Monday, February 1, 2010

10th Doctor - Gridlock (ii)

Book(s)/Other Related -
The Macra Traffic Jam of Terror
Doctor Who: Eulogy of Bond by G. Russell
Junior Dr. Who & An Exciting Adventure With The Traffic Jam of the Giant Gas Crabs Ignoring The Congestion Charge by Terrance Dicks

Fluffs - David Tennant seemed to be suffering road rage in this story.

"I’m the Doctor, felching victory from the arse of defeat!"

"Yeah, apparently Billie’s moved to the States, so it’s going to be her and Hugh Jackman in the Doctor Who movie -- oh, jings! Are we on?! Ahem. Ah yes, well, Finnegan, about this traffic business..."

Goofs –
Why is this called The Macramé Gridlock when Macramé has absolutely nothing to do with it? Did they just remember the last time the Macra were around they were into Macramé, but forget to write that into the plot? A clue: probably.
In Earth 2.0, the Doctor said that Coffa is in the galaxy M87, which is a real galaxy in the Virgo cluster. It is half a million light years across and 60 million light years away. Yet the Doctor says that Coffra is 50,000 light years from Earth. In 5 billion years the Milky Way and M87 ought to be millions of light years further apart, not closer together. Now, perhaps the people of the year 5 billion have the ability to move solar systems and galaxies around but it’s still a goof. OK, it’s a goof that maybe should have been in the Earth 2.0 entry but I only just realized it, OK?
How can the vans have self-replicating fuel? That defies the Second Law of Thermodynamics for fuck’s sake! Especially when it generated exhaust fumes! You need external input to keep your fuel supply going, and the same applies to recycling food! GOD DAMN IT! HOW CAN ANYONE ENJOY AN EPISODE RIDDLED WITH SUCH INCONSISTENCIES!? On the one hands we have floating vans running of self-replicating fuel, yet on the other the Fast Lane is supposed to save fuel? GAAAAAAAH!
When the car turns off all its systems, including the engines, how does it stay floating? Is it made out of a material resistant to gravity? How do the bloody things land?
And how can a virus possibly infect an entire planet in just seven minutes? Does it have a special virus-spreading teleportation system? Mind you, the BBC expect you buy global decimation in 24 hours in "Survivors", so suggesting it can be a tad quicker five billennia later is in keeping, I guess.

Fashion Victims -
"Sally Calypso" in her space-age tinfoil toga and dayglo moon boots.

Technobbable -
The Macra mutation has been triggered by "an overload of crabytronic DNA multiplication particles or some chemical bollocks like that".

Dialogue Disasters -

Alice: We’re not lesbians, we’re sisters!
Finnegan: Aw, come on now! You’re fooling no one!

The awesome sequence where the Doctor and Martha visit Pharmacy Town:
Doctor: Well, what’ve you got?
Waitress: Well, there’s Complacent and Giddy; Complacent, Thirsty, and Giddy; Complacent and Pissed Off; Complacent, Giddy and Pissed Off; Complacent, Giddy, Thirsty, and Pissed Off; Pissed Off, Giddy, Thirsty and Pissed Off; Pissed Off, Complacent, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Giddy, and Pissed Off; Pissed Off, Thirsty, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Giddy, Pissed Off, Chipper and Pissed Off...
Vikings: Pissed Off! Pissed Off! Pissed Off! Pissed Off...
Waitress: Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Complacent and Pissed Off; Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Weird, Worried, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off...
Vikings: Pissed Off! Lovely Pissed Off! Lovely Pissed Off!
Waitress: ...or Geeky, Okay with a Happy-Happy sauce served in a provincial manner with Swallow and Antagonistic garnished with Trouble, the Blues with Complacent on top and Pissed Off.
Martha: Have you got anything WITHOUT Pissed Off?
Waitress: Well, there’s Pissed Off, Complacent, Thirsty and Pissed Off. That’s not got much Pissed Off in it.
Martha: I don’t want ANY Pissed Off!
Doctor: Why can’t she have Complacent, Giddy, Pissed Off and Thirsty?
Martha: THAT’S got Pissed Off in it!
Doctor: Yeah, well, hasn't got as much Pissed Off in it as Pissed Off, Complacent, Thirsty and Pissed Off, has it?
Vikings: Pissed Off! Pissed Off! Pissed Off! Pissed Off...
Martha: Could you do the Complacent, Giddy, Pissed Off and Thirsty without the Pissed Off then?
Waitress: Urgghh!
Martha: What do you mean 'Urgghh'? I don't like Pissed Off!
Vikings: Lovely Pissed Off! Wonderful Pissed Off!
Waitress: Shut up!
Vikings: Lovely Pissed Off! Wonderful Pissed Off!
Waitress: Shut up! Bloody Vikings! Look, you can’t have Complacent, Giddy, Pissed Off and Thirsty without the Pissed Off.
Martha: I don’t like Pissed Off!
Doctor: Jings, Martha, don’t cause a fuss. I’ll have your Pissed Off. I love it. I’m having Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Weird, Worried, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off and Pissed Off!
Vikings: Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off, Pissed Off. Lovely Pissed Off! Wonderful Pissed Off!
Waitress: Shut up!! Weird and Worried are off.
Doctor: Well, could I have her Pissed Off instead of the Weird and Worried then?
Waitress: Sure thing! Thanks for getting moody with us, please come again.

