Monday, April 20, 2009


Ashes to Ashes – Bad Timing For Bad Policing?

Have you seen the trailer for Ashes To Ashes Series Two? Classy, fun, cinematically shot and set to one of Spandau Ballet’s better tunes, it’s been all over the BBC for weeks, and I’ve been looking forward to tonight’s first episode… But not without doubts gnawing at me. I’d already had more problems with Ashes To Ashes than its predecessor Life On Mars – and, after Red Riding made old-fashioned violent policing seem less funny, and the death of Ian Tomlinson warned us that the Met’s changed less than we’d all hoped, will we still be laughing with Gene Hunt?

Life On Mars was a brilliant concept, superbly delivered, with two great leads. John Simm’s Sam Tyler was the ideal modern cop – efficient, intelligent, compassionate and brave – transported back to ‘simpler’ days of arrest first, ask questions when you know which answers you want to beat into the crook. But Philip Glenister’s Gene Hunt, like that other ’70s invention Judge Dredd, was such a ludicrously authoritarian parody that people couldn’t help falling for him, so naturally he became the big hit. If Sam Tyler was an echo of Jane Tennison, this time he was never going to convert the team; the bunch of old scrotes he was stuck in with won him over more than the other way round. Still, the scripts were sharp, the overarching mystery was intriguing, and Gene was funny because he was played and written straight down the line, with entertaining lines opposite the solid, respectable Noughties man.

Eventually, Sam Tyler made his exit, and the ’70s-set Manchester show – filmed around places I remember when I was a kid up there – moved, like me, down to London. With a new title, a new decade, and a new lead called Alex. What could be better?

Well, despite the music being more to my taste, I didn’t warm as much to the first series of Ashes To Ashes as I had to the two of the earlier model. And there were two key reasons – both relating to the leads. Now he’s become a well-loved folk hero, Gene Hunt’s off the leash; he is, god help us, our audience identification character, there’s no longer any tension that he might not be entirely trusted, and even his least appealing underling Ray Carling, who was initially a brutal, corrupt thug, has been airbrushed. And permed.

The other was Keeley Hawes’ Alex Drake, a perfectly good performance, but a real problem of a character for me. While Sam Tyler had been the one with his feet on the ground that you could recognise from normal life, in this series the lead from ‘now’ is far more of a stereotype than even DI Hunt, shallow and peripheral. Despite a chilling through-line of the story of her parents in last year’s series, I couldn’t help thinking that for most of the time she was more the comic relief than ‘funny’ Gene. Structurally, her character was in a much more difficult position than Sam had been: where Sam was the lead, she was just the ‘new girl’; with Gene fully established and her already in a side job rather than in the thick of it, she becomes far more peripheral; and, after Sam’s inner mystery was solved when he woke up, there was never going to be the serious tension about the extent to which the series was real.

So, with both Alex and the audience knowing that the whole thing’s a comatose delusion, she knows that it’s literally all about her. The problem with that is that, while Sam would be torn – like Thomas Covenant – between treating people as if they mattered deadly seriously and not wanting to give in to what could be madness, she can treat the whole thing as if it’s one big laugh, because she ‘knows’ that no-one else matters. So, when we have serious subjects and the ‘serious’ character is the one who’s pissing about the most, there’s something very offputting about it. She’s become the stereotype of a ‘flighty’ woman who doesn’t take anything seriously, a much older stereotype even than Gene Hunt, mixed with the lady psychiatrist in a ’30s screwball comedy. That part was pretty advanced feminism for the ’30s, but three-quarters of a century later and without nearly as many sassy lines as Rosalind Russell or Katharine Hepburn would have been given, it seems like a backwards step. And, let’s face it, I just don’t find a solipsist leading character appealing, and if she’s meant to personify the ’80s as the ‘me’ decade… Well, I didn’t like ‘me, me, me’ ’80s characters in the ’80s, and I’m no more likely to identify with them now.

