All posts by Martin Ruddock

Lover, writer, lifelong Doctor Who fan, bad dancer. Opinions and hair all my own.

A Conversation with Neil Perryman

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Neil Perryman is the man behind Adventures with the Wife in Space, the story of a fanboy husband and his not-we wife (Sue), on a hilarious mission to watch the classic series of Doctor Who together from the start, including the bits that don’t exist. For two years, Sue skewered sacred cows of fandom and cursed the name of Terry Nation, while Neil fought his corner and dodged thrown cushions.

“The Experiment”, as it was known, began life as a blog, and has since spawned a book, published by Faber and Faber in 2013 (oh look, a review).

Neil and Sue have since taken on Blake’s 7, and are now three series into their Adventures with the Wife And Blake.

Neil and I meet on Skype on a Sunday afternoon. We quickly establish that the weather is too nice in both Bournemouth and Durham for us to be indoors, but have a nice chat anyway…..

MR: Tell me about the experiment, were you nervous at embarking on Who with Sue?

NP: On the actual blog? Not really, cause I didn’t think it would take off, I didn’t think for a minute it’d become as popular as it became so I didn’t really feel any pressure when I started it, I just wanted it to be a bit of a lark, it was a blog that hadn’t been done before that I was looking for really, just something to keep me occupied with my online stuff. And, I’d sort of run out of things to say about Doctor Who. So, no, I didn’t feel worried at the beginning, the pressure came later (laughs).

MR: How’s your nose doing? You took a lot of cushions to the face over that time, didn’t you?

NP: Yeah I’m still getting the odd one now for Blake’s 7, but yeah, nothing too violent (laughs)

MR: I first caught on to the blog probably about…Planet of the Daleks, then went back and started from the very beginning, then by the time I’d reached that point, you’d finished watching it all! I’ve tried watching old Who with my own girlfriend a few times, and we’ve not been together anywhere near as long as you and Sue, but we kind of had the opposite result to you. I was thinking she’d like the more recent stuff, but she’s not really having the modern series, she’s not averse to selected cuts of Pertwee and Tom Baker every now and again though.

NP: She doesn’t watch the new series then?

MR: No, she doesn’t like it, she watched The Day Of The Doctor with me, but that was an exception. It’s just not really her thing. It is much more female-friendly these days, and I suppose a lot of young women might watch Doctor Who just because they fancied Tennant or Matt Smith…

NP: Yeah, yeah, that’s why Sue watched it, I think (laughs) I think, if it hadn’t been for the new series, there’s no way that I would have done this thing, as I think the fact that Sue liked the new series made me feel like she might have been open to the old series. It was much easier for her to go into the classic series having had a grounding in the new series, if you know what I mean.

MR: Yeah, it gave you a way in.

NP: Yeah, she was vaguely a little bit more interested than she would have been. If it hadn’t have come back….if I’d have asked her to do this in 2002…..you know…….I just can’t see it happening!

MR: I’ve often thought of Doctor Who as being the other woman.

NP: Yeah, that was it, that was the thing, I was getting bored of sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night to watch Tom Baker. You know, as you do. So, you know, I think we’ve all been there, we’ve all tried it. When I first moved in with her I tried to get her into it, I tried to gently get her into Doctor Who, but it didn’t take, but most people have that problem I think.

MR: Yeah, I’ve yet to try anything black and white on my girlfriend….I don’t feel ready for that yet..

NP: Oh, well, you can’t go straight in with a black and white, the only one you could probably do it with would be just the first episode. You could probably just about get away with it but I wouldn’t recommend it! Start with a classic in the colour era…Genesis of the Daleks….

MR: Yeah I started her off with Pyramids of Mars. That went down quite well.

NP: Yeah that’s probably safer actually because it’s four parts.

MR: Yeah, four parts and colour, anything that’s more than four parts and NOT colour…..

NP: Did you try them all in one go?

