Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 in review/FFS GC


My life went downhill.

What happened in Doctor Who terms.

As much a part of season three as season two, I think I enjoyed this most of the Christmas specials. The plot is tight and surprisingly complex (see how the pockets, Mars and coffee lines turn out to be vital to the story) and yet so many people damn it, as if they missed all the scenes that explained it all. Catherine Tait manages to make an unlikeable woman who we're clearly not seeing at her best sympathetic to the point you kinda don't want her to die. New heartbroken Doctor gives DT something good to work with, keeping the smugness levels under control. As for the Saxon arc, it was nice that the fact it was obvious that Saxon was the new, ruthless anti-alien Prime Minister, this was the least important part to notice. Would this have been better as episode 2.7 with Rose getting over the loss of Mickey? Maybe, maybe not, but it can't have been worse than The Idiot's Lantern...

Thank GOD It Was Just a Rumor: Donna was actually a super being to replace the White Guardian

Another good opening episode, and its legacy of Galactic Police, H20 scoops and ex-brothers is as impressive as the fact most of the cast have done Doctor Who before. Freema Agyeman is wonderful from the get go, and the Doctor's 'bunion' cover story is an out of the blue strategy I never saw coming; good that the Doctor still has new sides, albeit a return to Eccleston's "I may be suicidal but don't touch me" attitude. A lovely self-contained episode with, like RTD's immediate preceeding episode, a vieled dig at Torchwood. Odd how the Plasmavore's shout of "Burn With Me" turned out to be a total coincidence and nothing important at all. Why they didn't use Albion Hospital?

Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the hospital would end up on Mars and we'd meet the Ice Warriors who would then fight to the death with the Sontarans

With what is clearly the music from Pirates of the Carribean ringing in our ears, we have the most fun historical story so far: as the Doctor makes it clear, it's not different from the present and the people are not stupid just because it's a few centuries earlier. Shakespeare is finally portrayed as someone the Doctor would actually want to spend time with rather than a weak-willed loser (The Chase), a kid who got famous by reading his own work before he wrote it (Time of the Daleks) and both a rejected Blackadder guest and a gritty northern Richard III (god help me, The Kingmaker). The witches didn't particularly impress me, but for a one off villain they worked well. The Doctor shows off some psychic powers and Elizabeth I wants his head chopped off - and one of those things is actually important, the other one a throwaway gag. Just a pity this renders A Groatsworth of Wit non canonical (first rewrite of the year).

Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the original title was Martha The Vampire Slayer

Another one of RTD's confused 5 billion stories, with an endless car park, giant crabs, drug dependency, and the Face of Boe all crammed together and not quite gelling. What happened to the Macra? Why is the Doctor against the Pharmascists, since they're legal and accepted by this society? And, seriously, was anyone surprised at the FOB's final words? The ones we knew about in 2005? Entertaining, but its genesis in series two is shown by all the confused bollocks going on. I still cried at points though. What season two needed, total conviction, and a reference to Saxon no one noticed.

Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the whole 'there's not another Time Lord but you're not alone' thing would be ingeniously resolved with the reveal Saxon was the Valeyard

Probably the weakest of this series, visiting New York and we see a cold, miserable place full of pitiful down and outs and total scumbags. Not exciting at all, since the story is confined to one theatre and a big park with none of the cool touristy attractions. Wow - aliens using a major landmark as an antennae! That hasn't been done since... two episodes previously, with the Carrionites and the Globe. Or the Plasmavore and the hospital. Or the Rachnoss and the Thames... Dear dear. The only unspectacular "normal" Dalek adventure since Destiny of the Daleks (from which this one steals many sound effects) the plot's baffled over what the Daleks are actually trying to do, with lightning apparently being a different sort of radiation that absorbs DNA and... stuff. I dunno where that's going. The idea of continuing battles between the Doctor and the Cult of Skaro are ruined as they are wiped out in their second appearance, leaving only one Dalek left. Disappointing: the original outline on the New York docks worked so much better, though Tullulah is another companion that got away.

Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the pig slaves were actually the Weevils from Torchwood. Actually, it's a pity this wasn't true because otherwise the pointless fanged aliens might actually, you know, have a reason for existing...

Martha does Aliens of London, returning home to her family and finding odd shinanegans and stuff happening. Not a lot of depth here, with a guy effectively shouting at his own DNA to make him young, and turning himself into a monster. All makes sense until the Doctor explains it's some evolutionary dead end. Enjoyable stuff that rounds off the first half of the season well, with Mark Gattiss actually putting some effort into acting and the plot makes sense. Only one question is left: what exactly did Sinister Man tell Martha's mother?

Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the Forge would be involved.

A trip to the forty-second century in real time was always going to put a strain on plot and character development, since this basically a remake of Planet of Evil (second remake this year), it shows all the hallmarks of Chibnall's other work (doomed lovers, alien possession, locked inside your own home, countdowns) mixed with the fact it's actually quite good. Is there more than one? Did RTD beat some sense into him? Does Torchwood just bring out the worst in writers? A nifty concept allows this otherwise totally standalone episode to be bolted onto the ongoing storyarc - it's just a pity the week's gap didn't happen after this one, instead of The Lazarus Experiment, as it would have cranked the WTF?!? factor for the next story...

Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: Chris Chibnal would put as much effort into writing it as he does Torchwood

It feels like a New Adventure. Every scene has the vibe that this is what would have been on TV in 1993 had the books been televised. Even with the Tenth Doctor and Martha (which is ironic when you read the real book and see the cameo of the Tenth Doctor in it). The first adaptation to totally cancel out the original, we are left with the unambiguous statement that the NAs aren't canon. Or at least, not after the time war. The Family of Blood and the scarecrows are creepy as hell, and is that REALLY Wil Scarlet with a stroke glowing green and talking like a robot? The boy's got range, you can't deny that. The Doctor's ruthlessness at the end is unnerving to say the least, and the final sequence is the biggest change between the book at the movie: in one, the telepathic young lad becomes an ambulance officer to save lives, in the other, he becomes a soldier for exactly the same reason. We're left to judge whether the old man at the end made the right choice or not.

Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the Rani was in it

Once I get past my fury that Stephen Moffat did little to no work on the story bar scripting his annual story What I Did On My Christmas Holidays By Sally Sparrow (another remake, rendering the original uncanon!), it has to be said Blink is one of the most terrifying stories there is, made all the more impressive we get to know no one for more than ten minutes when the evil shit goes down. It all works until the rather pointless "there are more out there" final sequence, which, when coupled with the Next Time trailer, loses any impact. Another problem is that Moffat's Rose-esque Martha wasn't fixed by the production team, making her appear like a selfish insensitive cow to Billy Shepton. Nevertheless, a triumph of New Who.

Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the annual story Moffat was ripping off was actually going to be Out Of the Corner of Your Eye

Once again, Cosgrove Hall fail spectacularly to do a Doctor Who cartoon and we get some drawings of heads talking to each other and bouncing up and down. Literally, animated. That aside, we get a roller coaster ride through the universe of Doctor Who comic strips, with skeleton pirates, manure-eating insects, and the universe's prison run by psycho robots, and impossible to reconcile with any decent continuity. ASH is wasted as the bandaged Balthazaar, but at least his voice can be recognized, unlike others. When watched in one go, it's an enjoyable craziness. Once you get over the fact no one's legs move.

Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: uh... were there any rumors about this?

Three parts, three regulars, three monsters, and even now a bit more than some can handle. The Toclafane finally arrive on screen after their abortive attempts in Dalek and The Satan Pit, the Doctor's Christmas Day revolution comes back to haunt him, as does Captain Jack. We all thought the Doctor assumed he was dead, but no, he ran away deliberately! God, it makes you wonder how many other 'fudged' ideas are just plot points as yet unresolved? Derek Jacobi is, as expected, brilliant as the Master, creating a completely well defined incarnation in three minutes, and just as wonderful Professor Yana. But John Simms' incarnation is just out and out evil. Insane. Cruel. And not stupid. Perhaps best of all, the Master isn't being defined as an opponent of Jon Pertwee's Doctor, but the one we're with now. The only possible complaint I have is that, well, it's another remake. Of the comics this time. Anyone who's read End of the Line (and RTD wrote straight to the mag itself to say how good it was) will find the Futurekind and refugees familiar, while the Master laying traps for the Doctor after gaining an army from another dimension and an obsession with the heart of the time vortex rings a bell from Embrace the Glory. And as ever The Flood provides the conclusion, with the Doctor briefly gaining godlike power. Again. The only other problem is that the end of an era feel with the death of the Master, the departure of Jack and Martha and putting Rose to bed, makes the predictable "something incredible barges into the console room" season ending a waste of time. Especially as a much better one was in offing all along.

Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the Toclafane were really the Gelth. Or the Time Lords. Or the Daleks.

If only someone edited the end of The Last of the Time Lords so the "what-what-what" ending featured the Fifth Doctor... Peter Davison performs brilliantly, but it's his angry, arrogant, take no prisoners Fifth Doctor from the audios rather than the quiet, desperate man we saw on TV. While I loved this underrated incarnation getting his dues, it only makes any sense if you assume the Fifth Doctor had incredibly low self esteem. Which isn't much of a leap, really. Once again, a CiN special manages to explain a huge plothole in the Christmas special, with the worrying idea no one noticed until it was too late...

Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: there would be lots of comedy involving the two Doctors insurance details

This disaster movie puts the Doctor through the ringer - why does RTD seem so determined to reset the Doctor to hurt lonely man every year? This time, at least, the Doctor's godlike abilites are shoved back in his face as he confronts the fact he can't - despite his claims - do anything and his promises are just that. Kylie Minogue's performance is very good but I just can't suspend belief. It's like a comic relief sketch and it's impossible to think even for a moment she's an alien waitress and not a pop princess, which makes the idea of her joining the TARDIS full time ridiculous. Who were they kidding? The plot works well, with only one real problem (which could simply be down to an edited scene), but the nasty suspicion that the story is being built around remade scenes of Horror of Fang Rock, Robots of Death, Earthshock and countless other 'obstacle course' adventures. Clive Swift's Copper is brilliant, and should have been the companion. Oh, one other problem, the 'Titantic crashes in the TARDIS' idea is just wasted and you get the feeling RTD wished he hadn't done it, since it really makes the rumors a more interesting plotline: Astrid Peth (which means 'Part TARDIS') is a living avatar to repair the damage to the ship. But no. It gets fixed by hitting the rewind button. All in all, the story ends up too bleak and dark to enjoy a second time, especially odd since RTD promised a lighter approach.

