doctor who

WHINGE

WHAT DO WE WANT? MONSTERS! WHEN DO WE WANT THEM? WEEKLY!

Ahh, monsters—on television, ideally fought and dispatched [1] in an hour-long episode (or several shorter episodes over the course of a week), in between some nifty tech (Doctor Who), hints of URST (The X-Files), and American muscle cars and snappy one-liners (Supernatural). My favourite kind of telly!

But my favourite kind of telly is too often RUINED by unnecessary “story arcs” and “character development”. The monster of the week is replaced with dark, brooding, never-ending story lines, usually involving the end of the universe and pitting brother against brother or BFF against BFF. Heroes are made to face unpalatable truths about themselves—are, in fact, made to BE unpalatable. Someone dear to them dies. (And is then brought back from the dead but is terribly damaged and nothing is ever the same and they keeping going on and on about how they should have been left in peace). In short, they turn my favourite shows into soap operas with special effects. They may as well just chuck in some babies switched at birth, a family fashion dynasty and a villain called Victor.

We don’t actually WANT Mulder and Scully to get together. (Or if they do, it turns out to be an alien-induced hallucination [2] and everything is back to normal by next week). We don’t WANT to see Sam and Dean hurt each other’s feelings for ANOTHER season while they take turns bringing each other back from the dead and then getting cross with each other for doing it. (I don’t mind a bit of jaw-clenching-as-visible-evidence-of-feelings, but it’s getting ridiculous). And I am certainly not interested in the love life of TARDIS companions thank you very much and also PS could we have some actual science fiction and not just magic-wand-waving? These are supposed to be shows about IDEAS.

I don’t mind a little bit of story arc or a hint of character development, here and there. I just never want to see any of it fully realized, or for it to dominate everything else. The sense of strangeness and mystery is part of the thrill of these shows, knowing that you will never really get to the bottom of what is going on but enjoying the endless speculation. Each week is time spent with friends in their curious universe. There is a problem encountered and a problem solved [3] [4]—a satisfying comfort not to be scorned. Spines are tingled and imaginations fired; we marvel and squeal and chuckle. None of this sobbing into a hanky business. These shows are like short stories or fairy tales, object lessons of a kind. Soap will rot your brain, but a monster will keep you on your toes.

ALICE CANNON, MELBOURNE

  1. OR IS IT
  2. OR IS IT
  3. OR IS IT
  4. Preferably without solely relying on a sonic screwdriver
Scene from an unaired Supernatural episode where Sam and Dean visit a diner run by a demon and accidentally drink demonic soup. Here, the demon summons more demonic soup in her oversized crystal ball. Studio executives pulled the episode as they thought it would anger the powerful Diner Lobby.  Monster Soup, commonly called Thames Water , coloured engraving by William Heath, published by T McLean, London, 1828.  Wellcome Library, image no.   L0006579.

Scene from an unaired Supernatural episode where Sam and Dean visit a diner run by a demon and accidentally drink demonic soup. Here, the demon summons more demonic soup in her oversized crystal ball. Studio executives pulled the episode as they thought it would anger the powerful Diner Lobby. Monster Soup, commonly called Thames Water, coloured engraving by William Heath, published by T McLean, London, 1828. Wellcome Library, image no. L0006579.

Scene from an unaired Supernatural episode where Sam and Dean trace a series of unexplained disappearances back to a local doctor's studio, where he has been keeping some demonic "pets" for medical experiments. Deceased patients were taken to a local pet food factory for disposal. Studio executives felt the episode could cause legal issues with Big Pet Food.  Fever, represented as a frenzied beast, stands racked in the centre of a room, while a blue monster, representing ague, ensnares his victim by the fireside; a doctor writes prescriptions to the right . Coloured etching by T Rowlandson after J Dunthorne, 1788. Wellcome Library, image no. L0012192.

Scene from an unaired Supernatural episode where Sam and Dean trace a series of unexplained disappearances back to a local doctor's studio, where he has been keeping some demonic "pets" for medical experiments. Deceased patients were taken to a local pet food factory for disposal. Studio executives felt the episode could cause legal issues with Big Pet Food. Fever, represented as a frenzied beast, stands racked in the centre of a room, while a blue monster, representing ague, ensnares his victim by the fireside; a doctor writes prescriptions to the right. Coloured etching by T Rowlandson after J Dunthorne, 1788. Wellcome Library, image no. L0012192.

Scene from unaired Supernatural episode in which Sam and Dean encounter the terrifying "man-monster". Studio executives decided not to run the episode, citing "too many jokes about bottoms". 'Homme monstrueux, veu en la France de nostre temps' (Man monster who has been seen in France in our time), from the  Histoires prodigieuses  by Pierre Boaistuau, 1560 (folio 137, verso) . Wellcome Library, London, image no. L0025563.

Scene from unaired Supernatural episode in which Sam and Dean encounter the terrifying "man-monster". Studio executives decided not to run the episode, citing "too many jokes about bottoms". 'Homme monstrueux, veu en la France de nostre temps' (Man monster who has been seen in France in our time), from the Histoires prodigieuses by Pierre Boaistuau, 1560 (folio 137, verso) . Wellcome Library, London, image no. L0025563.


REPROACH

SPECU-CRANK: DOCTOR WHO AND THE CANON OF DOCTOR WHOS

Here is a question which I expect you think you can answer. It’s very simple, and you definitely think you’re right about it. Here we go:

How many Doctor Whos have there been?

You know, don’t you? Write them down if you’re unsure. Don’t forget Colin Baker. Got your answer? Here, I’ll even give you some options:

a) Eleven, plus the new guy makes twelve

b) Twelve, plus the new guy makes thirteen

c) Fourteen, because they made that film in the sixties, plus the new guy

d) There’s a new guy?

e) I take baths

Here is a guide to interpreting your answer:

a) WRONG

b) WRONG

c) WRONG

d) Read something else

e) Stop reading something else, it’s distracting you

Why are you so wrong, I hear you plaintively ask except with ‘am I’ instead of ‘are you’ in your part of that sentence?

Answer: CANON.

Nothing is more important in science fiction than accurate recall of and obedience to the complete, non-self-contradictory set of official, approved facts about a fictional universe. All the best fans know this, which is of course why there can’t be a black Captain America or female Ghostbusters.

It’s not up to me, of course. Canon, you see. Won’t allow it.

So it really angries up my respiratory bypass system when so-called ‘fans’ like you think you know how many Doctor Whos there have been. I bet your list looked a bit like this:

  1. William Hartnell
  2. Patrick Troughton
  3. Jon Pertwee
  4. Tom Baker
  5. Peter Davison
  6. Colin Baker
  7. Sylvester McCoy
  8. Paul McGann
  9. Christopher Eccleston
  10. David Tennant
  11. Matt Smith
  12. Peter Capaldi

You may even have cleverly inserted John Hurt in between Eight and Nine without changing the numbering, because as War Doctor he doesn’t count.

You arrogant fool. Don’t you even know Peter Cushing played Doctor Who in two movies made in the sixties? Or that Ten once regenerated into his own hand, making Eleven not Matt Smith but A Hand? And that that hand later shagged Rose Tyler?

Don’t you know that Richard E Grant played Doctor Who in 2003’s one-off, official BBC-canon webcast ‘Scream of the Shalka’, putting him between your list’s Eight (post-Cushing Nine) and Nine (post-Cushing Ten (not counting the War Doctor (who doesn’t count)))?

Don’t you even know about the 1999 Steven Moffat-penned special ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’, in which Dr. Who is played by Rowan Atkinson, Richard E Grant (again), Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Joanna Lumley, making them Doctor Whos Nine through Thirteen, slotting in between Eight (Nine) and Nine (Ten (now Fourteen (not including the War Doctor (who looks a bit confused))))?

Haven’t you even seen 1976 serial ‘The Brain of Morbius’, where a machine shows the Fourth Doctor Who earlier incarnations of himself, played by George Gallaccio, Robert Holmes, Graeme Harper, Douglas Camfield, Philip Hinchcliffe, Christopher Baker, Robert Banks Stewart and Christopher Barry, making them Dr Whos One through Eight (pushing Hartnell to Nine and Capaldi to Twenty-Five (not counting the War Doctor (who seems to have stepped out)))?

Haven’t you read the 1991 novelisation of 1989 Seven TV serial ‘Battlefield’, which depicts a future regeneration with red hair who might be Merlin, or seen controversial 1986 serial Trial of a Time Lord, in which the evil Valeyard is revealed to be an amalgam of the dark side of Dr Who between his twelfth and thirteenth regenerations (not counting the War Doctor (I think he’s down the pub))?

Don’t you even know about the Watcher, or the Dream Lord?

I bet you don’t. Yet they’re both canon and therefore the accurate and complete truth about the show about the phone-box time-travel man from space.

And you say you love Doctor Who. You sicken me. So no, you may not watch the new ‘Thirteen’ trailer again. Work on your Cyberman design-change timeline instead.

MAT LARKIN, MELBOURNE

The author has neglected to mention the limited-edition stereoscope adventure released in the late 1960s where the Doctor underwent hypnosis and recalled a past incarnation, the memory of whom he had suppressed—and not just because he realised leopard skin underpants weren't actually "cool". [Eugene Sandow], photograph by Henry Goldman, 1902, State Library of Victoria, H96.160/715.

The author has neglected to mention the limited-edition stereoscope adventure released in the late 1960s where the Doctor underwent hypnosis and recalled a past incarnation, the memory of whom he had suppressed—and not just because he realised leopard skin underpants weren't actually "cool". [Eugene Sandow], photograph by Henry Goldman, 1902, State Library of Victoria, H96.160/715.

