Sunday, April 29, 2007

Recyclingwatch: Evolution of the Daleks

Since this one's a two-parter, I'm just going to focus on elements which are new, or more or less new here; read last week's for the setup.

The Unquiet Dead: The Doctor offers to take the alien refugees to another planet where they can start again. Aliens taking over human bodies, and bursting through shrouds.

Dalek: Dalek acquires human DNA through highly improbable method, promptly goes on rampage, starts discovering his emotional side, then dies before he gets a chance to spread his hybridness through the universe. People trying to kill Daleks with ordinary rifles, and looking up at flying Daleks. Dalek Caan is the purported last of the Daleks at the end of the story (don't you believe it). Following a nose-of-destruction confrontation with the Daleks, Doctor deals with his Time War issues and comes out of it a better person.

The Long Game: Bloke who's been interfered with in some visibly alien/futuristic way (Adam there, Lazlo here) is released back into society by the Doctor.

The Parting of the Ways: Leader rallies troops for doomed anti-Dalek battle; Daleks flying around shooting at people and apparently getting some sort of pleasure out of this; Daleks viewing the Doctor on a monitor screen; Doctor surrendering to the Daleks, asking them to shoot him, and only being saved by a passing deus ex machina; the Controller wired in to the system; Dalekised humans and Daleks with issues about this.

New Earth: Doctor deciding to try and save lives through chucking a bunch of coloured fluids in a container, and then patting himself on the back from the result; aliens experimenting on humans big-time; chases in and around lifts.

Rise of the Cybermen
: Black leader makes speech appealing to the villains and gets killed.

The Age of Steel: The Doctor defeats the villain through appealing to the humanity of his converts; the Doctor and companion split up and join up with local factions, reuniting at the end. Massed ranks of blank-faced converted humans marching around.

The Idiot's Lantern: Mad-dash climb up Ally Pally = Mad-dash climb up the Empire State Building (this was in last week's too, but it's more obvious here)

Love and Monsters: The Doctor saving the life of the alien-affected and dying girl/boyfriend of the guest star; said girl/boyfriend can't live a normal life anymore, but said guest star vows to stick by them anyway.

Doomsday: "Emergency Temporal Shift" is now the Dalek equivalent of the way that defeated villains on the old Hasbro cartoons (Transformers, GI Joe) used to shout "Next time!" as they fled at the end of the story. "Allons-y!". Action stops for two characters to work out their feelings (more subtly here, but still).

Torchwood: Bloke brooding on a building, wearing a big flappy trenchcoat.

Timelash Moment: Hideous human/monster hybrid (see last week) wants to breed more like him and start a new race, but his coracialists have other ideas.

The Fifth Element: More art-deco arty sort of look; climactic shootout in a theatre; Frankensteinesque biology labs used to create a weird thing that looks human but isn't really.

Old Skool Who
: Once again, we have a story mostly ripped off from "The Evil of the Daleks" (human-Dalek hybrids; the Daleks forming a tentative alliance with the Doctor; the Doctor "infecting" the hybridisation process; one of said hybrids asks "Why?" and starts a civil war; hell, the hybrids even walk like Marius Goring in "Evil"; the Daleks on stage look for all the world like an homage to the recent "Evil" stage play, and, well "Evil-ution of the Daleks," groan), but they're also going to town on Cybermen stories: "Earthshock" ("My/our army awakes!" followed by shots of said army marching through corridors; the human-Daleks bursting through their shrouds); "Invasion" (sewers); "Attack" (sewers again, plus hybrid creature working to bring down his masters); "Tomb" (Toberman being converted and then turning on the Cyberman Controller). Otherwise: "Genesis of the Daleks" (one eyed human-Dalek thing in charge of Daleks, who is gunned down by them at the end, and the Doctor refusing to commit genocide despite his stated antipathy to the genocidees; Doctor taking a zap of electricity and surviving), "Remembrance" (Dalek wired in as controller); "Resurrection" (big gun battle out of which only Lazlo/Lytton walks unscathed); "The Daleks" (leader of a community of outsiders makes a speech appealing to the Daleks' finer feelings and is gunned down for it; also sequence in which protagonists escape in a rising lift which is then called down again); "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" (chase sequence through sewer, with crocodiles/other monsters); "The Talons of Weng Chiang" (sequence in which a large number of enemy footsoldiers are conveniently killed through a Heath-Robinson rigup the moment they're about to burst through a door and attack); "The Invasion of Time" (enemy paralysed by loud noise"); "The Ark in Space" (sequence of the Doctor desperately trying to undo the locks/remove the Dalekanium plates with his sonic screwdriver, against the clock); "The Visitation" (Doctor offering to take last of alien refugees to another planet if they'll leave Earth alone); any story featuring Daleks doing a countdown ("The Daleks," "The Daleks' Master Plan," fill in your own favourites here).