Thank GOD It Was Just A Rumor: the villain would be played by Hugh Grant


The Warkeeper's Crown
The Tenth Doctor and the Brigadier find a world full of warring elves, demons and trolls, a lovely story - the only downside is that it makes a TV appearance by the Brigadier unlikely. They should adapt this, they really should...

The Woman Who Sold The World
The Doctor and Martha find a city being destroyed by giant robots who are actually day care centres for children for people waiting in the queues of their major bank. Er... truly demented Douglas Adams type stuff, and like most comics of late, it's too densely written to enjoy in monthly bites.

Bus Stop
A rejected one off Doctor Who Adventures strip, with the Doctor saving the world from the back seat of a bus. Too many of these things with too little plot.

The First
Doctor Who meets Shackleton. Unfinished as yet, you can tell some people involved are getting bored, with the Doctor's mind showing a montage of images from Seasons 12 and 13 rather than anything more recent, and Martha being clad in her Atmospheric Density Jacket, which gives the disturbing impression she's trying to enhance her breasts by clipping Cybermats to them.

All in all?

Better than 2006.

And finally, what does Gabriel Chase have to say after Voyage of the Damned?

A third Christmas special, broadcast as the filling in an EastEnders sandwich, was boosted by the presence of ex-soapstar-turned-internationally celebrated songstress Kylie Minogue and claimed ratings of over 12 million.
Oooh, keeping close to the actual facts...

Knew it.

even though the show was still an important weapon in the BBC's armoury, cracks were beginning to show in its thin veneer of superficiality
How can a veneer of superficiality be thin?! And shouldn't it be "cracks ARE showing"?

Please don't tell me you're going to say it's all going to hell...

Agyeman was farmed out to Torchwood at the end of the third series

to make way for a returning Catherine Tate, presumably because Tate was worth more gossip column inches than Agyeman
Things have changed? Does he not realize this?

whilst Billie Piper was rumoured to be returning to the show for the finale of series four
Rumored? Confirmed in the press and by anyone who's seen filming counts as rumored?!

More disturbing was the announcement that Doctor Who wouldn't be run at all in 2009
Well, this is a pack of shit for a start. The 'announcement' was made before Voyage of the Damned screened, and it IS going to be on in 2009!

owing to Tennant appearing in a theatrical run of Macbeth, something that would never have happened during the original series
You missed 1985 then?

God, at least he didn't ask us "Are the cracks beginning to show?" again.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fear of the Known

Downloading Threads before Christmas was stupid.

Watching the thing was suicidal.

The Sontaran's handful of people I know might actually read this may be advised to look away. This may spoil whatever yuletide joy there is - I know it did that to mine. But I was stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. This entry is very much a "get this crap out of my head" one, and perhaps best you avoid.

There are different forms of fear, of course. The fear of burning your hand on a hot surface is not at all the same as the fear of the Weeping Angels. There are rational fears and irrational fears. I myself have an irrational fear of cockroaches. Cockroaches - bar their ugly name - are about the dumbest thing to be scared of. They are not poisonous, nor are they aggressive, and incredibly clean as insects go (a neat trick which means they leave a trail of filth wherever they go, but still, no one's perfect). They aren't as evil or psychotic as other bugs - the praying mantis, those Wirrn-style wasps, funnel web spiders, trap door spiders...

What caused my fear of them?

TV and comic books. Usually involving people turning into humanoid cockroaches. But worst of all was Psirens, the episode of Red Dwarf, significantly one scene...

The Dwarfers find a black box recording left beside a corpse that has written the word PSIRENS in his own blood. And intestines. With his kidney as a full stop. The playback shows the corpse alive and terrified, explaining that "they" are storming the ship and killing everyone. A strange warbling chirping noise fills the air, and the astro turns to see THE BIGGEST FUCKING COCKROACH EVER shuffling towards him. It swats the astro to the ground and we hear the astro scream "GET THAT STRAW OUT OF MY EAR!" before the screaming starts. The screen is sprayed with gore as the cockroach straightens up, sucking something down its throat and chirping happily. Rimmer, unsurprisingly, faints.

Part of what freaks me out is hard to define. It is not the simple 'giant cockroaches suck out innocents' brains' angle, intimidating though it is. I watch the episode again (and laugh as I realize that the stuff sprayed over the screen was tomato sauce, as the astro's line "YOU SQUEEZED ALL THE SAUCE OUT OF MY BURGER, YOU EVIL HARLOT!" is hidden by the laughter track) and I find it creepy. Not scary.

There's a difference and one which I'm probably not describing very well. Looking back at Psirens, the Psirens themselves aren't so much scary as what they will do, but what they have done. The scene where Lister sees the asteroid belt is covered in derelict ships and notes he "has been lead here like lambs to the kebab shop" is scarier than what is effectively a guy in a rubber suit making an annoying chirping noise.

The same sort of fear gripped me in Image of the Fendahl, as our generic German mad scientist realizes that "we have been used - mankind has been used!". And again in a cut scene I read about where the Doctor, in The War Games, finds an inscription: SENTENCED TO DEATH. TRIAL A FAKE. WE ARE ALL BEING USED.

Maybe it's the fear of a lack of happy ending? Perhaps not the lack of a happy ending, but the sense the cavalry arrived too late. Its sobering that Robert Holmes' stories often invovled the Doctor overturning dictatorships overnight, and invariably said dictatorship had been in effect for centuries and millions upon millions could have been saved simply by the TARDIS arriving centuries earlier. There's nothing the Doctor can do for Cordo's family, or the poor wretches who found out about the War Games and died before they reveal the truth, or the Dwarfers for the Psirens' victims.

Is that what really scares me?

The "they never stood a chance" factor? The scariest factor about some of the murders in Xtro is that the victims did the sensible thing, the logical choice, their actions couldn't be faulted. And they got skewered like pigs for their pains. Blake's 7's final episode is sad, tragic, but is it scary? There are a billion fan fics that show things could have gone different 'if only'. The end result could have been avoided. The idea that nothing could have been done is scarier than the fact all our heroes are dead and forgotten.

They never stood a chance. Must mean they faced something unstoppable. And in my sci-fi-cult-comedy world, things are rarely unstoppable. Usually they are stopped by a passer by with a sonic screwdriver. I remember Utopia's Futurekind were rendered scarier than some other menaces in the season by the Doctor's reaction - he runs for his life. He can't reason with them, trick them, manipulate them, or even fight them. Even if Jack went machine gun crazy, they couldn't be stopped. The Futurekind aren't even defeated. All you can do is run away from them, and the dying cosmos they come from.

What the hell am I dribbling on, you might be asking (presumably passing the time after you've watched all your DVDs and kicked out the house guests).

Well, if you're my stalker, you might notice my little treatise on fear in The Enemy Within, in which I tried to capture every last bit of horror and terror I could. Partly inspired by nightmares I was having at the time even now, relatively well adjusted, the first episode creeps me out, and it's just the Doctor and Peri chatting in a wood. At night. Being watched. And in a later episode, the Doctor mentions the writing from The War Games and in a crude bit of transference reveals he is as creeped out by the words as I am.

Some of the plot of The Enemy Within comes from Ghostwatch, the BBC Halloween hoax that was so convincing the mass hysteria it caused lead to suicides. I found out about Ghostwatch on a rubbish DW fansite, listed as number 1 on a list "most terrifying television". I was a bit surprised at the complete lack of Doctor Who on the list, whereas Sapphire & Steel was boringly placed at 8 (and not the really scary eps, either, just the ones the reviewer remembered). But around number 4 was Threads.

So... I looked at it. Hmm. Some kind of Survivors-style docu-drama. Boo-friggen-hoo.

Sometimes I wonder about my brain and whether the way I react differently to people is good or bad. The sight of a gasmasked child did not disturb me in the slightest - yet the sight of a gasmasked horse was in the "cool and spooky" category. "Are You My Mummy?" proved irritating, not scary. In fact, it wasn't even interesting.

The Goodies have frightened me more than some "terrifying" films and shows. I mean, OK, there's the loud noises, sudden appearances and screaming death... but we're talking about half a second that barely makes me twitch. Torchwood: Countryside managed to be engaging, spooky, menacing. Until the episode ended, and no hook of any sort was left in my mind. It is ironic that comedy shows often scare me more than proper drama. Bottom's Out, where Richie and Eddie end up trapped in a tent with someone or something stalking their tent site is surprisingly scary (even when you find out its just a streaker having fun), or The New Office where the Goodies meet living construction machinery. Comedy and terror have the same roots after all - a monster in the closet is frightening the exact same way Mike the Cool Person in a closet is funny: they shouldn't be there.

But I can't find any comedy in Threads.

Even The Young Ones, who are about the only owner of a spoof of Threads, can't help. For the record, its Bomb, where Niel moans, "Oh no. Not the holocaust," with the passion of someone who's realized they've got to open a fresh packet of bog paper, "I'm off to get the incredibly informative and useful Protect And Survive Manual!" he then adds directly to camera. The joke is obvious. This manual of Niel's is completely and utterly useless, hence his blind faith that it can sort out anything is misplaced, ergo funny.

Was funny.

Not any more.

