Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Day Of The Doctor: Fifty Ways To Love Your Doctor

'Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be.'

To yer actual Keith Telly Topping, dear blog reader, there were two quotes which summed it all up. Not only The Day Of The Doctor per se but, also, fifty years worth of memories and emotions. One was: 'Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.' The other: 'Whatever you've got planned, forget it. I'm The Doctor. I'm nine hundred and four years old. I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I am The Oncoming Storm, The Bringer of Darkness ... and you are, basically, just a rabbit, aren't you? Okay. Carry on. Just a ... general ... warning.' From the sublime to the ridiculous; profundity and wit, poetry and sarcasm all meeting, down the pub, for a pint. That's been the story for a very, very long time. Take it seriously, please, but not that seriously. This is a birthday party after all and nobody takes those seriously. Unless they're very drunk, of course.
It started dear blog reader, half-a-century ago this very evening, in a fog-shrouded junkyard in London. A mystery, wrapped in a riddle, inside an enigma. That's bigger on the inside than the outside. A daft little science fiction TV series created to cater to all the family (and to fill a problematic twenty five minute scheduling gap between Grandstand and Juke Box Jury). It might have had initial noble intentions to tick all the BBC's long-standing Reithian boxes - to inform, to educate and to entertain - but many within the corporation thought that Sydney Newman's folly would be lucky to last six week. Who would have ever predicted that it would come to this? Doctor Who remains a complex and ever-changing format with a beautifully simple central premise. Hey boy, hey girl, wanna go anywhere in space and time with a madman in a box? Sounds pretty cool, right? Then, just step this way through the TARDIS doors and the universe is yours for the asking. Could be dangerous, mind. Could be scary too, so you might want to find a hand to hold on to.
       'The Doctor. In the TARDIS. Next stop, everywhere!'
But it could, so easily, have been very different. We all like to play parallel universe games, of course, that's part of the fun of this crazy little family SF drama which inspired - and continues to inspire - such devotion, such intense (often borderline scary) scrutiny, such passion and one which simply will not die. What would have happened if Don Taylor has accepted Sydney Newman's offer in early 1963 to be the first producer of the - at that stage still 'in development' - format which Newman had just dreamed up (on the back of a cigarette packet) about a time traveller? What would have happened if Taylor and brought his mate David Mercer on board to write stories about 'strange Orwellian futures or The Doctor as a trooper in Cromwell's New Model Army'? How different would Doctor Who have been if Leslie French or Hugh David had been cast in the central role instead of William Hartnell? Would it all have been so very different if Newman hadn't been persuaded by the 'piss and vinegar' of his young producer and rejected Terry Nation's first Dalek script, going instead for Tony Coburn's The Robots? And, what if Verity Lambert had accepted Dennis Potter's script pitch in which it would have been revealed that the central character was, actually, 'a schizophrenic who thinks he's a time traveller'?
The fascinating tree-lined avenues of 'what if?' that such scenarios conjure up make for so many potential key moments in the BBC's long-running family SF drama over the fifty years since that first episode went out on a bone-chilling November tea-time in 1963. With a country still in collective shock over the murder, the previous day, of the American president at that. What if they hadn't repeated An Unearthly Child the next week because the audience was lower than hoped for due to rescheduling jiggery-pokery? Would we still be here, today, celebrating fifty years of television magic if that hadn't happened? (Or, you know, twenty six years, then ninety minutes, then eight years if we're going to be completely accurate about this.) But, whatever the answers to all of these questions, Doctor Who has survived. In that regard, it's the success story of British television over the last five decades. It has survived several major crises in its production which would have killed a show with a less dedicated fandom and less of a vice-like grip on the psyche of several generations of young Britons. It could have ended in 1966, or 1969, or 1970 - and very nearly did on at least one of those occasions. It could have ended in 1985 (and it very nearly did then, too). It did end in 1989. Then it came back, seven years later, but - sadly - only briefly. However, since it's third recreation, in 2005, it has never looked back, not for a single second.
'That is not the Queen of England, that's an alien duplicate.' 'And you can take it from him cos he's really checked!'
