stalks the old lady and hunts her down. Maybe this was originally what Kamelion was built for, if GI Joe was C3PO. But it seems that old Kamelion wasn't QUITE up to slipping his arm through a door to unlatch it, charge down a hallway, do a ninja midair somersalt and then search the flat for the old lady. The old lady has wisely hidden under the couch and the GI Joe, seemingly flumoxxed, is about to leave when the old lady reaches out from under the couch WHILE THE MONSTER IS STILL IN THE ROOM and takes A CHOCOLATE under the couch and EATS it VERY LOUDLY.

It's so utterly moronic, you have no sympathy as the GI Joe bayonets the sofa until blood pours from under it (and the blood is so clearly cherry pink paint it's more surreal than horrific). The moral of this story is to not, under ANY circumstances, piss off Tony.

Simple enough, you would think?

Rachel confronts Sam about the fact he has another man's wallet in his pocket and somehow agrees to end up going to the cottage to look for any clues to the abduction which might have survived three years. They do not find the remains of the Swedish woman (unless the dog ate it all), or the dog, but they do find some entrails on a tree. Sam seems to be coming down with some virus, shivering, ice cold, and curiously in the mood for some rumpy-pumpy with his wife. Who thinks, sure, why not? That's BOUND to help her sick husband, whose human body seems to be reaching the end of its guarantee. Stupid Swedish workmanship.

Meanwhile, Tony considers changing his name to Damian and practising evil smiles. A clown toy is transformed into an evil circus midget who Tony wordlessly gets to do all the hard work. Interrupting a 69er between Analise and Mike, Tony lures his scantily-clad nanny into a lift, where the evil circus midget knocks her unconscious with his comedy hammer. Tony then seems to be, at first glance, blowing a raspberry on her stomach to wake her up, but he has infact injected the alien goo into this highly fertile au pair girl, and bubbles start to rise out of her skin...

Finally, Mike decides to look for his girl (and since he is supposed to be hiding in her bedroom in case the parents find out, you can tell it's serious) and he discovers Analise is a bit preoccupied at the moment. She is now a blobby cocoon of green/grey/blue mess stuck to the bathroom wall above the bath, with a kind of tube growing out of it. Mike reacts to this info by trying to run for his life. It appears the Autons are on the loose as a toy tank with real ammo chases Mike around the apartment (which seems far larger than it should be), but no sooner has he escaped the toy than Mike is ambushed by a black panther and, presumably, eaten.

Rachel rings her other neighbor to check that her son is alright (his muttered, "BITCH!" is really quite extraordinary, since it involved him walking about a meter and knocking on a door). But it seems that simply knocking on the door is too much of a crime and the circus midget uses a razor-sharp yoyo to slice open the guy's throat, before wandering into the apartment and filling an overturned fridge with lumpy green slime. This is so it can act as an incubator for the translucent eggs sliding at regular intervals out of the cocooned Analise's tube. As we wonder exactly HOW this alien life cycle works when eggs need to be kept COLD instead of warm, Tony teleports himself to Joe's studio and gets him to drive out to the cottage where his mum and dad are now doing the mummy and daddy dance.

Unfortunately, Rachel has gone off the idea when Sam's body starts to rot away in her hands, revealing the Pure Alien beneath... a kind of bony, skeletal, fanged... MY GOD! KAMELION! There you are! They've stuck a comedy pair of fangs on you!

However, Kamelion's limitations are immediately obvious as he magically transforms into some guy in makeup whenever required to move. Kamelion stumbles across Tony and somehow triggers the same transformation, leading to the demented sight of a midget skeletal insectoid alien. In an anorak.

Rachel and Joe run after the mutating pair, and Kamelion lets out an ultrasonic scream that blows Joe's excluse for a mind and kills him. Then, with the little boy stopping him from falling over, Kamelion summons the mothership and teleports away with his son, leaving Rachel alone in the woods. I think it is fairly safe to assume she is no longer QUITE so skeptical of UFO abductions.

The End.

No... wait. There's more!

A shellshocked Rachel returns to the apartment (presumably that ol Black Magic has gotten rid of all the corpses) and finds it filled with a blinding light. As the incredibly wistful-looking Rachel looks at the panther, which is still on the prowl even though GI Joe, his tank and the circus freak have gone, an army of clones identical to that of Tony welcome her home. It seems that Sam is a quick mover, and Rachel is heavily pregnant with some unknown lifeform that the clone Tonys seem eager to meet.

