Thursday, July 31, 2008
Rarely though have I touched upon music. Mostly that's because for me a music review would, more than any other, boil down to did I like it or not. But also partly because, rather like Phil, I have oftentimes been susceptible to a degree of insecurity when it comes to my musical tastes (and mine are fairly eclectic), mostly I think because of all the media in which you might develop your individual tastes it seems to be the one in which you're most open to attack or ridicule. So as well as being great for airing and sharing, the internet is *brilliant* for mocking and belittling others' opinions: it's an arena, so go ahead throw your views to the lions. And be it Doctor Who, TV in general, music or your preferred reading, you're at least as likely to be ripped into for the things you don't like as the things you do. As a long-time member of a Who-oriented mailing list, I know it can get especially heated and unpleasant, not to say tiresome, when your views don't match those of a particular breed of impassioned Fan (most assuredly with a large F) and sadly I wasn't overly surprised to discover that one set of anonymous comments in response to her simple, honest review of this year's big Who finale prompted this post by Marie, and who can blame her. Luckily for me, I laugh and shake my head at much of this sort of thing and don't believe anyone should be the least bit ashamed of their tastes, whatever they may be. Detractors, where I come from, are only what de rest of us get stuck behind as they're hauling their wide loads along narrow parochial lanes.
So if any of my reviews here offend or appear to invite laughter and/or abuse, do feel free, but you should know upfront that I'm unlikely to care! :) Not least because all the things being reviewed were birthday presents and the mood of this post is way more celebratory than critical. That and the fact that I saw Mamma Mia! last night, and after being subjected to Pierce Brosnan's 'singing' I'm inclined to believe I can take anything!
Anyhoo, as much as blogging about it is an inevitable consequence of being a fan (small f) of Doctor Who, so is receiving Who DVDs and what have you. Hence, giving me more Who about which to blog. As vicious circles go, it's quite a happy one.
So, first 'out of the wrapping paper', so to speak, we have the K9 Tales box set, wherein someone has thought to lovingly combine the tin dog's introductory adventure, The Invisible Enemy, with his very own spin-off, K9 & Company, from back when the idea of a Doctor Who spin-off was actually a novelty. Imagine that.
The Invisible Enemy begins nicely, even managing to be creepy and a little unsettling as the Doctor himself is infected and Leela, alone immune to the spindly video-effect lightning attacks of the Virus, is left to fend for herself. Production-wise it doesn't even look markedly worse than any other Who of its era. Storywise, to invert a favoured defence of a lot of New Who, it's no more absurd than a lot of the stuff we're treated to these days, and as far as I can tell is guilty of nothing that, with a bigger budget and a few choice emo-moments from Leela or the Doctor, wouldn't have been forgiven by many if it had been made today.
It's essentially at the end of episode 2, around when we see shots of the Doctor and Leela spinning around in a CSO whirlpool - not actually any worse than shots of the Doctor, Sarah and Harry using the Time Ring at the end of Genesis Of The Daleks - that things go downhill. And as tough as it may have been to pull off an effective sf adventure story about a virus that remains very much in the microscopic realm, they might have been wiser to go down the route of keeping the titular enemy titularly invisible. I have to admire the ambition, but with the best will in the world, it's hard to look past pre-crumbled walls, a giant Prawn that needs two minions to wheel it along the corridors, and an asteroid which looks like it should have a few Clangers patrolling its surface in search of the Soup Dragon or the Iron Chicken. Also, sadly, the sets and CSO are far from being up to the challenge of pulling off a Fantastic Voyage-style journey through the Doctor's brain. So what we get is a less than fantastic plod through a polystyrene jungle, leading to an encounter with a creation I shall politely refer to as the Hooded Claw.
Fortunately, Tom Baker and Louise Jameson , with the aid of some great snippets of dialogue ("We could try using our intelligence!" "If you think that's a good idea.") ensure the adventure sufficient saving graces and, ably assisted by K9 - and it's easy to see why he was a hit - as well as Frederick Jaeger and Michael Sheard, although there are a few production catastrophes, the story avoids being a total disaster. Cheep and cheerful fun, but don't expect a classic.
