Monday, February 1, 2010

10th Doctor - Last of the Time Lords (iv)

David Tennant Speaks!
"I’m finally in a musical and my choreography is to sit in a chair and not twitch too much? JINGS! First they stop me spouting pages of... stuff... and going off at 300 mph while everyone else kind of stares at me and give it all to John as the Bastard, and then I’m CGI for 25 whole pages, before flying around the place in a harness on wires that left my back knackered for the best part of a week! To be honest, I felt a bit of a goon. I mean, that makes me a guest star in my very own series – just like last week. And Blank. And Human Nature in a way. I’ve barely played the Doctor in this series, now I come to think of it. And now Martha’s gone! Martha! The Doctor would be NOWHERE without Martha and he puts this enormous burden of trust on her to save the world cause, well, no one else can be arsed to do it. She’s saved his life, she’s saved the universe, but he still doesn’t sleep with her. We’ve all been there."

Freema Agyeman Speaks!
"Martha completely comes into her own in this story, she grows massively obsessive and proves herself a worthy prospective girlfriend of the Doctor. Not that HE notices, but, you know. Still counts. I loved wearing my SAS combat gear. I was an action figure for a while. Well, actually I AM an action figure... but there were loads of explosions, energy, and an incredible guest cast. For me, a lot to do and a lot to do for Martha. I was shatter after it was all finished and they just threw me onto the scrapheap before, just when I was contemplating suicide they ring me up and explain it’s a joke and I’m coming back next year. But only for three stories. And maybe one in Touchwood. And nothing else. Did I like insult RTD in a previous life or something? WHY MUST I BE PUNISHED SO?!?"

John Barrowman Speaks!
"They say the reset button doesn’t really count because all the main characters still lived through it and were changed by it and all that... but I still end up in freaking Touchwood! They say it’ll be better this year, that Chris Chin-Balls has taken writing classes, but I don’t believe them. A week being tortured by the Bastard is looking pretty good in comparison right about now."

John Simm Speaks!
"The part for me was an absolute gift as an actor, a gift I tragically couldn’t return to the shop. It’s an amazing part to play, and it was hard, man. It was a tough scene to sing Rogue Traders songs, hurl abuse at an empty parrot cage and THEN die... with David Tennant’s big manly Dr Who chin stubble rubbing against my eye. Hopefully it won’t be completely brain dead and utterly retarded in context. Hopefully."

Russell T Davies Speaks!
"The one thing you can’t do is stop the fans thinking... that they know better than you. Of course, the bitterest pill for them to swallow is that they CAN’T do better than me. 8 million viewers, fandom, can you beat that? No? Tough! Now, I had very good reasons for neutering the Doctor, who’s normally so glittering and powerful, the only way Martha could get some decent screentime was to turn the Doctor into a goblin and lock him in a parrot cage for half an hour! As for Martha, well the series would have suffered to be in a permanent state of unrequited lust so we’re going to put her into Touchwood and then pull back into Doctor Who, coz there’s no way we want to let her go. Freema’s so brilliant and having her character grow up, get laid and develop something approaching a life will improve no end. And Freema knows we’re only joshing around with her, doesn’t she?"

Trivia -
The opening musical number aboard the Valium took 721 takes to complete – it wasn’t the actors’ fault, it was the fact Colin Teague can’t stand the Rogue Traders and kept cutting when the sound of Natalie Bassingthwaite became too much. He only survived by dubbing the Scissor Sisters’ "I Can’t Decide" over the top, which ruined all the careful lip-synching done by John Simm in the scene. It ended up so bad it looked sub-Monkey-Magic, it really did.

Rumors & Facts -
Lust of the Time Lords seems to be the most hated finale out of RTD’s tenure on Doctor Who... apart from all the OTHER finales, obviously.

Is it down to the way the audience are portrayed as nothing more than stunted egotistical apes doomed to become a delusional, childish, selfish and depraved race of machines who forsake our humanity to enslave our own history out of joy for the wrongs we dealt our ancestors?

Is because of the final, definitely, no-way-out death of the Bastard in a final stand that boiled down to the Doctor shouting "Gimme that!"?

Was it just that RTD managed to totally rip me off on countless occasions throughout this good-versus-evil-wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimy extravaganza?

As a stunted egotistical ape myself, the latter option is the explanation I choose every time!

Nevertheless, Lust of the Time Lords is a sprawling, ambitious mess with some truly bonkers ideas that make all the True Fans of Doctor Who rant and rage that RTD has ruined the show that wouldn’t exist without him and he has done to Doctor Who what Joel Schumacher did unto the Batman franchise.

So for this alone, Russell deserves Man Of Fist!!!

Just because people don’t like one episode, does that mean the show will never, ever, ever produce another good episode again until its cancelled, does that mean that Doctor Who has jumped the shark? Hell, has the expression "jumped the shark" itself jumped the shark since it is a tired 25-year-old cliché which actually means to regard a show at its BEST and thus cannot get any BETTER than it is at THIS moment? It is a pinnacle, a zenith, literally THE ULTIMATE yet people seem to think it synonymous with "beyond repair"...

God damn it! Does fandom even HAVE minds of their own? Or does their clinging onto catchphrases such as "dues ex machina", "cringeworthy", "fairy dust" for dear life prove they are unable to go beyond their own banal expectations of what Should Be and Should Not Be Doctor Who? These buzzword-addicts don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, just as long as everyone else is doing it!

Sweet Onion Chutney it annoys me sometimes. Not just me, Helen Raynor too – but enough about that. Ahem.

Very early in the process of developing ideas for the new Doctor Who series in 2004, executive producer Russell T Davies conceived the idea of a monster which would take the form of a small, flying sphere on the ground that it worked for Poltergeist II. Possessing the personality of a sadistic child, this sphere would in fact be a human from the end of time, horribly mutated.

The fact that the Big Finish audio play Singular Angularity by James Swallow ALSO featured humans from the end of time becoming horribly mutated and taking the form of small, flying spheres is not as much of a coincidence as RTD’s official biography, The Welshman’s Tale, would have us believe. Those cartoons are obvious forgeries, for a start.

For a considerable period, this stolen floating soccer ball monster possessed neither a name, nor a story in which to appear as checks were made that neither the Douglas Adams estate or a Blue Peter presenter could sue for their own floating and/or soccer ball monster ideas being ripped off by RTD.

RTD considered using the spherical psychoes in both I, Dustbin and The Santa Tip when those stories ran into issues with their monsters (the temporary loss of the rights to use the Dustbins, and concerns over the expense of computer-animating a giant red-nosed reindeer, respectively), although in the end his "own" creation remained on the shelf. Because in real life, soccer balls CAN’T fly and DON’T contain severed human heads.

Ultimately, "RTD’s" monster - now called the Toclafane (originally known as "ungrateful Who fandom" but changed when it was realized none of the said fans would realize they were compared to a load of old balls) - became the first element conceived for Doctor Who’s 2007 season finale, which would be set entirely in a world that the Time Lords imprisoned in the vortex which just happened to resemble Cardiff City Centre in every way, shape and form.

But the idea hit the skids when, during the second of half of 2006, RTD decided that Martha Jones would leave the totally clueless Doctor in the final story of the season. An ongoing element of Martha’s character arc was her unrequited lust for the Doctor, and Davies felt that this would become staler than Kath & Kim if it were to carry over into the 2008 season. Plus it would remind David Tennant who called the shots around here, with his continual demands that his latest real-life girlfriend be made a Doctor Who companion or that his latest Doctor Who companion be made his real-life girlfriend.

RTD therefore decided to give Martha a "break" (a very LONG "break") from travelling in the TARDIS, with a view to bringing the character back - a little older and wiser and slightly more insane - partway through the subsequent season. Martha would also appear in Touchwood in the interim, which RTD was determined would actually be worthy of canonical status this time around.

This lead of course to countless newspaper hacks declaring that Agyeman had been fired for being godawful, a failed actress, non-Caucasian and above all not as good as Billie Piper. The BP fan base of hardcore, dedicated, separatist psychos immediately took this as proof that Doctor Who was merely an excuse for the divine Ms. Piper to deign to appear before ordinary mortals and that Freema Agyeman and/or Martha Jones was an affront to God, Man and Chavs everywhere.

When she heard about this, Billie Piper herself made the following statement: "She reprogrammed an X-ray machine into a weapon on the fly within minutes of meeting the Doctor. She restarted his hearts. Twice. And metaphorically. Expelliarmus. Spot the difference. Always more than just a passenger. Keeping the Doctor calm in 47. Bones. Of. The. Hand. The year of stories. Martha Jones: more awesome in ONE EYEBROW than YOU have got in your whole body."

The mass nervous breakdowns of huge crowds of BP fans was just another inspiration for RTD’s first of countless and spectacular rewrites of the story he named Lust of the Time Lords. Why? Mainly because it was the name of Coast to Coast Doctor Who feature film STILL stuck in development hell since 1987, and RTD mocked them that they couldn’t copyright titles and he could use their moniker whenever he wished.

Lust of the Time Lords (the film) was a completely different story about a love polygon involving the Doctor, his ex-wife Zilla, her new boyfriend and the Doctor’s business rival Varnax, Varnax’s house boy Mordread, the Doctor’s illegitimate niece Lyria, a passing street urchin called Lotte, a Native American urban terrorist called Spanish, the bitter soldier of fortune Gonjii and his equally bitter son Gonjii Too, K9 Mk 76, and a small raccoon known as Pog who was the TARDIS librarian. The plot amongst other things had the total destruction of Gallifrey and the Time Lords and involve the Doctor defeating his nemesis by clicking a massive reset button. Mmmm. Thank God THAT never got made, huh?

Originally, 10 Downing Street played a much larger role in the story, serving as the location for the last of Martha’s decoy chemicals and providing a romantic interest for Milligan. Milligan himself would turn out to not only have a disturbing love for old buildings, but was also a traitor who would betray Martha to the Bastard, who would then blow Milligan’s head off for a laugh.

However, RTD began to feel that the world of the ravaged Earth deserved greater exploration rather than simply a few characters mumbling stuff about the islands of Japan being nuked. Using his amazing script-writing powers, RTD concocted the material involving Professor Docherty instead. Leo Jones was also intended to appear in Lust Of The Time Lords, welcoming Martha back to Britain and introducing her to Milligan but Reggie Yates had come to the conclusion that he hated Doctor Who and everyone involved in it and refused to turn up to recording. Dialogue now referred to Leo working in the Bastard’s slave force under an assumed name, before the scene was cut altogether so everyone would believe Yates’ character had died horribly in unspeakable agony.

The final scene with Jack was written to include dialogue between him and the Doctor which ripped the living shit out of John Barrowman’s cretinous and godawful voice-over accompanying each episode of Touchwood. This was removed because it was felt to be too metatextual, but left in because everyone in the cast and crew despised Touchwood and couldn’t resist another turn of the knife.

The ending to the story was originally COMPLETELY different – Martha would cross the timelines and ally herself with the Tenth Doctor from Five Minutes Ago (distinguished by his bitching blue pinstripe suit) and used him to save the day, risking the sanctity of time for a cheap trick as the Doctor himself noted in Smith & Weston. Foreshadowy much?

The twin Doctors then sent all the Toclafane away from Earth and then into the orbit of a certain living sun (from 47) and the captive Bastard is forced into a Chameleon Arch, with the Doctor intending to transform the evil Time Lord into mild-mannered policeman Sam Tyler and then dump the amnesiac cop in 1973 Manchester. However, the Bastard fights back and the Arch explodes, allowing the Bastard and the Doctor to swap bodies. Thus the villain escapes looking like David Tennant while the Doctor is beaten up by Martha and Captain Jack in the thrilling cliffhanger conclusion to the story.

Unfortunately, RTD soon discovered his entire premise had been used years before (and much better) in the John Travolta and Nicholas Cage film Face/Off by those "evil, time-traveling Hollywood goits" so a new ending had to be hastily composed on the spot. Does it show?