MR: At first I tried splitting it up, but then she was like, let’s watch the next one. So I was like, a girl is willing to watch old Doctor Who with me, ok, let’s see how this goes until we hit a bump in the road….

NP: I know exactly what you mean, I think we’ve all been there.

MR: So, the book, did it come easily for you, having done the blog?

NP: (laughs) No…. I think I was on Peter Davison when I finally signed the contract, which meant I had to write the book and the blog at the same time, which was pretty difficult, as for obvious reasons they (Faber and Faber) wanted the book in the anniversary year. Even though the whole marketplace was gonna be swamped with Doctor Who books, it seemed like a good idea, but, no….it was really difficult, because I’d never written anything like this before, most of the stuff I’d written had either been academic, cause I used to teach at University, and academic writing is completely different from what I had to do in this book. Also, I was trying to find that balance between not just taking the blog and sticking it in a book, but something a bit different, so…..no it was really hard (laughs).

MR: Well, if it’s any consolation, it doesn’t come across as hard, it’s a really good, easy read…

NP: Well good. That was the hard part, making it look effortless! That is the hard bit.

MR: There’s very much a beginning, middle, and end to it.

NP: Yeah. Always, the problem was trying to get the balance right between those who knew a lot about Doctor Who, and those who didn’t know as much about Doctor Who, and trying to make it as accessible as possible, and also as accessible if you hadn’t read the entire blog….to give you a flavour of the blog, because the blog was half a million words….you’re talking about six or seven books….Also, the weird thing about it was writing about myself, you know, rather than about Sue, so that was a bit weird.

MR: Reading the book, I saw a lot of parallels, I’m a little younger, but…some of my earliest memories of Who are a regeneration as well, you know, Tom into Peter. I’d also had a girlfriend who had a daughter from a previous relationship before….I’d attempted to sneak on The Curse of Peladon as well….normal behaviour isn’t it? (laughs)

NP: That makes me feel like I’m not completely crazy now.

MR: You Are Not Alone (laughs). Are you planning on doing any more books of any sort?

NP: Well, the plan is, we are going to put the blog in a series of books, but I’m just going to self publish those, and that’s just for people who want them. Once that’s finished, I’ve always toyed with the idea of a novel set in a University, so that’s sort of my dream project, do a campus novel, drawing on my experiences, which I’ve only barely touched on in the book for lots of different reasons! (laughs) So yeah, that was a weird thing about writing the book as well, you know, worrying about writing about people that you know, existed… I think I find it much easier to write stuff that’s more fictional rather than based on my life.

MR: Yeah, some people find it easier to go from that sort of personal standpoint, or just a thinly veiled version. I’ve just finished reading Gareth Roberts’ version of Shada, and couldn’t really shake the feeling that Douglas Adams wrote the Chris Parsons character in as himself, especially with the Cambridge setting.

NP: Yeah, a lot of writers do that. They call it the Mary-Sue thing, don’t they, where they insert themselves into the narrative. Yeah, if I did a campus novel, it would be a thinly disguised work of fiction (laughs). I’d probably have to do it under an assumed name! Obviously, I left my job a couple of years ago, it was just coincidental, I didn’t leave the job to write a book or anything like that. It just happened to fall at the right time. If I could make a career out of writing, that’s what, hopefully, I’d love to be able to do.

MR: You and Sue live-blogged The Day Of The Doctor for The Guardian. How was that?

NP: That was the most terrifying day of my life. It was absolutely terrifying, cause, what they told us afterwards was that it was very unusual for The Guardian to do stuff, especially drama live. What they usually do is they get it a few days in advance so you can watch it, make notes, and comment on it as it goes. And, The Day Of The Doctor was one of those ones where there was no release at all of any kind to the public, so we had to just go off what was happening on screen. And when we turned up…..it was just like you imagine the Guardian office to be, this huge expanse of computers. And the TV they wanted us to watch it on, was on the other side of the room…so it was like, half a mile away.

So, I had to keep putting my glasses on to look at the TV, and then take my glasses off to type on the screen, which was then being moderated by somebody else sitting behind me, to make sure I wasn’t writing anything libellous, probably. So, I was trying to watch TV, listen to Sue, type up what Sue was saying, have it moderated by somebody else behind me, and the person behind me was then asking me like “What do you think of this?”… I couldn’t follow what was going on! (laughs)

Quite clearly, it was impossible! I think a lot of people struggled with it if they were focused on it normally. I was trying desperately, and desperately trying to keep the thing interesting, so it was terrifying, the whole thing. I think we got away with it though.

MR: I hope they took you for dinner afterwards!

NP: Oh it was terrible, we went back to the hotel and tried to watch it on iPlayer, and concentrate on it, and I think we fell asleep. But yeah, it was a great episode.

MR: Yeah, I really enjoyed it, I went to the pictures, I was quite lucky to get a ticket in Bournemouth.

NP: Well, that was our original plan, we were gonna see it in 3D at the cinema as well, but we had to give our tickets away in the end. I bet it looked great in 3D as well…

MR: Yeah, yeah, it did. They should have done another run a week later, for people who couldn’t make that day…

NP: They should have done it for the whole week, I think. I don’t know why they didn’t do that, I’d have seen it the next day if I could have, but, I couldn’t.

MR: It was a great experience at the pictures, completely rammed out, there was people dressed as Clara in the red dress, and there were assorted Ponds walking about….

NP: It’s just bizarre isn’t it, to think, when I was growing up, if someone had told me that in 2013 people would go to the cinema and see this big thing simultaneously, not just in England but around the world. You wouldn’t have even believed that if they’d have said it in 2005, 2006…..That was a weird month for us cause the book came out that month, so me and Sue were sort of jumping on the back of all the coverage, because obviously these local radio stations were desperately trying to fill time about Doctor Who, so we did a lot of radio. So, that whole month was just madness, absolutely insane.

MR: I went with a good friend who’s another lifelong fan. We had about three pints before we went in, then disappeared to the pub afterwards, and ended up banging on feverishly about Capaldi’s eyes…

NP: Capaldi’s eyes, god yeah. Fantastic, yeah, cool. It seems like so long ago now. Capaldi will be back on TV before we know it.

MR: Yeah, August. Are you looking forward to him? How do you think he’s gonna be?

NP: I think he’ll be great, I think he’ll be fantastic. He’s a great actor. I just don’t know how he’s going to play it. I’m hearing rumours he’s going to do it quite dark…I don’t know if that’s true or not. It’s really difficult to know until you see him out and doing it.

MR: Yeah. I wasn’t sure about Matt at first when he was cast….I thought, oh…too young…

NP: Exactly! I mean, Matt Smith’s young enough to be my son (laughs) It’s just like….what…the….hell…. so yeah, I was praying for Capaldi.

I remember that day very vividly, when they announced him, I remember thinking, god, you know…. I think all the money switched at the last minute to the other guy….I remember thinking, ah, what a shame, but, thankfully, it was Peter Capaldi. It was a different reaction to the Confidential when they did Matt Smith, and most of us were just going….

NP and MR: …Who…? (laughter)

NP: I remember the name Matt Smith suddenly appeared in the betting at the last minute, and I just didn’t know who the hell this person was. I remember being quite confused….So yeah, I think Peter Capaldi will be really good, I don’t know how many seasons he’s doing, I think he’s only signed up for one, we’ll see.

MR: Yeah I’d hope he’d sign up for more, but, you never know really.

NP: They’re going back to the old…I think they’ve got two companions I believe. They’re both teachers, one of them’s another teacher at Coal Hill School, so really you’re gonna go back to the original where you’ve got the two teachers, and I think there’s another character, another companion, so maybe he’s harking back to the first season again.

