Tuesday, December 1, 2009

8th Doctor - The Stones of Venice (i)

Serial 8B - The Stoned of Venice
An Alternative Program Guide By Ewen Campion-Clarke
Fifth Entry in the EC Unauthorized Program Guide O' Horny Linoleum


Serial 8B - The Stoned of Venice -

Once again, the Doctor has done what he does best; snuck into the British Museum without paying, dared touch something marked 'Do not touch', been attacked by a psychotic tour guide, and been chased up countless identical corridors.

However, other patrons of the museum don't seem very pleased about it. As the Doctor and Charley flee for their lives, steps ahead of the angry mob, the Doctor is already planning their next trip, and the thought of a strip-club in Venice pops into his head.

Once safely back in the TARDIS, Charley goes complain to Serge about what a screwball the Time Lord is, believing that the seal will even be remotely interested in what she says.

However, the Doctor knows their temporary pet will snap sooner or later and pump Charley full of lead. In the meantime, Venice is as good a place as any for Charley to fall in love with some passing gondolier, and better than some...

Part One - The Strange Daze

There is a strange daze over the populace of Venice. The grand marble palaces are wreathed with an odd-smelling fog and the crowd is generally relaxed and aren't particularly inclined to party as if there's no tomorrow, which there may not be. They just don't care.

The ruler of the city, Duke Insanity IV, does not wish his subscription to Reader's Digest to be renewed; he is mired in self-pity and melancholy, and can think of nothing else but some nice snacks and wonders if his love Bestseller will eventually come back from the shops as she promised.

His curator, Churchill, sighs and reminds the Duke that Bestseller "popped out for some milk" over a century ago and is probably not coming back, and even if she did, she's not going to forgive him easily for gambling away what he could never replace - her life-size baboon statue made entirely out of maple syrup.

It is little wonder that she set fire to the gigantic Venetian cannabis crop and cursed him and this city to being stoned forever after such a betrayal.

Churchill is concerned with saving the highly-immoral Italian lithographs and other pornographic treasures that remain in the Duke's private collection, but the duke has little inclination for self-abuse and less interest in bathing.

The Duke knows his people are getting the munchies, and as he departs for the ballroom, still praying for Bestseller's miraculous return with some Mars bars, Churchill returns to his gallery to spank the monkey one last time.

Charley has never been to Venice, but suspects that the TARDIS has missed the waterlogged city and simply arrived in the Thames. The Doctor quietly changes the subject back to Venitian gondoliers and how attractive they are - a charming and sinister breed, desolate and ruined by day but throbbing sex on a stick by night and not just weird twits playing accordions out of key.

The duo emerge into a strong fog and discover that most of Venice has been evacuated. Charley is worried that the city is about to be destroyed by some mysterious calamity, and the Doctor quickly points out that the property rates are no doubt fantastic and it's the perfect place for a young pregnant nymphomaniac to settle down and shag Italians.

Suddenly, they come across a drug-addled tramp called Eleanor Rigby. Rigby is far too embarrassed by her name to risk leaving a city of stoned wasters and face a world of people sober enough to crack bad Beatle jokes at her.

Soon, the marijuana fog will disperse and the cold turkey will set in. Death and destruction will reign and life itself will be extinguished.

"Cool!" drawls the Doctor.

Charley is disgusted with the Doctor, who was supposed to take her somewhere glamorous and exciting, but instead brought her to a dying city full of high revelers and the suicidally depressed.

The Doctor insists that it's all so much of muchness and suggests that ballrooms in every building are more exciting than blackmailing a Time Lord for child support.

Rigby gives up and leaves the domestic pair to their wrangling, but she feels sure that they will meet again as story reaches episode four.

The Doctor offers to make up for his foolish mistake and takes Charley out to find the last great party at the end of the world... and dump her there.

Catching a passing punt used by the gondolier, Pietro, the Doctor begins boasting how remarkable their host's physique is and how he probably looks even better out of the stripy shirt and straw hat. Charley retorts that if the Doctor finds the idea of gondoliers so damn sexy, he can shag one himself.