Dialogue Triumphs -

Valerie: He’s completely insane!
Finnegan: That, and a little bit squee-worthy!

The Doctor on Martha’s kidnap:
"To be honest, we only just met. No skin off my nose."

Finnegan: There’s this story says back in the old days, on Junction 47, this secret agent stood in the exhaust fumes for a solid twenty minutes. By the time they found him, his head had swollen to fifty feet! A fifty-foot head! Just think of it, Val! Imagine picking that nose!
Valerie: The Face of Bond is only a legend, Brannugan. It doesn’t exist!
Finnegan: Right, Val, the way the giant crabs prowling the bottom of the Motorway doesn’t exist.
Valerie: The giant craps DON’T exist, Finnegan! Look, I’m not going into this "what does exist, what doesn’t exist?" debate with you again. But I’m going to have to insist you add those last two on the chart, along with Darth Vader, Crocodile Dundee, Magnum PI, Lavros and Toads!
Doctor: Toads DO exist.
Finnegan: Ahaha!
Valerie: Oh, great, that’s sixty days of non-stop arguing gone to waste then!

Doctor: I’ll dive in and find my own contact for illegal drugs. As my old pal Ian Chesterton once said of me, it’s what I usually do.

UnQuotable Quote -
Doctor: Don’t, there’s no need for that!

Links and References -
This story is a sequel of sorts to Earth 2.0, The Restaurant At The End of the World, The Long Haul and, oddly enough, The Macramé Terror. The Sixth Doctor and Mel previously encountered the Cassini Sisters in "The Widow’s Peak".

Untelevised Misadventures -
Janis Joplin gave the Doctor his coat in return for swimming lessons, but the Doctor never actually got round to giving them.

Groovy DVD Extras -
The proposed adult spin off series "Javit the Leather-Clad Cat & Her Two Vestal Virgins Go Wild!" which, tragically, was ignored in favor of thirteen more episodes of Touchwood.

The Spite of Sparacus -
"Why were the cat-human hybrids just ordinary kittens? Why not half-human? They would not have looked just like ordinary kittens. The mother was human. Also why did that woman find a big furry tom cat sexually attractive? It was a bit rich of that cat to turn his nose up at the elderly lesbians when he was sleeping with a WOMAN! And those kittens looked like they came straight from the cat rescue home. They could at least have given then human eyes with a bit of CGI. My point is that they had no human features at all. They could have made them look really unnerving and scare the living shit out of people. Without wishing to get too crude, it must be difficult in the 'bedroom activities' what with claws & things - avoiding getting scratched etc I’ve just let my cat in. Thankfully our 'relationship' is purely platonic."

Viewer Quotes -

"The Macramé Traffic Jam is like devouring a warm, freshly made teatime scone, smothered with rich Strawberry Jam and Devon’s finest Clotted Cream. A perfect treat. Once in a while but not everyday or we’ll not relish it when baked again."
- The Unpublished Target Novel "Doctor Who and the Cooking Analogies"

"A well-drawn character piece, seriously fleshing out the Doctor and Martha’s relationship even though they spend almost all the story apart from each other, with minor characters are all interesting in their own right, and the shock return of Macra. Does anyone appreciate the story for this? No, because it has kittens in it. That’s all anyone cares about! You’re so fucking immature, you lot, it beggars belief..."
- Ewen Campion-Clarke (2007)

"What. The. FUCK?!?!" - Ron Mallet (2008)

"Of course! This all about internet forums and Doctor Who fans! A massive (information) highway, where millions of cars are lined up, yet no one ever gets anywhere, you talk to people on your "friends" list instead of your neighbors, and deep down below it’s full of giant crabs! And how does it all end? The Doctor shows people there's still an outside world. It’s almost like reading some of Jorge Luis Borges’ stories!" - Katy January (2008)

"I have heard it said that it is only the appearance of the Macra in this story that prevents it being torn to shreds by fandom. This is a LIE! There are no Macra in the third episode of this season, nor was there in the fifth story of Patrick Troughton. Nor the Season 21 premiere! No Macra whatsoever! Am I being unclear to anyone? There are no Macra in Doctor Who. There are no Macra ANYWHERE! NO ONE believes in Macra! Macra do not exist! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MACRA!"
- Captain Paranoia on Behalf of the Conservative Party (2007)

"My local DWAS staged a reenactment of this episode and it took me fifteen hours to get to work and back!" – Mr. Gullible (2009)

"Someone could probably make a great Doctor Who story with the Macra. Unfortunately, no one did. They made this instead. The whole thing should be burned." - Ian Levine (2009)

"This was the most exciting surprise monster return since the Cybermen in Earthshag! I had chills down my spine when the Macra were revealed – I was CERTAIN the title was a double bluff. What an audacious bit of secrecy on the show’s part and a collective punch in the air from fandom as an old monster is brought back with some CGI menace. BRAVO! Sorry, what was Primeval again?" - J. Ford (2008)

"Awwww...the kittens and DT! Weren’t they lovely? DT and a kitten...add some booze, and what more could a girl want? Cats and a certain short dark young em! The kittens were soooo cute! When DT walked over and went 'Hello' to them in that soft voice, I totally melted into a puddle on the floor. And my shrieks of delight could be heard in the next galaxy! DT in my living room avec kitten, proffering a bottle of champagne, some strawberries and a 'Do Not Disturb Sign' and I’d squeeeeee all over the place. That would be utter heaven..."
- Alan Stevens (2008)

"I like anything I can’t see coming a mile off, and this was so bizarre that even I, yes I, your messiah, found it surprising. What else is there to say. Oh, I know: hey, America? Who got a good shafting on September 11, then, huh?" - Mad Larry the Pirate King (2007)

", you see Balanystra is actually prehistoric Gallifrey! The cat people breed with humans, creating a race with more than one life! Hame is Rassilon, the Cassini Sisters set up the Sisterhood of Korn, Milo is really Milomigod, and Finnegan is the Other! And two of Finnegan’s kittens grow up to be the Doctor and the Bastard! CAN YOU LOOK ME IN THE EYE AND TELL ME THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE?!?? You can? Oh. Go away."
- Andrew Beeblebrox.

"It seems wrong to describe it as a masterpiece, but that’s what The Macramé Gridlock is, really. It’s a writer working in perfect synch with what he feels the show should be; a perfect assembly of story elements, that at the same time is like nothing you've ever seen; and, above all, a lovely forty-five minutes of television that has a lot to say on a few topics. Father Dougal as a giant cat is worth ANYONE’S time, surely?"
- Mike Morris (2007)

"This story is a traffic offense with no internal logic! A forty-five minute wait for the Dustbins filled with preemptive boredom! Lord Tom Baker! Give me strength! This episode is like sitting in a traffic jam!"
- Steve Cassidy misses the irony yet again (2007)

David Tennant Speaks!
"You don’t have to drive in Cardiff to identify with lot of sitting in cars and never going very far. It’s certainly not five billion years away, though that might be when we finally get out of this bloody gridlock on Shepherd’s Bush roundabout! It’s a very clever script when you think about it, huge amounts of the story happening in tiny little boxes, the indomitability of the human spirit and at the same time the willingness to conform with the Doctor having an interesting conflict of interests... it’s a total rip off of The Macramé Terror, isn’t it? I mean, I know that if you’re gonna do giant crabs, there’s no point them being anything other than the Macra, seeing as they already exist. There’ll probably only be a few people who’ll realize that this story is a sequel to a 1967 Troughton episode, and fewer who’ll know that RTD’s plagiarized it line by line. Cause he murders those who twig."

Freema Agyeman Speaks!
"I was obviously in a lot of car scenes, seeing as I was trapped inside one. It was a really enclosed set and there were just the three of us in each other’s faces all the time. It was a nightmare. I TOLD them I got claustrophobia, and they trap me in a tin box for three days! Typical!"

