We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Okay – it’s like this. There’s a tribe living by a river, and in the river there are crocodiles. The tribe has one particular piece of wisdom passed down through the generations. It goes like this: if you happen to meet a crocodile, don’t stick your head in its mouth. Every now and then – and who knows the reason – people ignore this advice. Which is sad. Because they die. But very stupid because they were warned. They had a choice. The moral of this story is – you can’t afford to be stupid. There are crocodiles.

- The words of Steven Moffat, as spoken by Julia Sawalha, in the final episode of Press Gang. Few things recently have pleased me as much as the announcement that Moffatt will be the new showrunner of Dr Who. The rumour today is that Neil Gaiman will be writing for the show, too, so there is lots to look forward to.

28 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • nick g.

    Here in OZ, we have seen two series by Moffat- ‘Coupling’ and an update of ‘Jekyl and Hyde’. Both were very good, so more work by Mr. Moffat is a promised treat indeed!

  • Yes, this is very good news. If there’s anyone out there who’s capable of making Doctor Who the great sci fi show it ought to be then it’s Moffat.

    Funnily this is exactly what Shane Richmond was fantasising about last week in the Telegraph.

  • nick g.

    Does this mean that one of the Coupling cuties will become a companion? I suggest the clothing-shy bi-sexual. It’s about time one of those became a ‘friend’ (more like a Companion Animal, considering how different Galifreyans are from us!).

  • The Who is great already. Russell T Davies has done a great job on it. Moffat will keep it up. “Blink”, “Empty Child” and “Girl in the Fireplace” are brilliant (they’re Moffat’s). If there were any justice in the world then writing stuff like that ought to get you a Nobel prize. Compare any of those three pieces to the entire collected works of Harold-bastarding-Pinter who won it in 2005.

    Victoria Wood, a far finer writer than Pinter – who isn’t?, said of him something like this, “The words don’t matter, it’s just getting the pauses in the right place”. Frankly I don’t think Pinter got the gong for his writing (that would really be taking the piss). He got it because he’s a frothing-at-the-mouth-spittle-flecked-extreme-left-wing-Ameriphobe of the first water. And lots of people like that sort of thing.

    If there were any justice in the world then Pinter would be forced to watch me in Nikes and Levis and a Stetson eat a cheeseburger, washed down with a coke, with the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” on in the background. I’d require the decrepit old fucker to be in five-point restraints, mind, and wearing a “Hannibal Lector” mask.

    It’s not Pinter’s fault. He’s a sick man. He suffers from chronic Pilger’s Disease, a terrible form of dementia. Well, either that or he’s just a terrible cunt.

    Anyway, great news about Moffat.

  • nick.g: Apparently the reason that there was a coda to “The Doctor’s Daughter” which showed that the character of Jenny was still alive was because Moffat asked Davies not to kill the character. What Moffat wants to do with the character I don’t know, but it seems it may be something. And of course I have also thought that Sally Sparrow ( “I’m clever, and I’m listening. Now don’t patronise me, ’cause people have died and I’m not happy,”) from Moffat’s “Blink” would make a good companion.

    Nick M: If there were any justice in the world then writing stuff like that ought to get you a Nobel prize.

    Moffat has won two Hugo Awards for his Dr Who writing. That is pretty cool. (Lovely little story about them here, too).

  • John K

    If Dr Who could stop being a vehicle for gay propaganda I’d be pleased.

  • Dr Who is like Sherlock Holmes. It should not have sex or sexual references in it. Full stop. The question as to how Time Lords reproduce should remain a mystery. However, I suspect I am not going to get my way on this.

  • It is not gay propaganda. That’s almost meaningless anyway. How the hell do you persuade someone they’re gay?

    It is actually totally not. Yes it has gay characters and whatnot but…

    Well, one of my biggest beefs over the years with TV and movie companies is that they seem almost pathologically incapable of including “minorities” without the storyline being “issue-based”. The Who isn’t like that. There are no issues raised by Captain Jack’s sexuality. It’s just that he is omni-sexual. Just like Mickey Smith is black. It’s never mentioned that he has a n interacial sexually relationship with Rose Tyler.

    It takes a totally different approach to “minorities” to stuff like Eastenders (the big BBC soap) in which every gay character is tortured by homophobia and it is all about “issues”. The Who is plot and character-driven.

    Dr Who is like Sherlock Holmes. It should not have sex or sexual references in it. Full stop.

    Which is hardly new. Didn’t Tom Baker hang with a fit bird in a fur bikini?

