Wednesday, December 2, 2009

8th Doctor - The Chimes of Midnight

Serial 8G - The Crime of Fright Night
Eighth Entry in the EC Unauthorized Program Guide O' Dead Piranha


Serial 8G - The Crime of Fright Night -

Part One - The Wholy Tenner

Charley is systematically taping over the Doctor's galactic compendium of late-night horror flicks. Devastated, the Doctor explains that these slasher films are vital research into the mindset of a sociopath. This is just the sort of thing that will keep them alive when, upon leaving the TARDIS, they are confronted with a strange, enigmatic, chainsaw-wielding figure whispering, "Come out, come out, little peegs!"

Charley believes the Doctor is talking out of his arse and tells him so. They agree to have a bet - and the Doctor offers a moth-eaten, moldy ten pound note to prove his point.

Then, they land the police box at a beaten-up, run-down service station in the middle of nowhere. It is utterly deserted - apart from the Marx Brothers.

The Doctor is already rubbing his hands with glee. He predicts there is, no doubt some loony in a hockey mask waiting around every corner determined to destroy them in a quite-unnecessarily-painful-and-messy way.

But there isn't.

Forced out by narrative conceits to actually DO something, the Doctor decides to chat with the Marx Brothers. His main aim is to establish why people are always going out about the mysterious FOURTH brother when there were five of them, and ridicule the plot of "Room Service".

The Marx Brothers defend themselves by saying that everyone has an off-movie but that any flick that allows the actors to swig gallons of cocaine mixed with lukewarm milk of magnesia can't be ALL bad. However, they're as stumped about the fourth brother thing as anyone.

The clock suddenly whizzes around really fast and Gummo dryly comments that someone should really fix the chronometer as the effect is frankly irritating.

Then, he drops dead, a jukebox jammed into his spine.

The Doctor and Groucho agree that the ex-brother was foolishly skinning a pheasant when this horrifically-domestic incident happened and speak no more about it until the next episode.

The clock does that annoying spin thing again and the pinball machine seems to come to life. Chico remarks he was thinking about playing it - if so, then this bit of time distortion has shown that, while he may be a diva on the piano he is shit at stopping a ball from sliding into the gutter.

Then, for no obvious reason, a dolphin apparently drops out of thin air and breaks Zeppo's neck.

Part Two - The Crime of Fright Night

The Doctor suspects that Zeppo merely slipped and fell out of a window, and is frankly surprised when Charley announces her belief that they are being hunted down by an unseen opponent.

The Doctor would dearly love to add this to his reasons for keeping his slasher films, but frankly no one remembers the other two brothers, and so the plot continues to do sweet F.A. for another episode.

The Doctor finally deigns explains in his usual bell-bottomed certainty that totally belies the fact he's high on something illegal and about to swear that you're his besht mate...

"Time... is like a corridor. Which is fricken' depressing, really. I spend most of my life in corridors, and it turns out that Time itself is just another one of the bastards. And, like all the corridors I seem to end up in, it's grey. And wobbles like cardboard. Because the Corridor of Time has been built by vengeful prop men, the whole Set of the Universe could collapse at any moment - and, as has been proved so often, in the fight for survival there are no re-takes!"

When Charley asks him what the flying fuck this has to do with anything, the Doctor replies, "Nothing, really. But it is SUCH a cool concept, don't you think? Have you ever thought about live organ transplants? Amazing, huh?"

Charley decides enough is enough and plans to ditch the Doctor and leave in the TARDIS. The Doctor is caught in a hideous dilemma - should he try and stop her, or sit back, content in the knowledge the preggo whore has left him for good?

Part Three - Rhyme Thought

To the cheer of all male viewers and a hell of a lot of female ones, Charley never makes it.

The remaining Marx Brothers put on their Sunday best and announce that they are NOT the Marx Brothers but unpaid extras from the "House" movie series.

"Curiouser and curiouser," the Doctor murmurs, not having the slightest clue what they're talking about.

The Time Lord is secretly cursing himself for not picking up a discount DVD set in 2075 HMV for his collection because he knows - he just KNOWS! - that he would definitely have won the bet with Charley by now if he had.