The End.

No... wait. That made no sense.

A shellshocked Rachel returns to the apartment (presumably that ol Black Magic has gotten rid of all the corpses) and finds it filled with a blinding light. As the incredibly wistful-looking Rachel looks at the panther, which is still on the prowl even though GI Joe, his tank and the circus freak have gone, that the eggs left in the fridge seem to be talking to her in Tony's voice. As she picks one up, it strikes us maybe these ruthless misogynistic aliens might have wanted more on Earth than just picking up a ten year old boy. If so, they'd decided to invade the war the xenomorph starbeast Ridley Scott aliens do - by leaving a batch of eggs to hatch, with nastiness inside that facehugs the poor sucker. Exactly what happens to Rachel after this happens is unknown, because this time, it really IS the End.

Well, then.

What do you think the moral of that was, boys and girls?

The moral for me is not to buy cheapass DVDs just because of a tenuous link to Doctor Who. Or, to be more precise, not to buy DVDs that need British only players. While my super duper computer was able to reconfigure itself to play this disc, it seems to have decided it LIKES British only DVDs. Meaning it won't play any other type of commercial discs bar bloody Xtro.

Indeed, the curse of Kamelion runs deep.

What curse, you say? Well, if you haven't read The Completely Useless Encyclopedia, the fact is Kamelion seems to cause intense bad luck and even death in those around it. Before the end of The King's Demons, the only bloke that knew how to use it died horribly in mysterious circumstances. Terence Dudley, who wrote The King's Demons, died not long after, as did Peter Grinwade, who wrote Planet of Fire, the only other story to feature Kamelion. Of course, there was that brief bit in Caves of Androzani by Robert Holmes. And he died within two years. Craig Hinton, the one man who gave Kamelion a cover-starring Missing Adventure, is now also dearly missed - more, his book The Crystal Bucephalus, nearly ruined his career, leading him to say the curse was real. And then, Gerald Flood, the main voice of Kamelion died, as did Dallas Jones (who played Kamelion's inbetween body), and Anthony Ainley (who played Kamelion more than anyone else). Of course, Kamelion appear in The Awakening, but his solo scene was edited out and kept in secret by JNT. Who has also died. Of course, Christopher Bulis has used the character twice with no ill effects... as far as we know.

Mind you, I've written a bit about Kamelion in my rewrite of Resurrection of the Daleks... but I'm still alive. So far. Then again, I had a terrible time not long after I finished it, involving sackings, harrassment allegations, and ego-crushing anxiety attacks. And then, this Kamelion DVD totally screws up my computer. But my life sucks even without Kamelion, so it must be some kind of coincidence... that maybe effects the TV industry...

Anyway, my main point is that Kamelion's only other alter ego in Xtro is Phillip Sayer (Sam Phillips), who died not long after.

Like I say, how many coincidences does it take?

A lot of critics have derided Xtro for various reasons, but the fact there is a reasonably straightforward plot (the alien-possessed Sam goes back for his son while leaving the vanguard for an invasion) seems ignored by all the gross set pieces. Since the DVD featured a discussion with Harry Davenport I decided to see what HE had to say for himself, and was stunned at what seemed to be a real life enactment of one of Charles Daniels' interviews with Tom Baker.

When the main force behind the movie is so totally stoned that he doesn't remember anything after a street party in Amsterdam, there's bound to be some kind of knockon effect on the film. Harry notes that he suddenly found himself making a film he knew nothing about, with a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs who kept suggesting wierd stuff, like involving a panther for no real reason, or getting a malfunctioning apple to do all the alien violence and rape. Harry's musings that the film ended up a lot better than he expected, considering he expected something whose quality was below a Ben Chatham adventure.

In conclusion... I have no idea why I reviewed Xtro. Except that no other Doctor Who fan seems to have (not even Andrew Worship Him Pixley), and that it's left me with a few ideas for a Youth of Australia episode on Nigel's birthday, where he gets the DVD for the sex scenes, and maybe a Big Finish spoof for Exotron, whose name is perilously close to Xtro.

It's a pity that the main point of Xtro has been lost. The whole thing was supposed to be an evil version of ET, so instead of befriending a young boy, the alien corrupts and kidnaps one, rubbishing Spielberg's cuddly alien lifeform and the theatregoing public. I mean, the tagline was NOT ALL EXTRATERRESTRIALS ARE FRIENDLY!! but the DVD prefers THIS ALIEN IS PURE EVIL. Well, thanks for that. Seeing the madeup Kamelion screaming on the cover suggested he was just confused and a little tetchy.


There's a film called You Are Not Alone, you know. It's not about Time Lords, though, just a bunch of disturbingly young Aryan lads exploring their sexuality. Cue really dumb Queer as Folk gay agenda gag.




Go away.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Set In Stone

Jill is starting back towards the passage when she feels the premonitory chill. But she keeps a grip on herself and keeps moving. The passage is dark, as if the light in the entrance hall has gone out.

Oddly enough, there are two tiny spots of red light — low down and flashing alternately like indicator lamps. Then both glow evenly — and come rushing forward at incredible speed , swelling in an instant into two eyes, yet not eyes like those of any living creature, for they keep twisting and moving on separate courses.

She stumbles back and almost trips over a spade, sending it scraping across the concrete. It is the only sound. The eyes have gone. More movement. She turns — and sees shapes, or rather shapeless things moving towards her across the open floor with the same incredible speed.

JILL (screams): Peter!

As if this served to set it off, the grunting begins — the same huge, unearthly noise she heard here earlier. She starts across the floor — in the only direction she can, towards the steps. They are hunting her. Huge forms, terrifying in their very lack of definition, with here and there eye-like dots of red light. They move across the ground with that dreadful speed, quartering it like hounds. There is a brute male violence about every movement, a lust to bring down and tear —

Then she is on the steps, pressing herself against the wall.

JILL: Help me! Help – !

She glances up. The steps lead to an upper floor, with light pouring down from the opening. She claws her way up to reach it. The steps beneath her feet are unworn and strong. Frantic, she reaches the top of them. And there is nothing. No upper floor, not even a roof above her — only the night sky.

The whole room has vanished. Instead of the walls there are standing stones round a moonlit space. And there the shapeless things are circling, closing in —

Then she falls.

It is a long way down ...

- Kneale's script of the only memorable bit of the film...

The Stone Tape by that wonderful humanitarian Nigel Kneale.

It just goes to show that illegally downloading films DOES NOT PAY. In this case, the sluggish download (so slow I saw the thing via preview and then deleted it before it finished) left me with the Director's Commentary switching on and off throughout the course of the flick. Well, by Director's Commentary we get Kim Newman gushing over the exhausted sounding Kneale, who then proceed to discuss a bunch of random bits of Kneale's life. Very interesting I'm sure, especially if you haven't read his wiki entry, but they're talking over scenes with absolutely nothing relevent. Yes, I'm sure Kneale's utter refusal to keep to the format of the Halloween series and attempt to turn it into an anthology film series (get yer own, Nige! Oh, wait, you did and quit because you ran out of ideas... or was it that Doctor Who was doing them all better? Mwahaha!), but it's nothing at all to do with this story of ghosts, goblins and evils from the dawn of time. Thus, this commentary is only SLIGHTLY less annoying than the one for The Unquiet Dead, where Mark Gattis, Simon Callow and some guy discuss every possible topic to do with the episode... in the wrong order, so when we see the Doctor and Rose in the TARDIS for the first time, they've already talked about and have to fumble for something new... like fake beards. Or all the brilliant plot twists and subplots that were removed by Gattiss to leave the dross we saw.

On with the motley. The year is the fine tablewine of 1972. Ryan Electrics, a powerful computer firm, has bought out the isolated manor house called Taskerlands (named after one of its owners) to use as a top secret research and development station. Their mission? TO CREATE DVDS! Well, not DVDs per se, but a replacement for magnetic tape in casettes and videos. The Japanese (judging from all the mockery and racial stereotyping, I think Kneale did not like Nippon) are going to TAKE OVER THE WORLD! And only BRITAIN can stop them, by building a lash up of wires and crystals that will last forever!

We meet our cast. The boss is Peter Brock - a suspiciously familiar looking swarthy moustachioed type with a ruthless edge and, in the days before mobile phones, gets rung by his family every five minutes. He's a loving husband and father. He just shags the secretaries he treats like dirt. Human weakness? NEVER!

