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Arc Watch: Doctor Who: “The Star Beast”

Oh, right, this is a thing we used to do.

The Big Ones

  • Why The Long Face: “Why did this face come back?” Such a specific way to phrase it that surely the answer must be very, very specific, too. In this episode, all we really get as answers go is, “destiny,” “to save Donna.” Everyone assumes it’s a ploy by the Toymaker, but that was never really his style — putting faces on people was more a Land of Fiction thing. (Obviously the face came back because everyone had fun livetweeting during the pandemic, but how would that translate to the screen?)
    I don’t think it’s the Toymaker, I don’t think it’s the Land of Fiction or any master thereof. You want the payoff to this to play emotionally — it shouldn’t just be “well the celebrity guest star did it.”
  • The Boss Is Not Rhetorical: “Wait until I tell the Boss!” The subtitles capitalise it and everything. But who’s the Meep’s the Boss? The obvious place we all immediately went to is, again, the Toymaker, but does the Toymaker have… flunkies now? He has toys he plays with, so if the Meep is in the pocket of Big Toy, “Boss” doesn’t seem like the relationship here.
    Plus, on the In-Vision Commentary, Tennant asks Collinson whether they know what that means yet, implying they didn’t while Tennant was actively involved in production. Perhaps the answer is in scenes that were shot much later.
    Really, all we have is the word “Boss” and set reports and casting announcements, so, a wild mass guess to the answer: Whoever Jinkx Monsoon is playing?1The rumour is the Terrible Zodin, but I dunno, is that where this is going? It doesn’t feel like that’s where this is going. Much of early days Arc Watch is gut-based.

The Small Ones

Who We Are
  • Still Figuring It Out: “Do I say things like that now?” Dr Who is still exploring their new personality. Clearly a big thing is that the vanity and egocentrism of the last time they had this face has cleared like bad acne, and their anguished cry of “Why did it have to be this?” when forced into a scenario not unlike the one that killed the last version of this face suggests that that well of emotion this face never would’ve been capable of before may be quite deep.
  • Couldn’t Keep It In: Much has been made of the ease with which Donna and Rose simply let go of the metacrisis energy. Is it that easy? Is that story over? Or is this just the start of its final chapter?
The World Around Us
  • UNified Intelligence and Skyscraper-Building Taskforce: Seriously, how is UNIT just fully back in business already again? I’m gonna assume this is just, let’s get this piece back on the board like usual and not worry about it too much, but there’s been quite a lot of shifting that kind of thing around a little too fast recently, and I wouldn’t mind if this one went somewhere.
  • Gonkage: Is Rose’s one customer in Abu Dhabi just one of those RTD background details, or something we should be keeping an eye on? Who would have reason to send money to Donna’s family? Or maybe, who would recognise what her toys were?
  • 1
    The rumour is the Terrible Zodin, but I dunno, is that where this is going? It doesn’t feel like that’s where this is going. Much of early days Arc Watch is gut-based.

“Then allow me to show you the future.” (Doctor Who: “Destination: Skaro”)

After a gruelling year-long hour trapped in the chaotic pages of Doctor Who Magazine‘s Liberation of the Daleks, Dr Who returns to the small screen by crashing into not just a lab on an obscure little backwater planet known to its inhabitants as Skaro — birthplace of the Daleks — but into his past, present, and future.

We have, of course, been here before. The crash itself is reminiscent of the Titanic slamming into the side of the TARDIS at the end of Last of the Time Lords, the gags remind of the banter from Time Crash mixed with the inspiring-the-famous-author gags from episodes like The Shakespeare Code. The way in which it fills in something we’ve never seen filled in on TV before even though non-televised Doctor Who has probably thoroughly covered the area, reminiscent of the way Sarah rattles off various companions’ fates in Death of the Doctor.

Speaking of contradictions…

Past

Davros is depicted in Destination: Skaro as an able-bodied man at a point in his history where, historically, he’s been depicted as a wheelchair user with a severely disfigured face and body. This is a change made not for budget or time reasons1Though I’m sure Julian Bleach doesn’t mind not having to have the whole face put on. but because, and this isn’t speculation because Russell T Davies says as much in the Unleashed behind the scenes featurette, it’s the Year of Luigi 2023 and the harmful, hurtful cliché of using disability and disfigurement as a shorthand for evil has, in short, got to go. This, Russell says, referring to how Davros is depicted here, is how we see Davros now.

There is some ambiguity in what he says and how — clearly he’s saying, as far as he and the current team are concerned, Davros will not again be portrayed like he was in the past. But does that mean a total reimagining of Davros even in the part of his history we’ve seen before, or just that we won’t see that part of his history again? It may be some time before we find out — another Dalek story is an inevitability, but another Davros story might not be coming along for a while.

Either way, the message is clear: What makes Davros scary is the fascist fanaticism that drives him to create the Daleks — and not his face or his wheelchair. And that implies… other things.

Present

Inevitably some of the kvetching online has included, why now and not in 2008? I can’t claim to know what was in Terry Nation’s heart when he created the character nearly half a century ago, or the hearts of anyone who’s contributed to the character since then. But I have a feeling I know Russell T Davies well enough to know that he just… wasn’t thinking about these things in 2008. Because, well, nobody involved who could’ve made this call was thinking about it in 2008. Nobody involved who could’ve made this call was thinking about it in 2012, 1975, or 2003, either. I’m really happy they’re having these conversations at Bad Wolf now.

When a silent film from 1924 employs, say, cannibal clichés to communicate that the island the characters have landed on is an easily recognisable dangerous situation, no matter how racist the effect of those clichés might then be in the Year of Luigi 2023, the intent at the time probably wasn’t to do a bunch of racism. They’re just using the toys that are in the toy box at the time. And those toys change as we wear them down, as we figure out they’re not equally fun for everyone.

Because the way we think about this stuff evolves constantly. It’s never too late to learn, to catch on, to say, the fun I’m having hurts you and it shouldn’t.

It’s never too late to fix your heart.2Or die.

Future

Obviously this 5-minute comedy scene is just a drop in a thousand buckets. It “counts,” if such a thing matters to you, but its primary purpose is to have some light fun with silly Dalek jokes during a charity fundraising broadcast. My mom liked it, thought it was funny. She’s not thinking about these things at all.

But I think it’s a terrific shot from the second RTD era’s starter pistol: Here we go. This is what matters to us. Nothing is sacred. Let’s go have fun — together.

  • 1
    Though I’m sure Julian Bleach doesn’t mind not having to have the whole face put on.
  • 2
    Or die.

Some deleted drafts

A running thread you’ll notice in this selection of post I’ve deleted from my drafts tab in ClassicPress, thereby officially abandoning all pretence that I’ll do anything with them, is that these are all fandom or fandom-related essay ideas, really? Do I do that here? I did it once, I guess, though I feel like I kinda crapped out on the conclusion. There’s also a layer of a specific type of frustration to some of these that I generally don’t think lends itself to good writing.

Anyway.

From oldest to newest.

Who’s behind the mask? On identity concealment in “Star Wars.”

This one was just a title — I was annoyed Star Wars fandom took one look at a Stormtrooper with a cool gold mask and immediately decided they must be somebody1The emphasis was mostly on the idea that it was Ezra Bridger, but I saw several other names come up. hiding their face, and so I decided to write a rebuttal, because Star Wars doesn’t really… do that?

The Clones’ faces are never a secret, kindly old Palpatine being the monkey-faced hologram fella from the original films is only a twist if you’re watching for the first time in episode order, and Vader taking his helmet off is a serious health condition reveal, not an identity reveal at all. Phasma in the sequels never turns out to Be Somebody, The Mandalorian is about helmets and never, to the best of my recollection, pulls that type of twist at all.

In fact, it never really seems to happen that much in long-running sci-fi franchises at all — Doctor Who lets the Master do it sometimes, as a treat, but that’s a throwback to the 70s, Star Trek doesn’t really do it, it was very obvious on WandaVision it was gonna be Agatha all along, not fucking Mephisto, who would’ve come out of nowhere— *takes a deep breath*

But “Alex is annoyed with a fandom they’re not really in” makes for lousy writing, and also, I didn’t feel like doing the research, which I’d really have to do properly if I’m gonna pick a fight with nerds, so here we go — I didn’t write the post, and now I’m just doing the complaining, anyway, that’s that particular craving answered.

Interview with the person whose house the weary travellers stop at to recharge and eat a good meal

Inspired by a Mastodon post, this seemed like one I might get some mileage out of, but really, much like how I’m not really in Star Wars fandom enough to pick a fight, I’m just not in either fantasy or, like, longform profile pieces enough to really do this one justice. The joke would’ve been that the weary travellers stop at the interview subject’s house while the interview is happening, I think?