The Trio Who Aren't The Marx Brothers (TTWATMB, or TWATS for short) challenge the Doctor and Charley to games of wit and intellect to win their freedom from this unimaginative void.

The Doctor decides to play "What's My Line" from the movie Groundhog Day and Charley suggests Cluedo. This stupifies the TWATS as all they know how to play is travel-scrabble and lose easily, prompting another torrent of abuse from Harpo.

Part Four - Vital Murders

For no real reason, a minstrel appears and - to everyone's great annoyance - begins to sing "Drakmere", an old Clannad song used in Robin of Sherwood.

The cast team up and drown the bastard as the clock whizzes around again, proving some point or another.

The Doctor and Charley return to the bet, arguing about whether or not this entire four-parter has anything to do with their bet and, if so, who exactly won it.

Charley snogs him to shut him up and he agrees to rid his entire DVD collection if she just watches a crap 1980s flick called Fright-Night.

Five minutes into the story, Charley has run off in terror - only for the Doctor to discover her "crime": his priceless upholstered camphor-wood sofa is now soiled beyond repair...

The Doctor can be heard swearing constantly as the TARDIS fades away.

Book(s)/Other Related –
Doctor Who & The Crime of Fright-Night
Doctor Who - The Repeat of Doom
The notorious Channel 41 Sci-Fi interview with P. J. Hammond, only for the interviewer to realize that they are actually interviewing Rob Shearman instead

Fluffs - Paul McGann seemed a bit elemental in this story

Harpo speaks in this story and we learn the reason just why he usually communicates via car horn - his overbite, stutter, drooling problem and Tourette's syndrome are extremely bad

Goofs –
We are supposed to be intrigued by the strange car-horn honking noise that pervades the place before Harpo arrives - yet it is, I think you will find, the sound of a penguin violently breaking wind being played backwards.

When Charley screams at murder of the sink plunger, she is quite obviously supposed to run, hug and sob at the Doctor to displace her anxiety. Instead, she begins to molest Harpo, who struggles to grope her and remove his trousers at the same time. Nevertheless, the other actors continue their dialogue, reassuring Charley that everything is all right as long as the stays with the Doctor. At this point, the Doctor just shakes his head and walks off the set, the camera following him as he moves and begins to scream abuse at the production assistant, who pokes him in the eye with her ballpoint pen.

Much time is wasted as the actors desperately try not to snigger at Harpo's makeup and continue with their lines.

Fashion Victims –
Harpo has clearly managed to piss off the make-up ladies as his nose is covered in lipstick and has enough blusher to be mistaken either for a New Romantic, a victim of domestic violence, or both.

Technobabble -
Not much in this story as, no sooner as the Doctor explains that they are caught in a Domini-Spatio-Temporal Viaduct, then half the episode is taken up by him trying to explain to Chico that there is no duck involved in this situation in ANY way.

Links and References -
The Doctor bemoans the simple shag in Sick Morning that has lead to this hideous state he know finds himself in. He admonishes himself for not dumping Charley in "The Stoned of Venice" and "Inuit in Hull".

Untelevised Misadventures -
The Doctor refers to the adventure in the pre-credit sequence of "The Stoned of Venice" - where Charley downloaded the Doctor's collection of internet porn into the Star Wars Defense Program, unintentionally foiling an Cyberman attack when the repressed foes couldn't tear themselves away from their laptops and conquer the Earth

Charley helped the Doctor steal a first edition of "Oliver Twists - The Confessions of a Chimney Sweep" from Charing Cross Blockbusters by flashing the attendant and then running like hell. "I've seen it all before," the Doctor explains - though, frustratingly, WE haven't! The Doctor and Charley recall standing on 'alien nudist beaches'. Well, they ASSUMED the aliens were nude...