The companion DVD, K9 & Company is (probably) equally cheap and, opening titles aside, a deal less cheerful, as it concerns a coven of witches in the sleepy English village of Moreton Harwood. It's a passable little mystery and, although not one likely to overly tax your grey cells, takes a fair stab at misleading your suspicions within its limited 50-minute runtime. Approached as a pilot episode, its simplicity of plot is easily forgiven, although at the same time it's hard to see how it might have developed as a series without the inclusion of more diverse and obviously sci-fi elements, such as invading aliens and the like. That same simplicity doesn't render the story very memorable, however, and what sticks in your mind most - for a long time after viewing - are those opening titles, possibly a little too cheerful. A truly curious arrangement of shots of K9 and Sarah Jane 'in action', all to the accompaniment of a theme 'tune' more infectious than the Virus and at least as painful on the ears as the Prawn was on the eyes. Never mind, at heart this is a Sarah Jane Smith story that predates the Sarah Jane Adventures by 20 years and has such has a good deal of charm, easily reached by whizzing past those titles. Which I must remember to do on next viewing.
For another passable 50-minute mystery, not only from the Who stable but also from the pen of Terence Dudley, I also had Black Orchid to delight and entertain me. Again, solving the mystery will not make you Hercules Poirot - it's one of those familiar tales of a hideously scarred supposedly lost relative hidden in a secret wing of the family mansion - but it's told with charm and enough joie-de-vivre that I even found the cricket match near the beginning a pleasure to watch. There's some oddness in the second episode where the Doctor seems to think that revealing his identity as a Time Lord ought to clear him of suspicion of murder but even though he is not instrumental in the resolution, he is involved and the entire affair seems very neatly tailored to the Fifth Doctor. Tegan and Nyssa are clearly having fun too with the costume side of the costume drama and Adric is helpfully sidelined, stuffing his face, so there's a lot to be grateful for. And Sarah Sutton does a nice job with the dual role. Plus, embedded in the heart of this simple period escapade there's enormous potential for a whole series of PDAs (Past Doctor Adventures), just waiting to be tapped into; so all in all, a genuine treat and Black Orchid is duly promoted above Caves Of Androzani as my favourite Davison story.
By contrast, The Celestial Toymaker (BBC Audio) is - in the audio realm at least - a bit disappointing. Far far better for the host of possibilities it inspires in the imagination than for much of what goes on in the adventure itself. It is a *great* idea and Michael Gough makes for a great villain, and a particularly good foil for the First Doctor, even though Hartnell isn't even present for a large chunk of the story. Sadly, he is rendered powerless and his role somewhat inconsequential, as the Toymaker advances the moves willy-nilly in his Trilogic game, ostensibly as a means of upping the tension, while Steven and Dodo are forced to play through a series of parlour games, one per episode basically, all ending with no cleverer a twist than their prize turning out to be a fake TARDIS - at least until the final game. Unfortunately, when it comes to the games on offer in the Toymaker's domain, someone must have suggested 'hopscotch' and someone else must have misheard. A hotchpotch is, in fact, what we get and a race against time becomes more a test of endurance. According to the sleeve notes, some meddling from the script editor succeeded in removing all the suspense from the original script and the results are telling. It's a shame as there is a much better story in here, bogged down by over-laboured dialogue and repetitious 'action', not to mention some surprisingly weak cliffhangers, although it does have a nice tail end in which the Doctor tricks the Toymaker with a spot of ventriloquism. As for me, I'm not fooled by the illusion, but I can at least appreciate what the magician is trying to do.
Further in the Who department, I was also happy to receive Human Nature/Family Of Blood/Blink and treated myself to Tooth And Claw/School Reunion/The Girl In The Fireplace which, although almost certainly not worth re-reviewing here, celebrate the modern tradition of ensuring that the three good episodes from any given year end up, by luck or design - I don't know which - on the same disc, for my convenience. (Season 4 apparently continues this tradition, with Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Dead/Midnight all falling together in a single volume.) Thanks, Rusty!
