Thursday, 27 August 2015

Is 'The Twin Dilemma' really the worst episode of Doctor Who?

'The Twin Dilemma' is the byword for irredeemable rubbish in the Doctor Who fandom. It is infamous for being awful and regularly 'wins' worst story in the Doctor Who Magazine poll. It's blamed by many for being the catalyst that killed Doctor Who in the 80s, just shortly after the show had massive success and public support during its 20th anniversary. It's seen as completely squandering any potential and goodwill, making the sixth Doctor an unlikable monster and killing Jesus.

So yes. It's not really liked that much. 'The Twin Dilemma' was the final story of season 21, and the first story for Colin Baker's Doctor. Coming straight after the much lauded classic 'The Caves of Androzani', 'The Twin Dilemma' was always going to struggle, but a catalogue of... interesting decisions coupled with an end of season "Oh god the budget's run out" spectacular left a bad taste in the mouth.

The story saw the newly regenerated Doctor go insane and try to strangle his companion, Peri. He then puts on a clown costume and spends the rest of the story alternating between violent and cowardly mood-swings. Meanwhile a man in a slug costume has kidnapped the badly lisping twins Womulus and Wemus and plans to use their mathematical genius to cover the universe in slug eggs, because that's just how he rolls. The Doctor's master plan to murder the giant slug with acid fails, and the day is saved by one of his Time Lord friends who had to sacrifice himself. The Doctor decides to keep wearing his clown costume and never apologises for trying to kill his companion.

It's not... good. Not by any means. Is it really the worst story though? Not by a long shot. 'The Dominators' exists for a start. Fandom is a funny thing, and once it has decided a story is terrible, it's pretty hard to move it from that spot (now that everyone can see 'The Gunfighters', for example, it still struggles in polls despite the fact it's brilliant). Rather than talk about why other stories are worse though, I want to talk about why it's not completely terrible.

There's a lot in 'The Twin Dilemma' that is pointed to as being bad ideas, but they are not bad ideas in of themselves. A while back a friend new to Classic Who watched it against my advice, and ended up really liking it. Of course, he didn't have the context of the cancellation.

So what is good about it? And what isn't a bad point?

Fans didn't hate it at the time
They didn't like it either, but 'The Twin Dilemma' received mostly middling reviews. It wasn't seen as diabolical while airing. Context is king though. Just a year later, halfway through season 22, the BBC announced Doctor Who was to be cancelled (later rescinded to an 18 month hiatus). A few years after that in 1989, the show was cancelled for good. Fans looked about for a scapegoat and found 'The Twin Dilemma', pointing at it as the straw that broke the camels back, that it made the public hate the Doctor and turn him into an unlikable laughing stock. The show was never coming back, and it was 'The Twin Dilemma' that poisoned the well.

Only, that's not true. If 'The Twin Dilemma' really chased away the audience, why did 9 million people tune into the season 22 opener 'Attack of the Cybermen', more than three million more than watched the end of 'The Twin Dilemma' that closed out season 21. Yes, it was broadcast on a different day but if 'The Twin Dilemma' really was a mortal blow, having the audience increased by 50% for the next story is an interesting definition of 'mortal blow'.

If the show had never had the blow of the hiatus, 'The Twin Dilemma' would probably have a low-but-not-terrible reputation akin to that of 'Robot', Tom Baker's first story which was similarly a bit rubbish but nowhere near terrible.

The Doctor Who Magazine review at the time was muted, but not scathing. Here's a look at the summing up (by Gary Russell, no less!):

That Coat!
'The Twin Dilemma' heralded the appearance of the sixth Doctor's horrible coat. Yes, it is horrible. I defy anyone to like it on first sight. It has its fans, but these are people who have grown to love it as a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. The in-universe explanation of "Well, the Doctor is an alien so has alien tastes so it makes perfect sense" falls down once you remember you're watching a television show aimed at actual human beings, and the writers can justify anything they want but it doesn't mean it's a good idea. It would be equally valid to have the Doctor dress up as a ballarina and claim it is a Time Lord custom, but don't expect anyone to like it.