     These are wonderful times to be a Doctor Who fan, dear blog reader, as this Doctor Who fan knows as well as anyone. The last few weeks alone have seen the recovery of several long-lost Patrick Troughton episodes in Nigeria, almost daily, wall-to-wall - and, for the most part supportive  -press coverage, the resurrection (albeit only for six minutes) of another much-loved Doctor, a quite wonderfully nostalgic and touching dramatisation of the show's origins and early years, Matthew Sweet's glorious Culture Show special which made bold - but, entirely justifiable - claims on the show's influence on a huge spectrum of British popular culture. And now, a fiftieth anniversary special which celebrates Doctor Who's almost unique ability to survive. Before the year is out, we will have one final episode for Matt Smith's Doctor - the long-running family SF drama's eight hundredth, as it happens; another milestone to celebrate. Then, there'll be a new inhabitant in the TARDIS, a new friend for Clara to travel the universe with, in the Scottish shape of yer actual Peter Capaldi. Right now, today, Doctor Who's future has never been as assured as it is within the BBC. Its overseas sales and merchandising make it one of a handful of BBC brands which not only pay for themselves but also for quite a bit else that the BBC does. It would be a very brave - or very foolish - head of television at the Beeb who would make the decision to do what Michael Grade tried to do in 1985 and kill it off on a whim.
'It's his "grunge phase", he grows out of it.'
    Of course, nothing is, ever, forever - particularly in the world of television, the business of compromise that the medium is notorious for being. It's been said before by this blogger and the point was made again, beautifully, by Matthew Sweet on Friday night; there may well (and almost certainly will) come a day when Doctor Who's fortunes will suffer setbacks again, just like it did in the eighties and nineties. Perhaps, there will even come a day where the BBC decides that it is no longer financially (or artistically) viable for the show to continue in production. Stranger things have happened, dear blog reader. But it won't happen today. And it's not going to happen next week, either. So, for the moment, let us just relax (I know it's an unusual default setting for Doctor Who fandom but, there you go) and reflect on what we've got, what we've had and, what we didn't get. Because, I might be going out on a limb here, but I can't help thinking that if Dennis Potter had turned The Doctor into a schizophrenic in 1964, I'm pretty certain yer actual Keith Telly Topping wouldn't be writing this blog today.
'Allonz-y!'
      Doctor Who is, it has to be said, a television programme which celebrates itself like few others. But, it doesn't overdo the bunting. In late 1972, Patrick Troughton and (briefly) Bill Hartnell returned to join Mister Pertwee in a 'tenth anniversary special' (a year early, admittedly) called The Three Doctors. Which was endearingly awful even if it did feature that great line of dialogue for The Brigadier believing that an alien landscape was, in fact, a Norfolk seaside town. Ten years later, Peter Davison was joined by Troughton, Pertwee, Richard Hurndall in a William Hartnell wig and some stock footage of Tom Baker for The Five Doctors. Which, similarly, was lots of fun and, in best Top Gear-style, 'ambitious, but a bit rubbish.' Especially 'No! Not The Mind Probe!' You had to be there. And, we're not even going to talk about Dimensions In Time. Which kindness, I trust, wins this blogger some bonus point from you, dear blog reader. For showing one of The Doctor's most enduring qualities, mercy, if nothing else. Worse, the fortieth anniversary, in 2003, came and went without much fanfare basically since, at that time, Doctor Who was a series of books published by the BBC containing characters from a TV show which they used to make. But, on the horizon, even then, was a Welsh chap called Russell Davies and a, frankly bonkers, idea to bring back this creaky old format about space monsters and time machines. Shortly before Doctor Who came back, in 2005, some ITV bod of no consequence (whom history has now even forgotten the name of) was widely quoted in the press as saying that he didn't understand why the BBC were bringing back a 'tired old format' like Doctor Who with the added observation that 'families don't watch TV together any more.' Fortunately, perhaps, he was wrong. As wrong as a wrong thing with a big fat wrong red knob on it. But still, most of us didn't think it would last. Sure, eleven million watched Rose but they'd eventually get tired of the novelty, surely? We'd maybe get two or three series and then the show would quietly end with no great fanfare and we could all go back to fan-fiction and the Big Finish audios and everything would be as it once was. Oddly, that didn't happen either. Instead, the show just carried on getting bigger; for the most part maintaining the majority of its UK audience, spreading its fanbase into many new territories, making more money and becoming something little short of a national (and international) obsession. So, the fiftieth anniversary arrives with Doctor Who in the sort of position that many of us have spent our lives dreaming it would be. Because, as Blondie once noted, dreaming is free. Popular, critically and commercially. Well received. Iconic. It's Doctor Who, innit? Even the cool kids watch it now.