Which brings us if not 'neatly' then at least 'eventually' to the music section, in which I was sufficiently blessed to have been given not one but two Coldplay albums. Coldplay, as it happens, being the principal reason for all the preamble above, because for some reason unknown to me - but each to his/her own - they and anyone who professes to liking them come in for a lot of stick. Apparently.
Well, like I said, I don't care. I like Coldplay. More than like them, in fact. Despite that, I somehow managed to lag two albums behind - but no longer. There's nothing on either X&Y or Viva La Vida that's so immediately 'eternal' as Clocks or The Scientist, say, but here's plenty of evidence of a band developing their sound - and not in a downhill way like Radiohead with Kid A. (Blah.) Two listens of each was enough for me to discover plenty to love. See: I either liked it or I didn't. Not terribly interesting in the 'review' stakes, but there you have it: both great albums, and at this stage the more recent of the two is just nudging ahead as the favourite.
Next we have Gabriella Cilmi, who attracted my attention on the strength of her single Sweet About Me. Fair to say, that one song is the key strength of the album, Lessons To Be Learned, and I'd be hard-pressed to pick another track that stands out to the same extent. Except the bonus track, Echo Beach, which stands out for the wrong reasons: not as good as the original. But Gabriella surprises with a gutsy Anastacia-like voice which, if that's at all to your tastes, helps make for interesting enough listening.
Much better is Beth Rowley's Little Dreamer, where I'd be hard-pressed to pick a single because, as far as I'm concerned, the vast majority of the songs are stand-out. Loved it first time I heard it, even with some of the tracks having a surprisingly gospel sound - but that didn't put me off the O! Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, so no reason why it should this either. An especially welcome surprise, this one, since I was drawn to it by reputation only and hadn't heard anything of Beth Rowley beforehand.
Finally, the star of the music pressies, Shakira's Oral Fixation (there's a joke in there somewhere, surely) Tour on DVD. Awesome. Of course, Shakira is great, let's make my bias clear. With her wonderfully Latino-flavoured pop-rock and a voice - even better in her native Spanish - easy to imagine echoing off the peaks of the Andes, whether dance number or heartfelt ballad, the woman knows how to deliver a song. She also, as it turns out, knows how to put on a good show. Truly, her hips don't lie, and her belly-dancing is equally honest and yet undeniably flexible, and she mixes it all up with some rather playful robotic dancing and plenty of rock-star style bounding around the stage. There's real emotion in those ballads and if you ever want to see real joie-de-vivre every other song is bursting with it. Rather like - to stretch a comparison - Peter Davison playing cricket in Black Orchid, here is someone obviously having a thoroughly good time doing what she does. Great stuff.
In conclusion then, a big thank you to all concerned. There were movies too in the midst of all that, most of which I haven't even given a test drive in the DVD player yet, but rest assured they're in the queue for watching. Like I said, I refuse to apologise to anyone for liking anything. But I will apologise to anyone who gave me a gift that didn't end up earning a wholly favourable review, but anyone should realise that as a Doctor Who fan (small f), irrespective of a given thing's flaws, I'm more than capable of a great deal of appreciation.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Ah, I remember the days of the old muzzle-loading flintlock Tomato. Now apparently some fellow named Winchester has developed a repeating model. There's progress.
But wait, it's possible I'm confusing things with the news that Ian Potter's radio comedy series No Tomatoes is enjoying a run of repeats, easily accessed by following one of the, er, following links:
Neatly chopped into fifteen minute segments, no tasteless greens to accompany them and the dressing is up to you. I can heartily recommend a listen. Of course, I *have* to - Mr Potter threatened me at the point of a squeezy ketchup bottle, but don't let that affect your decision. See, or hear, for yourself.
