This is a travel-related website now. When I write up where we’ve been and the things we’ve seen and when I share photos of what we’ve experienced I hope to take the reader – who, is mostly just me (and that’s fine) – on a journey through time and space.
This is a travel-related website now. But it wasn’t always that way. If you turn that dial back a couple of years and then beyond that for another decade or more then it was, for me, an e/n site, and in the context of this definition of the term it probably still is. Still, my definition held that any post could be about anything. There was no central topic. It wasn’t a diary or a blog. There were stories. There were rants (that surprises you, I can tell). There were photoshopped photos for no real reason. There were reviews. Every post could be about everything and it could be about nothing. It was my place to leave my mark, however fleetingly, on the virtual world. It was a smaller virtual world back then and marks showed up more.
This is a travel-related website now. And I fancy a trip back in time with this post.
So, Doctor Who. Doctor. Who.
Doctor Who is science fiction but it’s also a travel-related TV programme. Each episode lets the writers show where the Doctor’s been and the things that have been seen and the visuals take us all on a journey through time and space.
I’m fond of science fiction. Always have been ever since two friends and I at primary school pretended we’d seen the same UFO and drew similar sketches in a diary detailing otherwise dull events during the summer holidays in order to get our teacher over-excited at the prospect of aliens potentially visiting Portsmouth in what was effectively a spinning top without the plunger arm.
“Boys, I’ve gathered you together so you can share more information about what you saw before we take this to the police. And the local newspaper. Or a national one. UFOs are important, after all. Maybe it will get picked up by The News of the World!”
“That’s okay, sir, I think the UFO left now anyway. It probably got scared off by that ghost in the bushes along Portsdown Hill which we also all saw at different times.”
Everyone’s got their Doctor. Mine is Tom Baker. That’s putting an approximate age to me but only if you don’t factor in me having seen them as repeats when I was older which I did but which isn’t relevant and is only included to muddy the waters somewhat. I also liked Sylvester McCoy. More honestly, I liked Ace played by Sophie Aldred because she was pretty and violent and those were characteristics that apparently appealed to me when I was as old as I was then. These days I’m more mature and know that looks aren’t everything. So long as she’s good in a fight then that’s good enough.
My wife’s good in a fight (and she’s bloody gorgeous). She once defended me from a lesbian with a solid left hook. That’s a boxing term used to describe what my wife did and not a physical description of the lesbian.
The lesbian had objected to me wanting to call a taxi for my drunk cousin because that’s the sort of thing that angries up the blood of a lesbian. Okay, there’s more to it than that but just think about the search engine hits now for people looking for lesbian blood. The lesbian was the daughter of a bisexual landlady of a pub where my drunk lesbian cousin had passed out and didn’t want a taxi reporting that her mum’s pub had served alcohol to someone taking a journey to the unconscious realm. The lesbian and bisexual pairing tried to wrestle my cousin off me using persuasive arguments to reason. The first argument was an attempt to punch me that missed. The second reasonable request came in the form of several repeated kicks to my thigh that ended up leaving deep bruising for months. I don’t know if all lesbians have strong legs but this one did. After my wife had punched the angry lesbian to the ground and I’d pushed the bisexual mother away from my wife in order to prevent retaliation – an action that led to the landlady falling onto the pavement followed by her leaping to her feet and rapidly banging on the building’s windows – there followed a sudden outpouring from the pub of its denizens who could be broadly categorised into one of two groups: furious lesbians in a cavalcade of clashing plaid patterns and apologetic gay guys muttering things like “Oh no, not again” and “They’re a bit fighty, we’re so, so sorry”. Forming a protective circle around us, the men promised to look after my cousin while threats against our persons flew in from outside the gay ring and a barman ran at us flapping a bar towel and shrieking “You’re barred! You’re barred!”