The director of Lust of the Time Lords was none other than Colin Teague, who curiously happened to have directed the story immediately previous. This proved immensely handy because had someone else attempted it, they would be unlikely to have a single bloody clue what the hell was going on and ruin everything by introducing random shit like David Tennant being a diminutive, Methuselan CGI troll! Hang about...

Recording at Upper Boat continued from February 26th to March 1st, on the sets of both the TARDIS and the Valium flight deck, which many not be funny but by jingo by crikey it’s true. The final day also included a trip to the Caerphilly Mountains, where Martha arrived after escaping the Valium. There were some minor troubles, what with the deranged redneck hillbillies trying to steal some of the camera men to feed off, but generally things went all right.

March 2nd started at University Place in Cardiff, for no particular reason at all that I can discover; cast and crew then shifted to the old NEG Glass site at Trident Park in Cardiff Bay, where the completion of scenes in the bowels of the Valium continued to the 3rd was only hampered by the fact no such scenes were written.

The venue on March 8th was Vaynor Quarry near Merther Tydfil: here, Martha and Milligan spied on the rocket silos, the Doctor and the Bastard had their climactic confrontation, and the Bastard’s funeral pyre burned. A late addition to the script was Lucie picking up the Bastard’s ring while the evil Time Lord's laughter echoed. Davies had decided to include this shot in order to give future production teams a mechanism by which they could bring the Bastard back by ripping off some Tanith Lee Blake’s 7 episodes. Curiously, while Sheridan Smith played Lucie, the hand was actually production manager Tracie Simpson. I dunno about Sheridan, but if someone didn’t trust ME to be able to pick up a small object convincingly on camera, I’D be bloody annoyed.

On March 9th, RAF St Athan provided the airstrip, as well as the exteriors of the factory and Professor Docherty’s shed and took them back when the BBC had finished with them. By now, David Tennant and John Barrowman had got arrested, so another change was needed so that Freema Agyeman – by now pretty much the ONLY cast member out of jail – could resolve the rest of the narrative, covering Martha’s quest on the enslaved Earth.

It was at this point Teague was injured in a fall at his home, and so Graeme Garden (who had just finished 47, Dystopia and shoving Teague down the stairs) made himself available to direct the remaining scenes. His first two days saw a return to the NEG Glass site, cause everyone loved going there, it’s the hippest place in Cardiff and this brought Agyeman’s time as a Doctor Who regular to a close.

March 13th was the final day at Upper Boat, covering the remaining scenes on the Valium flight deck and a remount of Lucie (once again Tracie Simpson) recovering the Bastard’s ring. How the hell can you screw up a shot of a hand PICKING UP A RING?! Sheridan Smith should sue!

The last of the Upper Boat TARDIS scenes was the closing shot featuring the apparent collision between the TARDIS and the Titanic, leading into the 2007 Christmas special, The Michaelmas Cruise. This was taped with only minimal crew present, in order to maintain secrecy about the special’s contents and to make ABSOLUTELY DAMN SURE no one twigged, it was decided to film a completely different ending where the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) arrived and pinched his future self on the bum. Unfortunately, THIS was the version that went to air and left the entire audience eagerly awaiting the next Christmas special involving the Sixth Doctor when no such story actually existed!

It was a difficult and delicate situation for RTD to resolve.

Which is why he got Steven Moffat to sort it out for him and thought no more about it.

Out in the real world, Doctor Who continued to be extraordinarily more popular than anything else British television could offer, which either makes you very proud or consider suicide. In fact, the BBC decided to milk Doctor Who for all it could and squeeze another fifteen minutes out of the show. Thus, an overlong edit of Lust of the Time Lords – containing all the stuff RTD had been desperate to get rid of – was screened in a special, atypical 50-minute timeslot. Only the international syndicated versions were spared this decision, but do those miserable foreigners count their lucky stars? Well, THIS one sure didn’t, as I illegally downloaded the British version right away and was as annoyed as everyone else.

The second year of the Tenth Doctor came to an end on June 30th, not on June 31st nor on June 29th – shout down all who say otherwise. Lust of the Time Lords gave the programme a hat trick of Top Ten finishes for the year, suggesting that the viewing public was still as eager as ever for the Doctor’s next great adventure.

How wrong we all were back then.

Season C Round-Up –

If there’s just one word to sum up this third series of hardcore Welsh adventures in time and space and Cardiff, then that same single word used would be eleven letters long, with five syllables, five vowels and end in an exclamation mark.

No, YOU work it out!

The 2007 series is about humanity, which is rather dull when you think about it. Pretty much every TV show is about the dominant hominid aboriginals of this planet. It’s really rather a stale concept, and borders on the self-obsessive to fill our media with stories about the species that created said media – talk about egomaniacs! But, slightly less predictably, the series is about Martha "Notice Me" Jones.

Bursting onto screen all sparkling intelligence and lust for David Tennant, ready to take on marauding Beebop and Rocksteady, libidinous bards and backbiting relations alike. What a rollicking, romping, wham-bam-thank-you-Time-Lord start she makes! Huge spaceship, alien policemen, terrified Elizabethans, flying witches from the dawn of Mighty Midget TV Comic Action 21 – THIS IS WHAT WE WANT FROM DOCTOR WHO! Well, that and Freema Agyeman and Billie Piper getting all naked and making out. THAT is ALSO what we WANT FROM DOCTOR WHO! In fact, on second thoughts, keep the first two episodes and we’ll just have Martha and Rosie sexing each other up, OK?

I mean, both Smith & Weston and The Shakespeare of Evil MAY be packed with kinetic energy and pace matched by brisk, breezy script and machine-gun delivery – puns and in-jokes whizzing past the ear ten to the dozen – but there’s not enough hot lesbian sex between NuWhu companions to make it worth our while. To be fair, identical complains could be made about The Macramé Gridlock where, three episodes deep into the adventure that we’re pulled up sharp for some rest and reflection but NOT any red hot Rose-on-Martha action!

Such XXX-rated shenanigans would be stunning in the best sense of the word, raising some of the series’ fundamental questions (not just that "how many times do I have to kill off a recurring villain?" business) – what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be Time Lord? What does it mean to be a Time Lord who has been sucked dry of blood, stuck by a bolt of lightning, brainwashed by a living sun, turned into Hugh Grant, aged and then reduced to the size of a Norwegian Blue parrot? And what does it mean if Rose and Martha wear black and white underwear respectively? WHAT DOES IT MEAN, BASIL, WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN???

The Dustbin two-parter (similarly devoid of any kinky lady sex, though Tallulah and Martha COULD have been the next big thing in porn) is also about humanity binding together in the face of adversity, in love for musical theatre, in the DNA strands of a kidnapped swine. All that DNA bobbins isn’t important – thank fucking Christ because it sure as hell ain’t accurate – what matters is Dustbin Leo finding out that having all his chromosomes in complete working order stops you sounding like Nicholas Briggs with a ring modulator. The Dustbins on Broadway is a brazen, broad-stroked comic book of action, song, dance routines, sweeping highs, terrible lows, and reminds us all of how utterly horrible yuppies in the 1980s are. Is this what we want from Doctor Who? Not really, but we’d take it happily if Martha explored her sexuality with that cute blonde chick dressed as angel, that’s for sure!

If there’s a weak point in the run... well, for the sake of argument we can pretend the rest of the run was in any way strong... began and ended with The Lazarou Experiment, an overly-wordy examination of why Black and White Minstrels are so damn creepy that relies too heavily on said minstrel to pad out the episode. Likewise, 47 is a game experiment with the series’ format, ultimately derailed by the continuing lack of hot Martha sex scenes (though her violent seduction of Much the Miller’s Son was pretty cool in every respect).