If you can find more laugh out loud moments in the space of fifteen minutes, sitting in front of your computer... then please send me the relevant links. :)
Monday, July 14, 2008
All of which is my roundabout way of saying, "We had a good time". So apologies to those of you who are left wondering why I couldn't have just cut to the chase and said that sooner! :)
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Or, in this case, Mid-Season Adjustment Disorder. Adjusting to the mid-season break and the absence of Battlestar Galactica from our screens. Although why they didn't just go ahead and call the recent batch a short season like the makers of Heroes did with their 11 episodes (quite good, but not as compelling as the first series), I don't quite know. For a half-full glass, it seemed positively spilling over with developments. Enough to deserve the 'Season' label.
Oh well, not that a name makes a bundle of difference. It's still over and gone for the time being. And as well as our having to adjust to the BSG-shaped hole in our viewing habits, we're having to adjust to the huge curve ball they threw at us at the end. In much the same way, I guess, as the producers had to adjust their show to fit around the writers' strike. Such is the nature of TV these days that whenever there is a break - Season or mid - there's an obligation to deliver a big whammy of an ending. This one came up on us so fast, I have a sense it initially belonged at the end of episode 11.
But. I could be wrong.
(WARNING: SPOILERS UP AHEAD)
After all, it's not the first time BSG has done this sort of thing to us. If I cast my mind back to the end of Season 2 - and it's pretty easy to do, as the impressions are all still surprisingly vivid in my mind - I recall being wowed, while at the same time feeling a jolt, as events jumped forward "One Year Later..." and we were asked to adjust to a whole new ball game on New Caprica. Shaking up the status quo is one of the things that BSG is so exceptionally good at, but there are times when I think it could exercise a measure of patience when steering us into wildly different territory. I guess they don't feel that taking a little pace off the ball is the best approach, if their intention is to hit it out of the park.
But there we are, that's fans for you. We grumble when it's too slow, we grumble when it's all too fast. Pace is a tricky beast. Last year, the series felt like it was dragging its heels and/or treading water (tough combination) for a run of 4 episodes in the middle (an attempt to economise, by all accounts, after the budget blowout for the stunning Exodus at the beginning of the season). But that run included Dirty Hands, an episode which in hindsight I have greater respect for, not least because it provoked a great deal of thought and because it was in a similar vein to the first Season's Water, tackling core issues (labour disputes and water supplies, respectively) for a society of spacegoing refugees. Also because now, with the pressure on to move the central story forward, there hasn't been room for that kind of story and, what do you know, I rather miss it.
See. Fans: never satisfied.
Still, when all that's said and done, what Season 4 Part One (?) has delivered has been consistently compelling. Right from where it picks up after the *massive* cliffhanger from the previous season (and that, Rusty, is how it's done), where you have absolute confirmation - actually in the opening header - that yes, those four who thought they were Cylons are actually Cylons. And after that initial holy shit moment, we're straight into battle, emerging battered and bruised (in a good way) and certain only of one thing: everything has changed. Watching the reactions of Tory, Tyrol and Tigh in the light of their Cylon wake-up call is at least as fascinating as all the missile exchanges and explosions. Can we trust them at all now? Can they trust themselves? And, what's more, what the hell do we make of Starbuck? Or, perhaps, what has someone else made of her? And on top of that, out of one combat encounter between Anders and a Cylon raider, it's all change in the Cylon camp too. Now that's masterful.
As you'd expect things settle down a bit after that, but it's not as though we're really given time to breathe as we explore the impact and implications of these dramatic shifts. They really hit home for Chief Tyrol, while the calculating Tory adapts with frightening ease to life as a Cylon, and I'll be honest I felt the cold when Cally was blown out of that airlock. Thank Gaius that Baltar's still around to amuse us as he embraces his role as Messiah to his (mostly female) faithful disciples. In this series, you have to find humour wherever you can and even life in Baltar's harem isn't all laughs.
And as much as I might attempt to make light there, it's that moment of Cally's death that leaves an indelible mark as the series progresses, one that, more than simply confirming that, yes, we're in the final season so even regulars are viable targets, feeds into the climactic face-off in Revelations where Tigh offers himself up for sacrifice and lends proceedings startling conviction. You believe that Lee Adama might actually space the old soldier. You believe that the show itself might dispense with him.