That said, this is the one story where the coat actually works. The entire story is about the Doctor being unstable, and what better way to show that than wearing a crazy clown coat? The mistake was keeping the coat around for the rest of Colin Baker's tenure. The coat should have been discarded at the end of the story to show that the Doctor was recovered and properly the Doctor again, or at least vanished between seasons. By keeping it, it gave the impression that the sixth Doctor was still this psychotic madman who randomly attacked his companions.

If the coat had just been in this one story, I can guarantee people would love it, and point to it as one of the story's highlights. There would probably be a subset of fandom who would grumble that the coat hadn't been worn throughout the sixth Doctor's tenure. But all this isn't The Twin Dilemma's fault, it's the fault of the stories that came afterwards.

As an aside, the coat also works well in 'Time and the Rani', the seventh Doctor's first story. There, he does actually discard it once he's stopped being crazy and started being the Doctor.

Mental Health Positivity (sort of)
"But it's horrible and crass!" I hear you cry. No, wait! Yes, it is pretty badly done, but the very fact they went the route of a genuinely unstable Doctor is a positive. The scene where the Doctor strangles Peri is pretty horrible to watch, but that's part of the point. The usually reliable Phil Sandifer attempts to argue on his blog that his attack is male-on-female abuse, and that Peri's forgiving of him is equivilant to "a battered woman idolizing her abuser" and criticises the show for making the Doctor the hero.

That is a reading that can only really be reached by completely ignoring what's actually happening in the story. The eighties were not a time for subtlety - the story is clearly about the Doctor having mental health issues. That's not just the subtext, it's the text. He's ill. It's stated again and again. That's a very different dynamic than 'abusive partner' and not every act of male-on-female violence is directly a feminist issue and claiming it is is unhelpful. This issue is a mental health one.

There's still a massive stigma around mental health in today's society, but it was even worse in the eighties. Admitting you had problems would result in you being labelled a 'nutcase' or 'lunatic' or 'psychopath' and deemed as someone to be avoided and unfit to take part in society. If you'd spent time in an institution for treatment then even if you were completely recovered that stigma would be with you forever and you'd be lucky to ever find work again.

I feel in many ways it is genuinely a positive move to have a much beloved character fall prey to an episode of mental illness - and not a television friendly one, but one that includes actual harm to others - and then show him recover and that he can still be a hero. That sort of public consciousness raising is the sort of thing Doctor Who should be doing. Yes, it was slightly fumbled, but at the end of the day, the entire audience for 'The Twin Dilemma' (plus three million more) still came back for the next story. It's perhaps slightly damning though that the sixth Doctor does indeed continue to carry around the stigma of being unstable and violent, despite none of the subsequent stories really showing him doing anything out of the norm. Again, I blame the coat.

Mestor is a man wearing a slightly goofy slug costume, but to condemn him on the grounds that he looks rubbish is to pretty much declare all of Doctor Who null and void. Doctor Who was always more about the ideas, with what we see on screen visual placeholders with which to explore those ideas. At least, that's always been my excuse.

People like to laugh about "giant slugs" but a giant evil slug is actually a good idea. Everyone knows what a slug is, and we're all absolutely repulsed by them. One of my earliest memories is having nightmares thanks to a text story in a Ghostbusters comic about a malevolant giant slug with glowing red eyes, creeping out of the darkness. Slugs are strange and feel horrifically alien. Mestor himself is so horrific that he is even able to subjugate Time Lords. He has scary unknowable mental powers that echo how scary and unknowable slugs are. His voice acting is great.

If there's a problem it's with the uninspired direction. The director is not afraid to shoot Mestor straight on, fully lit in all his dorky wobbly glory. This is the same season with the Gravis, who was a man in a woodlouse costume with boggly eyes and hilariously flappy hands, but the director of 'Frontios' chose to shoot him in closeup as much as possible to disguise this fact and as a result a lot of people point to the Gravis as an effective monster. 'Caves of Androzani' had two awful monsters in the Magma Beast and the Queen Bat. The director solved this by pumping in as much smoke as possible and turning all the lights off. Most fans don't even realise there was a queen bat costume. Yes, there was. Yes, it looked horrible.