CRAZY TALK

PUBLISHERS DON'T APPRECIATE THAT INSPIRATION TAKES TIME

Proudly I handed the editor my draft on time. It was a masterpiece of real-time research. Not one original thought, not one word was my own. It was completely cobbled together from the web and run through a random synonym replacer to keep the plagiarism narks off my back. I settled back for praise.

'T I M E not T H Y M E' sighed the editor. 'And not the #$%^! magazine either' she muttered under her breath, eerily anticipating my next thought on what she had meant when I was asked if I had the time to do an article on thyme.

I pondered some more. 'Perhaps something on cash—after all time is money as Benjamin Franklin said, foreshadowing the parking meter.'

'No' was the testy response. 'Time, the fourth dimension thing. What you don’t have much of if you’re going to get published.'

So, given there’s no time like the present, I re-started the essay. Since I’ve already mentioned my modus operandi, you won’t be surprised to know that in no time at all I was enjoying the fruits of googling best of times, worst of times. It appears that a 1993 Simpsons’ episode has a room with 1,000 monkeys at typewriters, one of which Montgomery Burns chastises for mistyping a word—'"It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?" You stupid monkey!' The infinite monkey approach to literature was of course foreseen by Ovid around 40 BC: Tempus edax rerumTime conquers all, time is the devourer of things, and time flies were three of the translations extracted from the web—each being a very promising basis for an article on time.

But alas, A Tale of Two Cities lingered in my mind, which soon morphed into Anthony Aardvark Goes Quantity Surveying as my brain plucked a Monty Python sketch from its cobwebs. A few more key strokes found my memory had failed: it was Grate Expectation and A Sale of Two Titties in the list of book titles. And sadly, for the editor if not me, as time went by, my mind wandered even further from the topic. "Time has passed over Old Balham, and so shall we" was one fleeting on-topic memory from past comedy sketches.

After some time, I reached November 1963 and Yours for the asking on 3LO (or 774 as it is known since the ABC became illiterate). This request program provided a pleasant diversion from swotting and regularly played such gems as Rinse the blood off my toga. You can find the script online if you don’t know it by heart. I was bit uneasy about its “Rome wasn’t built in a day” gag—a time inference agreed, but a little close to the bone as a metaphor for my article’s progress. Fortunately I wasn’t wasting time with this diversion since time is mentioned in its final lines, spoken by Caesar’s widow: 'Well, frankly, I don't care. If I told him once, I told him a thousand times, “Don't go, Julie!” I said.”It's the Ides of March, beware already. Don’t go, Julie, don't go.”'

But I have digressed more than I intended to digress. On this particular day, right after certain events in Dallas, the announcer mentioned that some listeners had rung to say they thought it wasn’t appropriate. A simply immediate apology was offered. How times have changed! Media frenzy about the ‘controversy’ would continue unabated until the next minor faux pas. Twitter would explode. Some innocent hashtag would be tainted for life. Some people have too much time on their hands.

You may have guessed by now that I am easily distracted, indeed a master procrastinator of the first order. Fortunately, that provides a segue back to time. Unfortunately, not in a good sense: procrastination is the thief of time. Benjamin Franklin had his two bits on that topic too, even if he did get it a little wrong: 'You delay, but time will not'. Rubbish, we all know of the exception: time and tide wait for no man. In an instant I realized the brilliance of the Liberal Party’s strategy: their leader’s constant negativity meant that time was on their side. Being Mr No Man was much more potent than simply intoning 'It’s time! It’s time!'

Time travel seemed the next potential theme. Another alas here, I’m afraid. An old(ish) episode of Doctor Who only provided another excuse for more procrastinating. If only the good doctor had stitched up that crack in time in Amy Pond’s wall, we would have been saved from nine episodes, at least. Oh, for the good all days, when the old quarry appeared in every episode and interpersonal relationship problems were non-existent.

By now, you might be wondering if, or more likely how, I ever finished the article. Do the numbers 457 mean anything to you? In no time at all, I returned to the editor triumphantly. 'It’s about time' I said throwing the draft onto her desk.

'It sure is. You’re a week late!' was her terse reply.

Humph, what an ingrate. Doesn’t she realise that inspiration needs time?

SERENDIPITY, WARRNAMBOOL

Editor's note: this piece was originally pitched to CRANK's sister publication, Materiality (the TIME issue). The author has resubmitted it to CRANK as a form of vengeance.

A lesser-known prequel to  Anthony Aardvark goes quantity surveying,  featuring "luncheon-time".  Railway surveying Wangaratta to Mansfield , wood engraving, published by Alfred Martin Ebsworth, Melbourne, 1 November 1888. State Library of Victoria, A/S01/11/88/164.

A lesser-known prequel to Anthony Aardvark goes quantity surveying, featuring "luncheon-time". Railway surveying Wangaratta to Mansfield, wood engraving, published by Alfred Martin Ebsworth, Melbourne, 1 November 1888. State Library of Victoria, A/S01/11/88/164.