      'Some day you could just walk past a fez.' 'Never gonna happen!'
'This is where I come in!'
     One of the most interesting aspects of Matt Sweet's beautiful The Culture Show on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary episode was a very personal moment towards the start of the episode. Amid an excellent, passionate and forensic examination of the show and what it means to many different people, for one moment, sitting with his kids drawing pictures of Daleks and a TARDIS, Matt made it about himself and not the subject. 'I should have given this up years ago, but I just can't, it won't let me' in effect. It spoke, I think, for many of us. This blogger is fifty, dear blog reader, the same age as Doctor Who. I loved it as a trembling four and five year old, watching Patrick Troughton and his young friends in Fury From The Deep, The Evil of the Daleks, The Mind Robber and The Invasion with my mother. I loved it a couple of years later, with Mister Pertwee in Inferno and The Mind Of Evil and then, with a colour TV set(!), The Curse Of Peladon, Carnival Of Monsters and The Green Death. I loved Big Mad Tom, in the horrors of Pyramids Of Mars, The Deadly Assassin, The Robots Of Death and The Talons Of Weng-Chaing and the comedy-horrors of Image Of The Fendahl, The Androids Of Tara and City Of Death. I loved the show when it went all hard-SF under JNT and Chris Bidmead, in The E-Space Trilogy and Logopolis. I didn't beleive I'd still love it when Big Mad Tom left after seven years, but one episode of Castrovalva made Peter Davison my, then, joint favourite Doctor with Patrick Troughton. And it was about that time, the early-1980s, that thanks to the joys of third generation video tapes borrowed from some of my new friends in the show's rapidly expanding fandom, this blogger discovered for the first time, William Hartnell and, still, one of my favourite half-dozen Doctor Who stories, The Aztecs. The early eighties were a great time to be a Doctor Who fan - Kinda, Earthshock, Enlightenment, The Awakening, The Caves Of Androzani. Then, for a couple of years, it sadly went horribly tits-up, but I stuck it even then and defended the show when others would (and, indeed, did) walk away. I stuck with Sylvester too and, after a shaky first year, was rewarded with some properly great stories even if being a Doctor Who fan in 1988 and 1989 seemed to be like belonging to an endangered species. And then came the so-called 'wilderness years' (I know my old writing partner Paul Cornell disagreed that they were in The Culture Show describing them, instead, as 'the Theme Park Years' and, I kind of know what he means, but sometimes tags like that stick). I got excited when Doctor Who came back in 1996, all glossy and American, even if the TV movie wasn't all that much cop (Paul McGann being utterly brilliant in it, notwithstanding). And then we went back to 'the wilderness years'. I started writing novels for the BBC in which I got to write a few little pieces of The Doctors many lives. Then came Russell, Chris and Billie and Dalek, The Doctor Dances and Father's Day. And it was a sodding great hit an'all. Not just a viewing hit, like it had been for much of the 1960s, 70s and early 80s, but a proper, honest-to-God cultural phenomena, too. It was cool to like it. That was entirely new. Tennant became a national heartthrob and The Girl In The Fireplace made me weep buckets as a - hopefully - perfectly rational fortysomething watching a piece of TV drama which was still, bottom line, made essentially for kids. We had four glorious years and then David was gone and Smudger took over and we got more wonderful things. Which brings us, nicely, to today. I think my old mate Mark Wyman summed up how many of us felt on Saturday 23 November 2013: 'Happy Birthday, Doctor Who - the most marvellous TV series ever and an incalculable influence on my life. Most of my working life and a vast panoply of my friendships have come about thanks to meeting people because we shared a love for you. Long may you travel on.'
    Another friend on the other side of the world, Ben Adams, had similar thoughts: 'This show helped instill a sense of wonder and love for science fiction in me, taught me much of my sense of ethics and fair play, and in the long run has helped shape my life in ways I could never have expected.' Doctor Who, dear blog reader. A part of this blogger's life as significant to me as curry and chips, my beloved (though unsellable) Magpies and the songs of Paul Weller, Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello and Julian Cope. Something I've grown-up and grown (relatively) old with. Like Matthew Sweet, I should, probably, have grown out of this nonsense years ago and put away such childish things. But I never did. And thank God for that, frankly. Because, like the man once said, 'what's the point of being a grown-up if you can't be childish sometimes?'
