Friday, 29 November 2013


Earlier this year, pictures were printed in the national press, showing "Domestic Goddess" Nigella Lawson and her now estranged husband, Charles Saatchi, sitting outside a restaurant.  That description sounds innocuous, doesn't it?  Perfectly harmless.  Untill you see the pictures.

I won't risk triggering abuse survivors by publishing them here - I suspect we've all seen them, anyway - but they did not depict a happy couple, enjoying a romantic lunch.  In one photograph, Saatchi appeared to have his hands around Nigella's neck and she wore a look of fear.  In another, he had his hand clamped over her mouth.  In a further picture, he appeared to be grabbing her by the nose.  In the shots of Nigella leaving the restaurant, she appeared visibly upset.  

A picture supposedly speaks a thousand words and these photos were positively screaming.  Viewing the photographs, it was hard to see Saatchi's behaviour as anything other than abusive.  Months later and in spite of Saatchi's flimsy "I wasn't strangling her; I was holding her head to make her focus" excuse, the pictures are still hugely uncomfortable viewing.

Following the publication of the pictures, Nigella maintained her silence on what had occurred (Saatchi, meanwhile, referred to it as a "playful tiff").  Divorce proceedings began.  Our sympathy went out to Nigella, as it rightly should.  Now however, two former employees of the couple are in court, facing accusations of theft/fraud, having spent thousands of pounds using company credit cards.  The resulting court case has given Saatchi a chance to speak out about his marriage and home life.  Or, to put it another way:  To discredit the woman he may very well view as having ruined his reputation (in spite of him having very much done that himself).

The two former employees have accused Nigella of having a serious drug habit and they say that she turned a blind eye to their credit card fraud, on the condition that they did not speak out about her addiction, especially to her husband.  This has given Saatchi the opportunity to show himself as a victim - a poor, distressed man, vehemently anti-drugs, who had to give up on his drug-addict wife, after she simply wouldn't stop using.

Here's the thing.  Abusers like to shame their victims as much as possible.  Public humiliation?  Bring it on.  Saatchi has already at best patronised and belittled his wife in public; why stop there?  Going along with the "Nigella is a druggie" line (no pun intended) gives Saatchi a way to make himself seem like he has the moral high ground.  That he did what he's shown to be doing in those photos out of frustration.  Because Nigella made him do it.  You've no idea how common an excuse that is.  How frequently abusers will deflect any responsibility for their words or actions onto their victims, rather than accept that their behaviour is a choice (which it is).  Unfortunately, abuse is almost a taboo subject in society and it's much easier for the public to swallow those excuses, than to accept that someone might be capable of mistreating those close to them.  Hence we get articles like this horrendous piece of victim-blaming from Allison Pearson, suggesting that if Nigella is a drug addict, then perhaps Saatchi is the real victim in all of this.

So let's ask ourselves that question, shall we?  If Nigella Lawson is a drug addict, does that make Charles Saatchi "the victim of an injustice?"

Short answer.

First things first - and I accept that without Nigella's confirmation, we can only say that her relationship with Saatchi might have been abusive, due to the photographs that seem to suggest as much - did you know that women in abusive relationships are up to NINE times more likely to succumb to some form of substance abuse?  The use of some form of drug - be it alcohol, pain killers or something stronger - is all too often a coping mechanism for those who endure physical violence or psychological abuse as part of a close relationship.

Secondly - and actually, more importantly - regardless of what drug habits a person might have, there is never, EVER an excuse for abuse.  I don't care whether Nigella Lawson had half of Columbia stuffed up her right nostril; Saatchi should never have had his hands around her neck, or his hand clamped over her mouth.  Sod "frustration" as an excuse - if you're frustrated, walk away.  Be - in your eyes - the bigger, better person.  Resorting to physical violence as a reaction to a person's drug use?  Not the answer.  Not even close to being the answer.

Not only did Saatchi's actions make him look bad, but his words are now making him appear emotionally abusive, too.  From making comments about Nigella's drug use just days ago, to casually admitting in court today that he has no evidence to back those comments up, he comes across as though he's simply trying to discredit his very famous, beautiful and popular wife.  

It has now also been made apparent that in October, Saatchi wrote a letter, threatening to sue his wife - who has maintained her silence on all things Saatchi - if she chose not to testify at the court proceedings against their former employees.  In the letter, Saatchi also refers to Nigella as possibly having "no recollection of events" regarding their former staff members, due to her heavy drug use.  Thus making her appearance at the trial rather useless, but let's not let that get in the way of a good threat, eh?

I have to say that I have no evidence beyond some photos printed in the national press, to prove that Saatchi is an abusive man.  I have no evidence that Nigella is or is not a drug addict.  But I can say with certainty that Saatchi's behaviour paints him in a very dim light.  Nigella - regardless of what substances she might have taken at any point in her life - did not deserve to have her neck squeezed, or a hand shoved across her mouth.  She has not made any public comments about her husband, or tried to discredit him in any way.  If she has an issue with drugs, then she deserves help to conquer that issue, rather than ridicule and yet more public humiliation.  If that accusation is proved to be unfounded, then I fear it says much more about Saatchi than it ever did about Nigella in the first place.

 I say this a lot, but it's worth repeating:  There's never an excuse for abuse and the victim is never to blame.  Whatever the real circumstances - whatever really happened between she and her estranged husband - Nigella deserves to be given some privacy and respect.

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Day of The Doctor - A review. Sssshhh, sweetie - SPOILERS!