There was sadly lots of better ways they could have done Mestor. He could have been a massive creature which we only saw part of, like the Malus from the same season's 'The Awakening'. He could have been some gunge-covered shapeless mass that quivered in his throne (the lack of gunge on Mestor was especially odd as the Doctor Who production team loved gunge at the time). Even with the 'man in a fancy dress slug costume' they went with, a sympathetic director could have made it work.

Again though, it's important to stress that Doctor Who has never been about the spectacle of its effects, but about the ideas that they represent. Mestor is for the most part an effective villain. His power of taking over minds and burning them out is scary, he can destroy space fleets with his mind and he can humble Time Lords. The dynamic is also well-done, with Mestor skulking in his throne room for most of the story as a terrifying presence that the Doctor must confront, rather than wobbling about in any sort of ill-advised chase scenes. Until the very end, Mestor is in total, confident control of events.

Hugo Lang
Hugo's great! It helps that he's played by Kevin McNally who would later be Captain Jack's buddy in the Pirates of the Carribean movies. Yes, Hugo comes across as a bit of a jerk, but that's his character. Script editor Eric Saward (who ended up writing most of this story) had great fun lampooning Hugo in his novelisation. Really, it's a crime that Hugo wasn't kept on as a regular. The sixth Doctor era badly needed a more energetic and confident 'action' character to play off against the Doctor, and it's no coincidence that pretty much each episode of season 22 includes a companion substitute character who fulfils that role. It could have been Hugo!

It's always nice to see Time Lords pop up, and Azmael is a particularly interesting one. He's not a moustache-twirling villain; instead he is one of the Doctor's oldest friends, forced into the role of villain. It not only helps to raise the stakes but shows the audience into more of the Doctor's character. The moment at the end between the Doctor and a dying Azmael are genuinely touching, and it's a shame that it was the Doctor's earlier madness, not this, that people took away from the story.

The Doctor
Lest we not forget Colin Baker in this story. He's absolutely brilliant in it. Perhaps that is part of the reason fans had a negative reaction, as he plays the sections where he has psychotic episodes with such menace and gusto that it leaves such an impression. There's a great energy to the rest of his performance though as he lounges on bits of the set that he's clearly not meant to, leaps about and gestures, a far cry from the much more restrained fifth Doctor. He's fun to watch - when he's not trying to kill Peri, that is!

Experiments Are Good!
I would rather a failed experiment than a successful attempt at playing it safe. Doctor Who has often been accused of playing it safe with various bases under siege, so it feels rather rude to then criticise it when it tries something genuinely new and fails. Yes, in this case it didn't entirely work, but there is value in a failed experiment. There are other stories, just as risky, which were experiments and lauded as some of the best ever made, such as 'The Mind Robber' and 'Warrior's Gate'. Should these stories not have been made so the production team could play it safe?

It's easy in hindsight to judge what does and does not work, but it's impossible to judge the success of a story just on the script alone. If that was the case, Paradise Towers would be a classic! A television production is a combination of script, set, design, costume, actors and direction. It just happened in this case, 'The Twin Dilemma' got a poor pick. I am sure there is a parallel universe somewhere where this story got the same care and attention in every aspect of its production as 'The Caves of Androzani' did.

This isn't to say there aren't problems with 'The Twin Dilemma'. Far from it. But there's not as massive and insurmountable as fandom would have you believe. It's not nearly the worst story, and as a bonus it was actually trying hard to do something different for once. Surely that's worth something.

If you want a good version of 'The Twin Dilemma', the novelisation is worth checking out. It's completely different, which is a bonus as well. An audiobook version was released in 2012 read by Colin Baker. There's also a nice fan-script rewrite that's been making the rounds here.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

[Comic] Monkey Puzzles

The Transformers: Mosaic project is a fan-based project to get artists and writers working together to create fancomics.

This was a piece I'd originally written quite early, in about 2008, but found until 2011 to actually get an artist (the really talented Vernon Moore). I did the colours and am pretty pleased how they turned out. It's about the Decepticon Powermasters who are pretty awesome characters. I love that whole era really.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

[Fiction] What really happened during the Time War

"...And then from the lofty shores of Space-C, the infinity crabs scuttled with their evil pincers made out of the colour blue!" The Doctor sat back, taking a deep breath. "Whereupon the Nightmare Phone dialled into the First Words and used their powers to..."

"Slow down, I'm not getting this!" Across from the Doctor, his ornate robes pushed unceremoniously into the plastic diner seat, the mighty Time Lord President Rassilon sat, scribbling frantically away at a napkin. His burger lay before him half-eaten, forgotten in the epic transcription that was going on.

The Doctor scowled. "Stop interrupting! I'm on a roll! Now, where was I..." He pondered this. "Oh yes. The First Words shattered the Helm of Saturn-5, and from that hyperworld hatched the Cyber-Spectres!"

"Ooh, that sounds good, what are they?" Rassilon looked up for a moment at the Doctor.

The Doctor shrugged, stealing a chip. "Eh, I dunno. Evil Cyberman ghosts? Whatever. The important thing is that the... the..."

"Baby-faced babytron!" boomed a voice, as another ornately robed figure came to join them. It was Omega, the mad Time Lord god and inventor of time travel, clutching a red plastic tray upon which sat a Happy Meal. "And he shot babies out of his baby-head!"

Rassilon scowled. "That's crap, Omega. Stop being crap."

"It sounds better than 'Cyber-Ghosts'," Omega pouted, pushing a soggy french fry into his helmet. "What about 'The Nightmare Banana'? The twist is that it's actually an orange!"

"No!" The Doctor slammed his fist onto the table. "We talked about this before. The Time War has got to sound cool! It can't sound stupid, it's got to be full of mad stuff - " He raised a hand to stop Omega from replying. "Cool-sounding mad stuff!"

"Yeah," Rassilon slouched back and began to steal Omega's McNuggets. "Us Time Lords have standards. We can't have people finding out the entire Time War was just some Daleks shooting stuff."

The three friends sat back and laughed. Until, that is, when Omega discovered his McNuggets had mysteriously vanished into a black hole.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Could the Thundercats destroy the One Ring?

The one question that Lord of the Rings fans have asked since Tolkien first published his masterwork is "If Elrond had called up the Thundercats to dispose of the One Ring instead of the Fellowship, could they have done it?"

Well, could they?

The Thundercats wiki (yes, that is a thing) tells us that "Snarfs are the only creatures in the Universe incapable of evil." This gives Snarf a big advantage in carrying the One Ring and not becoming corruted.

He is incorruptible unless he is mind possessed, and only Saruman seems capable of that (and he never mind-possesses Frodo, only Theoden).

The team pile into the Thundertank. This heavily armoured vehicle is all-terrain and has laser cannons. This will help them get past lightly armoured foes and over rough terrain - for example by driving over the snowy mountains that the original Fellowship were unable to get past and thus forced to go via the Mines of Moria.

Their first obstacle will be the Ringwraiths. Let's assume they try to ambush the Thundercats at Weathertop again. Their battle with the Fellowship shows they are weak to physical weapons, so the Thundercats have a chance here. Tygra has invisibiity which isn't Ring-based, so this should give them an advantage. Lion-O can probably blast them with the light from the Sword of Omens which is seen to be anethemia to many evil creatures and force them to retreat.

Then they will meet their next obstacle - Saurman's Uruk-Hai led by Lurtz meet them at Amon Hen. The Urak Hai are hardy but lightly armoured and armed with crossbows. The Thundertank is a tank with lasers. The Thundertank simply plows through the Uruk-Hai. It fires a harpoon at Lurtz, killing him instantly.

Rather than head for Rohan, the Thundercats drive straight for Saurman's tower. Panthro doesn't stop, driving the Thundertank straight through the base of Isengard. The tower collapses, killing Sauron. The Thundertank music plays. It's pretty sweet.

Now, do the Thundercats try to break the seige of Gondor or drive straight for the Black Gate? I'd postulate that the time saved by driving there in the Thundertank means that Sauron's army is way behind schedule and so hasn't arrived at Gondor yet. The Thundercats can cut out this entire section of the quest by their speedy vehicle-based arrival.

They could try for stealth. Tygra could use his powers of invisibility to sneak through Mordor and drop off the ring. However Tygra has continually showed himself to be an enormous liability, constantly getting seduced by evil and mind-controlled. If there is anyone who will go Boromir on the group, it's Tygra.

Mordor is expecting a conventional army. They are not expecting the Thundertank to crash through the Black Gates, guns blazing. Jaga, the heroic ghost is given the Sword of Omens and empowered by Lion-O (as per the episode 'The Ghost Warrior') to battle Sauron's spirit one-on one.

What's with this dramatic attack? Why, it's a diversion, of course.

Cheetara, the fastest Thundercat, is carrying Snarf, running through Mordor whilst everyone is busy watching Jaga fight Sauron and the Thundertank blow stuff up. They reach Mount Doom and Snarf throws the ring in. If for whatever reason Snarf can't throw the ring in, Cheetara throws Snarf in. If for whatever reason the Ring manages to stop Cheetara throwing Snarf in, it would be simple for Panthro to use the Thundertank's weapons to shoot the Ring into the volcano.

Job done!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Comic: The Story of Drift

The Transformers: Mosaic project is a fan-based project to get artists and writers working together to create fancomics.

Drift was an infamous Transformers character who charged into the scene with the sole intention of being 'the next big thing' and embodied pretty much every stereotype of the 'awesome new character' trope. This was written in 2011 before James Roberts singlehandedly redeemed the character. I stand by what I wrote! This is also a rare example of me drawing and colouring too.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

The Ten Worst Doctor Who Monsters That Actually Aren't The Worst

When talking about awful Doctor Who monsters, a few names inevitably pop up. There's also always monsters that people think deserve to go on those sort of lists that actually don't. This isn't to say that every single Doctor Who monster is secretly perfect, but fans can be blindsided by the wrong things a lot of the time.

Today we'll be looking at ten infamous monsters in no particular order, all of which have raised the ire of fandom and been mocked, but actually aren't that bad at all. Will any of this convince you? Let's find out!

1. Taran Wood Beast
1978's 'The Androids of Tara' is regarded as a brilliant story sadly marred by a scene in which a man in a furry suit and unconvincing mask leaps out from behind a bush to menace the Doctor's companion Romana for approximately 20 seconds. And yes, it is an infamously terrible costume, rightly so.

Look at it this way though - the Taran Wood Beast does literally appear for only 20 seconds, in an age where people weren't expected to constantly pour over stills and rewatch episodes again and again. It's a blink and you miss it monster. Why break the budget on a monster that would barely get seen? The production team could have made some sort of lavish monster costume for this brief appearance, but as a result the rest of the episode would have had to see cuts. It's good enough for what it is - a monster that serves a plot point which is only glimpsed.

Of course, if you're still not convinced, remember that Tara is a world where androids are commonplace. It is perfectly possible that the Taran Wood Beast is simply a robot that the rich can safely hunt in lieu of killing real animals. Then it's clearly fake appearance can be explained by it not being real!

2.The Kandyman
There are two types of people - those who mock the Kandyman, and those who have actually seen 'The Happiness Patrol'. In photographs and clips he looks ridiculous - an evil Bertie Bassett with spinning eyes and a shrill voice, proof positive that Doctor Who is Ruined Forever. He's supposed to be like that though - that's the entire point of 'The Happiness Patrol'. It's set in a dystopia that tries to force happiness on its populace, but instead just comes across as cheap, tacky and run-down.

Unfortunately at the time Doctor Who was often cheap and tacky by accident, so it was easy for people to assume this was yet another silly story where no-one involved knew what they were doing.

The Kandyman is a great character - he's a cyborg made of sweets who is both sweet scientist and head executioner. He treats his executioner work like it is the most tedious job in the world. He's grumpy, flippant and hilarious. The fact that he's a crazy murderous Bertie Bassett is the best bit, not the worst!

The Ergon, Omega's creation in 1983's 'Arc of Infinity' looks like a stupid giant chicken. He waddles about in his ungainly costume and his arms that seem to be stuck at right angles, head swaying violently from side to side as people pretend to be scared.

The thing is though, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the Ergon. Sure it looks terrible, but what doesn't. In the cold harsh light of day, the Alien costume from the legendary films looked equally crap. The detailing and design of the Ergon is actually fantastic and pretty creepy-looking, it's just the decision to blast it with light that ruins the effect. Had the lighting been just a bit more selective we might have had a classic monster on our hands. Not great in the final execution, but not nearly the worst.

4.Gel Guard
Omega was a glutton for punishment, and in his first appearance in 1973's 'The Three Doctors', he fielded a team of 'Gel Guards', gigantic orange blobby monsters that bobbed up and down and said "blob blob" a lot.

For some reason fandom doesn't like these, as apparently they don't fit within the gritty realism of the Pertwee era or something ridiculous like that. They absolutely work within the story though - they have a good menacing presence as they attack the UNIT base, they have a strange hidden crab claw that can explode things, and the costumes look genuinely weird and alien. They might not be to everyone's taste, but there's nothing about them that you can actually point at as not working.

'Kinda' is another story that is held in high regard by fandom which feels that a 10/10 stone cold classic is let down by the appearance of a rubbish pink snake at the end. It's not. It's let down by the fact that the Mara is defeated by being put in a circle of mirrors, which is pretty much a hollow 'nothing' ending.

The rest of 'Kinda' is full of genuinely experimental imagery and quite brave directional choice in depicting the Mara, a creature of nightmares, so the revelation that it's just a rubbish pink snake is of course a let-down. It even got replaced by a CGI snake on the DVD release so that fans can sleep at night.

While the original Mara effect isn't great, an entire story does not hinge on a thirty second effect shot. It may have looked bad in 1982, but in the modern age of CGI it looks no worse than anything else from the era. If you honestly think that a crap pink snake completely ruins a story, then you probably don't deserve to watch nice things in the first place. I'm sorry that the BBC didn't literally get a real giant snake in to the studio.

Here's another way of looking at it - the Mara is a creature of false fears, so obviously it is going to appear as a fake snake. Sorted!

I've never understood the Zarbi hate. Sure, they look like pantomime ants, but at the same time they're supposed to be alien creatures inspired by ants, not literally ants. The production team was aware what ants looked like and if they wanted something that looked like an ant, we'd have got something that looked like an ant.

The Zarbi have big powerful legs for running. The alternative is you have an actor crawling slowly about on the floor - would that really have made 'The Web Planet' better? Before 'The Web Planet' was released on VHS, people had fond memories of the original broadcast. My dad still talks about it to this day (and no, I've not dared to show him the DVD yet). It was liked back in the 60's, don't be ashamed to like it now!

7.Paradigm Daleks
Apparently no-one liked the Paradigm Daleks, which was a surprise because from where I was standing they got far more merchandise than the original design, and it flew off the shelves. Yes, they were a big change from the bronze design, but being multicoloured is hardly something new to the Daleks. The new colour schemes were great and added an air of mystery and organisation to them - I can't be the only person who liked the colour-based hierarchy from the Cushing Dalek films - it's iconic!

The new Daleks were bigger and bulkier and didn't have to crane their eyestalks upwards to talk to the Doctor. They apparently had some sort of neat weapon-switching ability, but we never got to see it. Acutally we never really got to see them at all, because after their introduction a subset of fandom started to whine loudly and the new Daleks were quickly relegated to background shots before behind silently phased out.

They never got a chance. The tweaks to the design in Asylum of the Daleks, where the paintjob is a more metallic colour looks fantastic. The main issue with the new Dalek was that their 'backpack' was made the same colour as their casing, giving a hunchback appearance. If the back section had been painted, say, black, that would have made it very clear they weren't some sort of overweight monstrosities. We'll never know now though. Thanks, fandom!

8.Original Cybermen
The original Cybermen's main crime is not looking like silver robots. People point at the cloth masks and funny voices and have a good giggle, but the truth is that the first appearance of the Cybermen is both really creepy and one of their most effective. Yes, they're not silver robots. I'm sorry.

The Cybermen are us. They are basically walking corpses strapped together with bulky life support systems and vocoders. They have cloth masks stretched over their faces like bandages, and we really don't want to see what's under there. They have visibly human hands. They want to make us like them, not because they're evil or want to invade, but because they genuinely want to help and see Cyber-conversion as akin to helping an injured man in the street. Why wouldn't you want to help him? It would be cruel not to Cyber-convert as much as humanity as possible.

