Monday 25 November 2013

The Day of the Doctor

Growing old – it’s not nice, but it’s interesting.
- Strindberg

Reverberating Voice of Doom:  Previously, on No Complications

Me:  Quite a weekend, eh?

Him:  Yeah.

Me:  So.  You go first.

Him:  But I won at Rock Paper Scissors.

Me:  Proving you’re not a Movellan.  Good job.

Him:  That means you’ve to go first.

Me:  But not that I’m a Movellan.

Him:  Are you not?

Me:  I aren’t.

Him:  What’s a Movellan?

Me:  Town was really, really busy.

Him:  Yup.  I want to rewatch it.

Me:  So do I, but we haven’t got time at the moment.  You were quite embarrassed when I took the photo of the advert.

Him:  I pretended I didn’t know you.

Me:  I know.  I felt quite self-conscious until I thought, well, why not?  No-one cares and this is the only chance to do it.  Which is a bit like going to see Doctor Who in the cinema anyway.  You were excited.

Him:  Not as excited as you.  You were frightening people on the train all the way there.

Me:  Ha!  Payback for all the football songs I’ve had to put up with since 2005. 

Him:  You should stop going to football matches then.

Me:  BDMTISH!  Well.  You’re hiding it now, but you were looking forward to it. 

Him:  Prove it.

Me:  You didn’t complain on the way there.

Him:  Yes I did.

Me:  Too late now.  So.  We got there early.

Him:  An hour early.  Just like everyone else did!

Me:  We all wanted to beat the rush.  I noticed that they’d added an extra showing.

Him:  Sneakily.

Me:  The cinema we were in – screen 15 – was packed.  Weren’t some of your chums-

Him:  Your friends from the Flying Duck were there.

Me:  Glasgow Who?  They were.  Of course they were!  We were sat behind the same chap that we were sat behind when the director was announced. That’s an odd sentence…

Him:  Indeed.  Why didn’t you say ‘hello’?

Me:  I didn’t want to embarrass them.  So we tweeted a tweet that probably sounded quite sinister now I think about it.  Anyway.  Weren’t some of your friends supposed to be there?

Him:  I don’t know.

Me:  Oh well.  I think we had a few exclusive moments.  Y’know, on account of being in the cinema.

Him:  What exclusive moments?

Me:  The live-action pottery warning for one.

The Him chuckles.

Him:  I have no idea what she was talking about and I don’t think anyone else did either.  Possibly because you kept shouting “WHAT?” every three seconds.

Me:  I couldn’t hear what she was saying.  But then, I suppose Real Radio have paid a lot of money to have their slurry pumped into the cinema, so no-one’s allowed to turn it off or down.  Even when a member of staff is issuing some sort of statement.

Him:  I think she said that if the film was too boring to watch then we could still come and buy some snacks.  Which was interrupted by cries of “NEVER!”

Me:  Yeah, those weren’t from me.  I was fairly sure she was either warning us that they hadn’t been able to run the film first to check for flaws – what with all the secrecy - or that the doors would be locked while a film on the history of pottery was being played.

Him:  I think it was more likely to be about the pottery.

Me:  So.  We had adverts and then we got some exclusive content.

Him:  Yup.  Which we’re not allowed to talk about since it was exclusive.

Me:  There was a trailer for an upcoming DreamWorks film, altered to look like an animated Doctor Who spin-off - it’s only a matter of time - then an Anchorman trailer, also shot specially. And then…

Him:  Strax telling us how to behave in the cinema!

Me:  Yeah.  I enjoyed that.  “Popcorn feels pain.”

Him:  “I love their tiny screams”.

Me:  And then a special introduction – designed to give our eyes time to adjust to the 3D.

Him:  Matt Smith and David Tennant telling us about 3D.  And budget cuts.

Me:  Yeah.  Shall we run through the film?

Him:  We’ve already seen it.

Me:  You’re on fire today, boy.  On fire!