From the very outset, The Day of The Doctor let us know that we were watching something special.  Something different and yet something oh so familiar.  The use of the original opening titles was an inspired choice and an oddly moving one, too.  In fact, this was just the first of many references to Doctor Who's long history.  So many nods to the past - not to mention fan in-jokes - were thrown in, that it was almost hard to keep up with them all!  From the scrap merchant's sign, to the school with a head teacher with the surname Chesterton, we immediately knew that this was an anniversary episode that wasn't going to shy away from the odd sentimental look back at the show's roots.

And once those credits are over with, we're on our way...

We find Clara, teaching at said school, before heading off on a motorbike to the TARDIS, where she's greeted by the Doctor.  But before they get much time to chat, the TARDIS is picked up by UNIT and carried across London as the more modern credits rolled...

He did his own stunts and yes, I fancy him even more now.

And then this appeared on screen and fan girls everywhere exploded.

As is so often the case with Doctor Who, there's no easy or quick way to sum up the plot.  Essentially, the Doctor is informed by UNIT that something strange is going on - paintings which once contained figures are now simply landscapes.  The Doctor sees one painting - called "No More," or "Gallifrey Falls" (there is confusion as to which is correct) - which causes him to think back to the day he ended the Last Great Time War, by killing all of the Time Lords and all of the Daleks.  His darkest day.  

We cut to the last day of the Time War and we see John Hurt's Doctor (aka The War Doctor), blasting the message "NO MORE" into a wall, before announcing that he's tired of the fighting and the endless misery and he intends to end it once and for all.  We discover that the Time Lords have a weapon known as "The Moment."  It's the most destructive, fearsome weapon of all, but is rumoured to have become sentient and gained a moral conscience of its own.  There is only one person mad enough to use it to end the Time War.  Anyone want to take a guess?!

Of COURSE it's John Hurt.  You don't mess with John Hurt!

Yes, the Doctor (or "War Doctor," whichever you prefer at this juncture) has decided to end the Time War by blowing everyone to bits.  It's what we've long believed him to have done, so it was interesting to see the thought process behind the decision played out on screen.  At this point, we also have Billie Piper back with us, too.  

Now, forgive me, oh Ten/Rose fans, for I am about to blaspheme.  I didn't really see the point in this.  Billie coming back for the anniversary was lovely and I'm glad she was there, but her role in this seemed a bit... Bizarre.  She played "The Moment" (or rather, its sentient conscience) and she explained that she had taken the form of someone important to the Doctor's future: Rose Tyler, or rather, Bad Wolf girl.  I guess the point she was making was that although the Doctor believed he'd die along with everyone else, she was proving he lived - as she was from his future - and she was trying to explain that he'd have to live with his decision for many, many years to come.  But this version of the Doctor didn't know Rose, or what "Bad Wolf" meant.  For the purpose of the story, anyone could have played the role of The Moment.  I guess what I'm saying is: it was really nice to see Billie back in Doctor Who.  It's just a shame that her role was somewhat strange and gave her no chance to interact with David Tennant whatsoever, which let's face it, a lot of fans were probably hoping for.

Still, at least we're saved snotty tears when they're parted.

Anyway, moving on...

The Rose Tyler Moment tells the Doctor that she's opening time windows on his future.  This way, he can see the consequences of his decision to end the Time War in such a blood-soaked manner.

Flashing forward to the present day again, we're back in the art gallery with sexy face.  I mean the eleventh Doctor, sorry.  He goes off to further explore the paintings, but as he leaves, one of UNIT's science boffins gets a call on his mobile phone.  We don't discover who this guy is talking to, or what the person on the other end of the phone is saying.  The science dude (hey, I have ALL the lingo) simply checks the identity of the caller and says "but that's not possible, I was just..." and then agrees to an unheard request, before asking: "But why would I take it there?"

Hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but here's my number, so call me maybe...

We follow the Doctor into another room, where he sees possibly my favourite painting ever:

I call this "Portrait of Tennant looking Ruff."  I'll be here all week.

As the eleventh Doctor looks at the painting, we're taken back to the Elizabethan era, where the tenth Doctor is sharing a romantic picnic with Elizabeth 1st herself.  Yes, Whovians.  This is Tennant's return and he does it in style - shooting out of the TARDIS on a white horse (nice little nod to his leaping through the mirror on horseback in The Girl In The Fireplace), yelling "Allons-y!"  Having previously made light of a dalliance with the virgin queen, the 50th anniversary episode clarifies the tenth Doctor's relationship with her somewhat; it would appear that they've had rather more than a casual fling; indeed, as the episode progresses, they end up married.  What WOULD River Song say?!

Ten has invented "a machine that goes DING."

Anyway, Ten accuses the Queen of being a zygon, which does sort of put a bit of a downer on their romantic picnic.  Especially when the real zygon - a shapeshifting alien with suckers all over it - sexy - turns out to be his trusty steed.  Yep; the horse is the alien, not the Queen.  Have fun backtracking, Ten.  Still, it leads to one of the many laugh out loud lines from the episode.  As the Doctor and the Queen rush away from the scene, he explains to her that they're being chased by a shapeshifting alien that was disguised as his horse.  The Queen replies: "What does that mean?!"  To which Ten quips back: "It means we're going to need a new horse!"

Following a confrontation with a bunny rabbit (look, you're going to have to watch the episode if you want all the details..), the Doctor realises there are two versions of the Queen and now one of them really is a zygon.  Before anyone can say "threesome," however, one of the time windows sent out by The Moment (I don't know about anyone else, but I'm keeping "The Moment" as Billie Piper's wrestling name) opens up and ooooh, we're getting close to Smennant time, because a Fez falls out of it.

Meanwhile, back in the present day, Eleven and Clara are being taken into the vaults of the gallery, to be shown artwork that Elizabeth 1st deemed too dangerous to be displayed in public.  Eleven comments that the floor is covered with stone dust and treats us to the insight that he has never stepped in anything that wasn't important.  As an aside, do they have dogs on Gallifrey? Do they have dog poo bins?  Juuuuust wondering...  Anyway, he takes a female scientist named Osgood, who just happens to be wearing a Tom Baker scarf, to one side and asks to have the stone dust analysed.