Pietro shakes his head, realizing that his passengers are genuinely fruitcakes and not simply passers-by driven insane by pot. Being a particularly spiteful and sadistic clan, the gondoliers are looking forward to the end of the Stoned Age, unlike the other drunken and foolish revelers, whose only interest is to see if being sober is as good as all the health pamphlets say it is.

They arrive at their destination, and Charley, who was expecting a violent orgy of booze and drugs, is surprised and irritated to find that the Doctor has instead taken her to an art gallery where surrealistic nudes hang on display. Not paintings, but actual models who found themselves reluctant to move from their erotic poses and have stayed like this for years.

Charley tells the Doctor that she is just popping out for some tampons, but she has instead ditched him on the spot. Leaving the Time Lord to his insane babblings of relief and joy, Charley goes out with Pietro, but is soon put off by his unusual habit of "cultspotting", where he watches a group of hooded figures who seem to be searching the streets for something and marks down their serial numbers.

Pietro is delighted to spot their leader, the High Priest Vincenzo, which is worth 50 points! Awkwardly Pietro admits that there is only one actual cult in Venice, the cult of Bestseller.

Charley suggests they do something - anything! - else and offers several immoral acts to Pietro, who is so shocked he decides to take Charley to a hidden place where his people rest and prove he is no longer a virgin...

The Doctor is no longer as good at breaking into museums as he used to be, but he is respectful enough of the kinky models to convince Churchill to give him a guided tour. The Doctor is particularly fascinated by what appears to be a woman sitting on a horse eating a banana, and is appalled to learn that the Duke is unwilling to let them get naughty postcards of the artworks.

According to Churchill, all the Duke ever does is count his varicose veins, snort mucus through his left nostril and ask if his lost love Bestseller can buy him some biscuits. There is nothing remaining of her but an infamous adult publication which is rumored to show her mounting a Dustbin.

Churchill is hounded day and night by fanatics who believe that he's hoarding this magazine somewhere in his gallery - and to his immense regret, he isn't.

As far as he is concerned, Bestseller died a hundred years ago; the Duke is only alive now because of his bewildering decree to put the clocks forward a century for the sheer hell of it.

Churchill is also disturbed by the Doctor's fascination with this story, and by his claim that he's seen this all before at the Cannes Film Festival, only much better.

As Churchill tries to usher the Doctor out of his gallery, the Doctor brings him up short by claiming to have a vast library of naughty comics which he can search for "Venetian Sluts With Marrows, Vol. 2, Ish. 33".

However, just as he catches Churchill's attention, he realizes for the first time that Charley has been using these mags as lining for her litter tray - he refuses to let her foulness touch the TARDIS plumbing as a matter of principal.

He thus rushes off in search of a kebab, with the suddenly desperate Churchill at his heels.

Pietro takes Charley to a ramshackle dwelling where the gondoliers rest and plot against the complacent upper classes who treat them as nothing more than dull-witted transport - and find the place deserted.

Pietro hastily explains that, living in constant doped air does strange things to the mind and suggests that half the population of Venice is just a drug-induced hallucination.

One look at Pietro's dungeons and dragons collection and soiled sheets and Charley begs for release. Pietro agrees on the condition they rise up against the oppressive self-indulgent Duke for a hundred years and bloody well play an April Fool's gag on them.

Charley agrees, anything, just let her out of this madhouse where a "Parental Advisory Lyrics" poster has its own shrine for being TOO cutting edge.

As the increasingly desperate Doctor searches for some all-night takeaway, Churchill tries to lure him back to the gallery with tales of young cheerleaders.

As fascinating as the story is, the Doctor is more concerned with finding something to eat, and before Churchill knows it, night has fallen. He's as lost as the Doctor is in Venice's twisting and deceptive streets - everything beyond the red light district is alien territory to the both of them.

Suddenly, the Cult of Bestseller emerge from the shadows and explain that they are equally lost and desperate for some confectionery. Vincenzo is triumphant; as it was meant to be, Churchill is now his captive, and will bear witness to Bestseller's front page kinkyness...

Part Two - The Stoned of Venice

Charley, meanwhile is - and I apologize if my language is excessively technical on this point - mega pissed off and no mistake.

Although she developed a vague interest in Pietro when he suggested dressing up and role-playing and going to a party of kinky freaks, she has instead been forced to wear a traditional Middle Earth frock while Pietro puts on some big ears and furry feet.

