Sunday, May 27, 2007

Brideshead Recycled: Human Nature

OK, first off this story takes the Recyclingwatch prize automatically for being an admitted recycle of Paul Cornell's New Adventures novel Human Nature.

Alan and I had a discussion during the Confidential over whether this means that I can't actually point out similarities with earlier episodes of Nu-Who, since the story was technically written before Nu-Who was even conceived of. We decided in the end that it was legit, because in the first place the novel has been rewritten to bring it into the Tennant Era (and thus there might well be bleedthrough from other episodes), and, in the second, they wouldn't have picked that particular novel if they didn't think it fitted with the show as it is now.

Plus, Alan pointed out that each season thus far has recycled a production from the Hiatus Era, so doing the same this year is carrying on the trend.

Rose: Silent, shambling automaton-monsters; also, despite Phil Collinson's assurances that they stop mentioning her after Episode 3, guess what, she gets another namecheck.

The Unquiet Dead: Shambling possessed human corpses; non-corporeal aliens; plucky girl housemaids; psychic children/young people.

Aliens of London/World War Three: Aliens in human suits who are into hunting, and, particularly, want to hunt the Doctor.

Dalek: The first season's Hiatus Era recycle, being Jubilee without the, well, jubilee.

The Empty Child/the Doctor Dances: Creepy blond little boy; seemingly possessed children and adults.

The Parting of the Ways: the Doctor has a recording of himself in the Tardis to instruct the companion of what to do if something goes wrong.

School Reunion: The Doctor impersonates a schoolmaster, while his companion impersonates one of the school's staff; the Doctor meets a human woman, and his relationship with her makes his companion jealous.

The Girl in the Fireplace: The Doctor falls in love with a human woman, to companion's chagrin; "a girl in every fireplace," says Nurse Redfern.

Rise of the Cybermen: The second season's Hiatus Era recycle, being Spare Parts without the, well, spare parts. Once again a newspaper masthead is used for exposition about the date. A party which is gatecrashed by monsters.

Torchwood: Greeks Bearing Gifts: Sometime in the past, an alien spaceship crashes/lands and an alien who looks like a human turns up with intent to infiltrate and kill the human population.

Timelash Moment: Story refers extensively to earlier, unfilmed adventure of the Doctor's which we haven't seen.

The Fifth Element: Alien creature is transformed into a human to protect it.

Old Skool Who: Remembrance of the Daleks (the possessed little girl with the balloon; Murray Gold even references the "five-six-seven-eight-there's-a-Doctor-at-the-gate" musical sting for her); Shada (invisible spaceships); I'm pretty sure there was a BBC Books novel featuring animate scarecrows; the unmade Doctor Who Meets Scratchman movie (animate scarecrows again); the Troughton Era (the Doctor's diary, plus gratuitous Mister Science moment about meteors); Four to Doomsday (shenanigans with cricket balls); The Pyramids of Mars (Edwardian upper-class twit unwittingly wanders into spaceship and gets possessed by aliens); The Mark of the Rani (where the Master disguises himself as a scarecrow and the Doctor meets his feminine match). Arguably Black Orchid (though it's twenties-Edwardian rather than tens-Edwardian, it does have posh Edwardian men wandering around crumbling old buildings hiding secrets and ranting about the Empire). The War Games (World War I; the Doctor going by the alias John Smith, though at that you could count any number of stories starting from "The Wheel in Space" for that one). The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (creepy alien-impersonating-human family; the Doctor engaging in Heath-Robinson physical comedy). The Curse of Fenric (the sequence of the scarecrows shambling over the fields and then attacking the landowner with their arms stiffly outstretched is pure Fenric; as is the cheeky lascivious housemaid being possessed by something evil).

Everywhere Else: Pick your public-school stories here: Billy Bunter, To Serve Them All My Days, The Compleet Molesworth, The Browning Version, Ripping Yarns, If (complete with students running amok with firearms), The Liar, etc. Also your Edwardian social-change/class conflict dramas: Brideshead Revisited, Upstairs Downstairs, Gosford Park, The Duchess of Duke Street, Howards' End. The Singing Detective (animate scarecrows, plus the fact that, to judge by the local landowner's accent, this is set in Gloucestershire). The Wizard of Oz again (scarecrows, their appearance and walk).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Recyclingwatch: 42

"Go on, my sun!"

The End of the World:
Companion gets superphone from the Doctor and rings her Mum, pretending that everything is normal as she does so.

Aliens of London:
Companion gets key to TARDIS as mark of status with the Doctor.

Dalek: Human illegal/amoral action triggers chase scene with unstoppable enemy in closed environment.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
: In the Radio Times, Chibnall acknowledges that these were "an influence," though perhaps "straight ripoff" might have been more accurate (did I say "straight ripoff"? I meant "generous homage"). Far-future multiethnic space-faring human culture in postindustrial setting where everyone walks around sweating in grotty workwear; mysterious voice speaks to, then infects and takes over, buff male crewmember, who then goes around being all sinister, having funny eyes, and repeating catchphrases; Doctor makes remarks about indefatigability of humans; the Doctor becomes separated from his companion, who nonetheless trusts that he'll rescue her somehow; the Doctor and companion are separated from the TARDIS, with seemingly no way to return, early on; the pretty/young female crewmembers are dispatched quickly, while the companion hangs out with male/working class ones; Doctor suits up for journey into the unknown; the bit where McDonnell and Korwin go floating balletically off into space is far too similar to the one where the dead Skooti drifts off to the black hole.

Fear Her: Fraught suburban Mum/daughter relationship; shadows being burnt/drawn into walls.

Earlier This Season: What the hell is it with Season 3 and MRI machines?

Timelash Moment: Seemingly dead villain-monster revives.

The Fifth Element:
Gritty working-class-sci-fi with nonetheless beautiful space sequences. Colour scheme heavy on the reds and yellows.

Old Skool Who: Pretty much any of the base-under-sieges, particularly if they involve aliens taking somebody over rather than invading from outside (The Invisible Enemy, The Wheel in Space, and see below); also any of the Robert Holmes man-gets-infected-with-something-that-takes-him-over-to-the-dismay-of-his-relatives ones (Seeds of Doom; Ark in Space; Pyramids of Mars). Resurrection of the Daleks and Earthshock (Alien-influenced post-industrial chase stories with tough women leaders; at least two homages to Resurrection's "does nothing work properly?" moment); Destiny of the Daleks (twitching-hand revival); Terror of the Vervoids (the facemasks; the colour scheme; the murder-on-a-spaceship theme); "The Pyramids of Mars" (seemingly human villain, actually taken over by some sort of alien; baddie who can cause people to steam to death by touching them, and has a sinister calm voice; bit where the sibling/partner of the taken-over person attempts to bring them back to themselves by reminding them of the relationship, with no success); "The Invisible Enemy" (Doctor taken over by alien and urges his companion to try and cure him; infected people walking around in helmets with visors, opening them up to reveal their infected state, and zapping other people with their eyes, as well as muttering catchphrases); "The Stones of Blood" ("Where's that Dunkirk spirit?"); "The Daleks' Master Plan" (character ejecting herself and another character out the airlock to save the others); "Planet of Evil" (planet/sun is actually alive and taking people over, picking off crewmembers one at a time, and appeased when something taken from it is returned; people with glowing eyes).

Outside Sources
: 24 is the most obvious one (realtime, or supposed realtime in the case of 24, action; action-adventure style, and government conspiracies), but you can also take your pick of the 1980s sci-fi-with-dirt-and-bugs-in boom (Alien and sequels/ripoffs, Event Horizon, even Star Wars usually shows the dings and scratches on the droids; this just makes RTD's proud claim on "Confidential" that this is somehow uniquely British rather silly-sounding). Alien and sequels/ripoffs also major source for McDonnell (working-class woman spaceship captain running around being tough in a singlet); The Black Hole (crew of spaceship about to crash into a natural phenomenon and trying to avoid it). Star Wars (compare the bemasked and gasping villains to Darth Vader, and watch George Lucas choke on a hobnob and phone his lawyer). Solaris, particularly/exclusively the film with George Clooney (planet/sun which is a living entity, driving people on a spaceship/station above it mad; the bit where Martha is shot into space in an escape pod is visually very close to the scene where Clooney's character deliberately shoots "his wife" into space similarly). Twin Peaks ("Fire walk with me"). "Last of the Mohicans" (RTD admits to this one: Daniel Day-Lewis' "I'll find you" moment). Red Dwarf (gritty, working-class, eighties, post-industrial etc.; character in stasis chamber). The Old Men at the Zoo (shadows burnt onto the wall; plus pick any documentary/drama about Hiroshima/Nagasaki); Not sure if Saxon's minions are closer to The X-files or The Men in Black.

Spending too much time on airplanes, redux

I spend a lot of time on planes, particularly in the summer months, and every time I do, I dutifully switch off my iPod (etc.) for the takeoff and landing portions of the journey. This time, though, it occurred to me to wonder why we never get told to switch off electronic equipment during periods of turbulence when the seatbelt sign goes on (when one would assume that electrical interference would also be a problem for the pilot). Also, on this trip, I actually had my iPod on for pretty much the entire descent of the plane, with no one telling me to switch it off (I switched it off myself just out of a sense of habit, but we were almost on the ground by that point). So, is this a real safety precaution or just some kind of superstitious custom? Answers on a copy of BA stationary, please.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Recyclingwatch: The Lazarus Experiment

Rose: Companion bids farewell to Doctor; Tardis flies off; then is back two seconds later.