Groovy DVD Extras -
The complete script of the story with "Sapphire and Steel: Adventure 6 by P. J. Hammond" crossed out and "Doctor Who And The Crime of Fright-Night by Rob Shearman" scribbled next to it. Adjusting the tracking control of your remote, it becomes "Doctor Who And The Unholy Error by Rob Shearman", "Doctor Who And Gobbledygook by Rob Shearman", "Doctor Who Unsoiled: Headline by Rob Shearman" as well as an unsolicited submission for BBC Books called "Doctor Who - Repetition of Repetition of Repetition of Doom by Rob Shearman".

Dialogue Disasters -

Doctor: Sapphire! Take time back!

Charley: The words are being scratched directly into the wood!
Harpo: Who are you talking to?
Charley: Cosmic Raymond, my invisible gigolo.
Harpo: Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay. Backing away slowly, now...

Doctor: Who ever heard of the butler doing it?
Charley: I've never had any complaints.
Doctor: Shut it, Charley! I'm trying to stick to the script here!

Doctor: Look, I'll just leave Charley here and catch a taxi...
Zeppo: Don't do it, Doctor. The writer has also instructed I rip legs off and bugger you to death with them if you try.
Doctor: Why?
Zeppo: We must prolong the suspense and pad out the episode.
Doctor: Yet, somehow, I don't give a shit. Goodbye.
Gummo: One step closer to that door and I'll skewer you with my knitting needles.
Doctor: Did the writer tell you to do that as well?
Gummo: Oh, yes. He was most particular about what I could do to you with my knitting needles.
Doctor: Oh, really?
Gummo: Yes, well, I could knit you a jumper, crochet you a pair of socks, I'm even working on a long, multi-coloured scarf...
Doctor: Uh-uh, I'm not falling for THAT one again!

(He runs for the exit. Beyond it is a roaring black void)

Doctor: Oh, no. Just as I feared. I can't go out there in that! There's nothing. Nothing at all. We must get the door closed – help me!

(They close the door)

Doctor: At least I know where I am now. I'm in Streatham.
Zeppo: Are we? I thought it was Nowhere.
Doctor: Close enough.

Charley: You have designs on my plum pudding.
Chico: Well, I am a'bit hungry, it's a-no "American Pie" fetish or anything, yunnerstand?
Charley: Oh, how dull.

Dialogue Triumphs -

Groucho: Chico is a very stupid gnome - he may not have known it was impossible when he did it.
Doctor: Look, he was wearing Charley's knickers and that's a fact!

Charley: Even the best amateur detectives in London require some privacy to do their sleuthing.
Doctor: OK, Charley, now that may be a valid point but that's still no excuse for locking me out of the TARDIS while you have a nice fetishist role-playing game!

Chico: The clocks they're jumping forward, but we're staying where we are. Time as slipped a groove, wouldn't ya say, boss?
Doctor: Do you know, I think I'm going to stick my neck out and say it's just another case of shithouse continuity?

Harpo: Oh, Groucho - to be killed by your own brother Gummo. Or Zeppo. Whoever he was, if-f-f-f you catch my drift - YOU DAMN, LYING SON OF BITCH-WHORE! MAKE MEE! MA-KE MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Groucho: Hmph! Charlotte, you should keep a civil tongue in your head and not in mine! [long pause] On the other hand...

The Doctor finds another excuse to avoid Charley -
"How does the TARDIS expect us to enjoy a good fondle when we can't see anything?"

Doctor: Charley, I hate you. Without you, the entire crew of the Vanguard would have survived. Without you, the curse upon Count Insanity IV would have been broken. Without you, I would be shagging my way through the scooby-gang in Sunnydale. Without you, the Cybermen would have conquered Earth. OK, bad example. But without you, the attendant at Charing Cross Blockbusters would not need counseling. And without you, I would be a strolling bachelor rattling around the TARDIS have eye-examinations with the Cinnamarians, my life strong as a gorilla but supple as a nerf ball!
Charley: Um, who are the Cinnamarians?
Doctor: Oh, just forget it, lard-arse.