'The moment is coming.' The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) began writing the script for The Day Of The Doctor in late 2012, announcing that, as a security precaution, he had not produced any papers copies, instead keeping it on his computer 'under lock and key' until it was needed. The Moff had often thought about featuring a 'mayfly Doctor' - one who appears for but a single episode - once asking: 'Would it be weird in the run of the series to have the forty fifth Doctor turn up and be played by Johnny Depp or someone? Would that be a cool thing to do?' Err, yeah. I think it probably would. Although, you'd need a bit more of a budget than the BBC would likely be comfortable with, Steven. He also indicated that the 'classic' Doctor he would most like to feature in a new story was William Hartnell's original, stating, 'You'd want him to come and say "What in the name of God have I turned into?" That's the confrontation that you most want to see, to celebrate fifty years. Going round and round in circles on it I just thought "What about a Doctor that he never talks about?" And what if it is a Doctor who's done something terrible, who's much deadlier and more serious, who represents the thing that is the undertow in both David and Matt. You know there's a terrible old man inside them. Well, here he is, facing the children he becomes, as it were.'
These, then, are the facts: The Day Of The Doctor is the name of the fiftieth-anniversary episode of Doctor Who. It was written by yer man Moffat, and has been described by series producer Marcus Wilson as a 'love letter to the fans' and by the controller of BBC1, Danny Cohen, as 'an event drama.' Yer actual David Tennant and Billie Piper her very self, both returned for the special. John Hurt appeared as a previously unknown, past incarnation of The Doctor, 'The War Doctor', introduced at the end of the series seven finale The Name Of The Doctor. That really annoying lass out of Gavin & Stacey played a young Queen Elizabeth (in a performance which should have resulted in Miranda Richardson phoning her lawyers, frankly) whilst  the very excellent Jemma Redgrave returned as the head of UNIT, Kate Stewart. The special also featured the - probably inevitable - return of The Daleks, as well as - slightly more left field - a reappearance for The Zygons, the shape-shifting aliens that, up until now, had only appeared once, albeit in the very well-remembered 1975 serial Terror Of The Zygons (reportedly, a particular favourite of David Tennant). Moffat previously stated, 'Most things that have been [speculated] about the fiftieth are not true. Normally I am responsible for the disinformation and the rubbish rumours - I usually put them out myself, but I haven't needed to for this one!' On the importance of the episode, The Moffintor stated that it would 'change the narrative' of Doctor Who. The press-release of the plot didn't tell us much that the off-set photos, the trailer and the pre-release clips hadn't already: 'The Doctors embark on their greatest adventure. In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London's National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as The Doctor's own dangerous past comes back to haunt him.'
'You've redecorated, haven't you? I don't like it!'
    Because The Day Of The Doctor was filmed in 3D, the episode took longer than usual to shoot, especially as pretty much every CGI shot had to be done twice. Filming began on 2 April in Neath. On 9 April, some scenes were filmed in Trafalgar Square. A week later yer actual Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman her very self, Billie Piper and David Tennant filmed scenes in Chepstow Castle. On 2 May, sequences in Cardiff were being filmed which were said to take place at Totter's Lane and Coal Hill School, locations which had previously featured in the popular family SF drama's opening episode, An Unearthly Child (and, also the - thoroughly rotten - 1985 serial Attack Of The Cybermen and 1988's - much better - Remembrance Of The Daleks). Filming for the special was completed on Sunday 5 May. During the same recording sessions, Paul McGann returned to Doctor Who alongside John Hurt's War Doctor, to record the so-called 'minisode', The Night Of The Doctor. The first trailer for the special was shown to attendees of San Diego Comic-Con in July 2013. The BBC's decision not to release the trailer online to international fans was met with a right old kerfuffle by various mouthy spoiled whinging brats among The Special People. Who whinged to anyone that would listen - and, indeed, anyone that wouldn't - about what a right shite state of affairs this was and how it was not rotten fair and they'd complain to their MP. Or something. They were quite a sight, to be honest. The same trailer was also screened at The Edinburgh International Television Festival and, on 19 October, a specially-made teaser trailer, directed by Matt Losasso, was shown on BBC1. It contained icons from the history of the show and had a monologue by Matt Smith, as well as body doubles and CGI to create shots of previous Doctors. The official trailer for the episode was broadcast in Britain on 9 November. Due to the leak of a trailer earlier on the same day on BBC Latin America's Facebook page, the BBC grumpily released it online ahead of schedule. Further clips appeared during the BBC's Children In Need night and online. On 10 November 2013, a short clip of the Eleventh Doctor announcing 'The clock is ticking' interrupted a BBC1 ident. This was followed the next day by another ident interruption, with The Doctor stating 'It's all been leading to this.' The Day Of The Doctor, it should be noted, was broadcast in more than ninety countries at the same time as it was shown on BBC1. The BBC believe it is the largest simulcast of a TV drama in history. 'This event means it is a worldwide show not simply a British phenomenon,' Moffat said. The episode was also screened in 3D in more than fifteen hundred cinemas across the world, including Australia, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Iceland.
