Monday, June 1, 2009

Paper Cuts

Serial CP8 – Charley Gets A Paper Cut
An Alternative Program Guide by Ewen Campion-Clarke
Another Entry in the EC Unauthorized Guide O' Adolescent Radioactive Black-Belt Hamsters

Margaret Pollard, evil bodysnatching bitch of exasperation, takes a pause in her futile efforts to seduce the bent-as-a-nine-pound-note Sixth Doctor to rifle through his personal possessions and finds centuries’ worth of unread emails – and only 31,684 of them are offers for Viagra and Cialis tablets.

Of the remainder, two are abusive death threats from Zoe Heriot and the other is a summons to the Imperial Court of the Fifteenth Emperor of planet Draconia. Since there’s nothing else to do bar from reject Margaret’s unsubtle sexual advances, the Doctor accepts.

"Draconian culture is very formal. Austerely elegant to the point of minimalist," the Doctor explains, tugging on his seizure-inducing patchwork coat. "Masked priests, ferocious warriors. The contemplation of a single white blossom. That sort of thing... as you can imagine, if there’s one society I want to destroy, it’s THIS one!"

Alas, the summons draws the TARDIS not to Draconia but to a complex of empty rooms and corridors made of fusuma paper screens. The air reeks of incense and embalming fluid, strange heartbeats drum in the background, and the Doctor and Margaret are bored completely shitless.

Eventually they realize that the invite was actually to the Red Emperor’s funeral, which takes place in a self-contained tomb floating in space with the other fourteen dead lizard gits. The Doctor has been invited to sit in silence for three whole days thinking about the old rat-bag before they finally read the post-it-note revealing who is to become the Sixteenth Emperor. This is, believe it or not, even LESS thrilling than it sounds.

The Doctor and Margaret discover to their horror... well, to their mild inconvenience... that this paper vault can fold up like origami to try to crush them. Shadows behind the paper walls turn out to be samurai warriors sculpted from paper themselves, and brutally cut their victims to pieces. Ghosts of dead Emperors reach out with creepy psychic attacks of undying fury. There is also the constant threat of power failures, hull breaches, and perishing in the cold vacuum of space with no possibility of escape.

Yet, despite all this, it’s all very, very dull.

Especially when it turns out you can defeat the origami assassins by bowing low and screaming "WE ARE NOT WORTHY!" like you’re backstage at an Alice Cooper concert. It really kills the dramatic tension.

Probably the most tense scene for the first two episodes is a lengthy explanation for why the Doctor no longer resembles William Hartnell. Incredibly pathetic, I think you’ll agree, ladies and gentlemen.

Out of sheer boredom, Margaret goes crazy with a cricket bat and smashes through the paper walls looking for something interesting but, alas, finds absolutely fuck all.

So the Doctor and Margaret play Draconian scrabble for another couple of episodes. Then a nice cup of tea with some of the other poor suckers also stuck in this temple – a working class oik called Gomori, an upper-class oik called the Prince Regent, a grubby military oik known only as Thunder-Wing-Doom-Slayer and the Queen Mother.

As the last episode draws to a close, everyone decides to actually read the dead Emperor’s will and testament to discover who he chose as his successor and this turns out to be his "first-hatched son" – trouble is, the Emperor screwed Draconian concubines like rabbits so that doesn’t really narrow it down. They also discover the Emperor isn’t actually dead, just incredibly boring that he merely APPEARS to be an embalmed corpse.

Ergo, all the other Emperors are ALSO alive and this overload of monarchs causes Draconia the biggest constitutional crisis since they were nearly sued for breaching copyright of Feudal Japan!

The Prince’s head implodes at this plot twist, the soldier commits seppuku and the Queen Mother has a hissy fit that her old man’s alive and HIS old man and his OLD MAN’S old man...

The Doctor offer Gomori a lift back home, but Margaret has a screaming temper tantrum that she doesn’t want anyone else in the TARDIS because it all belongs to her! And even though Gomori’s been so nice and friendly to her, she beats him half-to-death for daring to get in between her and her sex life.

It’s a spiteful, senseless bit of violence – but we can’t help but wish that when Charley first clapped eyes on C’Rizz she had done the exact same thing...

Book(s)/Other Related -
Paperchase... OF DEATH!
Dr Who & The Space Bore
The Boring One Without Charley In It

Fluffs – India Fisher seemed to be naughty in this story.
"Attention. This is the Prefect of the Northern Provinces acting as Imperial courier. I am commencing cocking procedure. I’m sorry I can’t actually read. It’s been a problem for a long time."

