Monday, April 13, 2009

Planet of the Recyclingwatch

For those of you who have just joined us, Recyclingwatch is a handy guide to everything that you might be finding, well, a little familiar, whether from past seasons, the old series, or something else entirely. Whether you call it homage, pastiche or out-and-out blatant ripoff, it's out there, and we're looking for it.

The Unquiet Dead: Malcolm's “fanboy” gush at the Doctor is a strong parallel for the Doctor's own treatment of Dickens, with equivalently bemused-but-pleased reactions on the other side.

The End of the World: Mobile phones that work through time and space

Father's Day: The Doctor is galvanized to intervene when he finds out about people's ordinary mundane lives and thinks they're wonderful. Person being gobbled up by armoured flying creature

The Parting of the Ways: Swarm of alien creatures descending upon Earth.

The Christmas Invasion: seasonal references, to highlight that this is a holiday special. Someone getting skeletonised (also: pretty much any Dalek story since the new series started). “Press the big red button.”

New Earth: ...also "Gridlock," "Smith and Jones," "The Doctor's Daughter" and anything else featuring an alien which is basically a human in an animal mask: the Tritovores. “New Earth” also has the Doctor being forcibly snogged by companion, and a sudden ascent through a lift shaft on wires, as here.

The Runaway Bride: the Doctor going all emo over the departure of a companion

Daleks in Manhattan: Animal-headed creatures wearing boiler suits for no logical reason.

Voyage of the Damned: 70s disaster-movie action, with a small group of interchangeable survivors and a temporary companion who fancies the Doctor. Improbable vehicle flying through London's aerospace. Implication that the Doctor gets on rather well with Queen Elizabeth II.

The Fires of Pompeii: Psychic whose prophecies foreshadow the Doctor's future

Planet of the Ood: More prophecies, and a visibly recycled title.

The Sontaran Strategem: UNIT return, and they're all fanboyish over the Doctor. Soldiers saluting the Doctor (despite him being a civilian) and the Doctor getting anal-retentive about it.

The Doctor's Daughter: Temporary companion with dubious morality, who ends the story by flying off with the potential of a return later.

The Unicorn and the Wasp: Giant insect aliens.

Silence in the Library: fast-moving, all-consuming group of creatures; temporary companion who fancies the Doctor and goes on about their similarities.

Midnight: Small group of diverse people, stranded on a bus, turning on the Doctor in panic, and one of them starts getting psychic messages from the outside.

The Stolen Earth: prophecies of death and doom for the Doctor, again. Also the Doctor translating the animal-headed aliens' dialogue for his companion.

The Next Doctor: The Doctor again announcing that he doesn't travel with companions anymore, but picking up a temporary companion for the duration.

The Sarah Jane Adventures: Mobiles saving the day, over and over.

Old Skool Who: “Delta and the Bannermen” (bus stranded on alien planet); “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy” (ditto, with deserts); “Battlefield” (return of the Brigadier Bambera-alike); “The Demons” (Malcolm is basically Corporal Osgood in a lab coat); Big Finish/BBC Books (Iris Wildthyme, a slightly amoral but charming female Time Lord who travels time and space in a London bus); “The Ark in Space” (this episode's "homo sapiens" speech is the one about chops for dinner being much more important than alien planets); “Ace” (a companion who's a juvenile delinquent and the Doctor doesn't particularly censure her for this; always carries a backpack with various unlikely but useful items in it; also, Andrew Cartmel has said that her replacement was intended to be a female cat-burglar); “The Ribos Operation” (descending through a hole in the roof to rob a museum); “Planet of Fire” (the production team at great expense and with much fanfare travel to a foreign location to shoot it, and never let you forget it, but frankly they might just as well have gone to Camber Sands for all the difference it made*); “City of Death” (art theft, plus bumbling detective); “Remembrance of the Daleks” (skeletonising weapons); “Time Flight” (Tegan repeating airline landing safety info as the Concorde approaches the 1980s = the Doctor repeating bus driver instructions as the bus approaches modern London); “The Caves of Androzani” (excrement as valuable commodity).

Everything Else: “The Langoliers” (ill-assorted group of people who land somewhere strange, to discover there's a swarm of omnivorous creatures), “Pitch Black” (desert planet with swarm of all-consuming aliens and catsuited heroine); “Mission Impossible”, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” series 6, “The Return of the Pink Panther” (sequences in which a black-suited thief drops from the roof of a museum to remove an artifact); “Buffy” series 7 (“from beneath you, it devours”); “Raffles” (who also stole a well-guarded antique gold cup from a museum, but much more amusingly and plausibly; also, a minor aristocrat who steals for fun and excitement); Lara Croft (antiquity-robbing well-endowed action heroine); the 1953 version of “The Fly” (oh, just look at the Tritovores); “Summer Holiday” (the archetypical Brits on Buses film); “The Time Traveler's Wife” (person making use of psychic powers to supplement their income by winning the lottery); “Primeval”'s season premiere this year featured long action sequences in the British Museum and surrounding area, and regularly involves time rifts with nasty creatures coming through; “Alien” (all-consuming aliens with metal bones); “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (carefully replacing a valuable object with a cheap one of equal weight).

*Seriously, one of Britain's main assets is that, for a country that tiny, it packs an amazing amount of varied landscape. Want snow? Go to Scotland. Want tropics? Go to that weird microclimate in Northern Ireland. Want beaches? Go to Southampton. With a bit of CGI it could be anywhere in the world. No need to go to Dubai and support morally dubious political regimes.