Really though, I've no desire to relive every good bit. What am I saying? Of course I do - but I'll attend to that in a rewatch and here I'll confine myself to a brisk skimming some of the cream off the top: the cloak and dagger as the four newly revealed Cylons attend their weekly meetings; the Cylon centurions turning on Dean Stockwell et al and kicking off the Cylon civil war; the tensions on that cramped freighter as Starbuck and crew venture on their independent search for signs of the path to Earth; Gaeta crippled and suddenly rendered analogous to a Cylon hybrid, a navigator lying there and mumbling (all right, technically singing) in a world of his own, the Cylon hybrid snapping her eyes open and shouting, "Jump!" as she's plugged in and hijacking the base ship along with the President and all; Athena, driven to protect Hera, blowing a hole in Natalie - how thoroughly she lets down Adama - and how thoroughly he has a change of heart, when he appreciates what he is depriving her of by keeping her apart from her child; the unboxing of D'Anna (which I for one had been hoping for for some time) and her telling Roslin she was one of the Final Five (ha!); the Temptation of Laura Roslin, where she is handed the opportunity to murder Baltar; Adama's reunion with Roslin; Tigh standing up and grassing up his fellow Cylons. And *especially* Bill Adama collapsing as everything he knew and trusted in Tigh crumbles before him!
Holy, as I believe I mentioned before, shit.
Too many 'moments'. Taken together it's the progression that impresses, of the characters and of the series as a whole. It's not always speedy, but it's relentless.
And in part it's because of that generally careful pacing, allowing us time to sit back - or often sit forward, perched on the edge of our sofas - and admire that progression, it is a shame the final pointer to Earth is ultimately delivered so swiftly. It's such a principle goal of the series - at least, it's been perceived as such - it feels all too easy. Of course, that is then instantly mitigated by what they find there - in a classic 'be careful what you wish for' hard lesson - but even so. For my money, the events of those few minutes seem to call for another episode unto themselves.
(And my very sage friend, Stuart, points out, we could have been treated at the same time to a thread involving Gaeta and his discovery that he was 'tried' as a collaborator at the hands of a Cylon kangaroo court. That ought to have been another "holy shit!" episode right there. With perhaps the discovery of Earth being enough to prompt Gaeta to set the score aside.)
It's difficult, looking back, to see where cuts could have been made to facilitate that ending at this stage. Possibly we could have lived without Romo Lampkin and his cat. But I have to say, I like the character and the thread concerning Lee's ascension to the presidency is key, added to which there is much more concerning Adama going on in that episode. And in any case some radical shuffling around would have been required. So, who knows.
In the end, I suppose, it comes down to maths and the pressures of television. Ten episodes is all we were given at this point and there's that obligation, as I say, to deliver the BIG GASP moment at the break. In fairness, it was quite a GASP - epic Planet Of The Apes type stuff - and an amazing bit of imagery to take away with us and meditate on in the interim. What the hell does it all mean? Where are they going to take us next with this? (And where can I get a widescreen shot of that as a cast photo? :) ) And, as my wife pointed out to me when we were done watching, "just be glad they didn't finish it five minutes earlier."
In a sense, if they had, with Lee poised to push the button and expel Tigh into the chilly depths of space, well, I might not have been so persuaded that he was going to go through with it. As any of us who have watched Doctor Who recently will know, the actual cliffhanger is all too often just a tease preceding a cheat. BSG has, thus far, generally delivered on its promises, but awareness of the tricks might well have undermined that scene for me. Given the lengthy delay then until the second half, the 'semi-finale' we got was more fitting: an appropriate level of wow and the raising of a great many questions.
For that, I'll forgive the relative haste. Two seasons ago, like I say, I was in a similar position, and BSG came back with Exodus. That just means a lot now is riding on the second half and the actual series Finale. And in that sense, nothing has changed. Even if everything else has, apparently.