As they head into the ballroom, Charley wonders why fate couldn't have been kind enough to be drugged during proceedings. Pietro replies that he has nothing but contempt for the waiting revelers, who dance, feast and drink with no thought for the gondoliers who have suffered under a century's rule by a weak, self-indulgent duke. Charley points out that at least they have some kind of social life.

The Doctor and Churchill awake in studio - specifically, the Underground Lair Of An Evil Cult Set A) Dungeon Cell with mandatory wobbling walls.

The Doctor, high and dangerous, simply rips down one wall and steps through into Underground Lair of An Evil Cult Set B) Most Holy Sanctum! It's the last night of whacky-baccy, they're surrounded by danger and dark secrets, and much to Churchill's horror, the Doctor is in a tutu.

There's corruption here, and he's the man to run away in the desperate hope it will all sort itself out. Churchill may think him nuttier than squirrel shit but it's a viewpoint which has stood him well so far.

The Doctor promptly tries to steal the props, including a broken clock and a polystyrene coffin painted gold. Inside he finds several plastic bags full of white powder, which he insists he must return for the TARDIS for analysis - and possibly some white wine and good company.

The Doctor closes the coffin again -- mere moments before Vincenzo and his cultists burst from their tea-break in to find them already half-way through the scene: the Cult of Bestseller is making a soap-u-mentry about the Munchies of Venice and the Doctor and Churchill have RUINED the whole fly-on-the-wall feel of the piece.

Rather than put them to death immediately, Vincenzo gives them a chance to save themselves; they must re-take the scene and then infiltrate the Duke's palace and steal Vol. 2, Issue 33 of Venetian Sluts With Marrows to win the prize and come back next week.

The weary Churchill insists once more that there is no such issue, but the Doctor innocently claims that Churchill was using it himself in the ducal apartments. This is just what Vincenzo wants to hear - well, apart from Churchill's disgusting habits - and he triumphantly orders his production crew to return to location.

Pietro and Charley burst into the grand ballroom and Charley announces that she is Bestseller and she's sorry about the delay but the traffic on the main road was awful. She also claims that she's thought it through and yes, the Duke was right: a gigantic syrup statue of a baboon isn't the most practical or pleasant of bathroom toiletries.

The stunned the Duke orders his wasted guests to return to their entertainments, neatly glossing over the fact none of them are conscious enough to eavesdrop. When Rigby suggests that the Duke would have to have more testicles than brain cells to believe this shit from Charley, he loses his temper and points out that it's Murphy's Law - the legends are so utterly unbelievable and cliched they just HAVE to be true. Besides, inhaling pure dope as he has for the last century, he can barely recognize his own reflection, let alone his lost love.

Nevertheless, he now has a handy human shield for when the revelers become ravenous tomorrow morning. When Rigby suggests just getting a huge fricken gun and blowing the heads off everyone who dares approach him, the Duke refuses because the bananas are dipped in silicon.

Charley realizes that the Duke is still just as demented as he was a hundred years ago.

The Doctor and Churchill are now riding the Cult of Bestseller's ecumenical mode of transport - a deluxe model inflatable wombat stolen from Duke Insanity IV's private vault.

Churchill points out that for the last night before the apocalypse, his life is turning to total shit around him. The Doctor is more concerned about the fact he might bump into Charley and fears she might start their "relationship" all over again to listen to Churchill's incessant bitching.

He reminds Churchill that they are, for want of a better plot, on the Duke's side - they aren't doing a suicidal mission for a reality TV show, but are being herded towards safety, or at least a chance to lock themselves in the art gallery as planned.

Churchill snaps, insisting he didn't fight on the beaches and the streets just so he could be told to shut up and be reasonable by some idiot dressed as Lord Byron.

Pietro and Rigby drag Charley kicking and screaming to Bestseller's apartments and find the rooms apparently untouched after a century. Pietro and Charley find themselves oddly disappointed; there're no interesting posters, furnishings or mail-order abdomen-slimmers.

In fact, they come to the conclusion that Bestseller must have been the most utterly boring and predictable woman in the whole of created time. Rigby huffs at this, suggesting that being a duchess isn't all debauchery, debasement or even debauchery in the basement!

