Saturday, September 19, 2009

5th Doctor - The Castle of Fear

Serial 6C/N – Village of the Darned: Castle Phobia
An Alternate Programme Guide by Ewen Campion-Clarke
An Extract From The EC Unauthorized Programme Guide O' Unfunny And Wearying Yuletide Frippery

Serial 6C/N – Village of the Darned: Castle Phobia -

We’ve pretty much caught up with part three of "Interesting Times" with the TARDIS parked in the sleeping English village of Stockbridge where the Doctor passes the time appearing in seminal-yet-over-hyped comic strips for "Doctor Who Monthly Magazine" and Nyssa bonks senseless a scruffy young man by the name of Andrew Beeblebrox.

As they meet up at the Green Dragon Inn to compare notes, the two time travelers watch a traditional mummers’ play in progress and react in the traditional village manner of pelting the players with rotten tomatoes and telling them to "now do the play that DOESN’T suck!"

Nyssa, for her part, is deeply disturbed when he notes the mummery characters consist of Father Christmas, a Turkish Knight, Saint George, Saint George’s Dragon and the Doctor – an agent of death, rebirth and seasonal renewal who possesses a blue cart that’s bigger on the inside, wears a white coat with a sprig of celery on his lapel and with a mini-skirted assistant who refers to him as a Time Lord.

"Oh, no, now that’s the damned limit!" the Doctor shouts from the audience. "Nyssa! Get me my lawyer on the phone! I am going to sue!"

Nyssa suggests that some previous adventure involving the Doctor, a green dragon, a Turkish knight has simply entered mumming folklore yet this just pisses the Time Lord off even more! Now it’s not just general defamation but outright specific slander!

After getting into a drunken fight with the guy playing the Green Dragon, the Doctor decides to travel back to 1199 with Nyssa as his witness for the media’s gross and biased distortion of events – as any viewer of BBC1’s "Robin Hood 2005" series will know.

For reasons of narrative convenience, the TARDIS works perfectly and the Doctor and Nyssa arrive in 12th Century Stockbridge to find it slightly more civilized and hygienic than the one they just left. However, they are soon mobbed by a crowd of heavily-armed medieval types with slack jaws and dodgy yokel accents.

There they meet Hubert, Earl of Mummerset who has just returned from the Holy Land as was clichéd in this particular historical period. He has come to Stockbridge’s famed Castle Phobia to rid it of its demonic squatters who have been living there, rent free and not even paying council tax or anything for the last two Crusades!

However, as everyone who tries to move the squatters is either driven insane, electrocuted to a crisp or Russell Brand, Hubert is rapidly running out of volunteers to face the demons. The Doctor proudly boasts that he fought the Demon Melonicus and survived – by the cunning strategy of hiding in a corner having a humiliating panic attack while Sir Justin and a Matrix Shayde did all the hard work.

Gripped with terrifying and suicidal overconfidence, the Doctor and Nyssa advance on Stockbridge Castle to exorcise the demons! But after stepping in horse dung for the third time in as many minutes, they decide maybe to call it quits and try and find the Holy Grail instead as the Doctor knows from bitter experience (read: a late Pertwee-era pseudo-historical story) that it’s around these parts.

Unfortunately, the Doctor falls into a boar trap and a boar decides to chase Nyssa. This pads out a couple of episodes easily. Then some outrageously-accented French knights turn up to provide canon fodder and offensive ethnic stereotypes respectively, seizing control of Stockbridge because... um... I dunno. It’s what foreigners do, I guess.

The Doctor finally climbs out of the boar trap and meets Maud the Withered, a raddled old crone who resembles Terry Jones in far too many ways for it to be comfortable. Thankfully, it just turns out that Maud is an evil shape-changing extraterrestrial warmonger and not actually an ex-member of Monty Python after all.

Yes, for only the second time in ALL of Doctor Who, the Ru-tans are back for a story of their own. It only takes about three seconds of a glowing blob shouting "Degenerate Space Trolls!" in a thick Welsh accent for us to realize precisely WHY the Ru-tans rarely appear. Because they are stupendously crap.