"Are you science-y?" "Yes!" "Do you have a name?" "Yes!" "Good, I've always wanted to meet someone called Yes."

Eleven then winks at "Yes" and causes her to have an asthma attack.  Therefore, I can only assume that her character was based on me.  Because if Matt Smith winked at me, I'd be sucking on that Ventolin for days.

Fez?  Check.  Bow tie?  Check.  Face that makes Emma go wibbly?  CHECK.

The Doctor and Clara examine some paintings that once held figures, but which are now empty landscapes.  The Doctor explains that the shatter pattern of the glass on the floor shows that the figures must have broken out of the paintings somehow.  Just as they're leaving, World Wrestling Champion Billie "The Moment" Piper opens another of her time windows and the Doctor decides, as you do, to chuck his fez through it, before leaping through it himself whilst shouting "geronimo," because this is the 50th anniversary and we have a checklist of very important references and catchphrases to get through.

Brace yourselves, everyone.  It's Smennant time.

That sound you can hear?  Fangirls squeeing.

Eleven bursts into Ten's world (not a euphemism) and immediately the pair start sizing one another up.  Eleven annouces that Ten is so thin, "it's like a special effect," whilst Ten suggests that with his larger sonic screwdriver, Eleven might be overcompensating for something... "Regeneration.. It's a lottery."

The Doctors soon realise that the time window only allows for travel one way.  Although they can hear Clara's voice, when Eleven tries to throw her his fez (again, not a euphemism), it doesn't reach her.  Instead, we discover that it has reached John Hurt's version of the Doctor, back on Gallifrey.  Most well travelled headgear in the universe?  Quite probably.  The War Doctor (as he has been referred to) decides to jump through the time window to find his future self, in order to discover what will happen to him if he survives blowing up his own race (as well as the Daleks) and is forced to become the last of his kind.  Upon finding Smennant in the forest, he announces that he's looking for the Doctor and asks whether they're his companions.  It's a question that goes down very well, as you can see:


Hurt's War Doctor can barely believe the youthfulness of his future selves, but their encounter is cut short by the arrival of the Queen (zygon) and her royal guards.  She instructs them to take all three Doctors prisoner and send them to the tower, at which point Smennant whip out their sonic screwdrivers (alas, again not a euphemism) and wave them at the guards, causing Hurt to yell: "Again with the pointing?!  They're screwdrivers, what do you think you're going to do?  Build a cabinet at them?!"  

Eleven seems rather pleased about the idea of being taken to the tower.  Naughty, naughty boy...  sorry, that's my filthy mind again.

The three Doctors (Smennurt?) are taken to the Tower of London, where Ten mocks Eleven's chin (shut up, Ten; I may love you, but I also love that chin, got it?!), before pondering the serious business of why they're all together.

Meanwhile, back in the art gallery, Osgood, or as I shall call her from now on, Tom Baker Scarf Girl (shut up, it's late and I'm tired), has been analysing the stone dust that Eleven told her to investigate.  She realises it's comprised of the materials used to make the statues they keep down in the vaults, where she's currently working.  Lo and behold, as she glances around the room, she suddenly works out that the shrouded figures around her aren't statues.  They're the zygons who escaped from the paintings.  Eeeeek!  The zygons do what they do - shapeshift into the bodies of Tom Baker Scarf Girl and her colleague and escape.  

Not far away, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (daughter of the late Brigadier) is at the Black Archive - a place where the keep all the most dangerous weapons and secret stuff (conveniently situated at the Tower of London) - with Clara.  She knows that the Doctor will have left a message for them in the Tower, which will help them get him back to the present day.  So THAT'S why he was so glad to be being taken there.  Bugger, bang goes my Naughty Doctor In a Dungeon fantasy..  Anyway, Kate explains to Clara that the work done by UNIT is so top secret that all staff have their memories erased at the end of every shift, to keep things confidential.  They have Automated Memory Filters in the ceiling, or something.  I've distracted myself with my own dungeon fantasy and I really MUST get back on track...

Kate shows Clara a Vortex Manipulator, bequeathed to the archive by the late, great Jack Harkness (I would've loved to have seen him in this episode - Captain Jack with TWO Doctors to flirt with?!).  She explains that it needs a special code to make it work and sure enough, clever old Eleven has carved it into the walls of the Tower, where he's imprisoned back in the 1500's.  It's still legible in the present day and Kate receives a picture message with the code.  However, just as Clara is looking forward to them rushing off to save the Doctor(s), Kate and her colleagues turn into zygons.  Bugger.

Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me...

Clara nabs Kate's phone and quickly taps the activation code into the Vortex Manipulator and suddenly, I'm seeing why John Hurt found the language of Doctor Who a bit of a mouthful...

Meanwhile, back in the tower, our three Doctors are having a good old chin wag about the Time War.  It's not exactly a chirpy little chit chat, given that Ten and Eleven are still bearing the heavy guilt of having killed their own people in order to save the universe.  The conversation gives everyone plenty of chance to look broody and dark, which we love a bit of in Doctor Who.


In all seriousness, the revelation of how heavily the burden of responsibility weighs on both Ten and Eleven's shoulders is really beautifully played, here.  Especially when John Hurt's Doctor asks Eleven whether he knows how many children were on Gallifrey the day it burned and he insists he's forgotten, only for Ten to recall the exact number.  We see how each Doctor has dealt with the consequences of his former self's actions in different ways and we also witness the effect that seeing this has on John Hurt's Doctor.  At this point, after all, he hasn't pushed the button to blow up Gallifrey, yet.  This is something of a Christmas Carol situation, in which he's seeing the ghost of Doctors yet to come.  Billie "The Moment" Piper reminds "The War Doctor" that the two men he sees before him - one burning with regret and the other trying to run from his own past - are both future versions of himself.  If he doesn't like what he sees, he has to remember that he created it by pushing the button to end the Time War.  She tells him it's not too late to change his mind and not sacrifice the Time Lords.

Whilst he's mulling things over, the War Doctor realises that if all three of them work together, they can sonic open the door and break out of their prison.  Of course, at this moment, Clara waltzes in - the door had never been locked; none of the Doctors had thought to check.  Just goes to show that even Time Lords can be pretty dim, sometimes.

Back in the present day, Tom Baker Scarf Girl (I've called her that so many times now that it has BECOME her name) is still alive and she manages to rescue the real Kate Lethbridge-Stewart.  They head to the Black Archive together, intending to kick some serious zygon arse.

Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth 1st has managed to kill her zygon twin and is back with the Doctors and Clara.  We see things called Time Cubes, which contain little snippets of history, ready to be unleashed at any point.  Elizabeth explains that the zygons have been hiding in paintings for centuries, waiting for the Earth to be worth conquering.  They need a new home, having lost theirs in the Time War.  Eleven compares them to Cup-a-Soup - all ready for action, but instead of water, just add time.  Mmm, yummy.

We have a brief scene in which Ten marries Queen Elizabeth 1st and John Hurt's Doctor watches the couple lock lips, before asking Eleven whether there's "a lot of this stuff in the future?"  Eleven tells him "it does start to happen, yeah..."

"The round things!  I LOVE the round things!"

The gang then return to the TARDIS.  It's Ten's version, the decor of which Eleven refers to as "his grunge phase; he grows out of it..."  However, the TARDIS is unhappy with having three different versions of the Doctor on board and is having trouble stabilising.  The interior becomes a cross between Ten's, Eleven's and William Hartnell's, prompting Eleven to excitedly point out the return of "the round things!"  Of course, once it changes back to Eleven's familiar decor, Ten can't resist pointing out: "You've redecorated!  I don't like it."  Everyone is all set to return to the National Gallery, until Clara tells them that the zygons are at the Black Archive.  This prompts all three Doctors to do their best "I AM DEEPLY CONCERNED BY THIS INFORMATION" face.

"Say whaaaaaat?!"

Back at the Black Archive, it's pretty much Christmas for the zygons, as they see the enormous stash of weaponry that's stored in the vaults.  Unfortunately for them however, the real, human versions of the forms they stole (Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and her team) are about to appear, like an unwelcome sprout in your Christmas dinner (I actually bloody love sprouts and now I feel peculiarly unfaithful to them, thanks to that analogy).  Real Kate and Zygon Kate sit down to debate who gets to take command of the world - humans or zygons - and real Kate starts a countdown which will lead to the destruction of the whole of London, unless the zygons retreat before it hits zero. 

Suddenly, we hear Eleven's voice - don't ask me to explain how he can be listening in to their conversation, because it's... Sciencey-wiencey stuff that's actually quite easy to explain when you're not shattered, but I am shattered.  Why?  Because I was up until 3am last night, making a spoof Doctor Who episode involving Barbie dolls and Action  Man.  Don't ask, but feel free to find me on YouTube (mrsmanics - go, fill your boots).  Anyway, he and Ten plead with Kate not to sacrifice so many lives, even for the greater good, because it's not a decision she'll ever be able to live with.  We see again that what John Hurt's Doctor is planning to do has affected Ten and Eleven (just as it did Nine) even more than we have been shown up to this point.  It's another chance for the War Doctor to reconsider his plans to blow Gallifrey out of the sky in order to end the Time War.

Eleven is desperately trying to land the TARDIS in the Black Archive, but can't - the archive is TARDIS-proofed.  Those pesky UNIT guys!  *shakes fist*  Then the War Doctor remembers the time cubes from earlier and suggests that they don't need to land.  CUP-A-SOUP!

This makes Eleven very happy.  Which makes ME very happy, because LOOK AT HIM.

We cut back to that earlier scene in the gallery.  Remember the guy who had that mysterious phone call, just as the Doctor was leaving the room?  Well, we get to hear the other half of the conversation.  It's Eleven, calling from the TARDIS.  He tells the guy to have the painting - "No More" or "Gallifrey Falls" - taken from the gallery to the Black Archive.

Thanks to the time cube, the three Doctors are now inside the painting, just waiting for the time to be right to break out.  Together, they blast a Dalek, which causes an explosion and sends them all flying out into the room.  Zygon Kate and real Kate are pretty stunned by this and to be fair, that's understandable.  Nobody has ever come jumping out of a picture at me, before.  I'm pretty sure if they did, I'd be a teensy bit freaked out.  Well... Depending on who the picture was of...

There's a chance I'd be pretty cool with this scenario.

With a bit of sonic screwdriver action, the Doctors put those Automated Memory Filters in the ceiling to good use, wiping the memories of all the zygons and humans in the room, so that nobody knows which race they belong to, anymore.  This causes both Kates to stop the countdown towards the destruction of London and, seeing as nobody can be sure who the enemy is anymore, it provides an opportunity for a peace treaty between the races.  Essentially, they all agree to let zygons be zygons.  Oh come on, of course I was going to use that line.

Whilst everyone is preoccupied with the plans for peace, Clara decides to have a heart to heart with the War Doctor and she tells him how much Eleven regrets taking the decision to wipe out the Time Lords.  The War Doctor responds by pointing out how many lives that regret has saved.  How many worlds still exist because the Doctor went on to survive the Time War and used his own, terrible experiences to encourage him to help others.  He sees "The Moment" lurking in the background and tells her he's seen as much of his future as he needs and he's ready to make his decision.  Clara turns to see who he's talking to, but she sees nothing and when she turns back, the War Doctor is gone.

Back on Gallifrey, alone with "The Moment," the War Doctor prepares to push the button that will obliterate his own people, in order to bring the Time War to a close.  He explains that the men he now knows he will one day become are far greater than he is. "The Moment" reminds him that he is the Doctor, just as they are. He doesn't believe her, so she tells him that the wheezy sound that the TARDIS makes brings hope to everyone who hears it.  He agrees.  And that is, of course, when we hear it.

Did anyone call for a Doctor?!

Ten and Eleven (and Clara) arrive and remind John Hurt that he's more of a Doctor than either of them, because he tried to do the right thing on a day when it was impossible to get it right.  They show him that they've not come to judge him, but to support him in a moment too awful to go through alone.  With three hands on the big red button (one from each Doctor; John Hurt doesn't have three arms, don't worry), the scene is set for the destruction of the Time Lords and an end to the last great Time War.  That is, until Eleven spots that Clara is crying and feels compelled to ask her what the matter is.  She explains that although she knew the Doctor sacrificed his own people in order to save the universe, she never pictured him doing it.

"The Moment" projects an image of what's happening away from where the three Doctors are - children are crying, families are fleeing in terror.  Clara reminds Eleven: "These are the people you're going to burn."  He tells her that there's no other way - there never was.  Clara tells the three to look at themselves: "The warrior, the hero and you."  Eleven asks what his role is and she tells him to do what he has always done: "Be a Doctor."  She asks him to remember why he chose the name "The Doctor" - it was a promise he made to himself.  What was that promise? Ten recalls:  "To never be cruel or cowardly."  John Hurt's Doctor adds: "Never give up and never give in."

With the projection faded and the red button back in sight, the three Doctors consider their options.  Ten asks Eleven: "You're not seriously suggesting changing our history are you?"  To which Eleven responds: "We change history all the time!  I'm suggesting something far worse."  Zapping the red button away with his sonic screwdriver, he tells them: "Gentlemen... I've changed my mind."

Is there ANYTHING that screwdriver can't do, besides get through wood?!

When Ten panics that there are still "a billion, billion Daleks out there," waiting to continue the Time War, Eleven points out that there's something they don't realise - this time, there are three Doctors hatching a plan.
With all three suddenly thinking about the same as-yet unspoken plan, John Hurt's Doctor realises that "The Moment" showed him the exact future he needed to see, in order to make the right choice.  He declares "Bad Wolf girl, I could kiss you!" prompting a rather lovely look of recognition from Ten, who can't see "The Moment" behind him.

"Keep your hands off, Hurt."

The three Doctors announce to the higher council of Time Lords that they have a "pretty terrible plan."  They fly their three, respective TARDISes into Gallifrey's lower atmosphere, to be positioned at equidistant intervals around the planet.  They're going to freeze Gallifrey in a time cube; one moment, suspended in time, ready to be released some day, if possible.  The Time Lords will be trapped in that one moment, but they'll be alive.  Suddenly, we see not just the three Doctors, but all of his incarnations, joining together as one to save their race.  This prompts one of the senior Time Lords to gasp, upon hearing that every version of the Doctor is working as one to save Gallifrey: "All twelve of them!"  At which point, THIS happens:

"No, Sir!  All THIRTEEN."


We get our second "geronimo" of the episode (and seeing as my beloved Matt is regenerating at Christmas, he can say that as much as he bloody well likes), as well as our second "allons-y" from Ten.  Then, in rather moving scenes, every incarnation of the Doctor joins together to try to freeze Gallifrey in time, in order to save the billions of lives that would've been lost had the big, red button been pushed.

Next thing you know, we're back at the National Gallery and all three Doctors have parked their TARDISes and are drinking tea, in what is possibly the most British scene ever to grace a television screen:

Seriously, we just needed a queue of people, complaining politely about the weather, to complete the look.

The Doctors muse over whether they'll ever know if their plan succeeded and Ten and Eleven turn their attention back to the painting seen at the beginning of the episode - "No More," or "Gallifrey Falls."  John Hurt tells Ten and Eleven he is now the Doctor again, no more the War Doctor, before stepping into his own TARDIS, where he promptly regenerates into Christopher Eccleston.

He asked for "less conspicuous ears."  Don't think so, mate...

That just leaves Ten and Eleven to share an emotional goodbye.  And it's at this point that I want to say that I would pay large, large sums of money (if I had any) to see these two in a series together.  I mean, really.  David Tennant and Matt Smith are such phenomenal actors that I'd happily watch them in pretty much anything alone, but together?!  The chemistry is just immense; the way they bounce off one another makes you want to dive into the screen and join in.  It's an infectious form of joy to watch them together.  Please, please, please, someone write something for them to be in together.  Don't make me do it.  Honestly, please don't; it'd be far too homoerotic and I'd cast myself in it, just for good measure, too.

Anyway, before he heads off, Ten asks Eleven where the future is headed.  Eleven admits that he has seen Trenzalore and that that is where they end up.  As he's getting into his TARDIS, Ten glances over his shoulder and says... Wait for it... "I don't want to go."

*applause*  Well played, Moffat.  Well played.

This of course, prompts Eleven to quip: "He always says that," ensuring the moment is amusing, rather than mawkish.  It's actually one of my favourite exchanges of the whole episode.

Clara offers to give Eleven "a moment alone with your painting," but not before reminding him that she always knows how he's feeling/what he's thinking, which I will admit, irked me because NOBODY is meant to know the Doctor better than River Song, if you ask me.  You're impossible already, Clara.  Don't try to be his wife, as well.  He apparently already has two, now.

Eleven is left to gather his thoughts and muses aloud that he'd quite like to retire and become the curator of a gallery like the one in which he's sitting.  As he does, an oh so familiar voice booms: "You know, I really think you might."

Just hearing the voice made me want to either cry with emotion or scream with glee.  Still unsure which.

Yes, "The Curator," the name Eleven fancied giving himself, appears to the Doctor and he is none other than our very own fourth incarnation of the Time Lord - Tom Baker.  The Doctor, rather overwhelmed, tells him that he never forgets a face and the pair speak about the idea of revisiting some of his previous faces in the years to come, but "only the old favourites." 

Oh and that painting?  The one nobody really knew the name of; either "No More" or Gallifrey Falls?"  We're told to put the two options together.  The title of the painting is "Gallifrey Falls No More."  The Doctors' plan succeeded - the Time Lords are still out there, somewhere.

 Eleven asks him if he's supposed to go searching for Gallifrey now, at which point The Curator says "I can only tell you what I'd do if I were you... Ha!  If I were you; perhaps I was you, of course.  Perhaps you're me."  And lo, the fandom exploded with the awesomeness. 

I need a moment to drink in this scene.  It's too much to be gulped down; you have to sip it.

Of course, the "perhaps you'll revisit a few old faces" remark, as well as the fact that Tom Baker appears to be back, living a life that involves him growing old, has led to a frenzy of speculation as to whether the Doctor could, sort of, degenerate back into a previous incarnation.  That's a thought that I would love to be true.  But it's also a discussion for another blog.

Following their brief, but amazing time together, The Curator disappears and Eleven goes back into the TARDIS.  He tells us that Clara sometimes asks him if he dreams - "of course I dream; everybody dreams" - and he explains that he dreams about where he's going.  As he's talking, he walks out of the TARDIS and towards a line of people, waiting with their backs to him.  Yep, hankies at the ready...

He tells us that he has a new dream now: He's going home.  The long way round.

Perfect.  This ending?  Bloody perfect.

And that's that.  Eleven, who we know we're going to lose at Christmas (I think I need to be quite, quite drunk to get through that episode), joins the illustrious brigade of Doctors who've come before him and the potential quest for Gallifrey in series 8 is set up rather beautifully.  Interestingly, I've spent this entire blog calling Matt "Eleven," when the inclusion of John Hurt in the end credits makes it pretty clear that he's actually "Twelve."  But don't mess with my head.  It's really late and he'll always be Eleven to me.

At this point, I want to say a soppy thank you to everyone involved in Doctor Who.  Not just those involved in this episode, but I mean everyone.  From the brave, determined team back in 1963, to the gang behind the show's triumphant return in 2005.  From every single runner, camera operative, make up artist and sound engineer, to each and every actor who has taken on that iconic, title role.  Thank you.  For making us laugh.  For making us cry.  For maybe teaching us a thing or two along the way.  Thank you.

Oh and Matt Smith has said he'd quite like to be in the 60th anniversary in ten years' time.  Make that happen for me, please Moff.  Cheers. ;-)

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Doctor Who's 50th anniversary: Happy Birthday, Sweetie. ;-)

Ladies and gentlemen, let me explain something.  I am a geek.  I am a nerd.  I am proud.  I've no shame in any of my obsessions or any of my eccentricities.  And I am currently loving the chance to openly bask in the glow of one of my biggest loves.   You see, dear readers; I am a Whovian.

Posting pictures in this blog is basically my excuse to geek out.

Doctor Who, a sci-fi show about a Timelord, travelling the universe in a blue police box that's bigger on the inside, first aired on November 23rd 1963.  This Saturday, a special episode will be broadcast to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary.  And what a fifty years it's been!  We've had eleven different Doctors, thanks to the character's ability to regenerate and subtly cheat death.  We've had a veritable army of aliens and monsters - Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels, to name just three.  We've had an endless parade of companions, from the mild-mannered, to the bolshy and impossible.  The show just keeps on going and keeps on growing, with ever more intricate plotlines and an army of devoted fans, desperate to work out what's going to happen next.  With TV and radio dedicating special shows to celebrate the 50th anniversary, I felt I had to hop on board and write something that explains why I love the show so much.

It's NOT only because of this guy.  He's just a bonus... ;-)

I'll hold my hands up:  I'm something of a nuWho fan.  By that, I mean that although I can name every actor who has ever played the Doctor and although I've seen a few classic episodes from 1963 onwards (and enjoyed them and fully plan to watch more) as well as Paul McGann's appearance as the Doctor in 1996 (and enjoyed that, too), it wasn't until 2005, having decided - on something of a whim - to settle down in front of the TV and watch the first episode of the brand new series, that I became almost instantly obsessed.

The Doctor was, in my eyes, a passionate, slightly dark but ultimately heroic character, who could turn on a sixpence; he was excitable one minute, intense the next.  I never quite knew what he'd do in any given moment and I loved it.  I loved his enthusiasm for all things new.  I adored his determination to try to do the right thing, however hard it might be.  I loved his justifiable anger towards his enemies, yet his compassion for those who needed his help.  I found myself wishing that he was real, so I could hop into the TARDIS and go on my very own adventure.  Christopher Eccleston, who played the 9th incarnation of the Doctor, had a way about him that made you feel as though no matter what battle was raging, no matter what terrible danger presented itself, he'd keep you safe.

He had cropped hair and a leather jacket, for goodness sake.