Next up... hang on, I missed that bloody cartoon... oh, never mind. Human Nature is a work of pure televisual genius, and considering it’s based on a very crappy paperback the irony is thick enough to clog the arteries of the audience. writing, music, performance and production all come together to make what has to be single most predictable and utterly depression Doctor Who adventure ever. They even made sure you could download the bloody novel off the official website to make it worse! You can’t imagine the production team being so criminally insane in any previous series or even anywhere else in this one. This story, along with the similarly derivative Blank, make me wonder why the hell the authors get paid for their rehashed work when they could, I dunno, get off their arses and write something NEW for a change? Perhaps involving Rose and Martha getting all hot and sticky?

The now-traditional blockbuster finale has some moments that haven’t been ripped off the writer’s prior work (rather James Swallow’s "Singular Angularity" but with more Captain Jack) but leaves far too many questions unanswered after its big old reset button gets pressed. What is the true fate of humanity? Are we destined to live endlessly on, waiting in vain for a salvation that will never arrive? And does salvation come in the form of some scorching Rose/Martha slash scenes?!

Much has been made of the theme of unrequited lust; Martha is introduced purely to exploit the dramatic potential of an unfulfilled, one-sided stalker romance between TARDIS occupants (admittedly in a less creepy way than when they did it with Charley Pollard), with Martha getting all doe-eyed, mooning over the Doctor and contriving to find ways to shove the Time Lord’s hand down her pants. But there are other ongoing repeated memes probably down to complete coincidence...

In The Dustbins on Broadway!, Dustbin Raph rails at length against "weak" humankind, betraying his innate jealousy of an evolving, vital species who can use chopsticks and form long-term meaningful relationships with each other. In Dystopia, the Bastard is literally green-eyed (well, briefly, before they turn brown) with envy at the Doctor’s well fit incarnation – so he copies it, before offering humanity a monstrous, perverted version of eternal youth, first in the shape of the Lazarou Blenderizer and then later in stunted, stagnating Toclafane. Oh, what subtext!

But as we see, when nature is finally allowed to take its course, wonderful things happen. The inhabitants of Balanystra, freed from their perpetual amber traffic-light existence, burst into euphoric song and... erm... ah... And then, Shakespeare, unshackled from the tyranny of the Witches’ spell is capable of fluent, poetic and potent verse... which he was, already, when you think about it... oh, and when Martha finally ditches the Doctor, her departure is a wholly understandable and dramatically satisfying conclusion! Except, er, she’s just teasing him and we know she’ll be back next year..., I really should have given that final paragraph more thought, to be honest, shouldn’t I?

So. Let’s hope next year that, if we can’t get any decent Rose/Martha action, we can at least get our Dark Lady all naked and jiggly with Donna Noble, jilted bride, future companion and the owner of the finest set of fun-bags in Chiswick!!

(The above was specially composed by guest reviewer Nigel J Verkoff)

Meanwhile, David Tennant was once more foiled in his baffling desire to sing in every episode. Just like the last two stories, it was the Bastard who got to be the front man, with John Simm’s poignant death scene only heightened further by his choice of Rogue Trader hit single to go out with...

"The Final Chapter" by Our Lord and Bastard with the Scissor-Sisters

I’m sick of this long fight
About who’s wrong and who’s right
Cause tonight I’m going to die
You thought I’d wave goodbye?
Well you never thought at all!
And now I’m having a ball!

There’s something I must confess
I’ve got a secret you won’t guess
I can’t contain it any more
The drums are calling for war!

Hey! Surprise!
I never liked you, even when I tried to!
Don’t speak now, it’s my turn, Doctor!
I never liked you, and I won’t pretend to!

Hey! Look twice!
I never liked you, even when I tried to!
No one can stop the Toclafane
Galaxy’s gonna go down the drain, uh huh!

How could it suddenly be
That we’ve come to this?
All the good guys are long dead
I guess that there’s no justice!

I’ll drag you down with me,
Put the Doctor in his place
So you’re the one that’s stuck here
With an old and wrinkled face!

Hey! Surprise!
I never liked you, even when I tried to!
Don’t speak now, it’s my turn, Doctor!
I never liked you, and I won’t pretend to!

Hey! Look twice!
I never liked you, even when I tried to!
No one can stop the Toclafane
Galaxy’s gonna go down the drain, uh huh!

will return in

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