The Ru-tan restaurant industry has been fighting a battle of culinary dominance across the galaxy for fifty thousand centuries with the Snotaran pizzeria chain of Mutter’s Spiral. And when a Snotaran delivery boy called Unix arrived on Earth, the Ru-tan followed him to try and undercut prices and discover if tofu tastes better with human flesh as a topping.

Quite frankly, this sort of thing is so far beneath the Doctor he strongly considers just buggering off with Nyssa in the TARDIS and letting the blobby aliens just get the hell on with their screwed-up cooking experiments with an army of underpaid Turkish immigrants.

And so the Doctor and Nyssa sit on the battlements, sharing a cigarette and watching as Hubert, the French knights, the Ru-tans and the Turks engage in a pitched battle that turns out to be exactly like the Christmas mummery in every single detail. So, the Doctor’s lawsuit is pretty much stuffed and the whole thing has been a complete waste of time and two shiny compact discs.

As the humans realize that their steel armor is slightly hindering their chances of surviving the electrical attacks of blobby aliens, the various speaking parts are forced to strip while the time travelers wolf-whistle and do off-key renditions of "Va-Va Voom!"

The surviving French knight does not take kindly to this and drags the pair back to the village to be burned as witches. However, as they do NOT weigh the same as a duck, and the villagers HAVE been considering a collectivist alternative to the feudal system, that whole plot thread pretty much goes nowhere and does naught but piss off Michael Palin and more importantly his lawyers.

Nyssa finally brings the plot to a conclusion by offering to show the Ru-tans a strange Trakenite recipe involving severed toes, rat’s brains and egg-fried noodles. The Doctor is horrified – not only could this delicacy upset the fragile balance of power between the Snotarans and the Ru-tans, the very thought of it is making him sick!

But Nyssa, unlike so many Doctor Who companions, isn’t COMPLETELY retarded and as the Ru-tans taste-test their new special dish they immediately drop dead from food poisoning.

Hubert is so impressed he turns Stockbridge Castle into an open-plan restaurant, Saint George’s Space Seafood Sushi bar with the house special of Ru-tan tentacle in a delicate white wine sauce. The French Knight becomes the Maitre D and all is well with the world.

"So this is where the memetic confluence began!" Nyssa gasps.

"No one likes a smartass, Nyssa," the Doctor grumbles.

Meanwhile, ten centuries later, the result of generations eating raw Ru-tan biomass leads to certain side effects. Or, to put it another way, all the mummers glow green and start electrocuting random passers-by for sadistic alien pleasure in a sequence clearly animated by Terry Gilliam and a bottle of whiskey.

Still, it’s a nice change to the end credits, I suppose...

Book(s)/Other Related –
Doctor Who and the Fear of Castles
Monty Python & the Electrified Jellyfish from Ruta 3
The Necronomicon Cookbook

Fluffs -
There is a lengthy scene in part three where the Doctor justifies Tom Baker’s inability to pronounce the word "chameleon" in 1977 because the Ru-tans aren’t natural shape shifters and thus should properly be referred to as "shameleons".
Methinks Alan Barnes really needs to get laid.

Goofs –
Doctor: Come on, Nyssa. Time we left exited stage right.
Nyssa: That’s a stage direction, Peter, not dialogue. You’re not supposed to read them out aloud.
Doctor: Oh. Is that a problem?
Alan Barnes: The problem is you’ve ruined my play, sir!
Nyssa: Don’t be a killjoy!
Doctor: Um, doesn’t that red light mean this is still recording?

Fashion Victims –
Nyssa admits to the Doctor that she’s developed a bit of a fetish for strapping young Stockbridge lads wearing nothing but moleskin under-hose long-johns. And who can blame her?

Links and References -
Between all the mentions of The Slime Warrior, Lighthouse Cutaway, The Tides of Time, Interesting Times and The Cruel Sades, it’s amazing there’s any space left for all the crap Monty Python routines!