"Erm... sorry, Doctor. I don’t understand the script."
"It’s not a language. Not as such. It’s a series of ceremonial Draconian hiero-graphics."
"So. Do YOU understand the script?"
"Not a word."

Goofs – Um, Charley isn’t IN this damn story!

Fashion Victims –
Doctor: Green silk and bronze shoulder-plates are so last dynasty.
Margaret: Oh, well, it’s better than a kick in the bollocks.
Doctor: Dynastically speaking, my bollocks are even older.

Technobabble –
"The quite exquisite life-size Sazou here must be sculpted of some sort of neuro-technologically responsive paper and directed by the player’s thoughts... oh, god I am bored. Aren’t you? Isn’t this over yet?"

Links and References -
This story is entirely based on one throwaway line from a Jon Pertwee story in 1973 because god alone knows we needed another one of those!

Untelevised Misadventures -
The Doctor learned the skill of "passive wakefulness" from a reptilian Sobekian shaman. It is this ability that allows him to remain conscious through the boredom of all four episodes.

Dialogue Disasters –

Doctor: Women are not allowed to speak in court. It’s just protocol and not something to chain yourself to the railings over.
Margaret: Pity. I was looking forward to a bit of bondage fun.
Doctor: Ahem. There is a subtle line between innuendo and plain smut.

Soldier: It’s quiet out there.
Gomori: There’s 52 different sorts of quiet. So they say.
Soldier: And they’re all TOO quiet.
Gomori: You’re never happy, are you?

Doctor: I’ll never sneer at a book of pressed flowers again. Not that I ever did. I don’t even know why I said that. What the hell was I thinking? Is this still only episode one?!

Gomori: They say that ghouls live among the tombs of the Deathless Emperors, amongst all these cold, empty rooms with paper-thin walls. I think they’re just stories to make it all seem vaguely interesting.

Prince: No! You dried-up old lizard hag! You Priests won’t stand between me and the throne of Draconia!
Margaret: He nearly killed his own mother!
Doctor: Well, that’s what comes of mixing business with family. Church versus state under one roof always leads to indoor fireworks. Must have been a shock for the Prince though.
Margaret: Nasty.
Doctor: Like finding out your mother is the Pope. Who wants to know they’ve been breast fed by the Pope? Or the Pope was the one who came barging into your bedroom at an inopportune moment during your adolescence? Frankly, I’m surprised the Prince is this well-adjusted!

Queen Mother: The day bird, taking wing at night, circles in the dark till he sees the dawn.
Doctor: Red sky in the morning, Draconia’s warning.
Queen Mother: Oh shut up, you vulgar little mammal!

Doctor: When you’re a traveler on the temporal highways and byways of the Omniverse, being late is never an issue. I can be as late as I like and still be early. Lateness, like all time, is relative. And urgency becomes a thing of the past.
Margaret: And that’s why the plot’s going nowhere after three episodes?
Doctor: Exactly.

Dialogue Triumphs -

Margaret: My foot’s going to sleep!
(...maybe you had to be there...)

Queen Mother: The sun, rising early, catches the wily night with blood-red fingers.
Doctor: And an unwelcome truth sinks deep beneath the lullaby wash of memory.
Queen Mother: But it is a thin wineskin that divides sweet friendship from bitter hatred.
[Long pause.]
Both: SNAP!!

Doctor: Only the cold tombs of Draconian Heaven and the cold emptiness in between, and yet there’s something out there. Can you feel it? Filling in the dead spaces. Gnawing at the ropes of time. If I didn’t believe in a rational universe, I’d say it was... hatred. Hatred from the ancient and undying rage of a whole race.
Margaret: Nope. Nice try, but it’s not working. Still bored shitless.

Queen Mother: This is Heaven.
Doctor: Really? As a solid manifestation of a metaphysical concept, it leaves rather a lot to be desired.
Queen Mother: You can leave your complaints in the visitors’ ledger.
Doctor: How existential! If only Satre was here to see THIS!