Him:  It smarts!

Me:  The 3D was pretty good. 

Him:  It has to be said.

Me:  I loved the old opening.  And then Coal Hill School – which was right next to Totter’s Lane, oddly enough.

Him:  Why was Clara teaching there?  She doesn’t seem qualified.

Me:  I think it’s so Moffat can recycle some jokes from Chalk in the next series.

Him:  Who’s ‘Chalk’?

Him:  Okay then.

Me:  Ah.  I’m going to have to be upfront here.  I loved it.

Him:  What did you like about it?

Me:  I’m going to go into more depth in the footnotes because I’m after your thoughts, but I think I finally saw what Moffat’s aiming at.  In that cinema, it was a totally success.

Him:  Definitely.  Most people even stayed until the end of the credits.

Me:  And even the credits were great.  I hope that’s the new look.

Him:  No, I think it’s just a special credit sequence for the Fiftieth.

Me:  Tell me your three favourite moments.

Him:  I don’t know.

Me:  Try.

Him:  I can’t decide.

Me:  Okay.  Three bits you liked then.

Him:  I can’t choose.  I don’t like doing that.

Me:  Fair enough.  Tell me the story in your own words.

Him:  Stuff.  Massive bomb thingy and then the story happened and then it ended.

Me:  Concise.

Him:  And then the credit sequence was great.

Me:  TARDIS over London?

Him:  Is that a headline?  Sounds like an episode title.

Me:  Zygons?

Him:  They were always your favourite – well, somewhere up there.

Me:  And David Tennant’s favourite.  Hang on, mine’s the Krynoid.  Time War?

Him:  I can’t do it.

Me:  Alright.  When did the audience make noises?

Him:  David Tennant.  Zygons.  Umm… Peter Capaldi-

Me:  Oh yeah!  What a moment.  The cheer was massive.

Him:  There was more clapping than actually howling.

Me:  I bellowed when Tom Baker turned up.

Him:  You were so happy.  Did you expect to see him?

Me:  Yeah.  He’d announced that he was in it but that he wasn’t supposed to tell anyone, earlier in the week.  I thought it might be a double-bluff though.  It was a weird moment.  Really strange.  Very moving actually.  The handover from the past.  Well, that’s a theme running through it.

Him:  Are you happy to have finally seen it?

Me:  Yeah.  I’m…  However cool I try to be about it, Doctor Who’s a massive part of my life and…  A lot of people are being a bit curmudgeonly about this but I think they’re missing the point.  I’m going to go into the ins and outs in more depth in the footnotes but… 


However you look at it, we’re lucky to have something as unique and strange as this in our culture.  Truly.  It’s bizarre and idiosyncratic and it’s always there.  I’m stunned by it right now.  Sometimes it’s alright to be proud of a part of popular culture.  Doctor Who is… 


I don’t know…  It’s very emotional… 



Him:  I don’t know how to reply to that.

Me:  I wrote a thing about the Five Faces repeat season, yeah?    

Him:  Yeah.

Me:  And I was a bit tongue-in-cheek about suggesting the Doctor was a folk-hero who’d managed to make himself immortal…

Him:  Wha-?

Me:  Yeah, nobody really got it.  It probably looked a bit…  Still.  I stand by it.  There’ll be a hundredth anniversary.

Him:  Will you be around to see it?

Me:  I wouldn’t have thought so.

Him:  Well, you should probably try to be.

Me:  Ha!  I will.  What I mean is that it doesn’t matter.  I’ll never see the final episode of Doctor Who because there…  There might never be one. 

Him:  Do you think Steven Moffat’ll still be writing the show when it comes to the Hundredth anniversary?

Me:  No.  But…  I bet part of him wants to.  He’s set up the future for the series.  Zygons as Cylons, Gallifrey-

Him:  Do you reckon the Zygons are the Silence?  In fact, if a Zygon becomes a Silence and it looks away would you forget seeing it?

