Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Name Of The Doctor: Names Is For Tombstones, Baby

'The Doctor has a secret, you know? One that he will take to his grave. And, it is discovered.'
On 30 November 1963, before many of you were probably even born dear blog readers, in the second episode of the BBC's (then) new family SF drama Doctor Who (The Cave Of Skulls) Ian Chesterton demands that the eccentric old man, the grandfather of his 'unearthly' pupil Susan Foreman, who is, apparently, in the process of kidnapping him and his colleague, Barbara Wright, open his (alleged) 'time machine' and let them go. 'Just open the doors, Doctor Foreman,' he pleads. 'Doctor who? What's he talking about?' asks The Doctor incredulously. When The Doctor eventually does so, a moment later, the two schoolteachers discover that they are no longer in a junkyard in London in 1963 but, rather on a desolate wasteland which, it subsequently turns out, is hundreds of thousands of years in the past. 'I don't understand it any more than you do,' Barbara wails, setting the standard for the next two years of characterisation. 'The inside of the ship, suddenly finding ourselves here. Even some of the things Doctor Foreman says ...' 'That's not his name,' replies Chesterton. 'Who is he? Doctor who? Perhaps if we knew his name we might have a clue to all this.' Perhaps. But, we never have. Almost fifty years later he remains, simply, The Doctor and Doctor Who remains, not only the title of drama but, also, a question in search - frutilessly - of an answer. Nevertheless, the question of The Doctor's identity has been flirted with (and around) on several occasions during the series' fifty years. Although listed in the on-screen end credits for nearly twenty years as 'Doctor (or Dr) Who', The Doctor is never addressed by that name in the series, except in a tongue-in-cheek manner or by mistake. For example, in The Gunfighters (1966) The Doctor assumes the name of Doctor Caligari (presumably, after the owner of the mysterious cabinet) and subsequently responds to the question 'Doctor Who?' with an amused 'yes, quite right.' Question marks adorning The Doctor's costuming during his fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh regenerations seem to imply at least a punning acceptance of the 'Who' identifier - an injoke for the rest of the universe, as it were. The only real exceptions to the rule were the computer WOTAN in the 1966 serial The War Machines, which intones solemnly that 'Doctor Who is required' and, towards the end of the Second Doctor six-parter Fury From The Deep (1968), when The Doctor is addressed as 'Doctor Who' by Frank Harris during the dinner party, to which Harris receives no correction. In The Highlanders (1966), The Doctor assumes the alias of a German nobleman, 'Doktor Von Wer' (a rough translation of 'Doctor Who'). The Third Doctor's car, Bessie, carried the plate WHO 1 and he also later drove an outlandish space-age vehicle which was called 'The Whomobile' in much publicity materials, but it was never referred to as such in the series, being simply known as 'The Doctor's car'. The name 'Doctor Who' was also used in the title of the 1971 seven-part story Doctor Who & The Silurians. The only other time this occurred was in the title of episode five of The Chase (1965), The Death of Doctor Who. In the Fourth Doctor serial The Armageddon Factor (1978), The Doctor runs into a Gallifreyan contemporary, Drax, who constantly calls The Doctor 'Theta Sigma', an alias which is subsequently clarified as The Doctor's nickname when he was at the Prydonian Academy in The Happiness Patrol (1987). In The Girl in the Fireplace (2006), Madame de Pompadour reads The Doctor's mind and remarks about his name, 'Doctor who? It's more than just a secret, isn't it?' In The Wedding of River Song (2011), it is revealed that The Silence have been seeking to prevent The Doctor from answering the question 'Doctor who?', believing that 'silence will fall when the question is asked.' According to The Doctor's acquaintance Dorium Maldovar, the question was told in this manner: 'On the Fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of The Eleventh, when no creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked - a question that must never be answered. The first question; hidden in plain sight, the question that you have been running from all you life. Doctor who?'
'I'm Clara Oswald. I was born to save The Doctor.' The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) stated that he wanted to have a new monster feature in the season finale after earlier episodes had seen the reappearance of two significant old monsters The Ice Warriors and The Cybermen. The idea of The Whisper Men came, Moffat said, from 'the thought of stylish whispering almost faceless creatures' which seemed frightening and appropriate for 'an episode that looks forward and back.' The link to the past came with the return of The Great Intelligence. Originally created by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln in the 1967 serial The Abominable Snowmen where it encountered the Second Doctor and his companions Jamie and Victoria in the Himalayas  The Great Intelligence tries to form a physical body to conquer the Earth, making use of Yeti robots which resemble the cryptozoological creatures. Both the Great Intelligence and the Yeti returned in the well-remembered sequel to The Abominable SnowmenThe Web of Fear a year later. After disagreements arose between Lincoln and Haisman with the BBC later in 1968 over a serial introducing a new monster, The Dominators, the writers departed from the series in something of a stroppy huff and both The Great Intelligence and Yeti were retired - the latter making a, very brief, reappearance in the twentieth anniversary story The Five Doctors (1983). The Great Intelligence returned in the 2012 Christmas Special The Snowmen, where it was voiced by Sir Ian McKellen. Richard E Grant assumed the role in subsequent appearances in The Bells of Saint John and in this episode.
So what, you might ask, is in a name in the first place, dear blog reader? Who cares if he's called The Doctor, or John Smith, or Theta Sigma, or The Oncoming Storm, or Zak Prussian, or Jesus Christ? It's only a handle, after all. Well, yes, there's undeniably an element of truth in that. A revelation surrounding someone's identity only has any real currency if there's a context which makes that identity a surprise. Doctor Who has already flirted with just such a scenario as recently as eighteen months ago, with the revelation of River Song's true identity. That plotline worked because, although some fans (with more time on their hands than is entirely healthy), had worked out some of the clues, to most viewers the full meaning of 'the only water in the forest is the river' didn't, actually, occur to them until it smacked them in the mush with a wet haddock at the end of A Good Man Goes To War. In the past, when the series had tried to do sudden revelations about characters identity, it's usually meant that The Master has been hiding in some vastly pointless fake costume for an episode or two and then pulls a piss-poor latex mask off for no adequately explained reason to a general collective moan of 'Oh God, not again' from the majority of the audience.
'What kind of idiot would try and steal a faulty TARDIS?' So, we start off with one of the most stunningly-realised pre-title sequences the BBC's popular long-running family SF drama has ever attempted. Something which throws the viewer in at the deep end feet first with no concessions to whether they can swim or not. Thereafter, the subject of that pre-title sequence, Clara The Impossible Girl, receives a letter summoning her to a mysterious meeting of minds (and, as it happens, in a mysterious collection of minds), where she meets The Doctor's ex-missus and is given a message for The Doctor his very self. The meaning of the message is, genuinely uncertain - although it upsets The Doctor to the point of making him blub like a reet soft Southern nancy - but, when an enemy of old strikes, the Time Lord is left with no choice but to travel to the one place in time and space he should never, ever go - the site of his own grave - and into what he realises is a deadly trap that threatens to unravel his past, his present and, indeed his future. What's left of it, anyway. But, back for a moment to that opening sequence - it's a proper wet dream for fanboys (and, fangirls, for that matter). A two-minute Hard On nostalgia-fest of quite outrageous proportions which sees the series raiding its video archive as we see Clara (or, rather, as we subsequently discover, a whole collection of Claras) fragmented through time yet still perusing her sole, noble mission. To save The Doctor. All of them. Save them from whom I hear you bellow, dear blog reader? Well, we don't find that out for a while longer - after the psychedelic 'conference call' and the arrival at the fields of Trenzalore.
'Trenzalore is where I'm buried.' Along the way, we get dialogue and visual references to - check this list out, kids - the Time War, Silence in the Library, An Unearthly Child, The War Games, The Christmas Invasion, The Trial of a Time Lord (the first direct reference to The Valeyard since, what, 1986?!), Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, The Tomb of the CybermenAsylum of the DaleksLogopolis, Castrovalva, Dragonfire, The Caves of Androzani, Warriors' Gate (the time winds) and probably many many more that this blogger missed in his haste to get that little lot down on paper. The episode is a direct sequel to Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS and an indirect, but brilliantly constructed, one to The Doctor's Wife and The Pandorica Opens. Plus, there's a really witty little allusion to Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) - River's 'only you can see me' conversation with Clara. And, a discovery that Steve Moffat has some Smokey Robinson & The Miracles in his CD collections (of course he does!) There's so much good dialogue on offer, you want to kiss a lamp post in celebration of it. 'In the babble of the world, there are whispers. if you know how to listen.' And: 'The Doctor does not discuss his secrets with anyone.' And: 'This won't hurt a bit.' 'Ow!' 'I lied!' And: 'The Doctor's life is an open wounds. An open wounds can be entered.' And: 'I always thought I'd retire. Take up watercolours or bee-keeping or something. Apparently not!' And: 'How do we get down there, jump?' 'Don't be silly. We fall!' And: 'How come I met your dead wife?' And: 'Welcome to the final resting place of the cruel tyrant. Of the slaughterer of the ten billion and the vessel of the final darkness. Welcome, to the tomb of The Doctor.' And still it continues. 'He left me, like a book on a shelf. Didn't even say goodbye. He doesn't like endings.' And: 'It was a minor skirmish by The Doctor's blood-soaked standards. Not exactly the Time War but enough to finish him. In the end, it was too much for the old man ... The Doctor lives his life in darker hues, day upon day, and he will have other names before the end. Storm. The Beast. The Valeyard.' In a story about echoes in time and answers to unasked questions, we get many answers but not, ultimately, the one that, we perhaps, expected we would - 'Doctor who?' Who knows. But, we get more. Much more. Lines that deserve to be quoted on trains to complete strangers who will look at you all weird and think 'hello, who let the loony on board?' Ah, what do they know. What's their great contribution to society, then?

There are moments of poetry in this episode ('what is that?' 'the tracks of my tears'); there are moments of genuine revelation ('run, you clever boy. And, remember me'); there are moments of touching poignancy and regret ('goodbye, sweetie!') And, of course, there are moments of genius ('it's the scar tissue of my journey through the universe. My path through time and space. From Gallifrey to Trenzalore'). The Name of The Doctor cheats on one level - ultimately, as someone once noted to MI6's own Time Lord, 'names is for tombstones, baby.' That bit wasn't, really,  important as this blogger kind of guessed it might not be. A huge, towering MacGuffin that was only there, effectively, to get people looking in the wrong direction before smacking them, again, in the mush with what the episode is, really, all about. secrets.
Instead, The Name of The Doctor was more about celebration than revelation. Remember that Daily Lies 'exclusive' about the Doctor Who production team's plans for the fiftieth anniversary? Well, right idea, wrong episode! Typical of the tabloids, really - even when they're half-right they're also half-wrong! But then, in the final moments, in the depths of The Doctor's psyche, with Clara rescued from having saved The Doctor's corrupted past more times than he can possibly have counted - but, we'll take two hundred and thirty nine as a rough, base, figure - there is the final twist. A necessary final twist. The one that we didn't expect till November. 'Spoilers.' Yes, but what a spoiler. 'I said he was me, I never said he was The Doctor. My name, my real name - that is not the point. The name I chose is "The Doctor." The name you chose is like a promise you make. He's the one who broke the promise. He is my secret.' 'What I did, I did without choice.' 'I know.' 'In the name of peace and sanity.' 'But not in the name of The Doctor.'
Doctor Who will return in November when it hits The Big Hawaii. Personally, yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self can't wait.
Speaking of which, yer actual Steven Moffat has said that Matt Smith and David Tennant are 'properly funny' in the show's fiftieth anniversary special. Speaking to BBC America, the showrunner was full of praise for the dynamic between the pair. 'Matt and David together was quite special,' he explained. 'They really, really, really got on with each other and adored working with each other. It's just properly funny - the two of them together in particular are really, really funny.' Asked whether he felt under pressure as Doctor Who's showrunner, he replied: 'Yes. It's also exciting. There are different kinds of pressure, and the pressure where everyone is watching and everyone's excited is better than the pressure when no-one gives a damn about your show on BBC2 at four in the morning. So I prefer this pressure, of the pressures that are available. You want to measure up to expectations and you get very nervous about that sometimes, but it's normally really good fun.' Doctor Who will return in November for its - as yet unnamed - fiftieth anniversary special, which will star Smudger, Tennant, yer actual Jenna-Louise Coleman and Billie Piper her very self. Oh, and John Hurt. As The Doctor.
Meanwhile, Jenna-Louise Coleman has admitted that some of the fan mail she receives 'isn't completely normal.' Despite some of the 'crazy' aspects of joining the cult show as The Doctor's companion Clara, Coleman said that she is enjoying being part of the phenomenon. She told Radio Times: 'I've been sent e-mails with pictures of the Clara doll. That isn't completely normal, is it? People do come up to me who are really engaged with the show and just want to chat. Yesterday a little boy came up to me and said, "All right, soufflé girl?" which put a smile on my face, so it's not obtrusive.' Coleman added: 'Matt warned me that there's nothing that can prepare you for [joining the show]. All I can do is enjoy it. I've noticed some changes - nothing huge. I have a really cool job and get to do these crazy things and you do have so many pinch me moments.'

TV comedy moment of the week came, as usual, in the latest episode of Have I Got News For You on Friday. During a round concerning the rise of UKiP, guest host Robert Lindsay, described noted UKiP supporter Des Lynam as 'one of the old BBC presenters without an electronic tag!' 'There speaks a confident man,' added Ian Hislop.
Also on fine form was first-time guest Johnny Vegas who displayed a worryingly encyclopaedic knowledge of Spongebob Squarepants and told the audience that his father, a huge fan of the show by all accounts, had rang him before his appearance and told him 'don't spoil this for us!'
Not much danger of that, as it turned out, Johnny getting many of the episodes funniest moments including, when Ian claimed to be a big fan of Johnny's PG Tips adverts with Monkey, Johnny's suggestions that they could have Ian in the next one in a cameo as 'an evil coffee drinker.' Paul Merton, as ever, also got one moment of sheer comic genius; when asked what song the Russian armed forced had been filmed marching to, Paul replied: 'Is it 'Dancing with the Captain' by Paul Nicholas?'

Friday also saw another very good episode of Would I Lie To You? This blogger particularly enjoyed Warwick Davis's claims to have once been hired to jump out of a tree in his Ewok costume to propose to girl on behalf of her boyfriend, and Lee Mack's ability to wind up David Mitchell with the most unlikely of all tales - this one, involving cutting a womble toy's ears off to prove how 'manly' he was, amazingly, turned out to be true.
Life of Crime continued with 3.23m overnight viewers at 9pm on Friday, overnight data shows. ITV's three-part drama following the career of police officer Denise Woods (played by Hayley Atwell) was down six hundred and seventy thousand punters from last week's début. In the same timeslot on BBC1, Have I Got News for You was watched by 4.74m and Not Going Out had 3.39m. Earlier, The ONE Show attracted 3.69m at 7pm and Would I Lie To You? 2.85m an hour later. The Graham Norton Show was watched by 2.8m at 10.45pm. On BBC2, the documentary Leopards: Twenty First Century Cats had an audience of 1.37m at 9pm, prior to which Nature's Microwave and Gardeners' World grabbed 1.62m and 2.33m respectively. The Martin Lewis Money Show achieved 3.05m to ITV at 8pm and movie Rumour Has It attracted eight hundred thousand viewers from 10.45pm. BBC4's Kings of Rock and Roll was the highest rated show across the digital channels, earning eight hundred and ninety six thousand viewers at 10pm. Rock 'N' Roll Britannia, which was shown in the preceding hour, was second with seven hundred and seventy five thousand viewers.

Bill Bailey helped to inspire Underworld's breakthrough hit single 'Born Slippy', frontman Karl Hyde has revealed. He told Radio 4's Front Row that on night back in the mid-90s he wound up drinking with the comic – whom he didn't know – in The Ship pub on Wardour Street in Soho and gave him a fiver to get a round in. 'I remember him looking at me with a bemused stare,' the singer said. Until this week, Bailey was unaware of his role in creating the famous 'lager, lager, lager' refrain.
The latest three episodes to be filmed for the forthcoming eleventh - K - series of Qi this week were Knowledge, featuring Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr and Graham Linehan, Kinetics with yer actual Danny Baker, Jo Brand and Marcus Brigstocke and, the excellently named Knees, Knuckles and Knockers featuring David Mitchell, first timer Sara Pascoe and, tragically, Jack Whitehall. Christ almighty, an episode featuring Mitchell and Whitehall, that's going to be a smug-fest of quite obscene proportions. The final six episodes of the K series will be filmed across the next couple of weeks and it is expected to be shown in the autumn.