His co-command is the cheerful and calm Collinson, (the chubby Ian Cuthbertson), the Spock to Brock's Kirk, and beneath them a team of hairy 1970s scientists who absolutely refuse to do a day's work until one of their number has dressed up as a green space alien and had the shit kicked out of him. "We're sacrificing a Martian!" they shout ebuliently, in what COULD be a veiled Quatermass and the Pit reference. Or just total bollocks because they show no other signs of superstition or xenophobia... bar believing in ghosts and hating the Japs. Either way, you half expect that their sudden violence against the unlucky space mascot is a plot point. It isn't in fact, all it does is freak out the last member of the team - Jill.

And, Jill doesn't NEED this crap.

A highly strung Liz Shawesque computer expert, people are already thinking she's cracking up, which is why she doesn't mention the baffling scene she was in as the film started - trapped in her car, surrounded by blurry, incoherent shapes, deafened by an obscene grunting, breathing noise. No, she wasn't touring with the Bulldogs, she was in fact outside Taskerlands and freaking out while parallel parking between two trucks. Her sanity is not helped by the 'gang-bashing the Martian scene' either.

Brock however, has a problem. This is the 1970s when the computer capacity of the average mobile phone needs an office block, and the main room chosen to store all the reel-to-reel computer banks is not ready for their computers. Collinson (who is showing signs that he really, REALLY does not want to be here) explains that all the workmen abandoned clearing out the room, one of the oldest parts of the manor constructed centuries ago. Brock storms in and cannot believe what he sees - the place is deserted and an hour's work would get rid of all the ruined, decayed wood and crap. He kicks down one such bit of panelling and uncovers a stone staircase running parallel to the room, heading up to about headheight and stopping. There's no other level it could have lead to, so why is it there at all?

However, if Brock could pull his head out of his arse for the briefest of brief moments, he might notice that there are quite a few mysteries. For a start, the hard as nails work crews that apparently refused to work in this room are not the first, as it appears in the Second World War some hardened American GIs boarded up the staircase with a pile of tins of spam for some reason, and similarly refused to clean up. There's also the little matter of an ancient letter to Father Christmas saying simply, "Please Go Away" - clearly referring to someone other than Santa - and that the steps seem to predate the house by a thousand years, to the point where Collinson suspects it is some Saxon construction.

THIS gets Brock's attention: if it gets out that Taskerlands Manor is some kind of heritage site, their secret R&D lab is twelve kinds of fucked! As he and Collinson storms off, Jill is left alone... and she alone hears running footsteps, then the sight of a woman running up those steps, turning and screaming at something before vanishing. Jill freaks out completely.

Brock is certain that Jill is either going loopy or out to annoy him (and why? He's such a loveable person!) but not even Brock can ignore the fact that Taskerlands Manor has a history. A very long history. While the disgustingly decrepit barmaids at the local pub think nostalgically of banging American soldiers, the landlord notes that the house was infested with rats... well, SOMETHING in the walls was making those noises. Indeed, the dotty vicar (stereotype number 4) between damning modern society for pollution and drinking tea, notes that an exorcism was carried out on the Manor. On top of that, Collinson has the paperwork showing a maid dying in an accident at the manor, and an exorcism carried out a year later. What's more, the child that wrote that letter to Santa became a recluse and never left the house.

Finally, after Brock heads to the room late at night, even HE believes as he hears the footsteps and the screams over and over again. A clever man, Brock's problem is that his valued storage space is haunted. WHOYAGONNACALL?!? ... Yeah. His team of yobbos, armed with sound equipment. Their mission, should they wish to stay employed, is find out what the ghost is and get rid of it. Brock drags in the Landlord to tell them of his experiences with the 'rats', and rapidly notes flaws in the man's story suggests he's just making it up. Then, the screams start and the Landlord loses it even more than Jill has.

Reacting like an Ice addict being mocked by Alan Jones, the Landlord has something of a complete nervous breakdown and reveals he is downplaying the truth - that when he was a kid, for a laugh, he locked a friend in the room to listen to the ghosts, who did more than just scream at him, and now 'old Jackie' is happily laughing his head off every minute of ever hour of every day up at some looney bin.

Brock's team are starting to freak out themselves - especially when they discover that while they can all see and hear the ghost, they see and hear it in different places, and nothing is recorded by their fancy microphones and cameras. Collinson, feeling this definitely is one of those 'tampering with things man was NOT meant to know' jobs, advise they stop - and Jill, who everyone know believes is a kind of medium, is on the edge of cracking up. In all this harsh gritty, Season 7 realism, one question is raised and never speculated from: why did the maid die? If she did, as it appears, fall off the steps, she was more likely to break a leg than drop dead? Was there something else involved - maybe the thing she was running from?

Brock however, has a brainwave and announces his Stone Tape Theory (as it is now officially referred to by parapsychologists and supernatural sleuths - yay Kneale): the steps have recorded a telepathic imprint of the maid's death, and at certain points, the living humans complete the circuit and the sequence is replayed directly into their minds.

And Brock knows a way to make money out of it! But no, he's not going to turn Taskerland Manor into a theme park, but instead use this imprinting idea to create a replacement for VHS - TV without televisions, alowing people to telepathically view channels, perhaps through some kind of earpiece... Exactly HOW this will work, I'm still not sure, since Brock doesn't know how to either record or replay anything this way, but that's clearly not his department.

The gang set to work trying to work out the best way to replay the recording of the maid's death, (with Collinson taking over the main sound duties in one of the most subtle and cunning rewrites-script-since-actor-has-gone-home-early scenes ever), and use every bit of technology on the room for hours and hours... until the hysterical Jill and Collinson realize the truth: all this pissing about with laser beams, sound waves, disco lighting have erased the maid recording for good.

Brock is devastated - mainly because he got drunk and rang up his boss shouing "THIS is THE BIG ONE!" and now has nothing to show for it. Luckily, his boss is an understanding chap who immediately focusses his attention away from ghost-vision into the more lucrative aim of Intelligent Washing Machines! Ryan Electronics, those whacky guys!

But while Brock gets back to work screwing his secretary and his gang start tinkering with crystal sets, Jill has revealed her inner obsessive compulsive and is now determined to work out just WHY the maid was recorded in the stone, and why the words "pray" "prayer" "save" "pray" were being chanted. Her sanity takes another whack when, visiting the now cleared out storeroom, she hears that strange grunting noise again, and nearly passes out. Jill realizes that the Stone Tape recording has been used more than once - the exorcism the Vicar remembers is one centuries before the one to get rid of the maid ghost. The Stone Tape has not been wiped, but a previous recording has now been revealed - a recording of something so old, it's been corrupted beyond recognition. Well, either that or whatever was recorded was something very, VERY nasty...

Brock decides Jill is nuts and fires her.

Jill heads back to the storeroom to try and play back the 'true' recording in the stones, and, seriously, it's the dumbest thing she's done in this film. The Stone Tape may have been a snuff movie by Peter Moffat, but now it is an HP Lovecraft animation by some napalm-snorting 1970s arts students.

As Jill abandons the seemingly lifeless store room, a pair of red glowing eyes fly down the corridor, chasing her back inside, before a horde of green things that resemble the oscillation patterns of the title sequence attack her with that horrible grunting noise. Jill, under seige, retreats up that staircase, higher, and higher, and higher... until she's climbing some ancient monoliths under a starry night sky. By sheer chance, her psychic potential, or by the things chasing her, Jill has gone straight INTO the recording, which is over seven thousand years old, back before history itself.

Brock and Collinson hear Jill's screams and run to the storeroom to find her lying at the bottom of the stairs, having died in the same manner as the maid. The coroner declares Jill's death accidental, and Brock makes it incredibly clear she was a complete nutter and he has nothing to apologize for - and to make sure, he destroys all her notes about the Stone Tape theory so no one will realize what a complete arsehole he is. So Collinson puches his lights out.

Brock heads off to check the storeroom one last time. And what do you know? The screams are back - except this time, it's Jill, whose death has been recorded into the Stone Tape, and her shouts for Brock cause the man himself to freak out competely - and unless the lighting is entirely impressionistic, the sine wave monsters are still on the loose...

Guess that getting a telepathic version of The Caves of Androzani is out of the question, unless it's played during this prehistoric pagan sacrifice.