Viewer Quotes -

"I mussst agree with the other reviewerssss who ssssaid that thisssss perhapssssss ssssssuffered by being sssssssandwiched between the two sssssssignificant sssssstories within the arc. It sssssseemed like a ssssssstandard ssssscript thrown in to pad the "ssssssseason" out (with a few weird but minor Charley momentsssss thrown in to clue in thossssse following the sssssseriessssss). I haven't heard "The Charley Finale" yet, but I’m hoping that it can tie thingsssssss together better an bring her sssssaga to a sssssssatisfactory clossssse."
– Some chick with a broken "S"-button on their keyboard (2009)

"Loved this. Lots of layers and that comfy, exotic cleverness you get
from a Mark Plate story. I've endured (rather than enjoyed) the pairing of Charley with Colin’s Doctor, and I really can’t wait until the whole thing’s been put to bed. I didn’t get where I am today by having green frogs thrust down my crotch."
– Robert "Dry Frog-Free Crotch" Shearman (2009)

"I can see why some people may have disliked this, given that it did take its time to build, and therefore may have seemed a bit slow at times, but I think that may have paid off in the end. Still, what would I know about anything?" – Michael Grade (2011)

"The sound designers couldn't be bothered to add that extra layer of sound which makes these plays so much more realistic! Admittedly, I’m not sure what background sounds do you feel could have been added, considering all of this took place on a ship floating in space, in empty rooms mainly made of paper walls?"
– a lazy sound designer (2009)

"I think it would be interesting to have the TARDIS land during real Japanese history. Well, more interesting than THIS crap, anyway."
– Sam Sakai (2009)

"I anticipate any release penned by Mark Plate with such enthusiasm that when he delivers something that I don't immediate love, I am not even disappointed. No matter how many psychiatrists and qualified professionals I speak to, I just automatically believe everything is really, really good. Even a story when the most interesting bit is the Doctor checking his email gives me a sinful, sexual thrill."
– Graham Norton (2000)

India Fisher Speaks!
"It’s not the first time I’ve ever had to play my own slightly-psychotic impersonator, or my own vitriolic overlooked sister, but this is the first time I’ve had to do both simultaneously. So to speak. Heheh. Oh, I am a BAD girl. But I did go to see my mum on Mother’s Day. So I’m not completely beyond redemption... yet."

Colin Baker Speaks!
"Did you know, I detect a slight Japanese influence to all this? And what’s clever about that is it instantly brings a cultural attitude to mind, as it’s so easy to conjure up irrational xenophobic hatred against an alien race if they act like some dirty foreign bastards. That thing about ritual and formality really rubs me up the wrong way and makes me want to put on a Union Jack waistcoat and fire bomb the BBC. Well, I often want to fire bomb the BBC, but I’m quite happy to wear my own clothes. This really brings out national pride, I find."

Eddie Hitler Speaks!
"Shakespeare said it all before, probably. And less tediously."

Rumors & Facts -

It’s always a bad sign when the most interesting part of a story is the postal strike delaying arrival of the CD and goes downhill from the moment you start listening to it. Indeed, things don’t pick up until you press the stop button and have

It is possible that Charley Gets A Paper Cut suffers from being stuck between Charley –vs- Dustbin –vs- Viyran and The Charley Finale, but it’s also possible that Charley Gets A Paper Cut is an over-acted mess of unnatural sibilants, a tedious setting and boring ideas that is without doubt the least memorable Big Finish since The Duck Husband, and that’s only because they never actually recorded The Duck Husband in the first place!

Monsieur Plate, famous for painting striking pictures with lovely poetic dialogue, had long harbored a strange desire to write an entire adventure based on a few lines of dialogue from the 1973 story Full-Frontal In Space. In this, the Doctor bragged to Jo Grant (in between asking random characters if they had seen his missing pen) about being a noble of the ancient Draconian civilization – something which apparently made Plate kick down the door to BF Studios and demand he be allowed to expand the handful of sentences into a full-fledged four-part audio story even MORE boring than the original Pertwee tale.

And executive producer Eddie Hitler decided to give Plate free reign, mainly because Hitler had spent all week drinking and was now so pissed he couldn’t even get out of the drinks fridge.

Perhaps if he had been bothered enough to move, he might have helped the story capitalize on all the ongoing story arcs, lose the underwhelming threat of pieces of paper that can be defeated with more ease than a retarded six-year-old in a gas mask looking for his mummy, or perhaps even choose a title that WASN’T a total non-sequitur.

He certainly would have slapped some sense into Sara Crowe, whose performance as the Queen Mother reach 0.4 on the Chip Jamieson Scale and is thus the worst actor Big Finish has ever hired. Even Conrad Westmaas could out-emote this shrill caterwauling tart!

Doctor Who Magazine rated this story as the best Big Finish had ever released, a powerful play packed with incredible, unforgettable ideas and a crepuscular (?!?) cast of characters rivaling anything else in the entire history of this franchise.

Oddly enough, it was about this time that the magazine introduced mandatory random drug testing of all their reviewers.

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