Doctor Who was the most requested programme on the BBC iPlayer for April with over two million requests for the second episode of 2013, The Rings of Akhaten. The series opener, The Bells of Saint John, actually had more requests in total, but they were split across two months with 0.96 million accessing the episode in March and an additional 1.3 million in April making the episode the eighth most requested for the month. In April, Doctor Who also took the fourth, sixth and tenth places in the top ten with Cold War having 1.65 million requests, Hide having 1.53 million and Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS having 1.19 million requesting the episode in the four days it was available. All other entries in the Top Ten programmes were editions of The Voice.
The Evening Standard reportedly told the comedian Sean Hughes that, at forty seven, he was 'too old' for a feature. 'This made me angry,' Seany tweeted. 'But nothing a little nap won't sort out!'
The creator of the children's TV show Button Moon has won a damages claim against a businessman he said copied his designs on T-shirts and mugs. Ian Allen, of Tibenham in Norfolk, said seeing his Mister Spoon character on someone else's products was like seeing his children stolen. He was awarded three thousand seven hundred and thirty six smackers in damages from Robert Redshaw, of Bridlington, for copyright infringement. Redshaw was also ordered to pay Allen's legal costs of just under three and a half grand. Button Moon, aimed at pre-school children, began life as a stage show in 1978. It ran for ninety one episodes on ITV in the 1980s and is still broadcast on satellite channels. Allen still owns the copyright in his original designs and makes money granting rights to manufacturers to produce and sell Button Moon-related merchandise. He sued Redshaw after discovering that he was selling T-shirts and mugs featuring designs similar to Button Moon and the Mister Spoon character. He said: 'I was very determined that this man should not win. It was like someone taking your children and doing what they want to with them, and making money from it.' The Patents County Court heard Redshaw, who runs Bridlington-based Kapow Gifts, had previously gone to Allen asking for a licence to create and sell Button Moon T-shirts. Allen refused, but in 2009 he discovered T-shirts and mugs bearing 'strikingly similar' designs to his were being sold via eBay and Amazon. Trading standards officers from East Riding of Yorkshire Council visited Redshaw's shop, found some items on sale and ordered him to destroy them. Representing himself in court, Allen said Redshaw had 'passed off' Button Moon designs as authorised merchandise. Redshaw denied copying the work, claiming he had intended to create 'a parody' of Button Moon and Mister Spoon. He said that he had 'taken care' not to use the name Button Moon and that the items included a disclaimer, saying they were not official products. But Recorder Amanda Michaels rejected Redshaw's defence and said: 'There is no doubt in my mind that Mr Redshaw has infringed Mr Allen's copyright. In my view, even though Mr Redshaw's goods do not bear the Button Moon name, and bear the disclaimers described above, they so closely copy the Button Moon characters' designs as to make a misrepresentation that the goods are licensed or official products.'

The IRA 'loved' Dave Allen according to former provo Danny Morrison: 'Dave Allen was a subversive in the Seventies. He was anti-establishment, and you couldn't get more anti-establishment than us, so we identified with him,' Morrison claimed. He also rejected suggestions in the recent TV documentary about Allen that the comedian had received death threats from the terror group.
A fourth Coronation Street actor has reportedly been accused of sexual misconduct against a twelve-year-old girl. The Sun claims that the actor, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is facing an investigation by Lancashire Police after a woman in her fifties made a complaint about incidents dating back to the 1960s. According to the tabloid, the actor - whom the Sun suggests 'no longer appears on-screen,' but was a long-running character - befriended the woman when she went to the studio seeking autographs. He allegedly offered to drive the girl home and is accused of doing something 'very inappropriate' to her in the soap's Manchester studio complex. An alleged 'friend' of the woman allegedly told the alleged newspaper: 'She used to go to the studios to get autographs. It was a real highlight when the stars stood and talked to you. Sometimes they invited the girls into the studios.' The woman apparently confided in the alleged 'friend': 'I didn't realise what was going on.' It is the latest allegation against cast members of the ITV soap, following the arrests of Bill Roache, Michael Le Vell and Andrew Lancel. Roache has been charged with two counts of rape against a fifteen-year-old girl in the 1960s and is on bail ahead of a court appearance on 10 June. Le Vell recently pleaded not guilty to nineteen charges, including raping a child, indecently assaulting a child and sexual activity with a child. In April, Lancel pleaded not guilty to six charges of indecent assault on a child under sixteen.

Conservative Party co-chairman Lord Feldman has denied calling grassroots activists 'mad, swivel-eyed loons.' He is said to be taking legal advice over Internet rumours that he was responsible for remarks reported in the press. The comments were - allegedly - made at a private dinner by someone with 'strong social connections' to the prime minister, The Times, Mirra and Daily Torygraph newspapers reported.

One of the highlights of Sky Sport's coverage of the first test between England and New Zealand on Saturday occurred when Yorkshire's Joe Root, batting beautifully through the afternoon as England sought to extend their first innings lead reached a score of sixty six not out. 'Well, it goes from Saint Louis, down to Missouri/Oklahoma City is oh so pretty ...' said David Lloyd with considerable glee and perfect timing as the camera settled on the Lord's electronic scoreboard bearing 'Root 66.' Just at that moment young Joe clipped Kyle Williamson off his pad for another two runs. 'You got that in just in time,' noted co-commentator Ian Smith. 'He's on Route Sixty Eight now!'
And, on that bombshell, here's today's Keith Telly Topping's 33 of the Day. And the answer to that question is we still don't know but, ultimately, it's not that important!

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