In The Enemy Within part three, in one rather nasty sequence, the Master tries to break Peri's spirit by telling her of a civilization he once ended for a laugh. It's a sequence that is no doubt typical of my work - compelling, well-told, with a fanwank reference to The Masters of Luxor, and also a complete rip off. The Master's description of the end of the world was based on the summary of Threads, with a few juicy descriptions added off the top of my head. The idea of the Master breaking up as he sees a shellshocked mother holding a dead baby was about the most disturbing idea I could have.

I didn't realize how close I was.

Anyway, to cut the story short. I see Threads is available for download. Since I have already homaged/ripped off the plot, I feel a vague desire to at least watch it and see if it's anyway as disturbing as promised. I downloaded it, pressed play, and was confronted with a spider spinning a web in disgusting close up. A HHGTTG-style narrator patronizes me with the metaphor of society as a web of threads, hence the title...

Boring, I think in my best Jekyll impersonation, and jump one hour into the movie.

I can't remember a more stupid thing I've done since jamming my hand into a moving bicycle chain. And I was eighteen months old at the time. What's my excuse now?

Do I need to tell you what I saw? What I watched? I don't want to rememeber.

It's simple enough to describe in a way. Sheffield, English town, 1980s. Everyone's minding their own business, when sirens go off. A missile strikes the next town, and the mushroom cloud climbs over the landscape. Panic erupts... and then the main salvo arrives.

And the world ends.

Not in one neat crisp flash. Oh no. That would be too simple.

Oh, it's literally painful to remember. Those sound effects I've heard in different places and different contexts. Explosions. Breaking Glass. Screaming. Judicious use of the mute button so everything becomes unreal and silent. The images. Oh man. Models... I'm sure they're models. Woolworths exploding. Fire. So much fire. A cat, a REAL cat, writhing in the ruins. Milk bottles burning. Corpses burning. So many screams.

Threads was banned from BBC television. The treatment 1960s Doctor Who got from them was a friendly punch on the arm compared to this. The TV equivalent of a jihad. They don't even sell the DVD in England. And the DVDs on sale are edited. What I have seen seem to be uncut.

It's a nasty montage. I've seen worse, surely? I mean, some figure hauling themselves over the rubble surrounded by flames is nasty, but easy to get over. But then, I see the survivors. The main characters I have not had to watch living their lives. But this lot have decided to follow Niel's "Protect and Survive" Manual. Hiding in basements, under makeshift shelters of doors and binbags. Blackened, stunned. The skin around their eyes are only clear because they keep crying.

Unbelievably, it gets worse. After the firestorms end, and the surface is vaguely habitable. Our heroine, Ruth, abandons her parents after a week underground. Radiation sickness in all its grim and grimy glory. The grandma is Chatham-style incontinent, then goes to sleep and doesn't wake up. The parents stay in the darkness, trying to keep their heads together. Ruth returns to the basement. We don't see what she finds, but we hear the buzzing of flies, see her react to a stench, and her parents never appear again.

But this is positively tame compared to Ruth's voyage through the ruins. Dead cats. Dead dogs. Bodies. Charcoal, human shaped lumps left screaming. Some of them have their dentures intact. A child running around calling desperately for his mother. A figure in a bandaged head shivering.

And then, guess what, that gag I made to show the Master is evil pays back.

And it's the woman holding the baby. The dead baby. The baby-shaped lump of charcoal. And the woman's wide, almost proud expression. Not saying a word. Almost a statue. And Ruth has to top it all off by flashing back to before the Bomb Dropped, where the woman was a fancy, uptight yuppie generally ignoring the baby, buried in consumer goods and the like. "Don't know what you've got till it's gone."

Guess that's about the worst of it for me.

The rest of the film depicts life afterwards. The bunker with all the government turns out to be their tomb - by the time a rescue team is organized the bunch of fat union reps and pen pushers have smoked themselves to dead, leaving the paperwork to give the new rule of Britain: if you work, you get some food. If you can't work, you starve. Cause everyone's radioactive and bound to die anyway.

The hospital turns out to be an even bigger nightmare. The walking wounded arrived at this medical station, only to discover no medicine or anaesthetic arrive, leading to lots of screams. LOTS of screams. And we're left with a metaphor for the whole film, in the scenes of outpatients, with scarred, dying people wrapped in soiled bandages and no medication. Or some other guy, dunno his name, leaving his excuse for a shelter to get his burned, blind and now half-insane wife some water. He goes to the rubble filled sink, turned the taps... and water comes out. The guy manages to get a grubby and distinctively unhygenic basin... and the water runs out. So he heads out into the wilderness outside and sees water dripping down a broken wooden beam over some rubble. So he grabs a handful... and spits it out. He heads back. The wife's dead, eyes wide and staring.

Sums up the film. There's no hope, but people keep trying anyway. The world is a living thing mortally wounded, and now dying painfully and slowly.

So, a quick fast forward to the end of the film.

Great Britain is not in what you're going to call good shape. The city's are still in ruins - since no one's been able to clear it up. The bodies are now skeletons picked clean, and even the rats and bugs are dying. Pretty much everyone who survived the bombing is dead, since they've all been prematurely aged and blinded by the fact the nuclear winter took away the ozone layer. In the fifteen years or so after the end of the world, Britain's still a police state where anyone who is a looter is killed. But now there's no more bullets, so they're hanged. Conversation is downhill, since the latest generation barely speak more than "givvitme" in regards to food, and the steam driven farm tractors are rather pointlessly trying to tend sterile, weevil-infested soil.

The movie ends in the ruined maternity wing of that hospital. It's a reasonably busy place, all things considered, but the nurses don't waste their time there, since all "babbies" are now stillborn, deformed and melt soon after birth. And would you believe it, we get to see such a thing happen as the last UK number one pop hit plays over the ruins.

So, yeah, watching this at the best of times was a dumb move.

Watching it two days before Christmas has got to me in a way I find... new. I find myself looking at the skies. Listening to the wind in the trees. Seeing people actually TALKING to each other. The world we live in seems unreal just after less than an hour of viewing a realplayer window. A world where people are actually starting to do things about global warming. A world where people pay attention to the international situation.

Maybe that's the biggest difference between us and the world with Threads. Because, cliche as it might sound, Threads looks real. It could really happen. Never before have I consciously had to tell myself "they are actors, this is a script, there are camera men there, no one is hurt... maybe those dead rats being sold, maybe..." The world, I tell myself, did not end in 1984 when this was made. It experienced NOTHING like that and so far, still hasn't. We weren't dumb enough to let this happen. Maybe because a film like this could be made, because people realized no one could win a nuclear war, because the one thing not kept secret was how terrible the destruction would be.

Hope springs eternal, and that is probably the only unrealistic thing about Threads. The world have lost everything. They have nothing to live for. NOONE to live for. Only the last few seconds show anything approaching a reason to go on, as a baby is born that the mother actually seems to care about.

And it's a dead, half-liquid blob that makes her scream.

No hope. No way out. And there never was a chance of either.

That's what's scared me.

So as Christmas approaches I urge anyone stupid enough to read this. Dumb as it sounds, half-watching a film terrified me and reminded me... or maybe just revealed to me... how incredibly lucky we are. We do not have to live not knowing if our friends and family survived. We don't have to dig through rubble. We have trees that are alive, and birds that live with them. Healthy children are alive who have futures.

I may only have caught a glimpse of a world without them (odd how seeing Skaro never effected me so), but it makes me realize how many of our problems are so petty. I actually got upset about being fired from a job I didn't enjoy with people I didn't like in a place I didn't want to go every day? Sparacus completely missing the point of his favorite show leaves me in a mindless fury? The realization it will most likely be a week before I can watch Voyage of the Damned?

It's petty! Pointless! Utterly irrelevent!

And thank any god you care to mention the world is so wonderful we can even imagine such trivialities, a world of trees, and animals, and Christmas, and love.

So, this is the Youth of Australia's Christmas address to the Nation.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Youth of Australia & The Filthy Pagan Belief

I've spent more time trying to do a Christmas episode for The Youth of Australia than David Tennant has been in Doctor Who. It can't be that difficult, as Grumpy Old Men At Christmas demonstrates - the Christmas Day itinerary is not complicated. Yet, I get dispirited very easily. Can any slapstick with the turkey beat Mr. Bean getting his head stuck in one? Or Richie Rich cutting off his own finger? Can any heartwarming Christmas Spirit scene best Mother and Son? Any argument be better than Tim and Bill swapping personalities? Any soul crushing disappointment worse than Rocko being abandoned? Any religious satire cleverer than Flacco being born in a stable? Any social commentary be better than Nightingales meeting Mary, who gives birth to consumer goods for them to enjoy?

And it wouldn't be funnier than Black Books: Grapes of Wrath no matter what I did...

Some ideas I batted around with. One was that the gang got themselves locked in the ABC shop over Christmas, meaning in a wacky Twilight Zone style irony, they had most of the presents they wanted but none to play with, forcing them to talk to each other. The old 'deliver a baby at Christmas' idea which seemed so cliched, I shoved it into the pilot episode to symbolize the 'look to the future' vibe. Another idea was them all being locked up on Christmas Day by the police after drunkenly trying to visit three different Christmas parties at once. But I'd kinda done that idea too.

But somehow, I always found myself losing interest. Later, I watched the Men Behaving Badly Christmas Special which was, in a way, the final nail. The story wasn't particularly original, nor the jokes: the guys come up with a rubbish Christmas, one couple splits up, and generally it's just another day only with Christmas decorations. But that, incredibly, is the POINT! It IS just like another day! And all the characters are depressed as they realize this.

And, in case you missed this subtext, half the episode was set in some parallel universe, Warriors' Gate esque timeline: in it, the couples are fabulously weathly aristocrats who live in a mansion, waited on hand and foot, and live ridiculously happy lives, it's snowing, Christmas dinner is delicious... and we cut from the idealized version to the horribly mundane reality. And in one case SURREALITY, as Tony sulks by sitting on a surfboard on top of the hill's hoist in the rain.

That dissillusionment rang in my head for some reason.

When I was writing an episode entitled Andrew's Legacy, one of the ones that would be completely rewritten no doubt, it came back to me. The plot: Andrew has on a whim, left Dave and Nigel to their own devices, seemingly forever. It's a character piece mainly, a link of unrelated sketches with no real point bar the suggestion that Andrew was the buffer that somehow kept everything normal and with him gone, the world now seems run by Terry Gilliam...

Fade up on a caption: THE NEXT DAY. We see Nigel’s room is lined with Christmas lights and decorations. Nigel sits in his bed, facing the TV. He wears a festive hat and some of the decorations. On the TV, the Queen’s speech begins. Nigel pours himself a tankard of sherry.

NIGEL: Merry Christmas! God save the Queen!

He begins draining the tankard. There is a banging at the door.

NIGEL: [STARTLED] Oh, crapola.

DAVE: [VO] Hey! Nigel! Hello! Are you in there?

Nigel leaps off the bed, ejecting a video from his VCR. It has QUEEN’S SPEECH 2003 written on the label and begins to haul down the decorations. The door bursts open and Dave enters.

DAVE: There you are! [LOOKS AROUND] What the...

Nigel looks up at him while trying to haul down his Christmas tree.

NIGEL: This isn’t what it looks like!

DAVE: You’ve been celebrating Christmas again, haven’t you?

Nigel sweeps a pile of half-opened Christmas presents off the top of his mantle piece. Muchos smashing noises. Nigel tries to look casual as he rips off his festive outfit.

NIGEL: So? What’s wrong with that, man?

DAVE: It’s July! The fourth of July!

NIGEL: OK, so I got my public holidays mixed up, so sue me!

DAVE: What are you talking about? You hate America!

NIGEL: Uh, I try to celebrate other cultures.

DAVE: Oh, really? So what does one DO on the fourth of July?

NIGEL: [WINCES] Ah. Oh dear. I know this.

DAVE: Does it involve a Christmas tree? And lights?

NIGEL: [SWALLOWS] Doesn’t it?

Dave crosses to the TV. Nigel leaps in front of it, trying to block his way but Dave shoves him aside and checks the video. His face falls.

DAVE: [DISAPPOINTED] Oh, no, Nigel. Not the Queen’s speech.

NIGEL: [SHIFTS UNCOMFORTABLY] Look, this is just...

DAVE: Why? I thought you were getting better?

NIGEL: I just made a mistake, all right? Don’t get upset!

DAVE: A mistake? Like on the twentieth of January? When you locked yourself in here, decked the place with bows and holy, and started watching the Queen’s speech. Why? Why, Nigel, why?

NIGEL: I don’t have to justify myself to you!

DAVE: Look mate, we’re all we’ve got left now! And when you start hiding in here, pretending its Christmas every single day... You have got a problem, Nige! We covered all this in March? Remember the 24-Step Guide to Accepting That Christmas is Over? Remember that? Oh, we were so pleased when you finally chucked out the tree.

NIGEL: Andrew MADE me!

DAVE: It was for your own good!

NIGEL: I’m nineteen, Restal! I’m old enough to do what I want.

DAVE: That’s not what you said when the police came round. [SAD] Can’t you see you’re not right? This isn’t natural. You’re doing nothing but harm to yourself. Why, though?


DAVE: No, I mean, why now? You were cured!

NIGEL: Yeah, well, Andrew isn’t here to stop me, is he?

DAVE: And if he was?

NIGEL: Well, I don’t have to answer that question, do I?

DAVE: And what if he turns up tomorrow? What will you do then? Shit yourself? Try and hide your foul addiction like now? It won’t work! You’ve got to see a professional!

NIGEL: If you don’t like it, get out.

Dave tries to grab the Christmas tree, unbalancing it. And incredibly-pathetic girl-fight begins between Nigel and Dave, ending with a nipple-cripple that floors Dave. He scrambles out, crying.

NIGEL: [CRUELLY] Yeah, get used to it, Dave! From now on –

He turns to face camera.

NIGEL: - the Big N is head of THIS household!

Behind him, the loose tree falls on top of Nigel, crushing him and dragging the Christmas lights with it. That, in turn, knocks over everything in the room that was upright. A long pause.

NIGEL: [VO/MUFFLED] Uh, a little help here? Hello?

The idea that Nigel was obsessed with capturing the Christmas Spirit and was a kind of Christmas junkie was a brilliant idea. According to those who read it, anyway. The Christmas Special now had the main thrust of Nigel obsessively trying to get it perfect, and instantly a Boxing Day Special where the guys have to break into Nigel's room to drag him out of his fantasy wrote itself in my head, then vanished.

Then, I decided to just be autobiographical and worked out the plot for a Christmas Special I have yet to write, but I know what happens in it, where Nigel gets a job as Santa Claus in a department store and falls in love with a shop girl. This is love, rather than lust, and Nigel reacts to this strange emotion as that guy in The Bill who realizes he's sexually attracted to children -- self horror. This, coupled with Nigel having to deal with children and customers, meant all the pesky Christmas cliches of turkeys, etc, could be ignored.

And as I was working it out, Bad Santa was released. WHILE I was being Santa...

So, I knew I'd have to wait until that was forgotten, and never actually typed it up. But now, I've managed to tap out so many references to the missing Christmas special I am attempting a Shada-style reconstruction from them, using ideas from a variety of sources...


We pan down from the sun blazing in the sky to see Andrew sitting on the roof of the apartment, hugging his knees and looking out over the landscape with a troubled expression.

ANDREW: [SADLY] What will your daddy do
When he sees your mama
Kissing Santa Claus?

He lets out a bitter, humorless laugh. He sighs and lies back on the roof.

ANDREW: So here it is,
Merry Christmas!
Everybody else’s having fun!
Look to their futures now
Unlike you they might have one...

He whistles the rest of the tune to himself. Dave emerges from the hatch that leads into the apartment.

DAVE: Hey, Andrew! What are you doing out here?

ANDREW: Just lying here, talking to you.

DAVE: Come on, man. Three days till Christmas.

ANDREW: I had no idea.

DAVE: I mean, we’ve got to go into town, buy presents.

ANDREW: [SCOWLS] Dave, I do have plans for today!

DAVE: [FROWNS] What plans?

ANDREW: I planned to do nothing.

DAVE: Aw, Andrew! Lighten up! It’s Christmas time! Party on!

ANDREW: I am partying. The way the Dalai Lama parties. Quietly.

DAVE: Dude, we have to buy each other presents. I’ve got Nigel’s list!

Dave throws down a very thick bundle of A4 pages, not dissimilar to a novel submission. It lands next to Andrew’s head. He continues to stare up at the sky, not moving.

ANDREW: He’s feeling confident, isn’t he?

DAVE: Eve’s got my list, Nigel’s got Eve’s list and you have Nigel’s list.

ANDREW: And just where is my list?

DAVE: You haven’t written one.

ANDREW: Yeah. Might be significant that, Dave.

DAVE: It’ll be fun, man. You can screw up Nigel’s whole Christmas!

ANDREW: I do have a life outside tormenting idiots like Nigel, you know.

DAVE: Yeah, you sit on the roof and look at the sky.

ANDREW: Ouch. All right, Master Restal, if I participate in this celebration of consumerism and greed, do I get to go back to this hardcore sitting on the roof and looking at the sky?

Dave sits down next to Andrew.

DAVE: I thought you’d love Christmas. Drink, food, TV specials...

ANDREW: Guess I just have sides to my personality no one suspects.

DAVE: Like what?

ANDREW: Like the fact I hate Christmas.

DAVE: Why?

ANDREW: Oh, the girl I loved was run over on Christmas Day.

DAVE: [BLINKS] What? You’re kidding, right?

Andrew lazily grins.

ANDREW: All right. Let’s go spend Eve’s inheritance on some disposable nostalgic junk!

He snatches Nigel’s list and jumps to his feet in one quick move.

DAVE: [GRINS] Knew the spirit would get you in the end!

Dave reenters the hatchway. Andrew follows. The moment Dave isn’t looking, the smile vanishes from Andrew’s face.


Nigel, wearing a Santa hat, is in the Chill-Out Area, hanging up tinsel and baubles on the shelving. He stands on the sofa, cheerfully singing along with his iPod as Andrew and Dave enter through the hatch and clamber over the top of Andrew’s silo to reach the area.

NIGEL: And there won’t be snow
In Africa, this Christmas!
The greatest gift they’ll get
This year is life!

Andrew and Dave stare at Nigel in horror.

NIGEL: Where nothing ever grows!
No rain or rivers flow!
Do they know
It’s Christmas time at all?!

He gleefully whistles the rest.

DAVE: Someone sounds very merry.

Nigel pulls out an earphone.

NIGEL: What?

ANDREW: You been visited by the spirits of Christmas or something?

NIGEL: No! I love Christmas! Best time of the year – 24 hours of brilliance with 364 days to prepare for it! Carol singers, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, reunited with relatives, Turkey sandwiches, glazed hams, champagne and orange juice cocktails, the classic December humidity...

Nigel jumps down from the sofa, rocking the platform they stand on.

NIGEL: What’s there not to like?


Nigel laughs and companionably puts an arm around Andrew. He grimaces.

NIGEL: Ah, Drew. You and me, we’ve had a weird time this year, huh? The HSC, moving in together, Parker, meeting Eve... That’s a packed few months.

ANDREW: And I’ve hated every second spent with you.

NIGEL: I know, Drew. I know. Because I hate you too. I despise you with such passion I have to get up early so there’s enough time in the day to detest you and everything you stand for. If I could, I’d take off the six months required to stab you to death, you realize that?

ANDREW: [DEADPAN] I may weep openly at such non-gay man love.

NIGEL: That’s nice of you, Andrew. But I’m here to offer you a deal.

ANDREW: Uh-huh?

NIGEL: From today to New Year’s Eve, I’m willing to declare an absolute, binding and unconditional truce. No arguments, insults, pranks, food fights, discussions on sexual technique and what’s more, I’ll even not complain over your cooking of Christmas Dinner.

DAVE: You been at the shoe polish again?

Nigel shows them his hands.

NIGEL: Look? No fingers crossed or anything? I just want a nice little Christmas vacation. No hassle from me, no hassle from you.

ANDREW: [FOLDS HIS ARMS] And what if I refuse.

NIGEL: Then I will snap your miserable neck.

Andrew laughs.

NIGEL: I’m not joking. I’ll probably go to jail, and have my entire life ruined, but I’m happy for that to happen with my blood on your hands. [STARTING TO LOSE IT] If this Christmas is not the best, the ABSOLUTE best ever, I WILL FUCKING KILL YOU!!!

Nigel grabs Andrew by the throat.


ANDREW: [GIGGLES] For once, absolutely!


ANDREW: I know you will! Do you hear sleigh bells, Nigella? Do you?


ANDREW: Do you?


ANDREW: Do you hear them!?


Andrew flings out his arms and Nigel is sent reeling over the edge of the COA platform and to the floor below. Andrew dusts himself down.

ANDREW: Then I accept!

Andrew heads for the step ladder as Dave peers over the edge of the platform to look down at Nigel’s groaning form.

DAVE: Wow. That was intense.

ANDREW: See? The children of the world are indoctrinated from the cradle that the year may be horrible and miserable, but for a few days in December, there is nothing but perfection. Challenge that belief and... well...

Andrew reaches the ground as Nigel gets up, clutching his shoulder. He twists it with a nasty crunch and stretches.

NIGEL: [ANNOYED] Oh yes, just because my family can spend a bit of cash on Christmas lights, it’s suddenly Western propaganda gone mad, is it?

ANDREW: I thought we weren’t going to argue.

NIGEL: [BLINKS] Oh yeah.

ANDREW: Guess that means I’ve proved my point?

NIGEL: How?!

ANDREW: Well, we’re not going to argue about it, are we?

Nigel blinks. He remains silent until Dave has joined them.

NIGEL: Cunning bastard.

They cross over to the kitchen area.

DAVE: Anyway, we better head off and start the shopping.

ANDREW: Can’t we leave it till later?

DAVE: No way, man. It’ll be chock-a-block as it is, let alone on the night before Christmas.

ANDREW: Buying early just means we are giving each other more time to succumb to greed and open the presents early.

NIGEL: Oh, ye of little faith.

ANDREW: Pretty much. Is Eve coming with us?

NIGEL: We can only hope.

DAVE: [STERN] Hey. Nige. We agreed. We pay for the presents ourselves.

NIGEL: Oh, because getting a nubile millionairess to pay, that’d just be stupid.

DAVE: It makes the presents more special. Where is she anyway?

Eve steps out of the hallway, keeping the door closed.

EVE: Uh, guys?

They look at her.

EVE: Would it be, you know, all right if I brought someone over to stay for the next couple of days?

Nigel’s expression softens.

NIGEL: Oh, Eve. This is your home too, and we wouldn’t dream of restricting you in any way! Your friends are always welcome here, especially in the season of goodwill and peace to all!

DAVE: Well said, Nigel!

NIGEL: ESPECIALLY if she is some hot girl like yourself who’d enjoy some of the Big N love machine!

ANDREW: NOT so well said, Nigel.

EVE: So it’s cool?

DAVE: Of course it is!

EVE: Great!

She ducks into the hallway again. Nigel starts packing canvas bags into a school backpack. Dave and Andrew close off the patio.

DAVE: You really think you and Nigel can actually be friends for the rest of the month?

ANDREW: Can but try.

DAVE: It’ll never work.

ANDREW: Might do – if we find someone more annoying and horrible than Nigel to torment.

DAVE: What are the odds of that?

ANDREW: I thought Christmas was a time for miracles?

Eve re-enters and stands by the door.

EVE: Guys. This... is Ben Chatham.

She pushes it open. Dry ice swirls in the shadows and we hear the sudden loud noise of a massive heart beating. A figure slowly moves out of the shadows – a medium-sized, good-looking blond man not wearing a shirt and leaving his chest bare. A wolf howls in the distance. Sharp cuts from the suspicious eyes of Dave, Andrew and Nigel to Ben Chatham’s blank, almost zombie like vacant stare. Another wolf howl.

EVE: [FROWNS] What is that noise?

DAVE: Oh, sorry that’s me.

Dave pulls a mobile from his pocket.

DAVE: Trying to get the ring tone to play Dangermouse. It got Dog Soldiers instead... Sorry.

... to be continued. Maybe.

* This is not a Billie Piper joke. I hadn't heard of her, or the song, when I wrote this.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dave's Diary

An Extract From The Diary of David M. Restal

Monday August 10
Well, it’s two days since the, ahem, accident and Nigel has convinced us with his total lack of violent retribution that it is worth exploring the avenue of physiotherapy. A small cottage a few blocks away does a neat sideline in this particular treatment. However, as neither Andrew or I have either the ability or license to drive, we’ll have to walk up there. Nigel cannot walk and we have no wheelchair, so we were forced to strap him to a trolley.

The cottage was pretty small and cramped, and there were several other customers already waiting – mainly women over 70, though one of them could have been Uulungid Caloovin in drag, I don’t know. We were met by a pretty redhead called Rebecca, who immediately stirred Nigel’s... affection. It was probably best this happened, because the series of bone-crunching, muscle-warping massages definitely evened it out.

We wheeled Nigel home. Although in utter agony and with even less mobility than before, he is certain that there is that elusive “something” between him and Rebecca. The way he was going on about it, it was like they’d been married for years and he was reciting their original courtship to his adoring grandchildren. He’s on the mend, sadly.

Tuesday August 11
There’s this unspoken agreement between us not to mention the whole Psycho Karate Kid incident. Me, out of fear; Nigel, out of embarrassment; Andrew, because he’s found a new fact to remember: pearls melt in vinegar. Well, that’s interesting. Why would anyone want to melt pearls? Why would anyone leave pearls in vinegar in the first place? Who on earth would want pearls and vinegar in the same place?

And why does this bug me so much?

Wednesday August 12
Harry dropped by with a replacement for the broken hatstand: a shopping trolley. Definitely stolen from somewhere. I wanted to change it for something more conventional, but Andrew and Harry were already stuffing grotty coats, umbrellas and hats into it in no real order. I make sure my coat stays in my room from now on.

Thursday August 13
Nigel is becoming even more unbearable than before. Not sure if that’s an oxymoron, but it’s the truth. He now has the full use of his body from the waist up, which has given him the power to go the toilet on his own and thus made him cocky. I think he’s just gotten high off the relief of an empty bladder after three days of pressure.

He’s also mentioning Rebecca’s name whenever he can, inserting it into the conversation with the so-subtle-as-to-be-subliminal “And while we’re on the subject, what about Rebecca, eh?” He loves her smile, her walk, her hair, her voice, the way she curls the tip of her hair when she’s thinking, the way she pouts when he calls her “so good she’s illegal” and, of course, her clothes. Or rather, lack of them.

I sighed and reminded Nigel that he was only just regaining feeling back into his legs and had neither the ability nor the opportunity for wild monkey sex or tender Enya love with Rebecca. I should have shut up, but that was then he handed over an envelope full of polaroids. According to Nigel, she doesn’t suspect a thing – probably mistook the InstaMatik camera flashes for lightening.

Got to admit, Nigel could make worse choices for girlfriends...

Friday August 14
Nigel’s able to walk for short periods now, and has taken Rebecca for a date at Churchwell’s Venetian Cuisine. I think she had to pay for it, but you can’t have everything. When I got home I found Nigel showing off his pictures of Rebecca to everyone. Katy didn’t seem that offended, just said that Rebecca wasn’t a natural redhead. That puzzled me for a while, but I worked out the answer: Rebecca and Katy must have been at school together when the former wasn’t dying her hair.

I related my Holmesian deduction to Maurice today, but he just smiled awkwardly and tried to change the subject.

Saturday August 15
Nigel’s out on another date with Rebecca. Good luck to her.

Andrew dropped by Frontier Videos to just chill out and hang. He’s worked out how to set the timer on the VCR and so has left the vitally important Saturday-night-line-up in the hands of the machine to record. I was surprised; if it didn’t work, Andrew would be devastated: tonight’s The Bill has Cathy Bradford being transported through the seven orders of hell. [Note to self, suggest new script writers on Bill website]. Andrew insists that he is openly trusting the VCR to do its work.

Sunday August 16
The VCR timer has failed miserably. Andrew took his revenge by leaving the whole thing up on the roof in the baking sun. I had a look at the user’s manual and it turns out you have to switch off the bastard before it tapes anything. It took a while to convince Andrew of this, and we went up the roof to rescue the VCR. It’s warped quite badly. Might have to try and nick another one from work.

Nigel is getting worse and worse. He can’t open his mouth without bragging about how cool and sexy he is and backing up this argument with his long-term relationship with Rebecca. Long-term? He’s only known her for two weeks. On the other hand, the fact she hasn’t called the police definitely indicates there’s hope. Either way, Nigel is driving me bananas. He did this joke about Rebecca yesterday, right? “What a body! What a body! And her's was pretty neat as well!” Diary, I just sniggered. Not a laugh, not a chuckle, a snigger. That’s all. I swear! Now he’s strutting around the place like he’s the inventor of the Dead Parrot Sketch or something.

Thank goodness he’s not totally recovered and P-Æ.J. was able to trip him over the one hundred and thirteenth time he recited that awful joke. Andrew’s really getting irritated by Nigel’s continuing Rebecca-worship.

Monday August 17
Right. So am I. We both went to Nigel and told him in no uncertain terms that unless he shut up about Rebecca quick smart we would injure his body in such a way that from now on all he would know would be the physiotherapy cottage. He accused us of being “sad, lonely gits” and said he pitied us. Andrew slapped him in the face and swore that if he mentioned the name Rebecca one more time we will take desperate measures.

I said something similar, only it was about his “what a body” gag. Nigel promptly took a long, hard walk. However, this wasn’t so much a relief as a different kind of torture. Due his “frailty” he demands that one of us accompany him on such walks for his own safety. He promptly began a very, very, very long, long, long, long, loooooong, long tirade about how we should be happy for him to have found the right girl (to his credit, he named no names) and was fueled with righteous indignation at our behavior. Does he complain whenever I mention Lucy or Andrew wants to talk about Katy? Well... in a word... yes, he does, he complains long and hard and demands we change the subject.

Nigel admitted that this was a bad example, and then he laid this guilt trip on me. After all the crap Andrew and I (and life itself, I think) who was going to begrudge him happiness with a woman he loved? That kind of got to me, but I consoled myself that Nigel’s mental dictionary is mainly a thesaurus of euphemisms for the sexual act – “love” and “lust” get mixed up very easily. That, would you freaking believe it, lead to the I Am Not A Virgin conversation. I didn’t even accuse him of it! I just ventured the opinion that the moment they, er, consummated things, he’d feel different. Which is rather the point, after all.

You know, that walk took us a long way. We were down by the river and we definitely in the next suburb – there were just parks and factories around and everything was in this purple twilight. And it was getting cold. I suggested that we turn around and headed back, but Nigel was insistent, and was listing all the women he’d had meaningful relationships with. Another euphemism, I think – unless “meaningful relationship” is Japanese for “restraining order”. Anyway, we were just ducking under this low bridge for cars to cross the river (very low, we had to duck to get under it), when it happened.

He did the gag. The “what a body” gag. I should have left it. I should have just sighed and dealt.

We were in the middle of a narrow path – to the left, a fence and beyond that the river; not very far above, the rattling concrete slabs of the bridge; to the right the rough concrete wall and, oddly enough, a manufactured circular hole in it. I peered into the hole and saw it was a pipe that lead to the gutter on the road above. “Hey, Nigel,” I cried excitedly, “someone’s stencil-graffitied a picture of Jennifer Anniston au naturelle on the inside of this here pipe!

Where? WHERE?” shouted Nigel and shoved his head into the pipe.

It’s nifty how your head can fit into an amount of space, but can’t back out of it. Well, Nigel didn’t find it nifty. I think. You see, his head was jammed into the pipe and so blocked off the sounds of his screams. I chose to interpret the noises to mean that he was stuck and wanted me to get some help, but not to hurry as, after all, there was an extremely interesting picture for him to look at. Well, that’s what I thought he said.

I turned around and hurried down the path back towards town as fast I could. It was very cold and getting very dark and, by the time I was back on familiar territory it was starting to rain. I was (and still am) grateful for my coat, it really does fit all weathers. However, Nigel really should think more practical than a skimpy I AM WHAT WOMEN WANT T-shirt (to “show off his abs” apparently) in such weather.

It was bucketing down when I got back home, to find Katy and Andrew watching the new episode of Blake’s Legacy. They thought I was quite wet and should warm up in case of pneumonia. Or oldmonia. Anyway, they left me on the couch with the TV, some chicken soup and some cracking science fiction while they went to Andrew’s bedroom to talk. I had to turn up the volume because they had started shouting; Katy in particular. I hope they’ve resolved their argument, I hate a tense background. They shouted a lot for most of the night, but the next day (as I write) they seem happier than ever.

Tuesday August 18
Yeah, I know what I should have done. I should have at least told the others about Nigel. I should definitely have checked up on him when the rain stopped. But I was so comfortable, and the heater was making me drowsy, and that episode showing them save Servalan from her own side was serious drama. I was gripped through that to the repeat of Enough Rope and eventually dozed off.

This morning I woke up and realized I hadn’t sorted out either the garbage or the recycling and so completed it in a mad dash. It was cold and drizzly and I missed most of the garbage (both Nigel and Andrew’s rooms are locked). I had eventually got wet enough to say, “Sod this, I’m off to work.” Andrew can deal with his own garbage. It’s probably what he and Katy were shouting about last night.

Parker said I looked like a drowned rat when I got to work. A drowned rat in a technicolour dream coat, I replied tartily. Parker hasn’t heard of that particular story, which is just bizarre considering we’ve got five copies in the religion section. Maurice came in and needed to change into one of the shop T-shirts he was so wet. He explained that the rain was so heavy there had been floods down by the river. I was shocked – I had been there only minutes before and it was a lucky escape. I felt that kind of shaky relief, like that time when I found out that Doug’s ex-boyfriend had got arrested for kidnapping the siblings of his latest squeeze. A kind of “Phew, that was close” with a side order of guilty recrimination.

Looking back, that particular moment should have reminded me I had, mayhaps, left Nigel to drown. But it didn’t. I had absolutely no memory of it, I swear. Nigel didn’t enter my thoughts. I told Maurice of what I watched, what I did, what foul language I had to listen to from the others’ arguments, but until he asked about Nigel, I hadn’t thought about him once.

To my credit, the moment I realized what I had done, I got the hell out of there quick smart. Parker did that spooky thing and appeared in front of the doors. He told me in no uncertain terms – “One step closer, insect, and it’s back on the dole!” – that I wasn’t leaving without a price. I pushed past him and ran out into the swirling mists and sleet-like rain. I hope he’ll let me back like the last fifteen times he’s sacked me.

I dropped by the house on the way to the river. I needed to get down there fast and to do that I needed a car and for that I needed a driver. Andrew was making breakfast and, once he’d got me to explain things to his satisfaction, agreed to drive. He chuckled mightily when I told him just what I had done to Nigel. So did I, actually. Unfortunately, I realized that the path we used was for bipeds and bicycles and not cars! We had to try and navigate parallel to the river. It looks so different in daylight – and drizzle – so we had to stop and inspect every single bridge. We finally found the right one and discovered it was impossible to park there, so we had to park the car and walk there on foot. We hurried down under the bridge and found...

Nigel was gone. For a reason that need not be gone into here, his trousers had remained. Andrew told me to hurry upstream and keep my eyes out for Nigel, while he would go back to the car and “do stuff”. I headed upstream. The parks dwindled in number and the huge factories and warehouses grew more and more numerous and I felt more and more depressed, lonely and miserable. There were no houses or people and by now I was pretty sure I was entering the area that divides one state from another. Then, who d’ya think I saw stumbling my way?

Yup. Nigel. Apparently, the sheer water pressure in the pipe had popped him free like a champagne cork, and slammed him into the railings with sickening force. On the bright side, this had the borderline miraculous effect of completing the physiotherapy on his back and restoring him to full health. The down side was that, not only was he half-drowned, he had been back-flipped into the raging river with such force he had been ripped out of his trousers. The current had carried him a few kilometers upstream (or was it downstream?) and smashed him against the shore. He climbed out of the water, covered in slime, water, and shivering from exposure.

I’ll write the rest when I get a chance.

Wednesday August 19
Oooooooooooooooooooh, smeg.

You know people say, “Cheer up, it might never happen?” Well, they’re right. It might not happen. However, something else will happen instead. It’s a cruel world.

Since my last entry... Well, before it, but written well after both... I met Nigel. He glared at me and shouted, “You took your time you bastard!” before accusing me of making up the whole nude stencil thing. I began to defend myself – it was probably too dark for Nigel to see it, or his head was in the wrong position and either way, the rain had removed all trace of it. Nigel told me to shut up and take him home.

Well, I would have, seriously. However, Andrew was walking towards us. Turned out that Wynona had been stolen in our absence and we’d have to walk home. I thought about offering Nigel my coat to try and protect him from the elements but, well, the stuff he was covered in was probably retaining his body heat anyway. And I wasn’t risking my coat on that foul muck.

We got home to find Rebecca had been and gone and “was thoroughly disappointed” according to Katy, who had met her. Man, she looked exhausted. Had she got out bed that day? She was wearing less than Nigel, who immediately forewent the shower/clothing option and rang Rebecca straight away. Apparently, Katy was so sick of Rebecca she had claimed she was sleeping with Nigel herself (answering the front door in her underwear must have helped that impression). Nigel screamed at her and ordered her out of the house, and she left. Three hours later.

Nigel was furious, and was shouting “Why?” over and over and over again. We restated our “Shut the hell up about Rebecca” policy and Nigel began singing “Rebecca” like a million times a minute. He was jumping around the room, singing, shouting, whispering, squeaking it until it stopped being “Rebecca” and became a weird trio of syllables that had no meaning. Finally, he could speak no more and just folded his arms and stared Andrew right in the eye.

Andrew kneed him where it hurt and went off to make dinner. Nigel locked himself in the bathroom and finally emerged near midnight looking his usual immaculate self. He put his hair into that weird mullet machine and retired, swearing that tomorrow he would restore his relationship with REBECCAA!!! and then gain his vengeance.

The next day – Wednesday the 19th – I went back to work and Parker gave me a long, boring speech about responsibility to clients and bosses and how I had failed it all miserably. He never wanted to see me again and was already interviewing potential applicants. Translation: I’d return on Friday and there would be no questions asked.

I returned home around 5 o’clock to find the police had located Wynona and returned it. (Apparently, Rebecca had stolen it in full woman-scorned-mode). Andrew was sitting on the roof, wearing his smock and beret painting a canvas the colour of the sky, too busy to talk. In the living room, Nigel was sitting on the floor, hugging his knees and clutching his face. I asked him if he’d managed to convince Rebecca he hadn’t slept with Katy at all. Surprise, surprise, he had. But the relationship was now over thanks to Andrew. “Oh, Nige,” I said sadly. “You’ll work it out.

Doubt that,” mumbled Nigel in that muffled croak you get when you run out of tears.

Look, I’m sure Andrew didn’t mean it.

Nigel looked up at me. His eye shadow had run with tears and he looked like one of those zombies who bleed from the eyes. “Oh, yes,” he said, alternating between a whisper and snarling roar, “...OF COURSE he didn’t mean it! Yeah, he was JUST walking along the road when he saw Rebecca and me back together and he JUST accidentally had to come running to me and shout – what was it again? Oh yes. “Nige, the hospitals checked the tests again, it’s all confirmed, you definitely have AIDS!”’