The original appearance of the Cybermen in 'The Tenth Planet' is one of the few times this central concept really comes across, and most of that is due to the design, which is the closest to human they've been. It's easy to think of a silver robot as just another space monster. It's harder to think of a nightmarish collection of corpse, cloth and machinery as one.

'The Ark In Space' is treated by fans as a classic and by non-fans as 'That one with the bubble-wrap monster'. I genuinely don't know how widespread the use of bubble wrap was in the UK in 1975; for some reason there's no bubble wrap fan site that charts the progression of the nation's favourite packaging material.

The Wirrn grub and Noah's transformation are both portrayed with copious amounts of bubble wrap. Fine. Get over it. It's not like they could have infected the actor with an actual Wirrn embryo. The effect is good enough though (quite embarrassingly I never even realised it was bubble wrap until it was pointed out to me) and most importantly, the actors sell it. The entire job of an actor is to make something seem convincing - everyone is scared of the Wirrn grub so that it becomes genuinely menacing; Noah clutches his mutating hand in agony and it's obvious it is an alien infection and not some bubble wrap. Anyone who dislikes that probably gets confused every time they go to the theatre and the play doesn't have Hollywood-like effects.

Saving the best 'til last, it's no-one's favourite monster, the Abzorbaloff. 'Love and Monsters' comes in for criticism as one of the worst Doctor Who stories, generally for the combination of a lack of Doctor, a crap monster and a tasteless pavement slab sex joke. Yes, the pavement slab bit is unfortunate and leaves the episode on a sour note, but if it wasn't for that we'd be looking at a 10/10 episode. Even with the Abzorbaloff.

I can't get too worked up about the design, as it was designed by a small child and so that would feel a bit mean. And is it scary? Well, I ask you, would you be scared if a green Peter Kay wearing only a loincloth started chasing you down the street? In many ways it's the most terrifying Doctor Who monster ever!

Seriously though, 'Love and Monsters' is about fandom. It's about how great fandoms are in how they bring people together, and how their excesses and obsessions can be absolutely destructive. The Abzorbaloff is the uber-fan, obsessed with Doctor Who and with taking over every fan community that he can. In the episode he turns a fun, chilled Doctor Who fan club into a second job for the characters and sucks all the joy out of their lives before literally absorbing them. He's the sort of fan who loves being a Doctor Who fan for the sense of power it gives him and prizes his fannish knowledge above things like personal relationships. He can't understand why people might like things that he doesn't like, and probably thinks the Kandyman was rubbish.

But when you strip away the mask, this sort of uber-fan is revealed to be what he truly is - just another crap green Doctor Who monster.

That is why the Abzorbaloff is brilliant.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

[Fiction] The World's Only Geocaching Fanfic

Geocache.jpg (512×384)
"I've found it! Go me!" Bob cheered to himself as he found the geocache. It had been cleverly hidden in a tub in the middle of the forest. He fumbled in his jacket for the Lego figure he liked to leave in caches that he found.

The peace and quiet of the woods was shattered as a figure leapt out from behind a bush, holding a knife. "Hah!" the man screamed. "Now you are a victim of the Geoslashers!"

"Yeah!" shouted another, popping out from inside a hollow log. And then a third tumbled deftly from the branches of a tree.

Bob looked about in panic. He was surrounded. "W-what do you want?" he gasped.

The man with the knife stepped forwards. "We're the GEOSLASHERS!" he grinned. "We lure geocachers out into the woods and then we..."

"We wee on them!" His comrade started to fumble at his trousers. "GeoSLASHERS, see!"

"What?" The third figure slapped him on the back of the head. Don't be stupid. We read them our erotic batman/superman fanfiction. GeoSLASHERS. Duh!"

"Wait. No. No. We murder them." The first figure with the knife turned on his fellows. "You know, like murderers."

"That's awful!" The second one began. "And a bit naughty too!"

"No kissing?" The third stroked their chin. "Can we at least read to them while doing it?"

Bob never heard the answer. He was busy legging it as fast as he could to freedom.