Change is as good as a rest, they say. Which is presumably why they're giving us one at this stage. Now I guess it's just a case of sorting out the half-time entertainment.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
At least as ludicrous and OTT as last week's, despite my wise decision to accompany the closing chapter with just as much beer, it couldn't even succeed as comedy. It demonstrates a rare gift, I suppose: allowing events to spiral so insanely out of control while driving things inexorably towards whatever conclusion is desired. Then again, it's not that difficult if you know that no matter how mad and massive the scenario you can always pull a cheat out of - let's say your hat at the end. This though was worse than usual. This was a slap-in-the-face insult to any of us who still retained a grain of faith in the idea that, no, he couldn't possibly do the same to us *again*.
Just before it starts, I'm turning to my wife and laying money on the Doctor somehow negating the regeneration by using the spare hand. To which I add the notion that the hand will then grow into a fully-formed spare Doctor. Five minutes later, on top of that cheat (and with it the delivery of a multiple Doctor story - the Two-And-A-Half Doctors? - the one thing this already overcrowded farce was really missing), we're going for the damp-squib hat-trick, with Sarah Jane Smith miraculously rescued by Jackie and Mickey appearing out of nowhere and Torchwood's very own Butch & Sundance being saved by an even more miraculous temporal force field for no very good reason.
Then, against the odds, it's all downhill from there.
If, by any chance, you had any burning questions from last week's episode - e.g. What part will the Shadow Proclamation have to play in the conclusion? Why was Rose quite so anxious about the Doctor's potential regeneration? For what sinister purpose are the Daleks herding all the humans out of their homes? - your answers, although supplied, would likely be disappointing: e.g. "none whatsoever", "because she really was that shallow that she only fancied the David Tennant version" and "to test their Mighty Weapon on about twelve of them".
But never mind, what do these questions matter when the big fanwank list from the previous week is further engorged by the inclusion of Mickey - oh! - Jackie - oh! - and even climaxing with - ooooooh! - K9! Surely fans could never contain their excitement in the face of that lot!
Heck, I'll even admit to a little buzz of my own when Davros remembers Sarah Jane. Well, who wouldn't? But back off, Davros, I had a crush on her before you came along.
That aside though, what was it all for? This gathering of the Children Of Time? Well, after another thankfully shorter webcam conference, apparently it was all so they could be detained in the one place while the Doctor and Davros had a chat. At which point, I'm glad to say, Rusty doesn't even attempt to rival the momentous exchange between everyone's favourite crippled Kaled scientist and Tom Baker's Doctor in Genesis Of The Daleks. Although, at the same time, I kind of wish he had tried: it might have invested the scene and, maybe the story, with some weight as a counterbalance to the nonsense.
Nonsense rules, though, in this universe. And I guess if the situation is as nonsensical as possible, the theory is we shouldn't care that it's resolved with a cheat. It's the pattern. We had it back in The Parting Of The Ways, with all that Rose as Goddess of the Vortex stuff. We had it in Doomsday, with the big 'Invasion OFF' switch. We had it in Last Of The Time Lords - oh, how we had it in that one - with Doctor Dobby becomes Jesus and the Big Undo. And, did you notice, how they become steadily worse? We should have been more prepared for this one.
And it's funny, but when I think back to the first season and The Parting Of The Ways, I recall being generally positive about the future, thinking that, despite the DEMs and cheap get-outs, if this is the starting point and they only learn to iron out the various wrinkles and problems, we'll really be onto something here. But Rusty appears to be a writer who takes criticism on board, then throws it right back over the side. In our faces.
Because not only have the excesses and the weak endings grown worse, with Journey's End, it's almost as though he's taking one of the key things for which he's been criticised and sticking it out at us like a big fat tongue. He's taking the piss.
Cheap get-out endings? Ha! I can do you a half-dozen of those! Martha's so unbelievably dumb Osterhagen Key! Sarah Jane's Warp Star necklace! The (Alternative Tenth) Doctor's attempt to tune the Reality Bomb (and what the merry wotsit was that about?) to the Daleks' DNA! Nope, we're going to cleverly throw those over in favour of demented Dalek Caan's senseless betrayal and some frantic tapping on a large keyboard to blow up all the Daleks and their ships (and perhaps I missed it, but what happened to all the other humans who were taken on board the Dalek Crucible?) and return the planets home, followed by having the TARDIS tow the Earth back into position (what's the Moon been doing in the meantime?) in the style of an ad that's running currently that shows the UK being towed to the Bahamas.
And we can go one better than that. We can then top it all off with a coda that cheapens both the prophesy of the death of the most faithful companion and, worst of all, one that cheapens Rose's heart-wrenching (original) departure in Doomsday (that story's principle saving grace!). As Rose herself puts it, "You mean, I travelled all that way, looking for you and for what?" Okay, I'm paraphrasing, but that's what it feels like. It's okay for her - she gets over it incredibly quickly once the faux Doctor has whispered in her ear. But for the rest of us, well, I for one feel thoroughly cheated.
There's more, when it comes down to it, that's wrong with Journey's End. Frankly, I didn't imagine it would be worth as many words as I've wasted here.
But, as well as those hopeful, optimistic thoughts I was left with at the end of Series One, I was also inadvertently reminded of a time last year when I was asked by a friend to give a little talk to some primary school kids on 'Writing For Doctor Who.' It was only a really small occasion and I'm really not the best qualified for that sort of thing, but I enjoyed the experience and it was great to see the enthusiasm kids had for the show. My friend, the teacher, even had me judge a little story writing competition and it was fun reading through the best entries and picking out the winner.
Of course, there was very little structure in any of those stories and things happened largely because the very young authors wanted them to. That's the way I used to write at that age, and of course I'd come up with Daleks versus Cybermen stories and cram as many of my favourite Doctor Who companions and monsters into each adventure. And if you're stuck for an ending, well, the Doctor can wave his sonic screwdriver or turn back time (actually I don't think I ever did that one! ;) ) or events can take a helpful turn, people can even show up from nowhere with big guns or something and bail your heroes out. What the heck, it's fun.
And ideally, you learn from all that. And if you ever have the fortune to become a professional writer, particularly in a competitive field like, say, television, you might expect to grow out of it. And before anyone points out that Doctor Who is a kids' show, let me 'counter-point' out that no, it was always a family show. Now, more than ever, yes, it is juvenile, wearing its childishness on its sleeves. But even if we accept that it is and perhaps should be an outright kids' show, I have to ask, when did it become a good thing to start writing down to children?
While my teacher friend is teaching the kids about storyboarding, plotting out their tales and thinking in advance about beginnings, middles and ends, Doctor Who it seems is now teaching them, no, make it all up as you go along and when it comes to your resolutions, your problem-solving, any cheap get-out will do. Really, if you're going to carry on down this route, I'd be tempted to say, just get the kids to write it.
People mocked when Terrance Dicks released Warmonger for BBC Books because it was so jam-packed with monsters and characters trawled from Who's vast continuity ocean. Another real fanwankfest, by most accounts. I've not read it, but can it be any worse than any of Rusty's more excessive TV offerings? I doubt it. And yet because it has flashy CGI flying saucers (and, okay, it also had Bernard Cribbins who was great), I've no doubt people will tell you Journey's End is fantastic and if you can't see that, perhaps you're really not a Doctor Who fan.
Well, perhaps I don't qualify any more. But I am a fan of good drama, good adventure stories, inventive, colourful, imaginative writing that inspires. Fortunately, it seems as far as the kids are concerned, Doctor Who still checks all those boxes - the kids needn't concern themselves with the dramatic letdowns and for them a pointlessly resurrected character is just the pleasure of seeing that character again. But I am slightly concerned that maybe they'll grow up with the idea that this is good storytelling. Kids, it's not. It's rubbish.
Daleks, Davros, K9, Sarah Jane et al (and especially Sarah Jane ;) ) are exciting creations, but they can be that much more exciting in stories that aren't a) complete nonsense and b) riddled with dramatic cheats and cheap get-outs.
Luckily, there's a writer poised to take over who won't write down to you. Steven Moffatt's stories may have scared you, but don't hold that against him: he's also shown he'll give you the respect you deserve. And, I'm optimistic, give us the Doctor Who we want.