UnQuotable Quote -


Viewer Quotes -

"Wonderful stuff, a great build of adventure with the first episode reminiscent of episode one of "The Spam Museum". Wait a minute. That can't be right. Oh my god, what the hell am I doing out of rehab?"
- Robert Lindsey (2003)

"Damn it, I thought that we'd got away with that one. Shit."
- Cyber-Emperor Krang (1998)

"I cannot think of a Doctor Who story that has entranced and enthralled me more. Apart from Mammories of Fire. And Hand of Fuck. Then there was the Robots with Breasts. Well, pretty much anything with Leela in it. You know, I can think of a dozen Doctor Who stories that have entranced and enthralled me more. This is really rather crap isn't it?"
- Dave Restal (2002)

"For all Doctor Who's SUPPOSED sense of terror, Sapphire and Steel far outstripped it by depicting nightmare situations one could not run away from - and merely recalling its cliffhangers still brings me out in goose bumps. A series about time travel SHOULD be like Sapphire and Steel, but when I found out they'd ripped it off, I spilt blood for the first time AND IT WON'T BE THE LAST, MIND!"
- P. J. Hammond's agent and/or stalker (2000)

"The mystery perhaps owes too much to the author's previous work. Oh, who am I kidding it IS the author's previous work with a cut-and-paste job done on it between Big Macs!" - Rob Shearman (2006)

"The plot of The Crime of Fright-Night is a mystery: both fascinating and disturbing to a rational mind. Or, to put it another way, it's the dog's bollocks and no mistake!" - Andrew Beeblebrox (2003)

"Paul McGann is everywhere in this story. I can't get away from him. It scares me. This is a truly frightening production. It really gave me the shivers what with that evil laugh, the ominous clock chiming and the truly freaky main star coming at you left right and centre. It sure gave me the willies." - Richard E Grant (2007)

"I'm unsure why Harpo Marx should be a trigger such fear in us, but he does - from Tom Baker to the time Alf impersonated all five brothers, I find the air seem to groan and warp, emphasizing the sheer WRONGNESS of a curly-haired blond retard honking and bonking anything in sight."
- Chairman of the Harpo Marx fan club (1987)

"The actual mechanics of the threat - not to mention the atmosphere, magic and terror - are gibberish, but that doesn't matter one iota when Charley strips. Which particular story am I talking about? Who cares?"
- Nigel Verkoff (2000)

"Rob Shearman has provided another brilliant script, that glories in atmosphere and mystery. Where does he get them from? And why won't he tell me?" - J.K. Rowling (2005)

"Rob Shearman's script gives the audience some thinking to do - the lazy, crazy bastard! I don't watch Doctor Who to engage my brain! I watch it to ogle Charley, get high, and contribute to the world's overall supply of methane!" - Father James O'Malley (2001)

"Casting and performance are never less than ideal, and with the Doctor being given far more texture and zest than ever before; the villain being a memorable evil and the remainder of the characters giving the cast of Ghormenghast a run for their money. The story is blatant in its allusions, but it would be churlish to hold this against it when the end result is so wonderfully distinctive. In conception and realization, this is as perfect as Doctor Who has ever been... Wait, we ARE talking about The Crime of Fright-Night, aren't we? The one with Tom Baker on Gallifrey and the Bastard being a sea lion? No? What the hell is The Crime of Fright-Night about, then?" - Iris Murdoch (2003)

Psychotic Nostalgia -
"Sometimes, if you just listen - switch off everything that makes noises, and sit in the deep, dark silence of nature - you can hear a clock. Sniggering. If there's anything that this story proved, it was that it's not just MY clock doing that. It's ALL the clocks. Watching you. Giggling. I think I'll go and sacrifice a goat. That always cheers me up. Wanna come? I'll show you my scar!"

Paul McGann Speaks!
"The Crime of Fright-Night? I've had better. In fact, anything that isn't Rob Shearman's work. Of course, I say 'his' work - he's a guy who basically creates the same text over and over. I mean, if it was a self-pagiaristic way, maybe we could deal. But generally they're nicked from other TV shows that have nothing to do with Doctor Who. I know for a fact that the script we got was originally for "Birds of Feather", I was playing Tracy and India was Sharon. I've always thought India was more of a Dorian Gray character - that is, the one in Birds of Feather rather than Oscar Wilde's Blake's 7 rip-off. One cut scene had Charley being worshipped by the Marx Brothers as a god so they could reuse the "big talking bird" gag again. On paper, the catalyst-paradox idea of Chimes would probably seem pretty abstract and dryly intellectual but I saw it on paper and laughed out loud. What utter dribble. At this point, you could be forgiven for thinking that I'm on a mission to give The Crime of Fright-Night a right slating, because I am. Still, what can you expect from a guy who's family motto is 'I Am Nothing I Am Nobody'? This script was frothy shite."

India Fisher Speaks
"A lot of people think Shearman creates his paradox from the phantasmic logic of feeling rather than the strict nut-and-bolt logic of sci-fi, or even bog-standard rationalism. Nope, it's just down to bad grammar really. I mean, the whole angle of the Marx Brothers turned up because of a spelling mistake in the storyline. Still, I've had worse scripts. I suppose spending episode four sitting on a couch The Shining, Psycho, Suspiria, The Blair Witch Project, Dracula Prince of Darkness was better than going back to Dead Ringers. I remember when Paul complained that there wasn't much tragedy in this plot, Rob screamed 'YOU WANT TRAGEDY? I'LL SHOW YOU BLOODY TRAGEDY - HERE'S TRAGEDY TIMES ELEVEN SHOVED INTO A BLENDER AND SERVED TO YOUR MOTHER ON TOAST!' and then they added the bit where I soiled the sofa. Very tragic. Paul sobbed when he read the new scene, he really did."

Trivia -
This is the third eighth Doctor story that has him screaming "For God's sake, woman, we've got all night! What are you trying to do? Kill me?" at the stroke of midnight. This previously occurred in Doctor Root & The Enema Within and The Stoned of Venice.

Rumors & Facts -
The Crime of Fright-Night is almost certainly the most perfect script so far provided for the Eighth Doctor and Charley - which shows you just how crap the rest of Seasons 28 and 29 are.

There is a dead-on depiction of the Doctor and Charley from Shearman, which is amazing, considering the fact the dialogue is unaltered from material written for the characters of Sapphire and Steel.

Bizarrely, despite the fact he gets no opportunities to smile, demonstrate his lust for life (or just lust in general), show off his wits, charm, stamina, flashes of brilliance and perfection of last-minute rescues, the Eighth Doctor is given every chance to shine.

Maybe, as Paul McGann says, it's just they way he tells them - and we're total fucking morons for not noticing the difference in his acting range.

Rob Shearman writes effortlessly by just snatching any passing script that catches his interest - particularly ones that features exquisitely rhythmic dialogue where characters speak in turn as if they were being operated by the same, unseen puppeteer.

The reason why he does this is from Shearman's early days in writing when he met a man called George de le Arachnid, who had his own unique way of making people laugh - drilling holes into their skulls and pumping nitrous oxide straight into their brains.

After de le Arachnid was arrested and put safely behind a desk in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Shearman realized that mindless repetition of dialogue made what few jokes there WERE seemed like pure, comedic genius even though they were just breaks in the otherwise-uninterrupted tedium.

In true Doctor Who fashion, this story was commissioned before anyone knew about this neat psychological ploy, or that The Unholy Error would actually turn out to be good.

The Producers Gay Russell, Jason Haige-Ellery and Jacqueline Rayner were just too lazy to ask for a new writer or indeed a new story. In fact, they were quite prepared to let Rob Shearman write every single story of the new season.

Having been told that the season should revolve around the Doctor's relationship with his companion Charley, Shearman began work on a story entitled The Unholy Error 2: This Time, It's Personal.

The story involved the Doctor and Charley arriving inside the canteen of the BBC and encounter the casts of various period dramas. The Doctor tries desperately to leave Charley behind, but she simply murders everyone in sight and, despite his best efforts, the Doctor cannot escape the canteen, even by the toilet window...