When the others sensibly ask how the hell she would know, Rigby tells them to mind their own damn business.

Despite the baffling topography and complete lack of any sense of direction, the cultists and their unwitting accomplices are almost at the palace. It occurs to the Doctor to wonder why the cultists are so determined to get their hands on the porn mag, but Vincenzo will say only that they require it to keep the dads watching between infomercials.

The Doctor has fought apathetic audience ratings before and knows it to be a wearying experience, but it's generally best to take them totally by surprise with a shocking, pointless and easily-resolved cliffhanger.

So saying, he pops the "rubber dingy" with a safety pin and the Doctor, Churchill, Vincenzo and countless screaming priests plunge into the depths of the canal...

Part Three - Irritation

Naturally, all the speaking cast escape this hideous death and, with the canal now stuffed to the gills with dead cultists, it is now only ankle deep.

Vincenzo admits that this development should improve their audience share again, and leads the others into the palace to confront the Duke Insanity IV and maybe get a little nookie from the more attractive revelers. The Duke just giggles to himself as the new arrivals talk to him, but when he learns that Vincenzo is a TV executive, hastily sit up, straightens his crown and tries not to look into the camera.

Vincenzo explains that the doco's format requires the Duke to make a live appearance and congratulate the lucky cult member who gets to keep Bestseller's autographed remains and some Doctor Who pieces of cardboard.

In all the hurly-burly, they pay little attention to the Doctor's attempt to change the subject to the art in Churchill's gallery because the weird painted models in compromising positions are far more interesting than the plot the surrounds them in his opinion.

As the episode has started, Rigby decides that they should return to the party; they may as well spend their last night on Earth enjoying themselves. But Pietro smugly informs her that he will not die as he wears the Nosestud of Calabria Ngentob, the most powerful Artifact in all of Middle Earth.

At this point, Charley and Rigby shake their heads and walk out, throwing the argument downstairs into even more confusion.

Is Charley, as Vincenzo suspects, a member from a rival reality TV show (Extreme Venice 3000) pulling a similar stunt? Is Vincenzo's production crew merely a hallucination from the hemp fumes, as Rigby postulates? Is Churchill's belief that the whole thing is being masterminded by the Duke correct? Or is it, just as the Doctor grunts, a way to pad out 25 minutes adequately?

The Duke has had enough; he takes a knife and cuts Vincenzo's toenails.

This utterly bizarre behavior shuts everyone up for three whole minutes as they watch on in total disbelief. Rigby is disgusted with them all, which isn't particularly surprising.

The Doctor is more concerned with Charley's strange behavior and whether he should skip town now or wait and confirm that she wants to shag Venetian royalty for the rest of her life.

The Duke ignores them all and prepares to storm off to the corner shop and get his own damn snacks, but Rigby warns that this will only cause worse indigestion.

However, the Doctor, Charley, Vincenzo and Churchill go with him on the condition he drop them off at the TARDIS, studio and art gallery respectively.

The Doctor, meanwhile, is brooding on the fact the cultists are another bunch of mad fanatics who worship a body which isn't even there. Is this a biblical parody? The Doctor doubts that the writers are that clever, and suggests it's a variation on the lose/lose formats of reality TV.

He also tries to rationalize the malfunction clock: is it going backwards deliberately so it ticks down the hours to destruction, or is it just a cheap prop?

After twelve minutes trying to get the ducal barge moving, the cast just get out and walk. Charley explains what a hideous time she's been having but is sure she can trick the Duke into marrying her, then kill him so she can take over Venice and make it truly the hellish deathtrap that Pietro assumes it to be on principal.

The Doctor thinks this is the best possible outcome and tries to talk sense into them all; why don't they work together to find a credible resolution to the plot while he runs for his nearby ship and gets to safety while everyone in Venice dies horribly ever after?

Nobody listens, and the Doctor decides to go back to the Duke's wine cellars and empty them out of sheer spite.

As the remainder enter the studio for Vincenzo's program, they discover he has far more contestants than the duke had dreamed, and Vincenzo forces them all onto the main set where the casket waits for the lucky winner.

Despite this photo opportunity, the Duke refuses to stick to the script - he will not glorify the flying goblins who have taken over his shoe cupboard.