I was barred from another pub when I was younger. This was on a trip to Arundel and long before I’d met my wife so she wasn’t able to step in and deliver any defensive blows on my behalf. The landlord of this place got angry at our group of four having a quiet drink (seriously, we really were) and decided to follow us when we left before choosing me to push up against a wall and swear at us, telling us we were all barred for reasons not forthcoming. I guess I used to have the sort of face that encouraged angry barring from people who ran pubs. While my mates looked puzzled and did their best impressions of Italian Americans saying things like “Hey! Ey! Ooh! What’s-a matter you? Shaddap You Face!” I took offence at the metal bar that my head had come into contact with following my forced wall-based repositioning exercise and began some persuasive arguments to reason in order to be released. The result of this was a cut lip and torn NWA t-shirt for me and swelling that caused an eye to close for him. Oh, I wonder if he was racist rather than simply prone to explosive anger.
I liked my NWA t-shirt. It said (not literally) “Here’s a white guy who likes rap music by black guys using words white guys can’t use which means he’s awesome and cool and things” and it said that in bright pink lettering on black. It was one of my favourite t-shirts to wear at university. I can’t remember if I’d been wearing it when somebody at a London Posse gig I dragged my friends to decided white guys shouldn’t be there (including my four friends I think the number of white people totalled five) so he punched me. He might have been a pub landlord; I didn’t think to ask. Well, he tried to punch me, but it was a packed gig and it was hard to tell that was what was happening as I was crushed between several hundred people trying to bounce up and down in time to Jump Around (not the House of Pain version) and his punches were absorbed by the bodies in close proximity. I only worked out I’d been “attacked” when someone else punched him away and shrugged at me in a way that said “Sorry for this person’s dickish behaviour fellow music fan of this band performing under the name of London Posse, I can see you may or may not be wearing an NWA t-shirt depending on your memory which to me indicates you’re awesome and cool and things.”
Actually, I think I was wearing a Public Enemy top that night now I think about it. Blue, bright yellow logo. I tie-dyed it to demonstrate my individuality as well as my ability to read tie-dying instructions. A girl was so taken with it she asked me to swap tops with her at The Cavern Club in Liverpool and I said yes because I thought I might get to see her bra when she changed. I did. So she had my tie-dyed Public Enemy top on and I wore her James top. I hated James. We swapped tops back about a week later.
The person in our group who lived in Arundel and with whom we were staying came from a pretty well-off family. That’s par for the course in Arundel. Lovely castle in Arundel but this family didn’t live there. In the morning, during breakfast, their housekeeper came in (a housekeeper! I know!) and told us all about the horrible gang of ruffians who had lain in wait and beaten up the landlord of the local pub the night before. I tried not to draw too much attention to my bloodied face and ripped clothing while muttering what a terrible world we lived in where such things could happen.
“Are you still angry?” asked my wife.
“I’m furious,” I said. “There’s adrenalin coursing through my veins assuming that’s where adrenalin goes a-coursing. I can’t believe I’ve had to experience that!”
“It’s just a TV show. It’s late. You’ve got a meeting in the morning. Go to sleep.”
We’ve just binge-watched the latest season of Doctor Who.
In the past I would have said we’ve just watched the latest series of Doctor Who instead of season but American influence has played a part here in my choice of wording. I’m a software developer so I often use other American words like color instead of colour because of languages I work with, although only when speaking so it’s not really obvious to anyone else. But I know.
I’ve always liked Doctor Who. It’s not quite as good as Blake’s 7 in the wide, wide world of British science fiction but what is? Nothing is the answer. Still, it’s been something to be proud of when there’s very little else these days that makes you say “Yes! That’s come from this country and isn’t an immediate global embarrassment!”
So here’s what I really liked about the latest season of Doctor Who:
- The theme music. It’s always the same but it’s always slightly different for each Doctor and this is one of the better ones. The same can’t be said for the recent change in theme music on Mastermind because it doesn’t seem warranted until John Humphrys regenerates into someone who doesn’t make you want to punch the TV screen like an angry lesbian.
- The opening credits. Ooh! Swirly! Liquidy! Likey!