Last year’s final episode crystallised the good and the bad of the series for me. The revelations about her father were predictable, but brilliantly executed; Take the Long Way Home made such a haunting closing track that I picked it up on CD. But, while I enjoyed the fictionalised version of Tom Robinson, someone I’ve met a few times, it couldn’t help dragging me back to the police attitude to gays in the ’80s. When I first started going out in Manchester in the late ’80s, noticeably illegal by some years according to the law at the time, I had a bit of a culture shock; I’d always been brought up to think well of the police, yet there all the stories I heard were of thugs and rapists who either laughed off homophobic violence, perpetrated it, or arrested the victims. And it didn’t help that our local Chief Constable at the time was a raving bigot who was determined to cast us into Hell.

So, when Alex Drake laughed and made postmodern remarks about how funny gays were because she was fine with that sort of thing, I noticed that the men she was laughing at were in the cells, and thought how repulsively smug she was. And when a fictionalised – but, again, real name, real person, just an actor playing him and fictional lines – Lord Scarman came in and the team lionised Gene Hunt and said what a waste of time the busybody Scarman Report was, getting in the way of good policing, I just felt rather ill.

I was at my most politically active in the ’90s, yet despite realisation of my sexuality triggering my political involvement and always being out, among the dozens of policy issues that I pressed I was always wary of being seen as ‘the gay one’. I knew that no matter how many other things I pressed, that was what would get me labelled as a single-issue politician. Eventually, I decided ‘oh, fuck it,’ because if I didn’t press for what I was pressing on LGBT issues, no-one else was going to do it (the one Manifesto for the last 15 years until today that I wasn’t on the FPC for is the only one that didn’t mention sexual orientation. I look forward to reading the new Euro-Elections Manifesto with a tiny amount of trepidation). And the issue that I fought hardest to raise our profile on was hate crime, right up until I eventually piloted a full motion on the subject through Conference in 1999. I started by picking up and running with the issue of Police Racial Attack Squads, which was knocking about the party ineffectually in the early ’90s; it wasn’t just because I wanted us to bang on about homophobic violence too that, when I started getting the idea into major policy proposals, I made sure we gave them a different name. Because too many people assumed the police already had “Racial Attack Squads,” and that they might be on the receiving end of them. It was a policy I pushed because it tackled an issue that most police forces at the time were shamefully ignoring; because hate crimes were something that the other parties would go nowhere near, making it both distinctively Liberal and tough on crime; and because I knew from first-hand experience that there were plenty of places and communities where, unless the police made it absolutely clear that they’d changed by taking such issues seriously, there were an awful lot of law-abiding people who would never trust or help a police officer.

Perhaps Gene Hunt could be funny and loveable because he and his attitudes were safely in the past. And perhaps the ’80s version of the series was just a little too much closer to the present for me to be comfortable with it last year. Reminders that there are still times when we can’t always trust the police, that the other side of them always getting the right man was the police always knowing what ‘sort’ the right man would be, don’t chime in with the jolly advertising that the ’80s are back, and it’s criminal.

So, again, I’m looking forward to this show. But more than ever before, I’m worried what it’ll laugh away. And, after the past few weeks (with more fallout daily), I wonder just how many other people will be laughing with it any more at the idea that the police should just beat up whoever they like, because they’re always right and only evildoers get in their way.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009


Jim FitzPanic – Must Be A General Election Looming

Living on the Isle of Dogs for the last fourteen and a bit years, my MP has been identikit Labour machine politician Jim Fitzpatrick. I assume. Of course, being an identikit Labour machine politician in an apparently safe Labour seat, I’ve never seen him, nor heard from any of his minions outside of election time. So imagine my surprise when our buzzer went this afternoon, and the person trying to get into the flats introduced himself as Jim Fitzpatrick, our local Member of Parliament. Shame he instantly gave away the reason for his shock appearance with the words “George Galloway”. Still, my opinion of him’s risen sharply for having got off his arse at last, even if it’s because he’s scared silly that he’s about to face an election that he can’t sleep through.