Russell T Davies Speaks!
"The Five Billion stories have always been a spine, a location we keeping coming back to in an ever-changing program. The sheer comfort of not having to come up with any fresh ideas. First we nicked Douglas Adams, then Red Dwarf and now The Macramé Terror! God, the junk in my head, eh? Very early on, I thought about stealing Comrades from the Deep with all the sea monsters, but I can actually remember the original story, even though I used my time traveling contacts to make sure it was missing from the BBC archives so it could only live on in my head and could be resurrected whenever I needed a script in a hurry. Hah! No one REALLY knows about the great Doctor Who purge of the BBC except Ian Levine, which is why I destroyed him and everything he stood for in Love and Pizzas. So there’s a new fact for your discontinuity guides..."

Trivia -
Infamous nudist periodical "Hanging Out" did a special feature on this episode. Presumably this is because they thought their readers would be deeply fascinated in a story about traffic congestion, bestiality, drug-use, ineffective law enforcement, and the symbolism of giant crabs. Or maybe they’re all just twisted perverted freaks.

Rumors & Facts -

The Macramé Gridlock is possibly the most controversial episode RTD has ever written. Unlike Funky Town! or Love & Pizzas, fandom isn’t entirely sure what they’re complaining about/defending vigorously. Is it because of the lack of rational basis for anyone’s actions? Or did fandom’s collective consciousness simply burn out when they brought back the fucking Macra of all things?

Executive Producer Russell T Davies was aware that a potential problem with Doctor Who was the difficulty in establishing a sense of continuity with the audience, given that the TARDIS tended to land somewhere new in every story, even though it almost always was modern-day Cardiff. See, this bit of deductive shows why HE is the Executive Producer and I am some unknown internet loser. Is it fair? A clue: no!

RTD made a wishy-washy half-assed attempt to addressed this to a SMALL extent by devising recurring characters for those episode set in present-day Cardiff, rightly assuming the audience would be too pig-shit ignorant to notice otherwise. But as a further, even SMALLER measure, RTD wanted to have some other settings recur from time to time, and decided to set up an alternative to 2007 Cardiff – 5 Billion Cardiff!

This brilliant idea died screaming with sharp things in its head: the first story of this saga, The Restaurant at the End of the World, saw Cardiff of the Year 5 Billion and indeed everything else Earth-related of the Year 5 Billion tumbled out of its normal orbit and hurtled into the sun, the fringes catching alight before the whole planet transformed into a ball of flame! White light raced across the surface and Earth exploded outward, debris hurling into outer space, and nothingness bursting in to delete existence for all time.

So a return trip to the Cardiff of the future was out of order. Thinking quickly, for the next year’s adventure, the concept of New New Cardiff was introduced, this time on the planet Earth 2.0. RTD wanted this to kick off a new story arc, with the presence of Joan Collins and the Face of Bond to provide a link, a new cast of characters ideally as depressing and self-absorbed as Jackie Tyler or Mickey Smith. Alas, RTD made a crucial mistake of writing a complete piece of crap that fans and critics alike hated, killing off all the 'regulars' and leaving everyone much more interested in the idea that the Doctor was NOT the last of the Time Lords after all.

It became clear that the idea of another story set in New New Cardiff would be preferable only to repeat of Mark Gatiss’ The Idiot Box, and the next 'Earth 2.0' episode would have to be as different as possible to its predecessor if RTD wanted to avoid being lynched by Julie Gardner if no one else.

In order to ruin any chances of being connected, RTD decided to set the story on a completely different replacement for Earth that happened to look like Cardiff, as well as setting it thirty years in the future (so it would be the impressive 5,000,000,053 rather than the puny 5,000,000,023 of last time), and abandon his original idea of the Cult of the Face of Bond attacking New New Cardiff in terrorist raids of blood-chilling tastelessness.

As initially conceived, the action would have been split between the Joan Collins/Sally Calypso’s prime time novelty chat show, a bunch of nutters with fish tanks on their heads claiming to be the reincarnation of the Face of Bond, and the discovery that there’s a two headed monster being fed by the sewer system who one got a medal of honor for eating an armless butcher, a test tube baby who now had turned into black-tar algae. RTD then realized he was going rather strange and started to watch some old Doctor Who episodes he, as supremo of the legacy of Robert Holmes, was entitled to view. It was the entire Troughton era and RTD was inspired – he immediately decided to write stories about aliens attacking installations on the moon, conspiracies on contemporary Earth, Dustbins tinkering with their own genetics and philosophy, and human beings turning themselves into cyborg killing machines.

But what most impressed RTD of all was the 1967 serial The Macramé Terror, whose enormous crab-like Macra had only appeared one other time in Doctor Who – the Fifth Doctor story, Comrades of the Deep, but Gay Russell apparently still has notes for a Sixth Doctor and Peri missing adventure where the Macra take on Leonard Nimoy from that far-from-inexplicably unpopular Tom Baker episode, The Horny Nimoy.