'I'm looking for The Doctor.' 'Well, you've certainly come to the right place.'
     So, what do we make, then, of The Day Of The Doctor dear blog reader? Was it a celebration? Was it a necessary summation? A piece of righteous polemic? A nostalgic journey? An exercise in self-indulgence and self-congratulation? A requiem (metaphorically, if not literally)? Yes, it was all of those things and several others. It was also furiously-fast paced (and yet, at times, the exact opposite), densely plotted, witty but knowing. It was a shade pretentious (in the nicest possibly way and certainly not 'pompous' as one arsehole louse of no importance at the Daily Scum Mail would describe it). In an equal shade, however, it seemed slightly uncomfortable with its own, inevitable, almost mythical status. It was funny, too. I mean, really funny - 'it's a machine that goes "ding"' funny.
It was exciting and thrilling, thoughtful and provocative, loud and bombastic, sad and sexy and all of the other things that you'd expect it to be. It was Doctor Who doing what Doctor Who does best, having The Doctor(s) save the universe from the space monsters (and, on this occasion, from himself). Again. Opening with a variant on the show's original title sequence from 1963, Moffat's story played with the idea, introduced when series re-launched in 2005, that The Doctor is the 'last of the Time Lords.' It transpired - as had been alluded to on several previous occasions (most notably in The Doctor's Wife) - that Hurt's Doctor had taken the decision to commit mass genocide on his own people, as well as The Daleks, in order to end The Time War - and the seventy five-minute episode saw him fighting, quite literally with himself, to come to terms with that decision.
'Compensating?' 'For what?' 'Regeneration. It's a lottery!'
     As celebrations go, you couldn't really ask much more of The Day Of The Doctor. It dealt with some properly Big Themes - the passage of time leaving empty lives, contemplation of suicide, acts of genocide ('one day you will count them all'), the enormity of guilt ('it's history for them') and, of course, magnificently, with redemption. From the redone titles onwards, the story was a continuity lover's dream.
There were references to - deep breath - An Unearthly Child (the opening shot obviously, the time on the clock, IM Foreman, Ian Chesterton and 'W Coburn'), Remembrance Of The Daleks (the location of Coal Hill School in Shoreditch), Planet Of The Dead and The Power Of Three ('the ravens are looking a bit sluggish, tell Malcolm they need new batteries'), The Bells Of St John (the anti-grav motorbike), Destiny Of The Daleks ('Seek! Locate! Destroy!'), The Big Bang (the fez), Invasion Of The Dinosaurs ('Greyhound Leader'), Hide ('The Wicked Witch Of The Well'), The Christmas Invasion ('A Big Red Button!'), The Shakespeare's Code (The Doctor's fractious relationship to Good Queen Bess), the entire Bad Wolf arc and, specifically, The Parting Of The Ways ('Bad Wolf Girl, I could kiss you', 'Yeah, that's going to happen!'), The Doctor's Wife ('I'm from your past. Or possibly your future, I always get those two mixed up!') The Three Doctors (allusions to Omega, Cromer, 'there is a precedent for that!' and Tennant echoing Pat Troughton's 'you've redecorated' line), The Five Doctors ('it's good to know my future is in safe hands!'), The Sea Devils ('reverse the polarity'), The Doctor Dances ('what are you going to do, assemble a cabinet at them?'), The Deadly Assassin (the first reference to Arcadia), Doomsday ('The Fall of Arcadia'), Blink ('timey-wimey!'), The End Of Time ('the High Council are in session, they have plans of their own', and the first reference of The Moment), The Impossible Astronaut ('... and, I want a desk!'), The Girl In The Fireplace (the horse), Captain Jack (and his death, 'or one of them, anyway!'), Terror Of The Zygons (The Brigadier and The Time-Space Telegraph), Asylum Of The Daleks ('you clever boys!'), The Name Of The Doctor (Trenzalore), The Tenth Planet (John Hurt's Doctor's final line is, more or less, the same as William Hartnell's: 'wearing a little thin') and The End Of Time again ('I don't want to go', brilliantly undercut by Smudger's subsequent comment: 'He always says that!') There were visual nods to The Eleventh Hour (The Doctor almost falling out of the TARDIS flying over Central London) and a witty little nod to fandom's regular UNIT era dating debates ('I need you to send me one of my father's old files. Seventies or eighties depending on the data protocol!') And, we got our first proper sight of The Time War (queue a twenty four carat special effects overload). We saw unlikely things - Gallifrey saved, peace made with Zygons - plus two seconds of yer actual Peter Capaldi and a couple of gorgeous minutes of Big Mad Tom. We even got three-quarters of a regeneration sequence that we thought we'd never, ever see.
And it was beautiful, dear blog reader. It was funny - 'We're gonna need a new horse.' And: 'What you get up to in the privacy of your own regeneration is none of my business!' 'One of them is a Zygon', 'Oh! I'm not judging you!' And: 'Kate! Gracious, you're not, actually dead. That's tremendous news!' And: 'You boys? Oh, of course, are you his companions? They get younger all the time!' And, when Hurt's Doctor is confronted with his frenetic, childlike future selves: 'Do you have to talk like children? What makes you so ashamed of being a grown-up? Am, I having a mid-life crisis?' It was brave: 'We've got enough warriors. And, any idiot can be a hero'. And: 'How do you use a weapon of ultimate mass destruction when it can stand in judgement on you? There is only one man who would even try.'
And, when it wanted to be, it was knowing in what its was doing and what it was alluding to - this blogger almost lost it completely when Tennant noted that he chose the name The Doctor so as to be 'never cruel or cowardly.' The allusion, just in case you didn't know, is to a famous quote by the series longest-running script editor, the great Terrance Dicks, which has kind of become the series' mission statement over the years: 'The Doctor believes in good and fights evil. Though often caught up in violent situations, he is a man of peace. He is never cruel or cowardly. In fact, to put it simply, The Doctor is a hero. That, at least, hasn't changed - and it never will.' It's as true today as it's always been.
    The Day Of The Doctor also took the piss, magnificently, out of the whingers and their various inane obsessions: 'Is there a lot of this in the future?' asks Hurt's Doctor with some curiosity when Tennant is busy having his face snogged off by Queen Bess. 'It does start to happen, yes,' replies Smudger with a slightly disgusted look on his mush. It had some clever pop culture references: 'What's the cover story? 'Derren Brown.' 'Again?' 'We sent him flowers!' It had lots of cool in-jokes ('nice scarf!') and lots of witty ones: 'Look at you, stuck between a girl and a box. Story of your life, eh, Doctor?!' And: 'If I ever develop and ego, you've got the job.' And, even, some dangerous ones as well: 'This is what you become if you destroy Gallifrey; the man who regrets and the man who forgets.' The dialogue just sang. Moffat at his finest. Consider: 'I demand to be imprisoned in The Tower immediately with my co-conspirators, Sandshoe and Granddad.' And: 'I've lost the right to be The Doctor.' And: 'I've seen conflict like you wouldn't believe. But it wasn't this face.' And: 'Think about it, Americans with the ability to rewrite history. You've seen their movies?' And: 'I've had many faces. Many lives. I don't admit to all of them. There's one life I've tried, very hard, to forget.' And: 'For once, I would like to know where I'm going.' 'No, you really wouldn't.' And: 'You're me? Both of you? Even that one?' And, a line which even the annoying lass off Gavin & Stacey couldn't manage to screw up (and, to be fair to her, she didn't): 'I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman. But, at the time, so did the Zygon.'
     There were more punch-the-air moments than one could reasonably count, though, this blogger particularly enjoyed: 'I hope the ears are a bit less conspicuous this time.' And, when Matt said 'alien technology plus human stupidity, trust me it's unbeatable' I wanted to swing round a lamp post like one of The Be-Atles in A Hard Day's Night in the knowledge that I was alive, at that very moment, to see three Doctors in one room, at one time, all being brilliant. The Doctor - because, yes, he was and is The Doctor - got his redemption, even if it would take him two more regenerations and four hundred odd years before he'd even know it. And, as for the final scene ... yes, that'll do for me. That sums up fifty years of TV magic very nicely thank you very much.
A few observational things: Kicking off with, the tale of two rings. From their presence we discover, firstly, that Kate Lethbridge-Stewart is married. Which is fair enough.
Slightly more bafflingly so, it would seem, is The Moment.
Like the lady said: 'I wasn't expecting that.' There were a few other - minor - 'hang on a second, Steven...?' bits. Like, for instance, why is Mike Yates in the same photo as Sara Kingdom on Kate Stewart's 'companions wall'? (We'll leave aside, for a second, the fact that they've got a picture of Ian Chesterton seemingly taken in Fourteenth Century China, as well as one of Susan which they could only have obtained by, somewhat sinisterly, secretly photographing in a school in 1963.)
More rings and things: Whose hand is that emerging from the Gallifrey Falls painting just as Clara comes out after the three Doctors? (The general consensus seems to be that it's Clara's own. Though its position in relation to the rest of her body just looks ... weird.)
Edited to add: The Lord Thy God Steven Moffat has confirmed to this blogger, via Facebook, that it is, in fact, Jenna Coleman's hand. 'We don't employ extra people to be hands,' Steven adds, persuasively. 'We just get actors who have their own hands. It's practically a job requirement.' So, that's yer actual Keith Telly Topping told right good and proper!

And lastly, the biggie - who, exactly, is The Curator? An alternate-universe version of the fourth Doctor who didn't die in Logopolis but, instead, retired to grow old and look after the Queen's paintings on Earth? A future re-regeneration of The Doctor, revisiting an old face (but, 'just the favourites')? A human whom the fourth Doctor based his features upon? 'Perhaps I was you, of course. Or perhaps you are me. Perhaps it doesn't matter either way. Who knows? Who knows?' Indeed.
We could go on all night with this, dear blog reader. But, we're not going to!
'I remember this. Almost remember.' There were great performances all over the place; from Smudger and David and Johnny, and Jenna, Jemma and (especially) Billie. And, there was that annoying lass from Gavin & Stacey being ... annoying.
There was energy and pathos, profundity and daftness, this and that and the other and it was all great. Perfectly pitched by yer man Moffat (Thou Shalt Worship No Other Gods Before He) between the casual viewer and the know-every-reference fan like this blogger.
      'Clara sometimes asks me if I dream. "Of course I dream" I tell her. Everybody dreams. "But what do you dream about?" she'll ask. "Same thing everybody dreams about", I tell her. "I dream about where I'm going." She always laughs at that. "But, you're not going anywhere, you're just wandering about." But that's not true any more. I have a new destination. My journey is the same as yours, the same as anyones. It's taken me so many years and so many lifetimes, but, at last I know where I'm going. Where I've always been going. Home. The long way round.' Magnificent.
Of course, there will, inevitably, be some people - some Special people, if you will - who will whinge, loudly, about some aspect of The Day Of The Doctor or other. I don't care, frankly. Not today. On other days I might have cared, but, not today. Today, I can only relate to you, dear blog reader, a tale about the best single complaint concerning a TV show that this blogger ever saw during the time that yer actual was doing some work for the Beeb. It related to an episode of Qi. A viewer had e-mailed to say that he (or she) had been 'disgusted' by comments in the previous week's episode 'by that wretched Jo Brand woman.' Upon being asked by Stephen Fry whether she would like to have 'a crack' at something, Jo had, seemingly, replied: 'No, but I'd wave my crack at it.' The viewer, they stated, believed this to have been one of the most 'tasteless and disgusting comments' he (or she) had ever heard on television (or, indeed, elsewhere for that matter). 'I know your response is going to be that this show is after the watershed but I simply don't care what the time of day it is, I have no wish to have Jo Brand's crack shoved down my throat' he (or she) concluded. True story.
So, where next for The Doctor? Trenzalore, of course. A Christmas date with destiny. And then, a new pair of eyes to see the universe with.
'General, we have a plan.' 'We should point out at this moment it is a fairly terrible plan.' 'Almost certainly won't work.' 'I was happy with "fairly terrible."' 'Sorry, just thinking out loud!'