Me:  Interesting.  Also, while we’re on Zygons – here’re some thoughts.  Somewhere, there’s a horse with an octopus on its head.

Him:  Ha!  That’s a good point.

Me:  It is.  Because…  There isn’t. 

Him:  Why not?

Me:  The Zygons didn’t make sense. 

Him:  That’s true!  They shouldn’t be able to talk to… they shouldn’t be able to talk to someone they’re about to turn into.

Me:  They either need the body to make a print of or they don’t.

Him:  Yeah.  But they did both.  Maybe one of them’s just not as good at it.  Or maybe it’s a Zygon Urban myth that you need to put an octopus on someone’s head to turn into them.

Me:  It’s a way of pranking inexperienced Zygons, you mean?

Him:  Possibly.

Me:  I could see how the War Doctor’s part could’ve been…  I think everyone must’ve been surprised when Christopher Eccleston said no. 

Him:  Makes you wonder why he did say no.

Me:  Well.  Tom Baker turned down The Five Doctors.  It’s fair enough.  And Eccleston was shown, so that’s good.

Him:  No matter how he may want us to, we’ll never forget him.  The Ninth, or Tenth, or Fifteenth Doctor or whatever he is.

Me:  Ha!  Couple of other things-  Oh, David Tennant?

Him:  I didn’t think it was weird seeing him again.

Me:  I liked the interaction between the two new ones – different dynamic to The Three Doctors.

Him:  Would you have preferred it if it was Christopher Eccleston?

Me:  “Now, I’ll never know if I was right.”

Him:  Don’t quote yourself.

Me:  Hey!  We just look similar!  Right, final bits.  Nice to see all the companions.

Him:  Even Kamelion.

Me:  Yeah!  UNIT must’ve had fun trying to get him to walk down the corridor.

Him:  How did they get a picture of him anyway?  He was always in the TARDIS store cupboard.

Me:  UNIT obviously joined the DWAS a long time ago.  I hope they liked my article.
Him:  No one liked your article.

Me:  Oi!  I did.  And it’s got a Dave Gibbons illustration, I’ll have you know.

Him:  I don’t think he drew it specially.

Me:  No, it’s General Ironicus.  Have you seen the reboot of Battlestar Galactica?

Him:  Of course not.

Me:  That’s what Moffat’s counting on.

Him:  Oh.  Why? 

Me:  Because a couple of the big themes in the upcoming series look likely to be quite similar.  Quest for a home planet.  You can’t be sure who’s human…

Him:  Must be murder painting a 3D painting.

Me:  Especially in oils.

Him:  Ha!  Vincent Van Gogh did an alright job.

Me:  Right up until he was chased by a giant invisible space-chicken, then bundled into an impossible box, shown a future where he was revered as a genius before being dumped back into the final days of his hellhole of a life.  Not one of the Doctor’s finest hours really, no matter how many uplifting pop-tracks by Trainer or Plimsoll or whatever they’re called that you- 


Sorry.  I’m supposed to be being positive.  And anyway…

Him:  Anyway?

Me:  Did you like it?

Him:  Yes.  Did you?1

Me:  Yeah.  I did.  A lot.  Thanks for sharing it with me.

Him:  You’re welcome.  I do make things better just by being there.

Me:  Ha!  That’s not quite what I meant when I said, ‘Thanks for sharing it with me’…

Him:  Oh.


I see.

Me:  Do you?

Him:  Yes.

Me:  Really?

Him:  Yes.

Me:  Are you just bluffing here?

Him:  No.  I understand.  It’s fine.

Me:  Good.  Then you won’t mind if I explain what I meant to everyone else.

Him:  You do that.

Me:  Thanks.  I will.1

1.  In 1983 my Dad took me to Longleat.  It was the day after April Fools’.  Those are facts.  I’m fairly sure that he bought the tickets as a surprise – I was reaching my first peak of enthusiasm with Doctor Who at the time – but I can’t prove it and I can’t ask him. All vivid childhood memories are likely to be constructions that’re equal parts fiction, embellishment or someone else’s entirely.

