Sunday, 9 February 2014

What to Watch Next: The Doctor Dances & The Invisible Enemy

The Doctor gets a new, cute companion! The 51st Century is totally groovy! Super-advanced medical technology is capable of strangely improbable shenanigans in the name of having a story!

Not that they're particularly similar premises - the idea of Tom Baker having a cheery romp in the Blitz just doesn't sound right at all (and there'd be nothing for Leela to do in such a version - ironically enough, it would actually work better as a solo adventure for the Doctor if you'd be inclined to try it at all, with the horror laid on not too thick and Jack as Drax-ish comic relief). Rose and the Ninth Doctor having adventures in his own mind works slightly better (it'd have room to be the version of "The Day of the Doctor" we were all expecting, with our heroes stuck in a bewildering, uncertain landscape from the Doctor's own past.)

And of course, someone's already thought of K9 in the Moffat story. Yes, it says "The Empty Child" but the scenario is clearly taken from "The Doctor Dances", when everyone's running around the bomb site. Incidentally, if anyone actually manages to finish that level, do mention the fact, because there's no evidence that it's ever been successfully completed...

The Doctor Dances 

How to build a throwaway spaceship exterior, Method A: bury it in a Welsh railway siding so no one can see it properly.
"Jelly Baby Explosion"
Fun things to do with potassium - mix it with chloride, add a jelly baby, and stand well back. There's an actual scientific point to it all, honest.

"Yes, We Have No Bananas"
The irony of juxtaposing a running gag about bananas with an era where they would have been completely unavailable surely couldn't have been lost on the writer. Though this song was American to start with, not British. Actually, this version's more noticeable for the '30s free-and-easy style of animation than the singing, which is far too slow for anything supposedly set in NY.

(There's another Muppet version, too. Don't bother with the Spike Jones cover, it's just painful.)

"Peter Rabbit"
Personal favourite, this - the BBC did a series of animated adaptions of Beatrix Potter in the '90s, all exquisitely modeled after her artistic style and sticking fairly closely to her story lines, too. Richard Wilson's playing Mr. MacGregor, which is why it's worth mentioning here.

"Butlins Camp"
Whoever put this video together has a finely-developed sense of irony.

So about that Welsh railway siding...location filming on Barry Island, something of a tourist spot, including a holiday camp as per "Delta and the Bannermen" (in fact, this very camp - Butlins had just sold it off when DW filmed there). There's an entire fandom that both lauds the Butlins organisation for creating something that led to so many happy memories and friendships, and frustration about all that good legacy going to waste...see here, and here, and here for a start.

(Oh, the actual siding? From the Barry Island Tourist Railway. They're having a bit more luck protecting their old-fashioned reverie.)

"Scarecrow Hop"
 Maybe it's not so much a matter of whether the Doctor CAN dance as whether he should. Though this would have livened up "The Wedding of River Song" no end.

(John Barrowman, of course, is a triple threat. He was against Bonnie Langford in Dancing on Ice in 2006...who's been at it quite a while actually, they're not kidding about that thirty years of dance experience. Raising the question - would Moffat have used "dance" as a euphemism for anything if he'd thought about the best DW-connected dancer being Mel Bush?)

The Invisible Enemy
Method B: Build an adorable model and put it in front of another, even less convincing model, so the viewer's distracted.
"John Leeson's Showreel"
Posted to the Internet by his son Guy Ducker. If you've not envisioned him playing anything but our favourite computer-dog, it's a solid primer.

"Fantastic Voyage Trailer"
The original going-inside-the-body movie, starring Raquel Welch, comically thoughtless about the science (well, nothing quite as outrageously silly as the Kilbracken technique), blah-blah-blah. Though Donald Pleasence is on hand again, so that's nice.

It had a novelisation by Isaac Asimov, who was asked to work it up from the script but turned out a finished product so fast that his book came out before the movie did. This, as he noted, confused a lot of people.

"Dolly the Cloned Sheep"
For a slightly more realistic version understanding of what cloning's like, you could do worse than this rundown. The BBC's coverage is rather more scattershot, although if you're at all fond of archival rummaging here's a good start.

"LWT Junction"
What was airing on the other channel (well, one of them) during part three. Bing Crosby had died the day before, hence the announced tribute.

Compare to this. It's the Graham Williams era, sly self-deprecation is par for the course. But what would you rather watch?

"Methane and Oxygen"
Biology aside, Bob Baker and Dave Martin got the science about right for the climax - Titan's atmosphere does have methane in it. And the effects of mixing it with oxygen are exactly as explosive as portrayed...

(In other words, the story keeps going for half an episode after Leela says "let's blow it up!" so we can all learn about science. Catch that happening nowadays.)

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