     Yer actual Keith Telly Topping almost certainly won't be around on 23 November 2063, dear blog reader. But, I'll tell you what, I really wouldn't mind betting that Doctor Who might be. Many happy returns my dear old friend and thank you for the last fifty years. I'd never have made it this far without you.
BBC Worldwide has responded to the latest rumours surrounding the possible return of missing Doctor Who episodes. On Friday, the Daily Mirra - somewhat implausibly - claimed a 'world exclusive' and suggested that the 1964 William Hartnell seven-parter Marco Polo (the Holy Grail for many Doctor Who fans in terms of missing episodes) had been 'recorded' by a fan - on cine film no less! And, that it would be unveiled by the BBC 'next month.' It's a bit of a confused (and confusing) article, the method of supposed 'recording' notwithstanding (how many reels of sixteen millimetre cine film would it take to capture the entirety of seven twenty five minutes episodes of television? And, even if it had been, surely such a home movie collection would have surfaced by now?), with its usual cobbled-together from bits-of-facts feel and suspiciously random alleged 'quotes' from a suspiciously anonymous - and, therefore, almost certainly non-existent - 'TV Insider'. And, of course, let's remember that the Mirra has considerable form in this sort of thing. Can it really be just a month ago that its sister paper, the People, was excitedly reporting that all one hundred and six (then) missing episodes of the programme had been 'found in Ethiopia.' Despite the fact that only seventy odd episodes were ever sold to that country and only eleven of those were still missing. Interestingly, seven of those were Marco Polo its very self. Just something to throw into the mix, there and leave it hanging. Like a sock on a shower rail. Thing is, ultimately, this blogger is now very reluctant to poo-pah this sort of story, the fact that I'd rather like to see Marco Polo being not the only reason. The recent recovery of The Enemy Of The World and most of The Web Of Fear has given us all hope of what may, still, be out there in some forgotten location. Not only that, but rumours Marco Polo had been recovered by the BBC - from somewhere (Korea was the location specifically mentioned in the most recent one) - along with several other missing episodes have been doing the rounds on the Internet for some months and, recently, appeared to be given at least a modicum credence when, it was suggested, an actor involved in the serial 'let slip' that he had recently recorded a commentary track for a potential DVD release. So ... like the man asked, recently, 'who knows'? The BBC's response was: 'There are always rumours about missing episodes of Doctor Who but we cannot confirm any new finds.' Which, dear blog readers will recall, was pretty much exactly what they said when asked about missing episodes a few months ago. I mean, almost word-for-word. And then, a few weeks later, they were unveiling nine which we all thought had been lost forever. Like I say, who knows? But, again, today of all days, one can dream.
And finally, dear blog reader, on 23 November 1963, the - other - great love of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's life, his beloved (though, even then, unsellable) Magpies, at the time a developing middle-of-the-table Second Division side under Joe Harvey, a year away from a famous promotion campaign, beat Manchester City 3-1 at St James' Park. With two goals by yer actual Barrie Thomas and one from Willie Penman his very self. So, in a curious way, Saturday 23 November 2013's 2-1 victory (also at The Cathedral of Dreams) over relegation-haunted Norwich City has a certain appealing symmetry to it. The fact that the two goals in the latest match came, not from a big strapping centre-forward from Scunthorpe and a Scottish tanna-baal winger but rather from two French lads does, admittedly prove that, like Doctor Who, football has changed a lot in the last fifty years. Newcastle eased to a third successive league win beating their former manager Chris Hughton's struggling Canaries. The Magpies made the most of shockingly poor defending to take the lead when Loic Remy headed in Yohan Cabaye's corner at the far post after just three minutes. Yoan Gouffran pounced to double the lead after Shola Ameobi's header had been parried by keeper John Ruddy late in the first half. Leroy Fer scored a powerful late header for Norwich to give them some hope but United held on comfortably for a valuable the three points which leaves Alan Pardew's side eighth in the Premier League.
     So, that was a pretty much perfect end to yer actual Keith Telly Topping's perfect day, dear blog reader. Much like Lou Reed's perfect day. Only, you know, less heroin. Obviously.

1 comment:

chas_m said...

My thoughts exactly, Keith.

About the Magpies, I mean. Jeez you don't 'alf go on about this Doctor Who thing do you?

;)