Untelevised Misadventures -
During their months in Stockbridge, Nyssa has apparently worked her way through the human Karma Sutra twice with Andrew and is getting a bit sick of having to make love in Earth-normal gravity.

Groovy DVD Extras -
Peter Davison’s appearance on the Pro-Celebrity Edition of Alexei Sayle’s "Jester Balowski’s Medieval Torture Hour!" along with Dennis Waterman’s Showbiz XI and the cast of NOT! The Nine O’clock News.

Dialogue Disasters -

Nyssa: That’s a Ru-tan?
Doctor: The costume could do with a little work, I grant you.

Hubert: Tell us, stout yeoman – what exactly were your crimes?
Osbert: Stealing my neighbor’s mud and whistling on a Tuesday.
Hubert: You sick fuck.

Doctor: Nyssa, what have you done? The Ru-tans will turn planet Earth into a milk bar, turning out foot-long deli sandwiches by the million!
Nyssa: Doctor, I did exactly what you’d have done in my position!
Doctor: In YOUR position, Nyssa, I’d have –
Nyssa: Yes?! You’d have what?!
Doctor: Well, I’d have sabotaged the recipe in some way.
Nyssa: Yes, I thought of that.
Doctor: You had? Brilliant!
Nyssa: Except they’d have spotted that immediately.

Roland: Look, I can either do an outrageous French accent that’s quick and agonizing, or an outrageous French accent that’s slow and agonizing. Your choice, which do you think is best?

Yokel 2: Alright, alright. Keep your codpiece on!
Hubert: I say, that’s rather good!
Nyssa: Unbelievable.
Hubert: The joke?
Nyssa: The fact you find it funny.

Yavuz: What? Is this it?
Hubert: Yes, Stockbridge Castle... what d’you mean, "is this it?" The battlements are as high as ten men on end, the largest fortress in the whole of Mummersetshire!
Yavuz: It’s only a model!

Dialogue Triumphs -

Yokel 1: Who’re you calling a rabble? There’s only two speaking parts in the whole village! I hate factual inaccuracies like that, I do!

Nyssa: I’m right, aren’t I, Roland? Your quest is for money?
Roland: What if it is, my Lady? There are no noble quests, not any more. In Palestine, the finest families of Europe gather to butcher the heathen, and be butchered by him in turn. Tell me – where is the honour in a Crusade overseas, when the Western lands are left unguarded from the dragons of want, and disease?
Nyssa: Well – fight those dragons, then. By your measure, isn’t it better to die battling dragons, than live for hire?
Roland: No.
Nyssa: [nods] No. No, you’re right. I’m talking crap, aren’t I?

Doctor: You chose to make a series of assumptions. Some of those I simply chose not to contradict.
Roland: Ah! Economical with the actualité, eh?
Doctor: ...I beg your pardon?
Hubert: Roughly translated, "Ooh, you fibber!"

Yokel 1: Demon! Demon!!!
Yokel 2: What sort of demon?
Yokel 1: Great - green - wobbly – DEMON!
Yokel 2: Don’t get bogged down in specifics, man!

Doctor: I’d have helped you, if you’d asked, Drone Leader. Tried to find a peaceful resolution to the problem of your presence here on Earth. But then you – well, you killed my friend, didn’t you? You killed Nyssa, and I was really rather fond of her. Very fond, in fact. Especially when she wore those fishnet stockings... mmm... stockings...
Nyssa: I’m right here.
Doctor: Hmm? Sorry. Miles away.

Hubert: Do not taunt the Happy Fun Time Ball, Roland the Rat!

Hubert: Hear me, men of Stockbridge! Hear me! I am Hubert, Earl of Mummerset. Your master!
Vexatious Yokel: Well, *I* didn’t vote for you!
Hubert: Men of Stockbridge, please! Enough of the Monty Python jokes!

Viewer Quotes -

"Not my thing at all, though."
- John Cleese (1987)

"If this had been written by Russell T Davies, we would already be hearing talk of a spin off featuring Maud the Strumpet - now what a series that would be! HOORAY! God I hate that fat Welsh imbecile, with his stupid gay face... I hate him! I hate everything about him! The only reason I haven’t stabbed him to death is I can’t afford to take the two weeks off work necessary to do so, plus I might catch some horrible homosexual disease off him if I tried! BASTARD!"
- Arnold T. Blumberg (2009)

"I’m three episodes in, and only got that far because I paid for it
and feel obligated to try and get my money’s worth. Well, I say MY money, but I went to all the trouble to mug that junkie and steal his wallet to pay for this. Well, I say PAY for it, I actually just stole the CD. But I could have paid for it. And this my reward?!"
- Klepto Penny-Thrift the Fourth (2009)

"Oh dear. Utterly terrible. The generic paint-by-numbers script is full of feeble, unfunny puns and the performances are so absurdly over the top; the audio equivalent of mugging for the camera. A few fan pleasing continuity references aren’t much compensation for the very thin plot. Which one of my stories are we talking about again?"
- Mark Gatiss (2012)

"I’m going to write to The Daily Mail to complain about this alongside lots of other people who haven’t listened to it yet."
- Lawrence Miles (2005-onwards)

Psychotic Nostalgia -
"The identity of the monsters was on the back cover, and I spent the whole first half of the play waiting for their inevitable appearance. Yet Terrance Dicks and Steve Parkhouse never turned up! WHAT A GIP!"

Peter Davison Speaks!
"This was a Doctor Who story? I thought I was just recording "Spamalot!" again and they’d brought Sarah in as some kind of clever meta-textual joke! Though, now you mention it, I thought the humor wasn’t up to the usual Python standard. The Ru-tans would have been funnier if they were giant blancmanges from Andromeda, too. And the puns! Everyone knows puns are the lowest form of wit, and they seem to think that a comic story is any old crap set in Stockbridge! MORONS!"

Sarah Sutton Speaks!
"I always like historical stories that you can visualize and explore the real implications of human progress and development. So, as you can imagine – I couldn’t stand this sub-par wannabe-Blackadder rubbish. It’s total and utter clap, as Rowan Atkinson would say."

Rumors & Facts -

The final trilogy of Big Finish stories for 2009 would feature the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa and so Alan Barnes decided to set all three stories in the same location – the sleepy English village of Stockbridge from the DWM comic strips. Barnes worked on the insane troll logic that if DWM comic strips featuring Stockbridge were incredibly popular, surely three audio stories featuring Stockbridge would similarly be the dog’s bollocks?

Still, what else can you expect for someone so utterly dense they still haven’t realized that The Simpsons has jokes in it?

Hell, it’s only his clear inability to understand the concept of Earthman Humor that means Castle Phobia is anything more than a collage of plagiarism from Monty Python, Blackadder, The Young Ones with a caustic plotline so intricate it fell apart even before it was put down on paper. On the bright side, at least it’s not by Nev Fountain.

Barnes was inspired by having to sit through a Boxing Day mummers’ play and decided to make every Big Finish listener suffer as much as he had, only with even WORSE attempts at Gloucestershire accents!

Once this was grafted onto his usual old hackwork of incoherent twists and badly-signaled turns and characters who aren’t quite what they seem because the author has the attention span of a toothbrush and thinks "whetting the listener’s appetite" involves a high-pressure hose.

Some people say that Castle Phobia features a fantastic cast, but why they would say this about Josh Thomas as Hubert, Britney Spears as Terry Jones as Maud the Withered, and John Sessions as a bucket of lard, I have absolutely no idea. Who are these people and why do I even bother to relate their incoherent rantings anyway?

In fact, sod this, I’m hungry and "Jane Ayre: Police Vet" is on and frankly watching some woman with her cleavage bursting out of a period frock looking for clues in rural Britain by shoving her hand up a cow’s arse to find true love sounds more enjoyable than this...

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