Doctor Who: 14 reasonable expectations for the RTD2 era

It was August, I saw a lot of people projecting their every hope and dream on the RTD2 era, and I thought I’d be a more reasonable voice in the discourse — but a week out from the first of the 60th anniversary special airing the vibe has changed a lot, and I no longer feel any need to try to throw a reasonable wrench into anyone’s spokes. I also remembered I simply do not wish to be part of The Discourse.

And anyway, I got to one (1) reasonable expectation and looking at it now I’d probably cut it if I was gonna try to finish it.

Notes on a Multiverse: “Iron Man” (2008)

For a while there I found it really frustrating to talk about the MCU on the internet2See amongst many other things the Mephisto thing. Exhausting., to the point that my Letterboxd reviews were just “Enjoyed it.” with a 5-star rating. I’m mostly over that frustration now3Leaving a certain web forum behind, and quite a lot of my exposure to clickbait and “look at this stupid opinion”-type posts with it, seems to have helped., and I can feel a substantial rewatch approaching at velocity. I wondered out loud on Mastodon if that rewatch might involve some kind of writing project, using the phrase “a Psychochronography in Spandex” to specifically evoke El Sandifer’s TARDIS Eruditorum as a model I was thinking of.

But, let’s be honest with myself here, that’s massively overestimating my current ability to commit to a long-term writing project of what would at the bare minimum be hundreds of posts.4How do you get to hundreds of posts from 35 movies? Agents of SHIELD ran for 136 episodes. The Netflix shows put out 161 episodes. Even doing some condensing this would be a massive undertaking. I’m very interested in finding an angle on the MCU from which to talk about it in a way that doesn’t drive me fucking insane.

I’m gonna do the rewatch at some point, and I’d like to do some kind of project around it? I like the title Notes on a Multiverse. But whatever shape that takes, it’s obviously not gonna be hundreds of essays, so the project I saved the draft for will not exist, and so — into the trash it goes.

  • 1
    The emphasis was mostly on the idea that it was Ezra Bridger, but I saw several other names come up.
  • 2
    See amongst many other things the Mephisto thing. Exhausting.
  • 3
    Leaving a certain web forum behind, and quite a lot of my exposure to clickbait and “look at this stupid opinion”-type posts with it, seems to have helped.
  • 4
    How do you get to hundreds of posts from 35 movies? Agents of SHIELD ran for 136 episodes. The Netflix shows put out 161 episodes. Even doing some condensing this would be a massive undertaking.

Let’s pick some clickbait apart

The thing that’s got Doctor Who fandom in a tizzy today is this article from The Mirror, (archive.is link, if you’d rather not give them the traffic) a tabloid that, to be fair, does have a better track record than you’d typically ascribe to a tabloid. The article purports to claim that Paul McGann is set to reprise his incarnation of the show’s titular character in a spin-off — and I’m gonna pick the article apart line by line. Let’s just get into it. All blockquoted text from the Mirror article unless I indicate otherwise. Headline.

EXCLUSIVE: Paul McGann set to make comeback as the Eighth Doctor in new Doctor Who spin-off series.

Wow, exciting. That’d be cool, wouldn’t it. Don’t even need to read past the headline to get the gist — the claim is clear: The McGann incarnation will be back on your screen in multiple episodes. And it’s an exclusive, too! Nobody else has this information! Which makes sense, because there will in fact be: No information. Next, the lede.

The Doctor Who returns later this month with three specials celebrating the 60th anniversary with David Tennant back as the Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble and now Paul McCann is set to make his comeback too

First of all, the quality of the copyediting is fucking appalling here — “the Doctor Who,” “Paul McCann,” and have they run out of commas at The Mirror? But that aside, all we’ve got here is a basic restating of both information you already know — Doctor Who is indeed back later this month with three specials starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate — and then of the claim made by the headline. (Though I don’t know who Paul McCann is.) The same claim is restated once again by the opening line…

Paul McGann is set to make a comeback as the Eighth Doctor in a new Doctor Who spin-off series.

The 63-year-old actor had the keys to the TARDIS for the 1996 television film, a co-production between BBC Worldwide and Universal Studios, which was an attempt to revive the sci-fi show after it was cancelled in 1989.

His incarnation of the Time Lord built up a loyal fan base since due to the audio adventures he has voiced. He has had two just TV appearances in the 50th anniversary special and a cameo in Jodie Whittaker’s final outing The Power of the Doctor.

…and the next two paragraphs are broadly speaking accurate restatements of things you already know, too, though I’d argue he didn’t actually appear in the 50th anniversary special but in a webisode, but okay, close enough.

The show is about to enter a new era with Russell T Davies – the man who rebooted it in 2005 – at the helm and Disney co-producing with the BBC and spin-offs are being planned to increase the Whoniverse.

More established information. We know all this, and RTD was explicit about wanting to mirror the Star WarsMarvel model of a whole range of spinoffs even before he took back over, saying in 2021, in Doctor Who Magazine #579:

RUSSELL T DAVIES: There should be a Doctor Who channel now. You look at those Disney announcements, of all those new Star Wars and Marvel shows, you think, we should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble, and you should have the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors together in a 10-part series. Genuinely.

After the announcement of his return he’s been more coy, but the sentiment is clearly still very much a driving force behind the new Whoniverse branding — if Tales from the TARDIS does anything, it’s signal that it’s all one big show, one big story. A McGann incarnation spinoff would not actually be that weird. But let’s get back to the article.

The spin offs will work in the same way that Disney created series for Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe that stream on Disney+.

Literally explicitly something he said in 2021, sure. Still, to be extremely clear: No new information at this point.

A source said: “Russell likes the idea of bringing back McGann with his own set of episodes in the TARDIS. Disney are on board as they want more original content and want to fully exploit the franchise as they know how big it could become.”

Alright, see, here’s what we’re clearly basing this entire article around, but, is this new information? “A source” could be anyone, that could be my grandfather, for all we know.1Both of them are dead.

“Russell likes the idea.” Sure, who wouldn’t? It’d be really cool to see Paul McGann get his real, proper due, right, the idea comes up in fandom all the time. But liking the idea isn’t six episodes on BBC One by winter next year.

“Disney are on board,” well, yes, they’re spending a lot of money, they generally seem to get along with the RTD2 team very well. I’m sure if RTD shows up with a spinoff premise that he’s excited about and thinks will work, Disney are on board.

Other possible spin-offs include a series on UNIT, the Earth based military wing that works with the Doctor to defend the planet and a villain anthology.

Oh, we’re already moving on from the McGann incarnation spinoff, huh? The UNIT spinoff has been widely rumoured for a long time now, and the modern incarnation of UNIT could probably sustain a spinoff, so, sure. And I hadn’t heard the “villain anthology” one before, but if you’re going as vague as “other possible spin-offs,” you could say just about anything. “Other possible spin-offs include a drama about Dr Who’s biscuit supplier, a Zygon police procedural with a psycho-sexual twist, and a film about Professor Prudeish from off The Time Warrior as he fights his care home in court.” Sure, Jan.

Doctor Who returns later this month with three specials celebrating the 60th anniversary with David Tennant back as the Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. Ncuti Gatwa is then taking control of the TARDIS in 2024.

More restatement of known information, though, small correction, Gatwa actually takes over at Christmas this year.

Speaking in an interview recently, Paul said he would be interested, adding: “I finally got to be in an episode. The fans tell me that they hope there will be a chance of some more, that would be nice. I would be well up for it.”

Actor wouldn’t turn down followup to job they’re famous for. Some of them say they wouldn’t, some of them seem somewhat desperate for it, but it’s not an uncommon sentiment, is it. Certainly it doesn’t sound like a man who’s in active negotiations with the BBC.

A spokesman for Doctor Who declined to comment.

They would, wouldn’t they, the sneaky bastards.

So, in conclusion: The only actual new information in this entire article: An unnamed source claims “Russell [T Davies] likes the idea” of a McGann incarnation spinoff. …Yeah, man, I’m sure he does.

  • 1
    Both of them are dead.

Review: “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (2023), or, the Modern Cinematic Experience

Posted a few days after the fact — I saw it 27 October — because I reread it while compiling the first media roundup post and decided I wanted to preserve it in full. Other versions of this post have appeared on Letterboxd and Mastodon.

I have returned from the cinema subscription members only Halloween screening of 2023’s Five Nights at Freddy’s, where there was free Fanta and popcorn, approximately 150 giggling teenagers, and an attempt at an interactive pre-show quiz that just imploded.

Truly, the trinality of cinema.

Let’s do this in reverse order.

The quiz thing is kind of a shame because all the questions glitched past and I think I would’ve known most of them and so could’ve plausibly won something. (Test run these things, y’all.)

The 150 giggling teenagers totally worked for this movie specifically — I can’t help but see all the clichés, I metagame twists, I see story structure before me like it’s the fucking Matrix, but a teenager excited for the movie based on the video game they know from the YouTube videos doesn’t do that, and I think I would’ve enjoyed this a lot less without over the top “oh my god”s and “what the FUCK”s at things I, you know, might make fun of.1I was glad I was sitting front row, though, so I didn’t have to see the teenagers with what I’m sure were one hundred brightly lit cellphones in hand. Also worth nothing, the weirdly huge reaction at a random waiter — that I have now learned was portrayed by one Mr Mat “MatrickPatrick” Pat, who is at least a YouTuber I’ve heard of.

The Fanta2Orange. Both Zero and regular were available. was flowing so freely I came home with a full litre and a half of Fanta, I’m not even fucking kidding.

And the movie: Was good. Fun, solid, balances what I understand is fairly limited game play and deep lore in a way that works as a movie. The comparison to Willy’s Wonderland3I think of myself as on the record as a Willy’s Wonderland enjoyer, but I guess I’ve given it three stars and no review, so it may be due for a rewatch. is fair, but I think they’re doing different enough things that they can religion co-exist dot jpeg.

Anyway.

A perfectly cromulent time at the movies.

  • 1
    I was glad I was sitting front row, though, so I didn’t have to see the teenagers with what I’m sure were one hundred brightly lit cellphones in hand.
  • 2
    Orange. Both Zero and regular were available.
  • 3
    I think of myself as on the record as a Willy’s Wonderland enjoyer, but I guess I’ve given it three stars and no review, so it may be due for a rewatch.

So You Want To Watch The “Ju-On” Movies (Part One, 1998-2003)

I watch a lot of movies. And I’m here to use that tactical advantage to your advantage — and tell you about some more movies.

If you’re aware of movies at all, you’ll have heard of these by their American title, The Grudge — in the same way that the Ring films are about a young woman’s pain being projected into the world so hard they end up airing on TV, these are about the same thing happening with a house; a pain felt by the cosmos so hard that the place where it happened holds a, well, grudge. These original films are incredibly low-budget — but they pull off some great scares very effectively.

In this first part I’ll cover the following films:

  • The short films 4444444444 and Katasumi
  • The Japanese V-Cinema (straight to video) films Ju-On: The Curse and Ju-On: The Curse 2.
  • The Japanese theatrical films Ju-On: The Grudge and Ju-On: The Grudge 2.

Continue reading “So You Want To Watch The “Ju-On” Movies (Part One, 1998-2003)”

The Pitcairn Review: “In my Sleep” by Nina Maria Kleivan

Being approximately the size of a large shoebox, the Pitcairn Museum for Contemporary Art is, probably, the world’s smallest museum. I walk past it several times a week, and would happily say it’s my favourite museum. But I’ve never seen any kind of serious writing about it, so in the spirit of living the change, I’m going to try to make this a recurring feature.

Let’s, as the Pitcairn asks us to imagine we’re doing, stand in the space for a moment.

A photograph of a large shoebox-sized L-shaped gallery space. From left to right, a white door, a collage piece of a person with black paper cutout tears on their face on a blue and orange background, in a black frame. Then, three black sculptures on white pedestals, the first two in the shape of the tears from the first piece, then the third approximately C-shaped. Behind these sculptures is a poem -- "There are things / I can neither talk /about nor forget. Not even in my sleep. And I realize / that there will be / things in life that / are impossible to / overcome." -- and then on the right wall there is another collage piece, of a person looking at the camera and then a blob of pink paint, all surrounded by cutouts of various unspecific black shapes and various fabrics. It's in a black frame.
Nina Maria Kleivan, In my Sleep, 2023, Pitcairn Museum for Contemporary Art

Right away, and I’m sorry to start this first Pitcairn Review this way, I’m bored. I’m sorry. This is where I admit a personal bias — I’m simply not big on collage.

Continue reading “The Pitcairn Review: “In my Sleep” by Nina Maria Kleivan”

On barnacles

David asked about the Stef Coburn situation — the son of writer Anthony Coburn is claiming his dad had enough of an ownership over the first Doctor Who serial that he, as controller of his estate, now seems to be able to block its re-release1Here’s Gizmodo on the issue. I would recommend strongly against clicking through to Coburn’s Twitter. — and I basically blogged about it in reply.

This is my lightly edited2Coburn doesn’t seem to be particularly litigious towards people writing about this, but for legal reasons I feel slightly less comfortable being very rude here. earnest understanding and assessment of the situation, as I rattled it off at 9:30am this morning after sleeping for twelve hours. I am not a lawyer, and I am not qualified to write about this in any way except that I’m a Doctor Who fan.

Most people writing about this are idiots. I’m probably one of them.

One

Stef Coburn is a misogynist, a conspiracy nutter, a vaccine truther, a racist, a transphobe, an all-round bigot, a typical modern conservative3These are all claims I feel I can back up just by pointing at his Twitter, but rest assured I edited out several things I felt like I couldn’t., who, though I’m sure he hates that Dr Who is played by a Black actor now just by default,4David had linked to a social media post suggesting Coburn was specifically doing this because he was mad Dr Who was Black now. seems to have experienced the show’s very existence as a miserable intrusion upon his awful life, so I think it’s less “Stef is doing this because Ncuti” and more “Stef is doing this because he chooses to,” with a layer of “Stef is doing this now because he knows it’s a time when he’ll get the attention and outrage he seems to crave” — he also tried to claim ownership of the TARDIS using basically the same tricks during the 50th anniversary period.

Personally, I think this kind of thing works best when you get the fandom to rally behind you — I’m generally happy to say, yeah, somebody who made a major contribution early on to something that’s a billion dollar brand now should be recognised beyond what they were paid at the time — but Stef seems to have gone the “I know how to make a stink and I’m gonna make the smell everyone’s problem” route.

Two

The contract situation on old Doctor Who is messy. The rule, generally, is, if something was invented by somebody on BBC payroll, it belongs to the show, and if it was invented by a freelancer, they have some amount of legal ownership over the concept. Terry Nation fully owned the Daleks, now his estate does, and for much of the 60s and 70s he tried to make a standalone Dalek show — typically a 60s-style sci-fi space police thing — happen.5A pilot script was adapted for audio by Big Finish in 2010 as The Destroyers. Bob Baker and Dave Martin owned K9,6See: The relationship between K9 mostly being absent in The Sarah Jane Adventures and the existence of Disney XD’s K9 series. And the perpetually definitely-happening K9: TimeQuake. the Brig has his own long-running military sci-fi novel series fully licensed from the Haisman and Lincoln estates that the BBC has no involvement in7From Candy Jar Books. I like these, but they only did audiobooks for the first few seasons., etcetera.

Some version of this is still happening, even — we know legally RTD invented Captain Jack even though Steven Moffat wrote his first appearance, meaning RTD essentially owns Torchwood, and Moffat seems to have retained some amount of control over the Paternoster Gang concept in the years between Big Finish getting the modern license and them getting to do Paternoster Gang stories of their own. Note also who and what get “created by” credits when in the modern show.

(This is even more of a thing in the various book ranges, where a lot of the ownership of the text has fully reverted back to the authors, and you’ll sometimes see whole books reprinted as self-published versions with the Doctor Who bits stripped out.)

Three

Stef’s TARDIS case a decade ago never went anywhere because when Anthony Coburn contributed the idea of the police box shape for the TARDIS’ interior he was on BBC payroll, a staff writer.8The general concept of the TARDIS was invented by, well, probably Verity Lambert or Sydney Newman or somebody else, look it up yourself. Either way, the BBC has pretty cleanly owned the police box shape since 2002. Coburn was also on payroll when he first conceived of the caveman story he would go on to write, and when he was first commissioned to write it, but then the BBC’s general Script Department was dissolved, and he was re-commissioned to write it as a freelancer. That, ultimately, is where the issue seems to lie.

But: Loads of Doctor Who scripts were written by freelancers, and even when they own their concepts or even everything that happens in the story — the Haisman and Lincoln estates are able to license out the events of Web of Fear to such an extent that the Brigadier in those books is allowed to acknowledge everything that happened except that the people involved were called “the Doctor,” “Jamie McCrimmon,” or “Victoria Waterfield”9They become “the Cosmic Hobo,” “the Scottish lad,” and “the girl with the queen’s name.” — that doesn’t seem to mean the BBC doesn’t own enough of the rights to keep rereleasing them on DVD, Blu-Ray, audiobooks of novelisations, etcetera.

So the big part I’m personally unclear about is — is this situation different in some way I can’t see? Or is this just the first real instance of an estate being controlled by somebody who’s not just happy to cooperate, who’s not just happy to take the occasional licensing paycheck, but is choosing to play nasty? Could they all have been playing nasty this whole time?  Either way, the BBC seem to believe there’s something here. I thought they were just playing it safe when they offered to pay him off — £20k, according to Stef, which he seems to have turned down because he’s being normal about Gary Lineker, I think? — but then yesterday a BBC rep explicitly said they don’t own all the relevant rights10From the Radio Times: “A spokesperson for the BBC said: “This massive iPlayer back catalogue will be home to over 800 hours of Doctor Who content, making it the biggest ever collection of Doctor Who programming in one place but will not include the first four episodes as we do not have all the rights to those.””, which surprised me.

So that’s where this situation is right now. I don’t know how it’s gonna evolve, but I suppose it either ends in the BBC being willing to match Stef’s (undoubtedly very high) asking price, or it going to court. Would court go how Stef wants? I’d imagine he’d rather avoid finding out.

  • 1
    Here’s Gizmodo on the issue. I would recommend strongly against clicking through to Coburn’s Twitter.
  • 2
    Coburn doesn’t seem to be particularly litigious towards people writing about this, but for legal reasons I feel slightly less comfortable being very rude here.
  • 3
    These are all claims I feel I can back up just by pointing at his Twitter, but rest assured I edited out several things I felt like I couldn’t.
  • 4
    David had linked to a social media post suggesting Coburn was specifically doing this because he was mad Dr Who was Black now.
  • 5
    A pilot script was adapted for audio by Big Finish in 2010 as The Destroyers.
  • 6
    See: The relationship between K9 mostly being absent in The Sarah Jane Adventures and the existence of Disney XD’s K9 series. And the perpetually definitely-happening K9: TimeQuake.
  • 7
    From Candy Jar Books. I like these, but they only did audiobooks for the first few seasons.
  • 8
    The general concept of the TARDIS was invented by, well, probably Verity Lambert or Sydney Newman or somebody else, look it up yourself. Either way, the BBC has pretty cleanly owned the police box shape since 2002.
  • 9
    They become “the Cosmic Hobo,” “the Scottish lad,” and “the girl with the queen’s name.”
  • 10
    From the Radio Times: “A spokesperson for the BBC said: “This massive iPlayer back catalogue will be home to over 800 hours of Doctor Who content, making it the biggest ever collection of Doctor Who programming in one place but will not include the first four episodes as we do not have all the rights to those.””

What the fuck is this little thingy? (Solved. Thanks, Reddit.)

Pictured, from the back and front, laying on a pink post-it note: A small, plastic thingamabob, of, in the front, two horizontal bars connected by a circular hole, and in the front, one horizontal bar through which the aforementioned circular hole goes. On the back it's also sort of a gear thing? It's holding two small metal wheels, keeping them in place with the little speedbumps that are on the back horizontal bar. Image descriptions are hard.

I’ve found at least one of these before, and last week I found this one between the shoe store and the gym. I’ve no idea what it is or what it could possibly be part of.

As far as I can tell, the plastic is all one piece. The metal wheels are easily removable by just peeling back the back bar a little. The vibe is more “RC car” than “serious equipment.”

UPDATE: Reddit got it instantaneously.

The Locksmith

This anecdote originally appeared as my Letterboxd review of Wes Anderson’s The Rat Catcher.

My neighbour had locked himself out, no phone, no keys, so he knocked on my door to ask to use my phone to call his friend who, one, had his spare key, and two, was apparently in the Phantom Zone, seen recently by half the city and yet totally unreachable.

So we called a locksmith, just the top result in the search engine of your choice, who was here as fast as he could have been, and instantly jimmied his way in with some WD-40, a sheet of plastic, a rope, and my door as a cheat sheet.

Which we both found incredibly impressive — I applauded without prompting, which I never do — and also, our human doors might as well not be there for this man, nay, ghost.

Anyway, the rat catcher here looks like an English version of the locksmith, which is why I’m sharing that story here in this review in lieu of struggling to find something to say about this one. It’s good, it’s like the other Wes Anderson Roald Dahl shorts.

The locksmith was a lot nicer than this rat catcher, though. There was a fistbump.

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