I can prove that I sat in Bessie, looking uncomfortable.  I also had my photo taken in front of the TARDIS, surrounded by what can now be identified as cosplayers.  But there’s not much else about that day that I can prove happened.  I’ve seen footage from the panels, shots of giant model Cybermen, the crowds and the mud – can’t remember any of it.  I do remember walking through a tent, leaning on a wooden railing and taking photos of various sets and monsters – most specifically the TARDIS console room.  None of the shots came out because I didn’t have the flash on.  I got back one blurred glossy photo of darkness from the developers.  It came with a free snotty sticker, offering hints at ways of ‘taking better pictures’.  At least, I think that’s what happened.  It’s become an anecdote more than a memory, so maybe it’s fictional.

I got a chill when I stood in front of the same TARDIS console room set, last October.  We were down in Cardiff visiting – it’s where we were both born after all – and Dad suggested me and the Him visit the Doctor Who Experience that he’d been reading about.  He bought the tickets again.

Back in Longleat, I’d been in a queue for something like a geological period, give or take five hundred years.  At that time Doctor Who and the Visitation was the only Target book featuring the Fifth Doctor that had been released.  I’d been reading it in the car and I’d brought it with me, which turned out to be fortuitous.  Like I said, it was a long queue and I’d developed a reading habit early.  At the end of the queue I met Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton briefly.  I can prove this because they both signed the book, everything else I’ve said about the encounter is as true as my memory makes it.  I’ve probably made up the escaped tiger but everything else is definitely genuine.

If you’ve read our ‘review’ of Peter Davison’s fan tribute film (yes, it is) The Five(ish) Doctors, then you’ll know that I wrote a fan’s tribute to him that was published in a real book made of dead trees.  The call had gone out from Miwk, who were looking for contributors to You and Who: Contact Has Been Made, not long after we’d visited the Doctor Who Exhibition.  The Terror of the Zygons essay was still available.  The Him told me to pitch for it, so I did and I got the gig.

Months later, the week before the deadline (if I remember correctly – if not, never mind, dramatically will do just fine) I had a gentle reminder email from editor J.R. Southall, and wrote a rushed and barking piece in response.  It was as honest as I could manage.  In the end, I turned in five essays over the two books.  I think enough time’s passed to say that I wrote them to interlink as a single piece, even though it doesn’t matter what order you read them in.  It was cocky, but I guessed no-one would notice, mind or care, apart from myself.  Well, that’s put paid to that, I guess.

The essays themselves were written under a pseudonym, because I wrote everything under a pseudonym.  With a bit of gentle nudging, I agreed to change the future and publish them under my own name.  This wasn’t just so I’d have books on the shelf that I could prove I’d contributed something to, because that didn’t bother me really,  I like anonymity.  I’d rather be behind what I’ve written because then it’s less distracting.  Also, you’d notice that I really do look like Adric and that’s not going to do any of us any good.  Nah, that wasn’t the reason I took off the mask.

Early this year I helped kill a band that I’d been with over the century.  In the weeks counting down to the gig, we put up an album’s worth of material - along with sleeve-notes, artwork and an accompanying essay – every day.  2013 has been a year of endings and new beginnings, change and renewal, loss and…  If you’ve read this far then I’m guessing you know how much of a panic it was getting tickets to see The Day of the Doctor in the cinema.  The original plan was to meet up in Cardiff with my fellow band founder and family and immerse ourselves in a hometown, homecoming celebration.  BBC Worldwide put the knackers on that one. 