The idea was that the Doctor and Martha’s adventure to Balanystra would feature a massive battle between the Macra, a giant octopus called Kroll, and Godzilla. These gargantuan creatures living in the "New Earth’s" oceans would come together and fight in a veritable clash of the titans, and when the Mill were unable to CGI any more forgotten forty-year-old monsters, RTD would rip off some plot from World Distributors annual to pad out the rest of the episode.

The Mill made it quite clear that if they spent the entire budget for this year’s Doctor Who, they might be able to accurately recreate ONE of the Macra seem in 1967. If they wanted it to do anything, let alone take flying leap at Godzilla, wrap its spidery legs around the monster’s head and smash it against fjord twenty-three times, before Godzilla back-flipped into an iceberg, it would require the entire budget for British television until 2020. And even then, just the ONE Macra. Against a blank greenscreen.

RTD knew when to take a hint and started negotiating downwards. He quickly discovered the Mill were capable of animating an entire army of CGI crabs, but these were normal crabs and not the demented Mod-design of the traditional Macra. For a moment it was considered calling these hideous travesties baby Macra who would become exponentially larger and more surreal as they moved through their life cycle, but RTD knew, he just KNEW, that the fans wouldn’t be fooled. However, if the army were completely smothered by a mist or fog, the audience MIGHT just fall for it – and with this in mind he set out to write the episode.

RTD’s episode, now entitled The Macramé Traffic Jam, featured a massive gridlocked highway where all the exhaust fumes made it completely impossible to see how rubbish the CGI Macra were. It would also be revealed that living in the gas-rich environment had made the Macra forget their love of macramé and just lumber around the place, feeding off drivers. To all intents and purposes, they might as well have been COMPLETELY DIFFERENT giant, crab-shaped insectoid aliens!

Beaten, the author knew the only way for the script to work was to strip all the references to the Macra to an absolute minimum and focus more and more on events in the motorway and the poor schmucks trapped there. To do this, RTD drew on all his knowledge and experience in the TV industry, science fiction and drama writing in general.

He picked up a pile of 2000AD comic books and ripped off everything he discovered therein. And so say all of us.

Directing both The Macramé Gridlock and The Lazarou Experiment was Ringo Starr who had at various times voiced Thomas the Tank Engine, drummed with the Beatles, and played Raymondo’s stunt double in a few episodes of Life On Mars. Amongst his cast was Bridget Turner, whose only interesting facet was being married to the guy who directed The Hedge of Destruction and The Serves-You-Rights under William Hartnell. And he did a crap job, if we’re honest.

Production on The Macramé Gridlock began with two days at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff, since that’s where everyone had woken up after a truly spectacular pub crawl the night before. The fact that the Temple of Peace was regularly used to show the era of Five Billion was a happy coincidence, and it was only when David Tennant himself noticed did anyone actually register this synchronicity.

With the exception of an off day to recover from the next pub crawl in celebration of that bit of trivia, the next week was spent in the studio at Upper Boat, covering sequences in virtually all the cars and the TARDIS interior, more material in the Joan Collins’ lair, and greenscreen work. But, hell, greenscreen. That could have been for anything. I’m not getting paid enough to go into more detail about that. Come to think of it, I’m not getting paid at all...

Ultimately, The Macramé Gridlock is a Doctor Who story with no villains – even the initial catastrophe is caused by people themselves rather than Macra! How rarely does sci-fi admit that humans can fuck up their lives without giant alien crabs being responsible? The people of Balanystra are their own worst enemies when they buy cars, drugs, put their faith in outside agencies and cling to even the most bowel-shatteringly stupid idea if it’s less scary than the truth! Even the Doctor is lying to himself, but saves the world by showing them the truth, yet Martha literally has to put a gun to his head to make him do as much for himself! The fact Martha is the only one who comes out at the end still tilting at her windmills does explain her complete insanity in future stories.

Meanwhile, David Tennant continued his baffling desire to sing in every episode with his bizarre sea shanty as he moves through the idling traffic, trying not to choke on the fumes while singing at the top of his voice...

"Stir Crazy in The Traffic Jam of the Macra" by Lenny Crab-Bits

Thank Christ I can fly into the sky
So very high just like a dragonfly!
We can fly above the trees over the seas
In all degrees to anywhere we please!

We can go and see the stars
Of the Milky Way or visit Mars?
Or just hang round in bars?

Earth’s burned up in the sun
And we’re stuck in a traffic jam
With everyone! Just wanted a little fun!



No comments: