Sunday, 23 March 2014

What to Watch Next: The Christmas Invasion & The Daleks' Master Plan

"Oh, I wish it could be Christmas every day" - the other big 1973 Christmas number, which somehow, still hasn't appeared in a Doctor Who episode. Yet.
There was exactly one DW episode that had aired 25 December when Davies sat down to write "The Christmas Invasion", and that's "The Feast of Steven". Everyone knows about Hartnell's "happy Christmas, to all of you at home!" line, but in fact that time period only involves half the episode (they land in England at Christmas and have a run-in with policeman that fully justifies his concerns about bobbies invading in "The War Machines"). The rest of it is a romp around '20s Hollywood in a deeply, deeply silly fashion. And none of this has anything to do with the main plot of "The Daleks' Master Plan", but then at twelve episodes they could afford to take some time off. Still, a precedent is a precedent and good enough for my purposes. (Possibly I'll cover "Master Plan" again in future in some less holiday-oriented context. This hardly does it justice.)

Inevitably, this post turned into an enthusiastic coverage of UK holiday traditions. Hopefully there'll still be one or two left to cover when we reach the Peter Capaldi special... 

The Christmas Invasion

It's absurdly difficult trying to find a pic with all the leads and something Christmassy in the background. Jackie's barely in the publicity.
"Merry Christmas Everybody"
Slade. 1973. Just to start this off properly.
"Royal Institute Christmas Lectures"
Since 1825, when John Millington gave a lecture about "Natural Philosophy" at the Royal Institute, they've had a public lecture on science every Christmas. Unfortunately for anyone abroad, Monica Grady's lectures about Beagle 2 (a British spacecraft that crash-landed on Mars Christmas 2003, so you can see where Davies got the general idea) are only available on the Channel Four website. Given the current "Cosmos" reboot, Americans might take consolation in the 1977 lecture, which Carl Sagan gave about the planets, including Mars.

"How to Make a Nice Cup of Tea"
 From a BBC docudrama about Orwell. The full essay he wrote on the subject is considerably lengthier. Aside from a crack about Chinese tea that's meaningless in a post-colonial, consumerist-choice world, it remains a perfectly practical guide. And since we're on the subject of free radicals...

(Should you prefer the actual science, there's several hours worth of organic chemistry on Youtube instead.)

"How Not To Fry A Turkey"
For no especial reason besides that it amused me.

"Christmas Crackers"
A endearingly sarcastic, yet loving discussion. Seriously, even if you already know perfectly well what sort of silly toys and terrible jokes are to be found in them it's still a hoot listening to the bloke airily comparing various cheap crackers, lamenting over the stupider ones, and taking great joy in small amusing toys.

The Daleks' Master Plan

Whereas it's just lucky that there's any image of "The Feast of Steven" at all. One of the actors took some snaps.
"Horrible Histories"
 The feast of Stephen is a celebration of the original martyr in Christian history, St. Stephen (for some reason Christ isn't considered the first, goodness knows why). Only it's the 26th of December, so unless we simply go with the episode title as a pun, the Doctor and Co. arrived in England on Boxing Day, which lends the ending scene a certain poignant irony.

And of course, the song that's kept the day memorable in a Protestant country is almost completely off. Which perhaps accounts for all the parodies.

"The One Show"
Billie Piper's ex interviews Sara Kingdom about "Upstairs, Downstairs". Also some nature documentary material about the private lives of reindeer that's so earnest it's hilarious...but you can ignore the second video, it's not worth it.

"Z Cars"
 This was an exercise in frustration. A Peter Purves episode would have been very nice. A Patrick Troughton episode would have been satisfactory. Michael Craze's appearance would have done. Elisabeth Sladen would have been inappropriate for this context but tremendous fun to see.

What's available on the Internet...well, the first episode. Still, it's an introduction to the programme that the DW people were hoping to do a cross-over with when the script was written (just imagine how much odder Jon Pertwee's era would have been if they'd allowed him to pop into Goodies episodes or wander into Fawlty Towers.) Derek Ware's in it, and so's that bit of stock music that Susan said was played by John Smith and the Common Men.

"Mabel's Strange Predicament"
Now, the film I'd quite like to put here is "Modern Times", which is unquestionably one of the greatest films that has or shall ever be made, but it is a little long and more to the point, depends on your prior familiarity with Charlie Chaplin and the Little Tramp. So here's his first go at the character instead.

(Troughton in a '20s romp would have been such a hoot.)

"Bing Crosby's White Christmas"
 Thematically necessary to wrap this up. Also this version is blessedly short.

As an anodyne, here is the Met Office's explanation of what is and isn't a white Christmas. Their comparative rarity more than accounts for Davies' running gag about having snowy-looking etcetera that turns out to be anything but snow...

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