    I don’t think it does have sexual references exactly. I found the developing relationship between the Doctor and Rose engrossing and realistic and their parting beautifully written and really quite moving.

    And another thing. I know the Holmes cannon backwards and it is full of hints of romance. Irene Adler? Also Watson’s romances and Holmes’ frequent references to Watson being attractive to women. I have also heard rumours amongst Sherlockians that Mr Holmes and Mrs Hudson. She is usually assumed to be elderly but this is nowhere stated. Certainly I can imagine the two of them having an upstairs-downstairs relationship without Watson (the primary narrator) knowing. Consider the stunts Holmes pulled on Watson.

    Anyway, I do have a question about the Holmes cannon which I’m vastly more interested in. Is the world ready now to know about the Giant Rat of Sumatra.

    You are though very right to compare The Doctor to Holmes. Along with Bond they are the Holy Trinity of English fictional heroes. I just hope it isn’t turned into a foursome by the addition of Harry-bloody-Potter.

  • Sam Duncan

    “Blink”, “Empty Child” and “Girl in the Fireplace” are brilliant (they’re Moffat’s).

    That’s a good sign. If you’d asked me for my favourite three from the revived show there’s a decent chance I’d have given those. But…

    The Who is great already. Russell T Davies has done a great job on it.

    …naaah. It’s better than it might have been, but when the production team starts talking about how great it is to see more humanity from a 900 year old alien from Gallifrey you know they’ve buggered it up. I can’t even be bothered to watch the current series.

    For British prime-time SF, Primeval knocks it into a cocked hat despite being something of a one-trick pony.

    Dr Who is like Sherlock Holmes. It should not have sex or sexual references in it. Full stop. The question as to how Time Lords reproduce should remain a mystery.

    Hear, hear.

  • John K

    It is not gay propaganda. That’s almost meaningless anyway. How the hell do you persuade someone they’re gay?

    You don’t think RTD has got any sort of agenda here?

    For British prime-time SF, Primeval knocks it into a cocked hat despite being something of a one-trick pony.

    Any show which has Hannah Spearitt running about in her pants is worth a watch.

    In a way there you have the difference between the BBC and ITV: the public sector gives us the gay aliens we really ought to like, and independent TV gives us a blonde girl in skimpy undies. You know it makes sense.

  • John K,
    RTD has an agenda. It is to write good TV. I wish they employed more like him. What agenda do you you accuse him of? Entertaining me? Making me fancy Kylie slightly more (is that possible?) giving me the hots for Billie Piper?

    Or just possibly making homosexuality socially acceptable? Dunno about you but it ain’t ever rubbed me up the wrong way. I mean it’s not like Captain Jack is asking the government for “buggery subsidies”. Sorry, just don’t see The Who as part of a vast left-wing conspiracy. Lots of other TV is and I’d worry about the effing news first.

    The fact that RTD is gay and (shock horror, send for the Feds, Ma Parker!) therefore writes partly from a gay perspective is a baffling thing to object to, in the circumstances.

    I shall re-iterate the parting of the Doctor from his beloved assistant on a Norwegian beech is on of the most moving things I have seen on TV for ages. If you can detect a gay subtext in the sundering of Rose and the Doctor then you are a subtler man than me Bungdit Din.

  • Daveon

    then writing stuff like that ought to get you a Nobel prize

    He did win the Hugo, which is the SFnal community version of the Nobels.

    Gay agenda? And so? I’m mostly with Nick on this, but anybody who doesn’t think Doctor Who had sexual content and a gay following hasn’t been watching and doesn’t know Doctor Who Fandom…

    Let’s see:
    – Zoe in the Traughton years wearing a tight fitting jump suit
    – Leila – fur bikini
    – Sarah Sutton – removing all her clothes in Terminus
    – Nicola Bryant – being pulled out of the sea in a really small biniki which really didn’t hide much (I had something of a crush on her)
    – Sophie Aldred (you really should look up her latex photoshoot)

    Dr Who even has completely Gay offshoots of fandom like the Sisterhood of Karn (named after some almost naked women in the Brain of Morbius).

    Dr Who was camper than a row of tents for years.

  • Ed Snack

    I wish I’d seen the episode where Dr Who farewelled his companion in the Norwegian tree, obviously the series has branched out somewhat.

  • nick g.

    Nick M. NO! I am NOT ready to hear about the Giant Rat of Sumatra! We currently enjoy good relations with Indonesia, and revealing these details might undo all those good relations!

  • Nick M

    nick g,
    OK. In the interests of international relations I shall only disclose the affair of the “Aluminium crutch” and the “Member of parliament, the lighthouse and the trained cormorant”. Deal?

    My wife used to live just off Baker St. There was (is?) in the summer a poor bugger in a cape and deer stalker by the entrence to Baker Street tube sweating himself to death handing out flyers for the Sherlock Holmes Experience. They have a blue plaque saying “Sherlock Holmes lived here”. Loads of the tourists seem to think he was real. Abbey (the bank which happens to span 221B) employ someone to answer his letters. Holmes is bigger than real, he’s an immortal.

    As a former denizen of the East-End I can concur with Holmes on the sagacity of “never go[ing] east of Whitechapel after dark without a pistol”. True 100 years later.

    BTW, does anybody know of an internet list of the adventures Watson alludes to. If I knew more about late-Victorian society and cared less for the consulting detective I could be tempted to write them. Alas I fear I wouldn’t have the style.

  • John K

    RTD has an agenda. It is to write good TV. I wish they employed more like him. What agenda do you you accuse him of? Entertaining me? Making me fancy Kylie slightly more (is that possible?) giving me the hots for Billie Piper?

    Or just possibly making homosexuality socially acceptable?

    I am sure that RTD can have more than one agenda at a time. I can’t complain about him having a gay theme in a programme called “Queer as Folk”, but I find it tedious when he insists on bringing gay characters into a teatime science fiction show. Last week we had to have a couple of young gays at a 1920′s house party with Agatha Christie. It was not needed for the plot, it was just a bit of showing off on RTD’s part. I know that you’re gay Russell, I just don’t need reminding of it in Dr Who, that’s all.

  • Sadly, Abbey have been taken over by Santander of Spain and no longer occupy 221 Baker Street. (There is no 221b in reality). There was a new building being constructed there last time I looked, but this was a year or so back. I am not sure who is now answering the great detective’s mail.

    I live in the East End, and I go east of Whitechapel after dark without a revolver all the time. Just east of Whitechapel is the St Mary campus of the University of London, and things tend to get a bit studenty with quite decent pubs and restaurants. (The pubs are a good deal cheaper, too). As a bonus, the conversation in the pubs can at times be very nerdy, as the university has a good physics department

    The Dr Who episode that played up the Sherlock Holmes angle the most was The Talons of Weng Chiang, which was set in Victorian times, had Tom Baker dress in very deliberately Holmesian costume and utter very Holmesian dialogue, and even features a housekeeper named Mrs Hudson. And (best bit of all) it features giant rats. This episode was written by Robert Holmes, who may have been the best Dr Who writer of the classic series. He wrote for the show from 1968 until his death in 1986, but this was one of his best, and it features one of my all time favourite lines. (“I was with the Filipino Army in the assault on Reykjavik”). As a bonus, one of his later episodes (“The Sun-Makers”) was a savage and thinly disguised attack on the British tax system.

    Tom Baker also actually played Sherlock Holmes in a BBC adaptation of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” a few years later.

    On other points, I possibly overdid the “No sex. Ever” line a little earlier in this conversation (although that is pretty much what I think should be the case for the Doctor himself. I think the character should be somewhat distant and aloof in certain ways, and that is one of them. The new series has at times played up the doctor as being a somewhat wounded character, but has also made him at times more touch-feely. I don’t want that). As for other characters being gay or straight, I don’t really care. I don’t want them to be assertively anything in this regard. Yes, obviously the doctor has always been accompanied by attractive young women, and obviously they have been cast for a reason, but their being cast is about enough for me.

  • And one more thing. This plaque that I found at the top of Reichenbach Falls is way cooler than anything to be found in Baker Street.

  • Michael,
    Not to get Pedantic or anything but… It’s Queen Mary College. Not St Mary’s. I should know, I did my MSc there. Lived just above Stepney Green tube station.

    John K,
    So Agatha Christie, in the roaring 20s, never went to a party which was also attended by queers? Better inform the shade of Noel Coward. RTD brings in gay characters as normal people. I see that as the opposite of the bizarre agenderizing of stuff like Eastenders. I’m not shilling for homosexuals and neither is RTD. What is your objection, exactly? Is it to the normalization of homosexuality? Or what?

    He has also featured Daleks quite a bit. Do you suspect him of trying to sell cruet sets on the sly?

  • Not to get Pedantic or anything but… It’s Queen Mary College.

    Bad mistake on my part. Sorry. The physicists in the pub seem smart, if that is any consolation.

  • Michael, thanks for the picture of the plague, very cool indeed!

  • John K

    Nick:

    I’m not shilling for homosexuals and neither is RTD.

    You might not be, but frankly that does seem to me to be what RTD is doing. This is a teatime programme aimed at kids of all ages, there’s just no need for it. I’ve nothing against homosexuality, but if I want it rammed down my throat I’ll go for a stroll down Canal Street.

    I was reading in Private Eye this week that RTD complained to the BBC about a so-called homophobic joke in the Basil Brush show. I think he’s getting a bit up himself.

  • Sam Duncan

    I’m with Michael and John on this. It’s not a question of not wanting gays on the telly; it’s a question of whether an overt display of any sexuality – beyond a hot girl (or bloke, fair’s fair) in a skimpy costume for the older viewers – is appropriate for a teatime TV show which is, when all’s said and done, aimed at kids. Furthermore, it isn’t inappropriate in the sense of “protecting vulnerable young minds”; it’s inappropriate in the same sense that a discussion of house prices or the Chancellor’s latest spending plans would be.

    And I can’t believe it’s so hard to accept that there’s a difference between Leila’s fur bikini or Nicola Bryant’s cleavage (mmmm…) and the Doctor planting a full-on smacker on one of his assistants (regardless of whether he’s in full control of his faculties or not).

  • Nick M wrote:

    The Who is great already. Russell T Davies has done a great job on it

    I have misgivings. David Tenant’s constant outraged self-righteousness can wear thin. I’m a bit behind on the latest series, just watched Planet of the Ood. The Ood are slaves, fair enough. But then:

    Donna: I don’t have a slave.
    Doctor: Who do you think made your clothes?

    Not a Moffat episode, but hmm.

  • Laird

    I’m with Rob Fisher on this. It seems to me that the enigmatic (and generally bemused) character of The Doctor has deteriorated into a lot of pretentious shouting since David Tenant took over the role. It’s definitely gotten worse this season. I much preferred Christopher Eccleston in that role, although I don’t know how much of that is a function of the writing rather than the actors. And I don’t care for his latest companion, either; the combination of self-righteous moralizing and low intelligence isn’t appealing in the least.

    It seems that most of the participants in this thread dislike the homosexual elements RTD has injected into the series. What do you think about Captain Jack Harkness’ spinoff series, “Torchwood”? Personally, I’m indifferent to the sexuality, although it was a bit of a surprise at first as it’s more blatant than we’re used to seeing in the US (puritans that we are!).

  • John K

    Laird:

    “Torchwood” is aimed at a more adult audience than Dr Who. It usually airs at 9.00pm though a bowdlersied version is repeated at an earlier time slot. In Captain Jack RTD has created an omnisexual character that everyone wants to fuck. A bit of projection there possibly. However, I would not get worked up about it, because “Torchwood” is a new and different show, albeit a soap bubble from Dr Who. But Dr Who is an existing show with a history behind it, and it has always been a Saturday teatime show, which is why I think RTD was wrong to gay it up so much.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not think that RTD has done that with Dr Who.

    What there has been (with some companions) is a mover away from the normal father/daughter relationship normal in Dr Who to exploring the possibility of romantic attraction.

    In short a stress on the hetrosexual (not the homosexual) nature of Dr Who.

    Nor did RTD actually invent this – it was there before with, for example, the more equal relationship (not father/daughter) between the Doctor and Romania (both Romanias).

    Nor has the reproduction of Time Lords been ignored in the past.

    Various writers of the show have said that the Time Lords reproduced sexually at one time (even that the Doctor had done so) and then something went wrong.

    So RTD did not invent all this stuff – although he may have stressed it more that previous writers. Perhaps the Doctor’s hetrosexuality makes him more alien to RTD and so interests him.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course one has to be careful to avoid too much “silly love stuff” in a children’s show, but I think that Dr Who has avoided that trap (so praise for RTD there).

    On the politics:

    Yes implying that people who are not paid much (although more than they would be paid for anything else) are “slaves” was stupid.

    And, yes, rich business people are normally shown in a bad light.

    However, that has become (sadly) normal in Western culture (it is a central part of the decline of the West that business people and business enterprises are now seen as evil – indeed even many very rich business people themselves go around saying that the rich and “the corporations” are evil and that government should endlessly increase taxes and regulations).

    The wonder is that a lot of this has been kept out of Dr Who in the past (although there were some cases of it – long before RTD).

    RTD may reflect the decline of the West in his writing – but he is hardly the cause of it.