MR: I’m really interested to see how he comes out. To me, the Doctor is that Terrance Dicks “Never cruel or cowardly” character at heart, which is why I don’t really get on with Colin Baker’s Doctor…

NP: Yeah, you say that, but there is a fair few times when the Doctor is quite cruel and cowardly, to be fair (laughs) Pertwee shot loads of Ogrons….couldn’t stop killing them!

MR: Tennant could be a bit of a genocidal maniac…

NP: Yeah, Sylvester McCoy blew up the odd planet…

MR: I’ve been really enjoying Wife and Blake…

NP: Good!

MR: I was looking forward to seeing what Sue made of The Harvest of Kairos…cause that is so immensely dodgy and sexist…

(For those unfamiliar, you really have to see it. Or, just read this.)

NP: Yeah, the thing is, she upset the Blake’s 7 fans so much that the official Blake’s 7 fan club organised a protest rewatch of The Harvest of Kairos.

MR: You have to do that?

NP: (laughs) Yeah, they had to rewatch it, together, to protest at Sue’s 0/10, which I thought was quite generous…actually, I don’t mind it so much, at least it’s entertaining, as it’s so ridiculous. It’s not one of those boring ones, as quite a few episodes of Blake’s 7 are quite dull. You can’t accuse Harvest of Kairos of being dull.

MR: It’s insane.

NP: (laughs) It IS insane. But then we had Vila get a 9/10 for City at the Edge of the World, so that made up for that I think.

MR: Do you think Sue’s finally warming to Terry Nation?

NP: Yeah I don’t think she minds him so much as a Blake’s 7 writer. And, to be fair when Terry turns up to do Blake’s 7, they’re actually quite good episodes. Ridiculous, but entertaining. But yeah, I think she appreciates Terry a lot more than when she was watching Doctor Who, that’s for sure. I think it’s more his kind of programme, he invented it so he’s got a vested interest in it. But the whole thing of who wrote what…..it’s always the same with Terry Nation. Anything good….people automatically assume someone else wrote it for him, anything bad…..oh yeah, that’s Terry…..He has the same problem with Chris Boucher. We watched Rumours of Death yesterday, so that’s where we’re up to, so we should be finished soon.

MR: Sarcophagus is up next, that’s a good one.

NP: I haven’t seen that one for ages. That’s what’s been interesting for me, doing this, as I’m not as big a fan of Blake’s 7 as Doctor Who, it’s something I watched when I was growing up and I remember the odd episode, but it didn’t stick around as long, so it wasn’t something that permeated every part of my life. So there’s certain episodes I haven’t seen very much at all and some I probably haven’t seen since they first came out. I’ve watched all the classic ones over and over again, the ones that people always talk about, but there was loads I hadn’t seen, loads…

MR: Yeah, there’s 52 in all.

NP: 52, yeah.

MR: I saw it when I was little. Mum and Dad probably shouldn’t have let me watch it…

NP: How old would you have been when it was on?

MR: It finished when I was five. I watched the last episode of Blake’s 7 when I was five…..

NP: Don’t say anything! Because my wife’s in the kitchen.

MR: I won’t say a thing except they shouldn’t have let me watch it. (Neil laughs)

NP: I remember watching….the first series was 1978, so I would have been eight when it started. And that first episode, that was what surprised me going back again, how grim it is. Child molestation charges…..it’s very bleak… I remember being really excited as a kid when it started, I remember it being a big deal. And certain images definitely stuck in my mind.

MR: I probably saw about the last series and a half as a kid. Then I got into it in the long teenage gap of “No Doctor Who” and watched a lot on VHS, just filling a bit of a void really.

NP: Yeah I never bought the VHS’s. A lot of my friends did but I never felt the compulsion.

MR: I think it was something else to fill up a void, I wasn’t so much a Star Trek guy really.

NP: I watched a bit of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the 90s (chuckles), I wrote a letter to DWB where I complained about Doctor Who and said I was gonna watch Star Trek from now on….it was very embarrassing….That is a terrible moment…I look back on that with shame…..but yeah, Blake’s 7, it’s a weird programme. One minute it’s really bleak, the next minute it’s like a pantomime, literally…like a pantomime, and you just don’t know what you’re going to get from one week to the next.

And I think that’s the reason we did it, the reason I decided to risk it as, at least with Doctor Who it’s continually different every week, a different story, and I think Blake’s 7 has that same kind of “What the hell’s happening this week?” kind of vibe to it, so we’ve just about got away with it.

MR: Definitely. I’m quite a fan of the third series, actually, I think it’s the most insane of the lot.

NP: It seems to be scoring the highest marks so far compared to the other ones, I know we’ve got a few to go, I think Sue’s definitely finding it better. It’s funny it’s since Blake’s left! (laughs)

MR: She was bang on about the find-and-replace thing with Tarrant and Blake in Kairos.

NP: Well, yeah, it’s just all in the hair, isn’t it? Look at the silhouette of them, exactly the same.

MR: I remember watching that one on VHS at about seventeen and thinking…..hang on….why do they care about Tarrant all of a sudden?

NP: Yeah he’s suddenly the big leader, the big threat, that no-one’s ever heard of before….It’s weird, again, when you watch them in order like this you sort of pick up on those weird kind of things.

And I suppose what I’m also noticing is the impact it had on Babylon 5, I’m a big Babylon 5 fan, and there’s so many references and influences you can see sprinkled throughout it, you know, like a telepath…the guy who wrote it, bar one episode which Neil Gaiman wrote…he was obviously brought up on Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, The Prisoner, and the references are all over it. It was fantastic in the 90s, it’d be interesting to see how it holds up today….

MR: Probably holds up better than Doomwatch……I gave that a go as well.

NP: Yeah I couldn’t get on with Doomwatch. You see, I used to teach Science-Fiction at University, and I used to teach not only Doctor Who, I used to teach Doomwatch. I used to show them the one with the rat. And they just used to fall about laughing. They just couldn’t take it seriously. To me it was terrifying!

MR: The bit at the end is gruesome.

NP: Yeah, isn’t it?

MR: Absolutely horrible.

NP: 70’s TV was very bleak. I love the original Survivors, especially the first two series. It went a bit boring in the third series.

MR: I do like a good Terry Nation apocalypse.

NP: I hope they remake Blake’s 7, that’s what they should do, they keep saying they’re going to remake it. I don’t know who owns the rights, B7 Enterprises or something, I’m not sure. It seems silly not to do it really, what with Doctor Who being as successful as it is. And there’s no Torchwood anymore, so why not. Gareth Roberts loves Blake’s 7, just give it to him!

MR: I think he’d make a very good showrunner for that.

NP: Exactly, why not give it to Gareth Roberts, you heard it here first.

MR: Are you listening Gareth? Well, hopefully once I’ve typed this up….

NP: He said recently on a tweet he was a bigger fan of Blake’s 7 than Doctor Who, and we all know how big a fan of Doctor Who he is, so there you go. If they can remake The Tomorrow People and make a right balls of it……..We did a kickstarter thing, and one of the extras for people who backed the kickstarter is to watch an episode of The Tomorrow People, so I thought I’ll get her into the new one. And she enjoyed it, obviously, as it’s just loads of young men running round with their tops off. Whereas the original is just loads of young men running round with anoraks on…..you’re too young to remember The Tomorrow People, I expect.

MR: Yeah it finished when I was quite small. I never saw it. My memories of Doctor Who start very early though, from three years old, 1979, Destiny of the Daleks, and then I was immediately into it.

NP: Did you ever go to Blackpool or anything like that?

MR: I went to Madame Tussaud’s when I was about four, and went to Longleat when I was six….

NP: You went to Longleat?! In ’83? Wow. I’m jealous, obviously! Was it as chaotic as people have said?

(I’ve just realised that Neil is now interviewing me. This is what happens when Doctor Who fans talk for more than 30 minutes at a time)

MR: It’s funny, I don’t remember it being chaos, but I suppose, when you’re a small kid, everything’s chaos and you just go with it, I remember queues but not being in them for hours. I’ve got some great photos, I’ll send some on to you.

NP: Yeah, do that.

MR: it’s been a pleasure Neil, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

NP: Cheers mate, enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Adventures With The Wife In Space is published by Faber and Faber, and is available in bookshops and on Amazon. Follow Neil and Sue’s adventures with Blake here.

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Monday Morning News Round Up – April 28

Well, here we are again, with a round up of all things TIMD from the last week. Be sure to follow us on twitter @troughtonsmydoc and get the news as it happens.

New writer for series 8? Read all about it.

Also on the subject of series 8 (sorta), some musings on Doctor Who’s long-standing habit of meeting famous historical figures. But who’s next?

On a series 8 tangent, yesterday was lovely Jenna Coleman’s 28th birthday, happy birthday Impossible Girl!

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It was also former showrunner Russell “The” Davies’ birthday, and, if we fancy getting meta about this, Rose Tyler’s too. Quel Dommage, Russell!

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This week has seen a huge glut of Pathe newsreel clips uploaded to YouTube, featuring some fleeting glimpses of William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee. Thanks to Sammi Carter for sniffing these out from the huge archive that Pathe have made available.

New YouTube Clips discovered

Pertwee Clips!

More Pertwee Clips!

And one more for luck.

Fed up with the Omnirumour? Ignore it. Just for fun, in an ideal world, which season would you most like to see completed? Let us know by taking part in our Wish Fulfilment Quiz.

Also, take a look at Part One of our feature on the mostly missing Season Three, the first great gap in the canon, and a period of change both in front of and behind camera.

Finally there’s a new fan produced audio being released soon. Doctor Who Dark Journey.

Is that all? It can’t be all, we must have missed something… Nope, that’s all the news from the past week.

Doctor Who and the cult of historical celebrity

What do Marco Polo, Robespierre, Nero, Richard the Lionheart, Catherine de Medici, Wyatt Earp, George Stevenson, H.G. Wells, Charles Dickens, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Churchill, Van Gogh, Nixon, Captain Avery, Nefertiti and Hitler have in common?

The answer is, they’ve all met a mad man in a box. They’re soon to be joined in series 8, it seems, by Jack the Ripper, by Robin Hood, and Mark Gatiss has even teased the possibility of Jane Austen….

Doctor Who does love its meetings with historical figures, especially since 2005, when the “celebrity historical” became the vogue. It’s a headline-grabbing approach, probably done best in Vincent and the Doctor, which used Van Gogh’s synesthesia as a major plot point, and his presence as a USP. It does make sense to have a historical with a recognisable figure, as opposed to having unknown characters against the backdrop of historic events, but only really when it drives the story. For example, Hitler didn’t have a great deal to do with Let’s Kill Hitler, but you couldn’t have The Unicorn and the Wasp without Agatha Christie.

The thing is though….they’re running out of historical figures to use. Explorers, crusaders, Emperors, playwrights, inventors, gunslingers…..the list of famous figures from history has been ticked off, and many of those left might prove too controversial or divisive. I can’t see them doing Richard III somehow.

Hitler’s arguably the most famous or infamous person to have ever appeared in Doctor Who, but really he’s used as an eye-catching title and strapline for an episode about River Song. This is another of Steven Moffat’s wrongfooting titles, and a plot element that’s swept out of the way quickly, he’s quite literally thrown in a cupboard. On the other hand, it would be much harder to sell something like The Visitation these days, where you have rats and the great fire of London as the backdrop, but a made up character like Richard Mace at the forefront. This is why, despite lavish location work, stories like The Fires of Pompeii and A Town Called Mercy have to work a bit harder….the public do like their celebrities, and there’s no-one ‘famous’ in them, and they take place in locations that are either long lost to a volcanic eruption or in the case of Mercy, made up. In the case of Pompeii, the Doctor and Donna at loggerheads over whether to save the doomed inhabitants is the effective crux of the story. Mercy also deals with a moral dilemma, but if, say, Russell T. Davies had written it, I dare say he’d probably have made it more relatable and set it in Tombstone.

The thought of a Robin Hood episode strikes me as a good bit of fun. That Ripper-in-Fog thing has been done as far back as Talons of Weng-Chiang, and I’m pretty sure Vastra had just eaten the Ripper when introduced in A Good Man Goes to War, so we’d just have to see where Moffat goes with that notion.

The notion of Jane Austen…..just…why, really? It’s mostly been literary figures and royals or world leaders these last few years. The use of Agatha Christie in a Whodunnit, or Dickens in a ghost story is a good use of theme and character. I’m not so sure about Churchill. The use of Nixon in Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon works because of the setting and all the secret agent-y stuff with Canton and the White House. Jane Austen is a famous author of 18th century romantic fiction. I may not be a fan of Austen, but I can’t see it working. There’s no reason, dramatically or Who-ishly to do Austen, apart from a lack of other ideas for famous authors to do.

Perhaps the answer is in recent history. The 20th century is the dawn of real global celebrity, it’s full of untapped potential famous figures. It’s notable that the series has mostly swerved the 60s and 70s since the revival, especially the 70s. Hide could really have been set at any time in history, barring the oscilloscopes and tank tops. Victorian times have dominated, and the period from 1938 to the blitz. It’s perhaps time to do what Moffat and Gatiss must surely have already discussed at some point, and go meet Conan-Doyle. Maybe head to the 60s and meet the Beatles, or Martin Luther King. Do something underwater and creepy with Jacques Cousteau. Go daring and dark in the 13th century and expose Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General as a sinister alien. Just don’t do Sense-Sphere and Sensibility please.

Doctor Who and the Interminable Waiting

I remember waiting 18 months for a new series of Doctor Who once as a kid. I didn’t mind that much, and although Trial of a Time Lord wasn’t a very good series, at least it was back to being on at the same time of year, every year. Even if internal BBC politics meant that I had grown taller than usual in between.

I was used to the usual 9 month waits between series, as a child they didn’t seem as interminable as they do now. Even the 7 years between Survival and the TV Movie, and the 9 between that and Rose didn’t bug me too much.

Perhaps that’s more to do with the times we live in. The world has become a far less patient place. Because these days I HATE waiting for more Doctor Who. I HATE that Easter moves every year and that the series seems arbitrarily pinned to a date that can be anything from the end of March to the end of April. Just pick a date and have done with it!

I started to slightly hate waiting for Doctor Who at the end of The Christmas Invasion. Ok, it was only a few months, but they went and showed a trailer for the new series, making it worse…..and there’s Easter off in the distance…….and it’s moved……

I dealt with the Easter thing (although, New Earth wasn’t a strong start, sorry Russell), and got on with the fallow periods where you knew the series wouldn’t be on. Until 2009, the year where Shakespearian commitments for David Tennant, and the slow handover between RTD and Moffat meant only 4 new episodes, with Planet of the Dead rushed out into the world at Easter, and a 7 month wait for The Waters of Mars, during which I, knowing full well that there was a whole new series of Who being made with a new Doctor, silently, internally screamed “Just ****ing PUT IT ON!” more times than I could have possibly anticipated.

Things seemed to go back to normal in the early Matt Smith era, I can honestly say that I didn’t mind the split series the first time round (apart from people at work asking me “Why have they split the series?? How long is it off for??”), but once Christmas 2011 was over, what felt like the longest wait began, the road to Asylum of the Daleks.

I grew and shaved off several quite bushy beards. I got into and out of a relationship. I began to externally scream “Just ****ing PUT IT ON!” at my housemate (who has nothing to do with the black arts of BBC scheduling or the Doctor Who production office, but was very understanding). Nine whole months. No Doctor Who. And I couldn’t see why, until last year.

Basically, Steven Moffat, right from the outset of taking over as showrunner, had the date of the 50th anniversary in front of him, immovably set in stone, hence the transmission creep from series 6 onwards. His plans for Matt Smith’s Doctor were set up to end in a particular way, topping off the craziness of the anniversary year.

I got it, during the surprisingly painless wait between The Snowmen and The Bells of St. John. I realised then, that whatever happened during the year would happen when it happened. The War Doctor rocked up, and I was more than happy to wait 6 months to see what the deal with him was. The anniversary has been the whole reason for the last few years of shuffling transmission.

Now, there’s no milestone to meet, no need to mess around with the transmission pattern. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor makes his debut this year in a full, uninterrupted series at….

What’s that?

Oh, yeah.

It’s not on until Autumn this year.

*Facepalm*

Oh well, maybe we’ll get Marco Polo at Easter instead.

Missing Episode Leads at the M&S Cafe?

bAGEL

The Omnirumour. A ray of light leading to an Aladdin’s cave of glinting silvery treasure. Devourer of forum pages. Igniter of conflicts that if enacted in real life would make Game of Thrones look like a pillow fight.

It’s profoundly changed online fandom. On one hand, a great community of like minded souls has sprung up – friendly and open, with some good friendships being forged over borders and time zones. On the other, there’s a worrying amount of flame wars and trolling going on. Not to mention an overall oppressive atmosphere on certain forums, and some elaborate hoaxes. But hey ho, it wouldn’t be Doctor Who fandom if somebody wasn’t being a tool about it.

Every scrap of info or potential lead, no matter how unlikely it may seem, has been pored over in microscopic detail. We want to know. We’re excited. But, until some sort of an announcement comes (fingers crossed), all we can do is continue to look at the clues, and we’ve already torn the internet into so many shreds in our search for the truth that it’s a wonder it’s not collapsed.

Let me tell you a story, a story I haven’t shared up to now.

A couple of months ago, after some lengthy indecision about where to have lunch, my girlfriend Lesley and I ended up at a table in the upstairs café of our local Marks and Spencer. We were very hungry (our indecision often results in this).

She chose a healthy option. I didn’t. As we wolfed down our lunch and talked between bites, I noticed a man sat in the corner, tallish, and oddly familiar looking. Did I know him? If I did, where did I know him from? Work? Someone else’s work?

Hold on. I don’t know him. I do know him from being interviewed on TV by Lizo Mzimba though. That looks like…. Phil Morris!

What do I read into this? If that’s him, he’s at least 500 miles out of his way (I live on the south coast, and have an ex from Liverpool, trust me, I know), maybe there’s an episode lead in Dorset?!? He’s having a bacon bagel. Bacon bagels are round. Film cans are round!! Is this a sign?!?

I jest, but whoever this guy was, he looked enough like everyone’s favourite secretive globe-trotting episode hunter to make me stare at him with one eye for a good couple of minutes whilst maintaining eye contact and conversation with Lesley (risking going cross-eyed in the process).

Luckily he didn’t see me, as I would have looked somewhat deranged. My girlfriend didn’t notice my cross eyed basilisk gaze either, which was a relief. I didn’t fancy explaining that I’d spent so long boring holes in forums and twitter over the last few months that I was starting to believe episode hunters were among us, and……. tucking into a nice bacon roll in the corner of England’s favourite Penny Bazaar. Questions might have been asked about our relationship.

“You haven’t changed, still finding menace in your own shadow…”

There’s not really a message here, beyond “Do not stare at strange men in cafes”. I’m sure good times are still coming. The speculation is still great fun. But, if you do see Phil Morris, and he is a) Actually Phil Morris and b) Eating a Bagel, don’t snatch it out of his hand, it’s not a film can, it’s a bagel. And I hope he enjoys his bagel.

 

The preceding is a humorous account and not intended to offend anyone, even those who hate bagels. The real Phil Morris was not seen anywhere near the vicinity of M&S.