Everything Else: Sunset Boulevard (the Doctor lying, seemingly dead, on the top of the Empire State Building); Vertigo (vertiginous top-of-building shots at climax); King Kong (blonde, Thirties, Empire State Building, blah blah blah; possibly the gimped-up Dalek Sec); Frankenstein (especially the James Whale version, and The Bride of Frankenstein as well). The persistent rumours that something is living in the sewers of new York. Are You Being Served ("first floor, perfumery!"). Blade Runner (artificial creatures who have an artificially shortened life).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Headline of the Week

Today, regarding the death of 1966 England squad member Alan Ball, Ceefax led with this headline:


...and my first thought was "Crikey, it's not enough that they write obituaries for the players, now they're doing it for the sports equipment too?"

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Recyclingwatch: Daleks in Manhattan

It's Daleks! In Manhattan!
[Samuel L. Jackson] I'm sick of these motherf***ing Daleks in motherf***ing Manhattan!

Right, that's out of the way, now on to the Recyclingwatch.

Rose: Major landmark forms part of villains' plans; see also Rise of the Cybermen, The Idiot's Lantern; Aliens of London, Army of Ghosts etc. etc.

Aliens of London: Pig-people; the Doctor approaching a frightened pig-person in a friendly way only to wind up in a chase sequence; major world capital is invaded by aliens.

Dalek: American in black suit who has a Dalek-related secret; Daleks in the lifts; Dalek-human hybridising; "you would make a good Dalek" or similar line. Exposed Dalek mutants left, right and centre.

The Empty Child: Mid-century setting; people going to musical show to forget their troubles; bisexual humour ("You can kiss me later; you can too if you want, Frank"); the Doctor forms alliance with a group of homeless people.

Bad Wolf: Tallulah with 3 Ls and an H, meet Lynda with a Y.

The Parting of the Ways: Daleks using humans to supplement their ranks, and having moral qualms about this; Daleks backing off; American rallies a group of reluctant supporters into an impromptu anti-Dalek army.

Rise of the Cybermen:
Doctor and companion land somewhere, and companion finds a convenient newspaper giving the exact date (following which they both look up to see a) zeppelins or b) the Statue of Liberty). Villains are kidnapping homeless people and converting them into hybrid things. No zeppelins, though, which is a bit surprising considering that one might reasonably expect to see one in 1930s New York.

The Age of Steel:
The Doctor/companion join a queue of potential conversion victims in order to infiltrate the facility; the chief villain gets himself converted. Things in the sewers.

The Idiot's Lantern: The Doctor tampering with mid-20th-century technology to turn it into something more sophisticated; since the Empire State Building mast was actually a radio transmitter, there's a parallel between the goings-on there in "Daleks in Manhattan" and the Ally-Pally focused activities in this script. The Doctor was trying to get to New York in the earlier story (is it just me or is the RTD administration obsessed with New York? Two New New York stories, The Idiot's Lantern, and now this...), and finally makes it here.

Doomsday: The cult of Skaro get another outing, with backstory restated. Scene of Daleks backing off, and of Daleks viewing what another Dalek is seeing through its eyestick. Companion bossily confronts a Dalek about its plans.

Torchwood: Pig-people in boiler suits = Weevils in boiler suits; apparently the Torchwood website makes a bit of a joke of this, claiming that there was a suspected Weevil infestation in New York in the 1930s.

Timelash Moment: Human/monster hybrids wandering around subterranean tunnels; one of them is a hybrid of the chief villain.

The Fifth Element: Bronzy art deco sort of look; interrupted musical performance by a diva.

Old Skool Who: Where do I even begin? "The Chase" (Daleks on the Empire State Building, and it was fun to watch RTD pretend that was completely Helen Raynor's idea during Confidential); "City of Death" (compare and contrast: Sec Hybrid with Skaroth; end of episode 1 cliffhanger involving one-eyed squid creature in suit reveal); "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" (Daleks applying intelligence tests to kidnapped humans to test their suitability as slave-workers and converting them, plus the Doctor and companion joining a queue of same); "Genesis of the Daleks" (discussions of Dalek survival and racial purity, plus a kind of Dalek/human hybrid figure); "Attack of the Cybermen" (many of the sewer scenes are plagiarised from this one, particularly the one in which a shadowy figure is glimpsed down a sewer tunnel but the glimpsee doesn't discover what it is until too late; Frank being pulled off the ladder by the pig-people is also damn close to the scene where Lytton is pulled off a ladder by Cybermen; Lazlo, like Lytton at the end of the story, is a half-complete hybrid); "The Invasion" (Tobias Vaughn undergoes a partial cyber-conversion; sewer chase scenes, and again someone getting grabbed by Cybermen while trying to climb out of a sewer); "The Talons of Weng Chiang" (pig people; music-hall shows with sewers in the basement and something nasty going on involving people disappearing; something nasty and genetically modified in the sewer); "Tomb of the Cybermen" (compare the Cyberman Controller's emergence in the 1960s story with the Sec Hybrid's emergence from the Dalek casing in this one); "The Happiness Patrol" again (piggish-people in the sewer pipes; unhappy people pretending to be happy; companion makes an unplanned appearance in a variety show; how many times are they going to reference this one?); "The Five Doctors" (Phil Collinson admits on the podcast that the image of a Dalek shadow being cast on a wall before the Dalek itself is visible was taken from this one); "Revelation of the Daleks" (Dalek remnant making use of humans to supplement their army); "Destiny of the Daleks" (the Doctor discovering a Kaled mutant out of its casing and making an important mental link as a result); "Day of the Daleks" (Daleks in dark tunnels); "Death to the Daleks" (two humans up a tower on a windy night); any story involving a Dalek mutant/embryo ("The Power of the Daleks," "Resurrection," "Master Plan," etc.); and, most especially, "Evil of the Daleks" (Daleks in a past era of human history who co-opt a local ambitious businessman to fulfil their schemes, and later turn him into a kind of Dalekised human).

Everything Else:
"The Phantom of the Opera" (deformed creature that lives in the sewers but is obsessed with a performer in a local show, leaves her roses and creeps up to the wings to watch her perform; the scene where Lazlo is discovered cries out for a chorus of "He's there! The phantom of the opera!" from the showgirls); any movie in which the protagonists come to New York to start a better life (likewise, the shots of the Statue of Liberty were crying out for Barbra Streisand standing on the deck of a boat singing the final chorus from Yentl); Damon Runyon (Tallulah is the pound-shop version of Sweet Adelaide from Guys and Dolls); Philip George Chadwick (1930s writer who predicted the creation of artificial biological life; cf. the Doctor's examination of the green thing from the sewers); Bugsy Malone (New York Prohibition-era goings-on; blonde showgirl named Tallulah).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Recyclingwatch: Gridlock

First of all, let me say that this is one of my favourite episodes of the new series ever, and I haven't had this much fun watching Doctor Who since "The Girl in the Fireplace." However, I have a service to provide, so that's not going to stop me doing a Recyclingwatch on it. I'll just open by juxtaposing two quotes that sum this whole exercise up:

"I think we're creating... our own mythology." --Phil Collinson
"You're just taking me everywhere you took her, aren't you?"-- Martha Jones.

The End of the World: The year Five Billion; the Face of Boe; the Doctor takes his companion on a journey to the future to show off and ends up putting her in peril; companion expresses distaste over future society and concern for her parents; Doctor ends up explaining to companion about being last of Time Lords, etc. The Doctor says "Everything has its time."

New Earth: The setting; the Face of Boe dying; cat people; red people; the Duke of Manhattan; New New York's got a nasty secret in its lower layers again; crescent moons; apple grass; companion kidnapped; rain/shower effects; Doctor saves the day with simple solution. "New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New York" gag.

Bad Wolf: The Doctor returns to what he predicts will be a glorious time for humanity, only to find it's all a bit grotty now. Doctor gives angry/uplifting speech about how he's going to find his companion and then come back and wipe all the grot out.

The Parting of the Ways
: Ostensible atheist Russell T. Davies does yet another story about Christianity; the Doctor messing around with wires; major character does self-sacrifice bit. Rose says "Everything has its time."

The Long Game: The drug vendors suddenly appearing; nobody knows what's above/below the studio/motorway, but they have heard that it's good/bad. When we find it, it looks like some kind of giant sea creature.

School Reunion: "Everything has its time" again, this time spoken by Sarah.

The Idiot's Lantern: Sally Calypso (blue and white virtual lady); companion kidnapped and Doctor vows to find her and then come back for revenge.

The Satan Pit: Once-intelligent monsters losing their intelligence. Random classical/hymn music interlude. Companion being drugged and kidnapped, and pulling a gun on her kidnappers once she revives.

Love and Monsters: Bliss.

Army of Ghosts: Cute Japanese girls.

The Fifth Element: Do you really need it spelled out for you? Just watch the first twenty minutes of the film and you'll get the whole idea.

Timelash Moment: Something nasty lurking in the lower reaches of the city, unknown to its (tiny) population. Morlox, meet Macra; Macra, meet Morlox. Sally Calypso should probably also meet the fake Borad.

Old Skool Who: The Happiness Patrol (bowler-hatted gent, but see below); The Sensorites ("The sky is a burnt orange..."); Paradise Towers (satire about contemporary urban life; people trapped in brutalist location after catastrophe kills off most of the planet's population; two old ladies in a long-term relationship; crablike monsters); The Macra Terror (go on, guess); The Robots of Death (recycling human waste for human consumption); Mawdryn Undead (companion mistakes burnt corpse for Doctor); Silver Nemesis (arrows remaining in door from previous story are removed by the Doctor). David Weir's unmade story "The Killer Cats of Geng Singh" (go on, guess again).

Everywhere Else: Ben Elton's novels (satire about cars); any cyberpunk writer of the 1980s (designer drugs absorbed through transdermal patches; huge highways; techno-dystopias; Japanese people; Max Headroom-style holographic newsreaders; ISTR one cyberpunk short story which featured an entire society living in the stairwells of a block of flats); Bladerunner (only in terms of the dystopian-city really IMO, but if I don't mention it I'll get eight million e-mails on the subject); Escape from the Planet of the Apes (ostensibly normal baby animal that suddenly starts saying "Mama, mama"); Judge Dredd (dystopian urban satire; RTD claims on Confidential that the bowler-hatted gent is based on a character from Judge Dredd, but as Andrew Cartmel was a comic fan, they may share the same source); Good Omens (people trapped on a motorway for all eternity); American Gothic (the painting, not the series); the video for REM's "Everybody Hurts" (in which a group of people stuck in a traffic jam on a motorway all abandon their cars and walk away).

But hey-- talking kittens!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Conversations with Alan: Recyclingwatch

Alan: Maybe all this recycling of plots and elements within Doctor Who is really some sort of deep, metatextual comment on the banality of life and the repetitiveness of existence.

Me: Who knows?

Alan: I do: no it isn't.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Recyclingwatch: The Shakespeare Code

The Unquiet Dead: the entire plot, basically (honestly, it's practically a straight swap, Dickens-Shakespeare, ghosts-witches), but, if I must go into detail: Doctor going all fanboyish over historical writer; companion making first trip into past and going all gooey over it, plus nervous over the idea of changing the past; a near-identical dialogue sequence in which the Companion points out that she can't have died/the Earth can't have ended in the past, and the Doctor sets her straight; more lit-studies in-jokes than you can shake a stick at. Near-identical climaxes in which the evil aliens attempt to come through a rift to our world, and are thwarted not by the Doctor or companion but some random historical person.

Tooth and Claw: the whole celebrity-historical formula (this time with Queen Victoria and werewolves; what's next year, Wordsworth meets Frankenstein); psychic/ghostly phenomenon given explanation involving aliens; queens threatening the Doctor's life on little/no provocation. The moon.

Rose: Familiar London monument (the Globe/the London Eye) used by aliens as means of instigating an invasion of Earth.

Also notice that once again pretty girls are either evil (Torchwood: Greeks Bearing Gifts) or dead by the second reel (The Impossible Planet).

Old Skool Who: The Massacre (17th-century, or near as damnit, setting; companion having the opportunity to cop off with one of the locals but calls it off in the end); The Chase (Shakespeare, Elizabeth 1); The Mind of Evil (man drowning on dry land through psychic suggestion); Silver Nemesis (17th-century setting again; arrows hitting the Tardis and remaining there after takeoff).

Timelash Moment: The Doctor meets a famous writer from the past and gives him a number of his best ideas.

The Fifth Element:
The idea of ancient writings being really alien codes.

Everything Else:
Blake's 7: Power (the Seska, an all-female race with psychic powers, who use co-radiating crystals versus the Carrionites, an all-female race with psychic powers, who use co-radiating crystals); The Da Vinci Code and any other book suggesting that the art/literature of the Renaissance had some kind of ulterior purpose beyond its obvious artistic value (I'm especially thinking Tim Powers here); any of the BBC's educational dramatisations of Shakespeare plays; Shakespeare in Love (Shakespeare reconceived as something like a modern celebrity; jokey anachronisms; cameo by Queen Elizabeth; Shakespeare receiving outside help on his writing; lost Shakespeare plays); Restoration (madhouse scenes); Buffy the Vampire Slayer (S5 episode "Tough Love" features flying lesbian witches, well, Willow anyway); The Wizard of Oz (witches swirling around in a whirlwind)

New Service: Doctor Who Recyclingwatch

OK, I can't be the only one who's finding the new series of Doctor Who a little, well, familiar. Identifiably so, in fact. So, as a service to those of us who care about these things, this year I'm going to identify exactly what was ripped off from where (feel free to send in things I've missed at the usual address, btw). The focus is on the last two seasons of DW, obviously, but I'll put in a few of the more amusing other sources as well, plus seeing how many times Timelash and The Fifth Element get a look-in.

Smith and Jones

: Typical boring day in life of DW-companion-to-be, which turns into exciting romp with aliens; Doctor grabs hand of companion-to-be and runs with her to escape said menace; companion-to-be's family issues explored in detail; after one particularly extensive instance of family issues, the Doctor turns up and offers to take companion-to-be away from it all, and she accepts; blonde slappers and absent fathers; "OMG it's bigger on the inside, etc. etc." moment. Companion saves Doctor at the climax through doing what she does best.

Aliens of London: Major London landmark damaged/removed through alien intervention; politicians quick to cash in on this.

The Parting of the Ways: The Doctor absorbs and expels a massive dose of radiation (though this time, he doesn't die in the process).

New Earth: Hospital; aliens with the heads of familiar Earth animals (cats there; rhinos here); camp older woman villain; taking on other people's bodily aspects (out and out bodyswaps there, plasmavore stunts here). The moon featuring prominently again.

Doomsday: Freema Agyeman; more Thamesside settings; a quick retconning namecheck by Martha.

Generally: Saxon = Torchwood last year, Bad Wolf the year before it.

Old Skool Who: The Curse of Fenric (plasmavore = haemavore; she's played by Anne Reid, who played Nurse Crane in the former serial), The Stones of Blood (blood-ingesting aliens; older women who turn out to be aliens), The Happiness Patrol (the Doctor taking a black medical student as companion).

Timelash Moment: Something weird happens early on, which turns out to be the result of a trip to the past being made later in the story.

The Fifth Element (early indications are that this movie is going to turn up a lot this year): protagonist hijacked on an ordinary working day into excting time and space plot.

Everywhere Else: Judge Dredd (the Judoon without the rhino masks), any and all medical shows (don't make me say Holby City), Buffy and Forever Knight ("vampire" surviving through raiding hospital blood banks); Casualty 1906 (a one-off docudrama BBC1 showed last year which was based on the patient records of an Edwardian London hospital; the sequences involving messing around with the X-ray machines and MRI reminded me irresistably of the sequences in Casualty 1906 showing how a turn-of-the-century radiology lab worked). Red Dwarf (bloodsucking alien that uses a straw to do it); The Wizard of Oz (ordinary building being swept up in a freak weather incident and deposited intact on another world). There's a Billie Piper music video in which Billie encounters a nightclub with a CGI anthropomorphic rhino bouncer that looks amazingly Judoonlike (earlier in the same video, she develops godlike powers, and turns a dustbin into a man; does RTD get his ideas from MTV?).

Taking It Back

Earlier this year, I posted in the Current Top Pics that I was finding Life on Mars disappointing this year. Well, I take that back, and I take back any criticism I may have made about the series. The final episode managed not only to be amazing and very touching (I don't mind admitting that I choked up) but it completely and totally, at a stroke, explained every inconsistency, every duff episode, every cliche and instance of poor characterisation that's gone before, and left the viewer satisfied. Now that is good television.

Much as I like Martha...

...I can't help but deplore the fact that we are now going to be inundated with fan videos to the tune of Aqua's "Doctor Jones."