The End of the World: "She's/he's my plus-one." Old human resorting to science to stay young/alive.

Aliens of London: Rose returns after twelve months in the company of a mysterious older man called the Doctor, and Rose's mum excoriates him, slaps him, urges Rose to have nothing to do with him and shops him to the government. Martha's mum does exactly the same, although, since Martha's only been away twelve hours, David Tennant doesn't look older than about thirty, and Martha, being a medical student, has a reason to be hanging around doctors, it's a bit more of a baffling response in the case of Mrs Jones. And the government shops the Doctor to Martha's Mum, but that's an inversion rather than an outright change. Human transforming into improbably larger monster and hunting people.

Dalek: Monster goes on rampage, building complex goes into emergency lockdown, cue scenes of people panicking along corridors and up staircases as they try to escape it.

The Long Game: Tardis lands in living room, next to a phone with an answering machine which turns out to be somewhat significant to the story. Emaciated, drained corpses.

The Empty Child: "That'd be the Blitz."

New Earth: Everything has its time; old people should accept death and not go all mad trying to fight it; the Doctor feels a bit depressed at his own longevity.

School Reunion: Monster jumping around ceilings and walls (it even looks a bit like a giant Krillitane); monster in human form cricking its neck to indicate that it has just reverted; authority figures being really human-eating monsters.

Rise of the Cybermen: Companion and Doctor go to party; Doctor dresses in tuxedo while companion chats up her relatives; party suddenly interrupted by glassware-smashing monster.

Army of Ghosts/Doomsday: The Doctor gives his companion his sonic screwdriver and tells her how to use it as a sign that he trusts her; power failure causes unstable creation of monster (Yvonne Cyberman there, the Lazarus monster here); the humans in the story take for granted an occurrence which the Doctor finds very suspicious.

The Runaway Bride: Spiderlike monster with human face and with plans for world domination. One character distracts the monster from attacking another one.

And, guess what, they're even recycling this season...

Evolution of the Daleks: Mentally unstable human hybrid monster that is affected by sound; really old-fashioned labs with glassware and coloured fluids (incurring sequence of Doctor lighting bunsen burners/gas taps); a plan to "change what it means to be human" going rather awry.

Timelash Moment: False ending where it looks like the monster/villain is dead... and then, surprise, it isn't.

The Fifth Element: Dodgy businessperson comes to sticky end after backing dubious project.

Old Skool Who: Ripping off Nigel Kneale is a time-honoured pastime, particularly if you're Robert Holmes-- precedents include The Ark in Space, The Seeds of Doom, and others; the scientist-with-invention-that-goes-horribly-wrong is another Old Skool staple (precedents include Robot, The Talons of Weng Chiang, The Mind of Evil, The Two Doctors, Genesis of the Daleks etc.) in "Vengeance on Varos" people "devolve" into unlikely creatures; The Invasion of Time again (monster affected by sound); The Leisure Hive (treatment purported to rejuvenate the old, which goes wrong); the dessicated corpses look like the ones seen in Planet of Evil and The Horns of Nimon, for the same reason in all cases.

Everything Else: The Quatermass Experiment (human hybrid monster up a cathedral being talked down; apparently in the original script it was St Paul's, which would just have made it even more of a ripoff); The Fly (scientist experiments on himself in big glossy chamber and having it go horribly wrong); Life Force (monster draining people of their life energy; this story also ripped off the Quatermass serials shamelessly); Star Trek: TNG: "Genesis" (people "devolving" back into animals; the science is a bit differently explained but just as improbable); Carpenter's The Thing (creature with human face); Lost In Space the 1990s movie (where poor old Gary Oldman gets CGI'd into a kind of spider/scorpion creature with a distorted and spiky version of his face; I'll just remind you that RTD says in the Confidential that he "wanted a really original sort of monster"); Predator (the way the creature opens its bottom jaw); Spider-Man 2, apparently (I've more or less forgotten the whole movie, myself, but apparently the botched-transformation scene is ripped off from something Doc Oc did); the New Testament (with a surname like Lazarus, you just know there's going to be rising-from-the-dead hijinx); Cold Lazarus by Dennis Potter (not just the name, but also a dodgy older woman who really, really wants to become young again backing scientific research with dubious implications).

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Headline of the week, continued

On Ceefax this morning: