Sunday, October 31, 2010

Doctor Who - Life is a Cabernet

(warning: This is about as enjoyable as The Boy That Time Forgot)

Is that supposed to be Tom Baker? Get real.

Demon Quest II: The Demon of Paris

So, where were we? Eschewing anything we might recognize as "imagination" or "variety", the Doctor returns to Nest Cottage with his whinging bitch of a housekeeper, Mrs. Wibbsey to tinker with the TARDIS. Being not only thoroughly unpleasant, but also pig-ignorant and useless, Mrs. Wibbsey accidentally sells a vital part of the console at a cake sale in town - well, actually swaps them with a heap of stocking-fillers that our heroes must travel through time and identify in a wild goose chase until they ghastly miniseries is over.

After getting bushwhacked by Emperor Claudius and his generic unseen time meddling employers, the Doctor and Wibbsey are resigned to having to go through this tedious sub Key to Time bullshit in the vain hope that we might stumble across something halfway worth listening to. After all, Hornet's Nest dabbled with vaguely-decent material in its second and third installments, so my hopes are high even while my patience wears thin. But, heh, Paris? Demons? How could ANYONE screw that up? Everyone from the Ninja Turtles to the Doug Anthony Allstars have tried it and succeeded with flying colours, surely this can't fail to be enjoyable and entertaining?

...please don't let me have jinxed that.

Of course, the best way to get into the mood to enjoy a tale like this is not to listen to all the bits where Wibbsey goes out of her way to act like a completely miserable bitch - if you hate everything that much, top yourself you vulgar harlot! Dear god, why would anyone want to spend time with you, ya cow?! There's a reason the Fourth Doctor never traveled on TV with people this utterly irritating, you know!

Arriving in Paris (which is also the centre of the universe), the Doctor starts talking utter bullshit about how Oscar Wilde, the Prince of Wales and other non-copyrighted historical figures who we're clearly never going to see, talk to, or have any interest in are walking around silently not doing anything remotely interesting. Oh, THRILL as they chew chicken drumsticks! GASP as Wibbsey refuses to eat this foreign muck! YAWN as you realize that Tom Baker hasn't bothered to bring along any acting talent this week and it's just him trying to cram as much camp into every syllable! I'm beginning to wish Dave Segal was here, to give the material the gravitas it deserves...

After finding the original Lautrec poster on a wall, the duo gabble at each other about this probably being something important and then go to see the original artist - whereupon Wibbsey starts bitching that the Doctor's gone all moody. DOES NOTHING PLEASE YOU, WOMAN?!? The Doctor decides then decides that they haven't narrated enough tedious descriptions of Paris and wants to get drunk and dance, before a "wretched girl" running for her life bumps into them, and the Doctor immediately demands she get pissed - but not on absinthe! With Wibbsey bitching on and on and on AND SHUT THE FUCK UP, the girl "La Charlotte" takes them all to a cafe and practises her incredibly unconvincing French accent. It turns out the Doctor in his scarf and hat is getting regularly mistaken for the bloke in the poster, a Cabaret actor gone missing.

La Charlotte waffles on about mysterious disappearances of young girls, some French drunk demands the Doctor get a song, then tries to flirt with Wibbsey, claims Lautrec himself is the serial killer, then wanders off again. Whatever. "Dear Mr. Margrs, I have seen Talons of Weng Chiang and do not need you to try and rip it off. If you can't come up with anything decent, get someone else to write it. I'd rather Baker never returned to the role again than inflicted crap like this onto the unsuspecting public. You should be ashamed. Love, me. PS - what is all this bullshit about the Doctor speaking French when everyone else speaks English? TARDIS translation my ass!"

Finally our... heroes... decide to visit Lautrec himself and then La Charlotte runs away, presumably sick of being repeatedly called "wretched girl" in the pretentious narration. The Doctor barges into Lautrec's tower studio to find the place wrecked and Lautrec missing. For the first time there is the vaguest hint of tension: all the painting have been vandalized in such a way the portraits seem to be of people who have slashed their wrists, slit their throats or stabbed themselves through the heart. That should have been on the cover of the CD, it would make a difference.

Yes, evil is afoot, danger is in the night so... the Doctor and Wibbsey go to a cafe to have some food that will teach the palsied harridan that French people can actually make edible meals. Then they go to the Moulin Rouge. Sigh. Oh, a sleazy bit of Paris. Who gives a shit? Who cares if Lautrec lives or dies, let alone the regular cast? Nothing interesting, engaging or ENTERTAINING occurs, unless you find your soul somehow invigorated at hearing a description of someone watching some dancing girls dance. There are twenty-three tracks in this CD, I've listened to seven and a bit and am now considering giving up entirely before this turns into an outright rape-and-pillage of Vincent and the Doctor, what with a drunken depressive artist being connected to some alien monster killing young girls.

The Doctor barges up to Lautrec and demands to know why he did a version of his poster with the Doctor in it - and Lautrec correctly identifies it as very bad photoshop and doctoring, something the Doctor lamely admits he should have noticed himself. Oh, well, so Lautrec has nothing to do with this. Can we go now? "Go and be a detective," Lautrec sneers, "but don't bother me with your games." Here, here. Then he waffles about how he doesn't like being accused of being a serial killer. What, the audience needed to be TOLD this?!

OK... trying again. Damn my completist work ethic.

Finally sick of the Doctor (acting and behaving much more like Ruth Cracknell in Mother and Son rather than a Time Lord), Lautrec shouts to everybody that the Doctor is the missing cabaret poster guy, and thus all the rumors about the artist being cursed are unfounded. The Doctor, being a pathetic gutless tool who can't speak French, is forced by the crowds to sing, something which is apparently "horrifying" according to Mrs. Wibbsey. Oh good, just what the story needs - its excuse for a plot put in more wet cement while some shit-unfunny gags about the Doctor not being musical pad things out! FOR FUCK'S SAKE!


davidshaw: I'm afraid I was rather disappointed with this episode. I thought the pace was rather slow and the story lacked drama and incident. Also, there was much less humour. Basically, the general structure of this script was far too similar to the last one, especially the ending. It just seemed like a "filler" episode and the overall story was not really advanced at all. I really think they should use several writers to create more variety and pace.

saint mark: I found part 2 like part 1 in the end of the episode to preoccupied with the next tale enstead of making the story longer. The tale had no real shocking moments. So far I can honestly say that the last years Hornets Nest is being the superior of the two.

MLP*: The plot was rather perfunctory and the characters not very involving. It was also rather predictable. I wasn't thrilled that we are back to lengthy periods of narration either, even though the reader is different this time.

CaptainJ: Im SO wanting to enjoy these, this is MY Doctor.....but it isn't, it's Tom Baker camping up Tom Baker, and Paul Margs encouraging him. I sincerely hope Big Finish aren't as accomodating. If BBC Audiobooks gets a 3rd series, i doubt i'll be buying it. Im SO dissapointed...

amacca: It ran out of steam as there seemed a bit of padding.

Doctor Indiana Who: I found this a real struggle to get through, and I'm not entirely sure why. It just didn't compell me to carry on listening, and as awful as it sounds, I was actually rather relieved when it finished! I really did not like this one.

William Buchan: I seem to be in the minority here in liking this part.

FFS, Spara - The Next Generation?

No, actually this isn't about Sparacus, at least not directly. For poor old Mark G has lost his touch. Rabid followers like JPF, Smoking Jacket, Lunarsea and Mlock have all deserted him. Even LBC is a bit busy with his zionist rants about how "Aspies Must Rule", and the only active thread in the BC section is entitled "The Franchise is Dead" by McCarthy himself. Spara's latest thread was asking for Kate Bush - who did NOT write Kinda - to replace Amy Pond. Rickitt didn't even get a look in. Spara's blog is less updated than Mad Larry's...

But nature... and Outpost Gallifrey... abhor a vacuum.

Presenting the New Psycho Fan to take us into the next decade!


A prolific poster, he has gone absolutely fucking insane over Death of the Doctor, creating huge threads with a handful of vitriolic and self-contradictory posts the likes of which fankind has not witnessed since spara found himself trying to explain how Mickey could be a worthless unemployed chav when he was clearly shown on screen to have a paying job and be reading university textbooks (hah, "he stole them from some students to sell for drugs", yeah, that never went down well...)

But first, the opinion forum equivalent of a regeneration scene...

Following a rant from someone about Ben Chatham

What is this ungodly gibberish?

Trying to recruit Joshua Wynne

I just wondered - does GB discriminate against Aspie's?

NOTE: Thread immediately locked

On River Song being the Doctor's wife

The Doctor could not only marry, he could marry himself, if he was gay, only he isn't. Or herself.

On RTD adapting Doctor Who for the USA

What would it have been like? Amnesty International would have demanded assurances that it wasn't being used to extract confessions from inmates in Guantanamo Bay.

On Matt Smith

Everything I've wanted in a Doctor since the crushing disappointment I felt in January 1982 when the first episode of Castrovalva ended. A Doctor who looked the part, had the mannerisms, and the new born chick look that I think a new Doctor needs, but couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. Now Doctor Who has delivered!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


On discovering quite a few people think Peter Davison can act

Oh my goodness - I had no idea Davison was so highly regarded. I don't find him unwatchable or anything, like Colin Baker, but he's so bland he's almost not there, and consequently every story he's been in seems like a Doctor-lite episode to me.