As Churchill tries miserably to make sense of this latest statement, a hush falls over the studio as Pietro, the lucky winner, gets to open the casket.

It's empty, but Pietro simply assumes that the prize is the Ring of Geldron which turns everything invisible, and thanks Vincenzo profusely.

The audience aren't fooled and storm the set. As everyone is dragged down by the rampaging mob of drug-crazed Italians, Vincenzo shouts, "And now, a word from our sponsors!"

Part Four - Shave back

The advertisement for "Dustbin Cocaine: Mmmm, That's Good Cocaine" sadly finishes AFTER Charley, Pietro, the Duke, Vincenzo, Rigby and Churchill escape the total carnage in the TV studio and thus prevents us founding out how the hell they survived.

Vincenzo and the Duke are at each other's throats from mary-jane withdrawal, and the latter suddenly becomes desperate to eat a lentil sandwich. Vincenzo realizes that the best lentil restaurant in Venice is, conveniently, the one place he left his escape helicopter for just this sort of emergency.

Only Bestseller's appearance on a porn mag can save them now, as by providing it they might at least fulfill ONE of Vincenzo's advertising promises and calm the mob who is, even now, at their heels.

To Churchill's shock, the Duke admits that there is such a publication, the only memento she allowed him to keep. He set fire it and used it to light up a joint - and action that, in retrospect, doesn't seem 100 per cent clever.

Charley feels that it's too late and that they should fight to the death over who gets to escape in the one-man helicopter - hopefully, the Survivor-style slaughter will quiet the audience long enough for the winner to flee for their life.

The Duke refuses to take orders from a lemon sherbet such as Charley, and they return to the ducal palace out of a lack of any original plot development.

The palace is deserted but for the Doctor, who is ransacking the apartments for all he's worth. At this sight, and with every one running around trying to find a 100 year old porn mag to please a most-likely-non-existent audience, Rigby snaps. SHE is Bestseller - and, although a hundred years have passed LEGALLY, she's only been missing for forty hours and cannot believe the lunacy that has occurred simply because she took a long walk.

Vincenzo bows down before her and, much to her disgust, asks her if she would like her own sitcom "Spoonbending with Miss Nude"?

The Duke demands his pint of milk and gets a slap in the face.

The Doctor has had enough and suspects the viewers have as well. All he wanted to do was dump his psycho-stalker girlfriend in a city full of weirdoes, and it turns out that she's the most well-adjusted of the lot of them!

An insane duke, his boring lover, their randy arts minister, a part-time hobbit full time gondolier and a TV executive determined to get a BAFTA for it all are not worth his - or indeed anyone's - time. All that is happening now has been caused by the will of two people, and it's up to those two people to stop it.

But Bestseller refuses; she has damned the city quite thoroughly, but the Doctor just yawns and suggests she simply reverse the polarity of the neutron flow. Bestseller remarks she hadn't thought of this particular course of action and pops out to do just that.

The Duke reveals the truth: he IS the polarity of the neutron flow! With this revelation, he cackles insanely, assumes the "teapot" position, hops in the corner of the room and drops dead. "He died as he lived," Churchill eulogizes. "A total fucking lunatic, through and through."

Pietro is the first to notice that the palace seems to be spinning, and when the Doctor pulls aside the curtains, they see that the sky is full of smoke - the stock of illegal grass is burning again and the people of Venice will soon be stoned off their arses once more.

Vincenzo flees, taking with him the remains of the duke, no doubt to start a whole new sitcom based around him. Churchill wants to know the fate of his porn collection, but he can wait; he doesn't want to end up like Pietro, an obsessed wanker.

The Doctor, pleased with the outcome, suggests the first thing the new regime does is create a spatio-temporal barrier that will prevent the TARDIS from arriving in Venice ever again.

Stealing Pietro's gondola, the Doctor punts back to the TARDIS at top speed. Charley has smuggled herself aboard, however, and, as they reach the police box, neither can quite believe that all of this fuss and mythology is COMPLETELY TYPICAL of Venice and in no way at all out of the ordinary.

Charley vows she will never abandon the Doctor like Bestseller did the Duke.

The credits roll over the wailing Doctor bashing his head against the TARDIS again and again.

No comments: