Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Stolen Recyclingwatch

Aliens of London/WW3: Not just Harriet Jones still clinging psychotically to her ID-card routine, but slightly unbelievable antics using the Internet.

Dalek: Crazy Dalek in chains, plus one of the traditionally cited defenses against Daleks (running upstairs there, covering the eyestalk here) scotched by new Dalek technology.

The Parting of the Ways: "Ladies and Gentlemen, we are at war!" Plus the obvious stuff about Daleks invading Earth, shots of flying Dalek armies descending, Dalek creators generating whole Dalek armies out of nothing. etc. Woman firing machine-gun at Dalek while screaming.

Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel: Robot creatures that are herding humans together for some purpose. Plus the wheelchair-bound mad genius thing comes full circle. Secret sending of mobile numbers.

Army of Ghosts: Aliens land and start going into the streets of Cardiff kidnapping nuclear families.

Doomsday: Daleks led by a lateral-thinking leader; barriers between universes breaking down.

Smith and Jones: Not just the Judoon and the disappearance of a seemingly unmovable object, but the return of the "no blow fo ro mo'fo" dialogue.

Daleks in Manhattan: More invasions by lateral-thinking Daleks, and Daleks getting a hate-on for one of their own that's a bit different. Plus some Daleks in Manhattan (what do you want to bet the Empire State Building got blown up first?)

The Sound of Drums: Lots of crazy mobile-phone antics, and teleport-device escape routes, plus ex-companion guest stars.

Last of the Time Lords: Not every single person thinking "Doctor" at the same moment, but every mobile phone on Earth ringing him at the same moment.

Torchwood: Creative use of time rifts.

Catchphrasewatch: "Harriet Jones [flips ID card]-- former Prime Minister." An awful lot of "Don't, just don't," and technical explanations given at breakneck speed.

Old Skool Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (and the film, Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD-- what do you want to bet that RTD had a bet on that he could make Bernard Cribbins' involvement in a Dalek invasion canonical?) for too many reasons to cite; just watch it again already. Faction Paradox (a "Shadow Proclamation" full of weird-looking Goths? Wonder where they got that idea from). The Daleks, in reverse (human hitting on the idea of covering a Dalek's eyestick with a viscous substance, but it doesn't work here). Remembrance of the Daleks (where the Special Weapons Dalek was thought of as "the abomination" by the others). Logopolis (a planet full of pale humanoids who regulate the universe). Trial of a Time Lord, part 13 (the Earth being moved across the galaxy for some reason). Destiny of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks (return of Davros after he was thought dead). Battlefield *again* (a multicultural UNIT which seems to follow UN administrative systems more than the original did). Logopolis, and RTD's Virgin novel Damaged Goods (hiding something by placing it a second ahead in time). The Tenth Planet (something sending an Earth-related planet off into space, plus a faintly unhinged American general running things). The Pirate Planet (stealing a load of planets which, when properly aligned with each other, create some kind of powerful field; one of them's even named Calufrax).

Everything Else: The Hitch-Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy series (Earth animal turns out to be an alien species and flees the planet at the first sign of trouble). The Omega Man (a race of black-clad albinos with Afro hair). Minority Report via Battlestar Galactica (ship run by crazy twitching creature which occasionally has prophetic flashes). Any comedy that does a parody slo-mo-running-towards-each-other and has it end abruptly. Terminator III (teleporting blonde girls with big weaponry). The Wizard of Oz (magical device that takes you home).

I'd like to know what all the *other* ex-companions still on Earth in this time were up to while all this was going on, though. "Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister... and you must be Jo Grant, Professor Shaw, Sir Alistair, Professor Chesterton, Mike Yates, John Benton, Victoria Waterfield, Dr Sullivan..." (and, since she's really from the early 2000s, what about Zoe?)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Recyclingwatch Left

This Recyclingwatch will leave out the obvious and deliberate references to the series' events since The Runaway Bride.

The Unquiet Dead: Ordinary person lifted to heroism through self-sacrifice.

Aliens of London/World War III: Mal Loup the American newsreader is back, and there's more BBC News 24 hijinx.

Father's Day: Companion causes time paradox which threatens the universe. This is resolved when someone steps in front of a moving vehicle.

School Reunion: Old and new companion action.

The Girl in the Fireplace: Time traveller who makes periodic visits over a long stretch of time to a single individual, though plainly little time has passed for the time traveller.

Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel: Fascist alternate universe.

Love and Monsters: Real life is banal, kids, and you need the Doctor to sort it all out.

Army of Ghosts/Doomsday: People leaping through from alternate universes which are supposed to be closed off.

Human Nature: Somebody getting the chance to experience a life they never had, but this was probably a bad thing.

Utopia: No stars.

Last of the Time Lords/The Sound of Drums: Earth turns into a horrible fascist state, with people crammed in several families to a terraced house, but don't worry, because that timeline's been erased thanks to heroic bravery on the part of the companion. Plus more Doctor-as-Messiah action.

The Sarah Jane Adventures: This story is basically a grown-up version of "Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane," just with the Doctor instead of Sarah.

Good gravy, now they're even recycling *within* the season: Once again Donna has a whole virtual "normal" life, without the Doctor.

Catchphrasewatch: Despite not being in it much, the Doctor gets in a "Brilliant". Otherwise it's left to the companions to make up the quota: Rose contributes a couple of "Brilliant"s, where Donna gets not only a "Brilliant," but a "Don't, just don't," a "No, no, no," and a "I'm tired, I'm so tired."

Old Skool Who: Battlefield *again* (UNIT has a black female leader with an African name, but who is quite clearly British). Faction Paradox (creatures which gain energy from changing the universe), and specifically the BBC Doctor/Faction novel "Alien Bodies" (Doctor's latest companion has too many coincidences surrounding her life). Evil of the Daleks (time travel with mirrors). Planet of the Spiders (woman with invisible insect/arachnid on her back). The American Telemovie (the Doctor is apparently dead).

Everything Else: "It's a Wonderful Life," "Sliding Doors," Marvel Comics' "What if...?" series, "Back to the Future" and pretty much any other "what if such-and-such trivial event happened and changed the universe?" type movie/TV show. "Quantum Leap" (Alt-Donna leaps back to the psychological moment to get history back on track, advised by Rose). "Terminator" (another leap-into-the-past-and-change-history story; Donna lands in Chiswick in a crouch which is a plain homage to the landing scenes in that movie). "La Vita e Bella" (Italian man, on his way to the concentration camps, lying and pretending he's going somewhere fun, so as not to cause people to worry). Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy (there's a darkness out there which threatens all the alternate universes, and a blonde girl leaps from universe to universe in an attempt to stop the entropy). Hellraiser (Chinese fortune teller kick-starts a chain of events which lead to death and destruction). Cloverfield (everyone is running away from the giant spider, but the protagonist runs towards it)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Boyz in da Hood

Recently caught Noel Clarke on breakfast television, promoting his new movie Adulthood, a sequel to Kidulthood and thus about working-class multiethnic teenagers in the Ladbroke Grove area coping with life's difficulties. Clarke was eager to emphasise his own origins in those area, and the fact that he's a black lad from a single-parent family who made good as a writer/actor/director. All very well and good, until he was asked how he managed to escape the sort of life he portrays in his movies. "I was studying media at univ--" he began, before he visibly realised the discrepancy in what he was saying with what he'd said before, and rapidly changed the subject.

Alan said later that he was slightly reminded of Guy Richie.

Midnight on the Recyclingwatch

Just before we start-- that Christina Rosetti quote was exactly what I was on about last two weeks. It's not so obscure that the audience will feel intimidated by it, but it's out of the mainstream enough that the bookish kids can feel a bit proud for recognising it, and hopefully some of the less bookish ones will go out and look it up.

This week (and probably next week and the week after) is going to be more of a work in progress than usual as the end of term/start of conference season workload catches up with me; check back as I find time to update and edit.

The End of the World: The future is into slightly misunderstood 20th-century kitsch as entertainment; use of pop song/video as atmosphere-building.

The Unquiet Dead: Alien invader that goes in for possession.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit: Small crew, with a member who seems normal in some ways but is actually possessed and speaking with someone else's voice. The mechanic who dies is a trainee on their first trip.

Love and Monsters: A small group of people, initially trusting the Doctor, then turning on him because of the actions of another non-human.

Fear Her: The driver and mechanic as analogues for the nice council blokes. Alien "invader" who isn't actually invading, just doing its thing.

Gridlock: People trapped by transport media.

42: See TIP/TSP above, and add the possessed crewmember going in for repetition.

Voyage of the Damned: RTD does love his disaster movies, doesn't he?

Catchphrasewatch: "Allons-y," "Molto Bene", "No, don't do that," and another explanation that Donna's just a friend really.

Old Skool Who: "The Green Death," "Planet of the Spiders" and associated Pertwee-era stories (Doctor extolls virtues of paradise planet which turns out to contain some hostile lifeforms); "The Deadly Assassin" (companionless story). "The Horror of Fang Rock" (alien starts taking over members of small ensemble cast trapped in a perilous location, causing them to fight amongst themselves), though you could make a similar case for "The Image of the Fendahl," "Shakedown," etc. "Kinda" (possessed person who alternates between odd, animal-like movements and a kind of powerful sensual manner).

Everywhere else: Any disaster movie featuring a small group of slightly stereotypical individuals trapped in a small but imperilled environment, and/or any movie in which a mysterious entity possesses a vulnerable woman and wreaks havoc, and/or any of the recent spate of movies about emo teens whose parents don't get them (e.g. "Napoleon Dynamite"). Labyrinth ("Jared"). Poltergeist (the alien's ability to affect the electrical systems).

I've recently been reminded that David Troughton played Bob Buzzard in A Very Peculiar Practice. Skinny, championship-squash-playing, Olympic-swimming, full-head-of-hair Bob Buzzard. My word, hasn't he changed?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Recyclingwatch of the Dead

Further to last week's comment about mixed messages about reading in Doctor Who: if you want to encourage kids to read, isn't it a good idea not to tell them "libraries are scary and books can kill you"?

Usual two-parter deal: only new stuff or stuff I didn't think of last week.

New Earth: Endings with bewildered people standing around a lobby as a delighted protagonist hugs as many of them as he can.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances: "Everybody lives!" again, plus compare the moment when the Doctor realises that Other Dave is just repeating catchphrases to the moment where the Doctor realises that the tape has run out a while ago. Microscopic organisms as this week's antagonist. Sonic screwdriver/squareness gun antics.

Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways: The Doctor announcing to the villains that he's going to win because that's what he always does.

The Girl in the Fireplace: The Doctor finds love, but she dies.

The Runaway Bride: Donna's wedding dress is recycled from that story, as is her falling for, and marrying, a fantasy man.

Gridlock: Doctor's antics involving dropping through doors and hanging from objects; the library really looks like New New (etc.) York, particularly in the ending bits.

Human Nature: Character experiences a virtual life, complete with spouse and children, which they enjoy but have to give up at the end.

Blink: "Mummy's not going to close her eyes," says Donna.

Voyage of the Damned: More people getting a virtual life, plus the Doctor doing another "I'm the Doctor and I'm going to win" metatextual type speech.

Catchphrasewatch: "No, no no no!" a lot, smacking about the technology while gibbering out an explanation at top volume.

Old Skool Who: Underworld (floating platforms, computers at the world's core). The Aztecs (River Song even says "...not one line"). The Robots of Death (two beings advancing on the Doctor from opposite sides, both spouting catchphrases, but the Doctor ducks between them). The Ark in Space (only three people on the teleport at any one time). Faction Paradox (creepy ladies in anachronistic Victorian dress). The Virgin NA Who Killed Kennedy (companion is sectioned and told her adventures with the Doctor were all a schizophrenic delusion, but still can't shake the idea that they were real). Battlefield, AGAIN-- look, people, it wasn't that good a story!

Everything Else: The Time Traveller's Wife, again (meeting someone who's special to you, after you've known them a while but it's the first time they've met you). Neil Gaiman's "A Doll's House" (people trapped in a virtual universe made up by a little girl). The idea of dead people downloading their consciousness into the Internet has been a staple of cyberpunk fiction since Neuromancer (although this story most closely resembles the denouement of Mona Lisa Overdrive). The Matrix, again. The early books of Piers Anthony's Xanth series (lady who alternates between ugly and smart, and ditzy but beautiful). Star Trek: Generations (the one where Picard falls into an anomaly where time has no meaning, and he imagines/creates for himself a family life with perfect spouse, kids and Christmas).

Monday, June 02, 2008

Recyclingwatch in the Library

According to this week's Confidential, Doctor Who is all about reading, encouraging kids to read and emphasising the power of the written word. OK, but why is it that, aside from Shakespeare and Dickens (who are the only two "quality" writers your average chav can name, if only because they've seen the BBC TV adaption), the only writers that get namechecked are the likes of J.K. Rowling, Jeffrey Archer, Helen Fielding, Agatha Christie etc.? It's like the writers are on the one hand saying "reading is cool, kids! Don't listen to what the bullies say!" and, on the other, saying "oh, but don't actually read anything with words of more than two syllables in it, that does actually make you a nerd." Personally I suspect that Doctor Who is actually about little shops, particularly given the merchandising glut out there.

The End of the World: Announcement systems giving amusing/peculiar futuristic instructions. The idea of the future as having a massive nostalgia industry. Companion freaked out by practices which are normal in this future society.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances: Creepy undead thing repeating a fairly mundane catchphrase in a sinister way. Captain Jack's device for putting square holes in things makes a reappearance.

New Earth: Mysterious summons for the Doctor via psychic paper, and the presence or absence of little shops as an indicator of the health of an institution.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit: Multiethnic, wisecracking group of future adventurers, one of whom is suddenly possessed by something that one would generally assume is a myth or articulation of a primal fear.

Love and Monsters: Stones with talking human faces embedded in them.

Fear Her: Small girl who draws pictures which turn out to be real.

42: In media res with a futuristic group of multiethnic adventurers with their own in-jokes, who unleash an evil force which possesses one of them, and he goes after the others.

Blink: Abandoned buildings, with something fairly mundane hiding a creepy alien secret. "Stay out of the shadows" as this year's "don't blink."

Human Nature: A diary about the Doctor's adventures, only he doesn't know about them. A child with some kind of supernatural power or ability.

The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords: That security camera with the consciousness of a child looks suspiciously like a Toclafane.

Voyage of the Damned: An impression of someone's mind being left inside a piece of technology, resulting in a creepy ghost that doesn't know where it is.

Good gravy, now they're even recycling *within* the season: Last week's Agatha Christie title-referencing competition spills over into this week, when we learn that there is No Body in the Library. Oh, and how many future companions/ex-companions/potential companions are we going to have to endure this year?

Catchphrasewatch: It's like Moffat had a bet on with someone as to how many times he could get Tennant to say "I'm so sorry."

Old Skool Who: River Song is basically Bernice Summerfield with curly hair-- archaeologist and Doctor's companion, full of one-liners and quips about unusual dating habits. Big intergalactic libraries seem to have been a staple of the Virgin and Big Finish eras-- even Moffat himself apparently had an earlier go at one-- but I'm thinking particularly of Daniel O'Mahony's "Timeless Passages," a story featuring Bernice Summerfield in a library with a creepy girl. Plus the entire Faction Paradox series focuses around shadows and their presence/absence/difference in form from their ostensible owner. That aside: Battlefield (the Doctor coming across a piece of his own future history), The Keeper of Traken (hiding a secret to protect the family pride, even at the cost of others' lives), Remembrance of the Daleks (creepy possessed little girls). The Horns of Nimon (the companion has their own sonic screwdriver). The Tomb of the Cybermen (archaeological expedition on a hiding to disaster, and it looks like their financial backer, who is accompanying them, is up to no good).

Other Stuff: The Omega Factor, episode one (protagonist flees along a street as the streetlamps go out ominously behind him); Space 1999 has a similar sequence in which a possessed crewmember drains the power from everything he passes; The Matrix (what seems to be twenty-first-century Earth is in fact an illusion, and the information-based nightmare is real, according to a bald black man with spectacles; also check out the Matrix homage in the Library's data displays). Any and all SF stories with giant future libraries. The Box of Delights (more issues about the presence or absence of shadows).