However, perhaps I'm a little to blame for my perception of him, because when he was first cast I thought he'd be BRILLIANT!!!!!!! as I would have said then and I spent the whole year leading up to Castrovalva looking forward to him. starting. I think I mistakenly thought he was good in All Creatures Great and Small when actually it was Robert Hardy making him look good. Then he turned up in Who and it was like a wooden companion had received a battlefield promotion to the role of Doctor.

But in fairness, and because some people seem to think I'm attacking him personally, he does come across as a very nice man in his DVD extra interviews and I find them quite enjoyable.

Bringing this back to the Eleventh Hour, the one thing that shone through for me about Matt Smith's performance is not his acting ability, which is obviously present, but the fact that he's such a good 'leading man' - a quality pretty much impossible to define but you know it when you see it, which is why his CV includes acting opposite Billy Piper in a big, lavish Christmas drama. Davison became the Doctor after playing third male lead in a drama in which his relationship with Robert Hardy was distinctly similar to the kind of relationship a companion has with the Doctor - he was over-promoted basically. In the unlikely event that a moron like John Nathan Turner ever takes control of Doctor Who again let's hope they only go for a relative unknown that actually has, not only the acting chops but the ability to be an effective leading man.

The quality of Moffat's decision making is just superb to be able to pick someone reltively unknown like Matt Smith - a brilliantly calculated risk, and it's just a pleasure as a fan to be able to endorse this decision with my approval having lived through the 80's, when bad casting decision after bad casting decision was made, not to mention the RTD era where we had Eccleston - great, but with no commitment to the show - and Tennant - okay-ish but with a tendency to overplay certain emotions.

We've got YOUNG, FRESH, TALENTED and with STARDUST - this is the best time since the mid 70's to be a Doctor Who fan.

On The Eleventh Hour

The most wonderful, life-affirming writing and acting I've seen for a million yonks. I actually don't feel interested in any Doctor Who that came prior to tonight...IT'S A NEW SHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've just realised how boring it is to be a Doctor Who 'fan' and how very wonderful it is to just enjoy new episodes like normal people do.

On The Beast Below

Did anyone else have trouble understanding Liz Ten's 'Gor Blimey' accent? It was as if she'd had elocution lessons in reverse. What is this tendency for actors in Doctor Who to try and sound like Smithfield market porters? Thank goodness Matt Smith doesn't speak in an accent designed to suggest that he is a cabbie or was raised in the ghetto, which is a great relief after Tennant and Eccleston (though at least Eccleston enunciated his words clearly, despite his accent).

But Liz Ten was just silly, and her accent doesn't set a particularly good example to young children either.

I have this old fashioned prejudice in favour of people speaking properly, instead of trying hard to sound like they've been raised in the gutter. Being British I pay for Doctor Who, so I'm entitled to my opinion.

After I made my original post, praising Matt Smith, I groaned inwardly to hear him talk about something called 'orforitee' on Confidential.

On Doctor Who's youth appeal

I was listening to a group of five year olds at a party yesterday and none of them were talking about Doctor Who, they were talking about Total Wipeout. Is the new series as entertaining as Total Wipeout? I loved episodes 1 and 4, not so much 2 and 3, but something about it just isn't connecting with children; and certainly last night I decided not to watch it with my kid, and realised that even if it hadn't been too scary it would have been inaccessible. Which means next week it'll lose two viewers at its regular time, though I'll watch it later on iPlayer.

There's something about Matt Smith too which isn't connecting. He's a wonderful Doctor for grown ups, yet somehow he doesn't have that access to childhood which David Tennant had. Is he too aloof? Too Professorial? Do children like that in a hero or do they only want it in a supporting character?

This series has been really obviously following the Joseph Campbell Handbook - Refusal of the Call (Amy), The Belly of the Beast (The Star Whale), The Labyrinth (Maze of the Dead) and the homages to Star Wars show what Moff has been thinking about, but perhaps there should be more of Lucas (and RTD's) ruthless accessibility. Is it as immediately gratifying as Star Wars, RTD's tenure, or for that matter Total Wipeout, and should it be? I think so.

On Leela's tits

Oh God, thank you.

On the 1960s movies

So is Cushing's second Who film Break Dance 2: Electric Boogaloo?

On the classic series

I tend to take it for granted that Nu Who is better than the Classic series, but this has made me reconsider that assumption.

On the new series

How do the last five years of Doctor Who compare to the first six years? Has the new series achieved as much in the same length of time? I prefer nu Who to Classic Who, but one thing where it doesn't compare is in the creation of memorable, visually striking monsters with interesting back stories - great CGI and makeup is all very well (and welcome) but only the Weeping Angels really seem worthy of comparison to the early years of Classic Who when extraordinary monsters like the Daleks and Cybermen were being created. The Slitheen and Ood seem to sum it up for me - Zygon-lite and Robot (of Death)-lite.

I'll say it again, I love the new series, but where are the truly original monsters?

On RTD's portrayal of UNIT

The whole of that story was a massive insult against our military. Malvinas, my arse.

RTD hates the army, but the next time a foreign power threatens to invade Britain, I don't think the country will be turning to a tall gay Welsh scriptwriter to provide our last line of defence.

I expect RTD still regrets that he never got to write his story where the Doctor helps Neville Chamberlain to remain in power so that Britain can keep appeasing Hitler right up until the swastika is flying over the Houses of Parliament and Churchill has been shot by a Nazi firing squad.

A few minutes later

I've just realised that a comment I made two pages back might have been open to the interpretation that I'm somehow anti tall people, the welsh, or gay people. Not at all. I just wanted to say that my comment was intended only to be a factual description of Russell T Davies which didn't use his name, and that I'm in no way prejudiced against tall people, or xenophobic, or that I'm in any way homophobist as that WASN'T my intention at all. I'm tall myself, and if you dug down far enough I'm sure you'd find my family had roots outside England, and although I'm straight, I'm sure if I wasn't I'd be gay.

On the fact Smith's second year will be filmed in America

They're doing something that JNT wanted to do, and that's good, apparently.

Sorry, why is it so great that they're filming the programme in America? For one thing it's going to be expensive, and the programme is currently suffering from budget cuts, so why take money from the show just to make some supposedly eyecatching overseas episodes? I expect the rest of the season will look distinctly low budget as a result.

Secondly, two words - Miami Twice. That was a BBC programme where the idea of filming in America preceded the story, and it showed. I bet it will be the same here.

Third, why set it in America at all? I would rather watch episodes made in Britain. I can only assume this is designed to help raise the show's 'profile' in America. Sorry, why? Who cares if Americans like the show or not? It's doing very well here, if Americans want to watch it they can, if not, the programme makers shouldn't be going and chasing their business. I'm sure most licence fee payers - which in america numbers precisely zero - would rather see an episode set in some beautiful part of the United Kingdom. Cornwall, Devon, Kent, Yorkshire, Liverpool, Cumbria, Scotland - all British, all visually striking. Why the hell do I want to pay to see some place called Utah that I've barely heard of? I mean seriously, what's so ¤¤¤¤ing special about Utah that it couldn't be filmed here? Does it have some incredible unique landscapes or something that can't be found in Britain? I think not.

Fourth, will the story feature historical American characters? Mention of the oval office suggests it will. I would much rather that British schoolchildren learnt about historical characters from a stirring and heroic era of British history. That money could have paid for a story about a British composer like Elgar, or a writer like Chaucer, or a war hero like Douglas Bader or any of the Kings and Queens from our wonderful history.

Doctor Who is a British show, Americans are all very well, but I cannot for the life of me understand what makes it so essential to throw British licence payers money at them.

and another thing - Doctor Who stories set in America have a history of being terrible. The Gunfighters, The Movie, Daleks in Manhattan. Dalek is an exception, and that could have been set underneath anywhere. This isn't just coincidence - something about America is at odds with Doctor Who's uniquely British sensibility.

I'm not gripped by blind rage, actually, just reasoned argument. Why can't BBC America just send the money back to Britain to make more British episodes, why can they can only contribute to US set episodes? If you want to post a photo of Utah I'll take it under consideration.


Beautiful images, but do they really have to go there? A second unit would surely be enough. If they can recreate Mars in Britain I'm pretty sure Utah isn't beyond the production team given some background plates.

It's not really a question of being on a high horse. British television just doesn't translate well to an american setting, real or otherwise. It just doesn't. Given the choice I would therefore have preferred them to make UK based episodes.

IF the production team had access to an unlimited budget and/ or a time machine and/ or space ship then I would be interested to see how the series developed visually. But at present most episodes are filmed in the UK or countries close by and the programme evokes a distinctly British sensibility and suddenly crowbarring in a location shoot in America is jarring to me. Of course, if two thirds of next season is filmed on different continents then I might reassess my view. And no, this is not about anti-americanism as someone has already touchily suggested.

I don't think it does much for the show's reputation to film in a place where people are executed by firing squads. Unless that's what the story is about.

I'd feel the same if they filmed it in any country that is so enthusiastic about the death penalty. It's not just the company you keep which is important, it's the places you go. Frankly, I don't think they should have gone to Dubai. Why wouldn't you want to be annoyed that licence payers cash went into the local economy of a country with the death penalty? I hadn't thought of this when I made my original post, but when someone jokingly suggested that maybe I'd like steven moffatt to be horribly killed I checked to see what Utah do, and guess what, they employ firing squads!

The BBC is planning to put licence fee payers money into the local economy of a place that basically comes under the heading of 'barbaric' for at least a significant proportion of British people. I think that's quite on-topic. I seem to be even more disgusted now then I was when I made the original post!

Is it not clear from what I've said that I'm not anti-american and that what I've written isn't motivated by anti-americanism? The death penalty aside I have no unfavourable opinion of america, and perhaps if I ever went there I might find it very pleasant. However, I think setting two episodes there is an unecessary expense and I suspect those two episodes will look odd set alongside the rest of the series.

I'm sure america is a nice place, apart from the guns and the executing retarded people for political gain, I just don't want Doctor Who filmed there. I'd feel the same about Australia, China, South Africa or anywhere much beyond the British Isles that didn't look like Britain. And I think it's okay to hold that point of view.

I'm just putting the cocoa on hold to answer this, and then I really am going to bed. For the last time, I've not attacked America or suggested that it's the same as Nazi Germany as this poster seems to think. I have no opinion of that sort. I just object to filming an episode there for the reasons given in my OP plus the fact that Utah has the death penalty and shot someone this year, and my licence fee will be paying for that.

Perhaps the Americans here would like to ask themselves what their response would be if I, a British subject, started telling them how their tax dollars should be spent? Or telling them not to comment on same? Well, I am a licence fee payer and I object to the production money going into the local economy of a state that shoots people.

Matt Smith's Doctor needs to pack a gun.

On the fact the mods dubbed him "racist" and locked this thread of "drivel"

It wasn't a racist rant, your post is a rant.

I'm so annoyed that my thread about filming in America got hijacked by loonies and closed. All I have to add to that particular discussion is that events will prove me right.

On The Deadly Assassin

There is no regeneration limit, it's just some nonsense that someone wrote in the seventies. Completely meaningless. Continuity is dead.

On Death of the Doctor

I have just watched 'Death of the Doctor'. Death of the Doctor indeed.

Sorry, is everyone alright with this, then? I mean no regeneration limit? With a stroke of his pen RTD has destroyed one of the most sacred tenets of Continuity. Is everyone now happy to gorge themselves on Doctor Who till Judgement Day regardless of internal logic, regardless of what this does to the character of the Doctor? We may as well have cliffhangers resolved now by the Doctor growing wings and flying away from his enemies. And as for poor Robert Holmes, who wrote better for the show than anyone, this is nothing less than an unnatural act committed against his memory. Never mind that RTD has written numerous episodes attacking the concept of eternal life - a thinly veiled attack on religion no doubt - when it suits him he's happy to immortalise the Doctor on a whim. Is this not a betrayal of the original show? We were told that the Doctor could regenerate 12 times. Sticking to this limit does not merely have the virtue of consistency - an obvious virtue, most five year olds prefer drama to be internally consistent rather than otherwise - it also has dramatic integrity. A Doctor who knows his days are numbered will be a more sombre, reflective figure. There is more scope for tragedy in the eventual denouement. And there is a clear moral dividing line between him and the Master.

So for God's sake let the Doctor accept his end and let the show also end, magnificently, triumphantly, after the thirteenth Doctor dies. That's not to say we couldn't one day see earlier incarnations again - with CGI and todays electronic trickery all kinds of things are possible. Perhaps we might see the earlier Doctors returning in new adventures - perhaps the show itself might undergo a kind of backwards regeneration to the glories of the classic show, when it was not merely a lurid entertainment but a haunting discursus on the importance of science, solitude and the transformational power of logic. Only the most undemanding will be content to see a Fourteenth Doctor - the rest of us will have our stomachs turned. Please, please, let this be the last time the show is mutilated in this way. The jackal has feasted, we must unite to prevent it from returning to drink our blood. I'm not just angry, I'm boiling mad.

But the way the show ends is important, the way any drama ends is important, and it won't feel like an ending if the Doctor regenrates.

I ought not to be, but once again I am astonished that someone can be attacked and vilified for expressing their opinion. For God's sake, are views not allowed anymore? Truly the forum, like Saturn, is eating its own babies, and yet, if I am alone, I am proud to be alone, because I believe I am alone but right - right about this betrayal, right about the permanent and damaging effect on the programme. Right for not saying, isn't everything jolly good in Doctor Who land, let's not have any strong opinions on anything, la la la la la, right, not for showing complacency and indifference, which really are damaging, but right for saying, look, and really look, the programme is in danger, its inner truth is being compromised and not only is its future in danger, but RTD is threatening its past as well by rewriting something that is fundamental to it, and this is an absolute bloody insult to those of us who have watched it for decades and decades and now find it is NOT the programme we believed it to be and not just to us but to the many creators who toiled to put it in front of children every Saturday teatime, it is an insult to them, to Sidney Newman, Verity Lambert, David Whittaker, Barry Letts, Robert Holmes, Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke, Philip Hinchcliffe, Douglas Adams, William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Terry Nation, tom Baker, Christopher H Bidmeand, and most importantly to all those little children down the years, guess what, we took your faith in the Doctor and shoved it up your arses, you stupid little idiots you should have been watching bloody Superman or something because he can't die and neither can the Doctor, and oh look, his planet was destroyed and so was the Doctor's, what a shame the Doctor isn't even more like Superman, because let's face it this is only going in one bloody direction and I think we all know where that is, though God knows we mustn't talk about it. I feel like a man who's been carefully saving Green Shields stamps for decades, has taken them down to Argos to redeem them for an electrical item, and been peremptorily told that the scheme has ended. One line, just like that, bang. Every threat, every story, every cliffhanger, everything is now nothing. It's a bloody disgrace.

It is probably too late anyway. I have no doubt that one day soon we'll all wake up to find the Doctor wearing body armour (sorry, 'armor'), driving a large ugly car, and being told by his companions that he shouldn't be such a maverick, even if he does get results. Darkness has fallen. Don't say I didn't warn you.

On the destruction of all creation

Now don't get me wrong, in the normal course of things I'm all in favour of the continued existence of the universe - yeaay for the universe! - but I find it very difficult to get involved in a drama that hinges around the prospect of its imminent destruction, as happened in series 5 and will probably happen in series 6. For one thing, it's not much of a character, for another we don't see much of it during the series - mostly just earth in fact - so when it's suddenly tied to a railway line at the end of each series, I tend to think 'eh, what?'

There's no emotional involvement on my part, no identification, and besides, when I look out of the window, there it is, large and infinite and comfortingly 'there'. The same thing, to a certain extent, goes for the earth. What's that you say? The earth's in danger? No it isn't - I just rang up for a curry and had no problems placing the call and getting it delivered. Likewise history - don't tell me the whole of history of the earth is about to be altered - it isn't, because time travel isn't possible in reality. But what is possible is for a particular individual or group to be threatened with destruction (because that happens in the real world) and to be so likeable that I care about their demise.

I know we won't see a series that hinges around the fate of a single character, because in Doctor Who, like the James Bond films, the stakes have to be reasonably high. But surely what we need is to be made to care about a particular fictional planet, or group of characters, or civilisation, perhaps via repeated appearances or references in the series. The Ood would be perfect - a finale where the Doctor saved them from extinction, after a series where we had come to appreciate their unique contribution to the beauty of the universe - that would excite me. But putting the universe in peril is a bit like someone ringing me and saying 'I'm looking for everything, do you know where it is? Because if I don't find it something terrible might happen.' I mean, where would you start and how would you make yourself care?

When someone suggested he might be wrong about something

Go on then, astonish me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Doctor Who - Not Quite Six Feet Under


Turned the tables with our unity
They're neither moral nor majority
Wake up and smell the coffee!
Or just say "no" to individuality...

When we pretend that we're dead! When we pretend that we're dead!
They can't hear a word we said when we pretend that we're dead!

Torchwood really is the secret shame of the Whoniverse, isn't it? I mean, it's almost pitiful the way the franchise is being kept in a state of almost perpetual torment by those who purport to actually like it. Torchwood Magazine has folded - once it became clear Ianto wasn't coming back, the readership abandoned it in droves, leaving a mishmash of rather lame comic strips and increasingly bitchy comments from RTD (who out-and-out admits he despised the "21st century" monologue at the start of episodes and that the whole premise wasn't what he wanted for the show). Even worse, DWM has made it quite clear that the hallowed Who mag isn't going to lift a finger to help Torchwood, while at the same time producing whole issues for SJA!

Give RTD the chance to write for Torchwood and what does he do? Literally destroy the franchise, kill one of the major characters, lands another with a baby and has the other flee the show and vow never to return. In a story that has the audience identification figure saying that the Doctor would never turn up because he "turns away in shame" at the events of this spin-off.

Give RTD the chance to write for The Sarah Jane Adventures and what does he do? He has the Doctor guest-star in it. With UNIT. And Jo Grant. And the Graske. JUST to give the ratings a kick to keep it going over the mid-season hump. I'm sorry, is there ANY subtext left to my "disowning" argument any more? That's the equivalent of buying your favorite niece an inflatable castle for her birthday, and then kicking your cousin downstairs, then breaking his legs, injecting him with cholera and then posting him (third class) to the dude from the Saw franchise.