“Mr Clark?” he asked. Obviously, Labour turn up to canvass this area so often that two guys living here since 1993 and 1995 respectively are too recent a pair of incomers to show up on their records. Anyway, once I’d set him right on our identities, he asked who I was planning to vote for at the General Election, and seemed very surprised indeed at my answer. “Would it change your mind if you knew that George Galloway was planning to move over to this seat, and that voting Liberal Democrat might let him in? Or,” and here he sound less chirpy, “is George Galloway the sort of person you like and admire?”

I reassured him. Well, up to a point.

“No, I can’t stand him,” I replied, but before he could take that as an endorsement, “but while I have nothing against you personally, your bossy, smearing, warmongering Government is even worse. So it’s much of a muchness, isn’t it?”

At this, he laughed, and thanked me for my time. And because he’d actually come along and seemed to demonstrate genuine good humour, were I voting by a preferential voting system, I would consider giving Mr Fitzpatrick my second preference, because Mr Galloway is a loathsome, lying, puffed-up, opportunist shit. And the only reasons I can think of that Mr Galloway is chicken-running to Poplar and Canning Town from the seat next door are that he’s pissed off enough of his constituents by being a rubbish MP and pissed off enough of his own party by being a rampaging egomaniac that he thinks getting re-elected on his record (rather than posing as an insurgent again) would be impossible. But as one of the many, many broken promises from Mr Fitzpatrick’s Government was over any sort of electoral reform, I have just the one vote, and there’s no conceivable way that that will ever go to an anonymous Labour machine politician, even one who’s finally introduced himself, and even with Satan as his main opposition.

Last night, incidentally, I had to wave a piece of paper at my beloved Richard when he came in, rather than greet him with my usual effusive lovingness. I was on the phone, having just been rung up by Ipsos-Mori with an opinion poll (the first of those since I was grabbed on the street in Eastleigh in 1994 and, having – cough – established my local credentials and carefully obscured my Lib Dem rosette, told the woman asking the questions that I thought Margaret Beckett would be a real vote-winner for the Labour Party and that they certainly shouldn’t pick that Tony Blair). Anyone would think there was a General Election looming…

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Thursday, April 16, 2009


John Cater, Peter Rogers and Clement Freud

The deaths have been announced of two men with enormous track records in entertainment: Peter Rogers, who fabulously produced every single Carry On film; then celebrity cook, glacially slow Just A Minute speaker and contributor to the gaiety of the nation through Parliamentary Liberalism Clement Freud. Both of them and their work have been presences through my whole life, and I’m sorry that I never met either of them. I did, however, meet John Cater, an actor whose death was also announced recently, and I’d like to celebrate that genuinely nice chap as well as the two more famous men.

Intellectually, I’ve known for many years that Clement Freud was a Liberal MP, but as he lost his seat and largely disappeared from politics at around the time I started getting interested, it’s always been difficult to feel that political presence in the man who I’ve always known as a lugubrious regular alongside Nicholas Parsons (the only time I can remember hearing a Lib Dem conversation about him was scurrilous rumours that he and Roy Jenkins used to compete to see who could go for longest without visiting their seats). So as well as lauding Stephen Glenn’s very appropriate tribute, I’d like to direct you to Paul Walter, whose Clement Freud’s Vital 12.5% puts in perspective just how important Clement was to the Liberal Party during his time in Parliament – first elected on a day when, astonishingly, we won two by-elections on one day (26th July 1973) and, in those days long before being able to get 63 MPs elected, at a stroke increased our Commons representation by a third on top of what we’d had a few hours before. And, of course, I was always a great fan of Band On the Run, too (Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five is still one of the most stirring rock anthems). But, for all those people who talk about how off-message he was, you can read via Jonathan Calder how sharp his instinct was for getting a political point in at the most unlikely moment.

John Cater – Intense, Reliable, and A Disturbing Sort of Spear-Carrier

You probably knew of Clement Freud, and you’ve almost certainly watched some of Peter Rogers’ films, but you may not be able to place the name of John Cater. He was an actor with a hugely impressive list of screen credits across fifty years – from Saturday Night Theatre in 1958, via the Dr Phibes movies, Dad’s Army and a regular role in The Duchess of Duke Street to, oh, never mind, Bonekickers last year – but taking in along the way an enormous number of roles. I particularly remember him for his appearances in arguably my three favourite series of all, Doctor Who, I, Claudius, and the one I’ll always associate him with, The Avengers.

He was quite slight, and often bearded, with an inquisitive look to him; though usually found in moderately-sized rather than leading roles, he was a very reliable character actor, and managed to combine a light touch for comedy with an extraordinary intensity. He was always terribly watchable. In Doctor Who – The War Machines, the 1966 story that warns that the Internet is coming and it will TAKE OVER THE WORLD! he’s Professor Krimpton, one of the developers of the deadly computer system who, on seeing his boss become a starry-eyed zombie, first laughs and just thinks he’s flipped, as you would, then fights against the Machine’s hypnotic control in a very disturbing scene, then eventually succumbs. A decade later, he was one of the Emperor Claudius’ two trusted Greek administrators towards the end of the serial, the one who saw what was coming and didn’t betray him.

Back in the mid-’80s, however, it was John Cater’s death in an episode of The Avengers that made him unforgettable for me. During a Channel 4 repeat run, I got hooked on the series first through some of the Tara King episodes and then on catching some of the black and white Mrs Peel outings. It was in one of the latter, Death At Bargain Prices, that he plays a store detective who befriends Mrs Peel – sent there to investigate strange goings-on – and comes to a particularly nasty end. Though he’s also an entertainingly diffident foreign spy in the later episode The Living Dead and “Disco” (not who you imagine) in the Cathy Gale story The Nutshell, for me he’ll always be Jarvis, creeping around Pinter’s Department Store. But what harm could come to you in a big store? Well, when there’s a large jungle set up in the middle of it – to show off camping equipment, of course – where better to find yourself winding up with a spear through your chest, for one of the most haunting images of my teens?

In the last couple of years, I met John twice at different Doctor Who events, and had the chance to chat to him (and to get him to autograph my Avengers DVDs). Spry, animated and a great conversationalist, he came across as a genuinely lovely guy, with a wicked twinkle. Discussing I, Claudius, he talked about how Derek Jacobi would always learn his lines at least one episode in advance, so he could sit doing the Times crossword as other actors got it right, and how another actor he worked with, Ronald Culver (father of Michael), would do the same. From the inside, he too was very impressed by I, Claudius, but unimpressed by the industry not giving any work to its director, “the great Herbie Wise,” because “directors over forty are past it” – recalling Herbie’s being asked “What have you done?” when going for a job on The Bill, “whereas actors can get away with it, because there’ll always be old fart parts for old farts like me.” He remembered, in The AvengersThe Living Dead, “being a rather silly second lieutenant to Julian Glover,” but enjoying playing the piano badly and being asked by a gruff shop steward, “Are you in the Musicians’ Union?” And as he’d always been a bit of a muso, he joined on the spot and still kept it up to that day, which gave him the odd free entry to concerts and things. He found that episode’s director John Krish a real gentleman – he got him a car home despite the unions making a fuss, and did him a copy of The Living Dead when he couldn’t find one (he recalled that John also did a film, Decline and Fall, which John regrets was ruined by the editors forced on him).

I mentioned, of course, my memory of that gloriously surreal Avengers image of him lying dead with a spear in his chest, in a jungle, in a department store, one of the moments that so captivated me about the series when I was new to it. He told me about the filming, and the “mechanism” he was fitted with:
“Yes, I remember that shot. The props man passed by as I was being set up for it and shouted, ‘Stick it up his Jacksie’. And I thought, how rude! ‘You wouldn’t say that if I was Laurence Olivier,’ I said. ‘But you’re not, are you?’ he said. ‘Stick it up his Jacksie!’”

Peter Rogers, Carry On Up the Khyber, and The Worst DVD Commentary in the World, Ever!

Peter Rogers was a brilliant producer. To have made so many Carry On films, and for so many of them to be brilliant – as well as some that were all right, some mediocre and one or two downright dreadful – means he deserves to be remembered for giving people an awful lot of pleasure and, for someone who clearly had a sharp focus on the bottom line, for being responsible for the one of the most successful British film series ever made. I think only James Bond can touch it.

The best way to celebrate him, then, is to bung on one of his films and simply enjoy it. If you need a tip, try going for Carry On Cleo, or Carry On Screaming, or Carry On, Don’t Lose Your Head – yesterday, Film Four showed Leslie Howard’s version of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and though that’s much-lauded, Don’t Lose Your Head is not only (naturally) a much funnier film, but a far more exciting one. The 1934 adaptation may have a strong plot and some good lines (if none to match “The Duc de Pommes Frittes has had his chips!”), but the action in the comedy version beats it hands down, and you can’t beat Sid James’ joyous foppery. For years, every time Leslie Howard’s Pimpernel came round, The Guardian’s film review would praise its swordplay as “exhilarating”. And every time, I’d raise an eyebrow, because that film contains no swordplay at all, still less any to compete with the genuinely exhilarating swordplay at the climax of Peter Rogers’ Don’t Lose Your Head. Or, of course, you could simply watch the finest of all his films, set in part in the aforementioned town of Jacksie, Carry On Up the Khyber.

Ah, yes, Carry On Up the Khyber. It may be an inappropriate way to remember him, but I didn’t hear all that many interviews with Peter Rogers, and the one that sticks in my head with fascinated horror was his DVD commentary for that movie, an experience so dreadful that – years before I started blogging – I was moved to send an e-mail round relating it. So here, from the 24th of May 2003, is my reaction to his reaction. I hope you’ll find it entertaining, if a cautionary tale in why being brilliant behind the camera doesn’t necessarily mean entertainment in front of it…
The Worst DVD Commentary in the World, Ever!

OK, I admit that (paraphrasing Donald Cotton on Helen of Troy) it’s impossible to know this without the most extensive surveys, but yesterday evening I listened to such a mind-boggling train-wreck of a commentary that I had to share it with you. Or give you a warning.

The DVD in question is one just bought for me by my beloved, the Special Edition of Carry On Up the Khyber (or “Carry On the Regiment” as a team of censors unfunnily tried to persuade them was a better title). Now, for the most part this is a terrific DVD, with added subtitles, a nice little booklet with Doctor Who references, rather good extras – even the bonus Carry On Laughing show (usually unimpressive), The Sobbing Cavalier, is quite a fun Civil War piece – and the film itself is fantastic, which is why we went for the Special Edition even after getting the original DVD release. But the commentary is astoundingly painful.

The Carry On Special Edition commentaries I’ve heard so far have mostly been Jim Dale on his own, which are only so-so, or a team of the more minor actors, which are rather more entertaining, each moderated by Carry On reference book author Robert Ross (Barbara Windsor doesn’t seem to be doing any). For Khyber, sadly, almost all the actors are now dead, and presumably they didn’t think Angela Douglas, say, was a big enough draw on her own. You can imagine Mr Ross thinking, ‘Hey, this is the best Carry On, so for something really special, let’s bring in Peter Rogers, the producer of all the films. That’ll work.’

It doesn't.

By half-way through, I was actually wondering if they’d get to the end of the recording; if this was a marriage, it’d be at the stage of acrimonious divorce due to irreconcilable differences. Ross has gone into it with a trayful of fascinating facts and a set of questions to prompt heart-warming anecdotes; Rogers is under the impression that he’s being paid to sit and watch a film – with gritted teeth – and regards any attempt to engage him in conversation as the utmost impertinence.

Before this, my most grumpy commentary was with Nigel Kneale on the laserdisc of the Quatermass II film, being prodded every few minutes by his moderator and either staying silent or snapping viciously at the stick that’s prodding him. At least, though, Kneale is a brilliantly evil old curmudgeon who hates directors, actors, and above all every single young person in the world, and can be relied on to say something waspish and indiscreet (notably taking a fiendish delight in Brian Donlevy’s flying hairpiece) that makes the long periods of silence bearable. Rogers’ lofty hostility beats this hands down as a grim listening experience.

Peter Rogers appears to have entered a bet with someone that he can take profound personal offense at any remark, even if it’s actually praising him, rather like the “I Couldn't Disagree With You More” round on the much-missed ’90s panel game If I Ruled the World. “So, this film is often thought of as one of the best British films ever made – do you feel proud of it?” asks Ross hopefully, for example. “Proud? No, certainly not. What a thing to say,” is just one of the affronted retorts I remember from last night.

Rogers’ other tactic is silence. Getting any reply at all out of him is like pulling teeth. You get the feeling that Ross was considering shooting himself after the 433rd complicated question which had been greeted with “… (pause) … (more pause) …No.” Admittedly, he asks for trouble a couple of times, trying persistently to correct Rogers on facts which the other man clearly isn’t going to give way on (tip: never mention Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in his presence), but you can’t blame him. I’d probably have strangled the rude old git.

He’s hypersensitive about money; he puts down Ross’ attempts to infodump to give the listener something for their money (“You sound like a football commentator”); he says, in the tone of a headmaster cleaning urine out of the drinking fountain with his hands, “As long as I make people laugh, I’m happy.” At one point, he has the cheek to remark, “You’ve not asked me any questions for a while,” immediately qualifying it with “Not that I want to answer them.” Most of all, he just doesn’t want to speak. I suspect he’s never heard a DVD commentary. Except as a lesson in how not to do one, you shouldn’t try to hear this one, either.

Oh, and it closes with Ross somehow forcing himself to say, “Thank you, Peter Rogers. It’s been a pleasure.” “I wish I could say the same,” he stiffly replies. Straight up!

Finally, though you won’t see John Cater in either of them, tonight BBC4 spoil us with two episodes of The Avengers. At 7.40 you can see Obsession, a reasonable story notable for Purdey’s ballet career and sad love affair, asides about Middle East politics and being the first time Lewis Collins and Martin Shaw (later to be a memorable Citizen Camembert himself) worked together, and that’s on again tomorrow night at 12.25. Steed’s pretty damned terrific at the end, too. If you’re seriously sleepless, they’re also showing a signed repeat tonight of the very much better House of Cards, the last of Peter Jeffrey’s strange trilogy of villains spread across a decade, each time a different old foe bent on revenge against an Avenger, where each uses a playing card motif, each has a dubious continental connection, and each one is dead… But that episode’s not on until 2.30am, so I hope not to be watching it this time.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009


New Doctor Who Easter Trailer

Well, just before the latest attack of the alien space lizards (as Millennium calls The Apprentices), BBC1 has premiered a minute-long trailer for Easter Saturday’s Doctor Who special, Planet of the Dead. Sounds, er, jolly, but looks striking… More after the next paragraph for readers preternaturally wary of spoilers. So, good news – new Doctor Who in ten days! Woo hoo! Bad news – Richard and I will be out of town at a family do. Let’s just hope our new recording technology is delivered by then… And while I’m about it, why no Doctor Who Easter Eggs this year?

Tragic Loss of Doctor Who Easter Eggs Shocker

For the last three years, I’ve been thrilled to see Daleks, TARDISes and others on the shelves (even though they can’t beat my childhood’s unforgettable Suchards “Peter Davison Spunking Fire” Easter Egg), but looking around now – nothing. Maybe the sad collapse of Woollies’ has cut the ranges that went into the supermarkets, but what about the Marks and Spencer versions? Yet they’ve got room on the shelf for bloody Top Gear. Grr. So I’ll just have to select Easter Eggs by the chocolate rather than the packaging, and that’s surely not the point at all.

“Something is coming. Riding on the wind. They devour!”

But back to that trailer for the day before Easter. Planet of the Dead will be the 200th* Doctor Who story, and the trailer promises:
After Midnight last year and one or two old stories, my advice to the Doctor would be – don’t go by bus (better than a bastard bike, though. Scroll down). If you want to see the trailer, anyway, the lovely Will has it on display; it appears to be showing on the BBC HD Preview in the daytime, too. Ooh. Must remember that tomorrow.

Coming through the letterbox today, incidentally, was the rather fab new issue of Doctor Who Magazine, where you can take a peek at that bus on the cover and read all about Planet of the Dead. Well, I say “all”. It’s probably not massively spoilerish, but I don’t actually know – I, too, am wary enough of spoilers that I never read their previews. You’ll notice, incidentally, that the bus is number 200.