I'll level with you.  I've had my days when life has gotten me down.  When all I can think about is how nice it would be to just go away somewhere, where nobody could possibly find me.  To venture into a place that's totally undiscovered and feel like it's just mine.  Suddenly, here was a TV show that allowed characters to do just that.  Through the Doctor's human companion, Rose, I could imagine a life in which I could explore the entire universe, or go backwards or forwards in time.  It was pure, unadulterated escapism.  It was - and always has been - a wonderful piece of fantasy.  The idea that the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) could just appear and you could go dashing off to fight aliens or explore Victorian London and still be back home in time for tea hit all of my geeky, dreamer buttons in one go.

By the end of the first new series of Doctor Who, I was hooked.  I was in for a shock, though.  I knew that the Doctor could regenerate - that he could replace all of the cells in his body with fresh ones and change completely, yet somehow still be the same person at heart.  But I didn't think he'd be doing it quite so soon.  Not when I'd only just fallen for him, with his intense manner and childlike curiosity!  But that's exactly what happened, right at the end of that series.  As was befitting for an alien with a soft-spot for humankind, the Doctor sacrificed himself to save Rose and as the credits rolled, another man was standing where Christopher Eccleston had been.

He had new teeth.

This was when I learnt an important lesson about loving the show.  You fall in love with the Doctor.  And you do that for one reason:  BECAUSE HE IS AWESOME.  He's lived for hundreds of years (I believe he's 1200 now), he's ridiculously intelligent, brilliantly eccentric, hugely compassionate (but you wouldn't want to cross him) and there's certainly never a dull moment when he's around.  So of course you fall a little bit in love with him.  And then something terrible happens and he has to regenerate.  Suddenly he has a new face.  A new wardrobe.  New personality traits.  He's the same man, but... Different.  And you hate him a little bit for not being the Doctor you loved so much.  You wonder if you'll ever learn to love this new version as much as the old.  Time goes on.  New adventures happen.  The Doctor saves the day again and again.  We learn new things about him and yet realise there's much that's still a mystery.  We laugh, we cry and suddenly we realise:  We're a little bit in love with the Doctor.  He's awesome.  We want to run away with him in the TARDIS.  ...And then something terrible happens and he has to regenerate and the whole process starts again.  

This is pretty much my way of admitting that my first word when David Tennant appeared on screen was: "NOOOOOooooOOOOooooOOOOoo!"  And then I actually watched him as the Doctor and he was witty and brave and sensitive and clever and full of energy...  So much so, that when he regenerated into Matt Smith, all I said was... Well, actually, I don't remember whether I said anything.  I was too busy crying my eyes out and wondering how my beloved show would ever survive his loss.  I do remember not really giving poor Matt Smith a chance; I was devastated.  My Doctor was gone - how dare this floppy haired boy take his place?!  And then I watched Matt's Doctor and he was funny, eccentric, bright, thoughtful, emotional and enthusiastic... All of which is why, come Christmas Day, I'll watch Matt Smith regenerate into Peter Capaldi and I'll sob my heart out, wondering HOW Capaldi can possibly take his place?!

Oh, Raggedy Man...

That's the thing.  Doctor Who plays with your emotions.  It's a show that reels you in and encourages you to form a bond with the characters on screen.  If I had a pound for every time I've been reduced to tears whilst watching the show... Well, I could buy that TARDIS onesie I'm after, for a start.

I sobbed when the Doctor and Rose were parted after she became trapped in an alternate universe.  My heart broke when the Doctor had to erase Donna's memories of her time with him.  I wept like a baby when the tenth Doctor gave his life for Donna's grandfather, Wilf.  I cried when a Weeping Angel killed Rory, prompting Amy to make the heartbreaking decision to sacrifice herself rather than live without him.  For a show about an alien, Doctor Who doesn't half tackle some very human issues:  Love, loss, survival against all odds and the power of friendship, to name but a few.

Perhaps that's what I really love about the show.  It may be escapism, it may be fantasy, but there's a big injection of realism in there.  It's a show that's not afraid to give you a gut-punch of emotion along with all the aliens and heroics.  

And speaking of heroics, the hero of the show is himself flawed.  He shows a darker side from time to time.  He is haunted by his own past actions - there are some things he can't bring himself to talk about.  And he doesn't always get things right.  He makes mistakes and in spite of being from the planet Gallifrey, that makes him seem endearingly human.  I honestly don't think the show would work as well if the Doctor was perfect.  Seeing his flaws, watching him make the wrong choice now and again... That makes him a person we can identify with.  If the Doctor isn't perfect, then it's okay that we aren't, either.  

He's NOT perfect.  He just comes pretty close...

Of course, regardless of his flaws, we always root for the Doctor.  We know that he's on the side of good.  We know that whatever errors of judgement he makes, whatever he gets completely wrong, he'll always come through in the end.  And even when he makes mistakes, we know it's usually not for want of doing all he can for whoever he's trying to save.  The Doctor sees the value in everyone (as the 11th said: "I've never met anyone who wasn't important") and he's almost always willing to do his best for those he comes into contact with, whether he's known them for five minutes or five years.  His hearts (no, that's not a spelling error, non-Whovian readers) are usually in the right place.

I could go on and on about my love for this character, this show and everything that surrounds it.  But I won't.  Partly because there are just no words for my devotion to it.  And partly because I need to avoid simply posting pictures of Matt Smith and sighing at my laptop screen in a lustful haze.

Instead, I'll leave you with some YouTube clips of a few of my favourite recent moments from the series and I'll raise a bowl of fishfingers and custard (with a packet of Jelly Babies for pudding) and say "here's to the next 50 years."  GERONIMO!!

The Eleventh Doctor makes a passionate speech - yes this is a fan video; couldn't find the original!

The Ninth Doctor meets an enemy he thought he'd long defeated.

Alas, I couldn't find this full scene, but here's the tenth Doctor facing his own death.