So... what has been happening in Bannerman Road since the Tenth Doctor gatecrashed the Trickster trilogy like Graham Chapman shouting "Right, this start out as a nice little saga about a godlike demon tricking small children, but now it's gone all wanky!"

Well, not much if we're honest. SJ still hangs around her Gabriel-Chase-style home, using her Mr. Smith computer to sabotage Mars robot probes before they encounter any pyramids. Rani Chandrah still lives across the road, struggling to find a third dimension even though she's been in three times as many episodes as Maria along with her 'take them to The Good Life and have them shot' retarded parents. Clive Langer is still giving his David McGhan style monologues at the start of the episode.

But what's this? Luke Smith is gone - the navel-less nerd has stolen a car and hauled ass to Oxford with K9 to enjoy a wild life of partying awesomeness that is clearly too adult and sophisticated for either this kid's show or Torchwood. (BTW, that has to be the first time any K9 has chosen to hang around a male smartarse than head off with the fittest chick he can get like Leela, Romana, Sarah... hell, even Susie-Jo in the DWADs! Mind you, would anyone choose the David Segal Doctor over a redhead supermodel? Or indeed anyone?) This I did regret, as the relationship between K9 and Mr. Smith had evolved from the initial Orac and Zen to Stewie and Brian. Ironic, what with Stewie not actually being a dog...

However, this is the heady world of the 21st century where everything changes and everyone discovers bissexuality... oh, wait, no they don't! INYERFACE, TORCHWOOD! Anyway, my point was that with the magical powers of the interweb, shoving a character onto a bus won't keep them away. Luke may be dealing with the naughtiness of Oxford, but he makes cameos in each story via his mighty K9-shaped webcam, having mastered the art of irony, satire and imitation. So if anyone finds the opening scene where he winds up Clyde to be rather unfunny, it's really something need to be seen in context. It's so out of character, you'd be forgiven for expecting SJ to go "My son now has a sense of humor! EVIL IS AFOOT!"

But, no, not today as 13 Bannerman Rd is now surrounded by a UNIT swat team who have but one thing to say to their rogue agent... (Um, yeah. SJ was a member of UNIT all along, even before she met the Doctor. It makes surprising sense. Ahem.)

"The Doctor's dead!"

It's just one of those odd coincidences that makes you wonder what the hell is going on with the "quality control" that stops Big Finish doing stories that are going to be done on TV - the latest release was A Death in the Family, where the Seventh Doctor is apparently killed on Earth and Ace and Hex team up with Evelyn Smythe to discover the truth in London with lots of UNIT action and a Buffyverse-style villain... This is sounding far too similar and I haven't even got past the opening credits yet!

Handling the news surprisingly well (certainly in comparison to the last couple of times she was sobbing over Tennant), SJ is nevertheless suspicious about a bunch of intergalactic celebrity undertakers who just happened to come across the Lonely God's corpse 100 light years away without any sign of the TARDIS. The fact they look like very unconvincing giant animatronic vultures doesn't help. Ah, pointles animal monsters - Rusty, I... haven't really missed that particular aspect of yours at all, if I'm honest.

The rubbish puppetry immediately makes SJ suspect a trap but, still struggling to show an identity, Rani tells her off for judging an alien on its incredibly cheap and unconvincing appearance. Oh, you go girl. Then she goes home to emote over her dad (since he's much more convincing as a human being than her mother, who acts like a nun with perpetual concussion and calls everyone "my darling"). I still prefer Maria, though. And NOT just because she's willing to get naked into a bath with Emma Watson. No. That's completely coincidental... Why am I even denying this?

Ahem. Replacing the increasingly pointless Magambo as UNIT liason is Hispanic Babe. She has a proper name, but it's hard to hear and I never said you should come to this blog for detailed info. What the hell is wikipedia for?! Anyway, HB invites SJ and her posse to UNIT HQ... mind you, thanks to all them damn alien invasions, the only one still working is buried in Mt. Snowden beneath all the tourist resorts and Vinvocci crap scattered down the hill. Clearly the idea of reusing a monster painted a different colour appeals to RTD, so just as Zocci have Vinvocci, the Graske has the Groske, who even get worked up in the exact same way when they get mistaken for the other aliens. Hmm, it's actually the same joke as the Absorbaloff and the Slitheen actually... oh well, as recycling goes, it's not as bad as the last DW/SJ crossover. Right, Gareth?

SJ isn't stupid and knows that even RTD isn't so bitter and twisted he'd fuck up Moff's masterplan, but to everyone else appears so firmly in denial that even her nakama are calling her batshit crazy. Clyde meanwhile is slightly worried about the disturbing thing happening to his palm... what? No, get your mind out of the gutter! He's still glowing and sparking from that high-five he gave the TARDIS last time obviously! You filthy readers you...

UNIT intends to give the Doctor the same treatment as Scotty from Star Trek and strap his body to a rocket and fire it into space. That, the closed coffin that no one is allowed to look in because apparently the Doctor has been reduced to some zombie entrails saving lots of little orphans, makes SJ suspicious. And sad. Well, borderline hysterical, anyway. Then the LSD flashbacks kick in, giving us the three-second clips of the Third, Fourth and Tenth Doctors that we expect, nay demand. I was expecting RTD to crack and shove in some Five Doctors footage though...

The turnout for the Doctor's funeral is pretty pathetic... though slightly MORE dignified than Mad Larry's "bury him over a dead dog and then fire a nuke" method. The Brigadier ain't leaving the crazy shit of Peru, Liz Shaw is on the moon (hah! In your FACE, New Adventures!), and clearly some kind of quality embargo is stopping Mike "Asshole" Yates from getting anywhere near the place. As for the others? Ian and Barbara are probably dead by now, no one remembers Dodo, Ben and Polly are probably too busy being awesome, Victoria's not allowed near UNIT without an escort and an exorcist, Tegan's dead by now, no one can agree what happened to Ace, and Grace wasn't even invited! It's just some non-descript old soldiers who don't have any dialogue. Darn. I have to admit I was kinda hoping for John Benton to gatecrash it and scream things like "WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW, PRIEST?!?" a lot before trying to pull Rani.

But don't worry, there's plenty of embarrassment as Jo Jones-nee-Grant pops by with her grandson Santiago (played by a hunk who probably has countless drooling emails written by RTD), immediately starts tripping over things, breaking others, calling everyone "babe", and frankly acting in such a manner I'm honestly not sure if its supposed to be Jo or just Katy Manning in an outtake. Having met her a few times, I can honestly say she's like that in public. How does Barry Crocker cope? Oh wait, I forgot: I don't care. On with the motley.

Those expecting some kind of girl fight ala Sarah and Rose or some secret women's business like Donna and Martha (so, basically EVERYONE, right?) will be surprised when the first thing Jo does to her successor is... kiss her. A lot. While telling SJ how beautiful she is. I swear, if this scene was done back in the 70s it would be the sci-fi equivalent of... I dunno. Some epic porno. No doubt the fact that both ladies are now in their 60s won't stop certain fans getting uncontrollably aroused at the sight, but I can safely say I was not one of them. SJ's awkward "OK, how to tell her I'm straight" expression is hilarious though.

Jo cheerfully babbles on about her hormone-fueled years at UNIT and her even more hormone-fueled years afterwards (she's got SEVEN kids and TWELVE AND A HALF grandchildren - it's only her clan's eco-warrior lifestyle that's stopping them breeding out the human race!), making SJ feel a bit of a prude in comparison, especially when Jo assumes that the lack of boyfriend means SJ is "playing the field". "Good on ya, girl!" Jo drawls in an American accent. No jokes, I honestly can't quite convey how freaking awesome this is, and full fist to RTD for not having Jo the broken-hearted cynical spinster that the books all tried to sell us and give us the two-tortillas-short-of-a-picnic party girl we wanted! GO YOU GOOD THING!

Oh, and revelation that Jo recently handcuffed herself to Robert Mugabe as a protest?

You recieve MAN OF FIST!!

Alas, RTD is nothing if not a bastard and immediately stabs a knife into this zany les yay fest - Jo is DEVASTATED (and that word justifies the capitals) when she finds out that the Doctor came back for Sarah. But not her. Especially since she kept writing him letters and stuff. "He must really have liked you..." she sighs, tears filling her eyes.

Cue more cuddles and what my dad would affectionately term "double bumpers".

While Clyde, Rani and Santiago go on the prowl for the Groske (who seem to know why Clyde's glowing with artron energy) the Shansheeth vulture dudes prove as dodgy as they always were going to be, intending to harvest the memories of the Doctor from "the wise women of the tribe" who are both convinced he's still alive. Armed with a harp... OK... and unwittingly our heroines provide. Jo recalls that prequel to Timelash no one is brave enough to write, SJ thinks of The Masque of Mandragora (oddly enough leaving out the fact it spawned a doomsday cult lead by Servalan and Travis... are you saying that BF saga wasn't canon, RTD?!) and of course they have to swap stories about Peladon and Aggedor. It's just the right side of fanwank, since they could be completely new anecdotes for all it matters - and anyway they happen to link to stories already out on DVD for newbies to watch. Oh, the big Welshman is indeed a towerin' intelligence...

The kids overhear the Shansheeth plotting evilly to suck SJ and Jo's brains clean, leading to an inevitable chase through air vents and suddenly Clyde is seemingly possessed by an evil from the dawn of time... no, wait, it's the Eleventh Doctor, who is using the "artron stain" to body-swap, dropping the Time Lord in UNIT HQ and leaving Clyde in a quarry on the other side of the galaxy. He's also wearing an eye-searingly white shirt and his floppy forelocks are flipped backwards, making him look more like Christopher Isherwood than Christopher Eccleston Twice Removed. Oh, well, you can't have everything, can you?

While Rani's mind shatters like glass at seeing the new Doctor, SJ is relieved to see him alive while Jo isn't exactly impressed. She knows about regeneration, but doesn't buy the Doctor can turn "into a baby". The Doctor cheerfully retorts that Jo looks like "someone's baked her" since they last met some forty years prior. But before things can get serious, the space vultures arrive and then zap the Doctor with their evil red CGI lightning and in a tribute to the Pertwee era, Matt Smith gurns like his skeleton's being forcibly removed through his nostrils. It goes on a little bit too long for the cliffhanger to work, but presumably they're stringing this appearance by Smith in order to legally claim it isn't a mere cameo, like last year with David Whatisname...

Onto part two! "Come along, Smith!"

Flipping back and forth between Clyde Lord and Time Lord, our heroes make a... rather unimaginate escape, of running slightly further up the corridor and closing a door after them. Oh well, the climax of The Wheel in Space is absolutely identical, so can I complain? Probably, knowing me. Points, though, for the Doctor opening said door to apologize to his pursuers for the rudeness of slamming the door in their faces, before slamming it in their faces once again.

Using the mighty powers of reverse-canonicity, the Doctor returns to quarry planet with the only two regulars in the room (that's Sarah and Jo... please tell me you hadn't forgotten that...) and they all marvel at being allowed to be on another planet. Unique for the SJAs, and still pretty special for DW if we're honest. The fact this alien world is based on the exact same principal as the Cheetah Planet in Survival - some CGI moons above a sand pit - do make me boggle that if the 2010 audience can swallow 1989 alien worlds, just why the hell couldn't we have done this sooner? Look me in the eye and tell me that stories like Fear Her wouldn't have worked better on alien planets! You can't, can you!

Back on Earth, Rani concludes that UNIT Babe is actually evil - a brilliant deduction slightly undermined by the fact that said evil Babe is right outside their room, overhears their deductions and decides to stop pretending being in any way subtle or deceptive and just get More Dakka on the arses of "two batty pensioners and a bunch of ASBO kids"! Blimey, are there ANY non-evil UNIT commanders nowadays? The only ones we know of are all mysterious absent or in Peru! What's wrong, Rusty, can't you vent all your cynacism into Torchwood any more?

No sooner has evil UNIT Babe sealed off the base, trapping Rani, Clyde and Santiago with no chance of escape when... well, they escape. They have the help of the pesky Groske (TM Patent Applied For) and escape through the Anderson Tubes (ventilation shafts to the plebs) and Clyde and Rani fight down their own rising sexual tension by being forced to look at each other's bums for long periods of time. Right. Brings back memories of The Satan Pit (which we now know RTD wrote) and feels no more wholesome. Thank god no one's crapping themselves with terror this time...

Onto deeper territory as the Doctor and SJ start rewiring some macguffin that allows them to swap places with Clyde. "That last body of yours," SJ asks eventually, seemingly aware of the whole 'death-of-self' business. "Was he all right? Did it hurt? Regenerating?" The Doctor pretends to be really, really interested in wiring the gizmo. "It always hurts," he mutters.

But the heartache doesn't stop there. Jo's numb at the realization the Doctor let a couple of Leadworth sweethearts travel with him when they got married - she never thought her and Cliff would be allowed on the TARDIS. Or did she not meet the "only takes the best" bullshit? In The Green Death, the Doctor promised to see her again, and seemingly six months later changed his face, quit his job and left no forwarding address: kinda suggests they weren't as close friends as she thought.

The Doctor is for once rendered mute. "Did you think I was stupid?" Jo asks quietly. "I was a bit dumb. Still am, I suppose..."

"Oh, you're an idiot," the Doctor agrees. "Don't you see? How could I ever find you?! You've spent the past forty years living in huts, climbing up trees, tearing down barricades! You've done everything from flying kites on top of Kilamanjaro to sailing down the Yangtzee in a tea chest! Not even the TARDIS could pin you down!"

Turns out the Doctor's kept an eye on his little blonde friend's past present and future - hmmm, was that perhaps the reason the Fourth Doctor got so sick of UNIT? Mmm. Maybe not... - even knowing that Jo's unborn grandson will be a dyslexic world-class swimmer! "I don't look back," he tells her. "I can't. But the last time I was dying, I looked back on all of you. Every single one. And I was so proud."

(What? Even Adam?)

SJ at this point blows a whistle and tells everyone to stop fanwanking. No, seriously, honest-to-God, that's what she does.

But now some background. The Doctor dumped Amy and Rory on a Honeymoon Planet (the actual planet has just married an asteroid) and was kicking back on quarry planet, admiring all the smashed up spaceships and stuff when the unconvincing vulture people ambushed him, nicked his TARDIS and screwdriver and... If only this macguffin could work! Oh wait, some of that new age candle oil crap Jo's peddling will be just perfect to fuel it! YAY! Our heroes zap into the ventilation shafts to find out what's happened to the others...

Speaking of which, the Groske has revealed his cunning plan: hide in a broom cupboard and chow down on some Jubilee Pizza. Cowabunga. While Santiago bitches that his family is so busy fighting the good fight across his globe, he hasn't seen his parents for almost a year, "the Brady Bunch" are sealed off in a room that then turns red hot! Groske reveals his second cunning plan: "We die like rotissary!"

But UNIT Babe isn't some retarded evil genius - knowing the Doctor can easily safe our under-twenties (snigger) heroes, but will be distracted long enough for the vulture Shansheeth to catch "the staggeringly pious" Jo and SJ and suck out their memories! Specifically the memory of the TARDIS key, which will allow the Shansheeth to somehow break into the police box and make mischief!

Never fear, as SJ and Jo unleash the mighty youtube clipshow - and Doctor Who from 1971-77 is just too damned much for the Shansheeth naughtiness, and add together clips from the previous SJA seasons and the vulture dudes are well and truly fucked! Unfortunately, so are our heroines, as RTD pulls out his famous "loved ones trapped on the other side of the door facing fatal death" that has been his stock in trade from The End of the World until, er, The End of Time. But this time he's able to avoid any hideous sacrifices, dues ex machinas and our heroes are able to survive using a plot point cunningly and convincingly stated earlier on in the show. For a change. As the Doctor notes, "That's so neat, I could write a thesis!"

UNIT babe and the Shansheeth get nuked, however, leaving nothing but soot, flames and the smells of "cooked chicken". Oh well. What a pity. Never mind.

However, the slightly sapphic subtext refuses to go away as Jo and SJ are found snuggled up to each other. Basically all it needed was for SJ to announce hastily that they were "just... studying" for this to be complete.

One TARDIS trip to Bannerman Rd (where Mr. Smith has to explain to the audience that not ALL vulture aliens are evil and the ones in this program were highly unusual and should under no circumstances be used as a stereotype for evil vulture aliens), Jo says the TARDIS smells the same despite the rebuild and unfortunately drops a brick into the conversation. Hey, fair dos, how was she to know there was a freaking Time War? There's then a bit about "the universe shiverring" if the Doctor were ever to die, which sounds to my ears like a bitchslap to Moff's God Sue Doc. Or possibly just RTD taking the piss about something else.

The Doctor leaves to pick up Amy and Rory... his TARDIS seemingly taking off in a rather odd way, like in the 60s when they played the wrong noise... and Jo immediately starts flirting with the kids. Not as creepy as it sounds. Then, after one last cuddle with SJ, tells her point blank to "find herself a fellah" and heads off to Norway in a hovercraft with Santiago in tow.

The story ends with Sarah revealing that sometimes she idly googles "tardis" and has found Tegan in Australia (...hmmm, guess her French boytoy got her cured somehow... and turned her away from running a fertilizer factory in Brisbane to fighting for Native Title claims... hang on, maybe it's a different Tegan...); Ben and Polly in India running an orphanage (hah! I knew they'd get it together!); Harry's dead (seemingly in 2004, since he was in UNIT helping Silurians fight the zombie apocalypse); and as for Ace... or maybe Dodo... she runs some famine relief company (not sure where this going AT ALL); and Ian and Barbara are professors in Cambridge (they'd be pushing 90 by now, surely? Oh wait, they "never aged since the 60s", which is good enough for me). Yet Sarah's totally in the dark about Martha and Mickey for some reason...

Next week, it's The Quiet Earth for pre-teens as Clyde and Rani become the only human beings on the planet and will presumably get to work repopulating it ASAP!

Well, RTD's first full-blown script for the series is pretty darn good all things considered. He gets all the characters right, and his 'get stuffed' attitude to all the spin-offs where companions were left hideously damaged people with no real lives feels oddly mature rather than emo goth wank of yesteryear (compare with Good Companions with the Merlin Doctor and Tegan, an unrelenting NA angst fest). I wasn't sure I liked the motivations of the villains, as they were all seemingly good people turned evil by loss - Hispanic Babe had "nothing left on Earth any more" and the Shansheeth were sick of burying people, which is hard when you're an undertaker. And the Groske... seriously, was there a point to him? Apart from spookily predicting the cliffhanger he spent the whole story either cracking one liners or sitting in a corner. Isn't that Mr. Smith's job?