*Ah, those “200” stories. Everyone reckons them differently – the 204th, by my count – but apparently the ‘official’ 200th is now this one. 53 stories ago, in 1987, we had the then official 150th. Anyway, the important thing isn’t the iffy numbering, but that DWM this time gives you the exciting opportunity to send off your scores for every single one of them, to find which stories people love, and which ones they don’t. Look, don’t scoff – you know I’m going to do it…

In the run-up to Matt Smith becoming the Doctor next year, DWM this issue starts a new series profiling each of the first ten Doctors. This one’s on William Hartnell, of course, and it’s rather good (well, I always love reading about the original and best); informative and punchy for brand new fans and oldies alike, and opening with an introductory paragraph that could happily have been printed in, say, The Doctor Who Monster Book, where I first learnt about Billy back in the mid-’70s. Though its mini-article nuggets include choice fluffed lines the wildly varying names given to some stories – and the Doctor – it strikes me that there are two key elements missing. New fans, sadly, really ought to be warned that not all of the published list of Billy’s stories still exist, except on audio… And, other than relating how he regenerated in his final story, there’s really nothing that gives a taste of the stories themselves. In short, the most important thing missing is why Billy is brilliant, whether it’s by picking stories (perhaps unwise, given the polling that’s just opened in the same issue) or simply singling out a few great scenes or moments. If you’re going to do bluffers’ guides for each Doctor, the very first thing you should put over is them at their best.

On top of that, there’s a superb interview with one of Doctor Who’s most brilliant – and most Marmite – script editors, Mr Jesus H Bidmead, who was in effect the Russell T Davies of 1980-1 and who’s not shy of sharing his views. The regular Time Team are also great fun reviewing 1988’s The Happiness Patrol and, yay! this time they’ve printed one of my comments, and on a story I love, too. Too late for a morning April Fool, Richard brilliantly suggested we should put out the rumour that the TARDIS – which is painted pink in the story – is to leave a CGI swirl of disintegrating pink and blue paint when it dematerialises in the DVD release. I quite like the idea.

Why Some Cyclists Are Selfish, Dangerous Bastards

The April Fool that went through my head this morning, though, was more of a traffic patrol one; out to meet friends yesterday in Greenwich, I once again walked back through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel and was nearly hit by all those bastard cyclists who, faced with all the signs and even paint across the floor saying “NO CYCLING,” glide at great speed down a curving tunnel with very limited visibility and – by definition – lots of pedestrians, clinging to the side of their bike with one foot perched on a pedal, so they can deny they’re “cycling”. Because being under far less control of your bike than usual is a really great way not to injure the people you’re careering stupidly into and making dive out of the way. What utter, stupid, selfish bastards. Travelling in such a manner appeals only to the homicidal side of my nature. If only some sort of automated spikes could shoot out from the tunnel wall and straight into their wheeling spokes. Because, if they’re not cycling, that can’t knock them off their bikes.

Where was I? Oh yes, April Fools. Well, it ran through my still mildly misanthropic head this morning that, despite my usual dislike of intrusive spying cameras and ‘naming and shaming,’ I could turn my blog into a series of photos of cyclists from the Greenwich Foot Tunnel – not every one of them, but most – endangering people with captions like, ‘This Person Is A Bastard. If You See Them On Their Bikes, Stick A Brolly In Their Spokes and Give Them An Accident Before They Seriously Injure Someone Else, The Bastard’. At that point, I realised this may have been less of an April Fool than a genuine unleashing of my inner Daily Hate Mail. There are signs up in the tunnel saying “No Photography,” too – it’s political correctness gone mad. At this point, before the Happiness Patrol come to arrest me for being grumpy, I notice Charlie Brooker’s just started on BBC4. I’ll watch him, instead, because he’s always a happy-go-lucky cheery chap.

PS: Millennium has chastised me, being an innocent young elephant, for the superfluity of “bad words”. Sorry, readers, and I’ll see tomorrow if my local library’s banned my blog again.

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