- The TARDIS. Forget it being bigger on the inside, it’s more beautiful on the inside. A little organic, a lot steampunk; loads to love there.
- Jodie Whittaker. She’s northern which instantly makes her likeable (Blackpool and Barnsley are the exceptions to the rule but you knew that). She has that quirky, joyful, sometimes befuddled inquisitiveness in her we last saw in Matt Smith’s Doctor that brings across that mild sense of alienness.
- Bradley Walsh. As we’re more used to seeing him host The Chase it was easy to forget he’s a really good actor. Some eyeball-moistening took place in some of those first episodes around Grace’s death.
- The morals. The underpinning of any good travel-related programme like Doctor Who are the morals. Whether it’s touching on racism or sexism or family disputes or the abuse of technology or sexuality or when not to bar people from pubs it’s an area that has always been at the heart of TV like this and this season has been great in that respect.
Two things about this season of Doctor Who made me angry. I know. Me. Gentle, calm me who wouldn’t get in a fight with anyone except for that time in that pub when I got barred and that other time in that pub when I got barred and that time at that gig when someone had a fight with me without my knowledge and that time in that nightclub when I threatened a band but didn’t get barred and that time when I had to be restrained at a restaurant because some git on another table was being noisy. It’s hard to believe but I was angry enough to go to bed angry and one thing I’ve learnt from years of marriage is that you never go to bed angry. Well, you do, but then you try to consider the remote possibility that your wife was right and you were wrong, dismiss it because you are never wrong, decide it’s worth pretending you were for an easy life, and be the first one to appear gracious and conciliatory.
The first anger-inducing thing was that bloody sonic screwdriver. That became very old very quickly. Want to see if a door is made of wood? Scan it with the sonic. Want to trace a phone call? Sonic. Want to block a portal to another dimension? Sonic time. Want to reprogram a robot? Sonic screwdriver is your friend. Want to turn the lights off? Sonic. I do that last one with my remote control when I don’t want to stand up because it’s just long enough to reach the switch from my chair if I stretch my arm and lean forward so that’s not a thing you need some high-tech piece of alien machinery for.
“Budget cuts are needed for the next season of Doctor Who. Ideas, anyone?”
“Is it season or is it series?”
“Season, Jenny. We’re pitching to the American market these days and we’ve got to get used to saying things like season and color.”
“What about setting more episodes in Sheffield?”
“We could do that. Cuts down on expensive special effects. And it’s close to Barnsley so the scary storylines pretty much write themselves. What else?”
“How about we get rid of all the main characters and just tape the sonic screwdriver to the top of a remote controlled car then let it do its scanny thing to drive around and solve all the problems itself?”
“Exciting new direction and cheap and fits in with most of the plots with hardly any editing! I like it! We could rebrand it Doctor What since it’s a thing now and not a human and the rapid movements and constant whining of the vehicle’s electric engine will appeal to the important demographic of people who like noises and fast stuff.”
“I don’t think the Doctor is a human actually.”
“We could get rid of Jenny.”
The second thing is the writing. I quite like writing. If you’ve ever read anything on this site by me – yeah, I know, but some people have – then you know I quite like getting those fingers typing in order to put into words the magical images that my brain paints inside my skull. When I look at many other travel-related websites like this then I see less writing so I know this view isn’t shared by everyone and that the world has taken a couple of hops to one side to express a preference for the visual forms of videos and photographs of people obscuring what’s possibly nice in the background in favour of their grinning faces further emblazoned with needlessly large captions and hilarious stickers in achingly bright tones remarking that the image is somehow “Sizzling!” or pleading with the viewer to hunt down a link in a bio to click through to a page with more photos similarly lacking content in the midst of text that’s been copied and pasted from press releases.
I’ve come to the conclusion that people who don’t like writing as much as I do probably don’t like blind people. That’s not backed up by much in the way of evidence but if you don’t like writing as much as I do then you’re probably not the sort to be persuaded by evidence anyway.
I quite like writing. I absolutely hated the writing on this Doctor Who season. It wasn’t that it was lazy in parts, although it was, but it was really, really bad too. Plot holes so big the entire episode was like standing in the centre of a plot caldera and just being able to glimpse the rim of a plot on the distant horizon. Stories that sprung a way to get out of the tricky scenario on the viewer 98% of the way into the episode making you wonder what the point of the preceding bit was or whether the spirit of Agatha Christie was haunting the writers room. Things that simply didn’t make any logical sense even allowing for the escape from reality that comes from travel-related and science fiction shows. So much exposition at times you felt that someone somewhere had ordered way too much of it off eBay and needed to justify the cost.
The episode The Witchfinders was so excruciatingly painfully written I’ve erased most of it from my mind. There were big hats in it and a king who’d happily spend most of his time surfing medieval porn manuscripts for Naked Nubian Knights if he wasn’t hunting down witches but the rest of it was just garbage. Mud tendrils that filled dead bodies because a tree was cut down on a hill that was housing alien prisoners who had stabbed a woman in a leg but now only wanted to get inside the king – something he’d probably have been fine with if the mud was a little darker – and had apparently been biding their time up until a critical mass of dead women had been buried nowhere near where the tree was chopped down which might have been explained but I’d become irate by this point and oh it was bad.
In The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos we got to meet the tooth-fetishist protagonist of the season’s opening episode once more and he was so utterly furious at not getting his tooth from that first outing for Jodie Whittaker that he planned to take out revenge on the planet Earth. It wasn’t top priority for him, though, as he’d taken revenge on several other planets first such as the planet where they gave him a wedgie and the planet where he got barred from a pub for something that wasn’t his fault and the planet with too many adverts on TV about the dangers of bleeding gums being signs of cancer when it was far more likely that people brushing their teeth just needed to be a little less enthusiastic about the whole process and perhaps consider softer bristles. That last planet is on my list too, to be fair.
The dialogue for the main characters was pretty decent. I’ve already said that Bradley Walsh might have had a few speeches here and there that preceded a little dabbing around the eyelids. And some of The Doctor’s science and big picture moralising was fairly well done too. The writers on Doctor Who didn’t have a big problem writing for nice people.
Writing for the baddies, though, could have come straight from The Big Book Of How Bad Guys Don’t Speak.
“I am a third of a Dalek and superior to you, puny Earth woman, and will control you completely with my squiddy limbs!”
“Aie! I am being controlled against my will!”
“Yes! My superiority is such that I feel the need to reiterate that my control over you is something you can’t fight against even though you’ll want to mention that you’re trying to!”
“You’re so right! I do want to fight against your control but I can’t because you are in complete control over me!”
“I am controlling you like a pilot controls a vessel, puny, pathetic lifeform.”
“Yes, I got that already. The simile seems unnecessary but you’re in charge, I guess.”
“Yes, I am in charge. Total charge. Could you bring up a web page that explains every secret about the planet while you’re there! I mean, I command you to follow my command. You are just a puppet.”
“And you’re the puppet master. I get it. That is very clear by this point. You. Control. Me. Understood.”
“I can pull your strings to make you do anything I want.”
“Yes, thank you for explaining the imagery of how puppets work and how a third of a squid worn like a rucksack is exactly the same thing.”
“I am also evil and intend to exterminate all life on the planet.”
“Enough already, oh super-controlling master of everything! Everyone knows that’s the goal of all puppet masters. Can you get on and give me a crash course in welding so I can build you something to wear from this set of alloys and empty tin of beans now?”
I travelled through time and space with The Doctor and I came back nearly boiling with fury under my skin because of the writers spoiling it all, doing stupid things that annoyed me, not keeping the stories tight, to the point, and well thought-through with believable enough events and sensible dialogue.
Still, no use getting too angry about it. My wife was right: it was late, I did have a meeting in the morning, and I did need to go to sleep.