PS. I'm leaving it at those three, not because I don't have other favourite moments, but because it's a PAIN trying to find them on YouTube and I want to go to sleep and dream of being swept away on a glorious adventure by a mad man with a box.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Gender Stereotypes: Why I don't get the "joke."

I have a sense of humour.  I spent a great many years with live stand up comedy as my number one hobby; I'd travel all over the place going to gigs, just to be entertained by a man or a woman with a microphone.  I still love live comedy with a passion, even though I don't get to indulge that love as often these days.  But today I stumbled upon a "joke" about the differences between men and women and I've got to say...  I'm not laughing.

That's a joke that's both funny AND cute.  See!  THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE.

The hilarious joke in question was essentially a collection of pictures with captions, showing how hilariously different men and women are.

Before I go any further, let me clarify:  We are different.  And some of those differences are hilarious.  When pointed out properly.  By someone genuinely witty.

This, however, was just a list of meaningless gender stereotypes, some of which bordered on being outright offensive.  One of the first images was of two groups of friends out to lunch.  One group was female, the other male.  The caption for the female picture said: "Female friendships last 2-3 years."  The male one read: "Male friendships last forever."

Here I am with my best friend, Lydia.  We've been friends for 6-7 years so far.

My fabulous friend Kirstie and me.  We must have known one another a decade, or at least almost that long.

And here I am with my fellow Whovian, Rachel.  We've been friends  for 15 years.

See where I'm going with this?!  It would appear that the "joke" is that women are flighty; we don't have long-lasting friendships, possibly due to all that bitching we do, or how easily bored we get... Ooh, is that something pink and shiny??!!  It's simply not true.  Until two years ago, I was still friends with someone I'd known since I was 11.  The idea that girls just fall in and out of friendships like fashion fads is just as dumb as the suggestion that all male friendships last forever.  Of course they don't!  Life can change and alter us as people and that in turn affects our friendships.  What I'm saying is:  Men and women may be different in a lot of ways, but we're equally capable of fostering a friendship that lasts longer than one of Katie Price's marriages.  Oooh, there's that bitching.  We are awful.

The next "joke" on the list was that women take group photos where we are always touching one another in a faux-sexual manner and pulling duck-faced pouts, whereas men just smile cheerily for the camera, like the bloody decent fellows they are.

Oh bugger.  We missed the memo.  We're doing femininity WRONG.

Again, this "joke" targets the stupid idea that all women play on their sexuality at all times.  That charming scent that's wafting through your nostrils right now?  It's bullshit.  Sure, we can vamp it up if we want.  But do we do it constantly?  Is it our instant go-to state when a camera is produced?  Hell no.  A lot of the women I'm closest to have to be persuaded to uncover their faces when I whip my camera out, such is their hatred of having pictures taken.  The only time I've ever pulled a duck-face is when taking the piss out of people who do duck-faces in photos...  Maybe they're only pulling them to take the piss out of people who make duck-faces and we're all trapped in some sort of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, duck-face vortex?!  SEND FOR THE DOCTOR.

Any excuse...

Another "joke" was that men consider themselves to be successful if they make more money than they can spend.  And that women consider themselves a success if they find that kind of man and marry him.  Hey guys; my time machine works!  It's 1929!  

Except it's 2013 and I don't know a single woman (or a married one, for that matter) who would consider that to be the pinnacle of success.  Making her own way in her chosen career and enjoying a shed-load of cash that she earned?  Maybe.  But this outdated idea that women are simply seeking a wealthy guy to leech off for the rest of her days is not only a bit of a slap in the face to us, but to men as well.  Do we want decent guys to genuinely panic that we're after their wallet?  Hell no.  And for what it's worth, as far as I'm concerned, the size of a man's vocabulary is worth much more than the size of his bank balance.  Which is why if I met anyone from TOWIE, however loaded they may be, I'd run, screaming for the hills, throwing copies of the Oxford English Dictionary over my shoulder.

Then there was the part where the "joke" pointed out that men go to bed and wake up looking the same, whereas women reach the end of the day with make up on and hair still nice, then wake up looking - shock, horror - LESS THAN PERFECT.  Here's the thing:  You might think I'm having a sense of humour failure on this one, but we live in a society where women are expected to look a certain way.  Celebrity magazines highlight the slightest trace of cellulite on a woman's thigh.  Models are airbrushed so that they achieve an unrealistic level of perfection.  So it's not exactly funny to have our looks bashed in this manner.  We should be embracing our faces and bodies and encouraging young women to be comfortable in themselves.  This "joke" just makes it harder to do that.  I said it when I was going to loads of live comedy and I'll say it now:  If you have to resort to picking faults in the looks of a stranger, you're not a comedian.  You're just a bully.

Look.  I'm not boring.  I'm not a prude or a man-hater.  There are differences between the sexes and when they're pointed out in a funny manner, they can be hilarious and thought-provoking.  But if you're using "humour" as a cover for what is essentially misogynistic, gender-stereotyping, then you really need to haul your backside out of last century.  And if you're making a joke, try giving it a punchline.

Also, for what it's worth, these "jokes" are offensive not only to women, but to men as well.  So many of them paint men as being loutish or adulterous that it's as though we're supposed to assume that that is their default setting.  I know plenty of good men who are faithful, well-mannered and friendly who take these jokes, which lump all blokes in together, as an insult to their sex.  And well they should.  For all men aren't cheating, piss-taking, sexist idiots, anymore than all women are obsessed with pink, wear too much make up and have no ambition beyond marrying a rich man.  These gender-stereotypes do no good for either sex and it's really time we put them to bed.

Now excuse me.  I need a wee.  I'm going to have to call all of my friends and see if they'll come over to the house so I don't have to go alone.