Me and Him watched our way through a fair chunk of Season Clara in preparation for The Day of the Doctor – but with all the stuff he had to catch up with, including An Adventure in Space and Time, we were down to the wire.  I’d scheduled two An Unearthly Child posts to go up at 1715 yesterday – to mark two years of No Complications – with the huge Travers Tales set I’ve been working on forever, ready to launch at 1716, the actual minute of the Whoniversary.  After those went live, we put on jackets and shoes and headed to town.  Well, after a quick photo of Him cosplaying as Him: a record for posterity. Evidence. 

Outside was cold and orange.  There weren’t many people around, but someone was already sitting in my usual seat.  Patterns, eh?  Worth breaking every so often.  We got off the train in the city centre, and I embarrassed Him by snapping the giant screen.  More evidence.  We walked in a bit of a zig-zag so I could take photos of the Doctor Who-themed windows, a local bar had painted as a tribute.  I’d tweeted the early stages, but it felt that there’d be a certain frisson to capturing these transient moments while they were hot and fizzing with a type of shared relevance, however brief.  Then we went to Sainsburys and bought popcorn to smuggle into the screening.  

We had to hunt around a bit before I found a cinema poster for the Day itself.  I knew there’d be one.  The elevators took forever.  We were near the top of the car park disguised as a cinema and had to stand behind other patrons who refused to move any faster than technology allows.  Like cattle being carried blissfully toward rotating knives.  I prefer taking the stairs because it’s usually faster and time is often an essence.

We dashed briefly to the very top of the car park so the Him could feel like a pre-lunch Galactus for a moment.  Having got the evil bellowing out of the way, we turned and bounded down the empty escalator (that’s how they’re supposed to be used) to our proper floor.  According to the display screen, another showing had been added.  Both had sold out.  We scurried through the foyer, in the style of Groucho, got our tickets ripped by an attendant and headed straight up and into a pair of decent seats, just behind Glasgow Who.  This when we noticed we were about an hour early.

The Him read through an old blog post while I sketched twitchily in the half-light.  Time treacled by until another attendant made an announcement that I totally failed to catch.  Then… Trailers and so on.

Which brings us to The Day of the Doctor.  I’ve been harsh about Moffat recently, not just on here either.  I definitely feel he took his eye off the ball over the last season and I’m sure that The Day of the Doctor is the reason for that.  He had to get this right, and if some other stories took a bullet as a result, well – so be it.  He made the right choice.

The atmosphere in the cinema was chewable.  Seeing an episode of new Doctor Who with a crowd of people who were there because they wanted to be, was an incredible experience.  Even Murray Gold was bearable – mostly – because the pomp was lost within the scale.  I’m not sure how well it’ll work in a more intimate space, because this was written to be an epic, shared drama rather than anything else.  And when I say ‘shared’, I don’t just mean the hundred or so people in the theatre with us.  I’ll come back to it in just a moment because I think it’s important.

I went on a school-trip to Chepstow as part of the Art A-Level I was failing as a result of discovering that being in a band took a lot of the sting out of talking to girls (and that performing live carried a huge rush that was hard to match).  It was on this trip I bought The Sisters of Mercy’s ‘comeback’ single, ‘More’ (on 7”, 12” and CDS - I was one of those fans – I bet you’d already guessed).  Of course, this means that I know Chepstow isn’t in England, so the opening Zygon gambit broke a wire on my suspended disbelief straight off.  The horse was a nice touch, especially if you don’t think about it.  Queen Liz didn’t convince me, sorry.  The Zygons are too confused – but the set-up is pure Battlestar Galactica Final Five and…  

Well, what the hell?

Moffat had an impossible job.  Totally impossible.  I’m not going to pick any more holes in something that was so much better than we had any right to expect.  The dialogue between the Doctors was brilliant, of course.  Moffat used the Hurt Doctor to address complaints and…  Look.  It’s about growing up.

I’ve said before that Doctor Who isn’t a show that grows with its audience, because if it did it wouldn’t have one.  An Adventure in Space and Time carries the same theme.  Regeneration.  Change.  Renewal.  Everyone who moans that Doctor Who hasn’t been good since Troughton/Pertwee/Baker/Whoever is both wrong and right at the same time.  Of course it isn’t.  It’s not being made for you any more: that’s why you don’t like it.  You got old.  The Doctor’s immortal.

For all his faults (music, idealised dialogue and the need to always be the best, spring to mind) Steven Moffat understands this change and renewal business.  Getting old is different to growing up.  We kid ourselves that growing up’s a good thing, because then we can pretend we aren’t getting old – we’re maturing.  I still feel like I’m about nineteen just with more experience and less hair.  I’m not, but that’s how I feel.  And it’s cruel.  It doesn’t go away.  We fix at a certain age and then we’re stuck, looking out from inside a body that slowly breaks down (if we’re lucky) over years that pass by faster and faster and faster until we’re just dust; phantoms conjured by photographs, old letters, heirlooms, books, recordings - the things that help keep the memory-fiction feeling genuine.  We’re all fighting a Time War.  We’re all going to lose. 

The Day of the Doctor is about accepting that defeat graciously.  Moffat uses the Hurt Doctor to say what a lot of fans have been thinking – all the dialogue nonsense, the rhyming stuff – it’s a mid-life crisis.  It’s been addressed now, so why not just accept it and stay?  Don’t get angry.  He’s not destroying your childhood.  He’s offered you a compromise – take it.

That’s why we get Tom Baker handing over to Matt Smith.  The Doctor’s moved on.  He loved being played by Tom Baker but that’s done now and he wants to try some new faces on instead.  To me, Tom Baker has always been the Doctor.  Not my Doctor, because that’s Peter Davison.  The Doctor.  The genuine article you might say.  (I could go into my idea that the Doctor is now as real as ghosts and Gods are, but that’s something that’ll have to wait for another day.  We really do need to talk about The Chase properly.)

As soon as Matt Smith sat down, I knew what was going to happen.  I leaned forward, covered my mouth and waited.  Me, the Him, dozens of strangers and a record-breaking chunk of humanity, scattered across the time-zones of this tiny spot of something, spinning in an infinite, cold nothing, we all moved through the same fixed-point of time at the same time: the Doctor shaking hands with his replacement and sealing the deal.  It’s okay.  It’s fine.  Just one tear rolled out under the Real 3D lens and down my cheek, reflecting back the Doctor’s face – “Who. Nose.” – and then…

It was over.  The transition had taken place.  He’s no longer the Doctor.  He’s Tom Baker.  And Tom Baker, as he is today, reminds me of my Dad.

Here’s the reason that I took off the mask.  I’d offered Miwk an extra essay for their website, to act as a promotional tool for the books, and it had been accepted.  I wanted to write a piece specifically for my Dad as well, something to link all these worlds together.  In the end I wrote about the history of Ammanford, where he grew up (and where I first watched Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD) and how it connects Doctor Who to the rest of everything.  It’s too dense to be totally successful, but I’m glad I tried.  Ray Cusick died two days before I wrote it.  I noticed in his obituary that he’d arrived to do theatre rep-work in Cardiff at about the same time that Terry Nation was leaving, which is why he appears towards the end and shares a dedication with my Dad.  The website essay went up under my pseudonym and I didn’t correct it, I knew I was unmasked in the books – and those were the ones that I wanted to show Dad.  In the end he didn’t see them.  2013’s been a hell of a year.

I had a monumental birthday this year.  One of those where the year-o-meter clicks over and your resale value drops accordingly.  I’ve been hanging around with Apophenia the Library Angel more than usual.  It seems to be working out, so we’ll cling onto each other for 2014 at least.  Things are changing slowly and none of us are getting any younger, so if you fancy hanging around, you’re very welcome.

Here’s to the future.  Here’s to Him, me, you and everyone else that’s real.

Hold on tight.  Let’s see how fast this damn thing can go.

Me: 1983.
Him: 2013

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