So, what can be said about The Stone Tape, ostensibly the coolest thing ever according to those TV critics who get quoted a lot and talk very loudly in restaurants? Well, it doesn't have enough sci fi or horror for a freak like myself, and if there's one way to cancel out the atavistic horror of the supernatural it is to cut to a woman at a typewriter pretending to work out a computer program. The Martian fellow at the beginning is a complete waste of time, and exactly WHY was Jill detecting the ancient evil in the first scene when they weren't unleashed yet? It wouldn't be directorial irony would it?

This is supposed to be Christmas entertainment, is it? Lots of long, dull scenes of Brock and his fellos playing with transistors and hurling racist abuse at the Japanese for their ability NOT to get sidetracked into ghost hunting? Why don't these idiots just pick ANOTHER room for their computers? Apart from Tasker's Christmas wish list, there's nothing seasonal about this. I dare say everyone still awake enough and sober enough to do so would have changed channels halfway through Brock's tour of the castle, or after the plot seems to stop when the maid recording is wiped. Apart from Kneale's reputation, I can't see much bar bone idleness attracting viewers to this on a night we're supposed to be celebrating the life of a famous hippy than fearfully worrying about druid monsters and corporate washing machine salesman.

Isn't it incredibly lucky that the one group of people who are likely to be interested in the commercial applications of the Stone Tape theory JUST HAPPEN to be in a house which proves that theory and JUST HAPPEN to have a psychic computer expert to set it off? That they JUST HAPPEN to have a 'stone blind' scientist amongst them, allowing them to program the computer? The idea of trying to harness the Stone Tape is pretty fucked up as well. It's like a Caveman picking up a paperback book in the belief that he can make the already printed words change into whatever he wants, despite not being able to read or write English. And exactly what happens to Jill is left very opaque. I'm lucky to listen to the fanboy and the creator explain exactly what the hell all the flashes and screams were all about. Even then it is not explained if the monsters that attack Jill are

a) corrupted recordings of some prehistoric druids or somesuch
b) accurate recordings of strange prehistoric energy monsters
c) prehistoric energy monsters somehow able to travel through time

And it's susprising that

d) none of the above; Jill was nuts

is never seriously considered. Exactly WHY these ancient things keep killing young women is also unknown, unless they both were psychic... though why a recording would feel threatened, I just don't know. Why don't they come after anyone else? And how could Jackie and the Landlord be driven to the brink of psychosis by the maid screaming when the whole point is that the death of the maid blocked off the prehistoric monsters, by 'taping' over them? Was Brock going crazy with guilt at the end? Or was it the monsters? Was Jill right and that she wasn't just a recording but an honest-to-god ghost? And why do I get the feeling that all the interesting stuff happened AFTER this story when the apparitions tackled the British Rocket Group or the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce or even god help us Torchwood?

All in all, this wasn't particularly satisfying. It is not that The Stone Tape didn't live up to its hype (which seems to be based on the opening and closing credits, and the trippy sine wave murder scene), but I dare say had it been shown to an objective public it wouldn't have got the hype in the first place. People seem to only remember the good bits and they are few and far between, with some baffling 'comedy' of Brock's continual phone calls home and the insane washing machine mad scientist who is dyed different colours every scene. Oh, and wasn't Kneale horrified at Doctor Who for scaring children? Yet he inflicts the demented, lengthly and surreal murder of an innocent women ON CHRISTMAS DAY? He doesn't even come up with a proper ending, just "Drammatic irony! To be continued: never!"

This guy bugs me.

So, The Stone Tape is curiously not remembered for its offensive stereotyping of the clergy (the nutty vicar who thinks pollution is material sin), the common folk (the pub crew who act like the sort of riffraff that keeps Ben Chatham awake at night), the Japanese (the speech-impediment suicidal computer Nazis making Britain crap!), the justice system (the corrupt bastards!), and also the very origins of life on Earth. Eventually, Kneale runs out of people to badmouth, and I am left wondering if I give a shit that the sine monsters might be loose on Earth 1972.

OK, so Kneale gave a name and possibly more to a world desperate to understand and rationalize ghosts, and thus has indirectly given us Whispers of Terror, The Chimes of Midnight, The Eye of the Gorgon, Ghost Machine and Sparacus' The Living Picture. Once again, others doing better work with this admittedly kickass concept. Well, four out of five ain't bad.

Not terrible, but not worth buying the DVD either.