The script ended there, mainly because the outline was nothing more than a diversionary tactic to allow Shearman to escape the office. Unfortunately, Gay Russell has never properly read any submission and noticed that the synopsis also included fifteen blank pages and ordered Shearman to get his arse into gear and write the damn season already.

Quietly going mad, Shearman examined the stories of the Eighth Doctor's first season and noticed a pattern - there was not a single, solitary original thought in the whole series. It was either taking the piss of shows like Buffy or The X-Files, or just re-writing its own scripts. Having come across the cornerstone of the Doctor Who writer's guide - "SHAMELESS PLAGIARISM IS ALWAYS FUN UNTIL THEY CATCH YOU" - Shearman bought a script from P. J. Hammond's Sapphire and Steel, ran it through a "find and replace" to put in the Doctor and Charley and was able to structure out of this a whole season of stories.

Finally, when Gay Rustle finally regained his supply of ritalin, they decided it was probably a bad idea to give Shearman total control of Doctor Who. He was already frothing at the mouth and would repeatedly switch off his computer, unplug it, then head butt the monitor, squeaking "WORK, YOU BASTARD, WORK!".

Calming him down with some chloroform, the Big Finish production team rapidly began using his scripts, but only one of them actually ended up being used in Season 29 after all.

In revenge, Shearman began to deconstruct each of his scripts, removing more and more individuality and Doctor Who elements until any episode was interchangeable with any other. Indeed, soon he would just change the name of a script and hand it in as a totally new submission and, in 2005 was dubbed "The Terry Nation of The Twenty-First Century By Royal Appointment."

Two hours later, this title was stripped from him by hoards of angry S & S fans and ol' P.J.H. himself.

Unsurprisingly, the norms of Doctor Who are subverted by this old ITV script - the story itself doesn't even begin until episode two and is resolved half way through episode three.

Rather than being driven to stay by the opportunity of a shag, or dumping Charley, the Doctor is quite happy to out sit eternity if he wins ten pounds from his companion and gets to keep his horror flick collection.

When he does attempt to leave at the end of Part Three, it's obvious he won't succeed because the story has another episode to go and so we get twenty-five minutes of the Doctor and Charley slowly walking up to the TARDIS, nattering on whatever's on their minds, entering the police box and then dematerializing.

And somehow people still seem to love this... "terrifying" adventure.

Nevertheless, the conventions of Doctor Who are inserted clumsily in the narrative - most notably the Chris Butcher method of writing and filming the story entirely in the author's apartment.

The soundtrack is a character in itself - vague, fussy and constantly treading over other actor's lines and shamelessly mugging at the camera.

The rising chorus at the end of each episode evokes a nightmare sense that something awful is going to happen, usually that the story is being continued next week.

There are also some cock-and-bull explanations about why things are happening like this from the Doctor, some underwear-dropping by an increasingly large Charley, and gratuitous cameos from the Marx brothers.

All of these were added very late in the story as Shearman admitted he hadn't even READ the script he was plagiarizing, and was, all in all, more concerned about a plum pudding that was looking at him funny than sitting down and creating a perfectly-structured and cohesive story when he had no idea where he was going.

Nevertheless, The Crime of Fright-Night manages to divorce itself from any similarities with The Unholy Error through it's title, which is, I am assured, completely different.

Big Finish, however, drew the line at packaging the story as Sapphire and Steel: The Crime of Fright-Night or as a Marx Brothers movie. Instead, Clayton Hickman worked night and day to crudely-photo shop an image of Paul McGann, Big Ben, Colin Firth into a cohesive whole.

India Fisher was reportedly 'spitting ectoplasm' when she found out that for the first time a companion created specifically for the audio range appearing on the cover and they got the wrong person to appear on it. More specifically offending her was the idea she sounds identical to Colin Firth's speaking voice, which she only does in the privacy of her own bedroom. And sometimes on the washing machine.

This error was compounded when, due to a mix-up at the printers caused by Mark Gatiss running amok with an AK-47, the CDs were released with the titles, blurb and credits of the previous story Evaders from Bars.

However, I'm sure there are alternative covers made by sad fans on the internet – for those pathetic enough to be interested.

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