In other news, the Doctor's regeneration cycle is actualy 39 times more than previously stated. Didn't I say they changed the limit? As far back as 2006 I was saying that! Look at my guide for Journey's End!

Oh, Rusty, you done it again!

Monday, October 18, 2010

YOA & The Home Invasion pt 2


An Asian groceries store. Wynona is parked outside. Within, Andrew is looking through the herbs and spices racks while Nigel is arguing with the shop assistant in Japanese. Their words are //subtitled//.

ASSISTANT: //For the last time, sir, there is no Pizza Hut in the area! No Pizza Hut, no Pizza Geronimo, no Dominos, no Jubilee, no Cyclops.//

NIGEL: //No Italian takeaways at all? What is this? Are you telling me Pauline Hansen's Asian invasion was real?! This is the only shop bar the newsagent - there isn't even a Vietnamese bread shop to get pork rolls!//

ASSISTANT: //There is little demand for it, there are few people who live out here.//

NIGEL: //So you're telling me that apart from trains and a canal, this tiny patch of shops - one of which is a shut down scuba diving retailer - is all this sneeze on Google Maps has to offer?//

ASSISTANT: //You can always try the TAB. There are Italians there.//

NIGEL: //Oh? What sort of Italians?//

ASSISTANT: //Mafia, mainly, sir. They are quite friendly.//

NIGEL: //So where's the TAB?//

ASSISTANT: //Further down the lane, sir. Between the Elephant graveyard and the haunted tree sanctuary. If you see the gravel quarry, you've gone too far.//


ASSISTANT: //Oh, no. That's just a nickname. We don't know what half those skeletons are from. They could be elephants, they could be anything.//

NIGEL: //What's the name of this street, again?//

ASSISTANT: //Vampyre Lane, sir.//

ANDREW: //You know, Nige, I think we might have been better off in the inner city.//

Nigel nods, then double takes.

NIGEL: You can speak Japanese?!

ANDREW: No. Not a word. Why?


Dave is still sitting on the sofa, feet resting on the intruder's hand, impatiently shaking his mobile, which is attached to a charger. Eve is timidly examining the pot of rice.

DAVE: Come on, come on...

EVE: How did you let your phone battery get so flat?

DAVE: Our last neighbor liked playing with the electrics. After the third shock trying to get the bastard to charge, I decided it wasn't worth the hassle.

EVE: And your neighbour was actually your boss.

DAVE: Uhhuh.

EVE: And he also tried to blow you all up with a bomb.

DAVE: Yeah. But, you know, it was that kind of relationship.

EVE: the rice supposed to be this gooey?

DAVE: [shrugs] Beats me, I'm not the cook.

He rises and crosses to join her examining the rice. On the floor, the hand shakes itself painfully and retreats under the sofa. Dave scoops up a spoonful of white sludge.

DAVE: Yep. A bit overcooked.

EVE: You think Andrew'll be cross?

DAVE: Knowing Andrew, he'll probably have completely forgotten what it was supposed to be.


As before.

ANDREW: So, how come the tree sanctuary is haunted then?

NIGEL: Weren't we supposed to be buying some herbs or something?

ANDREW: Not now, Nige, grown-ups talking. [to assistant] Well? What's wrong with a patch of designated woodland?

In the background, Nigel rolls his eyes, walks off, snatches a loaf of bread, takes it to the counter, opens it and then starts adding random crap from around the shop - slices of bacon, cheese, some salad sauce, and makes a sandwich. Andrew for his part is fascinated by the assistant's tale...

ASSISTANT: It's a terrible place. The first thing you see are makeshift nooses from the tree, and there are patches of the ground literally buried in water bottles and empty packets of pills. Sometimes there are other things. Handbags, brushes, little possessions people took... You know, after the election they put up huge signs saying things like "YOUR FAMILY LOVES YOU" and "THINK AGAIN". But most of them now have decaying corpses hanging from them... they rot from the head down, you know? Still skin on the arms but not the skull... Slumped against trees. Tongues black. Sometimes limbs have dropped off and disappeared. The worst ones are the ones in their little tents. Just bones. Have you ever seen a skull picked clean, with moss starting to grow on it? The bones glow green in the moonlight...

NIGEL: So, do you bullshit ALL your customers like this?

ASSISTANT: This is no bullshit, sir! That tree sanctuary is infamous - many people lose their way in that place and never return, and they aren't going there to commit suicide...


ASSISTANT: Yes! The trees are incredibly dense and hard to navigate...

NIGEL: [completing the sentence] And compasses don't work there. At all.

ASSISTANT: Er... yes...

NIGEL: You haven't met anyone who's been to Mount Fuji then?

The assistant cringes slightly.

NIGEL: Or Aokigahara forest? THE Japanese hotspot for suicides? In fact, globally, it's second only the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco for sad tossers to throw themselves off. Got an average of 30 people a year, but can be as high as 70. Any of this ringing bells?

ASSISTANT: [slightly shamefaced] There may be some slight similarity.

ANDREW: Poofeldust!

Nigel takes the sandwich and bites it.

NIGEL: Tell you what, buster, we'll take these goods in lieu of the downright lies you've been telling us. No wonder you don't get many customers...

ASSISTANT: It's not what you think!

ANDREW: You don't want to KNOW what I think. Let's just say involves a phone, the police, and incarceration in a mental asylum.

ASSISTANT: It IS haunted!

NIGEL: Look, you bush pig, if ghosts are real then EVERYWHERE is haunted, isn't it?

Andrew and Nigel head out of the shop, taking their not-quite purchases with them.

NIGEL: You don't get this crap at City Convenience stores, do you?

ANDREW: No, you get a working ATM as well...

ASSISTANT: [to himself] You'll come back. [shouts] THEY ALWAYS COME BACK!

ANDREW: [vo] Name one!



Dave angrilly hangs up. Eve stands next to him.

DAVE: Cost him a fortune to install a carphone and what does he do? Leaves it off the hook! [sighs] Guess we'll just have to use the CCTV before we let them in. Of course we could just call the police, but I'm not sure I'll live long enough before they... [frowns] You all right?

Eve nods towards the patio. Dave turns.

DAVE: [startled] Jeez!

Standing outside the windows is the teenage girl, now wearing a very fake plastic skull mask held on by a rubber band. She stares at them. Dave calms down and, rather awkwardly, waves. The girl waves back then resumes staring at them.

DAVE: There really isn't much to do in this town, is there?

GIRL: [muffled] Is Larisa in?

DAVE: [loudly] You already did this house! Your disguise may be VERY sophisticated, but I still remember you. Try the other side of the railway line!

He smiles and mutters under his breath.

DAVE: You're sure she can't get in?

EVE: Hell no. Reinforced plexi-glass. Bullet proof. It'd take ages to cut through with diamonds. Why is she just... staring at us?

DAVE: She really, REALLY wants to come inside. [beat] I'm glad Nigel wasn't here. There's only so many double entendres you can cope with per day.

EVE: I don't like this. She's watching us.

The trio stare at each other for a long moment.

DAVE: Yep. She's definitely watching us.

EVE: Maybe we should call the police.

DAVE: Oh, brilliant plan. That will only give her a good eight hours to escape while the rest of us get arrested for wasting police time. She can't get in, can she? No. So either she stands out there being all freaky and ghostly, or she buggers off and does something more interesting.

EVE: Why's she doing it? Is she crazy?

Behind them, the figure creeps out from under the sofa. He wears a similarly unimpressive zombie mask. Dave turns and heads for the TV. The second figure hides again. Niether Dave nor Eve spot him.

DAVE: Probably. Or really, REALLY bored. Well, she doesn't want to talk, she just wants to stand out there, staring at us.

EVE: Doesn't that... creep you out?

DAVE: No, not as much as how quiet it is. I'm used to the city, you know, dogs barking, ambulances driving past, the occasional bogan shoot out... There's nothing out there.

EVE: Just us and her.

They both startle as there is a furious banging noise from the hallway.

DAVE: [to girl] Back in a sec!

They both hurry out into the hallway. The second figure rises out from behind the sofa and nods to the girl. She nods back. He heads for the kitchen bit.


The banging is coming from the front door. Dave and Eve rush over to the monitor. It shows a woman in a tatty dress and a very fake vampire mask kicking the door and screaming.

EVE: Oh. Great. She's not alone.

DAVE: You know, you really didn't mention the freaks in the neighborhood on the sales pitch, did you, Evelyn?

EVE: [hurt] I didn't know about them!

DAVE: [hastily] Yeah, yeah, I know. Still... it's just...

Behind them, the man in the mask appears in the doorway. He has a large kitchen knife.


Without looking, Dave kicks at the hallway door, slamming it straight into the man and knocking him over.

DAVE: One night! One night without crazy shit like this happening! Is that TOO much to ask!

Dave storms out of the hallway. Eve timidly follows.


The masked man crawls for cover. He has managed to accidentally stab himself in the leg and is in quite an amount of pain. Dave and Eve enter. Dave fiddles with the stereo and then crosses to address the girl.

DAVE: Why are you doing this?

GIRL: You were home.

A pause.

DAVE: Is that it?

The girl stares at him.

DAVE: Look, lady. You really, REALLY need to understand something about this relationship. I am NOT scared of you. And you can NOT hurt me. That's not me being all macho bullshit testosterone. That's not me having ridiculous faith in modern technology. I don't know why the hell you think a Tuesday night is best for stalking newbies in town and I'm not going to lie to you. I don't care.

GIRL: You're gonna die.

DAVE: And so are you.

Eve is slightly encouraged by Dave's attitude.

EVE: Yeah. Or does your amazing novelty mask make you immortal?

The girl stares at them.

DAVE: You don't have a good reason for this. You can't get in. All you can do is try and freak us out and, admittedly, that's probably your main intention. But you can't hurt me. I'm already hurt. The girl I love is on the other side of the planet and if she knew about the freaky danger I was in, she would choose not to come to my aid. Now, do you have anything that can be more painful than that?

GIRL: [slightly embarrassed] Well...

DAVE: No. You don't. So, it's basically just psychological terror you and your mum or whoever's at the front door have. And there is one thing terror cannot defeat.

He switches on the stereo.


"Slice of Heaven" starts to play loudly. The banging at the front door can no longer be heard. Eve looks non-plussed as Dave lies on the sofa and starts to flip through a magazine.

DAVE: They might somehow break in and kill me but I am NOT having my evening ruined.

Eve and the girl look around helplessly, neither knowing what to do.

DAVE: [sings along] Hey, I gotta lot of faith in ya...


Andrew and Nigel are sitting in the car while Nigel finishes his sandwiches.

ANDREW: [confused] So, you went to the second-most popular site for suicides... as a birthday treat?

NIGEL: Well, not MY birthday treat. Owen's.

ANDREW: Why the hell would he do that?

NIGEL: He was in a bit of a Goth phase. You won't believe all the stuff you can find in there. Not just the bodies, but it's a treasure trove for scavengers with a strong stomach. Kenji found a wallet with 370 THOUSAND yen in it! That was like enough to buy a decent meal at the Courthouse Hotel! We all found credit cards, rail passes, driver's licenses... you name it.

ANDREW: And the Yang family weren't creeped out by the corpses?

NIGEL: Nah. A few bones here and there but there's the Annual Body Search. This army of cops, journos, Goths, all comb the place for the fresh corpses. Been doing it for like 30 years now.

ANDREW: Your parents let you go to a place where more than 500 people have killed themselves?

NIGEL: Hah, it was barely half that when we went there. Mind you, that year was pretty high. 73 people. Apparently this year it's apparently going to be even higher. It's typical, really. The government try and tell people NOT to kill themselves in the forest and it's suddenly all the rage.

ANDREW: So there really are signs there?

NIGEL: Yep. Even written in English. [finishes sandwich] The creepy thing is that compasses don't work in the forest, which is not exactly easy to navigate anyway. Well, I say "creepy". The reason is there's magnetic metals under the forest, rather than any ghosts or stuff. But yeah, once you've been to the Sea of Trees? You tend to keep an ear out for suicide forests.

ANDREW: But why do people go there to kill themselves?

NIGEL: Meh. They're all just dumb trend-followers. Back in the 60s, some romance novelist, Matsumoto somebody, did some Romeo and Juliet crap except they killed themselves in that forest. It's THE sophisticated place to end it all. I mean, there was a fair bit of seppuku carried out a couple of centuries ago, but that was different. There was a point to it. Aokigahara. The Wall Street of Japanese suicide spots...

ANDREW: It does make you think, though.

NIGEL: Yeah, about what losers kill themselves there. Indecisive drama queens who can't end it all until they're in a forest with a hundred other corpses to make their mind up for them. Do they think that MAYBE every single one of the bastards died thinking not "Farewell cruel world!" but "You know, on second thoughts, this was kinda stupid". Social darwinism, Andrew. We don't need losers like that.

ANDREW: Hmmm? No, no, I just mean, why would that guy come up with the worst possible story to tell people to avoid the tree sanctuary? Why not just "Mafia dudes shoot people" or something like that?

NIGEL: He probably tries a new story on every customer. No big deal.

A long pause.

ANDREW: ...wanna check it out?

NIGEL: Well, part of me thinks it is suicidally insane behavior and it would be much better to return home. But another part of me points out I've already eaten and no desire to spend the night seeing you two squabble over the TV remote while I'm trying to put the moves on Eve. But most of me thinks that if there's some kind of horrible fate in that tree sanctuary and you fell victim to it and I wasn't there to see it, point and laugh... well, let's just say I wouldn't be able to live with myself.

ANDREW: Ah, and a one-way trip to the Sea of Trees?

NIGEL: Pff. As if. I'm a setter of trends, not a follower!

Nigel starts the engines and they drive off.


The two masked women are standing outside on the patio looking rather impatient. The masked man is struggling to bandage his bleeding leg. Oblivious, Dave and Eve sit by the TV, listening to a song by Bad Religion.

DAVE: [sings] See, I'm a 21st century digital boy!
I don't know how to read but I've got a lot of toys!
My daddy's a lazy, middle-class intellectual
My mummy's on valium - SO ineffectual!

Despite herself, Eve laughs and nods along with the song. They are both much more relaxed. The masked figures outside are not, and watch anxiously as the masked man passes out from blood loss and falls to the floor - the noise lost under the music. The women start to bang on the window for attention. Dave flips them a V-sign and Eve ignores them totally.

DAVE & EVE: [singing] 21st century digital boy! 21st century schizoid boy! 21st century video boy...

The masked women shake their fists with frustration.


The tree sanctuary is a small park full of trees surrounded by chain link fences and green tarps that block the view of the trees. Wynona is parked outside. Nigel leans on the bonnet as Andrew examines the walls.

NIGEL: So. No ghosts, dead bodies, dimensional rifts to hell... is anything there?

ANDREW: Nope. Amazingly dull all things considered.

NIGEL: So he was just making it all up.

ANDREW: Looks like.

NIGEL: Well that's just boring. I was hoping for the hairy chick from the Grunge to consume you or something. Worst. Haunted tree sanctuary. Ever!

ANDREW: Hmmm. Well, if the eldrich abominations won't come to the suburbs...

NIGEL: ...then the suburbs come to the eldrich abominations?

ANDREW: What? No! Shut up. I'm sick of this hype not living up to reality. I'm going to make sure this haunted tree sanctuary lives up to its name one way or another.

Nigel sighs.

NIGEL: It's like a gruesome car accident. I just can't look away!


The masked man lies unconcious in a pool of his own blood. Dave and Eve sit on the sofa, Eve resting her head on his shoulder as raggae music plays.

DAVE: [sings] In every life, we have some trouble
When you worry, you make it double...

Outside, the two masked women are trying to batter the patio door down with a bench from the backyard. They bounce off silently and are flung into the night. The girl runs and charges the door, bounces off, into the woman and they both fall over. They get into a girly slap fight. All of this ignored.

EVE: [sings] Don't worry. Be happy.

DAVE & EVE: [sing] Don't worry, be happy now...


Andrew sits cross-legged on the grass, a candle burning before him.

ANDREW: Om mane padme hum, om mane padme hum,
Om mane padme-e-e-ha-aa-aa... OM MANE PADME HUM!

Andrew cracks open an eye.

ANDREW: Anything?

Nigel pops his head up, having been hiding behind Wynona with his fingers in his ears. He looks around.

NIGEL: Nope.

ANDREW: Well, unless you've got some goat's blood I'm completely out of ideas...

Sighing, he blows out the candle, rises and joins Nigel at the car.

ANDREW: Take me home, James.

NIGEL: Nigel.

ANDREW: Nigel. Whatever.

They climb inside the car and don their seat belts.

ANDREW: I can't imagine why any sane person could possible assume this place is haunted...

There is suddenly a shockingly loud soggy bang from inside the sanctuary. Then another, and another. Shards of green matter start to slam into the windscreen. Andrew and Nigel exchange looks, then Nigel revs the engines and drives off at top speed as more explosions occur in the sanctuary, sending more shards everywhere.

NIGEL: [vo] You and your stupid Bhuddist sutras!


Eve has dozed off on the couch. Dave sits next to her, stroking her hair as he sings along with the music.

DAVE: [sings] Coz I like you, yeah, I like you and I'm feeling so Bohemian, like you! Yeah, I like you, and I like you, and I feel "Whoo-hoo-hoo!"

Outside, the women have managed to fling a rope up onto the roof and are trying to climb the walls, Batman-style.

DAVE: [sings] Doo-doo-dooooo-oooooo...

The two fall down onto the ground very hard. Followed by some guttering and a branch. Looking the wrong way and with the music loud, Dave doesn't notice. He eases himself off the couch, takes off his coat and uses it as a makeshift blanket on Eve.

DAVE: [sings] I'm getting wise and I'm feeling so Bohemian like you... It's you that I want so please, just a casual, casual easy thing? Is it? It is for me!

Dave yawns and stretches, then heads for the kitchen.

DAVE: [sings] And I like you, yeah I like you, and I like you, I like you, I like you and I feel...

He freezes as he sees the body on the ground.

DAVE: [lamely] Wahoo-woo?


