Class Episode 3, "Nightvisiting", Drops In:

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Sunday, 23 February 2014

What to Watch Next: Bad Wolf & Vengeance on Varos

"I think what offended me about it was that it was clearly to be put out as a Children's Hour story, and I didn't write Children's Hour stories. It was to go out at five or six c'clock and the tinies could watch - and I felt I'd find that very inhibiting because I didn't want to bomb tinies with insinuations of doom and terror. In fact, that's what they got to doing." - Nigel Kneale, telling Andrew Pixley why he wouldn't write for Doctor Who (As for his views on reality television, you can find "The Year of the Sex Olympics" on Youtube.)

Television about television. Nobody says recursive in either script, though. Davies and Martin had quite different reasons for being interested in the process of creation - both were showrunners, after all. While Davies is rather more sympathetic to his subject matter, they're not anywhere near as harsh on television as, say, Harlan Ellison. Theirs are the type of parody based in an appreciation for the topic, rather than a serious protest therein...

so on the one hand we get video nasties, and on the other reality television. It'd be amusing to speculate about what sort of television trends DW might be parodying in another decade.

Bad Wolf 

Welcome to television, Doctor...
"The TV license, as discussed by John Cleese"
It's surprisingly difficult to find a decent BBC advert defending the television license - they're mostly embarrassingly stuffy and not at all convincing - but this one's amusing and to the point.

"Fun with solar flares"
It doesn't quite make sense that the far future television-obsessed society that is the Not-So-Great-and-Bountiful Human Empire still goes loopy during solar flares - surely they ought to have figured out a way around that by now, technological devolution or no. But hey, it's a reason to incorporate some genuine science into the scripts, and that's always a plus.
(It's also endearing, if slightly odd, that the Daily Mail finds solar flares an intensely interesting topic and does lots of articles about them. There's some very reasonable science in the lurid scaremongering.)

"I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here"
Or as Keith Topping refers to it, "I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want)". Yours truly suspects he uses an autocorrect in lieu of typing that out every time. 

It is, however, useful today as some example of a reality tv show is obviously necessary, and this one is slightly relevant to DW fans. There's a longer clip here, if you like. Baker was off the programme quite quickly, as it happened.

(Mind, that's not the oddest DW-reality show crossover either. For that you're referred to Shannon Patrick Sullivan's WHOvivor, a rec.arts.drwho project that combined satire of Usenet group memes, mockery of the sillier supporting characters to grace the DW universe, parody of reality entertainment, and some rude jokes on the side. It is indescribable.)

"Julius Caesar"
So you've got Paterson Joseph for a part and...don't have him do much besides shout and look smug. Something of a waste, really. If you've not seen "Neverwhere" yet (and you should), here he is in a rather better-written part...

(postscript: Moffat did audition Joseph to play the Eleventh Doctor after all, as per a recent interview. Why you'd go with Matt Smith instead when your instincts were for an older actor is a good question. That much-vaunted audition tape must be quite something.)

"Revolting Rhymes"
Free association, really - Welsh author, bad wolf, red hoodie, there y'are. Sybil Fawlty with her husband (the real life one, not Cleese this time). British pop culture is like an endless series of self-regulating feedback loops.

Vengeance on Varos

...we hope that you enjoy the show.
"Video Nasties"
 Short and sweet explanation of the violence-in-entertainment debate that was  going on as Martin wrote. Sorry about the Mary Whitehouse cameo.

The project that put Phillip Martin on the map. Pity there isn't more of it out there to show off, but just compare those title sequences. The first is more or less realistic, the second is like an unholy cross between "The Tomorrow People" and James Bond.

(You're invited to peruse this explanatory interview, in which among other things Martin notes that damping down the "realistic" violence and making it more surreal cost his show viewers.)

"Billy Bunter of Greyfriars"
One of these days I'll find a reason to include a long, involved discourse upon the inimitable Frank Richards. Probably for the "Human Nature" post, come to think of it.

So yes, Martin Jarvis is known particularly for his voiceover work in a long and storied career that has involved a little bit of everything else as's a sample of narration from the latest 2010 series of "Just William", for which he was the obvious match after having read all the stories for audiobooks. Though he didn't work on the television iteration that starred Bonnie Langford.

"Nabil Shaban makes a fan video"
The actor who played Sil has a Youtube channel. Advice about avoiding UFO abduction, a suggestion for squaring the circle by means of a cylindrical 3D model (the proper problem is doing it with a compass and straightedge, which is completely impossible), and a range of political views both loquacious and impassioned. This clip is the most straightforward he's made, honestly. 

"Tears for Fears - Shout
Looking for information about the scientific probability of being able to dissolve bodies in an acid bath is not the cheeriest of topics...but one of the more probable candidates, hydrochloric acid, is transparent and therefore not bubbly like the liquid we see - and why did the official DW channel decide that this was a good clip to upload, anyway? (You might add calcium carbonate, but then it'd be fizzing away in the background, and we don't hear that.) It'd make more sense if it was water and lye, perhaps with some dye and fatty acids suitable for bubble creation (that's pretty much how crematoriums do it, minus the bubbles), but that would mean that fandom should have been quarreling about whether the Doctor pushes the two guards into a *base* bath all this time...unless Arak seriously knows the difference between acids and bases. Is Varos that hardcore about their torture programming?

(The Doctor doesn't push them in - one falls in of his own accord, and then pulls in the other, as is clear from the hugely choreographed direction. The moral would seem to be, don't lean over baths of highly corrosive substances.)

Anyway! None of this information came in the form of an exciting shiny video, so in lieu of five minutes of bubbling calcium (wouldn't Margaret run a risk of exploding when she drinks wine?), here's a soothing '80s TOTP performance instead. It hit number four in the charts the week "Varos" aired.

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