I sniggered. Nigel told me to do something rude, so I left him alone.

Thursday August 20
Well, the first proper day off in ages and it was a real barrel of laughs. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, a smile in the heart of every true Australian. And we were all stuck inside the house. Nigel was watching a DIY show, sulking, and Andrew was just playing solitaire. I tried to get Nigel to open up, to embrace his newfound bacheloressness, but to no avail. I just got abuse from the twerp. “Fine! Sit there... on your own... be miserable all day, if that’s your attitude. See if I care,” I said eventually.

Fan–freaking–tastic,” Nigel replied.

I changed tactics and asked Andrew to apologize for the... incident. Andrew began quite well but Nigel refused to accept his apology. Andrew changed tactics and wondered why such a Cassonova like Nigel would be worried about losing one girlfriend. Nigel insists that Rebecca was “different” and “so... so...

Easy?” Andrew suggested. “Because if she was, it would explain a lot of things.

It went downhill from there. Andrew called Nigel pathetic for his pretence at not being a virgin. Nigel maintained he has had sex, but refuses to name any woman that he’s slept with. Or, indeed, any man. I quickly defused the situation and looked on the bright side. While Andrew was wrong to claim Nigel had AIDS Rebecca clearly wasn’t up to much if she believes the claims of any passing nutter. “Face it,” I said, “Rebecca wasn’t right for you and Andrew, for the wrong reasons maybe, proved that without a doubt!

Then, Andrew reminded Nigel that without him, he would never have met Rebecca in the first place. “Oh, of course! Just think! If you hadn’t let me break half the bones in my body, I would have never have had to suffer hour after hour of limb–crushing agony in that old cottage by weird subnormal freaks who couldn’t even pretend to spell the word ‘physiotherapy’!

Hey, it wasn’t my fault you went through the window.

Yes it was! If you hadn’t ducked, I would have been fine!

All this fuss over some floozy. I can’t credit it...

That was the dromedary that broke the straw’s back. Nigel crossed to the nearest occasional table and grabbed hold of one leg. Still completely devoid of expression, he began to pull the leg away with a loud snapping noise. I watched it all, very worried. Andrew didn’t notice, as he was watching the TV.

That’s it, Nigel,” I said nervously. “Yes, you do some DIY to take your mind off her...

Nigel turned and brandished the table leg viciously. “I think I’ll do some DIY on his head,” he whispered.

No! Nigel, you mustn’t!” I cried.

Dave, I must!” Nigel cried back, and swung the table leg down at Andrew – just at the moment Andrew turned to say something. Nigel missed, his momentum pulling him forward onto the couch. The table leg went flying and struck the TV, smashing it to pieces. Again! This is just getting silly.

At that moment, the doorbell rang, so I went to answer it, leaving Andrew to try and repair the TV and Nigel to collect the table leg. At the front door was Doctor Spoon dressed as a pirate, complete with a hook an eyepatch. His companion was Chamber, but it was hard to tell at first, as he was wearing a dirty white sheet he had stolen. The latter kept collapsing, and Andrew put it down to alcohol, but Doctor Spoon explained that Chamber had neglected to cut any eyeholes in his bed sheet. Due to a stuff up on Doctor Spoon’s computer, they believed it was Halloween tonight. Bizarre or what?

We returned to the living room where I found Nigel collapsed on the floor beside the table leg. “He attacked that table leg with his face and lost,” Andrew explained. I was thankful for small mercies that Nigel was still alive, but Nigel didn’t share that belief. As he slowly came to, he spotted Chamber’s ghost outfit and was terrified he had died and gone to hell. Looking back at it now, it was quite clear that Nigel was very badly concussed. It took a while, but Nigel finally twigged that he wasn’t dead or in hell, more’s the pity. However, when he saw the “fancy dress” he came to conclusion that there was some secret fancy dress party that he had been excluded from. We told him he was wrong, but he refused to believe us. He seemed deaf to our protests, like we weren’t there at all. “Nigel,” I shouted, “there isn’t a fancy–dress ball, honest!

Yes, there is! Yes, there is!” Nigel jibbered and crossed to Doctor Spoon, prodding him repeatedly. “Tell him, Doctor, tell him! Tell him there’s a fancy–dress ball and that we are all doing! Go on, tell him! Tell him!” Finally, Doctor Spoon gave up and ‘admitted’ it. Nigel was exuberant and promptly went off to cancel “that other party he was going to”: “Well, you know, being such a popular guy I get invited to countless parties, shindigs, gatherings, hootenannies, balls, gala events, bah mitzvahs, seances... I was going to one this evening, in fact. Hoards of celebrities are going there as well – not to mention me.

Andrew reminded us all of the last party Nigel didn’t gatecrash – my eighth birthday party, when my mum sent him an invitation by mistake. We still haven’t managed to get the stains out of the carpet yet. Nigel was having none of it, insisting he parties every Friday night, before going off to “phone the gang and tell them he would stand them up” as he was “famous enough to get away with it.

By now, we were all aware of how badly dazed Nigel had become and Doctor Spoon suggested that we “reverse the polarity of the concussion flow” by banging him on the head. Works the same way as amnesia apparently. Meanwhile, Nigel dialed “Wil Anderson” and told him he couldn’t make the party but promised to give “Corrine” a “good shagging before the next episode”. He hung up with a joke to tell Rove McManus and a message from “Will” that he liked Nigel much more than Andrew. (I’ve checked the number via redial. He rang Eve)

We got up and walked out at this point. Believing that we were going to a party without him, Nigel leapt in front of the door and blocked our entrance. “No! You can’t go without me!” he screamed.

Yes, we can,” Andrew said reasonably. “Chamber, if you’d be so kind?

Chamber beat up Nigel and slammed his half–conscious form into the shopping trolley. I don’t know if the coats cushioned his fall – it’s academic now. However, Nigel seemed to instantly revive and suddenly insisted that he pretend to be a charity collector on behalf of the Quadriplegic Albino Locally Allied Lesbian Association of Los Angeles, (or QALALALA for short). “I’ll sit in this trolley, all wrapped up as a quadriplegic albino lesbian and you ask people for money for the charity!” he explained. “Nothing can go wrong!” We had a quick discussion and decided to play along. Hopefully, this would keep Nigel docile while we, er, searched for the best way to un–concuss him. Even as we maneuvered the trolley onto the front porch it was clear this task would not be easy. Nigel was delirious. I can still hear him ranting:

I wonder how much I’ll make? It’s bound to be at least a hundred bucks... maybe even more... I might share the money with you lot, you know... but, obviously... since I came up with the fantastic idea in the first place... I’ll get, say $99.60 and you can share the 40c amongst you... Hang on... you owe me a couple of bucks anyway, don’t you? So that means you’ll owe meeeeeee –

We gave the trolley a good shove and it bounced down the stairs, thundered down the garden path and smashed through the front gate. Nigel continued to scream as the trolley ricocheted off the chain–link fence on the other side of the road and sent Nigel, reeling, over the bridge and down the hill out of sight. We could only listen as Nigel’s endless wail grew fainter and fainter, then was muffled by a loud crashing noise that made us flinch before being cut off by a sickening splat.

So, er, that’s the best cure for concussion, is it?” I asked Doctor Spoon.

He winked. “Worked like a charm, wouldn’t you say?

We hurried inside and I wondered how to broach the subject of collecting Nigel. I doubt he’s in much of a good way after all that plus his recent physiotherapy. However, Chamber is, as I write, handing out the beers and Andrew and Doctor Spoon are already working hard on repairing the TV. I’m sure Nigel will be fine – last time he worked out all right and he’s not even stuck in a wall and facing certain drowning.

Friday August 21
I woke up this morning at the sound of the doorbell and someone demanding entrance. I was slumped in the sofa next to Chamber and Doctor Spoon. Andrew had dozed off trying to fix the television. At first, I thought I’d just dreamed it, but I heard a voice shout “Open up! It’s the police! Open up!” and frantically roused the others. Andrew immediately grasped the gravity of the situation and I hurried to the front door. The cops had heard our voices and knew we were here. Andrew and I opened the front door and two butch coppers burst in. Andrew’s protests of police harassment went unheard.

The officers were looking specifically for us. I think I must have shivered or something when they said my name, because they knew I was “Dave Restal” right away. “We’ve got some bad news for you. You see, your friend Nigella Verkoff has been taken to hospital. He’s been badly injured – he was found badly concussed and inserted halfway through a wall near the local river and...

I’m always telling him to be careful when decorating,” Andrew inserted bluntly.

...and we are here to ask you two a few questions.

I quickly begged the officers to let us go and see “poor little Nigel” straight away and Andrew agreed that it was “truly terrible” with the passion of a man whose been told that a blade of grass has moved. The copper wasn’t fooled, and vowed to return this afternoon to question us. Luckily, Chamber chose that moment to fall off the sofa and distracted the police officers. Andrew quickly blamed him for Nigel’s predicament and we slipped quietly away as the coppers ran into the living room, wielding their batons.

Outside, we scrambled into Wynona and Andrew took the controls. Andrew wasn’t half as worried as I was, insisting that we had put Nigel in a place were he could receive proper medical attention. Andrew drove us to the casualty department of a hospital called The George A. Dent Memorial Hospital. I realized I had a morning shift and hurried off to Frontier Videos, leaving Andrew with clear instructions to bring home Nigel safe, sound and without a lawyer.

It was agony at work, going through the same boring old routine and knowing at any moment the cops could turn up and take me prisoner. I was torn between working an extra shift or running away and hiding. I’m not sure my nerves could cope a total lack of distraction, so I stayed at the shop until 9 at night. On the bright side, it should put some more money in the kitty. When I got home, Andrew was having a shower.

Yup. Having a shower. He could dissolve.

Later, Nigel arrived. His clothes were filthy and he was badly bruised and refused to speak to either me or Andrew. He just strode straight into his room and slammed the door. I tried to coax a reaction but there was nothing. After a few minutes I gave up and watched the Friday Night Movie. Andrew swears he will explain what happened in the hospital, but later, when he feels clean. I’m not expecting the answer any time soon, but he promises that everything was sorted out and we have no reason to worry.

Saturday August 22
Nigel still hasn’t emerged from his room. I hope the Christmas stuff hasn’t started again. Andrew is taking around six showers every hour – he looks startlingly pale without all the dirt, mud and dried blood. Between these breaks, he’s managed to inform me about what happened the previous day at Casualty.

Andrew entered the ward with a bag of grapes that he had eaten for dramatic purposes. He soon located Nigel when the latter was “twatted with a kidney dish” by an unimpressed nurse who was not willing to give Nigel a fifteenth bed bath that day. Andrew quickly sabotaged Nigel’s clothing, X–Rays, bed chart and blood samples, before telling Nigel he had been in a coma for two years, so any legal action was worthless. It took a bit of acting, but Nigel fell for it – and that proved to be a fatal flaw. He misinterpreted something a nurse said (“she’d seen it all before” or something similar) and quickly convinced himself that, while he was unconscious he had been gang–raped by lesbian nurses and quickly demanded a lawyer. Andrew didn’t dissuade him because it would have made any police complaint ridiculous and thus got us all out of hot water. He quickly fled the ward when the nurse accused Nigel of being insane and got the response, “I’m insane?? At least I don’t sexually assault comatose patients in an illegal lesbian orgy romp!” before he was restrained by orderlies

Andrew quickly convinced a passing surgeon that Nigel was a terminally ill and very dangerous, psychologically deranged man who was also an organ donor. He then went and “set off another paranoid attack” by offering Nigel a way out of the hospital and a possible lunatic asylum on the condition they stopped the whole fighting thing. Nigel agreed, but attacked Andrew the moment he was free. Andrew got him back by retreating the curtain and exposing a naked Nigel to the casualty ward. He was quickly over–powered, given a heavy dose of anti–insanity drugs and an enema. Then, Andrew revived him and repeated the offer. Nigel refused and emptied the bucket of after–enema over Andrew’s head. No wonder he’s been washing his hair obsessively ever since.

Things can only get better.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Blake's 7 Matrix Data Bank

The latest issue of DWM made me laugh a lot. In particular the Matrix Data Bank run by Sorvad (it's an anagram, dudes) who often transcribes conversations between fictional characters to answer straightforward questions (and for DT's first season, every single episode needed plot holes to be fixed). There's been the First Doctor, Ian and Barbara; Second Doctor and Jamie; Third Doctor, Jo and the Master; the first three Doctors; the Fourth Doctor, Romana II and K9 (who wonderfully refused to stick to the script and only answer questions that hadn't been asked); the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan; The Sixth Doctor, Mel, the Master, the Valeyard and the Inquisitor; the Seventh Doctor and Ace... not to mention some surprising choices like Klieg, Kaftan and Toberman; Lazarus, Dalek Caan and the sentient sun; and now Blake's 7.

So, I transcribe it for my own amusement.... (c) DWM

This month with Servalan, Cockney Travis and Avon from Blake's 7
Blink's Heaven, Rocky Landings & No Pain, No Gain

TRAVIS: You summoned me here, Supreme Commander?

SERVALAN: Oh yes, Travis. I summoned you. And like a faithful dog, you obeyed.

TRAVIS: You've always been treacherous, Servalan. Why should I trust you now?

SERVALAN: Oh, Travis. Fortunately, it's not a matter of trust.

TRAVIS: Then why have you brought me here?

SERVALAN: These questions, Travis - they came in over an encrypted a-line transponder frequency. They are questions to which the Federation must have answers. And they must be answered. And answered, now.

TRAVIS: Why ask me? You have experts here, Servalan - mutoids and computers... consult THEM!

SERVALAN: Oh, I have, Travis. And unfortunately they were less than forthcoming in their suggested replies. I had them exiled to the frontier worlds. So I would be careful - VERY careful, in fact - that it doesn't happen to you. Shall I read the first question?

TRAVIS: Do I have a choice, Supreme Commander?

SERVALAN: Oh, Travis. Of course not. Oh, Travis, the first question comes from LAUEN CARRINGTON via triple-hyperlink e-mail. This astute young woman asks, "In Blink, the Doctor says that the Weeping Angels will attack if you, er, blink. So to avoid their power, why doesn't it occur to the Doctor that all you have to do is close one eye at a time, or wink?" Well, Travis?

TRAVIS: Are you mocking me, Servalan?

SERVALAN: Get your hands off me, Travis!

TRAVIS: You know full well that I only have one eye!

SERVALAN: It would be hard to miss, Travis. And please, stop sneering.

TRAVIS: Even I know the answer to this, Servalan. It's actually almost impossible to close one eye and then the other for any length of time before closing both. Far safer, as the Doctor advised, to keep both of them open rather than risk it.

SERVALAN: Well done, Travis. But, oh Travis, think of the power you could have if you answered all these questions as correctly as the first. he power to destroy a planet at the press of a button. The power to command a fleet of pursuit ships...

TRAVIS: The power to eliminate Blake is all I need, Servalan. Just one chance...

(Avon teleports in.)

AVON: Well now, that's a chance you're never going to get, Travis.

TRAVIS: Avon! Aargghh!

SERVALAN: You appear to have shot him, Avon.

AVON: Well now, I hope that wasn't what you wanted, I would hate to have made your day, Servalan.

SERVALAN: Why not make yours? Go ahead... and kill me, Avon.

AVON: Come here.

(They snog.)

SERVALAN: A kiss? Is that what you came for, Avon?

AVON: It would hardly be worth diverting ten million spacials for such a... minor pleasure. We need the answers to those questions as much as you need them, Servalan.

SERVALAN: Oh Avon. We're working together at last?

AVON: A temporary arrangement only. Now read the next question or I'll blow your head off.

SERVALAN: This one comes from Phil Walker of South Norwood in the seventh sector of the third quadrant. Think of it, Avon. We could destroy South Norwood at the press of a button...

AVON: The question, Servalan.

SERVALAN: Phil asks "Watching Time-Flight on DVD the other day I was wondering how the crew and passengers, as well as the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan, were able to come and go from the Concorde, as there were no steps leading up to the door once they got caught in the time contour. How did they get up and down?" Well, Avon?

AVON: Well now, Servalan, Time-Flight has never been a particular obsession of mine.

SERVALAN: Oh, I've found it very useful, Avon. Six months ago, there was a rebellion on Trantor. We pumped the reservoirs full of mind-numbing drugs, but the revolt continued. Only by showing Time-Flight again and again and again were we able to reduce the population of that miserably ungrateful little planet to a condition of open-mouthed, uncomprehending stupor.

AVON: I applaud your ingenuity, Servalan, but it still doesn't answer the question.

SERVALAN: Quite. Can you?

AVON: I have a friend you surely can. Orac!

ORAC: What is it now? I am engaged in highly important work, collating all the latest celebrity gossip.

AVON: Answer the question, Orac.

ORAC: Tsk, the solution is obvious. Remember the Doctor telling Captain Stapley that under the Master's hypnosis, the Concodrde crew believed they had made a smooth landing back at Heathrow even though they had made a very rough landing on the rugged wilderness? Surely the same principle applies to egress and entrance from the plane.

AVON: Orac, are you saying that the Doctor and the others fell at least twenty feet from the plane while believing they were walking down a flight of steps?

ORAC: Of course, Avon. Now please leave me alone, I want to know what Zac Efron is doing, and what Amy Whinehouse is getting up to today.

SERVALAN: But the Doctor and the others suffered no broken limbs?

AVON: It's simple, Servalan. Like Orac says, under deep hypnosis, the Doctor and company wouldn't even feel the pain of their fall. And we have to assume they clambered back up to the door later.

SERVALAN: Oh, I don't assume anything, Avon.

AVON: Read the final question, Servalan.

SERVALAN: This question is a very good one, Avon. I shall be sending one hundred million credits to Steven Jones of Southampton for asking it. It concerns John Smith and Professor Yana. He asks, "Why does it hurt so much to rewrite Time Lord biology and turn a Time Lord human, but it doesn't seem to hurt at all when they turn back into Time Lords again?"

AVON: I won't need Orac for that one, Servalan. The answer must be that the pain of transition comes when forcing Gallifreyan biology out of shape, against the grain as it were, into human form. When the process is reversed, the Time Lord is returning to his natural state. In fact, I would imagine the experience of reversal is, if anything, a pleasurable one.

SERVALAN: Oh Avon... just think what we could do with a transformation arch like the one in Doctor Who. Think of the power we could share.

AVON: I already have, Servalan, and sharing is a word that niether of us understands.

SERVALAN: What are you really doing here, Avon? Those wuestion are of no value to you or Blake. I would hate to think you'd been distracting me.

AVON: Think what you like, Servalan. I imagine that while I've kept you busy here, Blake and Jenna have taken what they wanted.

SERVALAN: The Federation's for Madeira cakes?

AVON: How did you know that?

SERVALAN: I wrote the recipe, Avon. The perfect trap. And Blake is back on the Liberator right now, in the kitchen, making up those very cakes.

AVON: Damn you, Servalan! What have you done?

SERVALAN: I neglected to add sugar to the list of ingredients, Avon. Blake's cakes will be perfect, but tasteless.

AVON: Cally, bring me up now!

(Avon teleports out.)

TRAVIS: Oh my head... what happened, Servalan?

SERVALAN: Oh Travis, you fool. Get up. Take a squadron of mutoids and a command ship and pursue the Liberator. Seek, locate and destroy those cakes!

Sorvad's excuse for this article: he has been eviscerated with a short, and VERY blunt, knife.

What I boggle at is that someone was paid to write that. It could have been me. Maybe... one day...