Future projects, trial separation and fucking computers

James and I have been making films, together and apart, for more than ten years now. Off and on. Around other things. You get the idea: James will write a book, or I’ll work for a macho-leftist journalism startup. We’ll both bitch about Doctor Who. Before you know it, time has passed and those ideas for films we were kicking around are still ideas for films. Unmade. They don’t really count.

Which isn’t to say that films haven’t been made. A Cake for Jim Broadbent, for instance, James’ charming tail of crazy stalker fans with copious supplies of bicarbonate of soda recently picked up…well, I’ll let him say how it’s done. But those ideas and, worse, bits and pieces of unfinished films, remain kicking around, making us feel guilty, and clogging up our hard drives.

So various things are happening at Talk To Rex right now. Firstly, we’re in pre-production on a feature, of which more (much more) later. In order to do that, we’re also in pre-production on a short, of which more (slightly less more) later (but slightly sooner later). That’ll be shooting at the end of August, in London. So that’s one.

The second is that we’re trawling through those hard drives, dusting off old bits of films, and finishing what we can. Degrees of Separation, an internet serial we shot pilot footage for back in 2009, will start appearing over the winter. There are some other shorts floating around that need editing, or music, or music and editing, or possibly taking a long, hard look at and saying “nope”. That’s two.

And we didn’t really have to completely change the website, but that seems to have happened as well. Maybe that counts as three.

Prepare yourself, Doctor! For the End! Any minute now! Just wait!

I was quite looking forward to The End of Time (part 2); sure, part 1 had been lame and mostly involved running around some docks somewhere while our Christmas dinners digested, but there was the distinct smell of Time Lords about, and Timothy Dalton looked kind of awesome and clearly wasn’t messing around. I’d originally hoped that Russell T Davies would do the honourable thing and not actually write a series reboot as his outgoing story, leaving Steven Moffat the chance to figure out exactly how he wanted things to be, but since RTD has the world’s largest ego there really wasn’t much of a chance of that. So I was confidently expecting him to bring back Gallifrey, kill the Doctor, and then show us the face of Matt Smith with exactly the same characterisation as before. All fine, because come April we’d have forgotten a handful of lines and the Eleventh Doctor could go off in whatever direction made sense.

And of course I was expecting RTD to screw it up. A trainwreck. A disaster. But I had absolutely no idea quite how far he would manage to get things wrong.

Let’s look at the story, half hour by half hour (as I remember it), across the two parts.

  1. Some running around, the Master comes back to life, or maybe not, or something. He can now apparently break the laws of physics whenever he likes, and is stupid enough to think that when he desperately needs lots of energy the best use of what little he has is to repeatedly propel himself several hundred feed in the air. The Doctor finds him by the cunning method of going to his regular quarrydocks.
  2. An Evil Plot Device is introduced, which the narrator tells us portentously will lead to the end of, well, everything. They put the Master in it. He turns everyone into clones of himself. Apparently rich black people are crazy megalomaniacs, in the same way that poor black people are into voodoo (in Planet of the Dead).
  3. More running around; the Doctor goes into orbit for a while to avoid having to confront the Master, the Time Lords hatch an almost-believable plan to create a link between themselves and the Master as a baby (ignoring that this violates one of those pesky Laws of Time that the Doctor was talking about in one of the other tedious specials). This leads to the best music in the episode, where there isn’t any music and just drums, riffing on the timing of the theme tune.
  4. Timothy Dalton sends back a diamond to provide a physical link between him and the Master (while I’ll let slide, but only because I remember The Invisible Enemy), and then uses it to mosey on over to Earth, taking all the other Time Lords, and Gallifrey (only we don’t see much because all the money’s been spent on Timothy Dalton), with him. (At some point everyone clearly forgets that Gallifrey is Time Locked, and that trying to pull a planet through some sort of physical-psychical link created by a small diamond should leave you with, well, a very squished planet.) Timothy Dalton then undoes everything the Master has done (meaning that humanity exists again), the Doctor undoes everything that else Timothy Dalton has done (meaning that Gallifrey is still Time Locked, that the Earth is safe, etc. etc.), and then finally the Doctor realises that the Master (in a bit they didn’t show on screen, or possibly my brain blanked out in an attempt to survive) had made a couple of little death boxes, and Bernard Cribbins in locked in one, but it’s okay because if the Doctor goes in the other one they’ll both live, because the Doctor is a fucking Time Lord and he knows it’s time for him to regenerate because the Ood have been cropping up in his mind for the last year or so telling him.
  5. The Doctor goes on a farewell tour all around the galaxy to remind everyone of all the really shit characters that Russell T Davies created, and Sarah Jane Smith. Then the TARDIS explodes to remind you that RTD won’t be writing for the series any more and therefore it will be shitwe won’t have to suffer this shit from now on, and David Tennant becomes Matt Smith.

The End.

I’m not going to lay into the dialogue, the magical bullshit that makes no sense whatsoever, or even RTD’s obsession with making this Big Exit more about him than about the Tenth Doctor (if you don’t believe me, read some of the self-satisfied twaddle he’s said about writing these episodes); what troubles me is his cowardice. There was a beautiful moment (insofar as it could be beautiful with such first-draft writing) where Gallifrey explodes into the Earth’s skies and dooms humanity. Then, five minutes later, he undoes it because it feels all a bit too drastic.

This is the moment where anyone who didn’t already realise it was struck with the realisation that RTD isn’t actually a very good writer. (Except for the ones who are irredeemably stupid.)

If the outcome is too big, dial back the outcome a bit, don’t write it out in the next scene. A better ending would have been for Gallifrey to be brought into the Solar System in a kind of reverse Trojan position with respect to the Earth (we can ignore the problems with the science bit, since earlier in the story the Master shot bolts of electricity from his hands). Then the Earth becomes a subjugate planet to Gallifrey, and humanity becomes a slave race to the rather fun New Time Lords who have given up on the whole non-intervention thing and are out to rule the universe. The Doctor has to choose between joining them in ruling the planet he loves, or being exiled from it, in a nice reverse on the Third Doctor’s punishment, and the Master (who should have been weakened from being resurrected, as in say The Deadly Assassin, rather than being an unstable energy form or whatever) could be marched off to be executed for being a coward during the Time War.

Then the Eleventh Doctor can romp around the universe for a bit, with the aim of getting back and stopping Timothy Dalton; by which time of course the Time Lords will have moved on again, or something. Anything’s possible in this context.

Russell T Davies would still have managed to find a way to make that lame and drag out, but at least I could have respected him for it. Bringing back Gallifrey only to immediately send it back out of the series is a bit like saying “let’s see what you could have won” when you could have won an Aston Martin but you actually won a used tea bag. It’s an admission of mediocrity and of cowardice, at the exact moment you’re trying to convince everyone that you’re awesome. The remaining respect I felt for the man who brought Doctor Who back to our screens died today, killed by his own inabilities.

In case you think I’m utterly down on the story and being unkind, here are some things I didn’t have any problem with at all:

  1. The spiky headed aliens. Great fun, and the female one was cute.
  2. June Whitfield.
  3. The Visionary, telling fortunes for the Time Lord Council. (If you want to believe that she was channelling the Matrix, and driven mad by that knowledge, then feel free.)
  4. Mickey marrying Martha (although to be fair that’s because I don’t care about either of them).
  5. The Doctor calling The President that R word. He’s clearly not the original, who would have killed the Master as soon as he appeared, and probably the Doctor as well just to be on the safe side. The Wikipedia entry notes that the Doctor might just have been comparing them.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s what is to come. Or at least bits, with some excited singers in the background.

Josh Olson will not read your f—ing script

He goes so far as to tell us in the Village Voice. And it all makes a lot of sense; except that if read too broadly, no one would ever ask favours of anyone for anything, and then where would we be?

(Via Alex Epstein or Amanda the Aspiring TV Writer; I think I saw Alex’s post first.)

Also from Alex Epstein: Japanese insanity where schoolboy unearths fighting fish robot breast explosion. All under a moonlit sky.

Comments

Apologies to anyone other than James who actually reads comments. Because usually there aren’t any.

This isn’t, however, because there aren’t any being submitted. Many, many comments are submitted on this blog, usually with a subject such as “WxjofieSDJDIj30”. We don’t publish those. In fact, we usually forget to publish any of them, and sometimes we reply to ones that we can see any no one else can.

Sorry about that.

At some point I’ll get round to upgrading the creaking old platform this site runs on, and maybe we’ll get better comment moderation. Or just better comments. I’m fed up with reading about WxjofieSDJDIj30.

If she can't, I pity her

I seem to be getting a lot of spam these days asking the question “can she have multiple orgasms?”. Or rather, a variant of some sort where one of the words is spelled incorrectly: “cann she have multiple orgasms”, for instance, or “can she haves multiple orgasms”. They always spell “orgasms” right, but then that’s probably all they’re really thinking about.

I don’t look beyond the subject line, because it’s functionally equivalent to those terrible panel sessions they have at some of the conferences I go to where the name of the session is a question, and the answer is one word long and obvious (or at least “obvious to those skilled in the art”, as IP lawyers would no doubt put it). I’m pretty sure if I start looking at the main message of the spam I’ll see that it’s been written by a creative director for Razorfish.

If they must start their spam with a question, surely there are more interesting ones in the same general area? “Is she getting multiple orgasms?” for instance. Or even “why isn’t she getting multiple orgasms?”, if we’re going to be pessimistic about her sex life.

Or just skip the question and be honest: “you’re rubbish in bed, buy stuff from us so you’ll still be rubbish but can blame us instead of your inability to find the clitoris”.

It shouldn't be this hard

Sometime around 5pm I started upgrading the computer we edit Talk To Rex films on so that we can get stuck into post-production our new project. It is, as I write this, almost 1am, and I’m waiting for the final task to complete.

It shouldn’t be this hard.

In fact, it doesn’t have to be this hard, and I’m beginning to regret not just throwing this computer away and buying a shiny new one. Like the one Bing edited the video diaries on (the third part is up now). That was nice. And portable. And didn’t take eight hours to prepare before you used it.

Or for that matter we could have shot the entire thing on Super 16, and edited it as film instead of all this pissing around in non-linear editing software. Even taking into account finding my old notes and screwing up a couple of test rolls of film and cleaning the damned thing, I’m pretty sure we’d be editing by now on a Steenbeck. Although admittedly we’d be a bit stuck when it comes to compositing.

As it is I’m waiting for a hard drive to format. Witness the romance of film-making.

"New to this country!"

One of the things I get annoyed by is improvisation groups thinking they’re the first. The first whatever; first group doing student improv in their town, first group doing an improvised musical, first group improvising a play entirely in gibberish. It’s never the first.

In particular, one thing that happens is that a group of actors and comedians start doing some improv games (in a Whose Line Is It Anyway? style), then go to Chicago, or LA, and come back full of ideas about doing long-form improvisation, saying things like “this kind of improvisation is fairly new to this country”. (Yes, there’s a specific group that’s sparked this rant, but since I haven’t seen them perform I can’t pass judgement so I won’t bother linking to them.)

Usually, by “fairly new”, they mean in the last five years, which isn’t true. (The latest wave of improvisation started 5-10 years ago in this country, and there were various people doing full-length improvised shows, one way or another, around in the first half of that, and indeed before it, bucking the trend.)

Sometimes, by “fairly new”, they mean in the last twenty years, which isn’t true. Keith Johnstone was playing with this stuff in the 60s, for instance. (Although he’s often better known for things like Micetro these days, which is a shame.)

Rarely, by “fairly new”, they mean “after Palestrina”, which is possibly true but still seems unlikely (think: bards). Certainly people were improvising narratives back in the Middle Ages quite happily in the UK. If you look farther afield, semi-structured narrative improvisation (where aspects of the story are familiar to the audiences, either using tropes and archetypes, or by using base stories) have been around since before the Romans. Long, long before the Romans.

So stop trying to claim you’re new; just be interesting, and exult in that.

(While we’re here, can lazy reviewers stop comparing every impro group with Paul Merton? KTHXBAI.)