Wynona pulls up outside the appartment. It is splattered with brown slime that steams in the night air.

ANDREW: Sandbox trees! Gotta be.

NIGEL: Bulltwang! Sandbox trees are an urban legend, like kangaroo jack or Woomera detention centres!

ANDREW: It explains the noises and bangs, doesn't it? Sandbox tree fruit explode when they mature, which is what this stuff is... no wonder they fenced off the place.

Andrew and Nigel get out of the car.

NIGEL: Sandbox trees aren't real. I mean, a tree that grows ninety metres tall, its bark covered in razor-sharp spikes and its sap poisonous?

ANDREW: AND corrosive. You better wash Wynona before it starts to rust.

Nigel looks fearfully at the steaming muck on the bonnet.

NIGEL: Really?

ANDREW: Wear gloves, though. You know. Poison and that.

NIGEL: [doubtful] Sandbox Trees.

ANDREW: Uh-huh.

NIGEL: Poisonous, acidic exploding trees that can slaughter and maim in a 100 metre radius.

ANDREW: Let's be glad the things can't walk.

NIGEL: Yeah, they'd probably have enslaved humanity by now...

As they approach the front door, the masked women rush over - scruffy, dirty, and leaves in their hair. They are freaked out, definitely moreso than Andrew or Nigel.

GIRL: Hey, wait! Wait up!

WOMAN: Please! Help us!

NIGEL: [to Andrew] What did I tell you? Groupies.

WOMAN: You've got to help us, please...

GIRL: My dad's in there, he's been kidnapped, this crazy mofo's stabbing him...

WOMAN: This is serious!

Andrew looks at their ridiculous masks.

ANDREW: Yeah. That's really coming across. [to Nigel] We haven't missed the Mardis Gras again, have we?

WOMAN: Please! My husband - he could be bleeding to death!

ANDREW: Is this "crazy mofo" a teenager about... [indicates] so high with spikey dyed hair and a wierd plastic trenchcoat?

GIRL: Yes! He's crazy! We've got to get help!

NIGEL: [sighs] Leave the guy alone for five freaking minutes...

Nigel presses his palm against the scanner and the doors open, and the quarter enter.


Dave has now put the masked man on a table and grimly cutting away the guy's trouser leg so he can get better access at the wound. He's got a first aide kit at the ready. There is the sound of people in the hallway, the door opening. Dave whirls around, paranoid, snatches up the bloody knife and hurls it at the doorway... thuds into the wall just behind the door, narrowly missing Nigel's head as he steps through. He stares at the knife. Then at Dave, then back at the knife.

NIGEL: What IS it with you two and large knives?!

DAVE: [shaken] Sorry, dude!

Nigel angrilly tugs the knife out of the wall.

NIGEL: Not as sorry as you're going to be...

The masked ladies rush over to the masked man.

WOMAN: Oh, Gerald!

The man groans. The girl turns to Dave.

GIRL: [angrilly] Why haven't you called an ambulance?

DAVE: [just as angry] Because some stupid bitch in a mask cut the phone line!


The masked man groans again.

ANDREW: Just why are you all wearing these silly masks anyway?

DAVE: They're loonies, Andrew! They've spent all night trying to break in and freak us out - this guy snuck in through the patio doors...

WOMAN: ...and you stabbed him!

DAVE: What? No I didn't, I found him like this!

GIRL: [to Andrew] He's a psychopath, mate, don't listen to a word he says! He tied my dad up and stabbed him repeatedly!

ANDREW: Except there's only one stab wound.

NIGEL: And he's not tied up.

ANDREW: And he got the first aide kit out.

NIGEL: And how exactly did this guy get inside anyway?

The man groans.

WOMAN: You sadistically and deliberately tortured my husband! We are SO going to sue!

She turns to say this last bit to Nigel... and realizes he has the knife level with her throat. She backs away slightly.

NIGEL: I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty certain witness statements are hard to come by... when the witness has their throat slit.

GIRL: You're a psycho!

ANDREW: He's not the one in a carnivale mask trying to break into private property.

NIGEL: Yeah, why the hell are you people doing this anyway?

GIRL: Oh, like everything needs a reason nowadays?! We just wanted to, OK! And no, you couldn't go to pieces and hide like NORMAL people so we could take off our masks, tie you up and then slash your guts, oh no, that's just too much to ask, isn't it?

WOMAN: Have you ANY idea how hard life is for us? Finding drifters we can coldbloodedly torment in walking distance? Choreographing all the stalking? It doesn't just HAPPEN you know, work goes into it!

The girl grabs the man and lifts his head. He groans.

GIRL: Look at this man! He has put thirty years of his life into this country - and he can't indulge in a bit of sadistic and violent murder in return?!

EVE: [flatly] No. He can't.

They all whirl around. A tired and irritated looking Eve stands behind them, wearing Dave's coat. She steps up to the girl.

EVE: Now. [sweetly] Get out of my house.

GIRL: You little...

The girl steps forward aggressively, and Andrew's hand thumps down onto her shoulder, stopping her.

GIRL: [brightly] OK! Just this once.


The masked family are heading down the street, the women supporting the man.

WOMAN: This is political correctness gone mad!

The gang are at the doorway. Dave shouts after them.

DAVE: Yeah, whatever! You know what this is?

Dave rubs his thumb and forefinger together.

EVE: Money?


NIGEL: Some kind of disease of the nervous system?

DAVE: No. [calls] The world's smallest violin, that's what!

EVE: I don't get it.

ANDREW: I don't either.

NIGEL: Nor me.

DAVE: [sighs] Typical. I get stalked by a knife-wielding family of psychopaths on my first night! I should have moved back home!

Andrew pats him on the back.

ANDREW: Come on, Dave. You can't judge a whole neighborhood on a few whacko members...

DAVE: Can't? Don't tell me what I can and can't do! Just where the hell were you two anyway? You went shopping for parsley three hours ago! So where is it?

Andrew grabs Dave's face, as if about to give him the kiss of death.

ANDREW: [scary] I. Forget.

He releases Dave, smoothes down his lapels and heads inside.

EVE: he always like this?

NIGEL: [shrugs] On good days.


Further down the street, the masked family turn a corner.

GIRL: Ungrateful drifter bastards.

The man groans.

WOMAN: It'll be easier next time. We'll try some immigrants who don't speak English.

There is a faint cracking, popping noise. The family stop.

GIRL: Did you hear that?

They all turn and look up. They're right outside the haunted tree sanctuary.

WOMAN: Oh no...

There is a sudden roar of exploding pods and the trio run for it, being doused in steaming green poisonous acid gooey stuff...



Distantly, the bangs can be heard under the scene. Andrew joins the others.

ANDREW: Well, all doors locked, windows sealed, plus the phone lines are working again.

EVE: [impressed] Did you fix them?

Andrew rubs his neck, embarrassed.

ANDREW: Well, I try to be modest... but I try to be honest too. [shrugs] They must have just been playing up in a mischeviously ironic coincidence.

DAVE: So, no more psychopaths trying to break into our new home and kill us?

ANDREW: Not a chance. After all, it's a week day. Even serial killers can't do an all nighter with work in the morning!

EVE: Yeah, well, I'll be off to bed then. You sure you guys will be all right?

NIGEL: Evelyn, darling, this isn't the first time we've been hunted by psychopaths in masks for absolutely no logical reason whatsoever...

DAVE: [clears throat] Actually...

NIGEL: Mouth closed, Dave. Good night, Eve, and may flights of angels sing you to your rest.

Everyone stares at him.

NIGEL: Jeez, just trying to add a bit of culture to the household!

Eve takes off Dave's coat, returns it to him, then climbs the ladder and up out of view. The others watch her go, Dave regarding his coat.

DAVE: She's hot.

NIGEL: I know.

DAVE: I mean, literally. Feel that.

He offers a sleeve to Andrew, who touches it and mimes burning his fingers.

ANDREW: Ah, finally found someone apart from a certain redhead to obsess over. [sniffs] Our little boy is growing up, Nigel...

NIGEL: He's still going after girls way out of his league, Andrew. Look at her. Shirley Williams via Michaelangelo's "David".

Dave nods thoughtfully.

DAVE: I have no idea what the hell you mean.

NIGEL: She's beautiful. A goddess. At last! A woman worthy of my incredible sexual prowess!

ANDREW: Who isn't related to you.

NIGEL: [dismissive] Details, details...

DAVE: Nigel, don't. She's nice. She deserves better than YOU to get squelchy with...

NIGEL: [confused] David Mitchell Restal, are you insinuating she might not enjoy thirty-three hours of non-stop, blistering, condom-melting hardcore copulation with the Big N.

DAVE: Yes. I am saying that. Clearly. And distinctly. And emphatically. She could not have a worse sexual experience if she went down on C'thulu against a dumpster in the alleyway behind a crackhouse.

Dave turns and walks off into his bedroom. Nigel stays where he is as if frozen. Andrew blows out his cheeks philosophically.

ANDREW: You gotta admit, he's got you there.

NIGEL: Yeah, well... at least I have got a bedroom! Unlike you, ya hairy bogan!

Nigel huffs and storms off into his own bedroom, leaving Andrew alone.

ANDREW: That was a non sequitur.

He turns and heads over to the kitchen, then finds the pot of rice.


Andrew's shout can clearly be heard.