14/01/10

Bloody hell. That was a long day.

I like to be a certain amount ahead with my work and at the moment, however I count it, I’m not there. I’m currently writing and compiling stuff that will be getting published in March. For my own peace of mind I would like to be doing April. Things are looking up though. I have already done two weeks’ worth of work this week. If I can keep up the momentum I’ll be fine. Part of keeping up the momentum though seems to involve not obsessively micro-managing my Mafia Wars game on Facebook. Why do I do that? What’s the appeal? It’s button-clicking resource allocation and management, just one step away from spreadsheet data entry. If I got paid to go to an office and do it I’d hate it. Call it a game and suddenly it’s magnetically distracting.

So it’s been a day of personal discipline, a hot screen and a furrowed brow. I stopped work at half past ten this evening, and it’s past midnight as I’m typing this.

There was a momentary change of pace at lunchtime (Bargain Hunt time indeed) when my pal, let’s call him Lawrence, popped round for a cup of tea. Lawrence is in every way a splendid chap, one of the nicest and cleverest people I’ve met in Inverness (apart from you of course). For all I know he’s the finest sword in Christendom as well. Wouldn’t surprise me. Talks to animals, invented the communications satellite, yeah, yeah, yeah. That all sounds like stuff Lawrence would do.

He was dropping off some CDs I’d lent him and lending me some of his in return, but not cool CDs. Oh no. Doctor Who CDs. Because Lawrence, as am I, is a Doctor Who fan. I should at this point make it very clear that whilst we are Doctor Who fans we are also fully rounded individuals with lots of friends (many of whom are real women) and diverse interests outside Doctor Who. We’re probably the coolest Doctor Who fans around, though there is a weaselly relativism going on there.

Last summer we went to see Watchmen with Bookshop Toby and as we walked into the cinema I remember thinking, “Fucking hell. We are far and away the best looking guys in here.” But it was a limited field, and let’s face it, being the best-looking guys in a screening of Watchmen is a bit like being the thinnest guys at a comic book convention or the nicest guys at a BNP rally.

So there we go. Me and Lawrence: renaissance men among Doctor Who fans.

I said that the CDs weren’t cool, and that wasn’t really true. It was a bit of litotes. They were very cool indeed. Soundtracks to some of the old Doctor Who episodes which went missing.

It’s a sad state of affairs, but what happened to many of the early Doctor Who programmes was that they got wiped. The BBC cannibalised the video tape they were on for other programmes. I used to think that this was an act of cultural vandalism on a par with the sacking of the library at Alexandria, but my position has mellowed as I’ve got older.

It’s a very nice by-product of the aging process (most of whose by-products are hideously undignified) that you get this calming down and smoothing out thing going on. I find anger just isn’t part of my life these days. Partly it’s because I’ve been around long enough to be able to see both sides of any argument, but mostly it’s because I just don’t have the attention span to stay furious anymore. As for grudge holding, forget it. You’ll need to find someone with more long term memory than I’ve got. I can’t expect to hold a vendetta for years if I’m spending most of the morning trying to remember whether or not I’ve had breakfast.

These days I can see that the BBC, then as now, had to watch what they were spending. Video tape was an enormously expensive commodity, and they didn’t think that the Doctor Who episodes would ever be watched again. There wasn’t the constant recycling of old material that we have today. Stuff went out once and that was pretty much it. So, no problem Beeb, I understand what you did, but it’s sad that this stuff is irrevocably gone.

Happily enough, however, the first generation of Doctor Who fans were as obsessive as subsequent generations would prove to be and some of them, in the absence of home video which was another quarter century down the timeline, used reel-to-reel tape recorders to record the programme soundtracks off air as they were being broadcast, and these survive today. They have been lovingly collected and packaged by the BBC and released on audio. The soundtracks of the programmes with occasional explanatory narration by one of the actors who was in the story. Lovely.

Today I took loan of The Space Pirates and Marco Polo. Cheers Lawrence.

I have still been feeling a bit sore since my brutalisation at the hands of James Cameron yesterday and none of my as-yet unseen DVDs or Blu-rays looked right tonight so what I did, guided by my visit from Lawrence and some Facebook interaction with my friend Catriona, was go back to the comfort zone and watch Doctor Who And The Daleks, the 1965 movie remake of the 1963 TV series.

There were two movie adaptations in total in the sixties, both starring Peter Cushing as the Doctor, and both made in (quite gaudy) colour which would have been a bit of a novelty at the time, TV being entirely monochrome. The films are pretty close retreads of the TV stories but don’t adhere at all closely to the TV series characters. Susan for instance is a child in the films. In the TV show she was more of a young adult, as has subsequently always been the case with the companions. In fact it is the duty of every over-defensive Doctor Who fan constantly to point out that it has never been a programme for children. It has always been made under the aegis of the BBC’s drama department.

The TV version was quite serious about its mission to inform as well as entertain and had, as the Doctor and Susan’s travelling companions, two of Susan’s teachers (Barbara the history teacher and Ian the science teacher) whose dramaturgical job it was contextualise every bloody thing that happened.

No such responsibilities pertained in the movie versions though so in place of bracing didacticism you get glamour from Jennie Linden and Jill Curzon, and broad comedy from Roy Castle (in Doctor Who And The Daleks) and a young Bernard Cribbins (in Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD, the second film). Not the last time Bernard Cribbins would travel in the TARDIS, eh nerdlings?

I only had time for the first film this evening, Doctor Who And The Daleks, but as ever it was a joy: vibrant, crazed and ever so slightly stupid. I love every loopy frame of it.

Before leaving Doctor Who for a while let me get one thing off my chest. It is absolutely not the same as Star Trek, and it is a category error of immense proportions to use the two as interchangeable signifiers of mockery.

Doctor Who has always been a ramshackle, chaotic explosion of personal expression, humour and untrammelled curiosity. A whimsical bizarrely dressed stranger, oddly detached from, but platonically fond of his female travelling companions arrives from nowhere, averts a terrible situation and then disappears as inexplicably as he arrived. Doctor Who fandom has a very large gay contingent. Not too hard to work that one out I reckon.

Star Trek on the other hand, particularly in its Next Generation format, is for people who prefer a rigid military hierarchy where idiosyncratic behaviours are ruthlessly proscribed, difference is at best heavy-handedly tolerated and everyone has to dress the same. It couldn’t possibly be more different from Doctor Who.

When the TARDIS goes wrong it’s because it’s an old model the Doctor nicked from Gallifrey. When the Star Trek holodecks go wrong (every week, it’s every week isn’t it?) it’s because I guess they were built by the twenty-third century equivalent of Microsoft.

Holodeck emergency hotline. Have you tried turning it off and turning it on again?

Work and a comfy old movie today then. Perhaps I’ll get on to the subject of my exciting Amazon parcel tomorrow…

One comment on “14/01/10

  1. I have a torrent file for the original series of Doctor Who. Included in it are missing episodes with pictures. It happens that Marco Polo was the most photgraphed episode they made, and in colour too. Let me know if you want it.

    As for the Star Trek comments you obviously have a hazy memory of next gens early days. It’s full of therapy sessions where the captain asked everyone’s opinion and they hugged the aliens good bye. Weakest military EVER

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